Reviewed by Shelley Raskin 1/1/2008.
Just a preface: This pen is a working prototype, there are refinements and adjustments being made to the pen and whilst the one you order may closely resemble the model I am reviewing it will not be identical.
Ed.: Update, since completing this review Dan has completely reworked The Traveler. The pen is now shorter and lighter, the wooden barrel has been replaced with an ebonite one, the concealed cartridge is gone, the filling system is either lever fill or eye-dropper, the cap is lighter, and the whole feed, nib holder is shortened and neater, I have not yet seen this, but once I return the model I have Dan should send me an updated version.
Dan Furlano works in Pennsylvania, America, and may be contacted at:
Custom Writing Instruments
120 Daniel Drive
Avondale, PA 19311
The pen itself comes in a beautiful wooden Cuban cigar box. Inside, the box has been converted to hold the pen in a satin lined cushion, the pen is surrounded by a stylised old world globe layout, the presentation of the pen is stunning.
Included in the packaging is a two page letter personally addressed to the owner, describing the background on the development of the pen, the inspiration for The Traveler, and a detailed breakdown of the materials and construction of the pen.
Briefly, the body is made from Bubinga Sapwood, stabilised by an acrylic polymer, that has been drilled then had silver wire inserted into it. The end cap, cap threads and nib assembly are made from ebonite. The nib housing is silver plated and the nib, in this model, is a two-tone, 18 k gold Bexley nib in medium. Other nibs and sizes are of course available. The cap is made from African Blackwood, silver wire, a solid silver band and a silver clip. There is a hand crafted compass emblem done in silver. The top of the cap contains a free floating London Stanley compass; the cap then has a Derlin plastic liner to ensure an air tight seal with the pen body. Now in case you were not paying attention there let me restate something: the top of the cap contains, or encapsulates, a fully functional free floating compass!
I immediately took the cap outside and compared it to my Suunto compass, and was delighted to find, that they were both equally accurate. Now whilst I do not recommend you take The Traveler orienteering, it is a nice touch for the intrepid traveller to be able to journey with a pen that contains a compass to record not only their thoughts, but also their bearings, in a journal.
When you open the box and view The Traveler, the first thing that you will notice is that this in not a small pen. It is not even a medium pen. This is a large pen; at 17.5 cm capped (6.89 inches) it dwarfs a Mont Blanc 149 or Pelikan M1000, two of the better known large pens out there. The cap is 6.7 cm (2.64 inches) and the body, from end cap to the tip of the nib is 16.7 cm (6.57 inches). The pen body is 1.5 cm wide (.59 inch) and the cap, not including the clip, is 1.8 cm wide (.71 inch).
The total weight of the pen, unfilled, but with an empty converter and spare cartridge (more on that later) is a hefty 67 grams (2.36 oz). Of that, the cap weighs 41 gm (1.45 oz) and the body a mere 26 gm (.91 oz).
As a comparison my 1947 Parker 51 DJ Vacumatic filled with ink weighs all of 21 gm (.74 oz) and is 13.6 cm capped (5.35 inches).
You will notice I have not given a posted length, which is because you cannot post this pen. If you could I imagine the weight would make it very awkward to write with, but we will never know because the pen is not designed to be posted.
I mention earlier the cap is made from African Blackwood, a deep rich black lustrous wood, which as been drilled 36 times and these holes have been filled with silver wire and filed flat. There are seven deep grooves running vertically down most of the length of the cap with the London Stanley free floating compass on the top of the cap, much more impressive than a bird splat! Beneath that is a silver ring to which the large, ornate and unique clip has been attached. The clip has raised motifs of a sun, star, crescent moon and Dan Furlano’s mark. Unfortunately it is functionally useless: it will not clip to a shirt or jacket, admittedly the weight of the pen would possibly rip off a shirt pocket, even if it was not too tall to fit in it. I imagine that as this is a prototype, not the finished product, Dan will do further work on this; after all, a clip should work. On the reverse side of the cap from the clip is a silver compass emblem with the cardinal points lettered. Running around the bottom of the cap in a large silver band are the words “ To travel hopefully” in a cursive flowing script, and again a miniature of the compass emblem is inset in the silver. It takes two and quarter turns to remove the cap, doing so is so smooth it almost feels like you are removing a piece of surgical equipment.
