This is a review of the Desiderata Mercury flex pen. After seeing a couple of photos on FPN about a year ago, I knew I’d be getting one someday. When I saw that only one or two pieces were available on the website and no new products were in the works, I decided now was the time.
After just a few days with the pen, I am really happy with it. Hopefully you’ll find this useful if you’ve considered one of these great pens.
Desiderata Mercury pen, Purple Heart and Cherry woods
I’m sorry to start off on a low note, but here we are. Customer service and product presentation are definitely the low point in what is ultimately a great buy.
Pierre ships once per week on Fridays, which I understood when I made my order. Pierre emailed me a week later stating he was unable to ship my pen until the next Tuesday as he was preparing for a pen show. When Wednesday rolled around, I emailed Pierre for an update. He responded that he was too busy to ship it and would send it as soon as he could. It suffices to say I was not impressed. In the end, it took two delays and 16 days to receive my order, though it was sent Priority 2-Day Mail.
When the package arrived I (mostly) forgot about all that, so you’ll forgive the lack of a proper unboxing photo. Product presentation is a divisive subject. Some people like lots of heavy packaging, wrapped in tape and plastic. Personally I don’t see the need for a pricey box I’m going to stick in a closet or throw away. Still, while not necessarily indicative of high quality, great packaging suggests such. My pen arrived unceremoniously wrapped in brown kraft paper. I’m glad Pierre didn’t go overboard with the packaging, but some people might prefer some kind of presentation.
Design and Construction
What Pierre has done here is to construct a feed/section assembly that makes it possible to use (disposable) calligraphic dip nibs in a fountain pen body. His design works very well, and in normal (slow) flexed writing, performance is very good. Occasional railroading will occur when writing too fast or at the wrong angle. This is not a fault of the pen, however. Calligraphy is meant to be written slowly.
Desiderata Mercury pen, parts exposed
The Desiderata Mercury fills with a simple but effective sac. To fill, one must remove the body from the section, exposing the sac. Depressing the sac to create a vacuum, submerging in ink, then releasing will give a 3/4 fill. Pierre provides instructions via a YouTube link on how to get a complete fill, if that is important to you. The pen holds about 3.0ml of ink.
Overall, I find that the relatively crude filling system does not detract from the experience of using the pen. While I would balk at any other pen filling in this way, in a calligraphy-cum-fountain-pen, I find it more than appropriate and actually prefer it over a converter setup.
Although Pierre does pens of other materials, the Mercury turned from wood. Mine is Purple Heart and Cherry wood with (I believe) an ebonite feed and section. The quality of the wood is very nice. While the color combination of Purple Heart and Cherry would not be my first pick (it was the only option when I purchased mine), woodwork is well done and the pen is beautiful in its simplicity. If scrutinized, I can see the lathing marks, but for me, this says handmade and not low quality. The wood is well-sealed against staining and the hand-cut feed on my pen looks the part and keeps up with the high flow requirement of the Zebra G nib. The nib/feed fits precisely into the section with high tolerance.
As another reviewer pointed out, the major failing of the Mercury is in the finishing. When unscrewing the pen for the first time, the threads between the cap and the body showed fine curls of ebonite left over from the cutting of the threads. This causes resistance when replacing the cap. The same is true of the threads between the section and the body. These could have been easily removed and this finishing would improve the apparent value of the pen.
The Mercury is designed around the Zebra G comic nib, which is a good, solid nib that is well-suited for calligraphy and drawing. The standard nib is chrome-coated and a titanium-coated nib is available. If you are unfamiliar with calligraphy dip nibs, I suggest you buy a few G nibs and a suitable straight holder and see if this is something you are interested in before you purchase a Desiderata pen. The experience is very different from using a standard, modern fountain pen nib or even a vintage super flex nib. Fountain pen nibs, even those capable of a great deal of flex, are much, much smoother than writing with a true calligraphy nib. The Zebra G, like all other nibs of this type, will seem very scratchy to the uninitiated. Some tinkering with the nib/feed assembly and insertion depth may be required before you get the perfect flow for flexed writing.
The pen is compatible with a number of other nibs, including the Goulet, Pilot and Nemosine nibs. I purchased a Nemosine Broad nib with my pen and it wrote a very wet line when tested with a notably dry ink, Rohrer und Klingner’s Scabiosa.
Desiderata Mercury pen with titanium Zebra G (left) and Nemosine broad (right) nibs
Cost and Availability
I purchased my pen at www.desideratapens.com. Pierre is a one-man show and his website is the only place you can get his pens. My pen cost $100 and was a “second.” The regular price for these pens is $120.
That is, when you can get one. Like any hand-made item, manufacturing is slow and these sell out fast. Ask Pierre when he’ll be making new pens and he’ll happily point you to his extensive FAQ, which basically states, “who knows.”
At the time of this writing, there are no pens available. However, you can sign up for the mailing list if you want to be apprised of new stock availability in the future.
Copperplate sample with Rohrer and Klingner Scabiosa ink
Aside from initial hiccups with the ordering process, I’m very impressed. The pen does exactly what it is supposed to do, which is provide a dip-free calligraphy experience.
This will not be a pen for everybody, or even for most people. It is finicky, requiring a precise positioning of nib/feed for proper flow, and I’m not sure I’d trust it in my pocket. But for carrying in a bag to the coffee shop for a little copperplate practice, I could not be happier.
Get Well Card, drawn with Desiderata Mercury pen, Parker Quink Black
and Iroshizuku Chiku-rin inks on Original Crown Mill Pure Cotton paper
Edited by jasonchickerson, 26 February 2015 - 04:26.