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Conklin Duragraph Forest Green - Beautiful Pen, Terrible Writer (Out Of The Box)


WJM
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History

 

Historically, Conklin was an US brand founded by Roy Conklin, and later best known for the fact that the writer Mark Twain was it spokesman. The brand ceased to exist in 1955 and half a century later it was revived in 2000s. It is now owned by Yafa Pen Company, which also owns Monteverde. I have never come across any of the vintage Conklin pens. Frankly, I've never heard of the brand before I come across the modern ones. It's been pointed out by some people that the modern Conklin doesn't really have anything to do with the original brand except the name, which the company bought, together with Conklin's history, for marketing purposes.

 

As I stated, I don't have any knowledge of the Conklin's history nor do I know Conklin's vintage products, but what I've been able to find out would seem to fit with this theory.

 

The model I'm reviewing today, the Duragraph, is, I believe, the most popular of modern Conklin pens. While it may not be the brand's flagship model (that title would probably go to the Crescent Filler) it's the most recognizable one. As with the whole brand, the company advertises historical roots of the model: supposedly the Duragraph fountain pen was first introduced in 1920s, and the modern pen is supposed to be its revival.

 

Reviving historical models is not uncommon. Similar was the case with for example Parker Duofold or Pelikan 400, vintage models which were successfully brought back on the market after years of absence. I failed to find any photos of the vintage Duragraph, however on the Conklin's website we can find old advertisiments of the brand, and a few of them picture the Duragraph model. Seems to me, that unlike Parker Duofold and Pelikan 400, the modern version of Duragraph has little similarity to the vintage pen the name of which it bears.

 

Here's the vintage poster - from Conklin's website

 

http://www.conklinpens.com/images/advertisements/duragraph1924asmall.jpg

 

 

Looks of the pen

 

That being said, modern Conklin Duragraph is a very attractive looking pen. While it may not be the copy of the vintage Duragraph, it definitely has a somewhat vintage look to it - but more on the line of Parker Duofold. It's a big sized, flat top fountainhe pen with black finials on the cap and barrel.

 

The pen is made from acrylic resin with little metal parts. The section threads are metal, but the section itself is a plastic sleeve put over the metal part. The barrel finial is also resin made, but I think the cap finial is metal, due to the cap's weight (more of that later). The cap band says "Conklin" on one front and "Duragraph" on the back, with a nice looking pattern of three crescent moons on the both sides of the "Duragraph" inscription.

 

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There are several colors available and the one I got is "forest green". It's a really good looking fountain pen and I very much like this dark green color. There is a nice chatoyancy of the material and also some translucency, but not much.

 

The pen comes with a classic coffin-like box with a converter inside, two cartridges and a card with a short information about the company, the brand and the warranty. I'm interested in pens, not boxes, but it's all very nicely put together.

 

Unfortunately I was too late to get green acrylic Lingmo Lorelei and Penbbs 308 - however, juging from the photos and videos I've seen, the material used to make Conklin Duragraph seems very similiar, if not identical. I have a yellow acrylic Lingmo Lorelei and the material feels similiar in touch as well. Is it the same material, or does it come from the same source? Maybe, maybe not. But here we come to an interesting question.

 

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Country of origin

 

Conklin was historically an US brand and the new Conklin advertises itself underlining it's American idendity. The full name of the brand is Conklin Pen Company USA. The owner, Yafa Pen Company, is based in California. The Conklin nibs are stamped "Toledo USA". There is even Conklin model called "All American".

 

Interestingly however, despite this "all American" hype, nowhere on the pen or anything that came with it, could I find information about it's country or origin. No "made in somewhere". That ring some bells, doesn't it?

 

Information found online about where Conklin Duragraph pens are made are almost equally poor. I didn't find any such information on the brand's website.

 

The Goulet Pen Company, however, in their description of Conklin Duragraph, and Conklin All American, provides us with information, that these pens are manufactured "in Asia, and assembled in California" (on an interesting side note, Conklin Crescent Filler is apparently manufactured in Italy. Also, this information actually can be found also on Conklin's website).

 

Mystery solved, I guess. Conklin Duragraph is a pen made in China on US company's order, or at least it's parts are.

 

Here's the thing: I don't have any problem with the pen being made in China. I have a problem with the company hiding this information and not being honest about it. Especially that they don't hide such information about their another model which is manufactured in Europe.

