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Conid, The "100-Year Pen" And Nib Material

conid nib

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7 replies to this topic

#1 ek-hornbeck

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Posted 25 August 2016 - 21:07

I've decided to buy a Conid pen, and am contemplating the details of the purchase. I've ruled out some of Conid's models for a couple of different reasons:

  • Size: The Kingsize / CAISO is too large for practical daily use. I have fairly large hands, but pens such as the MB 149, the Pelikan 1000, and the Conid Kingsize are too big for me to use as a daily pen. One size down works better for me: MB 146, Pelikan 800, Conid Regular / Minimalistica. (Too bad -- the CAISO technology is cool.) Likewise, the Giraffe model is way too big, of course.
  • Ink window. No ink window means it's impossible to determine your ink level. Big-capacity pens like piston-fillers tend to have ink windows to deal with this issue (such as Pelikan Souverans & Montblanc Meisterstucks).  With a Conid bulkfiller, things are even more demanding: you want the  ability to see the ink in both the small, primary reservoir, and the larger,  secondary reservoir.  This rules out the Slimline entirely -- there is a model with a clear  barrel, but the section is still Delrin, so you can't see the small, primary  reservoir. (Too bad. I like the Slimline.)

This narrows things down to a Regular or Minimalistica model with a clear barrel & section. (Too bad. I'd prefer a quieter black model, but just don't think I could live with a pen where it was difficult to gauge ink levels.)

This brings me to my final criterion for choosing the details of a Conid pen, the "100-year pen" criterion. It seems to me that a pen made with the tolerances and quality of a Conid pen ought to be able to work a century after it's made. Long after the original designers have died and even the company making the pens and parts has gone defunct, your grandchild should be able to use the pen with no real problems. Replace a couple of O-rings every few decades and the pen should hang in there indefinitely.

 

So, how does this dictate the details of the pen configuration?

  • No ebonite models. Delrin and acrylic only.
  • No platings or anodised coatings on the titanium furniture. Over a  century of use, they are likely to brass, wear off or be scratched off.  In contrast, if you scratch plain titanium, you can buff it out. Or do nothing -- at least the scratch won't make a sharp color contrast.  This rules out the black stealth and golden "Panthera Oro" furniture.  (Too bad -- both are lovely.)

In short, a "100-year pen" criterion tilts you towards a design esthetic that requires things to look like what they are. Function really drives form; you have to accept the imperative of eschewing cosmetic veneers.

Finally, we come to the question of nib material.

  • Steel is out. It's the least corrosion-resistant of the choices.
  • Titanium is pretty corrosion-resistant,
  • but gold is more corrosion resistant than titanium,
  • and a rhodium-plated nib more resistant still.

Why is rhodium-plating an improvement? Because a 14K "gold nib" isn't pure gold. It's only about half gold. The other, non-noble metals in the nib can be corroded or oxidised.

So a rhodium-plated gold nib seems like the one that will best resist time and corrosion. (It's also the most expensive. Too bad.)

I can see at least one other advantage for gold and rhodium-plated gold, as well. According to a page I read on Richard Binder's site, gold is more wettable than steel, and rhodium more wettable still. It seems like a good thing to use a nib material that will promote capillary flow.

Note that Binder didn't rank titanium in his wettability ordering, so I don't know where it falls on the list. His pages are generally pretty negative concerning titanium nibs.

This brings me to the general question of: what is the point of a titanium nib? They seem to be all the rage with people who like to do flex-nib calligraphic writing, and just about every review you see on the net of a Conid pen will be of a pen with a titanium nib. But I have to confess that I'm a little suspicious. I get the sense that what is going on, to a degree, is that serious pen freaks are having fun exploring the new, exotic thing.

I'm not sure that there is any benefit for me. I don't do flex-nib writing. My writing is clear, but it is not beautiful or calligraphic. I use pens to write down ideas, do mathematics, edit drafts of typeset documents, take notes and do correspondence. That said, I enjoy writing with a nib that has a little bit of spring or compliance to it, as opposed to a stiff "manifold" nib that would be good for making carbon copies. Really stiff nibs (what people here call "nails") are not as pleasant.

So, I have these two questions:

  1. Why would I want a titanium nib instead of a gold nib?
  2. Why would I want a gold nib instead of a titanium nib?

I'd especially be interested to hear if Fountainbel has anything to offer on this subject, since he is the designer of the pens who chose to offer all four kinds of nibs. Also, the reasoning I've outlined above is based on absolutely no expertise at all, so it's entirely possible my conclusions are out to lunch.

Finally, I'm curious as to what others here think of the "100-year pen" criterion I described above. When looking over the gamut of choices, on the Conid site, it made a useful razor to guide my decisions. And I like the things I own to have conceptual integrity in their design.

