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Pelikan 400 Ef Tortoise (1950--1954) Review



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Here are my thoughts on the Vintage Pelikan 400 EF Tortoise I recently received. For comparison, I'll rely heavily on my experience with a modern Pelikan M600 Souveran and a Lamy 2000.

 

First Impressions (10)

 

The Pelikan 400 is absolutely gorgeous with the tortoise finish! I love the color variations.

 

http://farm4.staticflickr.com/3818/9689506858_0e1703f821_b.jpg

 

Appearance and Design (10)

 

On first glance, the 400 looks just like a modern Pelikan Souveran, only missing some gold bands (which I personally think are a bit over the top anyway). The piston-turning knob, the barrel, the cap, and the section are pretty much exactly the same shape as the modern pens.

 

 

 

as you look a bit closer, you can start to pick out some differences: the piston-turning knob on a modern Souveran has much "sharper" edges than on the vintage 400, and lacks the marking of the nib line width. The nibs look quite a bit different, even though both are 14K gold nibs.

 

The emblem on the top of the cap is probably the most pronounced difference to the casual observer, with the modern gold emblem which relies on texture for contrast, versus the simpler etched design of the vintage 400:

 

 

In general, I would never think to myself, "I want to add a pen in the color brown to my collection". but there is brown, and then there is this:

 

 

 

This type of brown made me lose my mind with desire. I'm only exaggerating a little bit, here. I love the way different lighting brings out different elements of the stripes. There are some red patches in there. there are a few stripes which look like marble. and of course there are darker smoky-looking patches, as well as honey and yellow.

 

The non-tortoise parts of the pen actually are a dark brown, so dark they almost look black (difficult to pick out in most of the photos). so ok, yes, I did add a brown pen to my collection!

 

Another big difference between the vintage 400 and a modern Pelikan M600 is the material the pens are made from. The modern pen feels like sturdy and smooth plastic in the hand. the 400 feels much more textured. the smoothness of the M600's material makes the stripes on the barrel seem flatter; my mind says "a material that smooth can't have stripes, they must be under the surface somehow". The subtle texture of the 400, on the other hand, makes the tortoise stripes come alive, as if they are part of the "skin" of the pen. I think it could be best summed up as, the M600 feels modern, static, cold; the 400 feels dynamic, organic, and living, almost like it should be breathing.

 

Construction and Quality (9)

 

This Pelikan 400 is somewhere between 59 and 64 years old at the time of this writing (2013-09-06), so I think its construction and quality are very high. The Piston turns easily and smoothly. I was a little shocked at how smoothly it turned.

 

I'd give it a 10, but the piston seal did leak a little bit when I was flushing all the old ink out of it. (inky water came out at the top, near the piston-filling knob) I need to pull the piston out and probably lubricate the seals or possibly re-cork it. This requires a special tool though, which I don't have yet.

 

The modern pelikans' piston can be removed with the wrench TWSBI ships with their pens, which is a really nice bonus.

 

 

 

Weight and Dimensions (8)

 

The Pelikan 400 is a somewhat light pen, but heavier than I remember the Pelikan M200 Souveran being, which is good, since the M200 was too light for me.

 

when I hold the 400 in one hand and the modern Pelikan M600 Souveran in the other, I think the M600 is just perceptibly heavier. which makes sense: the M600 has a larger nib, a larger section, a larger cap, a larger piston-turning knob, and the barrel of the pen has a slightly higher diameter than that of the 400.

 

The barrels (at least the colored parts) of the 400 and the M600 seem to be the same length.

 

The Pelikan 400 is noticeably lighter than my Lamy 2000 (again holding each in opposite hands).

 

I can write comfortably with my M600 unposted, but I prefer it posted. the 400, on the other hand, was just slightly shorter enough to keep me from writing unposted.

 

I'd probably be happier if the 400 were the size of the M600, but I don't mind its very slightly smaller size too much.

 

Nib & Performance (8)

 

This 400 has an EF nib. One of the reasons I wanted a vintage pelikan was to try out a flexible nib. Wow, does this nib deliver! I'm a total n00b at varying pressure to vary line size, but here is a shot of one of my first attempts, applying pressure on the downstroke, and no pressure on upstrokes:

 

post-25398-0-16270600-1378499773_thumb.jpg

 

The ink is Noodler's Luxury Blue. the paper is a Clairefontaine spiral notebook.

 

One of the loops in that picture looks like a skip; the pen didn't skip, I was trying to vary pressure and went so light that I wasn't touching the paper anymore.

 

Here's a writing sample, trying to apply the same effect, with my M600 (F) ... I mainly tried it on the swooshy loops, not on the words themselves:

 

post-25398-0-79704300-1378499774_thumb.jpg

 

The 400 nib has a readily-noticable springiness to it. apply some pressure, the tines spring apart. with no pressure, I get a very precise, thin line, certainly worthy of the EF marking on the piston-turning knob.

 

the Modern M600 is much wetter but has no spring whatsoever to it. in the loops above, I can see some line width variation but it doesn't feel like the nib is flexing to me, certainly not the same way as the spring of the 400. I can't really explain the line variation I see with the M600.

 

comparing to the flexiness of my Lamy 2000: when I apply pressure to the 2000, I can feel the nib changing shape a bit, but not with a spring like the 400. it feels like the 2000's nib is a bit softer, so it has some give to it. (The Lamy 2000 also has a 14K gold nib)

 

The 400 nib doesn't feel soft, it's almost like it has two settings: tines together, or tines apart, with a spring to go from one to the other.

 

the feed is ebonite, not plastic, and is impeccable. I've never had it skip or railroad on me, even though at least half the writing I've done so far is while applying pressure to play with the flex.

