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Conid Bulkfiller Regular: Three-Year Review

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#1 entropydave

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 17:31

## Introduction

This is a review of the Conid Bulkfiller Regular which I have had over three years now. People often review their pens when the pen is new and they're excited, but I am interested in which pens stand the test of time in appeal, utility and resilience.
 
The short version of this review is that this is the best fountain pen I have owned.  It is the sole pen I keep continually inked, my "go-to" and my workhorse.  The price is high but so is the value for money.
 
My pen is now called the Regular model in the flat top variant.  It is made of black Delrin with a medium titanium nib that was stubbed by Conid.  Mine is one of the first pens made after the limited first production run pens in acrylic.  It is old enough that it has the old Conid logo set into the cap. My pen has been continuously inked for three years with Diamine Monaco Red.  I have never serviced the pen, though I did take it mostly apart once out of curiosity.
 
## Background about me
I used Rotring Sketch Pens through my college years.  Later I used Parker 45 flighters at work and in graduate school.  It was only in 2004 that I started to buy more fountain pens than I could use daily.  I do not consider myself a pen collector, but I must have at least 30 pens, some of them of a cost comparable to the Bulkfiller.  I favour post-cork piston fillers, especially Montblanc and Pelikan of the 1960s and I am fond of the Parker 61.  Mostly I use red ink, some blue and black. I have the knowledge and tools to service all my pens.  I write a lot professionally using loose leaf paper of varying qualities and notebooks with high quality paper.
 
## Ink subsystem
The star feature of any Conid Bulkfiller is the large ink capacity, safety cutoff and the filling system that makes the first two possible.  This pen holds a lot of ink.  My pen can hold in excess of 2ml of ink.  I am told the maximum capacity is 2.5ml, but I've never measured it and filling the pen always leaves some space in the ink window chamber.  Even when writing a lot--and it is a wet writer--refilling feels infrequent.  The only pen that feels anywhere near as infrequent is a 1950s Pelikan 400 with a dry OM nib.
 
If you want to understand more about the filling system you can see plenty on the Conid website (www.conidpen.com).   Filling is easy to understand, remember and do. It is comparable to a piston filler in complexity. This pen is compatible with the Visconti travelling ink well and this is a good way to get a full fill If your ink bottle is low and not obliging the number six nib and feed on the Bulkfiller.
 
The thing to highlight is that with this pen, the ink flows through an ink chamber (.35ml) by the ink window, which is between the section and the main ink reservoir.  To move ink from the main reservoir to this intermediate chamber, you have to unscrew the filling knob  at the end of the barrel a few twists.  This allows ink to flow from one area to the other.  Conid recommend you do this at the start of writing and leave it open until you're done.  I never do this, because I prefer to be aware of how much ink I'm using.  Instead, I more or less write the intermediate chamber dry, then do a couple twists, refill, then seal again.  When I have one of these "intermediate refills" that is partial, I know that I am very low on ink.  This is an easy way to monitor the ink in a large capacity pen with an opaque main reservoir.
 
The ability to seal the main reservoir is a great feature when flying with this pen.  Before I fly, I open the reservoir, fill the intermediate chamber, then seal.  There is air in the main chamber, but even if it expands with reduced air pressure at altitude it cannot force ink out, since it is sealed.  The intermediate chamber has been freshly filled, so it has no air in it to expand. Thus, no leaks.
 
The feed and nib sit in a collar that screws into the section, with o-rings at the front and back of the section.  This means the interior of the section of this pen is exceptionally clean, even after a filling.  Also, the nib unit threads remain clean, making nib exchange easy.
 
I do not recall ever flushing this pen, nor feeling the need to do so.  I am pretty sure I filled it with water a few times when I was practicing the filling the procedure after I bought it.
 
I have never had a leak with this pen and the ink supply and filling system has never failed me in any way.  The feed is plastic, but it supplies a steady, wet flow that has never railroaded even when I've flexed the nib out pretty far.
 
## Nib
The nib I got was the titanium medium that was stubbed by Conid, probably by Francis Goosens the designer of the Bulkfiller.  The stubbing was very good.  Mostly I have pens with gold nibs and generally I prefer gold to steel.  My favourite nibs as a class are probably the Montblanc nibs of the 1960s and early 70s, the x4 and 22y models. I have a few steel nibs too.  I chose the titanium nib because it matched the titanium hardware on the pen (cap band, clip, barrel threads) and because I had heard it was a soft (not flex) nib.  It is my only titanium nib and I love the way it feels.  It is soft, can flex if pressed, and smooth but not too smooth.  The nib feels good and works well.
 
(I can enjoy a bit of tooth which I get from my Aurora Optima factory stub.  My writing hand is gentle but I have no ability with flex writing or calligraphic hands.)
 
