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Levenger True Writer - Bargain Or Ripoff?

levenger true writer stub pricing value

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26 replies to this topic

#1 Mister John

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 01:22

Levenger and their True Writer series presents a bit of a puzzle in their value proposition. On the one hand, I have a Kyoto True Writer, gotten for a cheap price on a deal, which is a wonderful pen: lovely writer, well balanced, and very pretty. So I thought about adding a stub nib to it, as a fun option. 

 

Visiting Levenger, I discovered that regular nib units run $30, not great but not horrible either. Stubs, however, cost double! That's about what I paid for the whole pen! And seems like a total ripoff. 

 

So what's the deal? Is there some justification for charging double the price for a stub? Do they really cost so much more to make? Or is this pure price discrimination on Levenger's part where normal people get the "good" price on fountain pens, but those of us who love them get killed on "specialty items" like the stub. 

 

More broadly, does Levenger represent legitimate value or is it a ripoff?



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#2 JefferyS

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 01:38

Ripoff seems harsh. They probably sell fewer stubs than other nibs, so it seems better that they offer them for a higher price rather than not at all.
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#3 bailey philip

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:10

I have a True Writer I bought several years ago. I had it reground for less than a new stub nib from Levenger. Now it writes the way I want it to.


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#4 Ron Z

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:17

More broadly, does Levenger represent legitimate value or is it a ripoff?


Good pun.

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#5 TimGirdler

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:22

I am an oddity among my pen-friends in that I like the Levenger True Writer.  I began collecting them solely for the purpose of tinkering with them.  The easily-replaceable nib units make it an ideal pen for tinkering.  I began liking them very much. 

 

Still, these pens are not without their issues.  They come with a Schmidt nib, not bad, but far from the quality of a JoWo.  With proper tinkering, the Schmidt nibs can be made to write well.  The JoWos, typically, take far less work.  In fact, I've replaced several of my original Levenger nibs with JoWo nibs and it does make quite a difference.

 

So, I think the pens are worth it if you can buy it cheap and have it tweaked.  Once the additional investment of the tweaking is done, you'll likely have a pen that will serve you well for a long time.

 

By the way, one thing I offer to do for clients who have Levenger pens is to replace the existing nib with a JoWo nib.

 

As far as the price goes for the "Signature Stub," I think they call it, is that it is billed as a "hand ground" nib.  I've not tried a Levenger stub; I grind my own and mine are likely better than the store-bought Levengers (If I do say so myself).  I know, Deborah Basel uses a store-bought Levenger stub in one of her true writers and she loves it.  If anyone knows how to write with a stub, it's Deborah.

 

When purchasing a stub from Levenger, remember you're paying for the cost of the nib itself and the work required to grind it.  Typical grinding charges from most nib workers are $40 and a typical price for a nib is $20...so the price isn't outlandish. 

 

It is a good pen--not flashy, not fancy, not vintage, not entirely "remarkable."  But, it isn't a bad pen and it isn't a ripoff. 

 

Tim


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#6 DanF

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:40

Another thing to consider: is the stub tipped? Most of the cheap stub nib don't have tipping - If the Levenger's are ground from a broad, they will have, tipping the balance toward the higher value (as long as we a re punning). A Jowo broad steel nib has enough tipping to grind a 1 mm stub. A Jowo factory steel stub for TWSBI has no tipping. 

 

Dan


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#7 mbankirer

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:43

Not a rip off....I have several. I do buy when they are on sale/clearance prices.

#8 Runnin_Ute

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 02:44

I love my TW - Have the Silver Anniversary model. My understanding is that the stub is a hand ground medium from Schmidt. (mine has the fine nib) Initially I thought that maybe the stub nib unit was a bit steep, but not knowing what it would be to have a nib hand ground I never pressed the issue.  But from reading Tim's post it doesn't seem horribly out of line.

 

A Lamy nib unit is $25 with EF,F,M,B,LH from Lamy USA. A 1.1, 1.5 or 1.9 mm is $13 from Goulet. So maybe a little to the high end of normal?


