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Noodler's Ink Piston Fill Pen Review


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#1 themax

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 05:12

I love pens in the under $20 price range that are nice writers. I was excited to learn about this piston filler in my target price range that looked like something unique and sturdy! What excited me was the idea of a new pen made from old materials, turned on a lathe, that I could afford to buy as a daily writer. I wanted to smell the vegetal resin and write with the ebonite feed. I like the idea of a piston filler (no need for cartridges or converters) designed to accommodate old #2 nibs.

What do I expect from a Noodler's Ink fountain pen? First, I expect reliable, regulated flow onto the page from tines that don't touch. Second, I expect good value to have been a design priority. Third, I expect some curb appeal--specifically, a different approach.

I ordered a burgundy Noodler's piston filler for $12. It arrived in a cellophane tube (shipped in a box). When I inspected it and got ready to fill it with ink, I wondered, "Will this pen be a curiosity in my pen drawer, or spend some serious writing time with me?"

Appearance & Design (10) – My third expectation was fulfilled with my first impressions. The pen looks sharp to me, with the ink-view crenellations and the metal band right at the nib end of the section. The lines of this pen are fetching both capped and posted. I can see daylight between the ends of the tines. The cap threads securely. The clip feels sturdy enough to last through years of regular service. My value expectation seems to have been met. I like the old-fashioned vent hole in the cap. The finish of the barrel and cap are polished. I can see evidence of machining from the lathe passes in the cap if I look hard enough. I like the smell of the plastic of this pen. It reminds me of my Mom's record cabinet. I love the idea that the pen is designed to accept #2 nibs.

Construction & Quality (7) – The fit is great. Everything fits, apparently like it is supposed to. The finish on the steel furniture is without flaw, by my inspection. The finish on the plastic parts shows evidence of machining on the button on the cap and on the blind cap on the barrel. These are very minor imperfections and perfectly reasonable for a $12 pen. Nothing to upset me. The piston and feed function smoothly. The cap screws onto the pen securely. This pen feels light but not flimsy. I do not fear dropping it will cause it to stop writing. I give the quality a 7 because of the nib, discussed below.

Weight & Dimensions (10) – The pen feels light. It feels well balanced, especially when posted. No complaints. Its size is on the small end of great for my hands. I find it very comfortable for my small hands but it might be small for those with larger hands. The threads for the cap (on the section) and the edge of the cap, when posted, are in the right places for my hands in my writing position. The windows to the reservoir are flush with the outside of the barrel, so there is nothing there to irritate me when writing. I wasn't sure if they were flush or recessed from pictures I had seen of the pen online. The cap is light and does not change the balance significantly when posted or unposted.

Length (cm): Capped 13.3 Uncapped 11.8 cm Posted 13.9 cm
Weight, inked (g): Capped 11 Uncapped 8

It is 5 grams lighter than the preppy with a converter full of ink that I have been carrying daily for the past few weeks, making it seem very light to me.

Nib & Performance (6) – This steel nib is the one available with this pen, and is described as a fine medium. I think this is accurate. This is a stiff, steel nib; no line variation. Note that the feed and section are designed to accept a #2 nib, so some are going to buy this pen and immediately swap out this nib.

The nib lays down a wet line. The tines do not touch. The writing for this particular nib was not smooth with Aircorp Blue Black. I was surprised and disappointed at how not-smooth it was, worse than I feel I should expect for a $12 pen. It is toothy. I looked at it under magnification and was surprised to see a smooth area towards the front of the tipping, towards the point, and a much rougher area in the part that makes more contact with the paper when I am writing, like the nip was not properly polished after the tipping was welded on. The tines were also not aligned. Fixing the alignment and doing some work on a paper bag made a great improvement in my enjoyment of this pen. I wrote Noodler's with a description of the tipping and was told that I should ask the retailer for an exchange and that this is not characteristic of these pens.

I inked this pen up without first rinsing or cleaning. It started immediately and kept on going until it was out of ink without a single skip or slow start. I really appreciate that.

Filling System & Maintenance (9) - This pen has a reservoir that is larger than my converter pens and smaller than an eye dropper pen. When I fill it, there is a large air bubble in the reservoir. I estimate that the reservoir is 1/3 air when I get as much ink as I can in there, which seems like a lot to me. I need to play around with this pen to see if I can get a fuller fill. I don't think there is much risk of leakage, as long as the piston seal is in good shape. I have not explored removing the nib/feed. It looks to be a friction fit. I rated a 9 instead of a 10 because I'm not sure when I operate the piston to the empty reservoir limit whether I am at the limit or not. At some point, I feel more resistance and I stop. There is no firm signal to stop turning. On the other hand, the design is straight forward enough for me to operate the pen satisfactorily without a hint of instruction being provided.

