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Noodler's Ahab Flex + Adjustment Tips


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94 replies to this topic

#1 tanalasta

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 14:08

Context:

As a constant user of fountain pens, I was looking forsomething more affordable that I could use with my higher maintenance inks. Especially coming into Christmas! A pen, preferably a clear demonstrator that has character, is easily cleaned and flushed and writes well... preferably with some line variation.

Enter the Noodler's flex pen. I did not purchase the initial flex pen as I found the dimensions smaller than my personal preference. Mydaily writers are MB 149's, Danitrio Densho, Visconti Homo Sapiens andare variety of other pens from Aurora, Edison, ST Dupont and others.

So how excited I was when I read about the Noodler's FLEX AHAB pens which met all my criteria! I ordered these the moment they becameavailable from Goulet Pens

I have used this pen for only a whole day ... and an entire ink fill ... will post longer term opinions ... in time! I decided to post an early review to help with other people contemplating this pen and to provide my experiences with adjusting it ... in the hope it will help owners fully enjoy ths pen! My compliments to Noodler's for bringing this to the market at such low cost.

Initial Impressions (and praise for Brian and Rachel Goulet):

Purchasing from Goulet is always a pleasure. I was one of Brian's customers when he was still hand-turning wooden pens and bottle stoppers of fantastic quality before he expanded to the wonderful Goulet Pencompany he is today. Brian and Rachel are always happy to combine my orderrequests and shipped, protected in the best possible way.

My package of G.Lalo, ink and the Noodler's Ahab flex pen came in bubble wrap, shrink wrap, then a final exterior bubble wrap overlay in a USPSpriority mail box. Not a single crease on the G.Lalo envelopes! Brian andRachel are quick to answer emails ... and even quicker to respond to twitter!

Please take any comments to do with the Noodler's Ahab inthe context that this is a $20 pen.

I will also praise Dick at Noodler's ... who responded to my web enquiry ever so quickly and then promptly offered to send me a replacement breathing tube. Only Goulet and Brian Edison have rivalled this degree of customer service!

Unboxing

A simple, cardbox box with the pen sealed in plastic wrap and an instruction leaflet. I wouldn't have expected anymore and appreciate the simplicity to keep costs down. For instance, the TWSBI 540 with it's more comprehensive package retails for more than double, at $50.

A previous review of the Ahab pen has copies of the interior insert with pictures demonstrating how to take the pen apart.

This is a photo of the pen, disassembled... which takes under a minute... with the nib and feed still in the section as I had just finished adjusting it! To take apart the piston, unscrew the black cap and push through.

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Pen adjustment and cleaning

This is where there has been some controversy. I will set the record straight right now.

Adjusted well, this is the best value pen with moderate flex and character you will get for $20

It is highly recommended that you flush the pen well priorto use to remove any residual manufacturing oils. I do the same for my steel dip pen nibs although I wouldn't run the Ahab nib through a naked flame like I would do a dip pen!

My cleaning regimen consisted of:

1. Disassembling the whole pen including the nib/feed

2. Replacing the o-ring on the PISTON with the new double-walled o-ring supplied by Goulet for $1.00. The instructions suggest using a toothpick although I used curved dissecting tweezers. You do need something to reach under and stretch the o-ring out to remove it, attempts at using my fingernails alone failed.

3. I threw mine in the ultrasonic cleaner (notessential) with some detergent water and prompty flushed the breather tube downthe sink (not required either... Goulet, Noodler's and myself have tested itwithout the breather tube and it fills and writes fine)

4. Rinsing with water, flushing with a bulb filled with water, then cycling the piston with JB pen flush (an ammonia solution) and then finally water.

This is serious overkill. For a beginner who is not used to adjusting nibs, I suggest simply flushing in water with a few drops of detergent and then finally flushing it out again with water by cycling the piston.

