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Side by Side: FPN LE and Bexley Submariner


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#1 DRP

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 03:30

Some sort of record may be set by the number of reviews which will come in for the FPN limited edition Bexley pen, especially considering the ratio of reviews to pens manufactured. It wouldn't surprise me if ¾ of the people buying one of the pens writes a review and the remainder will have it on the list of things to do.

So as to offer a different perspective, I decided to compare the Fountain Pen Network Limited Edition pen to Bexley's Submariner. The FPN LE is based upon Bexley's Simplicity series so this review should be applicable to their entire Simplicity line.

First, let's do a side by side comparison before you put ink in the pen:

Bexley's Submariner comes with a gold nib as a standard feature. The FPN LE came with a steel nib as its standard but the gold nib as an optional upgrade. I chose the standard nib for several reasons, not the least of which being that I couldn't afford the upgrade.

Both the FPN LE and the Submariner are medium sized pens and medium/light in weight. There are smaller pens on the market and there are larger pens (such as the Submariner Grande). The Bexleys are about average for what you see in any pen store today. For purposes of comparison, I've included two recent vintage Sheaffers.

Length:

FPN LE (capped): 5 1/8"
Submariner (capped): 5 ¼"
Sheaffer Targa (capped): 5¼"
Submariner Grande (capped): 5¾"
Sheaffer Balance II (capped): 5¾"

Sheaffer Targa (posted): 6"
Sheaffer Balance II (posted): 6 3/8"
FPN LE (posted): 6 3/8"
Submariner (posted) 6 3/8"
Submariner Grande (posted): 6 3/8"

Weight (with converter; slight variance accounts for amount of ink in converter):

Submariner: .6 to .7 ounce
Sheaffer Balance II: .6 to .7 ounce
FPN LE: .7 to .8 ounce
Submariner Grande: .9 to 1 ounce
Sheaffer Targa (metal): 1 to 1.1 ounce

Other reviews have commented upon the appearance and quality of the Bexley FPN LE. I won't reiterate any points other than to say that I am most impressed with the appearance and "feel" of my Bexleys. Quality control appears to be an area where Bexley excels although comments on other pens have noted the "FPN" appearing on the top of the pen to be off-center. Mine is centered on a left/right plane but below the center point on the top/bottom plane. When I first saw it, I presumed that it was supposed to be that way.

Let's turn to the real reason you -- or I -- buy a pen. How does it feel in your hand and how well does it write?

On both the Submariner and FPN LE, I find the balance when posted to be excellent. I am less than enthusiastic about the balance when the pen is not posted though note that is a matter of personal preference. Not posted, both the Submariner and FPN LE are quite light. Not posted, they are still long enough to fit in the hand comfortably, even a larger hand though I could understand if someone had an exceptionally large bone structure, the pen would likely have to be posted. If your hand is smaller, you may find the FPN LE to be a bit more comfortable though I doubt that unless your hand is exceptionally small that you would find the Submariner unsatisfactory.

Turning to the nibs, I would rate both as very good to excellent.

Originally, there was a limited option for nibs on the FPN LE. The Schmidt steel nib with options for fine, medium, and broad were the only options available. The Schmidt steel nib is nice. Very nice, in fact. Not as nice as the gold nib but very nice.

As things turned out, FPN was able to negotiate a change order with Bexley allowing an optional gold nib in several widths. The price was doubled but if you could afford it, you had an exceptionally wide variety of options.

Addition of the gold nib created a range of options which is almost unheard of -- at least among pens I've seen available recently. An exceptionally wide range of options at two different prices -- and all of the nibs being very good. If lower cost was important -- as it was to me -- you could get an outstanding steel nib. If you could afford the gold nib, you could get it, also.

This is where FPN and the excellent negotiators (unpaid volunteers, at that) took a bright star and made it sparkle even more.

The Schmidt steel nib appears to be the standard nib for Bexley's Simplicity line. The gold nib is standard on the Submariner and Submariner Grande line. Having one of each gave me the opportunity to conduct a side-by-side comparison.

I'm completely satisfied by both. Both nibs offer superb smoothness with just a hint of "toothiness" to give you just a hint of pen on paper. The gold nib which is standard on the Submariner and an optional upgrade on the FPN LE (though I doubt on Bexley's Simplicity line) is in my view among the best on the market today. Their gold stub nib (which I have on my Parkville Pen Submariner Grande) is a delight in every way.

I consider the gold nib on my Sheaffer Targa to be the gold standard (pardon the pun) among medium nibs. I can't say if the nibs on all Sheaffer Targa pens were that good but the one I have is at the top. Period.

The gold nib on the Bexley Submariner (optional upgrade on the FPN LE) is probably the only nib which can challenge my Sheaffer Targa for smoothness, consistently good ink flow, and overall pleasure to use.

