I recently heard about Brian Gray's pens on FPN (it was the thread about peoples' wish lists for 2008). Never having heard of him before, I checked out the Edison Pen website (formerly Pencraft) and thought the pens on offer looked really interesting and the prices seemed reasonable (the other time I ordered a "custom" acrylic pen, it was over $400, and with upgrades, these were under $300). On a whim, I ordered one (a Herald model in red and black ebonite with the 14k Bock nib and the "premium" converter for $265, all in). Here are pictures, stolen (without permission -- sorry Brian) from his website:
The pen arrived safely the following week encased in a simple plastic tube with red rubber ends wrapped in copious amounts of bubble wrap and taped tightly inside a small cardboard shipping box. Not a fancy Montblanc or Montegrappa box, but certainly a protective shipping box that served its primary purpose of getting the pen to me safely. I flushed out the pen with soapy water and filled it -- what a pleasant surprise! The pen is a wonderful weight and size for the way I write (I have not posted it because it is plenty long even without posting the cap), and the curved grip section is very comfortable to hold. The best part is the nib -- the letter enclosed with the pen says he has set up the nib to be just a bit on the wet side and "buttery smooth." I have to agree -- this is the smoothest writing nib I have ever used straight out of the box. I am a smoothness nut, and I have never written with a pen that is this smooth. The tines were perfectly aligned and the nib was seated correctly on the feed (not always the case with new pens -- even much more expensive pens).
CAUTION: If you like "feedback" or "control" in your nibs, you should mention this to Brian when ordering, because this nib will feel way too smooth for you. It even feels smooth on my scratchy office paper. Also, if you like your nibs on the dry side, mention this when ordering, too. I would say mine is a 7.5 on a scale of 1 to 10. (I generally prefer a 7, so this is just a bit on the wet side of "perfect" for me, but within reasonable tolerances.)
According to his website, the style of the Herald is inspired by (but is not an exact copy of) the Sailor King of Pen. I would say it's what you'd get if you took a King of Pen and pulled it at each end -- the subjective impression is that it's just a bit longer and not as big around in the middle. Like the King of Pen, it's a cartridge/converter filler (though unlike the K of P, this one takes a standard international converter and not Sailor's proprietary one).
So far, I have had extremely even flow and no skipping or start-up problems. I have used the pen for several days without any issues. The only suggestion for improvement I have made to Brian is that there was still some manufacturing dust inside the pen barrel and cap that I had to rinse out. That could have been done for me, I guess -- but I'd rather have a pen that writes this well out of the box and needs to be "dusted" than a pristine new pen from a big-name manufacturer that doesn't write well at all (my most recent bad experience was an Aurora).
In fact, I was so pleased with the ebonite pen that I ordered a flat-topped Beaumont in black and gray acrylic. It arrived on Friday, and I filled it up Friday evening and have been writing with it this weekend. The nib (also a plain 14K Bock nib) is just as good on this one. The pen is quite large -- it's hard to tell exactly how big they are from the photos on the website -- both in length and girth, but it is not overly heavy and the balance is great unposted. The grip section is the same as the Herald (I believe the grip sections are the same on all of his body styles), so the feel in the hand and writing comfort are basically identical.
Downsides (other than the dust issue mentioned above)? There are no piston fill options, so you are "stuck" with a cartridge or converter. For most of us, that's fine -- just not ideal. Also, if you like smaller pens (Pelikan 200/400 size), you may find these to be too long (especially posted), though as I say, the gripping section is quite comfortable and they are not overly heavy (nor are they especially light).
Here are the specs for the two pens I purchased, lifted once again from Brian's website:
Weight w/ Cap 29g
Weight w/o Cap 14g
Cap Diameter .595"
Body Diamater .575"
Length Capped 6"
Length Uncapped 5 1/8"
Weight w/ Cap 32g
Weight w/o Cap 16g
Cap Diameter .595"
Body Diamater .575"
Length Capped 6"
Length Uncapped 5 1/4"
What about the buying experience? There are lots of options and upgrades to choose from and you have to be sure you get everything you want into the shopping cart. For example, the basic price of the pen includes a Schmidt steel nib but no converter. If you want a converter, you have to buy one (standard or premium) separately. If you want to upgrade the nib, you have several options -- Taccia steel nibs, plan 14k Bock nibs, and two-tone Bexley nibs. You can also purchase customized nibs through a partnership between Brian and John Mottishaw -- you pay Brian's price for the nib and John's price for the customization. I have many custom nibs made by John, and although I didn't order a customized nib for either of these pens, I can say that John's customized nibs are marvelous, and although this is not a "deal" compared to John's regular pricing, it's certainly a nice convenience. In addition, Brian recently announced an ebonite grip section as a $30 upgrade (the standard grip sections, identical on all of the pens, are injection-molded plastic). The nib units just screw right into the section, like a Bexley.
Note that, if you upgrade the nib, you don't get both (at least I didn't) -- you just get the pen with the nib you asked (and paid) for. I assume there's a credit for the cost of the steel nib you're not getting built into the upgrade price for the gold nibs (though this is not expressly stated). I also think the basic converter should be included (frankly, for nearly $300 with all the upgrades, the premium converter should probably be included -- but it's only a $5 upcharge, $2 for the standard converter, which has no metal trim). By the way, though the premium converter on the website is shown with gold-colored trim, the ones in my pens were silver (I'm not complaining -- I rarely look at the converter -- just pointing it out).
Brian's communication is good -- very prompt and thorough -- and the PayPal checkout is typical PayPal. You can tell that Brian takes this venture very seriously. I guess this sort of thing is very subjective, but I think Brian has a nice website. It's relatively easy to navigate with plenty of information about the pens. He also sells Private Reserve ink and an interesting-looking Bubinga one-pen box for $25.
I am very pleased with these two pens and with each purchase, I feel I have received a very solid pen value for my money. You will have to decide for yourself whether you like the way the pens look (I do), but in terms of writing comfort and performance, I think the pens are real winners. I would buy them again.
Edited by wimg, 21 February 2014 - 02:14.