The nib collar fits a no. 6 nib, so swapping in other nibs can and has been done.  Conid's nibs are Bock nibs and I also have one of Conid's steel nibs.  I tried it for variety but found it less enjoyable and the bright metal jarred with the matte titanium hardware.
 
The sole weird feature of the nib I have found is that it "sweats" with significant temperature change. What I mean is that one or two small drops of water, with dilute ink, condense on the top surface of the nib. This occurs when I go from standing on a train platform for 15 minutes in 2 degrees C and then sit on the train in 21 degrees C. It is not a problem, because it does not leak.  The "sweat drops" are held on the nib by surface tension and easily wiped with a finger.  Steel nibs do not do this and I presume it could be explained by the difference in the properties of the metals.
 
## Functional design
By functional design, I mean how the design of this pen contributes to its function and operation, not how it looks.  This is where the pen is in a class of its own.  Everything is carefully designed by an engineer, not a product manager.  Everything is made to exacting standards.  The design has not been compromised for the sake of mass manufacture or cost-efficiency. The materials used are the best of their kinds (titanium, stainless steel), often milled from solid rods. The pen has a perfect functional design.  I put the functional design in the same class as the the Brompton folding bike and the iPhone 5s.
 
Here are some of the features that make it excellent.  The clip is titanium and solid, not folded metal.  It is also concave on its underside, with the same curvature as the cap.  I'm told this makes it stronger.  It looks good and the clip makes flush contact with the cap.  In fact, the outside face of the clip is convex, with the same curvature of the barrel also.  Better still, the sides of the clip taper slightly inward, so that the profile of the clip, longitudinally, is as if two radii were continued from the centre line of the cap, past the cap's edge and beyond.  (Put another way, the clip is described by segments of two concentric circles around the cap.) I just love that attention to detail. 
 
The clip and the cap ring of which it is part are thick and solid.  I would not worry about this clip failing.  When I first got it, I found the clip not quite tight enough for my taste.  I was able to unscrew the top of the cap, take the clip and give it a tiny flex, and then put it back.  It has been tight enough since.  This illustrates another great design feature: you can take everything apart.  Many things you can take apart just by twisting and unscrewing them.  All the serviceable parts, such as o-rings, are standard non-Conid specific parts.  Conid will sell you a small tool, like a wrench with pins, that will enable removing the filling mechanism.  This works well, but I have never *needed* to remove it.  (I just had to try it though.). As I noted above the nib unit unscrews too.
 
The attention to detail shows in other places.  There is a heavy titanium cap band protecting the cap screw threads from stress.  I found the cap did not screw down securely enough when I first got it, compared to a Pelikan.  I trained myself to give the cap a extra bit of torque at the end to make it secure.  I felt safe doing this because of the cap band, but also because the cap is threaded onto titanium threads on the barrel.  So the Delrin cap threads are threaded onto titanium, rather than more Delrin, limiting the stress one set of threads can put on the other.  This is another one of those little design details that makes a difference.  After a month, the cap screwed on securely every time.
 
The titanium threads serve another function which is that they hide the transition in width from the barrel to the section.  There is a slight narrowing from the barrel to the ink window, with the threads in between visually smoothing that change.  This is a small thing, but small things add up.  More, they are the expression of an engineer's attention to the details.  That makes me feel good and reassures me that the filling system's internals will be of a similar standard.  In the same way, two exposed o-rings at the barrel's end, provide a secure mount for the cap.  If you post this pen, the cap will not move or fall off.  The tolerances on the milled Delrin are tight.  If you stand the pen on either end, it stands straight and stable.  I do this often, because it saves space and makes sure the pen doesn't get lost under papers.  I don't often post the pen, so I often stand the cap on end to keep it visible and avoid losing it.
 
I find the weight and proportions of the pen very good for my hand and for writing.  The section in particular is a good length that gives you a chance to hold the pen quite "high" on its overall length if you want.  The section does not taper all the way to the nib, but is a gentle, almost symmetrical curve.  I prefer that, it feels secure.  In general, the Delrin is a pleasant material to hold that does not get slick in hot or humid environments. The dimensions and proportions of the flat top pen I have seems almost identical to my modern Parker Duofold Centennial.
 