The body of the pen is made from Bubinga Sapwood, a beautiful grainy wood, quite a pale golden colour which contrasts nicely with the deep silver and black colours of the cap. Once more the body has been drilled 80 times and filled with silver wire, there are eight deep grooves in the wood, which curve gently downwards in a half spiral towards a silver ring and the ebonite end cap.
Removing the end cap reveals a little secret: a spare Cross cartridge filled with blue black ink, all ready to go, in case you run out. There was a hint of a rattle coming from this, so I cracked open a Bic pen, removed the spring, chopped the bottom off and dropped it in. Violà, no more rattle. Of course if I then used the cartridge, the spring would rattle, but I understand Dan is already working on a much more elegant solution to this - which I suspect will be his own spring with a drop of fixative.
Moving up from the body to the nib housing you come to an ebonite section with a thread for the cap, a silver plated section which houses the nib and feed. The nib in my unit is a large Bexley nib, in 18 k two-tone gold. Mine is a smooth medium and Dan informs me that all nibs are tested before shipping. If you want a different type of nib he is happy to meet the customers requirements. Included is a basic converter. Dan is already sourcing a better converter.
I personally find the ebonite/silver section a tad long, and would prefer it if the ebonite was shortened to just the thread. This may not make much functional difference, I just think this would look better, and would also make the pen slightly shorter, which would not be a bad thing. Between the ebonite section and the wooden pen body is another silver ring. You grip the silver plated metal just below the nib to unscrew the body and reveal the converter, or a cartridge can be used if you prefer.
Now the only thing left to do is to fill and test it, but what ink to use?
In the end I choose my best and most well behaved ink, Aurora Black. The ink flowed beautifully and smoothly onto a clean white page, no feathering, no scratchiness, no tooth, just butter smooth and a nice wet medium line.
It doesn’t get better than this folks…except maybe if I sent it to Richard Binder for a nice cursive italic…
Picking up The Traveler you notice that it is a large, heavy pen, yet at the same time the craftsmanship behind the pen makes it elegant. The finish is just phenomenal. The care and attention to detail second to none. This is a pen that commands attention. It is a pen that has presence. Removing the cap does takes some care, as the cap is so heavy that it is easy to scrap the nib on removal. The nib itself glides over the paper, and lays down a wonderful, wet line with no skipping or hesitation. The finish on the pen is amazing; nowhere does this seem like a hand-made pen. However, and I say this tentatively, because as well as admiring the pen I want to like it, the prototype is just not comfortable pen to write with for an extended period of time. No other pen that I have written with, be it a P51 or a MB149, has fatigued my fingers, yet this pen does. I think it is something to do with the ebonite/silver plate finish before the nib being too long and the overall weight/balance mix that makes up the pen. Maybe if it did not have the spare cartridge tucked away the pen could be shorter and wieldier; yet that would detract from the uniqueness of the pen. If I hold the pen farther up on the body and then I lose the ability to write neatly. I just cannot get a comfortable grip on the pen to write comfortably with for a long period of time. For short notes, of brief journal entries this is not a problem, but for extended writing for several pages then fatigue quickly sets in and I need a different pen. Also the sheer size of the The Traveler means I would be less likely to take the pen with me, my Lamy 2000 is lighter, holds more ink, and is just as smooth to write with, plus it fits into any pocket I have. But it does not command the same respect that The Traveler does. Dan Furlano has done an amazing job, the Traveler is a work in progress and I await eagerly to see the finished product.
Edited by Shelley, 20 January 2008 - 01:24.