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#9 Heliotrope

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 03:09

I wondered about the price of the stub nib, too, until I read that they are hand ground.  I don't have one yet because I had a TW nib customized to a 0.7mm stub before Levenger began selling their own stub.



#10 Joe in Seattle

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 03:15

My four write better than many a more expensive pen and I'm not worried about taking them on vacation with me. I find nothing wrong with the nibs.
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#11 Mister John

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 14:59

Thanks for the replies. I clearly did not factor the cost of hand grinding into my assessment of the reasonableness (or not) of the price. The price seems more or less in line with costs given that consideration. 

 

But this leads me to wonder about the benefits of hand versus machine grinding. Like others, I have several machine ground italic nibs from Lamy (1.1, 1.5. 1.9mm), Pelikan (1.0, 1.5mm from the Script series), and Pilot (78g broad).I've found these to be quite enjoyable to write with, which was the reason I was investigating Levenger's signature stub in the first place.

 

Anyone have any head to head comparisons between machine and hand ground? For the comparison to be fair, the hand ground nibs should be made "anonymously", i.e. without direct input from the intended user. I'll readily concede that a nib ground expressly for an individual user and taking account of her feedback is likely to be better than machine ground. This, however, is not what Levenger is offering. They are mass producing stubs, just like Lamy, but using an alternate, more labor intensive, production process. Does the labor intensive process produce higher quality output? 



#12 TimGirdler

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 16:01

Thanks for the replies. I clearly did not factor the cost of hand grinding into my assessment of the reasonableness (or not) of the price. The price seems more or less in line with costs given that consideration. 

 

But this leads me to wonder about the benefits of hand versus machine grinding. Like others, I have several machine ground italic nibs from Lamy (1.1, 1.5. 1.9mm), Pelikan (1.0, 1.5mm from the Script series), and Pilot (78g broad).I've found these to be quite enjoyable to write with, which was the reason I was investigating Levenger's signature stub in the first place.

 

Anyone have any head to head comparisons between machine and hand ground? For the comparison to be fair, the hand ground nibs should be made "anonymously", i.e. without direct input from the intended user. I'll readily concede that a nib ground expressly for an individual user and taking account of her feedback is likely to be better than machine ground. This, however, is not what Levenger is offering. They are mass producing stubs, just like Lamy, but using an alternate, more labor intensive, production process. Does the labor intensive process produce higher quality output? 

 

For the most part, there is a huge difference. 

 

The hand-ground nibs still have the tipping material.  In fact, most of the work (the grinding) is done to the tipping material.  The result is a nib that should last for a very long time.

 

Many of the "company" stubs (Lamy, for example) are stubs without any discernible tipping material.  The result is a nib that will likely write well and smoothly (and broadly), but the stainless steal of the nib will disappear quickly, which will cause the writing characteristics of the nib to change constantly.

 

Also, in the "golden age" nibs were ground--still retaining the tipping material.  Just look on eBay or the classifieds here for a "Factory Stub."  You can see it's a "real" nib, complete with tipping material, and it has been properly ground to retain all the characteristics of the nib, namely the tipping material.  This is why these factory stubs are highly desired now and why, after 5 decades, they still write.

 

Tim 


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#13 OcalaFlGuy

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 19:16

To answer your last question first, there's no comparison, the hand ground is Much better. If for no other reason than you can usually communicate to the grinder some specifics of how you write and want your nibs to and have the grind more optimized To You which of course, is not possible with a machine ground one.

 

So far as the Tru-Writers go, I like them for a couple reasons.

 

Here's the One I have.

2012-07-24_10-55-20_961%2520%25281%2529.

 

First is their materials for caps and barrels, Very nice. Nice enough to be in much more expensive pens. I am not even very fond of Red pens and have actually Tried to give this one away but it just won't leave  ;) Now it has a Pendleton Point CI in it and it's now not going anywhere. 

 

If you find them used or in the Factory Outlet on Fleabay they're cheap enough to warrant sending them to someone like Tim to have the nib optimized for you or even ground.