 

Kinda like Parker.

 

Having that out of the way, we can get to the part that really matters. Which is also where the real trouble begin.

 

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The performance

 

The performance of my Duragraph out of the box was just awful. The quick and very frequent ink starvation made this pen downright unusable. After just a few words written it just stopped and catching the ink flow again was a pain. After that, the same thing occurred over and over again. Never mind the ink, the converter or cartridge, same thing. Flushing the pen with soapy water did nothing. Plus the nib - a 1.1 mm stub - was rather scratchy.

 

Conklin Duragraph uses a screwed in nib unit, with the size 6 nib and feed friction fitted into a plastic housing. The feed is identical to the feeds used in many inexpensive pens, including Chinese Jinhaos with #6 nibs, Wing Sung 626, Kaigelu 316 and Indian made Click Aristocrat (and probably countless other models which I don't have and am not aware of). I swapped the Conklin's feed for a Chinese spare and that solved the problem as far as the ink flow goes.

 

When the pen started to write, the problem of scratchy nib became somewhat more relevant. Initially the tines were a bit misaligned and I hoped to solve it while I was swapping the feed, but unfortunately, no matter what I did to this nib, after putting it in the collar together with the nib, one of the tines always ended up slightly crooked. I'm not sure whether the misaligned tine was the sole reason of scratchiness or was there also something else (unpolished nib perhaps?), but I wasn't able to improve it (trying to polish it did nothing).

 

It is a shame, because when this Conklin nib wrote, it provided a very nice line variation. But it was just very unpleasant to use.

 

Accidentally, I had a spare Bock 250 nib unit available, with size 6 broad nib. The Bock nib unit unfortunately doesn't fit the Conklin pen, but the nib itself can be put into the Conklin unit with the Conklin's Chinese feed. The fit is not as tight as it was with the Conklin nib (or the Bock nib in the Bock unit) but it's good enough to use the pen comfortably.

 

So finally I am able to use this to use this pen normally. The Bock nib is very smooth and writes well, although there are occasional hard starts (possible baby's bottoms). Also, once or twice I experienced a serious starting problems after a night, and I blame that on less than stellar cap sealing. Other than that, I can say I really do enjoy using this pen. It's very comfortable to write with, feels good in the hand and with the Bock nib it's a nice writer - unfortunately, no thanks to Conklin.

 

 

The filling system

 

Conklin Duragraph is a cartridge/converter in international standard, and comes with a converter which seems to be a quite good quality. Interestingly the converter is threaded and screwes into the section. Personally I think is a unnecessary overcomplication of a mechanism which works well in thousands of fountain pens without such feature, but by itself there's nothing wrong with it.

 

Except the fact that screwing in or out the converter also easily results in twisting the nib unit, so removing the converter one has to be holding the nib and feed, to keep them in place. Well, if this was the only problem with this pen frankly I wouldn't care at all, as it doesn't impact the normal use of the pen, so never mind that.

 

Interestingly though, it's almost the exact same problem as with another big, flat top, acrylic fountain pen - Kaigelu 316, which is also the only other model I'm aware of that uses a threaded converter. It's not an uncommon problem with Kaigelu that twisting the converter can cause accidental loosening and pushing out the nib's housing. In Kaigelu however the housing, despite being threaded, is friction fitted and may require using shellac (or glue) to keep it securely in place. Conklin's housing fortunately can be just safely screwed in without any more trouble.

 

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Dimensions

 

Duragraph is a big sized pen. Its ca. 140 mm long when capped and 125 mm long uncapped, and pretty thick to that. At 28 g capped and half of that uncapped its not a heavy pen. Its very comfortable to write with unposted. Posting is rather out of the question its extremely shallow, makes for a very long pen an back heavy pen (the cap is the same weight as the whole rest with a full converter included) which would make writing uncomfortable and isnt very secure anyway. In this area its again very similiar to Kaigelu 316, which also posts the same way.

 

Compared below with Wing Sung 601 (Parker 51 clone) and Pelikan M200.

 

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This is how it posts. Not very useful.

 

 

Quality for money

 

Conklin Duragraph is usually sold for about 50 USD. This is not a very expensive fountain pen (it's usually counted into "affordable" category, whatever that means) but it's also not exactly the cheapest one out there. If it was $15 I wouldn't mind that much, but at this price point I find it unacceptable that the pen required a new feed and nib to work properly. Perhaps I just got unlucky, but this was what I got.

