The story of this pen begins ironically with the story of my perception of a completely different pen brand which happens to be Pelikan. For quite some time there was a lot of enthusiasm in the “Fountain Pen Pals India” WhatsApp/Telegram group with people espousing the greatness of the brand and how Pelikan pens were the next best thing to sliced bread. I have been known to have a healthy dose of skepticism against any form of brand adulation and for some reason I found it very difficult to accept a steel nib lightweight M200 as being a much better pen than a Sailor 1911 standard or other pens of the same price point (we are talking street prices in India).
My brief experience with a M400 and a M600 had not left me too impressed. A friend of mine was smitten with the M205 in white and I argued with him that he should preferably look elsewhere to get better deal for his money. Given my stated aversion, I was advised en masse by group members to try out a Pelikan to help change my mind. While I was open to the experience, I still wasn’t willing to spend Sailor 1911 money on a Pelikan.
An opportunity arose when fellow FPNer Kapil Apshankar (@springrainbow) offered to get me a Pelikan M 200 nib unit from Europe at a cost that was substantially less than that of the entire pen. This was too good an opportunity to refuse and soon I was the proud owner of a M200 steel nib unit with medium tip.
With the nib in hand, the next question was what pen to put it in. As is usually the case with me, I made an elaborate design of a beautiful pen using a mix of different acrylic rods. Unfortunately, making custom pens is a lengthy process and that design is yet to see the light of the day. I was however getting restless and reached out to Mr. Subramaniam of ASA pens to see if he has a quicker solution to the conundrum. I was pleasantly surprised to hear that this is not the first time he has encountered this request and he has in-fact got a design ready for precisely accommodating Pelikan nibs. Without any further ado I put in the order and within a few week time the Namenlos ended up in my mailbox.
For those of you who are familiar with the ASA catalogue, you would immediately recognize the Namenlos as an adaptation of the ASA Genius. In fact the Namenlos is a slimmer version of the Genius with Cap and barrel diameters being about 3 mm less than the latter. The slimming down gives the pen a much more balanced and purposeful look and the silhouette closely resembles that of the Duofold Centennial.
Like the classic Duofold this is a straight line design with only a slight tapering of the barrel and the cap towards the end filial. The top of the cap and the bottom of the barrel are flat and polished. The body of the barrel and the cap are brushed to give a bakul (matte) finish. The edge of the cap where it meets the barrel is bevelled and the polished bevelled edge provides a nice visual contrast to the matte finish.
The section design has been patterned on the ASA I-Can / I-Will which in my experience is extremely comfortable. The section gradually tapers from the barrel towards the nib before starting to flare out about 7mm to 8mm before it ends.
The pen comes with a chrome plated clip which in my mind resembles the shape of the beak of a Pelikan. This is probably unintended since ASA uses this clip on a number of their designs but I found this design cue very interesting.
Size and Balance
At 132 mm, this is a classic small pen. For the purpose of comparison, the length of the pen is very close to that of Sailor 1911 standard and the Parker Sonnet. Being made of ebonite and not having any complicated filling mechanism inside means the pen is extremely light and hence very comfortable to use.
From top to bottom - Parker Sonnet Mk I, ASA Namenlos, Sailor 1911 Standard, ASA Rainbow, Kaigelu 316
The balance of the pen is very nice and can easily provide comfortable writing for extended periods. I must also make a mention here of the section design which is the best in the business from ASA and contributes immensely to the writing experience.
This is one of those pens which can be used both capped as well as uncapped. Since the pen is very light, capping the pen does shift the balance a bit. I found it is great to use the pen capped when it’s fully tanked but it’s best to use the pen uncapped once the ink level goes down. My personal preference is to use the pen uncapped and enjoy the minimal weight.
The pen is fitted with gold plated Pelikan M200 nib with medium tipping. This is the same nib that comes in the Pelikan Souveran M200 line of pens
My normal preference is to have pens with feeds that accept standard international cartridges and compatible convertors. The Pelikan nib system naturally doesn’t come with such support since it is meant to be used with a piston in the back of the barrel. I deliberated having a piston system in Namenlos but eventually for the sake of simplicity, economy and greater ink capacity, opted to have an eyedropper instead.
