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  1. From the album: Mercian’s pens

    This is just to show the logo on the top of the cap of my early-1980s Pelikan M400 in Brown Tortoiseshell. The incised lines of the logo have been filled with brown paint, to match the pen’s body. The contemporary M400 fountain pens in Pelikan’s traditional Grün-schwarz stripes had their cap logos filled with green paint.

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  2. From the album: Mercian’s pens

    This picture shows the variation in the colours of the cellulose-acetate stripes on my brown tortoise. The ones around the other side of the pen are almost uniformly dark brown. This variability makes each brown tortoise unique and, in my mind at least, the irregularities in the colours of the stripes add to their beauty.

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  3. From the album: Mercian’s pens

    My Pelikan M400 in Brown Tortoiseshell, in its clamshell box. It has a 14k ‘M’ nib, and is in very nice condition. It has a screw-in nib, not one of the earliest friction-fit nib units, but its nib design shows that it is from the earlier part of the production run of these pens. This picture shows how very brown its cap and piston-turning knob are. The grip-section is also this colour. In less-bright light they can seem to be black, but they’re the colour of dark chocolate (nom nom nom!).

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  4. Introduction http://i.imgur.com/Gn9XxeS.jpg Well. Where to start? I guess a good question is, how the hell did I get here? I let one little bird in my window and now, somehow, I have an entire flock roosting in my pen case. Let me begin by admitting that I was once a huge Pelikan skeptic. When I first started out in this hobby, I walked into a brick and mortar shop and sampled the pens at the $100+ range, one of which was an m200. I held this small, light, cheap-feeling steel nibbed pen in my hand, and was baffled that it cost as much as a Lamy 2000. So, I wrote off Pelikans as overpriced and continued on my fountain pen journey. Then one day I spied a picture of the M805 in blue stripes, and as much as I stubbornly crossed my arms and held my ground, this pen served as a constant tempter. Like a celibate monk gone bad, I would turn my nose up at Pelikans by day then secretly gaze at photos of the M805, and other beauties, by night. Yes, my mind was tainted. And there was no turning back. I still could not justify spending the sticker price on a Pelikan, but one day, in a moment of weakness, I threw up a wanted ad in the FPN classifieds, which was answered by the member Pajaro, who had a very interesting pen I had not previously looked at for sale at an excellent price - an M640 Polar Lights. I was at the time trying to get an m800 to fit my large hands, but Pajaro pointed out that the M640 line is heavier than the m800 and fills the hand well with the bulge design. I wasn't really a green-pen type at the time, but have always held a strong connection to the great north, and this pen pulled me in. It was all downhill from there - next was the vintage brown tortoise - because - it's the brown tortoise. I love the color brown (tiger's eye is my favorite stone) and this is arguably the king of the brown pens (perhaps tied with the golden pearl Vac). Then, by a stroke of good fortune, I received a trade offer for a Black Luster 1911 I had up - and this good member had the original Grail - the M805 in blue stripes in EF. During the time of the trade from the point it left his home to mine, I stared at the picture he sent me with a writing sample probably, oh, 200 times. And finally, I had this gorgeous pen in my hands. Bliss. In fact, I was in so much bliss that I blacked out, and when I woke up I found two won ebay auctions for an m215 and an m605 marine blue. Talk about an expensive hangover. So that is how I ended up here. Yes, I still would never pay retail price for a Pelikan. I still personally believe the modern pens are overpriced for what you are getting functionality-wise - a piston filler with a wet nail for a nib, many of which require adjustment because of poor quality control. But man... holding one of these beauties in your hand... there really is nothing like it. These are true luxury items. The Flock http://i.imgur.com/KjH16bP.jpg http://i.imgur.com/XWO1O4m.jpg http://i.imgur.com/Q6tMwyx.jpg Let's go from smallest to largest - http://i.imgur.com/xnvynZW.jpg