Technical details including weight, dimensions, exploded diagrams and many pictures can be found on the Conid website: http://www.conidpen.com
 
## Aesthetic design
One of the things I like about fountain pens is the aesthetic design of many pens.  I like some artisan details, though never with a view to sacrificing function for form.  My Bulkfiller is not an attractive pen aesthetically speaking.  I've highlighted the functional design, because the pen looks like a well made tool.  By comparison to the tri-lobed design of the OMAS 360, the tapering lines of the Parker 61 and Montblanc 221, the guilloché of an ST Dupont Montparnasse, or the inlaid nib of a Geha Goldschwing my Conid Bulkfiller is no comparison at all.  It is pedestrian by comparison with the aesthetic features of these pens.  The Delrin as a material is no match in appearance for lacquered metal barrels like the Parker 100, the rich cotton resin of OMAS, Aurora's auroloide or even Pelikan's faux tortoise shell. The Delrin is plain old black and can be shiny or matte.  It doesn't look bad, it just doesn't announce itself aesthetically.  Some pens are things of beauty, this is not.
 
However, that said, it is not that it lacks an aesthetic.  As I said, it looks like a well-made tool, with form following function.  I compared it with the Brompton folding bike and the iPhone.  Neither is a things of beauty, I think, but both have an aesthetic appeal from their design.  And in the case of the Bulkfiller, I also like the subtlety of the black Delrin and the grey titanium.  The pen is noticeable but there is nothing attention-seeking about it.  I can understand why people like this pen in clear acrylic, because it highlights further the extent of the engineering design of the pen, like a cut-away drawing.  (I just don't like clear, acrylic pens much.)
 
The result for me is that I do not get the same aesthetic pleasure that I get from holding and using some of the aesthetically arresting pens I mentioned above.  This is a small disappointment to me and it is one reason that I am considering a Conid Bulkfiller Kingsize in a material other than Delrin.  The Kingsize has tapering lines and some exotic materials in limited editions.
 
My pen was made and shipped quite early in Conid's production of Bulkfillers and mine had a rather ordinary box seemingly made of dressed cardboard with some foam inserts.  It's fine, especially since I don't use it.  (I understand that the current models ship in rather cool aluminum  boxes with hinged lids.)
 
## Durability
One advantage of Delrin is that it seems hard and strong. I don't have any visible scratches, nicks or dents anywhere on the pen.  Similarly the titanium is, as you'd expect, tough.  The metal hardware is not showing any damage and a little buffing makes it look as new.  The pen does not look pristine after three years of continuous use though and I've dropped it several times.  The Delrin comes with a so-called satin finish which makes it somewhat matte.  This wears off with use to become a smooth, somewhat glossy finish that makes it look more like ordinary plastic.  It is possible to restore the satin finish but I no longer bother.  I like the visible changes from use, just like on a wood-handled tool.
 
## Overall appeal and summary
As I summarized at the outset, this is the best fountain pen I have owned.  It is now the single pen I use the most and if I had to have only one pen, this would be it.  As a tool for writing by hand using ink, I consider it flawless.  I keep mine continually inked and--absent another Bulkfiller--I do not imagine that changing.
 
I don't like  the numerical quantifications of features since they imply more precision than the assessment warrants.  Reflecting my limited experience of pens, I'd provide an ordinal summary this way: 
 
- the nib is excellent, but not exceptional; 
- the build quality and attention to detail is the best,  peerless;
- the overall utility of the pen is matched by some, but not bettered;
- the aesthetic design is functional and adequate, not artistic, and its aesthetic appeal is modest;
- the value for money is very good considering the above and the longevity of service I expect.
 


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#2 Diderot

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 18:58

Comprehensive review, thank you.



#3 Mulrich

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 19:50

I recently got my first Conid and it certainly won't be my last. I really like the titanium nib and smooth filling system.

#4 flipper_gv

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Posted 05 November 2016 - 19:59

I love those long term reviews.



#5 Valkyrii

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 00:45

Much appreciated as I am getting close to biting the bullet and getting a Conid myself.



#6 creeder14

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 02:42

Thank you for this! I'm considering saving up for a Conid, and this has really helped my decision!

#7 darazs

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 11:48

Great review.

My regular (acrylic body) is also one of my favorite. Reading your words i got to understand better why this is the case.
.

#8 alexander_k

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 13:03

Thanks for the excellent review. It agrees with my own experiences after two years of practically daily use. 



#9 Tasmith

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 13:52

Thank you for your long term review!



#10 pavoni

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 17:52

Excellent review.   Really appreciate long-term reviews of any pen,and I believe this review to be the first of the famous Conid Bulkfiller.

 

I have had mine now - one of the first production run pens in acrylic - since July 2012 and so I can fully appreciate the considered comments of entrophydave.  I particularly like what he has said about the functional design of the Bulkfiller, and the comparison with the Brompton folding cycle and iPhone, though I personally find my acrylic version to be aesthetically pleasing, a result of this excellently engineered pen being designed by a gifted engineer who simply LOVES fountain pens.

