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Conklin All American Review OLD GLORY SPECIAL EDITION Before I begin, I would like to tell all of you readers that I have decided to put a domain name that I have had for a while, evues.com, to good use as a FP review site. So, if you like what you see, please consider taking a look at it and if you really like it, please consider subscribing. Let me know what you think in the comments below! Thank you, Caleb Statistics: · Brand: Conklin · Model: All American · Color: Old Glory Special Edition (not numbered) · Nib: Fine, steel · MSRP: $99 · Street Price: $70-85 Introduction: At the height of the Great Depression, people were strapped for money. Whatever money the common man had, he spent on necessities, like food for his family or his rent. This meant that many people were not splurging on items which did not necessarily require—like pens. Seeing this, Conklin, the Ohio company made famous by Mark Twain, decided to make an inexpensive pen for the normal working man. The Conklin All American. The pen debuted in the late twenties and continued production throughout the thirties. It came in multiple sizes, filling mechanisms, and materials. However, the one thing that tied all All Americans together were their inexpensive prices. In the 1937 catalog, one of the most expensive models, the Vacuum filler, was priced at $2.95 (around $50 now), and the Sac Pens, the lever-filling models, retailed for $1.95 (~$32). The matching pencils were also made available for $1 (~$17). The pen became very popular. It was available for a low price compared to other pens of the era, such as the Parker Duofold, which sold for around $7 (~$116). The pens were also quite oversized (although certain smaller options were available), and had interesting designs. It also gave off a very nice aura of importance to the user as it did not look like anything else on the market. However, all things must come to a close, and due to precipitative sales following the end of the War and the coincidental rise of the Big Four (Eversharp, Parker, Sheaffer, and Waterman), Conklin paled in comparison to these companies’ technology, and as such shuttered its doors in 1948. Then, in 2009, the Yafa pen company purchased the rights to Conklin and relaunched the brand, selling the most common pens of the companies’ golden years, such as the Crescent (Rebranded as the Mark Twain, after the author who adored the instrument), and the Duragraph. Soon after, the All American was relaunched and revamped as a resin-only, oversized, C/C pen. And although it is not as well-known as some of the other pens in its segment, such as the Lamy Studio, it is still a pen everyone should use at least once. Since then it has been announced in four permanent colors: Yellowstone—a yellow, white, and brown swirl, Sunburst—a bright orange, Tortoiseshell, and Lapis blue (being announced most recently). However, the pen I have to review here today, is the 2015 special (non-numbered) edition: The Old Glory pen. From top to bottom: Tortoiseshell, Old Glory. Lapis Blue, Yellowstone, and Sunburst Orange Photo included with permission of http://www.hisnibs.com Part II: Packaging: 96/100 People have described Conklin packaging as having a very, very close resemblance to a coffin. When this pen was purchased, I had assured myself that I would not fall into that trap. But, unfortunately, once you see it, you do realize that it is likely to make a very fine final resting place for a pen. The combination of the dark external texture and the wavy fabric insert make the box look like a coffin no matter how you swing it. But, don’t think that a coffin cannot be nice. To this, I say that Conklin’s box is very well designed. It checks off all of what I look for in a box: 1. It comes with a protective sleeve. 2. It has a presentable exterior 3. It has a well-thought-out interior 4. It protects the pen 5. It has space for all components without needing to rearrange. The box comes in a blue sleeve, embossed on the top with Conklin’s logo in gold. The same logo is also on both side-flaps. It is also worth mentioning that the box is big—it measures 9 by 3.5 by 1.5 inches, which is about double the area of most of my other boxes. The box itself is covered in faux-navy-leather with Conklin’s logo (once again) embossed on top. This constancy is very nice to see between a box and its sleeve. Upon opening the box, you are greeted with the pen, sitting in a sea of wavy white fabric. In the top portion of the box is the Conklin logo (once again) embossed in gold lettering on a white-fabric cover. The box feels nice, and the wavy fabric does present the pen in a gorgeous fashion, albeit in a slightly sepulchral style. When you remove the insert, Conklin provides a pair of short international cartridges (blue and black), as well as a Yafa registration card, instruction/thank you letter, and am introduction to Conklin/Conklin Club/Warranty card. It is all very securely inset and will not rattle in the box. The packaging is very well thought out, besides the resemblance to a coffin, and assuming you