It also seems like a criterion for which the Conid is tailor made. When I look over the Conid pens, I am struck by how well they suit this "100 year" notion. There are no steel parts to rust, and the uniform use of modern, stable materials such as Delrin, acrylic and titanium make for a pretty robust object. The pen is designed for easy maintenance. And so on -- it really is a design tour de force.

    -EKH

 



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#2 Mulrich

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 00:41

I like your criteria. I think the best bet for a nice 100 year pen would be something like a Parker 51 aeromatic. No moving parts will help longevity. A c/c pen that uses standard international cartridges would probably be most robust. I'm not sure which c/c is built from the most durable materials.

If the derlin Minimalistica had an ink window I would have bought it months ago. I'm paranoid about staining or fogging up demonstrators.

#3 ek-hornbeck

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 02:30

I like your criteria. I think the best bet for a nice 100 year pen would be something like a Parker 51 aeromatic. No moving parts will help longevity.

 

Absolutely. The "51" is proof that it can be done. But the pen with no moving parts isn't the "51," it's the 61 -- like the "51," but even cooler!

 

My problem with the 61 is that it is finicky about ink. To me, the point of ink is that it is permanent. If I didn't want permanent, I'd use a pencil. But all the permanent inks (ferrotannic, cellulose-reactive, and nano-pigment) are hard on pens. I tried Noodler's Legal Lapis in a 61 back around 2000 and clogged it up. The capillary cell is an invitation to clogs. And you can't disassemble the pen easily to get at the collector for cleaning it -- it takes a heat gun and shellac. There are a bunch of modern pens that come completely apart with almost no effort. So you can use "difficult" ink, and if they dry up and get clogged, you can disassemble them and drop the parts in an ultrasonic cleaner, easy easy.

 

Here's what I would love: if some "51" wizard, like Kullock or the parker51.com guy, made bulkfiller back-ends for the "51." Buy the titanium pistons from Conid. Machine a two-piece acrylic reservoir that fits inside the barrel -- two pieces so you can unscrew the main piece from some shellacked-in base, for cleaning purposes. Punt the double-reservoir design -- it's more trouble than its worth in this setup, because you have to remove the barrel of the pen to access the piston. You do not want to be doing that every time you go to write a couple of pages of text. So, single reservoir. The piston rod would have three positions. 1) "Airplane" mode -- fully screwed down, sealing off the reservoir from the feed. 2) "Use" mode -- backed off a few millimeters from "Airplane" mode, so ink in the reservoir can flow into the feed. This is the usual position. 3) "Fill" mode -- connected to the main plug for filling. Note that the controlling knob at the end of the piston rod doesn't have to be all that attractive, as it spends its life under the barrel, hidden from sight.

 

Such a filler would have less capacity than a Conid bulkfiller, since you are constrained by the need to fit the thing inside the barrel of a "51." But it would have a lot more capacity than the stock "51."  And it wouldn't leak on airplanes. And it would be very robust. As far as I can see, it would just be better than the aerometric "51" filler system.

 

Well, it's a crazy idea.

 

A c/c pen that uses standard international cartridges would probably be most robust. I'm not sure which c/c is built from the most durable materials.

 

Doesn't matter! International cartridge converters are essentially disposable. And C/C pens are easy to flush with bulb eyedroppers. Their main drawback, to me, is that they have pitiful capacity, compared to piston fillers or bulkfillers.

 

If the derlin Minimalistica had an ink window I would have bought it months ago. I'm paranoid about staining or fogging up demonstrators.

 

Shouldn't be a problem with a Conid pen, since the whole thing disassembles. You can scrub out the interior, and even use bleach.

 

    -EKH
 



#4 usk15

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 08:37

Finally, we come to the question of nib material.

  • Steel is out. It's the least corrosion-resistant of the choices.

 

But the steel nibs are on the market for at least 50 years and still good to go. Esterbrook is an good example!

 

 

Doesn't matter! International cartridge converters are essentially disposable. And C/C pens are easy to flush with bulb eyedroppers. Their main drawback, to me, is that they have pitiful capacity, compared to piston fillers or bulkfillers.

 

 

I think the C/C are the best filling system on the current market. Easy to maintain, easy to recharge, easy to transport cartridges, easy to clean. And most of long standard cartridges are about 1.4 ml of ink, not bad!

 

 

Anyway, very interesting criteria to choose a good pen for the next 100 years!



#5 StevenSur

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 08:53

I have a Delrin Minimalistica + - a little gift to myself for finishing my PhD - and I have to admit that I was a bit concerned about the absence of an ink window. I noticed, however, that you can hear the ink sloshing around in the barrel if you listen carefully and I've learned to assess the ink level that way. It certainly is less accurate than a visual check, but I've never run out of ink at on inconvenient moment using this method.