Cost & Value (10) – I paid $12 for this pen. I think this is a reasonable value. If the nib on this particular pen did not require some TLC to get it up to what I expect it to be shipped new, I would say this pen offers great value for $12. If I had a nice #2 nib laying around, I would consider this pen a greater value. I would consider it a good value if I got one better than expected nib out of a purchase of three of these pens. I do not think the cost justifies return shipping to exchange it, but I am interested to see what the nib and overall quality of the pen I ordered in another color (that is back-ordered) is like. At $12, this is a tool for daily writing, not a piece of functional art. At $12, loss or damage is not so scary.

When I compare to other pens in this price range, I feel this pen is a more interesting writing experience for the money. I just reviewed a $13 Yafa pen that had feed issues out of the box and felt unbalanced when posted. The nib on that pen, when ink was flowing, was head and shoulders smoother than this one. The Noodler's pen costs more than a Preppy with a converter, but looks and feels less like a toy, holds more ink, and will still be writing when the Preppy has cracked or broken its clip. It is not nearly as smooth writing or finely made as a modern Pelikano.

Conclusion (Final score, 52/6 = 8.7) - At the start of the review, I posed the question whether this would be a daily writer or a collection piece. I will definitely be writing with this pen in regular rotation. I would give this pen as a gift (after inspecting/testing the nib!)

This is a new pen made from old materials and designed to be affordable, reliable and enduring. This is pleasing to my inner luddite. I like the ways that this pen is different than any other modern pen I have bought. I think I could pick it up after a some time in the drawer and start jotting ideas without doing anything to get the ink flowing. I feel like I could trust this pen as my only pen to record a long bike trip. I feel like I will have one of these pens, either with the sweetest nib out of several purchased, or fitted with an old, gold nib, for some time. I like it enough to purchase more than one in case not many are made.

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In this image, you can see how the knob/blind cap for the piston screws away from the barrel as the piston is moved towards the section to prepare to suck up ink.
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A close-up of the nib, before I aligned it. I didn't notice until I was preparing this review that you can see the misalignment in this photo.
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#2 ToasterPastry

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 05:42

Let me be the first of many to thank you for this fine review. Is it possible to retrofit another nib onto the pen?
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#3 watch_art

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 06:14

yes you can, but it has to be a #2 nib. i guess that's great if you have some or know where to find one. myself I don't really know, and I don't have any, so I think this pen will be on my "maybe one day in a few years if i get a good nib first" list. that nib is just a deal killer for me. i'm not even interested because of the nib. oh well.

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#4 Jimmy James

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 13:24

I think the nib issues are probably sporadic, but they're not the only issues with these pens. Both of mine are slow starters, though it appears my burgundy one has just about had enough ink run through it to fix that issue. I put Bad Belted Kingfisher and Upper Ganges Blue in the pens, so they're being challenged with full-on bulletproof to laser-proof Noodler's inks.

They're good overall pens. You'll do better with one of these than you will with most pens available for $12. It's better than a Parker Reflex or Vector, for instance. It may not be up to the standard of a Pelikano Jr. (I have never had one, but I adore regular Pelikanos -- they're closer to $20).

The biggest issue I see here is that you can buy a Reform 1745 or P120 from smeden for around the same price. The Reforms in my experience blow these pens away. That's not to say that I'm sorry Nathan has moved in this direction -- it's a positive development that should benefit fountain pen users over the long haul. I'm just noting that frugal FPN users currently have an even better opportunity out there.

#5 shaqin93

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Posted 20 June 2010 - 16:34

Are all #2 nibs the same size? I'd expect some variations, so I suppose not all will fit.

#6 Jimmy James

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 00:37

Are all #2 nibs the same size? I'd expect some variations, so I suppose not all will fit.

Not every #2 nib is the same size, but I'd expect the bulk of nibs you'd actually see described in that fashion adhere to those sizes.

I imagine somebody has a good set of dimensions for what a #2 should be.

#7 mgepark

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Posted 21 June 2010 - 23:01

May I ask where you found them, not seeing any out there except Swisher, who has been out of stock on them. They're coming back into stock at Swisher now and at $12 each, I'm springing for the burgundy and turquoise.

Edited by mgepark, 22 June 2010 - 15:44.


#8 Jimmy James

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 06:08

Mine came from Swisher at the Raleigh Pen Show.

