My first attempt at a pen review. Comments and suggestions for improvement gratefully received.
Noodler’s 'Charlie' is a free eyedropper pen that comes with the 4.5 oz size of Noodler’s Heart of Darkness - and now also with FPN Voltaire Candide Vermilion. These are my impressions after using them together for about a month.
The free pen with Heart of Darkness used to be an eyedropper-converted Platinum Preppy. As Nathan Tardif of Noodler’s Ink explains, the Charlie pen is a response to the events in Paris in January 2015 - his way of saying ‘Je suis Charlie’, or at least ‘Ce stylo est Charlie’.
I missed out on the first batch of 140 Charlies, which sold out quickly. In some ways, being neither a satirical writer nor a cartoonist, I felt unqualified to take up that torch. But as soon as Goulet Pens (no affiliation, happy customer) got a second batch in stock around mid-May, I put in an order.
Charlie is a light, slim pen, similar in size, shape and materials to a Noodler’s Creaper. It feels comfortable and solid. The screw cap (mine is black with muted red-brown streaks that are hard to photograph) is interchangeable with a Creaper cap.
Creaper above, Charlie below.
The clear barrel, which is perhaps a touch softer than a Creaper’s, has NOODLERS INK CO stamped into one side and CHARLIE on the other. I think the absence of the ‘CHARLIE’ imprint on the barrel identifies a pen from the first production run.
Uncapping the pen reveals a black section and a friction-fit steel nib with an ebonite feed and a classic profile. It looks like it might be possible to swap a Creaper nib and feed into the Charlie.
Nib and section: Creaper above, Charlie below.
Approximate dimensions (ruler and kitchen scale)
Length: capped 132 mm, uncapped 118 mm, posted 138 mm
Section diameter: 9 mm
Inked weight: capped 12 g, uncapped 9 g
Size comparison: (top to bottom) Ahab, Creaper, Charlie
Before filling I pulled and cleaned the nib and feed to remove any manufacturing residues, as recommended for Noodler’s pens.
The internal threads of the barrel are pre-greased. When filled to just below the threads, the barrel holds about 2.5 ml of ink.
After filling, the pen wrote on the first touch - no hesitation or skipping. Inked with Heart of Darkness, the smooth non-flex nib produces a fine, wettish, and very black line. Reverse writing yields a finer, drier, but no less black line. It was briefly a hard starter after a couple of days nib-up in a pen cup. Loosening the section a half turn and then tightening it again primed the feed and restored normal flow.
Writing sample on Nock index card.
After a month using Charlie, I have only a few minor issues:
- The ink reservoir seems to run down faster than I use it. The same is true of all my Noodler’s pens. Something about the permeability to air of vegetal resin compared to other plastics?
- Because the cap posts deeply, any ink in the cap gets on the barrel and then on my hands. (I don't usually post but discovered this when measuring the posted length.)
- The cap threads bind slightly, as on other Noodler’s pens.
Quibbles aside, I like Charlie very much. I like its looks, the way it writes, and what it stands for.
There is something attractive about a straightforward pen with a huge supply of indelible ink. Only the thought of all that ink getting loose in a bag or pocket stops me using it, or any eyedropper, as a carry pen. But that could change.
As for Heart of Darkness, I don’t yet know if it will become my standard black. I like it well enough that I shall be using it a lot in Charlie (and other pens) - and not just because I have a lot of it.
With many pens, aesthetics, fine materials, heritage - even price - inform the writing experience. Because it is functional, unadorned and free, Noodler’s Charlie removes these from consideration. There is almost nothing to distract from the essential function of putting ink on paper to fix your thoughts for posterity, or until you get to the supermarket. (I say ‘almost nothing’ because any transparent container of ink is quite distracting to me.) Whether you write and draw to advance free speech and great ideas, or for less exalted reasons, Charlie is an enjoyable little pen.
Design: classic, open nib
Options: random cap swirls, otherwise none
Filling system: eyedropper only
Body material: vegetal resin
free (with 4.5 oz bottle of Heart of Darkness or FPN Voltaire Candide Vermilion)
small and light
smells a bit (doesn’t bother me)
too small and light for some
Hommage à Tardif.