Last week, Bertram's Inkwell offered to sell three FPN members a Duke Art Pen for $50 in exchange for a review to be posted here at FPN. I am very grateful that Bertram's Inkwell offered this deal, as I have been intrigued by the various bent-nib pens but was reluctant to pay hundreds of dollars without first using one. So, for me, this deal provides an extended trial to see if this type of pen is useful for both art and normal writing.
The Duke "Confucius" Art Pen is a high quality well-presented fountain pen that performs as promised for pen and ink drawings. While some may find it works well for general writing, I find it offers no benefits over conventional fountain pens except its abilities for extreme line variation.
The Duke Confucius Art Pen is a fountain pen made of a unique material and sporting a unique (patented) nib. It arrives in a black cardboard box containing a cloth-covered wood box which holds the paperwork, a bottle of black ink, and the pen. It is made in China and all of the included documentation is in Chinese.
This pen is large and heavy, weighing in at 64g (filled). The image below shows the Duke Art Pen between a Pelikan M1005 (left) and a Sheaffer Legacy (right) for size comparison. Unposted, the pen seems comfortable and well-balanced.
While I have experience with paint brushes and drawing pens, a multi-angle art fountain pen is a totally different tool. I can imagine that some artists will take to it enthusiastically, while others may not.
Gauging its performance against other fountain pens reveals it to be an excellent well-constructed pen. The nib is very smooth with huge line variation and the ink flow self-adjusts as needed without ever being too dry or too wet. For this review, I used only the ink provided with the pen.
The pen has a bamboo body, black Chinese lacquer cap, and steel nib. The silver-colored clip and trim are decorated with a stylized design of the Great Wall. The silver ring above the section is marked "KING CROWN" and "551-1". All of the surfaces are highly polished and have the feel and appearance of quality craftsmanship. The bamboo is said to symbolize long life in Chinese tradition.
The filling mechanism is a cartridge/converter. One very large cartridge is included with the pen. The converter is pre-installed.
The included ink has a dispenser nozzle that is designed to fill the converter when removed from the pen. Similarly, you could use the dispenser bottle to refill the cartridge. I don't believe it would be possible to fill the converter in the conventional manner using the included ink bottle, but conventional filling should work with ink bottles designed with larger mouths.
The nib is especially interesting and a distinctive feature of this pen, with a curved tip, called an 'ink collection plate', which allows a wide variety of application techniques. With the pen held normally, but at a low angle, the entire soul of the collection plate will contact the paper for the broadest possible line. The pen can be used in both the convention feed-down and feed-up position, and will write continuously while rotating the pen 360 degrees while drawing a line.
Over the course of two days, this pen performed flawlessly. It never failed to start the moment it touched paper and the ink flow was always predictable given the variances in pen angle. In many respects, this pen reminds me of a Sumi-e brush, where the angle, rotation, and pressure of the pen provide myriad results. Of course, the usefulness of such a pen is limited to the technical skill of the artist.
Using the pen in the upside-down (feed up) position was predictable and consistent similar to other a fine/medium nib pens. However, using the 'ink collection plate' with the pen in the conventional (feed down) position proves more challenging. I do not see this as a flaw in the pen, but rather as the learning curve required.
I am not sure how the Duke pen will fit into my daily toolkit for writing and drawing. I doubt it will replace any of my traditional fountain pens for writing, but may well be useful pen & ink drawing. The fact that it can be kept ever-ready and loaded with may be a convenient option to working with brush and ink.
There is no doubt that these pens, in the hands of a skilled artist could produce some stunning work.
Bertram's currently sells this pen for $100. A quick web search proved that to be the best price currently available.
Edited by ajoe, 28 February 2012 - 22:12.