Controversies with pen adjustment

Anybody who twiddles with nibs know that there is a close relationship between ink flow and how the fit of the nib and feed relate to each other. Out of the box, it may have written fine although I never tried it.

But once you disassemble it completely (i.e. remove the feed/nib to clean), you have to ensure the nib and feed are properly adjusted or else ... the pen will not work as you like. I spent about half an hour all up getting it right, with my initial adjustmenthaving NO FLOW whatsoever. And I've adjusted pen nibs dozens of times on my own pens.

I firmly believe that issues with flow are to do with two issues

1. Ensuring manufacture oils are flushed out andthe ebonite feed has settled in and absorbed the ink.

2. Ensuring the feed and nib are well adjusted.

It's the last one that will catch someone out if they've pulled the whole pen apart as adjusting the pen takes some work. Now I know where I like it, I imagine future adjustments should only take a minute or two.

Unlike TWSBI or the Lamy Safari which tends to work 'straight out of the box' almost all the time... I am not 100% sure the Ahab is a 'pen for the masses'. However, this is only the Ahab's first iteration and with minor revisions, it certainly has potential.

Tips for adjustment:

The whole nib and feed are friction fit. Grab with a papertowel for grip and pull out, holding the body of the feed and nib.

To slot back in, I suggest inserting the feed in loosely and then gradually inserting thenib and sliding it around the circumference until you have identified thegroove it slots into – after which, that's where it stays. Keep everything loose to start with.

Rotate the feed until it lines up with the nib, then pushthe nib in all the way. Then gradually using your thumb and forefinger, slidethe feed gently in until you have it where you want in relationship to the nib.I find it works well with 9-10 of the 'fins' showing with the tip of the feedabout 4mm from the tip. Others have it with 8 fins (about 0.5mm from the tip) Your experiences and preferences will vary! Do NOT push the feed all the way in... it is not only hard to pull out again, especially when inked but the pen may not flow right (or at all)

You can make minor adjustments to the feed alignment using ascrewing action holding the body of the feed/nib with thumb and forefinger. Check the tines are aligned with a 10x loupe (I use a belomo) or a good eye if you have it and gently push with a fingernail the lower tine upwards if it's misaligned. I find it pretty hard to misalign the Ahab as it springs back into alignment easily.

This is a picture of how my feed and nib are adjusted ...

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Construction

In context, it is very satisfactory given the cost! Thecoloured vegetal resin perhaps are more vivid. The resin does warm to the touch and has a subjectively softer feel than standard pen acrylics (e.g. MB or Sailor resin). Think of it as slightly softer plastic. It does not feel as slippery smooth as cellulose nitrate (true celluloid). It is not as glossy as a traditional demo having aslightly cloudy look. I would look forward to ordering a vivid coloured resin in the future.

The fit and finish are quite satisfactory given the price ofthe pen.

The pen balances well unposted, is cap heavy posted. Ibelieve it was designed to write unposted and is a nice size.

The vegetal resin has a slightly acrid, sweet almost aldehyde smell out of the box. It's not terribly unpleasant or strong but... is different. It's not the camphor of true celluloid though.

Filling

It can be used as an uninsulated eyedropper, meaning thatone runs the risk of irregular ink flow with the possibility of problems if theair inside expands due to heat. However, this involves removing the vacuum filler and just filling the entire plastic barrel with ink, a massive capacity! It may be prudent to very lightly lubricate the section o-ring with silicone also if you plan to fill as an eyedropper to ensure a tight seal.

The filler itself is simple. I highly recommend swapping the single o-ring with the smooth double walled o-ring with a very light smear of silicone grease. Push in, dip the entire nib up to the section ink, smoothly pull up and watch it fill. Some people cycle the piston through one or two pumps... I don't bother.

Puts piston filling to shame. This is quite simply one ofthe most efficient and simple filling systems I've ever used. Ever.

The whole thing comes apart for easy cleaning. The only downside is that sometimes ink does get stuck in the interior cylinder of thepiston shaft where the breather tube slots into.

