Last year, when the fountain pen community was going crazy about the possibility of a modern steel flex nib music nib, I admit somewhat jumping on the hype train. There were a few reviews of the Noodler’s Neponset floating around before the pen was even announced that it will be produced, thus adding that much more to the buzz. These reviews were largely because of the generosity of this great community where another blogger won the pen in a giveaway, reviewed, and then proceeded to pass it along to other reviewers (Gourmet Pens & SBRE Brown) so we can all see what the pen is like. How awesome!
With a little more research, I see that there was a few pre-release pens floating around back in 2012 (before I knew about fountain pens), so for some, the wait was long.
This image is from that particular pen reviewed by Gourmet Pens and SBRE Brown. This material is just gorgeous, but unfortunately was never produced when the pen was actually release to the public (to my knowledge)
Since these reviews came out a few months before the pen was even announced, there was: 1) a lot of buzz and 2) doubt building that this pen would ever come out. I fell into both of these categories, but only to a small degree. The material shown above is very nice, but I am not sure if I would buy it for myself. That flex music nib that everyone was talking about? Well apparently it was very still (I’ll get to that), but the pen landed in the zone of all of the other pretty pens that I wanted, but probably wouldn’t buy.
As the time went on and no news on the Neponset was surfacing (as fast as most people wanted), a cloud of doubt was drifting over the community, not unlike the one with TWSBI and all of their prototypes that they tease us with on Facebook. However, even with all of the doubt, there was still a ton of questions on Reddit and FPN (Fountain Pen Network) about when this pen was actually going to be released.
One day as I was browsing my phone between classes (or maybe in class, not telling) last fall and a release date was finally set! Well everyone just exploded with excitement with everyone jumping on the hype train, and I have to admit that I jumped right on with them. The pen that was just hanging out on the back of my mind was now front and center. I was ready to mark the date on my calendar for Goulet’s controlled release, but I was curious about the rest of the market, so I went searching online. I was fairly certain that Wonderpens would eventually get them and save me money on the exchange rate, but I didn’t know which colours of ebonite they would have or how quickly they would go, so I kept searching. I then came across a website that I have never heard of before, Passion 4 Pens who happened to have the Neponset list on their website as for sale before the release date. I was going to just try and order it to see what happened, but I noticed that international customers (me) can only order through email. So I sent a quick email inquiring if I could buy this pen in Walnut, which he said sure! I will just email you the invoice when they arrive in the shop. Just like that, I had a Noodler’s Neponset on the way.
Side note for Passion 4 Pens. The website is really quite terrible and not over intuitive to navigate, but they have a fairly decent selection and competitive prices, and the email order system actually went quite smooth. They aren’t paying me to say this, but just had a positive experience despite my initial concerns.
Now enough of this long winded story of how I got the pen. Lets take a look and see how I like it after using it on and off for nearly a year.
Lets talk about the size of this pen first. IT IS HUGE! One of the major factors of why I wanted this pen in the first place. Personally, I prefer larger pens that sit in my hand nicely, so a pen this big won’t be for everyone. Some of you may be more familiar with how big the Noodler’s Ahab is since it is a more affordable option (I’ll get to that in a bit). Well the Neponset is significantly bigger. Just look at the size comparison pictures below to get a better grasp of what you would be getting into if you purchase this pen. If you are looking for a big pen, but the flex music nib doesn’t tickle your fancy, still keep this pen in consideration as the nib is swappable with other #6 nibs!
Now we move on to the feature of this pen that had people talking about the most, the nib. Before Noodler’s, most people had ever heard of a modern steel flex nib before, so when they released the Ahab with that steel flex nib, people went nuts and crashed Goulet’s website (although small at the time) with the release. Well with this steel flexible music nib, Noodler’s got people excited again.
I just want to clarify something quick before I go on. This is not a music nib in the traditional sense where you get line variation under normal writing conditions like you do with a stub nib, it is just has 3 tines to give it more flex. When writing with no pressure, it just writes like a broad nib.
Here is an example of how much more flex you can get out of the Neponset (some railroading) over the Ahab:
The common theme I was hearing from these early reviews (and reviews after it came out) was although the nib flexed a lot and gave you tons of line variation, it took a lot of pressure to do so. I dismissed this since people were saying that about the Ahab and I find that quite easy to flex (does that make me strong?). Well let me tell you that this nib is stiff, like extremely stiff for a flex pen (apparently I’m not strong). Writing a full sentence while flexing the nib tires your hand out quite easily, but the benefit is that you are going to get a lot of line variation. This line variation means that it demands a lot of ink flowing through the feed at once, which it does a pretty decent job at considering it was designed with exactly that in mind. However, you still come across the problem of railroading, but I have read somewhere (sorry can’t remember where) that you can just put a piece of tape over the back of the nib and that will increase ink flow and prevent railroading. Writing without flex is fairly consistent and is a decent writer overall, but it is far from smooth and has tons of feedback. Not enough to be considered scratchy, but enough to be pretty loud when you write.
My favourite part about this nib is the fact that is replaceable with any #6 sized nib, so I can put in a Goulet nib of any size I choose and still get the benefit of the larger pen with a nice writing experience. This, along with the colour of the pen (Walnut ebonite), makes it an ideal pen for me. Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the ebonite finishes are available on the primary market at the moment (September 2015), but you can find them around in different acrylics or look for an ebonite Neponset second hand.
With that said, unless you are looking for a stiff steel flex music nib, I would suggest looking at the ebonite Indian pens on Ebay. I haven’t used one before, but the bodies appear similar (I may have heard somewhere that Noodler’s gets the bodies made in India) and can be found for cheaper than $75 in some cases. If you are looking at getting this pen for the flex aspect of it, I recommend picking up a cheaper Noodler’s pen, such as the Ahab, if you don’t have one already. Sure you may have to tinker with it, but once you get it going, the flex writing is much more enjoyable than with the Neponset.Price
This brings me to my last point, the price. This pen is sold at most retailers for $75 USD. For a pen company (or in this case, ink company that makes pens) $75 seems a little steep for a brand with a history of pens not working properly out of the box and meant to be tinkered with. At $20, it is completely acceptable to expect that from your pens if you are up front about, but for $75, it better work. For me, the price was actually higher since I had to factor in international shipping and the CAD/USD exchange rate, which thankfully wasn’t as awful when I made the purchase last November.
Is this pen worth $75? Well I did not have to tinker at all to get it working, but there is always that risk. As for the pen itself, not including the risk of not working, it completely depends on what you are looking for. For me it was worth the $100 CAD that the final bill came out to, but for others it may seem absurd. It is all about whether you value the pen, and Dr. Jonathon Deans over at Fountain Pen Economics describes it in this awesome post, Finding Value.
This pen is not for everyone. If you have small hands, it may not be for you. If you need a 100% reliable pen out of the box, it may not be for you. If you are looking for a wet noodle flex pen, it may not be for you. Buy this pen if you know exactly what you want and what you are getting into with this pen. I wanted a large brown ebonite pen where I could use any nib size that I wanted, including one that I could mess around with and have a little fun with, so it works for me. We are past the point of the hype train for this pen, so I am hoping that you are making an informed decision so you have the best experience possible.