 

Despite I do enjoy the pen now, I can't say I'm satisfied with the product. If I want a nice looking holder for a Bock nib, Kaigelu 316 works even better, as it accepts the whole Bock nib unit, and it's less than half the price of the Duragraph, even counting the trouble with replacing the Kaigelu's metal finial.

 

I managed to get this pen working, as most fountain pen's enthusiasts could, but was this pen bought by or given to someone who wasn't a hobbyist, it likely would have ended up returned or forgotten in some drawer, and rightfully so.

 

As it was sold, it did not work.

 

 

Edited by WJM
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I agree. This was my first higher-priced pen and there were better options for my money had I been an informed consumer. Of course, it I had stopped to think about it I probably would not have married my first two wives either!

Do remember that the items on your bucket list have an expiration date.
 

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Thank you for this valuable review. Don't think you mentioned the seller/source of this pen AND, had I received and experienced the trouble you did, I would have contacted the seller and returned it for another pen.

 

I have the blue Duragraph LE along with several Duraflex same basic pen w/ the omniflex nib, and have had none of the difficulties you described. You invested a great deal of your time and energy Thank you again for the details of you experience.

“Don't put off till tomorrow what you can do today, because if you do it today and like it, you can do again tomorrow!”

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I have a pair of Duragraphs (purple and amber) with stub nibs. The nibs didn't really get enough ink; my Twsbi stub was much smoother and wetter with less ink starvation issues.

 

While it might be possible to fix them, there is little point for me as I have found that I don't like #6 nibs: they do not allow me to grip the pen as close to the tip as I want to. I wish I could find a way to swap the sections with ones that take #5 nibs, but I guess that would require some expensive custom work that isn't worth it to me.

 

Beautiful pens though.

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I really enjoyed reading through this review- thank you. I may have lucked out with my merlot Duragraph, but it always had very generous ink flow and a smooth medium nib from the start. I had someone do a nib grind to cursive italic, and now its a juicy medium italic and one of my favorite pens. I like that the crescent-hole nib is springy too, definitely not a nail. I like it much more than my similarly priced Lamy Safaris and Al-Stars/LX with most possible steel nib combos (Lamy stub nibs are so convenient to swap in, but the feeds are so stingy.)

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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It's weird that conklin lost the base nibs - I felt their standard steel nibs were actually fairly decent. the F nib in particular is quite soft and relatively flexible. a lot more of a flex nib than that turd omniflex.

Selling a boatload of restored, fairly rare, vintage Japanese gold nib pens, click here to see (more added as I finish restoring them)

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Thank you for this valuable review. Don't think you mentioned the seller/source of this pen AND, had I received and experienced the trouble you did, I would have contacted the seller and returned it for another pen.

I didn't think anyone would know this seller anyway - buylux.pl, a Polish online store selling fountain pens of a few brands amongst other things. The pen was new, unused.

 

 

I have a pair of Duragraphs (purple and amber) with stub nibs. The nibs didn't really get enough ink; my Twsbi stub was much smoother and wetter with less ink starvation issues.

The problem is, I suppose, this plastic Chinese feed. 1.1 mm stub needs a lot of ink to be wet and this feed doesn't keep up so well. Edited by WJM
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I keep looking at the Amber Durograph. And then see reviews of the model and rethink considering buying one.

Thanks for the review. Looks as if I'm going to do some more rethink and not buying.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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Since QC is variable with these pens, is it possible that there’s nothing wrong with the original feed but rather something with the nib/feed alignment and nib-specific issues? I have the opposite experience, and my Duragraph feed provides plenty of ink. Here’s another random post about someone else using a stub nib with a Duragraph stock feed and no ink shortage issues reported:

https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/328839-conklin-duragraph-screw-in-nib-unit-replacement-options/?p=3954174

 

It’s a bit like saying that one faulty unit describes all units of that model.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Since QC is variable with these pens, is it possible that there’s nothing wrong with the original feed but rather something with the nib/feed alignment and nib-specific issues? I have the opposite experience, and my Duragraph feed provides plenty of ink. Here’s another random post about someone else using a stub nib with a Duragraph stock feed and no ink shortage issues reported:

https://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/topic/328839-conklin-duragraph-screw-in-nib-unit-replacement-options/?p=3954174

 

It’s a bit like saying that one faulty unit describes all units of that model.