M215 Orthogon Medium Nib http://i.imgur.com/4Eq6Tcr.jpg This is actually the last Pelikan I purchased, but the first to be reviewed. While I have never gravitated towards the M2XX series because of its size (I have large hands) and its price (so many other fantastic gold-nibbed pens at this price point), I grabbed this one up because of its heavier weight and lacquer design. I figured it could be my 'beater' piston filler for the road. Appearance and Design: 9/10 I really liked the orthogon design the best out of all the m215's. From what I've read, I seem to be in the minority here. I like it because it's interesting and different. The only one I was able to find for sale was on eBay, a discounted display model from Germany, so I made sure to grab it up before anyone else did. Holding it in person, the pen looks great. The silver trim and rectangle design is really sharp looking, and are complemented by the silver Pelikan logo on the cap and the steel nib. For a black pen, this one has a lot of personality. It also has an ink window, which is handy and in my opinion a necessary feature for a nice piston filler. Construction and Quality: 9/10 This is really the reason I opted for an m215 over an m200 - because of the metal lacquer body, this pen has a nice heft to it and feels really solid in the hand. It posts extremely well, with a very snug fit on the back of the pen, and fills my hand nicely, though it is still on the small side for me with my big hands, especially the narrow section. As with all Pelikan's I've tried, it has a rather small section with sharp-feeling threads - really my only gripe with these pens. The piston mechanism works flawlessly, nice and smooth, as with all Pelikans I've tried. The cap doesn't even take 1 full rotation to remove, which can be a benefit for those in a hurry, or a downside if it becomes loose in a pocket. Weight and Dimensions: 8/10 While this is a heavier pen than the m200/m205, it is by no means too heavy. It is well balanced while posted and can easily be used for longer writing sessions. Again, it is on the smaller side, so is not ideal for those with big hands, but still feels solid enough to use. Because of its size combined with the small section, it is not an ideal fit for my hand, but by no means uncomfortable. Nib and Performance: 8/10 http://i.imgur.com/XCSK4I6.jpg The stainless steel medium nib I received is very nice indeed. Smooth with perfectly consistent flow right out of the box - neither wet nor dry. It actually writes about the same line width as the XF nibs on my M605 & M805 - go figure. I think it's partly because it is not nearly as juicy as the XF's, but I do also believe the physical width of the nib is smaller as well. I'm not sure if this is standard for the steel nibs vs. the gold nibs, but I believe I've read others who have reported similar findings. The nib does have some spring to it, as others have reported, more spring than the gold nibs. That all being said - I'm not really crazy about this nib. I'm not sure why, exactly. I think I just find it a bit... boring. It certainly does the job well, but there's no shading, and the feeling of writing with it is just not as good as the gold nibs, even though it has a bit more give to it. I would like to at some point have it ground to a stub or CI. Filling System and Maintenance: 10/10 Pelikan's standard-setting piston-fill systems, along with their looks, are the biggest traits that set them above the rest. I have never experienced the kind of smooth operation of Pelikan's piston mechanisms in other piston-fill pens. Every pen has worked flawlessly with no issues (knock on wood), and this one is no exception, with the piston knob turning with ease and filling every time. Compared to Pelikans, the pistons on my Lamy 2000's feel clunky and prone to breaking (and actually the piston rod on one 2000 did in fact break). This m215, like all the rest, has a (relative to the size of the pen) nice big ink capacity so you won't be needing to refill often. There's just nothing better than a piston fill pen, and if you use them enough, they kind of ruin other filling mechanisms for you. Cost and Value: 8/10 My past self would balk at the idea of paying over $100 for a steel nib pen, but I gotta say this m215 is quality. The heftier feel of the metal lacquer finish makes it feel much nicer than its m200/m205 counterparts. The nib is very nice despite being steel, and the piston filler is