#9 AndiN

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 13:55

I know some people have mentioned liking the smell of these pens, but I don't. Is there any way to get rid of the smell? Will it eventually fade over time?

#10 Truppi327

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 14:10

I know some people have mentioned liking the smell of these pens, but I don't. Is there any way to get rid of the smell? Will it eventually fade over time?


I have had a Blue pen since the Boston show and the smell has faded considerably. I only notice it if I hold the pen directly under my nose.

I love the pen and have it filled up with Baystate Blue currently. BSB works the best of the three blues I have tried in it so far, Noodler's Polar Blue and J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir were the other two. I only have trouble with the pen starting when it runs of of ink :rolleyes:

I have found that the nib works quite well the more I use it. At first it needed a little breaking in with some brown paper and now it is almost perfectly smooth, just a little drag in one direction. YMMV

Edited by Truppi327, 22 June 2010 - 14:10.

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#11 mgepark

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 15:45

Thanks.

Mine came from Swisher at the Raleigh Pen Show.



#12 AndiN

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 17:04

I have had a Blue pen since the Boston show and the smell has faded considerably. I only notice it if I hold the pen directly under my nose.


Thanks for the info, Truppi327. I picked up the pen at the Raleigh show to see if it'd be a good choice as a starter pen for friends and family who express interest in using FPs. The price is definitely attractive for something like that, and the piston fill + ink windows are a big plus. I was just afraid the smell would turn people off. If it fades over time, though, that shouldn't be a problem.

#13 Silvermink

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Posted 22 June 2010 - 18:51

When you fill the pen, do you cycle the piston twice or just once? I know cycling it twice (down, up, down, up, while immersed in the ink) results in a better fill with a converter, so I imagine it would be the same with a piston. When just doing a single cycle I think the air bubble you end up with is the air that was in the feed.
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#14 Basset

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 04:33

Do we have anyone who has actually replaced the nib with a #2 himself / herself? I would like to hear about how that goes.

#15 USN Air TrafficController

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 04:46

I do the twice fill and still have the bubble. Also, the three that I have inked can only be started by dipping them in water first. This relegates them to desk pens, and that's not why I bought them. I'm hoping this problem is just a new pen issue that will be fixed after a couple of dips. YT
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#16 watch_art

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Posted 23 June 2010 - 05:29

maybe you can use the section from an old sheaffer cart pen like i did in my wality.

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#17 mgepark

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Posted 24 June 2010 - 14:52

Thanks again for the great review, I have two in transit from Swisher of the type reviewed. Do you have any info on the other Noodler's FP you mention as the more expensive one, I am not seeing anything on that anywhere and also nothing on the Noodler's web site (which I found interesting).

#18 themax

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 05:44

The biggest issue I see here is that you can buy a Reform 1745 or P120 from smeden for around the same price. The Reforms in my experience blow these pens away. That's not to say that I'm sorry Nathan has moved in this direction -- it's a positive development that should benefit fountain pen users over the long haul. I'm just noting that frugal FPN users currently have an even better opportunity out there.



I hadn't thought of Reforms, probably because I haven't gotten my hands on one to try yet. Are they still being made? That would be a benefit that these Noodler's pens have over Reforms.

#19 themax

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 05:46

maybe you can use the section from an old sheaffer cart pen like i did in my wality.


Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm not sure the "section" comes apart from the barrel on this pen. Maybe I just haven't tried hard enough to break it yet.

#20 themax

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Posted 25 June 2010 - 05:52

I know some people have mentioned liking the smell of these pens, but I don't. Is there any way to get rid of the smell? Will it eventually fade over time?


I have had a Blue pen since the Boston show and the smell has faded considerably. I only notice it if I hold the pen directly under my nose.

I love the pen and have it filled up with Baystate Blue currently. BSB works the best of the three blues I have tried in it so far, Noodler's Polar Blue and J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir were the other two. I only have trouble with the pen starting when it runs of of ink :rolleyes:

I have found that the nib works quite well the more I use it. At first it needed a little breaking in with some brown paper and now it is almost perfectly smooth, just a little drag in one direction. YMMV


My experience is the same after almost another week of writing with the pen. The smell has faded considerably. I used to catch a whiff now and then during the day when I had the pen in my shirt pocket. Now I need to hold it under my nose. I fear the smell may soon be gone entirely!

The nib on my pen is also now quite pleasurable to write with after aligning the tines, some paper bag work, and a few days of regular use. And still not a skip or blob. This pen is a keeper.






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