The search for a delectable nib
After a brief hiatus from fountain pens, and a seemingly eternal interlude from reviewing pens, I was somehow on a lookout of a novel pen, which harnessed the excellence of this modern material age while preserving the flair of vintage brilliance. When zaddick posted this excellent review on FPN long long back (2015), the charismatic pattern of the rosewood ebonite caught my eyes, perhaps like many of you. And then, the frosted flourish on the nib itself (ah! slightly reminiscent of the sold-out Pilot Bamboo) coupled with a lustrous red-urushi feed! My primary concerns apart from the price point of 850, were the unconventional size, girth and weight of the pen. Then, I waited….and waited…and waited. Three years passed by, before I could order the Decoband from Bryant (I would happily recommend Chatterley Luxuries). Ah yes, the same one in that bewitching rosewood ebonite, how oft the rosewood pattern is adorable! Then a month later, it finally landed into my hands.
I then inked the pen with an available one (probably pelikan blue) and after writing with it for a while as a desk pen, it was boxed. It wrote about a western medium and the ink did not seem to last long. It stayed in the cupboard for quite a while. And another year passed by! Other hobbies, nonetheless little interesting like machine learning, took much of the time. And then, I felt like there was something missing, concerning with writing with the SUPERFLEX nib. And in the end, the pen has been inked up multiple times, since last year. So, here goes my review of the same.
If you like a pictorial blogger view, here is the link:
Presentation is modern and spotlessly utilitarian. These days, it comes in a fair-sized black cardboard box with the Wahl-Eversharp name & the trademark double-check logo on it.
And within it, sits another deep green cardboard box patterned with the W (double-check) logo, secured with a magnetic clasp. And within it (end of 'withins'), a clamshell presentation box with transparent laminate halves cushions the pen. Perhaps, I would have been able to love the modern presentation completely, had there been no precedents set! Then, there comes a little nag reminding you of having missed the lacquer box along with its accouterments, in those three years. I bought the Wahlberry ink later. The box, nonetheless carries an anti-oxidant sleeve and a booklet and a warranty card, placed below the separator.
Larger than ‘Vintage’ Life
The Decoband Oversize Gold Seal Collection as of today comes in multitude of finishes - around twenty probably in varying combination of materials - ebonite, celluloid and acrylic along with gold or rhodium plated trims. Perhaps, a ruthenium finish will be a nice addition to the line. The nibs now have two categories - SUPERFLEX and a more stiff GOLDFLEX nib, in 18k gold. Some versions are still available in 14k as earlier.
I had been rather mesmerized by the rosewood finish long time back, so that was the finish eventually ordered. The effusively striped contours of burgundy and black, give the cylindrical structure, a remarkable semblance to actual finishes in rosewood. The metallic appointments at the centre, clip and either ends of the finial, are coated with (14k) gold and the golden dazzle well dances with the rhythms of the lustrous rosewood finish.
The finish appears brighter with ambient light. I would also want to preserve the finish for long and would happily avoid carrying the pen in sunlight.
Coming back to the pen, there is a slight taper is at the filler end of the barrel converging the rosewood silhouettes with the golden ring and the thin black acrylic appointment of the filler rod. You would notice a little hole in the acrylic end, to compress out air of the sac.
The cap is cylindrical and one thing you will notice is that the rosewood contours of the cap, well-align with the ones on the barrel. You can almost see its inner threads and the insert in some light. The finial is another thin (2-3 mm) polished black acrylic disk which discerns itself from the rest of the cap, with a golden ring. Then you would perhaps notice the inlaid metal disk - the gold seal with the customary double check logo. These seals earlier denoted Wahl’s top of the line products, like Sheaffer’s white dot. The V-shape tension fit clip with a broad cylinder albeit normal in terms of length, appears remarkably short, given the overall heft of the pen. One the clip, the name of WAHL-EVERSHARP is imprinted, where comes my little qualm like a few others, of not being crisp enough. The center band consists of three concentric rings, with some space for the lip to reflect the crimson silhouettes. The ring in the middle is etched with the Greek Key, much like the vintage one. The same design is present in Omas pens, with branding etched in the middle. I later learnt that the Greek Key symbolizes flow of infinity.
The cap comes off in 1.5 turns, which consequently reveals the dazzle of golden threads of the section and a never to be missed, large #8 mesmerizing nib. The threads are nevertheless charming, to both eyes and fingers. The acrylic glossy black section slightly tapers towards the business end before bumping off towards golden hues of the loop. Quite some eloquent detailing!
FILLING & CLEANING SYSTEM (5/6)
One-touch “Chilton Style” Pneumatic filler!
The supply end of the barrel, i.e the little black glossy disk takes around 6 turns to unravel another Greek key adorned long brass sleeve of the pneumatic filler. This one doesn't have a branding, unlike the one released initially. The filling process is actually quite simple, but for me it took a bit of practice and observation, to have an acceptable level of fill.
Once you pull out the metal sleeve, the nib needs to be completely submerged in the ink bottle, then with the air hole (in the finial end), covered with your finger/thumb, you need to press the sleeve back inside completely, which in turn releases the air inside the barrel and then eventually the air inside the latex sac.
Typically, you would count till 10 or 12, before the sac expands and draws ink up. Then you can push in the sleeve, without covering the air hole and finally screw on the glossy finial end. I have observed that the ink fills really well, once you see a lot of bubbles of air released inside the ink bottle.
The stated capacity in the website is 2.1 ml, but in my experience, I have got variable levels of ink fills depending on the ink brand (all with deep inkwells). It seems to work better with Wahlberry and GvFC inks. It is also recommended by the company, to use slightly acidic inks (pH between 4.5 to 6.5, Japanese inks are usually alkaline), else it could damage the metal components. Also, you might prefer a drier ink, since the nib lays out a wet & juicy line.
