It is no secret that I have been a fan and supporter of Conid’s Bulkfiller since the very beginning. When news began to filter through FPN that a new filling mechanism that would provide over double the capacity of its competitors was being designed by one of our own, I felt it was my obligation as an avid user to support the fledgling endeavour.
Nearly two and a half years ago, I received my FPR (First Production Run) demonstrator Bulkfiller; a year later I added a second: a black delrin streamline. Then came word that a new model was being developed - an ebonite oversize - and that a special edition in vintage Tibaldi Imperial Celluloid was planned in very limited numbers. I immediately contacted Werner and, a few months later, the pen arrived in Israel.
That beautiful celluloid...
If I have previously had one criticism of my Bulkfillers, it is that the choice of materials never quite lived up to the unique promise of the pen itself. Although my other Bulkfillers are attractive in a simple, Bauhaus, manner, the clear acrylic and delrin lack that pizzazz that infects so many Japanese and Italian pens. Both are fantastically functional (the delrin especially), but they are pens you respect, rather than love.
Not so the Flanders LE. The kingsize itself is quite a departure from the established Conid norm: gone are the ruler-straight lines, the slightly extreme length, the twin washers to securely hold the cap when posted. Instead, it is almost sensual, its slightly tapering cap and barrel expertly polished to a flawless sheen to best display the electric blue veins rippling through the celluloid. It has transformed the Bulkfiller into a truly covetable item, and I look forward to future offerings straying from the traditional black.
And, true to Conid’s manner, the machining is flawless. I have never come across any pen by any manufacturer as well put together as a factory-fresh Bulkfiller. There is absolutely no play in the parts, and everything is designed to last forever while being easily user-disassembled for service and cleaning. It is obvious that Francis, the pen’s designer, is as involved in manufacturing as design, because the intelligence of the engineering solutions, and the attention to detail, is astonishing. Nowhere is this more clearly visible than in the clip: produced from a single solid block of titanium, it no doubt cost a fortune to develop and manufacture, and will survive a nuclear winter.
That clip: precision engineering, like everything else...
Though it is invisible in this specific model, the mechanism is a creation of equal beauty. I remember when my first Bulkfiller arrived, I thought that perhaps it was an unnecessary over-complication. I could not have been more wrong. Unscrew the blind cap, pull out the rod, rotate left to lock, push in, pull out, rotate right to unlock, push in the rod, close blind cap. Done.
Now, after two years of use, I can fill any of these pens blind, in an instant, and with clean hands. Francis’s ingenious bend in the titanium rod ensures that I have never suffered from those wandering air-bubbles that frequently reek havoc with my Pilot 823 and Onotos. The dual reservoir also allows me to feed or drain the nib and feed of ink at will (by opening the blind cap and pointing the nib either up or down), meaning that I have never ever suffered an explosion, leak, or inky fingers with any of my Conid pens even after dozens of flights and thousands of miles travelled. All this with over 2ml of ink capacity in even the smallest model - a monstrous 3ml in this kingsize model.
The blind cap.
The only criticism I have of this pen is the nib. The EF size 6 titanium nib in my delrin streamline (produced by Bock and user replaceable) is one of my best writers: not too wet, not too dry, smooth as silk. So of course I had to order the same in size 8 for this Kingsize. Unfortunately, lightning doesn't strike twice: it is not as much to my liking, being a bit too wet and a little rough.
The nibs are user-replaceable and can be purchased in ss, gold or titanium (the last two only for the Kingsize). Note the empty second reservoir.
The ebonite feed.
No doubt as soon as I have published this review, Francis and/or Werner will contact me to ask why I haven’t notified them, and will offer an instant and completely satisfactory solution (this is the kind of incredible service you get from Conid included in the price of admission), but I wanted to give a fair view of what to expect out of the box. It is, and remains, my only criticism of this most incredible pen.
Writing sample on Rhodia with Montblanc Lavender ink. Note the full reservoir (without refilling the pen).
No, I lie. I have two criticisms, though the second is not reeeeallly directly relevant...
I usually don’t mention packaging much. I am a user, not a collector, and so feel that boxes etc are to pens what cellophane and plastic are to fruit: an unnecessary waste. I understand that this pen is a labour of love, designed in Belgium to honour the millions lost as WWI ravaged Flanders, but despite the effort, care and attention to detail, all the dog tags, the USB sticks and the unique box (no doubt costing Conid an arm and a leg) are completely superfluous. Less is more, and I feel that pen would have been as impressive (perhaps more) with a simple wooden box (see Onoto/Nakaya/MontblancPOA), perhaps with an included poppy.
But, as I said and as you know, packaging means nothing. Cost, however, does. I paid comfortably double the price of a ‘standard’ ebonite kingsize for this LE. Some of that is no doubt down to the material, some to the (unnecessary) packaging, and some (hopefully) is easy revenue towards the development of the cheaper and more mass-produced Bulkfillers. While I consider the standard ebonite Kingsize a well-priced pen (and would urge anyone in the market for a Montblanc 149 or Pelikan M1000 to give one a chance), this LE was a pure, glorious indulgence, one for which I have no regrets. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I have been travelling heavily recently, and it is no coincidence that my Visconti three pen case has been filled with my three Conids. Since the Bulkfiller’s inception, they have always been the most functional pens you can buy. However, with the LE's celluloid and the Kingsize's more elegant design, the Bulkfiller is a pen you can now buy with your heart as much as your head. Does that make it the best pen in the real-world? There’s a pretty good argument to be made for that…
Edited by mongrelnomad, 05 December 2014 - 12:22.