I’ve been a customer of the fpnibs.com folks in Spain – Pablo Carrasco and Esther Durán from the south of Spain – for several years now. They’ve been my go-to suppliers of JoWo nibs especially, and offer a variety of custom grinds and finishes that I find hard to resist. It wasn’t until more recently, though, that they began offering their own FPnibs-branded pens – the Ronda (named for Pablo’s home town?) and the Marbella (named for Esther’s home town – I *think*). From the moment I saw the introductory video on their YouTube channel (in October 2018), I wanted a Ronda – which accommodates a JoWo #6 nib unit – but it wasn’t until around my birthday, in the middle of 2019, that I finally felt I could justify the purchase. Not that they’re expensive, mind you!
I’ve been really happy with this purchase. The Ronda is an attractive oversized pen, that really feels quite substantial as I write with it… and the nibs are, as always, tuned to perfection. I’m always happy to recommend Pablo’s nib-work – but for the price, the Ronda is also worth a good hard look!
Appearance & Design
The FPnibs Ronda is an oversized pen, manufactured from some kind of cracked-green/black acrylic that has a fair degree of chatoyance. I believe the video says these pens are made in Taiwan, to Pablo and Esther’s specifications – which probably explains the price tag of only €29.90 ex tax for the pen. [Purchasing a plain steel nib will set you back a further €12.20 plus VAT – bringing the price of the pen to a total of €42.10.]
The acrylic is very attractive (at least to my eyes!), while the chrome-coloured clip has a good amount of flex to allow it to grip onto fabric. I like the fact that the grip section – which is not overly long – is made from the same acrylic as the pen body, with stainless steel (?) reinforcements and threading,
Though the pen is (relatively) inexpensive, everything about it says ‘quality’. It’s a solid, ram-rod straight block of a pen, that reminds me (without being derivative) of a range of premium European-style pens.
I’m not a great fan of the branding on the pen – the white screen-printed logo, and the name “fpnibs.com”. Thankfully (I suppose?), it hasn’t proven to be very durable – over time more than half of it has worn away, and the rest of it seems certain to follow over time. I believe you can ask for this to be removed (it didn’t bother me enough to ask). Pablo and Esther would do well, I think, to either ditch the logo or find a means of applying it that’s more permanent.
Construction & Quality
The Ronda is very well-made, and quite sturdy. The interior of the pen is reinforced with a metal sleeve that runs the length of the barrel, and the threading of the grip section is likewise made of metal, with an o-ring that ensures the barrel doesn’t unscrew. The grip section is designed to take #6 JoWo screw-in nib assemblies.
One design feature that users of the pen need to be aware of is that there is a plastic inner cap, of smaller diameter than the main cap, so that there’s a slight gap between the two. It’s recessed back into the cap – looks to me like it’s designed to sit around the nib and provide a bit of an air seal, but if you’re not careful capping the pen, it’s possible for the tip of the nib to ‘catch’ in the gap between inner and outer caps (I’ll try and find a way to photograph this – and maybe add it in the comments.)
My only gripe in terms of construction quality is the standard international converter that comes with the pen: it’s similar to the full-style Kaweco converters (minus the branding) – but I find these a little creaky. Then again, lots of pen manufacturers don’t provide a converter at all, and so far it’s done its job well enough!
Oh, and one other thing: the first few weeks I had this pen, it came uncapped while sitting in my jacket pocket a few times (it’s about half-a-turn to open, which I guess makes this more of a risk?). I don’t think this is a flaw though, as such: I just found that I needed to tighten the cap a little more firmly that I do normally.
Weight & Dimensions
This is a big pen. Capped, it’s 148mm in length, and 128mm uncapped – posted it’s a honking ~180mm (which I don’t recommend). The diameter of the grip section is 12-13mm (tapering from threads to nib), while the barrel is 15mm in diameter and the cap band is 17mm.
The pen is also reasonably weighty – 41g, or ~25g minus the cap. Your mileage may vary (I know some people prefer slim pens!), but I find it very comfortable to hold.
Some other pens for comparison:
Karas Kustoms Decograph
Ranga Model 5 (now there's a *really* big pen!
Nib & Performance
I asked to order two nibs with this pen – both of them branded with the FP nibs logo. The standard 1.1mm stub nib lays down a juicy line, and is wonderfully suited to writing with Diamine shimmer inks (currently Diamine Magic Forest). The second nib (which I used for the first 4 months) was a Fine steel nib, ground to an architect. As always, Pablo did a superb job of this, and it writes supremely well – it was also sufficiently wet to allow me to use Diamine Cobalt Jazz, another “shimmertastic” ink, without clogging.
1.1mm nib with FPnibs imprint
F nib ground custom to an architect - fantastic!
Not my hands - nor my nail polish!
I hope it doesn’t sound like a knock on the pen body for me to say that the nibs are fantastic – but really, they are. It *does* cost extra to get a custom grind on the pen (which is why I only went for one custom grind this time around!), but it’s well worth it. Pablo is world class, and his charges for the service are incredibly reasonable.
Filling System & Maintenance
The Ronda, and it smaller stablemate, the Marbella, are both cartridge converter pens. They come with a Kaweco-style converter, ready to install. As I said above, I’m not a great fan of these, but they’re cheap, they’re functional… and they’re easily replaceable if you don’t want to use them.
Cost & Value
At ~€42 (ex VAS), the Ronda is a beautiful beast of a pen – too big for my family to want to pinch it, or to be easily lost or stolen, but perfect for me to write with. It *looks* a lot more expensive than it is – and it writes like a dream. I don’t know if the fpnibs folks plan to come out with any other finishes, orif this is it – either way, it’s well worth getting your hands on one.
I’m a fan of everything fpnibs.com do – at least as far as fountain pens are concerned! – and the Ronda has been a fantastic addition to my collection of pens. I’d highly recommend anyone who likes larger pens getting their hands on this one – it’s an absolute steal at the price!