This link from Edison pen company does a better justice to the whole ink-filling process.
From a cleaning perspective, it’s easy. It seems to fill better with thinner liquids, that includes water apart from inks! One thing I found after unscrewing the section is that, some ink still remains in the sac and the lower threads of the inner section, which is directly attached to the sac (a little ink seems to go in, as we dip the nib & section to draw ink).
NIB - ALL THAT MATTERS (6/6)
The frosted stunner, the vivid red enchantress
Now comes the business end of the pen. All I can say is that, it's elegant and stunning. The frosted appearance from a distance, along with a symphonic texture renders the nib as a work of art, rather. I have not seen many (or shall I say any?) manufacturers put this kind of effort in making a nib glorious (even at much higher price points, Ouch! Namiki). They kind of concentrate on the pen, polish the nib (probably with a Ford assembly line attitude) and then shift the entire attention towards the presentation. A circular breather hole runs among the sandy grains along the body of the nib.
The process of removal of gold and subsequent plating to get this frosted appearance (as mentioned in FPN comments) is called debossing, which is done in Switzerland. The nib albeit sourced from Germany, seems to get the flex by this debossing. Below the breather hole, the hallmark double check logo is embossed within a circle within a little imperfect snowflake (okay, I discovered it only after taking the photo, probably like schwarzschild discovered his radius)! The brand name and the words SUPERFLEX are imprinted towards the base with the 18k gold content indicator.
A side view of the nib imbibes even a more regal structure with the feed and the section, in a single frame. The marriage of the nib and feed, promises joy and happiness for a long long time.
Then once you turn the nib, you would be beholding a vivid red urushi feed. The split ebonite feed has closely spaced fins on the underside, which allows to run the nib wet with flexing the tines, while maintaining the ink buffer. The nib hasn't skipped at all. Below is a little comparison with a red urushi lacquered feed of a Namiki Emperor. It's plastic against ebonite, and you can see the grainy finish of the Decoband's feed compared to the smoothly machined feed of the Emperor.
PHYSICS OF IT (5/6) – RELATIVELY SPEAKING
The overall capped length is around 15 cm. I use the pen un-posted as it balances the size, girth and more importantly the weight, for my writing style. The section has a comfortable grip diameter of about 1.2 cm, before it bumps off towards the gleam of the golden ring of about 1.5 cm diameter. The pen is comfortable from an overall perspective, given that you spend some time getting used to it. It balances well for a large oversized pen with brass fittings.
Below are the pictures along with a MB149 and a Namiki Emperor for comparative reference.
- Uncapped Length ~ 14.5 cm
- Total Length ~ 15 cm
One piece of staggering engineering around the pen is that the cap screws on quite deep, so there is minimal difference (0.5 cm) with the length of the uncapped pen.
- Exposed Nib Leverage ~ 3 cm (#8)
Now this pen is bold and solid in terms of heft. It took me a little while to get used to it. Having said that I was amazed at its weight distribution and overall balance.
- Overall Weight ~ 57 g (without ink, cap weight~13.5 g, Gosh! almost a uncapped Lamy 2000)
I used a Pelikan three pen pouch and it nestles the pen well. Also, just on sheer impulse, I had got a leather pen box with enough inner cushion, from Cross (it was selling at $ 7 or something, I assume it's locally sourced). Thankfully, it turned out to be perfect fit for the Decoband.
The leather pen box from Cross.
While an expensive retail price of around $ 850 is steep, I have seen a few selling in second hand market below $ 600, from time to time. For me, the exceptional work on the nib, feed along with materials, make this pen effortlessly matchless. For the filling mechanism, I would have probably preferred a piston/vacuum filler, rather than a pneumatic one. There is rather a vintage appeal with the pneumatic one, I guess. Add to this, somehow the exceptional make must have been a sourcing nightmare, given that the parts belong to France, Germany, Switzerland and Italy, with the final machining & assembly done in Italy & US. (as quoted in The original FPN review)
WRITING & FINAL COMMENTS (5.1/6)
Writes like a rainy writer
The SUPERFLEX nib graces a wet and juicy flow, and writes like a western medium. I usually do not flex nibs with my regular writing, but an added springy flourish comes automatically with the downstrokes. I tested the nib on a relatively better paper of a growing Indian brand. It's a Nightingale A4 notebook, and it does pretty well. The Wahlberry ink however doesn’t seem to be good friends with Tomoe river paper, while it does make the line variation more noticeable on TR. Given the wet flow, a hint of feedback isn’t quite noticeable until you consume most of your ink. The ink took around 25 secs + to dry on this particular paper, although it has dried quicker, in other papers. The ink itself seems to be well formulated and on the drier side for the overly generous super flex nib.
The nib has never skipped and always laid a wet juicy line, and seems to be one of the best nibs in my relatively small collection. Another hesitation on my side is that, if the pen stays unused for a few days, then the ink possibly dries up and it's a task to get it to write again with the same panache.
The balance & girth of the pen is something, I have gotten used to and never looked back since then. I feel the pen needs a separate carrying box (like the cross one) if you wish to take it in your backpack or bag. I am not very keen on the pneumatic filler as mentioned earlier, a piston/vacuum would have perhaps better worked in my opinion, given the ink-demands of the feed. And perhaps, the ink should be packaged along with the pen like earlier. Since it runs quite wet out of the box, so you might not be able to appreciate the nib with many of your inks.
Thank you for going through the review.
You can find other pen and paraphernalia reviews here.
Edited by sannidh, 18 January 2020 - 02:30.