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Nib and feed

Ebonite feed. Reports on FPN suggest there is some manufacturing variability.

The steel nib is not as smooth at flexing a flex writer as a vintage gold flex nib or steel dip pen nib but tolerates a fair degree of pressure and flex without springing. The initial line is a true extra-fine (seewriting comparisons).

Flow is variable depending on how you have adjusted the pen.The tipping however is quite satisfactory and smooth if everything is well aligned. I have mine adjusted so that there is moderate flow with light pressure and quite generous when fully flexed.

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Conclusions:

The Noodler's AHAB is an affordable, easy to clean andtotally user serviceable pen. It is indeed very good value for the money for the fountain pen enthusiast. Commensurate withthe price point, there are a few idiosyncracies.

- The possible need for flushing well out of the box and letting the ebonite feed settle, perhaps overnight

- The need for user adjustment of the nib and feed... although some people have it writing perfectly out of the box.

- The smell of the resin (which may fade with time)

The filling system, writing characteristic and ergonomics ofthe pen do indeed perform far beyond the price point. If the pens were adjusted to write perfectly out of the box, the double o-ring on the piston was standard and a small amount of silicone grease was present, one could easily sell thispen at the same price as the TWSBI ($40-50) and expect it to compete well. In fairness, it could probably sell well at even $80 if the minor issues above were tweaked... especially the prettier colours!

How would I rate this pen?

Taking into account value for money: 8.5 to 9.0 / 10 – this is a totally subjective score.

If I was to compare it to my other pens without considering the price... 7 / 10. My MontBlanc 149, ST Dupont Olympio, Aurora and Danitrio Densho writers are superior in fit, finish and nib characteristics. BUT that's certainly not a fair comparison given all of these pens are >$500

Posted Image

Edited by tanalasta, 04 December 2011 - 03:42.

In Rotation: MB 146 (EF), Noodler's Ahab bumblebee, Edison Pearl (F), Sailor ProGear (N-MF)
In storage: MB 149 (18k EF), TWSBI 540 (B), ST Dupont Olympio XL (EF), MB Dumas (B stub), Waterman Preface (ST), Edison Pearl (0.5mm CI), Noodler's Ahab clear, Pilot VP (M), Danitrio Densho (F), Aurora Optima (F), Lamy 2000 (F), Visconti Homo Sapiens (stub)

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#2 pictogramax

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 14:33

Beautiful review, thorough. As someone who still struggles a bit with adjusting the Ahabs, I find your writing to be of a great value for fine-tuning these pens. Thank you!

#3 jandrese

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 15:53

Great review, thanks. As someone who had no need to adjust my Ahab, and who hashad no problems at all, perhaps I should post a review for a counter perpective! :-)

I might add that I did flush my pen with mild detergent first, otherwise no adjustments. The nib is smooth and "flexes" almost to double broad. Pressure to flex is ~650 grams, which is roughly double the amount needed to flex my vintage Waterman Ideal #3 semi flex gold nib. The smell of the material is typical of pens from India, and may never diminish. A friend of mine has pens he got as a school boy in Bombay over 20 years ago that still smell. Yesterday, on a long drive with the pen in my shirt pocket the odor was obvious. In less confined spaces it is barely noticable. Forget the odor, it is a great pen for the price, and would still be a good pen upwards of five times its modest cost.

Edited by jandrese, 03 December 2011 - 16:19.


#4 Scribblesoften

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 16:30

Thank you for writing this. I really enjoyed reading it. I think that this is a clear, reasoned presentation on the benefits and potential pitfalls for purchasers of Ahabs. I wish that everyone considering purchase could read your review to make an informed decision. I think it would pre-empt some of the questions that we keep seeing pop up. Thanks again.

#5 Uncle Red

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 16:43

Wow, great review. I'll keep this in mind for when I get one.