don’t mind this, the presentation is very nice. You get a welcoming, large, and protective box that I daresay easily bests the offerings of Pilot and Platinum, which are also double the price (in the US market, anyway). Nonetheless, the box is stellar for its price range. The only reason I take away three points from it is because it lacks any sort of special, standout qualities that would make it worthy of an A+ grade. Part III: Design & Form Factor 167/200 The All American’s design exists exclusively for two purposes. The first is to show off the colors. From what photos which I’ve seen, all of the resins available on the All American look brilliant, and the Old Glory edition is no exception. The resin is made of red, translucent white, blue, and gold specks, which, in concert, look wonderful. According to Conklin, the pen is evocative of America, and I can see that—the pen is a very, very nice interpretation of the Star Spangled Banner. However, (unlike most American themed products that I, as an American have found), its design is not at all tasteless. Instead of starting with red, white, and blue and making a pen, it seems as if Conklin used the All American design, and tried to make an appealing pen; and they succeeded, it is very much so. As I was using turquoise ink, you can see the turquoise shading in the lower half of the section However, one thing worth noting is that the translucency of the plastic in the grip section allows for ink to become lodged between the feed section and grip section while filling. This does allow for the color of your ink to appear slightly in the grip’s translucent areas. However, it can be easily resolved by taking apart the section and rinsing it with water. Another point worth mentioning is the quality of the resin (plastic) itself. Unlike other resins I’ve encountered recently—granted that my experience with resins is limited as I am new to the pen hobby—the Old Glory resin has no lack of depth. Due to the translucent white specks, you can see through the layers of the pen and see how complicated the plastic actually is, and for me, it is quite visually appealing. However, the translucent white also makes some of the inset threads for the cap visible. Personally, I don’t mind it (I actually like it a bit), but for some people who prefer a more conservative, opaque pen, this may be an issue. The resin is also clearly the priority of this pen. The body and the cap are both barren of any other ornamentation with two exceptions. The first being the clip, which has the Conklin logo etched into it. The second is the manufacturing stamp on the body, harkening back to the twentieth century when manufacturers etched the make and model of each pen onto the body itself. In the case of the All American, the body reads: Beyond this etching, there is no further ornamentation, and the body is intentionally quite plain, lending the focus of the pen to the resin (deservedly), and I quite like this approach. The second major goal of the design of this pen is to very clearly communicate this pen’s size. In fact, when this pen was in rotation in the 30’s, this pen existed so that the working man could have a pen that looked as big and powerful as his boss’ Mont Blanc. This continues today, although it is barely comparable to a Mont Blanc, or any other traditional cigar shape pen, for that matter. To begin, the pen is gigantic in width: it measures 1.5 cm in diameter, roughly 125 or 150 percent industry standard (around 1.1-1.3 cm). As soon as you pick it up, you will realize the size of this pen. However, in comparison to the width, the All American’s length is rather unremarkable. Its length—14 cm capped—is very comparable to other pens in its segment, such as the Lamy Studio or the TWSBI Vac 700. It feels pretty comfortable in my medium/large sized hands, but people with rather large hands might have to use it posted. The pen is very well balanced unposted. However, once posted, it is quite back-heavy. I use it unposted for this reason, but if you don’t mind the feeling of a back-weighted pen, you shouldn’t have a problem. The pen friction-posts very securely and would not fall of without intent or some horrible mishap. The pen is also a good weight—at around 31g altogether (18g in the body and 13g in the cap). It feels comfortable, and is not particularly noticeable or taxing. The cap of the pen follows the same design principles of the rest of the pen: it is large and mostly nondescript and void of distractions. It screws on in one and three quarters rotations and stays on securely. The Rocker Clip The only noticeable part of the cap is the clip—Conklin’s trademarked Rocker clip. The clip on the All American is silver, and unlike most pens where the clip is bound to the pen at the top, the Rocker clip is bound to the pen roughly three quarters the way up the clip. This allows for you to open and close the clip by pushing the top of it (like a see-saw). It is similar to the clip of the Lamy 2000, if you’ve ever experienced it, only more pronounced. Once again, like the rest of the pen, the clip is rather featureless. It is