 

As for the titanium pen (of course, I had to to had one of those), I don't use it for flexing but I like to soft, bouncy feel it procures. Definitely one of the best nibs I own.


"Je suis un homme-plume. Je sens par elle, à cause d'elle, par rapport à elle et beaucoup plus avec elle." (Gustave Flaubert)


#6 mongrelnomad

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 14:07

By your criteria, get a standard Bulkfiller in Delrin with a gold nib.

1. The small reservoir ink window is plenty large enough to judge the amount of ink left. Unscrew the blind cap, tilt nib down and if the resevoir fills there's enough ink for the day at least. The Delrin is very hard-wearing and the titanium furniture is bullet-proof. Flushing and scratching isn't an issue.

2. The Slimline is a small pen. Think M400 size, with the standard between the M600 (in girth) and M800 (in length).

3. There is something in what you said about titanium being the fad of the day. I have titanium nibs for my Bulkfillers (in units, if not actually in the pens) - they are soft when broader, though not particularly flexible and have an odd if not unpleasant feedback. Gold is classic and you know what to expect. Rhodium plate if you wish. You can also later search for vintage nibs if that's something you're interested in. Friction fit nibs and unscrewable units mean playing isn't dangerous.

Anyway, that would be (and is) my 100 year pen.

Edited by mongrelnomad, 26 August 2016 - 14:11.

Too many pens; too little writing.

#7 ek-hornbeck

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Posted 26 August 2016 - 16:14

By your criteria, get a standard Bulkfiller in Delrin with a gold nib.

That's my conclusion, too. That, or possibly the clear model, for maximum ability to monitor what's going on inside the pen.
 

1. The small reservoir ink window is plenty large enough to judge the amount of ink left. Unscrew the blind cap, tilt nib down and if the resevoir fills there's enough ink for the day at least.

That's good to know; thank you.

 

You can also later search for vintage nibs if that's something you're interested in.

Get behind me, Satan. I'm just not going to go down the vintage-nib road. At some point, I have to draw the line, stop focussing on the pens, and get back to focussing on the text I create with the pens. (The words, that is, not the form of the words. Nobody is ever going to admire the beauty of my handwriting.)

 

As for the titanium pen (of course, I had to to had one of those)

Why not? When you spend USD $600 for a pen, another $35 to try out titanium is a trivial additional expense.
 

But the steel nibs are on the market for at least 50 years and still good to go. Esterbrook is an good example!

I've read things on the net stating that steel nibs can definitely corrode on a 10-year time horizon, especially in the presence of aggressive inks. John Mottishaw has a web page discussing this, as does Richard Binder. These guys repair, tune and sell nibs for a living, so I place a fair amount of credibility in their reports.
 

I think the C/C are the best filling system on the current market. Easy to maintain, easy to recharge, easy to transport cartridges, easy to clean. And most of long standard cartridges are about 1.4 ml of ink, not bad!

I've seen much smaller numbers for cartridge-converter capacity. Ron Goulet has a video on the Goulet Pens website measuring capacities. The Pilot Con-50 converter, which is a pretty standard twist/piston converter, only holds 0.6 ml. The older Con-20 squeeze-bar converter gets up to 0.9 ml. The exotic Con-70 squeaks up to 1 ml... but it is unusually large, and only fits in a few of Pilot's pens.

 

The Pilot converters are only for Pilot pens. Over on the standard, international converter side of things, the standard standard converter I always see is the Schmidt K5. The converter page at nibs.com specs it at 0.7 ml. When I run my eye over all the converters on that page, all of the converters weigh in between 0.4 ml and 0.7 ml, with the sole exception of the Chalana converter, which is a wretched 0.2 ml.

Bottom line, I haven't been able to find a cartridge converter with a capacity that breaks a milliliter; they are all pretty pitiful. If you can drum up a larger capacity converter, I would love to hear about it and buy a few.

 

By contrast, piston-filler pens have much larger capacity. The Pelikan M800 and the Montblanc 146 hold about 1.4-1.5 ml of ink. And a bulkfiller such as a Conid Regular holds 2.5 ml. That's over 3.5x what a standard 0.7ml cartridge converter holds. Fountainbel's bulkfiller technology is pretty compelling, here.

-EKH

 

P.S. By the way... is there any way to get this annoying blog interface simply to accept HTML markup, instead of using this crappy MS Word-like UI?



#8 ek-hornbeck

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Posted 27 August 2016 - 21:31

Did I say "Ron Goulet?" I meant "Brian Goulet," of course.

 

    -EKH







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