#6 jde

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 20:31

Thank you for taking the time to give us your adjusting notes and perspective. You gave me a boost to try my Ahab one more time and now I've got it adjusted properly.

When I first got the Ahab, I flushed it a couple of times and did so without taking it apart. It wrote perfectly. The ink flowed perfectly. Not much flex, it seemed. Then of course I had to take it all apart and try to see if I could get some better flex out of the pen. I think I'm pretty fair at re-setting a nib to an ebonite feed, yet this is where my frustration began. I got no flow, scratchy words, inconsistent flow, blah blah blah. Put it away.

After reading your post I decided to flush again and take a toothbrush to the feed. Even though it already seemed clean enough to me.

To slot back in, I suggest inserting the feed in loosely and then gradually inserting thenib and sliding it around the circumference until you have identified thegroove it slots into – after which, that's where it stays. Keep everything loose to start with.


The groove on my pen is quite evident when looking at the pen. But I followed your instruction to insert the feed loosely, and then slide the nib into place and then set them together. Dunno why but that worked better than my usual way of fitting them together first and then inserting them into the section. The pen is writing and flexing. It works! Yay!

I have two semi-flex nibs: a Danitrio and a vintage Feathertouch #5. The Noodler's nib can in no way compare to those great nibs. It is stiff and requires attention to make it flex. However, the Ahab is a neat pen in its own right.

Unlike TWSBI or the Lamy Safari which tends to work 'straight out of the box' almost all the time... I am not 100% sure the Ahab is a 'penfor the masses'.


Yes, this is a definite pen for the tinkerers among us!
 
...writing only requires focus, and something to write on. —John August
...and a pen that's comfortable in the hand.—moi

#7 USMCMom

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 21:26

Excellent review, tanalasta and very thorough! You have given a lot of information and how-to in such a way that it will be helpful for those who are not familiar with adjusting their Ahab nibs and feeds to their own personal taste. Great job!! :clap1:

Edited by USMCMom, 03 December 2011 - 21:27.


#8 youstruckgold

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 21:28

Unbelievably thorough!! Great job! Mine arrives soon - now really looking forward to it!
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#9 pictogramax

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Posted 03 December 2011 - 22:33

Tanalasta, inspired by your thread I re-flushed my Ahab, then reassembled the feed and the nib according to your instructions. The pen is reborn:-) Thank you!

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#10 shrinknib

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 02:30

Well done on a great review tanalasta.
Comprehensive and obviously very helpful.
I am tinker-averse so I am envious of your play with this pen!
Enjoy :thumbup:
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#11 tanalasta

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 03:31

Many thanks for the positive comments :)

My fingers are all inked with J'Herbin amongst other colours now from tinkering with my Ahab.

Perhaps I should have tried the pen first before pulling the whole thing apart to see how it wrote 'out of the box'. For a $20 steel nibbed, ebonite feed with a very easy to use filling design (reminds me fo a syringe ... I just dip the nib in and pull on the plunger) ... it's great value. I've got mine tuned so that the flow is quite consistent with light to moderate pressure but it does gush a bit if I over-play the flex...

I am quite motivated the review helped others enjoy their Ahab flex pens more! I've made a mental note not to pull the nib/feed apart unless I have to now that I have it right :) After all, I wouldn't do that routinely to my expensive pens!Dick at Noodler's also suggested letting the ebonite feed dry properly after cleaning and letting the ink to settle into the ebonite feed to help resolve flow problems.

Edited by tanalasta, 04 December 2011 - 03:33.

In Rotation: MB 146 (EF), Noodler's Ahab bumblebee, Edison Pearl (F), Sailor ProGear (N-MF)
In storage: MB 149 (18k EF), TWSBI 540 (B), ST Dupont Olympio XL (EF), MB Dumas (B stub), Waterman Preface (ST), Edison Pearl (0.5mm CI), Noodler's Ahab clear, Pilot VP (M), Danitrio Densho (F), Aurora Optima (F), Lamy 2000 (F), Visconti Homo Sapiens (stub)

#12 SamCapote

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 09:09

You did a fabulous job with this review. Very fair and complete.

