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:
- Why would I want a titanium nib instead of a gold nib?
- 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.