I went for Guider egg acrylic fountain pen impulsively after reading a review by fellow Indian FPN gold member Prithwijit for ASA Santulan. Interested persons might like to first read through the wonderful introduction about fountain pen shapes, which practically went well above my head. So I concentrated more on the pictures, and immediately knew I needed a pen with "pointed top and end" (well, less technically).
Obviously I didn't have the Conway Stuart material, neither the ability to design pens on CAD software and implement it. So I had to look for some ready made pen showing the particular traits in shape, which to burrow Prithijit's language is '...a cigar shaped pen with a torpedo like barrel and a pyramid like cap' and I stumbled across one of the current production models from 'Guider' pens, the Guider Egg.
Now one disclaimer - This pen is nothing in front of Prithwijit's ASA Santulan, period. I have the propensity to seek small little joys out of nothing when other routes might be temporarily out of reach ( here it was the CS blanks). So, his review inspired me, gave me immense joy and one day I'll make my own version, till then let me review this little beauty.
Guider pen was started by Mr. G. Subbarao in 1946 in a place called Rajahmundry, by the banks of river Godavari in Andhra Pradesh. This is the same place where another patron of Indian made fountain pens, Ratnam and Brothers flourished. This small town became a place with rich tradition and impeccable artistry in making hand made fountain pens, just as India was at the threshold of becoming independent, both politically and economically. Its difficult to envision the extreme hardship, endeavor and dexterity of workers to produce completely hand made pens, without electricity, without Government support, in a shrinking market for fountain pens. There were definitely all those golden years for Indian Fountain pens post independence, with stalwarts from every walks of Indian society supporting the industry, but those were short. What followed was something akin to a dark winter, ball pens taking over the world, these facilities shrinking and getting eliminated with stiff competition from more organised and cheaper Chinese, Japanese and other European fountain pens, in whatever minuscule market that remained for these pens. Today, Subbarao's son, Mr. G. Lakhamana Rao oversees Guider's operations. I can feel his love for these pens. They are like materialized emotions, personifying love, care, sweat, joy, hope and heartbreak of Rajahmundry, a small obscure town at one end of this subcontinent, trying hard to keep at least part of its rich past traditions alive.
That's enough ramblingsfor now, but this is to emphasize why I go back to these pens, why I overlook their flaws and fight for them. If loving ones own history and heritage is quirky, then using fountain pen in this age is quirkier enough.
I bought Acrylic version first, in brown material with white swirls. Later I was so impressed with the feel of this pen in hand, I searched out and bought the ebonite version in matte black as well. I'll review both together.
1. Appearance & Design: Both pens look beautiful in their own way. Obviously the acrylic swirls are more captivating and feels more costly. But the ebonite matte finish is also very good, for an ebonite lover at least. the Acrylic version is smaller and thinner than the ebonite, but that's expected. The cap on acrylic pen is longer than ebonite cap. It is because the pyramid shaped finial on the acrylic cap is larger. both the pens are cigar shaped with gradual smooth tapering to pointed ends. The clips are typical golden coloured flat clips with Guider written on them, the quality of paint is not very good with some small imperfections exposing the underlying metal at some places. Though I haven't found any rusting after some intensive use at humid conditions. Both clips behaves well and secures the pen in shirt pocket without being tight. There is no other branding on body, which suits the design. The acrylic version has two golden rings at cap end, protecting the cap. Ebonite version doesn't have end rings on cap, but the end surface has been made glossy skillfully, so it looks pretty attractive even without the rings. The pyramidal finials are flushed with the cap, that's a nice feature for the design to work well. Both sections are tapered towards the nib and both have a small step just beneath the nib for easy finger rest. The sections are well designed for long writing sessions, and threads don't pose any problem while gripping.
Guider Egg in Brown swirl acrylic and matte black ebonite
2. Construction & Quality : I am no authority about acrylic and ebonite quality as I don't have many world class costly pens to compare with, but they don't feel cheap. The trim quality is not very good and this is one of the big problems plaguing Indian hand made fountain pen market. The finish is very good. the acrylic pen don't show ant imperfections in the body and cap. The ebonite matte finish is smooth and warm to touch. Both the caps closes on respective bodies with about two and half turns, no tightness is felt anywhere. The section secures well in both the pens, there is no leaking problem. The acrylic section is easily screwed over its body. Ebonite section faces some stiffness while turning initially, later it screws on rather smoothly. Both the pens are lightweight and much thinner than similar pens from many other Indian makers.
3. Weight & Dimensions : I don't have exact weight, but both are light weight. The measurements are given in the following picture. It is clear the acrylic version is smaller and thinner, with a larger cap. Both have very good balance, the acrylic one is a bit thin for my choice but holds very well while writing quickly for longer periods. The balance improves further after filling both with ink. Secure posting possible in both of them and neither becomes oversize after posting. I use all my fountain pens without posting.
From left to right: Kaweco sports, Sheaffer no-nonsense, Pilot Metropolitan, Guider egg acrylic, Guider egg ebonite.
4. Nib & Performance: Guider nibs are unpredictable. I had to change the nib of Acrylic version with a #5 Kanwrite fine nib and after some adjustment, it writes in accordance with the feel of the pen. It appears like a spear in hand, and the kanwrite nib writes with just the appropriate balance of feedback and smoothness, just like a spear would behave in my hand. The nib of the ebonite version is a bit larger, but fortunately it was good. After some smoothing on a nail file, it behaved well for daily use. The nibs are one of the disadvantages of these pens, so if one is not comfortable with nib tuning or nib swapping, better not to go for these pens. Both nibs write fine with adequate flow, flow of ebonite version more than acrylic one, but not much difference. Both have friction fit nib and feed. The feeds are probably made of ebonite.
5. Filling System & Maintenance : Both are eyedropper as default design. But I think if requested Mr. Lakhamana Rao can arrange for other filling mechanisms at some extra price. The maintenance is minimum, at most amounting to periodical application of silicone grease at the threads and occasional flushing after pulling out the friction fit nib and feed.
6. Cost & Value : These are cheap pens. Each of them cost around rs 1000-1200 ( 15 $- 18 $ without customs, shipping etc). Even if one has to replace the nibs with kanwrite or Ambitious nibs (both very good quality cheap Indian nib manufacturer), still the price is quite decent for such pens, in my own idea.
7. Conclusion : I love them. I am posting pics and thorough review for others to judge. I'm no expert when it comes to fountain pens, just a plain user who allots some time from his daily routine to these small ceations. The Guider Egg pens, both acrylic and ebonite make me happy when I use them.
Why there is no marks given in any segment : Let's face it, these pens are nothing in front of so called 'good' international fountain pens. Even many Indian fountain pen users are not satisfied with them when compared to the high standards set by some of the big names in this industry. So, I don't want to give the impressions that these are very high ranking pens, but at the same time I cannot belittle my own joy and the struggle of our cottage industry. I wrote candidly about them, its upto the buyer to dive into these pens.