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Marlen "(dot) com" pen


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13 replies to this topic

#1 RichardS

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 18:30

Marlen pens had always intrigued me. Although the pens look quite elaborate and old-fashioned, the company turns out to be relatively modern. Marlen seem to be inventing their own styling tradition. True, there are some exceptions - highly baroque Limited Editions and a rather nice red/black model called the Baselea - but mostly, their pens feature silver (usually sterling) trim, a distinctive cap and clip, and a unique, slightly stubby and often tapering barrel. They also mostly seem to be either button- or piston-fillers.

I like their slightly eccentric distinctiveness, so when one came up relatively inexpensively, I went for it.

Externals

Posted Image

This model is called the "(dot) com", produced I imagine to cash in on the dotcomedy of the 1999/2000. I also guess that this title was an afterthought, since the pen itself shows not the remotest connection to anything hi-tech! The material is a handsome green cracked-ice marble acrylic with silver accents. The clip has a stylised Ionian capital at the top, some engraved lines beneath and culminates in one of those pocket-friendly little wheels. There's also a silver band around the base of the cap engraved with the brand and model name. The whole effect is nicely archaic and artisan-based, as though some gnarled old craftsman in a Venetian palazzo had engraved and assembled it all by hand. At this price level, that's clearly unlikely - but Marlen have worked hard to achieve the effect.

The pen weighs 23g (3/4 oz), and measures 135 mm (5 1/4") capped. It's a fraction larger than a Pelikan 600, and at its widest point, a little wider.

Opening up

Posted Image

In keeping with its traditional style, the Marlen cap unscrews to reveal a barrel-coloured section. This is nicely curved in an hour-glass style, and if you hold the pen this close to the nib, you'll find it extremely comfortable. If you prefer to hold pens a little higher, you'll be on the cap threads, which is no fun at all. But, if you're prepared to hold it higher still (as I've learnt to, after exactly the same problem with my Pelikan Berlin), you'll find an extremely comfortable gripping place in the black band that finishes the barrel. Here the pen feels nicely chunky and easy to control. The barrel is finished with a matching black twist-action knob to control the piston-based filling.

Nib & section

Posted Image

Another idiosyncrasy is in Marlen's nib design. Unlike most manufacturers who seem to think size is everything, Marlen use a smallish nib that to my eyes is extremely attractive. It's a delicate shape, almost following the outline of a paintbrush, and it fits perfectly with the subtle hourglass shape of the section. It's made from 18kt gold, and it seems even Marlen couldn't resist the trend to make it two-tone!

How does it write? The short answer is, "well, but not perfectly". I've filled it with Diamine Prussian Blue, Herbin Vert Reseda, PR Tanzanite and now Diamine Royal Blue. All of these flow extremely well, and the nib lays down a nice fairly wet line with all of them, but it does tend to hesitate on downstrokes. The size is "M" and the nib's class is apparent in its ability to create very pleasant shading. But the occasional skip is annoying, and I hope to have it seen to soon. The problem is, as with any intermittent fault, is that it won't show up when I'm trying to demonstrate it! (Anybody ever find this problem at the dentist - which tooth?)

Apart from this, it's a great pen, and all the nicer for its distinctiveness. Once the nib is sorted out, I believe I will be using it a great deal.

Edit: to restore pics

Edited by RichardS, 10 November 2005 - 09:50.


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#2 southpaw

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 19:26

Richard,

Thanks for the review. I haven't heard of this brand, but then again, I'm a newbie, so no big deal. What's the country of manufacture? You mention a good price, care to share it (I understand if you don't, so please don't feel obligated). How about MSRP?

Regarding the skipping, have you tried the usual flush with dish detergent? This might help, especially given the intermittent nature of the problem.

Thanks for a very well-written and interesting look at the Marlen .com,
southpaw
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#3 pearlfox

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 22:29

Marlens're supposedly notorious for skipping--I ditched mine for exactly that reason, not knowing back then this was something which might could be fixed. I'll be curious to hear what happens with yours.

#4 RichardS

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 22:30

Hi Southpaw. Thanks for your kind words.

Sorry, I should have made it more clear that Marlen is an Italian company. They have a website here where you can see their current range. I gather from it they've been around since the 1980s.

You'll always see a few Marlens on ebay at fairly good prices; the problem for me is that the biggest vendor charges ludicrous shipping prices to the UK, so making it uneconomical to bid. If you're in the US, you can probably get a bargain.