I just posted a new thread here with close-up photos of enlarging the first 4 vents of the top side of the feed. Made a huge difference, and very easy/quick to do.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.

#13 ttakacs

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Posted 04 December 2011 - 16:27

My Ahab was filled with R&K alt-bordeaux, which was not flowing as ideally as I would have liked and was railroading. tanalasta's instructions inspired me to remove and reset my Ahab nib/feed. I didn't quite follow tanalasta's instructions. Here is what I did.

The whole process took me less than five minutes, from emptying the ink to refilling. (It will take somewhat longer if the breather tube goes down the drain and you have to retrieve it from the trap.)

After unscrewing the push-pull converter, flushing the nib and removing the breather tube from the feed, I grasped the nib/feed between thumb and forefinger and pulled the nib/feed gently but firmly from the section. I expected resistance, but the assembly slid out smoothly. I applied a bit of dishwashing liquid to a toothbrush and scrubbed the nib and feed thoroughly.

To reassemble, I tried to follow tanalasta's instructions for inserting the feed first followed by the nib but that proved awkward for me. Instead, I inserted the nib first. A channel is machined into the inner circumference of the section to accept the nib. Insert the nib into the section until the nib won't go in any further. Then, line up the channel on the feed with the nib slit and insert the feed into the section. I found this method made it easier to align the nib slit with the channel. By leaving less of a gap between the tip of the feed and the tip of the nib, I was able to improve ink flow and eliminate railroading.

#14 Bullwinkle

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 20:56

no more Noodlers for me.. I screwed around and finally got the slim version to work a few weeks ago and I have spent about 1/2 of a day screwing with the Ahab. Totally disassemble the pen (twice) clean everything, rinsed everything swapped o-ring and put a very small amount of silicone grease on the new o-ring. adjust they nib as per the above instructions multiple times. then tried ttakacs suggestion for adjusting the nib. still a no go will not write. the hero 616's at 1/10 the price and the KawecoSport at about the same price write rings around both Noodler pens. I suggest they stick to Ink and leave pen design to other folks. as always I hope your mileage varies..

Edited by Bullwinkle, 05 December 2011 - 20:57.

when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

#15 Hangglidernerd

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 21:49

I suggest they stick to Ink and leave pen design to other folks. as always I hope your mileage varies..



Yes my mileage does vary...I love all 3 of my Noodler's flexies,ebonite,piston and Ahab....I suggest he keep making pens...come on,have you ever seen a 20 buck Dunn filler?Thanks Nathan!

Perhaps you do have a defective one since you have tried the various suggestions but really,leave pen design to other folks?!?!?!..when is Hero and Kaweco going to give us a flex nib Dunn filler?Oh,it cartridge filler with a very nice nail nib-Kaweco...and copy of a parker 51 special aerometric nail nib-Hero.Both fine pens for what they are but I'm am more than happy to have Noodler's pens available as well....Keep it up Nathan...and thanks for that video on repairing Sheaffer Vac-fillers too.

#16 Bullwinkle

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 22:37

Good for you.. I was simply expressing my delight with Noodlers Pens.. I don't need an education about the other pens (or do I need to spends hours working on them) Nathan should do his own beta testing of his designs and QC. I evidently am not the odd man out of problems with these pens. If Parker put out this pen there would be riots and calls for hangings.





I suggest they stick to Ink and leave pen design to other folks. as always I hope your mileage varies..



Yes my mileage does vary...I love all 3 of my Noodler's flexies,ebonite,piston and Ahab....I suggest he keep making pens...come on,have you ever seen a 20 buck Dunn filler?Thanks Nathan!