 

The only 'negative' element to owning a Bulkfiller that I have personally discovered, is that the pen is a little too good to warrant carrying around other pens!  Indeed, for the first year I felt somewhat frustrated that the other pens I would have enjoyed carrying in my weekly rotation were effectively redundant.  However, once I had appreciated being able to swap the Bock nib for one of my vintage flexible ones, my frustrations soon eased and I started to use my regular Bulkfiller as more of a specialist tool befitting the fabulous vintage nib it now carries.  

 

My regular Bulkfiller is now joined by another specialist tool - a new Kingsize Bulkfiller carrying a vintage nib a little less flexible than before but with sufficient to make it feel similarly special.

 

Great review entrophydave, many thanks for sharing  :thumbup:

 

Pavoni



#11 25_15_3

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Posted 06 November 2016 - 20:29

Despite your review not having any pictures, I very much enjoyed reading the entire thing! Makes me all the more excited for my Conid Minimalistica coming in 2 weeks or so. I plan on EDC'ing the Conid, so I feel much relief that the pen is as durable as everyone on the internet says it is.



#12 CrispyBacon_87

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Posted 08 November 2016 - 00:15

Can you fill these with a syringe?

I'm thinking of small ink sample vials... Even with an inkwell, I don't know if you could use an entire sample...

Edited by CrispyBacon_87, 08 November 2016 - 00:16.


#13 Aristosseur

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Posted 08 November 2016 - 12:42

Excellent review, I would love to see pictures of the titanium stub nib writing, with and without pressure and in normal writing.

#14 mongrelnomad

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Posted 09 November 2016 - 00:19

Yup. Just yup.

 

My first Conid (like Pavoni's) arrived in July 2012. Over four years later, it is still always inked (it is my go-to red pen - usually filled with some beautiful Sailor ink - used for editing) and has never, ever, missed a beat. 

 

I now have a total of five bulkfillers, with a sixth on the way. I was under the impression that Conid were flying below the radar, but it has come to my attention that they have developed a large (and growing), dedicated and loyal following. It seems a new legend is being born, and at such a late stage in the fountain pen's history...

 

Well deserved.

 

Thank you for the great and detailed review. 


Edited by mongrelnomad, 09 November 2016 - 00:19.

Too many pens; too little writing.

#15 entropydave

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Posted 09 November 2016 - 07:34

Can you fill these with a syringe?

I'm thinking of small ink sample vials... Even with an inkwell, I don't know if you could use an entire sample...

 

 

Yes, you can.  To do so, you remove the nib/feed unit which is in a collar that unscrews.  So it is easy to do.  As I noted there is an o-ring on the interior of both ends of the section to keep ink out.  So if you keep it clean, unscrewing the collar is not hard.

 

Then, you need to unscrew the barrel-end knob which releases the ink shut-off.  For what you want to do, I would unscrew it and pull it back at least an inch.  Using a long syringe, you can fill the main reservoir directly, after which I would close the ink shut off so that you can see how much ink you have in the intermediate reservoir.  You could then fill the intermediate reservoir, being careful not to overfill it so that ink enters the section beyond the o-ring.  

 

Screw the collar back in and you're done.  I haven't done it myself, but I'm confident that my description of the procedure is accurate.

 

David.



#16 entropydave

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Posted 10 November 2016 - 14:59

Excellent review, I would love to see pictures of the titanium stub nib writing, with and without pressure and in normal writing.

 

I attach a modest writing sample.  Note the four vertical lines of increasing thickness.  The thickness of the last is the absolute limit before railroading.

 

I hope that is some help.  (I did not attach photos to my review because I'm not a skilled photographer and the photos on the Conid website are better.)

 

David.

Attached Images

  • Bulkfiller Ti Stub M sample.jpg


#17 CrispyBacon_87

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Posted 12 November 2016 - 13:14

I think you just sold me a pen.

#18 Aristosseur

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Posted 12 November 2016 - 21:56

 

I attach a modest writing sample.  Note the four vertical lines of increasing thickness.  The thickness of the last is the absolute limit before railroading.

 

I hope that is some help.  (I did not attach photos to my review because I'm not a skilled photographer and the photos on the Conid website are better.)

 

David.

Thanks a lot, it must be wonderful to have a smooth stub that flexes a bit. And to think it is housed in such an efficient pen!



#19 schaatslijster

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 06:19

The Conid regular bulkfiller is one of my favourites, especially after having replaced the steel nib with a Welty 3 tined music nib. It remains a wet writer. Love the transparent barrel, the ink chamber and the huge ink capacity. Seldom needs refilling.

 

Tai Kwan



#20 Nilly2323

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Posted 22 December 2016 - 06:34

You are the first review I've read to mention anything even remotely negative about it, but even you admit the negatives are petty in the grand scheme of things.







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