This is where I wanted to talk about how going for an eyedropper paid off and the superior Pelikan feed with its high tolerances negated any occurrence of burps or other typical ED maladies. The unfortunate reality in my case has been exactly the opposite. While Pelikan must have designed the feed to have high enough tolerances, the ink capacity of a piston pen and an ED are just not comparable and the feed was not able to cope up. As a result I encountered all the problems of an ED while using the pen in terms of burps and ink dribbling once the ink in the barrel dropped below the halfway mark. I had taken some poor quality phone camera photos of the issue when I encountered them and am sharing them to illustrate the situation.
The pen exhibits the typical hallmark of ASA build quality. I had opted for a bakul (matte) finish and the attention to detail in obtaining the desired finish is impressive. At the end of the day however it is a hand-made pen, so there are bound to be some fine traces of tool marks visible under minute inspection.
We have an entire section dedicated to Pelikan brand of pens in the forum with many threads and posts talking about the M200 line. So I won’t get too much about the details but would instead delve into my personal perception.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the nib. It is adequately smooth with a hint of feedback and leaves a nice wet line on the paper. Having said that, this is not a nib I would recommend to anyone. While it was good, it wasn’t great. There was nothing in this nib that would leave a smile on my face. It was a good all-rounder, but a solid middle of the class in all the subjects. I find it difficult to justify the 200% price premium that Pelikan charges over comparable #5 nibs from Schmidt, Bock or Jowo. I have a solid collection of nibs from these brands and almost all of them are comparable if not better than the nib I have.
To ensure that I hadn’t got a lemon, I tried out a few more M200’s. Most were very similar to mine and exhibited similar neutral characteristics. However, fellow FPNer Hema Koppikar (@Hema) had a vintage M200 whose nib just blew me away. It was amazingly smooth and wet with a writing experience that leaves you hungry for more. I wish my M200 nib similar to hers but the sad reality is that it isn’t.
Price and Value
Mr Subramaniam charged me as ridiculously low amount for the pen (sans the nib of course). While the actual transaction happened in Indian rupees, translated in USD it was around $15 (may go up to $20 depending upon conversion rate applicable at that point). If this is not a good value, I am not sure what is. To the best of my knowledge there is no other proper nice ebonite pen with such a large ink capacity which is capable of using Pelikan nibs at such a price point. In case, there are such pens available, kindly let me know and I shall happily stand corrected.
I will put in my usual disclaimers here. I don’t have access to precision measurement instruments such as Vernier calliper and you would have to settle for the approximate measurements I made using a normal ruler and my eyes which means there might be a little bit of deviation due to parallax effect. However, given these pens are handmade and there are small piece to piece variations anyway, the measurements I am providing should give you a clear indication of what to expect from the pen.
Length (capped) – 132 mm
Length (uncapped) – 123 mm
Length (cap) – 66 mm
Length (section) – 24 mm
Maximum width – 13 mm
Minimum width – 9 mm
Maximum section width – 11 mm
Minimum section width – 9 mm
The pen is beautiful. It is very light, very balanced, comfortable, great grip, well built and will definitely prove to be comfortable for long writing sessions. I can doubtless recommend this pen to all those who have the need or desire for such a pen for using Pelikan nibs. I am less enthusiastic about recommending the need for such a pen though since I am not sure what great element having a M200 nib brings to the table. I may have to wait to use a M800 and M1000 nib with this pen first to come to a conclusion on the subject. In the meanwhile, if you love Pelikan and would love to have a 2nd, 3rd or nth pen for your collection of Pelikan nibs and are adept at handling eyedroppers, please go ahead and get the Namenlos. It’s a steal and a very good one at that.
I had considered calling Mr. Subramaniam of ASA pens to find out if he had any name in mind for the pen. But by then I had already taken a fancy to calling it Namenlos and decided to skip the step and continue with the prologue section that I had drafted.