 

There is another reason I think everyone should have one.  I personally see Levengers as kind of a hotsey totsey vendor with a lot of their stuff being overpriced even if it's still nice. On the other hand, I know they did the Tru-Writer in respect and memory of the Esterbrook J and are proud to say so in their marketing for the Tru-Writer. It purposely has a similar shape including the end jewels and carries onward with the user removable nibs. Similar to the Estie, there's enough colors that Were available to make collecting the ones you like fun. I appreciate that a modern pen company went so far to pay tribute to a past major pen maker. I'd buy one of their Tru-Writers for that reason alone.

 

Bruce in Ocala, FL



#14 Ron Z

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Posted 13 June 2013 - 19:41

I will tell you Bruce, that I prefer my Esterbrooks.  I just sold the three True Writers that I bought years ago because they've been sitting, unused for the last 7 or 8 years.  They didn't excite me, and I find them to be just a tad too chunky to be comfortable compared to the Esterbrook J, which is just right.

 

The True Writer is reasonably well made, nice thick barrels and caps, strong clips, strong sections.  But the buttons are lacquered metal, not plastic, which I think they should be because it wears better.  The nibs are their Achillies heal.  They are Schmidt nibs, and tend to unscrew in the section, which means that the front edge of the collar breaks because it closes against the inner cap with no support behind if you don't catch it.  Folks tend to over tighten the nib unit in the section, so then the threaded end of the collar breaks because the plastic is thin and can't handle the stress.  Just a dab of thread sealant would solve a lot of the problems. 


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#15 markofp

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 01:50

 

 

In fact, I've replaced several of my original Levenger nibs with JoWo nibs and it does make quite a difference.

 

 

 

 

Well, that made me sit upright.

 

So . . . . how would an Average Joe such as myself do such a thing?  Levenger nibs are a snap to replace.  Do you sell JoWo nibs for the True Writer, Tim?



#16 TimGirdler

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 02:59

 

 

Well, that made me sit upright.

 

So . . . . how would an Average Joe such as myself do such a thing?  Levenger nibs are a snap to replace.  Do you sell JoWo nibs for the True Writer, Tim?

 

I don't sell JoWo nibs, but I can easily get them and install them.  The JoWo #5 nib is what the True Writer takes.

 

When I've done this service for clients in the past, I basically do it for the cost of a nib tuning ($25).  Of course, you, as the client, would be responsible for the cost of the nib, but I don't add a mark-up to the nibs.

 

If you'd like to do it yourself, it's possible.  The nib on the True Writer is friction-fit into the nib sleeve that screws into the section.  If you have a loupe to make sure the tines are aligned, you should have a decent writer.  A tuned True Writer nib, however, would be much better.  :)

 

Please feel free to visit my site (in the signature below) and email me if you'd like to talk turkey.

 

Tim


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#17 lovemy51

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 07:19

i love my esties, but i'm not getting rid of my Kyoto TW... such a beautiful and well made pen -which i bought a couple of years back for only $27, i thank you!



#18 TimGirdler

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Posted 14 June 2013 - 16:15

i love my esties, but i'm not getting rid of my Kyoto TW... such a beautiful and well made pen -which i bought a couple of years back for only $27, i thank you!

 

The Kyoto is a GORGEOUS pen, isn't it?  I have two of them (one of which my father has custody of).  Also, my wife, who isn't into fountain pens, has the Kyoto Rollerball.  I think it is one of the most interesting and beautiful finishes.

 

Tim


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#19 EKE

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Posted 19 June 2013 - 00:31

I'm a customer of Tim's, and he replaced the nib in my Obsidian TW with a two-tone JoWo fine.  It is a great nib, especially when tuned by Tim.  It's a true fine in width. 

 

I love my True Writers.  I just bought the Teal Appeal from Levenger on sale, and it's really pretty.  Marbled teal acrylic with gold plated bands, trim and section. 


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#20 VertOlivia

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Posted 25 June 2014 - 16:31

I have two Levenger TWs that I bought second-hand. The Sea Glass and the Red Pearl that Bruce has depicted above. The signature stub which I bought for the Sea Glass is scratchy, but works very well with Sailor ink. The Red Pearl has a super smooth broad nib and I really enjoy them both.

 

Looking for a deal on that Kyoto.


Edited by Aquinata, 25 June 2014 - 16:31.

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