 

 

 

When it comes to smoothness, the 400 is fairly smooth. as it goes across the paper, it sings the whole time. at first I thought it was a scratchy noise, but it's not. the only time it gets scratchy is when I apply pressure, then try to switch from downstroke to upstroke; at that point, it feels like the nib is trying to dig into the paper. in reality, I shouldn't apply pressure on the upstroke at all, so the "digging in" might just be my lack of experience.

 

The M600, on the other hand, is super smooth and wet. the 400 is not a dry writer, but the M600 is much wetter. I think the 400 nib has a decently-size sweet spot for such a fine line, but once a word or so I can "snag" it on the paper.

 

 

also, I have a pocket notebook made by dodo case: http://www.dodocase.com/products/dodocase-notes-for-iphone-5 I think the paper is comparable to moleskine paper. even though the M600 is much wetter, it doesn't feather on the dodocase notebook, whereas the 400 feathers like crazy. (Note, a TWSBI 580 M also feathers on this paper, but not as much as the 400 does)

 

One thing I did notice is that after I wrote a bit with the 400, then switched to the M600, was that anytime I wrote the letter e, the loop to make the e was filled in. My handwriting is naturally small, and getting used to the M600's wetness meant I was forcing myself to write larger. once I started writing with the extra-fine line of the 400, my handwriting snapped back to small, and if I didn't adjust back when writing with the M600, all my letters and loops were getting run together by the bigger line.

 

The nib on the 400 is a lot of fun, when you try to vary the line width by applying pressure, but it's also hard work to use the line variation properly. and when applying low pressure, it's not as smooth as a modern nib. it probably needs a bit of tuning or alignment; I might send it off someday.

 

Conclusion (9/10)

 

I'm really thrilled with this 400 Tortoise. It's going to be the pen I use the most for quite some time. I'm a little concerned about the occasional snags I get with the nib, and I'm definitely going to investigate the piston leak, but since it's over half a century old, and not restored, I'd say this is to be expected.

 

The 400 looks good, feels good in the hand, and is exciting to write with. for everyday writing, I can write softly and the pen lays down a nice thin wet line. and when I want to play with line variation, the 400 instantly responds.

 

Edited by caric
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Great review on a wonderful pen. Love the comparison. I have both the M600 and the 400 tortoise and enjoy them both very much. The vintage Pelikan nibs are just amazing. My tortoise is actually in Ron Zorn's repair queue to have the piston seal replaced as it leaked like yours. I believe these are pressure fit pistons so be careful trying to disassemble as you can crack the barrel.

PELIKAN - Too many birds in the flock to count. My pen chest has proven to be a most fertile breeding ground.

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THE PELIKAN'S PERCH - A growing reference site for all things Pelikan

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Thanks for the review for I liked the comparison. I have a M600 and a tortoise M400 but of much recent make. I’ve always wanted to have a vintage Pelikan, but always arrive late ….. or too $$$$$$. Very nice macro pics!

sonia alvarez

 

fpn_1379481230__chinkinreduced.jpg

 

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Thanks for the review for I liked the comparison. I have a M600 and a tortoise M400 but of much recent make. I’ve always wanted to have a vintage Pelikan, but always arrive late ….. or too $$$$$$. Very nice macro pics!

Hello Sonia!

Vintage Tortoise Pelikans are awesome... not only for their good looks but also for their wonderful nibs. If you are patient you can find a nice one for under $200 in the FPN classifieds from one of two FPN members in Spain: pomperopero and jorgerp

Carlos

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Hello Sonia!

Vintage Tortoise Pelikans are awesome... not only for their good looks but also for their wonderful nibs. If you are patient you can find a nice one for under $200 in the FPN classifieds from one of two FPN members in Spain: pomperopero and jorgerp

Carlos

Gracias!

Carlos, de qué parte de PR eres?!? hahahah there are sooooooooooo many hills back home...

Edited by alvarez57

sonia alvarez

 

fpn_1379481230__chinkinreduced.jpg

 

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Gracias!

Carlos, de qué parte de PR eres?!? hahahah there are sooooooooooo many hills back home...

Una lomita en Santurce...

Like...when I say a hill it ain't a mountain! ;)

Edited by carlos.q
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Una lomita en Santurce...

Like...when I say a hill it ain't a mountain! ;)

Yo de una lomita de Río Piedras…pero vivo en New Orleans. Saludos!

sonia alvarez

 

fpn_1379481230__chinkinreduced.jpg

 

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  • 2 weeks later...
Montblanc owner and lover

Nice and interesting review,great pics. Thanks

A people can be great withouth a great pen but a people who love great pens is surely a great people too...

Pens owned actually: MB 146 EF;Pelikan M200 SE Clear Demonstrator 2012 B;Parker 17 EF;Parker 51 EF;Waterman Expert II M,Waterman Hemisphere M;Waterman Carene F and Stub;Pilot Justus 95 F.

 

Nearly owned: MB 149 B(Circa 2002);Conway Stewart Belliver LE bracket Brown IB.

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good review, and nice pics. I don't really see any significant line variation during the samples you posted..Do you think this nib is more..springy rather than flexy?

Fountain pens are like weapons. They just make your pocket bleed so much.

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good review, and nice pics. I don't really see any significant line variation during the samples you posted..Do you think this nib is more..springy rather than flexy?

 

http://imageshack.us/a/img853/2773/5n94.jpg

 

(Pelikan 400 - OM ..... Rohrer & Klingner Solferino)

(Mabie Todd Swan 4660 Leverless ..... ESS Registrars Blue/Black)

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