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Pelikan Pharo


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Stuck in a kind of aesthetic aporia between streamlined modernism and postmodern pastiche is the Pelikan Pharo. Almost certainly one of Pelikan’s more obscure productions, the Pharo has received relatively little attention despite its unique design.


For starters, the Pharo comes in a custom “sarcophagus” (??) presentation box. This is a very practical container that makes for both secure storage and transportation. However, the unadorned metal case is more fit for the likes of Spock than any ruler of the ancient world. That said, this is the kind of detail I would have expected from a much more expensive pen and I certainly appreciate having a matching case for the Pharo.






The Pharo itself is machined out of solid aluminum into a strangely undulating form with a matte finish. The cap flairs into the eponymous Pharo’s “crown” and makes the pen visually unbalanced (i.e., a bit weird) when capped. It is also quite top heavy. The clip -- an abstraction of the famous Pelikan beak -- is more formal than functional, as a gap between the end of the clip and the cap gives it a loose grip at best. However, as the pen's only ornamentation, the clip is a nice adaptation to the abstract design.




Though certainly perfectly usable when unposted, the pen both looks and feels surprisingly balanced when it is posted. The short section (which is clearly designed not to be gripped) means that the pen is most comfortably held higher up the curving barrel than one might assume. When posted, the cap acts as an ingenious counterbalance for this unconventionally low center of gravity. The cap has a plastic insert that protects the barrel’s finish. Just above the section is a comfortable place to hold the pen and has the flared shape that would feel familiar to any regular Pelikan user.




My NOS Pharo cost me about $30 a couple of years ago, but even then the pen was already difficult to find. Despite the bold design, solid construction, and inexpensive price, these pens never really caught on and Pelikan seems to have ceased production after a very short time. There are perhaps two good reasons for this. The first is that the shiny steel nib (unmarked, but approximately a Pelikan F) was incredibly boring. Almost entirely lacking in character, one might as well have been writing with a ballpoint. The second problem (with my particular pen, at least) was especially frustrating – the flow through the feed was inadequate, resulting in an ink flow that gradually tapered off into terrible skipping. (From what little else is written about this pen, it seems like ink flow might be a common problem.)




I was ultimately unable to let this pen go; it is by far the most unique pen I've ever used. So I decided to solve the problems mentioned above by doing something entirely logical. And also by doing something completely crazy.




It was an easy enough decision to send the pen to Richard for a brilliant 0.4 mm stub grind. The rounded-chisel cut that came back perfectly suited both the curving form and rigid construction of the pen. However, I decided to tackle problem of diminishing flow myself. Not willing to invest more in a potentially flaky pen beyond the stub grind, I did something drastic. To get the ink flowing consistently, I pulled the friction-fit feed and used a razor blade to modify it (that is, carve it up). In fact, I pulled and modified the feed a total of nine times.


And, finally…success!




Even if I had failed in my attempt to get it working, I likely would have held on to this pen simply for its daring aesthetic. In retrospect, it was definitely a gamble to alter the feed myself. I got lucky with my amateur attempt to fix the vexing problem with the ink flow, neither ruining the feed nor cutting my fingers in the process. (Though I cannot say that I recommend this particular approach!) The result is a truly unique writing instrument that is, at long last, a real joy to write with.



Edited by ahtzib
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Thank you Ahtzib for showing to me that there is a way to love the Pharo!

(Even a heavily tuned sample like yours).

"Stuck in a kind of aesthetic aporia between streamlined modernism and postmodern pastiche is the Pelikan Pharo. ." I love this line!

If only it was the last time that the words "Unique design" got me into trouble...

The problem with the Pharo I guess is the era it was conceived. ("Let's make something modern for the young and design-thirsty to get them off these ballpoints and rollerballs").

I was not thinking, of course, that I hold my pens rather low and there is nothing stranger than a small-sized slippery metal grip with threads at the beginning of it. The grip started the trouble and the boring "Medium" nib finished it. I had no flow problems!

Your review might get my Pharo out of its dark drawer for one more chance...

I doubt that a visit to a nibmeister is up ahead though.


By the way, did yours included a converter?

Maybe mine was buried in the sarcophagus (pardon...) and did not found it.

Kostas K.

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thank you for reviewing a rarely reviewed pen. the shape somehow puts me off, but all fps deserve respect and i am glad that you have fixed its shortcomings yourself.





ladies and gentlemen write with fountain pens only.

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Thanks for your comments, everyone.


It is true that the Pharo’s design value comes mainly from its status as an "object of curiosity" rather than an "object of beauty." That said – and I’m not sure this is entirely clear in my pictures – posting the cap completely changes the lines of the pen. Not only does it look more “traditional” when posted, I might go so far to say that it looks rather stately.


No converter was included with my Pharo. However, I have used two different international-size converters in the Pharo without a problem. I got the second converter (much more robust than the first one I used) from Richard when I sent the pen in for the stub grind. Two short international carts will fit as well. There is a spring at the end of the barrel to keep the cartridges or converter securely in place, which is a nice detail.


I should note that that far from being the first review of the Pharo, I follow in the footsteps of maryannmoll’s excellent review of the Pharo posted a couple of years ago. Her review is currently indexed under Pelikan/Limited Editions/Pharo, though I don't believe that the Pharo is technically a true Limited Edition.

Edited by ahtzib
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I should note that that far from being the first review of the Pharo, I follow in the footsteps of maryannmoll's excellent review of the Pharo posted a couple of years ago. Her review is currently indexed under Pelikan/Limited Editions/Pharo, though I don't believe that the Pharo is technically a true Limited Edition.


Ohps! Thanks! I'll get on organizing things right away!


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