fantastic. I still would recommend a Lamy 2000 or a Pilot Custom 92 over an m2XX any day of the week, and do prefer both of those pens over this one. Nonetheless, you do get a decent bang for your buck with this pen. Final Score: 8/10 A solid B+ workhorse pen to add to your rotation. Not a shining gem, but not to be dismissed either. M400 Brown Tortoise (W. Germany, 1980's) Custom XF nib by Michael Masuyama http://i.imgur.com/FRQMGuS.jpg I grabbed this pen up for the looks, and to experience a truly springy vintage Pelikan nib. Unfortunately the nib arrived out of alignment and very scratchy, and no matter how many times I adjusted it, it still would sing. Actually, not just sing - it would screetch. Like a metallic nail on a chalkboard. Shudder. So I sent it off to Michael Masuyama of mikeitwork.com to adjust it and grind it down to the equivalent of a Sailor MF (0.36 or so). It returned to me an utter delight, and I've actually used this pen the most out of all my Pelikans. Appearance and Design: 10/10 It's a Pelikan brown tortoise. It is an utterly beautiful design. If you disagree, you're wrong (kidding.. kind of). Brown tortoises tend to vary in coloring, from lighter tans to darker browns to greenish hues or yellows. I really love the rich golden and dark brown shades of this particular pen. And though I'm normally not a fan of gold colored trim, I give this one a pass. I much prefer the design of the vintage 400 over the 400NN, with rounded off ends similar to modern Pelikans. This particular pen doesn't have much transparency left, but I can still see the ink level when it's held up to the light. Construction and Quality: 9/10 This is a well-made pen. The piston mechanism is a bit stiff, but it's been going since the 80's so I can't be too hard on it. While many other vintage pens will feel fragile in the hand, this one does not, and feels like it will hold up for many more decades to come. Weight and Dimensions: 10/10 This pen defies my usual trends and preferences, somehow bending the laws of physics to make it a joy to write with in my big hands despite it being rather small and light. It's more comfortable than the m215, and doesn't feel as small in the hand. I can't really explain it. When I first got this pen I was put off by its size. But then I found myself writing more and more with it, and today it's one of my very favorites, and I can write for long sessions. I think it is because, when posted, this pen has utterly perfect balance in the hand. Combined with a springy gold nib that requires a light touch, it becomes an extension of the hand. Nib and Performance: 6/10 (before tuning) 9/10 (after tuning) http://i.imgur.com/1WTQgzg.jpg As I said, the 14K Fine nib arrived screetching and out of alignment, and I could not get it to write well no matter how many times I adjusted it. So off it went to Mike Masuyama, and he brought it back to life as an extra-fine. It is nice and springy and light - the modern Pelikan nibs are nails and rather thick nibs, these vintage nibs are thinner and very expressive. The nib still gives a fair amount of feedback, and will get toothy if I use too much pressure or don't have it on its sweet spot. I would like to try a couple more vintage Pelikan nibs with more flex. Filling System and Maintenance: 9/10 The vintage piston fill mechanism has held up well, though it is a bit stiff compared to its modern counterparts. I can't really fault it too much for this considering it was made in the 80's, and could probably be remedied with some silicone grease if I were bothered enough to take it apart. Cost and Value: 9/10 Considering modern M400's cost nearly double, I'd say ~$150 for this pen is an excellent value. You get a nice (hopefully you have better luck than I) springy gold nib, a piston-filler, and a beautiful timeless design. The plastics may not be as high quality as modern pens, but really, this is a great vintage pen. Final Score: 9/10 A wonderful Pelikan that I use daily and a great value for those not wanting to fork over the modern prices. I wouldn't mind adding a few more to my collection. M605 Marine Blue Extra Fine http://i.imgur.com/RYayk0N.jpg I really wanted a deep blue demonstrator, and had been eyeing the 3776 Chartres Blue for a long time, but was hesitating because I'm pretty sick of C/C pens. But then popped up the M605 Marine Blue on closeout - and what beauty it is. Oh, there is that minor detail that even on closeout it was 3 times the cost of the 