flat, going from 5 mm in width to 4mm after a corner roughly halfway through the clip. This corner is placed at the beginning of the Conklin brand name, which is etched in a cursive font. All in all, the pen is very well designed. However, I have two major gripes that have forced me to downgrade this pen’s design to the B+ range. First, and most importantly, although it makes a statement, the pen’s width comes at a price—unless you have rather large hands, the pen is, quite frankly, uncomfortable for long use. After about a page of writing, my hand would feel fatigued. However, this is all completely subjective, and really a matter of personal preference. If you would like to try to get a feeling for the width of the pen at home, see if you can find a dry erase marker or highlighter. You can take the cap off of these pens and imagine that it is the section. If it is comfortable the pen will most likely be not that bad. The misaligned cap and imprint My other major gripe about this pen stems from a lack of quality control. My particular pen has a defect wherein the Conklin logo on the clip and the manufacturing stamp are never aligned—they always face the opposite direction. And for me, this is rather annoying, especially since it is something that should have been noticed in quality control, but wasn’t. In reading other reviews of Yafa products, I have learned that quality control is not their number one concern, so I would advise caution. I will attempt to contact Yafa support, and I will edit this accordingly (as an addendum, both here and on FPN). Part V: Nib, section, and writing experience 92/100 The section and the nib of the All American are both of decent size. The section (without the threading), measures just over 1.75 cm in length. Another centimeter is added when the threads are included, giving the pen a usable grip space of just under 3 mm. There is a slight step going from the section from the threads, but it is not bad. The threads are also not very sharp, so they can be used for grip space. However, there is a decent step that moves from the end of the threads to the body—this is very noticeable, however, whether or not this will bother you depends on your writing style. The nib is available in three options: fine, medium, and stub all of which seem to reflect the philosophy present throughout the entire design of this pen: it is tasteful, clear, and not ornamented too much (I am reviewing the fine nib here). The nib itself is a normal #6 Yafa steel nib, so it is interchangeable with other #6 nibs, such as Monteverde and Goulet steel replacement nibs as well as the Edison #6 18k gold replacement nibs. The design of the nib is plain, but appealing. The fine and medium are both two tone nibs with a crescent-shaped breather hole, while the stub is exclusively silver with a normal circular breather hole. Below the Conklin logo on all of the pens is the word ‘Toledo,’ and ‘USA,’ on the next line in clear block text. On the right shoulder of the nib is the size identification—mine reads F for fine. This non-remarkability, to me, is a theme omnipresent throughout the pen, certainly extending to the nib. The pen is not fancy, and it does not pretend to be—neither does the nib. It is a classic western fine—perhaps a little on the broad side, and it can produce a good amount of variation. It gives a comfortable amount of feedback that can be ignored if you choose to do so, or the feedback can be paid attention to and felt if you prefer it. The nib has a comfortable sweet spot that is decently sized and pretty easy to find. The feed does a decent job at keeping up with the pen, however, mine runs a little on the dry side, contrary to the nib, which when I dip the pen in ink, provides a consistent wet line. In this regard, I almost feel bad for the nib, almost as if the feed is letting it down a little. The nib has the potential to be a really great everyday nib, but it’s feed keeps it from being a desk EDC pen. Once I learn to play with the feed, I will try and make it run a little wetter. However, I have no experience in this, and will likely end up gouging the feed, so if you have any tips on feed modification, please leave your tips in the comments below. Writing Sample on 90gsm Rhodia. Ink: Pelikan 4001 Turquoise That brings me to the next point, the feed is fully removable by unscrewing the nib and feed unit from the section and then firmly pulling it out between your fingers. From here, you can swap nibs and feeds as you please. This, I feel is a great advantage as I feel like having which is easily accessible leads to both consumer and manufacturer satisfaction—the consumer can have fun with the pen fully knowing that if something were to happen, he or she could repair the pen with a decent amount of ease, and the manufacturer receives fewer complaints than it would if it used proprietary technology. However, it is worth noting that the pen’s warranty does not cover third party accessories, so play with the pen at your own risk. Something else that I feel is worth noting is the converter. Yafa brand converters are all threaded and of good