I paid £65 for my "(dot) com", and saw a very similar pen in Harrods for £120, so I think I did OK.

Yes, I tried what we call washing-up liquid; flushed it through twice ... no go :( I think the problem may be over-rounding of the nib's tip in manufacture. Just a bit too much of a newbie myself to dare taking any abrasive to it!

Regards
Richard

#5 wimg

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 22:32

Hi Richard,

Thank you for the great review and the nice pictures!

Skipping on the down stroke may be caused either by lifting of the tines from the feed, which is quite unlikely, or by a (partial) baby bottom, which can be taken care off fairly easily.

BTW, you can check this by trying to hold the pen at exactly the same angle, namely the angle used for up- or side-strokes, and see if it doesn't skip undr those circumstances. Next hold it much further upright (in a down stroke, you tend to increase the angle between pen and paper), and check if it happens in that case.

If it is a baby bottom, it will likely skip when you do the second exercise.

BTW, did you rinse it with a soapy solution prior to using/filling the pen? Greasy remains from the manufacturing process could cause similar problems.

Warm regards, Wim

the Mad Dutchman
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#6 wimg

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 22:37

Richard, Southpaw,

Regarding the country of origin of Marlen: the owner of the company is a Belgian gentleman, the name is German (or maybe a contraction of a few names), and the pens get manufactured in Italy.

This information I obtained from the owners of the B&M store in my home town I frequent (way too often). Apparently, the owner of Marlen does pay an occasional visit there too.

HTH, warm regards, Wim

the Mad Dutchman
laugh a little, love a little, live a lot; laugh a lot, love a lot, live forever


#7 RichardS

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 22:52

Wim, thanks for all the information. I thought it might be the baby bottom problem, having read about it in one of your previous posts. I didn't know about the tests - which I have just tried! In fact, it seems to pass the second test, but fails the first (ie writing at a constant but normal angle to the page.) The problem is, it's very very intermittent!

So does this mean there's probably a feed problem? The pen does have a fairly small feed for the size of nib.

Thanks for your help,
Richard

#8 wimg

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Posted 01 October 2005 - 23:50

Hi Richard,

If the problem is intermittent, the baby bottom is probably only a small one. If you just tilt the pen slightly, it is very likely that the slit just touches the paper, and therefore restores ink flow. Just off, and it dies, but only after a short while, it doesn't do it immediately anyway (which is why I asked to try and hold it at the same angle).

If there is a feed problem, you normally can write half a page or a whole page (essentially the ink contents of the feed), before the ink flow stops. So, it is likely not a feed problem if this doesn't happen.

It may also be that the pen has a very distinct sweet spot. This can have the same effect as a baby bottom. Essentially, the slit is only in contact with the paper within a very distinct range of tilts and angles.

If you look a Richard Binder's site, under Nib Basics, you may be able to see what I mean. If you have loupe, you can try and compare what you see with the pictures there.

Alternatively, try to photograph the nib point from different angles, from the feed side, and increase the angle of view in 15 degree steps or so. Post them here, and I'll try to comment on the problem.

HTH, warm regards, Wim

the Mad Dutchman
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#9 RichardS

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 13:52

Wim, thanks so much for your help. I've just ordered a jeweller's loupe, and will post my findings here assuming they make any sense! If the problem is BB, can I solve it myself with fine abrasive paper? It seems such a minor problem to send to a nibmeister (and a very long time to be without the pen!).

#10 contravox

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Posted 06 October 2005 - 14:50

WHat is this "Baby Bottom" that you speak of?
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#11 wimg

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Posted 07 October 2005 - 00:29

Hi Richard,

Wim, thanks so much for your help. I've just ordered a jeweller's loupe, and will post my findings here assuming they make any sense!

Great, looking forward to hearing if that coud be the problem.

If the problem is BB, can I solve it myself with fine abrasive paper? It seems such a minor problem to send to a  nibmeister (and a very long time to be without the pen!).

Not fine abrasive paper, but micro abrasive paper. You need something like 12000 grit mylar to fix it. This you can obtain from a good hobby store I guess, or from Richard B. who sells it by the sheet, if I am not mistaken.