3776, but let's just live in denial, OK? OK. Appearance and Design: 10/10 This pen is absolutely stunning. Photos don't do it justice. I get why it wasn't the most popular limited edition - that folks prefer the classic stripes in Pelikans and that demonstrators can look a bit "cheap", but I gotta say - and I never thought I would say this - this pen is arguably better looking than my M805. One other member here said it best - "the blue goes on forever". It's just a gorgeous deep transparent blue that reminds me of the ocean. It's just transparent enough to see the ink, but not so much that it diminishes the color. The transparency actually adds to the color, making the blue really glow and have that incredible depth. I think if more people could see this pen in person they would agree. Construction and Quality: 9/10 I can not find a flaw with this pen's construction - it feels very well made, the piston mechanism works flawlessly.. it's just a really nice pen. That being said, it doesn't feel quite as solid as the m805 or the m640. Now obviously the m805 is bigger and heavier, with a brass piston mechanism, and the m640 has that metal lacquer finish and bulge, but I will say that I don't feel as confident that this pen would survive a drop as the other two (and yes, I dropped the m640 once, soiled my pants, but other than that it survived just fine). Weight and Dimensions: 9.5/10 I always assumed that the m805 would be the best fit for me, but actually this pen is far better balanced while posted (and I almost always post my pens). Because of the brass piston, the m805 is back heavy, but the m605 is perfect when posted. Light but not too light, and great for long writing sessions. My only gripe, as with the other pens, is the small section with sharp threads. Nib and Performance: 8.5/10 http://i.imgur.com/nrs2qTU.jpg The 14K EF nib arrived just a tiny bit out of alignment, and it is such a wet writing nib that the misalignment was barely noticeable. But my OCD 6th sense honed in and I adjusted it to be perfectly aligned. It is a fairly rigid nib, and is the juiciest of the bunch, laying down a rather broad line for an extra fine. I have to say I wasn't a wet nib fan until I wrote with Pelikans. This pen in particular has turned me on to wetter nibs. It is a real pleasure to write with. It is very smooth with just a whisper of feedback and feels better than the steel nib of the m215 even though it has less give. Hard to describe. It is, however, bordering on too wet as far as practical use goes. Often all I can see is the sheen of an ink. Bonus sheen shot: http://i.imgur.com/Rzq7mZu.jpg Filling System and Maintenance: 10/10 No complaints here - another flawless Pelikan piston mechanism. Cost and Value: 7/10 OK, so it is a gorgeous piston filler pen, with a nice juicy nib. But you can grab a similar-looking Pilot Custom 92 for half the price, and the 92 is a fantastic pen with a far more expressive, springy nib. http://thumbs3.ebaystatic.com/d/l225/m/mRh5mIkcNJ92zSAgSkj5Vrw.jpg This pen does feel more luxurious than the 92, and its big wet nib is a pleasure to use, but here is where function intersects with form - as a pure writer, I actually prefer the Custom 92. But the Pelikan is the prettier, "nicer" pen. Pelikans really are luxury items, and you paying for the luxury. "Good value for the money" is not a phrase often used with Pelikan pens. Conclusion: 9/10 I really like this pen. It is one of the best looking pens I own, and it is high quality. The nib is buttery smooth and wet, and brings out all the sheen in an ink. I kind of spoiled myself by buying this, and was not necessarily in my right mind, but I don't regret it. I think this is the best execution of a colored demonstrator on the market. M640 Polar Lights 0.4mm Stub by Mike Masuyama http://i.imgur.com/SwVCgZX.jpg As I said, this was my first Pelikan experience, and I was really impressed. I had not owned such an extravagant pen before, and still it remains one of, if not the nicest pen I own. This is in large part due to the metal body & lacquer, which gives it a heavier weight and a smoother finish. It is really a work of art. Appearance and Design: 9.5/10 This is a really beautiful pen, with an impeccable finish. The Polar Lights design is very nice, with the gradient from black to green to white, broken by the silver streaks of varying height, creates a wonderful effect, especially when turned in the hand. The lacquer finish really brings out the