(Sorry for the bad photos. My dorm room's lighting is terrible for photography.)
FIRST IMPRESSIONS: 4.5/5
The pen came in several layers of packaging, not counting the shipping box from the seller. That just made unpacking it that much more enjoyable. I could've died in suspense. It has an outer cardboard sleeve, which is standard. Then a cardboard box with the Sheaffer logo on it, also standard. Underneath, a thin layer of foamy packing paper to protect the REAL presentation box inside. Then, a painted rosewood box, lined with an off-white material that feels like leather. It was, overall, above average presentation, and (IMHO) nicer than, say, the box my Visconti Millennium Arc LE came in, but nothing that'll make you ooh and aah with amazement, probably, if you're accustomed to flashy LE boxes. Under the lining/main compartment there was the usual paperwork, and 4 Skrip cartridges, 2 black and 2 blue. I probably won't be using the cartridges, since I already have the perfect ink for this pen--a 1:1 mix of Private Reserve Burgundy Mist and water, whose color matches the pen beautifully.
APPEARANCE AND FINISH: 5/5
I fell in love with this pen first by looking at it--the 5,000 or so pixels that emulated this pen on screen cried out to me to make it mine, so obviously seeing the pen itself before my very eyes is enough to give me a major heart attack. The barrel and cap are a dark burgundy-colored acrylic with streaks of iridescent pink-ish dark red (similar to the burgundy color, but lighter, and shimmery). Silver-colored cap band and tassie ring, and black ends. The top of the cap has an angle to it that goes more or less parallel to the ring that extends into the pocket clip. All of it together is very... well, drool-worthy, I think.
If I had to pick *something* about the design this pen to complain about, it's the smell of the acrylic material. But I'm used to that by now, since the smell is much more noticeable in my Bexley Simplicity, which I've had and loved for about a month. This one, you can only smell if you put it to your nose--and who does that with a fountain pen, really? My boyfriend was sitting with me as I opened the package, and I kept turning the pen this way and that, admiring its elegant design for so long that he had to prompt me to uncap it. lols.
As far as size goes... well, it's a long pen, as other reviewers have stated. But its girth is pretty slim relative to its length, so it's a very proportionally balanced-looking package and doesn't make you go, "wow, that's a really long pen!" I was actually thinking, "hey, it doesn't seem as long as people make it out to be," until I compared it side-by-side with my other pens. And sure enough, it was noticeably longer than anything else I have. And all things considered, it's pretty lightweight, and the heft and balance is perfect (for me) when unposted. It's still quite excellent posted (which is how I prefer to write), but might be top-heavy if you like to hold your pen low on the section (close to the nib).
I don't have the tools on hand to measure/weigh the pen (though the figures can be found in the other reviews I've linked above), so here are some size comparison photos so you can get a sense of its approximate size. The pens in the first two photos are, from top to bottom, Pelikan M400, Sailor Professional Gear, Lamy Studio, and Sheaffer Valor. In the third photo, from top to bottom, are: Parker Sonnet, Parker 51, Lamy Safari, Waterman Carene, and Sheaffer Valor. Same pens in the fourth photo but in a different order, I'm sure you'll figure it out
NIB DESIGN AND PERFORMANCE: 4.5/5
Unlike a lot of people who hesitate to ink their drool pen when they first get their hands on it, or those who have the patience to flush and soak their new pen and wait for it to dry before inking, I went ahead and loaded the converter in this baby right off the bat (but only after dip-testing it to make sure it wasn't obviously defective). I just HAD to see how it feels to write with what I've facetiously labeled my "drool pen." After waiting weeks and weeks, what more could you expect of me?
The nib is, of course, Sheaffer's hallmark inlaid nib, a rhodium-plated 14K semi-flex affair that blew me away. It writes a smooth, juicy line that's really quite lovely. It's wetter than any of my other Fine nibs, I think (maybe 8/10?), and if it's not THE wettest, then it's second only to the 18K Visconti nib. I tried it on the burgundy ink mix mentioned above, and the ink came out as dark as the unmixed version comes out of my Carene's F nib. Perhaps it's a tad wetter than I'd like, but the wetness means you need not fear skipping when you spread the tines for a bit of line variation. One thing I've noticed is that it seems to be wetter when you first uncap it to write. After a period of writing (maybe 5-10 minutes), the flow adjusts to be a bit drier.
This is my first semi-flex nib, so I don't really know how it compares to vintage semi-flexibles, but I can say that it's incredibly fun to write with. I'll be practicing with it a lot in the next few days, I think. Right now, it takes me forever to write a word, but at least slowing down makes my handwriting look nicer.
The nib, not surprisingly, dries out a little if I leave the pen uncapped for a few minutes, but it starts again fairly quickly (probably takes 0.5 to 1 down stroke to get it going), and considering all but one of my 20-something pens dry out like that, and most take longer to start up again, I can forgive the Valor for it.
FILLING SYSTEM: 4.5/5
As you may or may not already know, this is a cartridge/converter filler. Now, I know that is a turn-off for a lot of people, especially in a higher-end pen, but personally I don't mind that much. I happen to like the option of being able to use cartridges if I ever decide that I wanted to. Sure, I'd appreciate a more exotic filling system just as much as the next FP addict, but not if it increases the cost of the pen! Anyway, the converter holds a pretty good amount of ink, as far as converters go. I'd say enough for 7-10 college-ruled letter-sized pages, though YMMV.
Like so many have mentioned before me, the MSRP of $300 is too high--but who ever buys anything at MSRP anymore, anyway? It can be had for $200 from online sources like isellpens.com, which I think is pretty reasonable, considering the other pens in that price range. In any case, I didn't buy the pen myself, so I haven't got much to complain about in this respect. All it cost me was a tiny bit of indignity put into begging my mom for it
Unlike the other pens that are very popular and often recommended (e.g., Pelikan Souveran or Lamy 2000, etc.), I had to do my research on this pen, so there was little to no hype for it to live up to. For the pen itself, that's probably a major advantage. It was everything I expected it to be, if not more. So in case I forgot to mention: I LOVE IT!
Edited by dumdummuoi, 11 May 2008 - 19:59.