This is a review of a big, expensive pen, the Conway Stewart Churchill. I first encountered the Churchill at a pen show in Houston, TX. Several distributors were present at Dromgoole's store for the event but the one with the most pens, and the most interesting pens, carried the Conway Stewart lineup. There were many attractive Conway Stewart pens present, but most were too heavy for my taste. The Churchill, however, was lightweight and good looking. This pen really makes a statement, especially if the cap is posted. The combination of finely polished acrylic and solid gold accents on such a substantial pen really catches the eye. Indeed, I've never seen a better polish on a pen. Although it is a modern design, the Churchill looks like a vintage pen. Obviously aware of this, the designers even gave it a lever filling mechanism. No cartridges here, this pen fills only from a bottle.
The amazing presentation box deserves special mention. Clad in green leather it is a large box that contains the pen, a Churchill cigar, a bottle of Conway Stewart ink, and a small booklet about the man himself. Impressive but probably overkill. Although the cigar is packaged in a metal tube I recommend not smoking it, as it seemed to be dried out.
The Churchill comes in a seemingly endless variety of interesting acrylics in addition to ebonite and casein, which is a plastic made from milk. Although it is considered a limited or special edition (mine is #77 out of 375 although the included certificate indicates it is #76) it is only limited to a certain number in each color/material. Thus, it is a modestly exclusive pen in any one color but there is no shortage of Churchill's in general. The color of my pen is called red whirl but it is mostly green with veins of vibrant red streaking throughout. Somehow this color scheme manages to be both wild and subdued. I really like it.
Thankfully for a pen as big, or bigger than, a Pelikan 1000 the Churchill is lightweight. The pen feels good in the hand and it won't weigh down a shirt pocket. The grip section is large, so much so that my fingers don't rest partially on the threads as they do with so many other pens. The diameter of barrel varies throughout the length of the pen, most narrow at the grip section and broadest about half an inch from the end. This variation is a nice stylistic touch and a less than obvious complication. The huge cap has a centrally placed humped clip that raises the pen out of the pocket, and contributes to its vintage appearance. The cap band is a shockingly substantial solid 18-carat gold ring that puts every other band I've seen to shame. Above the clip at the end of the cap is a large section set apart with a gold ring that is cut around with five grooves. The big cap more than anything else gives the Churchill its distinctive styling.
As mentioned above the pen is a lever filler and thus only feeds from bottled ink. No problem here, I only use bottled ink. The bold nib is executed in solid yellow gold and is large enough to complement the rest of the pen.
Filling the pen from a bottle is super easy; I love lever fillers and this one seems to hold a reasonably large amount of ink. Instead of the Conway Stewart CS green that came with the pen, I filled the Churchill with Diamine orange, which by the way is a vibrant and truly outstanding orange. The bold nib laid down a thick line of ink that could easily be made wider with a little pressure. No, the nib is not flexible but modest pressure will give some line width variation. The nib wrote smooth right out of the box and appears well made. Thankfully, considering that I am a lefty writing with a bold nib, the Churchill is not a wet writer. Instead, the ink flow is steady and adequate, not excessive. The pen is comfortable and well balanced only when not posted. I read somewhere that writing with this pen when posted is like wielding a baseball bat. This is an apt description. The Churchill is light enough to post, but it is so long it feels strange and I don't recommend it.
So the pen is big, comfortable to use and has a nice nib, what could there be to complain about? Well, the ink flow is not good. With a charged feed the writing experience is very good. Once the ready supply of ink is used up it is necessary to give the pen a hard shake or two to order to resume writing. Not only annoying, it is embarrassing to vigorously shake a big fancy pen to get it to write. I imagine people with their two-cent ballpoints wondering if I will spray them with ink as I shake away. I've tried cleaning and re-seating the nib and feed, all to no avail. The nib looks good, i.e. the tines are not too close together or anything so I guess it needs a new feed. As is I can't imagine when I will ever use the pen. It's too bad really since I love the design and the way it writes when charged. Pens this expensive should, without question, write flawlessly or they should never leave the factory.
With "hey look at me" vintage good looks, and a sweet bold nib the Conway Stewart Churchill makes a statement. The full retail price seems extreme, but the finish and presentation of this pen exist on a higher plane than most other pens. I ordered the Churchill at Pen Place, my local pen shop, and waited almost two months for its arrival. Now I've sent it back. Hopefully the round trip to the UK for repair won't take too long. It certainly is frustrating, especially when I have many much cheaper pens that are better writers. Thus, it is a difficult pen to recommend unequivocally. I probably got the rare bad pen but I don't know that for sure. If you can, try before you buy.
Edited by MYU, 06 February 2009 - 04:58.