beauty in this pen, and you really feel like you need to baby this one. While I have not been a green or white pen fan, this one holds a special place in my heart. The bulge is certainly interesting, and provides a fantastic feeling in the hand, but the appearance of the bulge is my one of my only mild complaints - I prefer the look of the straight body of standard Pelikans. I also prefer the traditional Pelikan bill clip, was was replaced on this model with a different design (sorry, don't have a photo handy, but can easily be googled). Lastly there is no ink window, so no way to tell how much ink you have left in the pen. And beware, a little over half a rotation uncaps the pen. Nonetheless, while these changes may deter Pelikan traditionalists, this remains a one-of-a-kind, unique pen, and I personally respect Pelikan for pushing the boundaries of its traditional design. Construction and Quality: 10/10 This is one heck of a well-made, high quality pen. It actually feels nicer than my m805. Again, this is due to the metal body and lacquer finish, meaning a heavier pen. Combine that with the bulge, and you've got one solid pen in your hand. I was blown away the first time I turned the piston knob, for it functions so smoothly compared to others I've tried. Weight and Dimensions: 8.5/10 So on the one hand, the added weight and heft really made this pen a pleasure for my big hands. On the other hand, when posted, it is back heavy, and a bit heavy overall. But when unposted, it is a little too short for my hand. So it's somewhat of a predicament writing with this pen. I have gone back and forth between writing posted and unposted and neither is perfect for me. I would say that if you have smaller hands than me this may be a perfect pen to write with unposted. Again, the bulge feels great in the hand. Man... writing about pens is sure explicit. Nib and Performance: 7/10 (before grind) 9.5/10 (after grind) http://i.imgur.com/adxaDWq.jpg The extra fine 18K nib on this pen was just mediocre when I received it. It had perfect flow, but was far too toothy for how broad it was (my Japanese fines were smoother) and rather boring, being a rigid, unexpressive nib. I do know that Pelikan has a bad track record when it comes to XF nibs, and this one was one of their poorer quality ones. I sent it off to Michael Masuyama of mikeitwork.com to grind me a 0.4mm stub, my smallest stub yet. When I got it back I was overjoyed. Now it writes wonderfully, nice and wet but not overly so, very smooth with some satisfying feedback as long as it's on its sweet spot, and incredible line variation for how small of a stub it is. Filling System and Maintenance: 10/10 A smooth-as-butter piston system. Wunderbar!! Cost and Value: Varies This one is hard to pin down. For one, I bought this used and at a great price. I am rather attached to this pen, even if I don't use it as often as others. It is my first Pelikan, and my first Masuyama grind, and the first truly premium pen I bought that went far beyond function and well into form. For two, this pen is a really unique work of art, so if it really jives with you it's hard to put a value down. For three, this pen is now discontinued. Artistic design aside, is it worth the now-skyrocketing discontinued prices? Probably not. Only you can decide if it's worth it for you to spring for that price. Maybe you can get lucky and grab one used at a good price. But not mine!! Conclusion: 9.5/10 This is a pen that will stay with me for many, many years. It is such a unique, classy, beautiful pen - I don't think I could ever bear to part with it. M805 Blue Striated Extra Fine http://i.imgur.com/s2vWo9b.jpg Last but certainly not least, a grail of mine since the day I saw it, the m805. Finally holding this pen in my hands was a rather emotional event - yes, grown men do weep. Ok, but seriously, does the reality live up to the legend? (short answer - YES) Appearance and Design: 10/10 Do I really need to explain anything here? Scroll back up to the top of this post and look at it. If you're still unsure, go and do it again. This pen is the definition of beauty. From the blue stripes, to the rhodium trim, pelikan bill clip, and cap logo, to the nib... ohhh the nib. We'll get to that later. I adore the rhodium trim on this pen, and much prefer it to gold trim. The breaks in between the blue stripes are transparent, so you can see how much ink is in your pen, but it is not obvious and you pretty much have to hold it