Perhaps you do have a defective one since you have tried the various suggestions but really,leave pen design to other folks?!?!?!..when is Hero and Kaweco going to give us a flex nib Dunn filler?Oh,it cartridge filler with a very nice nail nib-Kaweco...and copy of a parker 51 special aerometric nail nib-Hero.Both fine pens for what they are but I'm am more than happy to have Noodler's pens available as well....Keep it up Nathan...and thanks for that video on repairing Sheaffer Vac-fillers too.


when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

#17 Hangglidernerd

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Posted 05 December 2011 - 23:01

[quote name='Bullwinkle' timestamp='1323124620' post='2177130']
Good for you.. I was simply expressing my delight with Noodlers Pens.. I don't need an education about the other pens (or do I need to spends hours working on them) Nathan should do his own beta testing of his designs and QC. I evidently am not the odd man out of problems with these pens. If Parker put out this pen there would be riots and calls for hangings.


Well tres bien pour vous....If you had expressed that ...OK,fine...... but your exact quote..."I suggest they stick to Ink and leave pen design to other folks"...
well I one hundred percent disagree.I want him to keep making pens thank you very much.Thats what's got me typing away...telling him to quit making pens because you personally are unhappy.

Sorry if you dislike my stating that the two pens you mentioned do not do what I want them to-have good self fillers and flex nibs but I for one would never discourage more choices being made available to us.Your specific quote does just that....I vote for more choices,I will never buy a precious resin 800 buck oversized feels rotten in my hands pen but I will also never insist that they should leave pen design to other folks just because I don't care fore the illustrous white star pens.Please pen manufacturers....continue giving us a wonderful large selection of pens to play with.Thats ALL manufactures from the Cheapest Chinese to the bloody insane million dollar one offs....Oh,and I won't be calling for hangings and joining riots if you have some QC trouble,we have wonderful retailers like the Goulet's and others who will go out of their way if one isn't happy with a purchase to make you happy plus a thriving classified section to sell any unwanted pens.
Oh well c'est la vie.

#18 Bullwinkle

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 00:02

OK.. if you insist yours is bigger than mine.. I think you mentioning not liking the white start pens either pretty much wraps this up. I have brought most of my stuff from Todd and couldn't be happier with his business model.

Edited by Bullwinkle, 06 December 2011 - 00:32.

when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?

#19 Hangglidernerd

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 01:08

What the? ....nice insult......have a nice life.
here's something nice to look at...I love Clara Bow. :notworthy1:

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#20 SamCapote

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Posted 06 December 2011 - 04:02

Bullwinkle, I am sincerely sorry you got one of the Ahab's that is not working out. I'm sorry that anyone gets a pen that doesn't work out. Sounds like you gave it a more than fair trial, and should just return it and see if Todd will give a refund, and put it behind you.

If you are not going to return it, and have some time down the road to waste, I might respectfully suggest you take a look at my thread where I show close-up photos of my feed, and how I pretty easily and quickly enlarged a few slits with an X-acto blade. I think some of the feeds may not have cuts made all the way into the channels, and if user-fixed may be the source of some of the types of cases like you describe. If you have reached your limit and don't want any more to do with the pen, it is perfectly understandable.

Your point comparing to a Parker is valid, and if Nathan charged more for individual inspection, I don't think we would be seeing this...but that's the downside of all the features in this pen at such a low price. This pen is certainly weeding out those that enjoy/don't mind doing some tinkering taking into account that this is a $20 pen from those that just want a Parker QC reliability--for $20.

I think this is a case where Nathan honestly thought he had a reliable QC being done as a part of the extremely low price. Even with the legitimate problems we have heard about in cases like yours, I think (not certain) there is still only a 1-2% fail rate. Obviously, I also personally hope that Nathan keeps making and developing new pens with all the features in the Ahab because no one else is doing it like this for such low prices. To review...there's an Ebonite feed, vegetal resin body, plunger filler, adaptable to eyedropper, flexing nib, user self-service....in a Pelikan M800 size pen---for $20.
With the new FPN rules, now I REALLY don't know what to put in my signature.






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