quality. Never have I had an issue with one breaking—you can get a very nice fill, even on the first try, and, more importantly, the converter is threaded, so it is always securely in its section. No guessing required. This makes dipping the pen into ink a little easier on the mind as there is never an afterthought of the section falling in. The converter is also easy to twist and fill, and I highly recommend it. I also realize here that I have failed to identify the filling mechanism in detail, but as hinted above, it is a cartridge/converter pen, using standard international cartridges and converters—both of the long and short variety. I know there is wide debate over which filling mechanism is best, I admit that although there is a certain elegance in vacuum and piston fillers, but the ease of use in a c/c pen is of utmost importance to me. As a student, I often switch colors and inks, so having a pen that is easily disassembled and cleaned is very important and I applaud Conklin for making a pen that is so easily serviceable. All in all, I feel as if this is a really high quality steel nibbed pen. It does not aim to be flashy, and by doing that, it accomplishes something unique—it works as advertised. As it does not aim to be anything more than a normal steel nib, its variation and light springiness is a welcome surprise, and the overall high quality of the nib is commendable. However, the tines are malleable, so too much pressure will cause them to spread and not return to their normal position. Also, the tines do occasionally come out of alignment from my tilting the nib slightly to one side. However, this is easily remedied by a little pressure in the other direction. In conclusion, I feel as if this is a really great nib, but the dryness of the feed is holding it back from being an A+ nib for the price. Part VI: Value 45/50 The All American, unlike its pre-war counterpart, unfortunately, does not retail for less than $10. Instead, the suggested retail price of the pen is $99. However, like other pens in its range, its street price tends to hover between 70 and 85 dollars. This is comparable to pens like the Lamy Studio. Compared to that pens, I would say that this pen serves a very different role. It is not really designed as an EDC, instead, it is a much more of what I would call an EDP (Everyday Desk Pen). It is really not designed to be portable or svelte, instead it is supposed to make a statement in a meeting, classroom, or desk. And, in the price range, there are very few pens with that same capability. So, I feel like in the niche, the pen is a fine value—when dealing exclusively with the US Retail market. However, if you begin to look at the grey (import) market, there are a couple Japanese pens that begin to occupy the same space—namely the Pilot Custom 74, Platinum #3776 Century, and Sailor Professional Gear. When in comparison to these pens, the weaknesses of the All American tend to take full form. It is not a gold nib, and it is not portable. So, if you are looking for a pen to carry around in a pocket or to use on the go, I would urge you to take a look at any of the Japanese pens listed above (Also, cue self-promotion as I have reviewed two of those pens here and here). Honestly, in my opinion, when you pay for the All American, you’re paying for the size. People may comment on it and people may gawk, but all in all, the All American is simply a large pen in the same size range as the Pelikan Souverän M400 (and slightly smaller than the Sailor King of Pens), which retail for quadruple, quintuple, or even sextuple the list price of the All American. And, if you really want a gold nib, you can purchase an Edison #6 Replacement for ~$150, and still be well under the retail the aforementioned pen's prices. So, if you are looking for a large pen, the value of the All American is very good. However, if you are looking for an everyday pen, you may want to look elsewhere. Part VII: Conclusion 399 / 450 = 88 = B+ The Conklin All American pen is very, very unique. It may not be an EDC because of its size, or it may not be a long-writing pen, but it is certainly a pen that makes a statement. Between its size and its beautiful resin, the pen aims to call attention to itself. Not only this, but the pen is also equipped with a very capable steel nib that possesses just the right amount of springiness and feedback. The pen, although it is rather big, does not seek to be anything other than a capable, ordinary pen. And through its simplistic design and simple nature, I feel as if it accomplishes this with aplomb. However, as the pen only seeks to be ordinary (in my opinion), and as it has a few quality control and feed issues, I feel as if the pen almost makes the ‘A’, but the aforementioned problems hold it back just a little. However, by no means does this mean that it is a bad pen. On the contrary it is a beautiful instrument perfect for your desk, and I recommend it to anyone looking for an oversized pen. Thank you very much for reading! If you liked the review, please consider subscribing to updates here (I promise not to spam your inbox). Caleb