up to a light to see it. I like subtle design with this pen - no ink window, and you wouldn't know it is transparent from looking at it, but hold it up to the light and voila - there's your ink. Construction and Quality: 9.5/10 A wonderfully constructed pen. Another flawless piston mechanism, and the m805 is equipped with a brass piston, giving it a heftier feel. This pen just screams quality and class, and is sure to last for decades to come. The only thing that kept this particular pen shy of perfection is a couple OCD-torturing imperfections in the stripes that appear to be manufacturing defects. They look like small little divots in the stripes, and are definitely under the surface (i.e. not caused by the previous owner). Oh well. Wabi-sabi is the path to enlightenment, right? Weight and Dimensions: 9.5/10 This pen feels wonderful in my hand. The girth is perfect for me (oh man.. there should be an innuendo count akin to word count - this is getting obscene), and that small section is less noticeable on this pen. However, because of the brass piston, the pen is back heavy when posted. It isn't a huge issue, but this means that I have a slight quandary similar to the m640 in that neither posted nor unposted is perfect for me. However, because it is a longer pen than the 640, it is more comfortable unposted, and because it is a lighter pen, it is also more comfortable posted. So again, not a big issue, but if you have big hands you might be in the same boat as me. I would love to try an m1000 unposted and see how that feels. Nib and Performance: 10/10 http://i.imgur.com/VWl2xvE.jpg Look at that nib!! LOOK AT IT. From what I understand Pelikan is substituting all-rhodium nibs for their newest M805's, which I think is a shame because the bicolor nibs look so freaking good. I was very happy to learn that the one I was receiving would have this older style of nib. And when I first uncapped the pen, I was blinded by its aura. Really, though, the nib on the m800's is epic, only topped by the m1000. It is in my opinion the prettiest nib out there. I know that many have had bad experiences with Pelikan's extra-fine nibs, but this one got a heavy portion of fairy dust at the factory. It is an absolute joy to write with. Smooth and wet, but not overly wet (which the m605 borders on), with a hint of utterly satisfying feedback to let you know there's paper under that big, beautiful nib. The previous owner said that the nib had some tooth, but I'm still searching for it and not finding it. The bigger nib actually adds a different feel to the pen, as you are writing from a higher point. It's hard to describe, but writing with a big nib adds a feeling of importance and power to your words. Probably why men with small nibs buy huge trucks. (Sorry, I had to). The nib is firm with no spring to it, but I wouldn't call it a nail. Rather, there is a very slight cushion to it that comes from its size and the 18K gold content. Here's a bonus sheen shot: http://i.imgur.com/rdE7nh7.jpg Filling System and Maintenance: 10/10 Yep, another perfect Pelikan piston filler. And the bigger the pen, the more satisfying it is to fill it up. The ink capacity on this pen won't leave you dry for many, many pages. Cost and Value: 8/10 Well, this pen is certainly a modern classic and a legend that is rivaled by only a few. Again, this is certainly a luxury item that goes well beyond function. So if you're expecting the amount of dollars to be reflecting in how well the pen writes, think again. In the function realm, you pretty much cap out around the $100-150 mark. But if you consider the writing experience to include gazing lovingly at your pen for a while, holding it up to the light to see the ink slosh around, slowly uncapping the pen and marveling at the nib, gazing some more, then writing one delicious word after the next, then yeah, it's worth the money. For me personally, I got this pen in a trade, and it is 10000% worth what I traded/paid for it. Will it be for you? Who knows. I recommend getting one used, or ordering straight from Germany or Japan. The upside is, it doesn't look like Pelikan prices are going to stop rising any time soon, so resale values will stay high. Final Score: 9.5/10 (because the perfect pen is the lure that keeps us going!) And finally, here are all the writing samples together for comparison: http://i.imgur.com/ogmWTkJ.jpg The End! Hope you enjoyed these reviews.

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