 

Indeed, but I've never said anything like this.

 

Duragraph uses a stock, OEM cheap Chinese feed. It's rather likely that QC of these feeds would be lacking and there are some duds out there. I just was unlucky to find one of them.

Edited by WJM
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I have the same problem with an M nib in a cracked ice Conklin Duragraph. Make a stop in writing and the pen might have a start problem. Scratchy at first, had to widen the nib slot and to use micromesh. Still not enough ink flow. It's a shame because the pen is really beautiful

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That could be because of the nib itself, not the feed. If you can take a look under high magnification glass to see if it's something like baby's bottom on the nib tipping, that could be causing skipping. Usually it's not the feed when ink skips, unless the feed is clogged with previous ink residue.

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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Hm, that sounds like a bad seal somewhere, exposing the feed to evaporation, perhaps. Was the cartridge or converter seated well too?

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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The cap seems to be tight, but I have put in an inner cap nevertheless. The converter seems to be seated well, but as it is screwed in, you cannot influence much how it is seated. There is only one way to screw it in

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You're right, I forgot about the screw-in converter in that model. Just checked my Duragraph--it still has a partially used cartridge of Herbin Lie de The that I started a few weeks ago on a trip. The pen has been sitting unused for about a week, and I've just scribbled a few words to see how it's doing. Started writing right away, very juicy, no signs of drying out. There's a plastic insert lining the black cap, and the cap screws on, in theory minimizing any air entering or leaving the nib area once the pen is capped. What ink are you using that's drying out? Check that the nib is aligned well with the feed (no visible gap between the feed and the nib toward the tip). I realize I could have gotten lucky with my Duragraph to have "everything right".

 

In my experience, using a fresh cartridge or filling up a converter as completely as possible also helps with drying out problems with various pens.

 

(A bit of an aside/optional reading, my apologies. I've had a bunch of pens with problems--high and low price, vintage and new; some due to poor QC, some due to incompetent "tweaking" by previous owners. It's very frustrating when it happens. Especially when a solution is not straightforward. After a year of trying on and off to get to the bottom of why my Montblanc 252 with an OB nib and now very clean feed skips, I'm about to take macro photos and look at them closely. I did that for another problem pen recently, and it uncovered some issues with tine alignment and tipping shape. That's my plan nowadays--evaluate the nib (and how it sits against the feed) very closely and go from there. Some of the skipping issues are due to tiny defects in the nib that might not be easy to figure out until after looking closely. Two very expensive pens I had gotten from someone else had damaged nibs due to two previous owners trying to do *something* to those nibs at some point in the past. Nothing was obviously off without high magnification, but one pen was super scratchy beyond a simple micromesh fix and another had ink skipping problems. On the other end of the spectrum, 2 out of 4 of my Jinhao pens have severe baby's bottom and also skip. I didn't bother fixing them, as the nibs are unpleasantly nail-like, and ink dries out quickly on the feed when the pens are left capped and unused. Swapped one of those nibs to a Nemosine 0.6mm stub, and while that stub is great, the ink drying out is still a big problem. I had bad luck with Lamy 1.1mm steel nibs. I ordered one, and the slit width was so minuscule but perfectly parallel as far as I could tell, the ink would not flow nearly at all. Replacement nib had deformed curved side parts that hold the nib against the feed. Third nib was the lucky good one. My one and only 1.5mm steel Lamy nib was perfect right away.)

“I admit it, I'm surprised that fountain pens are a hobby. ... it's a bit like stumbling into a fork convention - when you've used a fork all your life.” 

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  • 3 weeks later...

I bought a Duragraph Forest Green with an M nib about a year ago and it never failed to write, no hard starts, no skipping. I used several different inks (R&K, Noodler's and Diamine) without problems. However the M nib is anything but an M. It's more like an F which is ok for me. So the problem could be related to the nib width (and the required ink flow). Or it could just be a quality control problem. Matt Armstrong mentioned those in his review of the Duragraph. He also complained about a poorly polished nib (which was easy to fix).

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Wow..what a thorough and interesting review of these pens. Well done, and thank you.

 

I have a couple of these Duragraphs. For some reason, the size, weight and balance fit my hand perfectly. I had a good deal of trouble with ink flow. I changed out the nibs for $15.00, #6 Jowo nibs and haven’t had an issue since.

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