The standard steel nib on the FPN LE is among the best steel nibs I have used. It, too is smooth though not quite to the point of buttery perfection of the others. Ink flow is consistently good and it, too is an overall pleasure to use.

Ink Storage

Satisfying everybody is impossible though the developers of this pen will come close. This is a tremendous pen, especially given the price.

In order to hold the price down, the FPN utilizes a cartridge/converter option for ink. A good though not exceptional system. Other systems hold more ink but also are more complicated, hence more money.

A significant consideration in offering a FPN pen was to make it affordable to as wide a range of buyers as possible. I have other pens from different manufacturers with the C/C option.

This is a matter of personal opinion: I find this to be an acceptable compromise. My comments relative to ink storage reflect my comments about both the FPN LE and the Submariner: For a lot more money I might expect something different. But for just outright value for the dollar, the FPN LE and the Submariner get the job done -- and done exceedingly well.

Packaging:

Bexley's packaging is good without being extravagant. There is a cardboard box around a box for display of the pen. I haven't whacked up one of the display boxes so can't say how it's made. I will say that it is conservative, durable, and tough so it protects the pen well. Bexley didn't lavish a lot of money on a box but then again, they didn't scrimp on the box, either. Let's just say that unless you collect pen boxes, this won't be a key factor in your decision whether to buy one.

Roundup of Comments Specifically Applicable to the FPN LE

Look & feel: Let's face reality. You wouldn't buy this pen unless you liked the looks of it. "Cracked Ice" is an attractive material and use of the blue for the section and end cap is a unique twist on a theme.

Ink capacity: This is where a few compromises took place. Lots of people would like a pen with more capacity than the converter or cartridge can offer. I'm among those who are satisfied but acknowledge this is an area which might require a second look. If you happened to buy a gold stub nib, you'll probably be filling your pen more often than you would like.

It's a compromise between offering a pen with off the shelf parts combined with a reasonable price, or paying more for something that represents an improvement. I don't know what the price difference would have been though speculate that it might be considerable. On the whole, I suspect strongly that the choice to go with off the shelf parts was the right one but certainly respect a differing point of view.

Overall assessment: This is a really nice pen. Quality manufacture with good materials and excellent workmanship. Delightfully unique. A great writer with a top quality nib. Visually appealing and pleasant to hold in the hand. This is a pen which a bunch of pen nuts might design if they were to get together and assemble parts available from a quality manufacturer.

Is it perfect? No. Nothing could be perfect for everybody unless it were a thousand dollar pen which was given away for free. But, within the confines of reality, you would be hard pressed to find a pen which does a better job for the price.

Ultimately, that is the standard where this pen excels. I'm delighted with mine. Volunteers who put together this deal did a fantastic job. They negotiated production of an incredible pen by any standard -- and especially so given the price tag.

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#2 Maja

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 05:03

Any pictures of the FPN pen? huh.gif





laugh.gif
Just kidding!!!

Thank you for the excellent review. I haven't received my FPN pen yet, but I do own a Targa and a modern Balance pen, so it's nice to have some idea of how it compares to those two in terms of weight, length, etc.
I have a Bexley "Celebration" with a factory stub nib, so I opted for the steel nib on the FPN pen. I don't think I will be disappointed smile.gif
Vancouver (B.C) Pen Club (our website)

#3 lefty928

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 12:27

Thank you for an excellent, thorough review with an original twist to it!
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#4 jd50ae

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 12:34

Great review. smile.gif

#5 jonro

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 12:57

Nice twist on a review of the FPN LE. Coincidentally, one of the first things I did was to compare my FPN to a Submariner, and reached similar conclusions about the nib. You didn't compare the diameters of the different pens; the FPN has a wider girth than the Submariner, probably about as big around as a grande. Thanks for an interesting piece.

#6 Buster

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 13:46

Very nice review. The more I write w/ my steel nib version of the LE, the more I like it.

And while I was reading your review, I was fidgeting w/ my LE in hand, and found out that the little silvery steel ball thingy at the end of the clip spins around....way cool thumbup.gif

Rick

#7 jonro

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 14:16

It's designed that way to help the clip slide easily over a pocket. It is cool.

QUOTE(Buster @ May 4 2007, 01:46 PM) View Post
Very nice review. The more I write w/ my steel nib version of the LE, the more I like it.

And while I was reading your review, I was fidgeting w/ my LE in hand, and found out that the little silvery steel ball thingy at the end of the clip spins around....way cool thumbup.gif

Rick



#8 awannemacher

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Posted 04 May 2007 - 16:57

Excellent review to a great pen. The only problem with your review is that now I want to get a Targa tongue.gif






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