Many pen people don't like you doing this type of work yourself though, unless you are experienced in doing this, as you can ruin a nib completely with the stuff. I was lucky, in that I managed to get things right, eventually, when I started with nib work, but others have given up, I understand.

It requires a fair amount of stubbornness, and patience, to get it done right, especially the first time. Furthemore, I suggest you practice on cheap fountain pen first, as you take away material from the nib, which you can't easily put back again. You kinda have to get it right the first time around...

HTH, warm regards, Wim

the Mad Dutchman
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Posted 07 October 2005 - 00:36

WHat is this "Baby Bottom" that you speak of?

Hi contravox,

A baby bottom in a nib, or rather in the tipping of a nib, is a condition whereby both tine ends are rounded so much for smoothness, that the shape looks like a tiny, yes, umm, baby bottom :D.

As the ink is supposed to reach the paper through capillary action, a baby bottom causes problems, because the ink channel end, the slit in the nib, doesn't touch the paper anymore when writing, or only under certain angles, thus causing the ink flow to stop, making the pen a little scratchy and making it skip, or not writing alltogether.

The idea is to take just enough away to make the ink flow again, while still having just o so slightly rounded inner tine edges. If they are not rounded at all, these tine edges catch the paper, resulting in a very scratchy feeling when writing. So, a baby bottom is the symptom of inner tine edges that are rounded too much.

HTH, warm regards, Wim

the Mad Dutchman
laugh a little, love a little, live a lot; laugh a lot, love a lot, live forever


#13 mariopozzi

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Posted 29 August 2008 - 13:35

Hi folks!
I have a "dot-com" brown with the white-black stripes on the sides and black cap.
It appears to be a piston filler, while actually it contains a converter hidden by the barrel. Can be a good solution except that every time is not so much clear if you have to turn clockwise or anti-clockwise to unfill and fill the pen... and does not help so much to understand if the pen itself is full of ink or not.
Apart from that I found that the quality is absolutely above the average, in my opinion the craftmanship is higher than in Deltas and Viscontis (only my opinion wink.gif ).

All the hardware seems to be solid silver, even if I think that the clip could be only plated.

I bought other 2 Marlens, a "dot-com" rollerball and a "Africa" edition. If you notice the small differencies between all the 3 pens, you imagine that every single piece is hand crafted and different. For example the lenght of the 3 is very similar but not exactly the same (matter of millimetres).....

About writing.... I have some Deltas, a couple of Viscontis, MB149, Pelikan 200 and an assorted set of vintage pieces. I find that the 2 Marlens, both the Africa and the dot-com, are the best writers in the lot.

Nibs respectively F and EF, actually a bit broader than what one expects from a F or an EF, are maybe a bit small, if you are used to Viscontis or Deltas (forget the MB149....)

At the end of games, they are always, one, or the other, or both, on my desk as daily writers, all the other being "rotation pens".

Their shape is disctintive, being different from anythin else, specially the clip. For my hands the measure is just perfect, not too long, not too short, not too wide....

You must consider that actually Marlen is the company who produces Krone pens, so be sure about overall quality.

Dear Marlen owners, enjoy your creatures!

#14 shahrincamille

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Posted 29 August 2008 - 14:26

With regards to the skipping problem, I have an E-Com that DOES have a feed problem. This is the same pen that was sent back to Italia TWICE (and spent a total of 1 year back in its birthplace) for a leaking captured converter that I was complaining about in a few earlier threads, but that's another story...

It will write well and flow is good... until the ink in the feed is used up. Then there's no flow, until you give the pen a few good shakes and move the ink into the feed from the captured converter (Marlen calls this... a piston filler lticaptd.gif ). After that it flows well again, until... well, you guess it... the ink in the feed finishes. Then another round of pen shaking, and the cycle starts all over again. Very exasperating! glare.gif

At first I thought it was the Waterman Havana that was the culprit, so I changed the ink to Reform's Blue (an ink that flows really well)... things improved a bit but not by much. I then decided to pull the feed out and take a closer look with my 10X loupe... and wow, the ink channel (not channels, but just a single channel) is so tiny and shallow - no wonder the feed starvation. Initially I wanted to do something about it and pulled out the scalpel from the surgery, but in the end decided against putting the feed under the knife as I'm err... not exactly trained to do microsurgery on a fountain pen feed roflmho.gif

Ultimately I solved the problem by changing the feed, which I obtained from the local nib expert. Hmphh!! glare.gif



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