Posted in Pens, Restoration, Stories

Conklin Crescent Filler

Company Back Story:

Roy Conklin’s patented the design for the first self-filling fountain pen in 1897, followed shortly by the distinctive crescent-filler pen. This model is renowned for being the first mass-produced self-filling pen as well as the first mass-produced pen to use a flexible rubber ink sac. Patents for the pen were granted in 1901 and 1903. Production continued until circa 1930 when the landmark design was retired in favor of a lever-filler design. Author Mark Twain was so impressed with the crescent-filler he became the official spokesperson for the Conklin brand.

Early pens dating to 1907 have unmarked crescents while pens made up to 1920 have the crescents marked “CRESCENT-FILLER/TRADE MARK” on one side only, finally pens dating from the 1920s have crescents marked on both sides.

My Pen:

I have been trying to include vintage pens in my collection that made a significant impact in the world of writing instruments. I’ve been looking for a Conklin Crescent pen and stumbled upon one that looked promising plus the seller is in NOVA (Northern VA). I knew going into this the pen wasn’t in the best of shape but I felt it was better than many I’ve seen, and it dates to the 1920’s.

Let’s start with the general appearance, the lock ring that prevents the crescent from being depressed is miscolored and broken – its supposed to wrap around nearly 90% of the barrel but it doesn’t, a piece is broken off. It is black hard rubber as is the barrel and cap but only the ring it is showing signs of sun/water damage. A clear indicator it is from a different pen thus during the process of removing it from that pen it was broken.

Notice the discoloration of the lock ring

Next obvious issue is found on the pen cap, this pen has some off brand clip, not unheard of but it was hiding the hole where the original clip was originally attached to the cap. Then there is the 2 cm long hairline crack from the lip of the cap. Funny the seller did not mention any of these issues and the “for sale” photos strategically avoided the obvious.

At this point the curiosity on how the crescent worked got the better of me, so I started taking the pen apart. The section unscrews, there is an arrow on it indicating which direction it should be turned. The section also showed signs of being mistreated by pliers or a section puller. The nib and feed came out after applying heat. The feed looks to be in pretty bad shape, the nib a Warranted 14K #4 appears to need a little straightening.

The crescent lock ring popped right off and the crescent dropped into the barrel. The crescent is interesting, it is attached to a long pressure bar and is held in place by the ink sac opposed to a “J” shaped pressure bar. How does it work you ask, the lock ring prevents the crescent from depressing, when the ring is rotated to the unlocked position the crescent can be depressed, thus compressing the ink sac. Let go of the crescent, the sac expands, drawing in ink and returns the crescent to its normal extended position. Simply rotate the lock ring to secure the crescent and start writing.

Enough with the issues. I proceeded to clean the pen, repaired the damage done to the section, and polished the “brass.” The damage to the section was extensive and required multiple passes with sandpaper. When I was going over the barrel and cap with the Sunshine cloth, a disgusting brown yuck came off but they cleaned up nicely. I removed the cap clip and polished it. Applied a light touch of mineral oil to the barrel and cap. Now it’s time to put it all back together – Tah-Dah!

I’m pretty happy with how well the section cleaned up. It went through 3 sand paper sessions and could really use a fourth session.

I inked it up and thought I’d give it a try and this is what happens when you forget to return the lock ring into position. The smallest amount of pressure on the crescent and the ink flows.

I purchased this Crescent filler from the same seller I purchased the Gold Starry 256. This seller has made it to my “do not buy from” list and wouldn’t you know it, they are the only seller on the list.

Posted in Pens, Reviews

Conklin Duraflex Elements “Fire” Limited Edition

Inspired by the wonders of nature, the Conklin Elements fountain pens feature semi-translucent bodies in dappled patterns aptly named Earth, Water and Fire. The Duraflex Elements are an extension of the popular Duragraph line. I got a deal on the pen at $39, it is discontinued by Conklin and available at most online pen dealers for $56. Of the different elements I though the “Fire” model was the most attractive. Considering the price I paid, this pen qualifies as a budget friendly pen.

My Pen

The pen ships in a clamshell box with an outer cardboard sheath brightly colored based on the “element” and printed with the Conklin Duraflex Elements label. The box itself has a cream faux suede interior, plus 2 ink cartridges and a converter.

First Impressions

I opened the box and was immediately struck by the color, it is as impressive as I hoped. The pen is partially translucent because of the dappled finish on a clear resin. The cap is removed with two quick twist (one complete rotation), revealing a stainless Omniflex nib, a plastic feed… wait the nib has wings? The pen feels good in hand, there is a pleasant balance without posting the cap. Capped, the pen measures 140mm, 13mm across the barrel and tips the scale at 24g (0.85 oz) with an empty converter.

The pen trim is chrome with a simple tear drop cap clip. The cap ring is engraved with “Conklin” on one side and “Duraflex” with moon shapes on the other. The barrel is etched with the collection name “Duraflex,” “Limited Edition” and “1505 of 1898.” Indicating I have pen 1505 out of the 1898 they produced.

Performance

Time to ink up the pen with Waterman Serenity Blue ink and see how well it writes. It started writing immediately, better first impression than with the All American. The nib is stiff, but writes smooth otherwise. I was unable to get the line variation expected with a flex nib.

Then I began noticing the ink bleeding on the paper. I know it is not quality paper but none of the other nibs, Fine, Medium or otherwise have bled on this paper. The ink flow is out of control.

Well . . . I would beg to differ, as mentioned this nib is stiff. Getting any flex out of it requires a good amount of pressure contradicting the Omniflex literature. That said, all I’ve gotten so far is too much ink.

Opinion

As Captain Lee would say, “Once is an accident and twice is a pattern.” Conklin disappoints me yet again. I really like the pen but hate how it writes. I’ve read other reviews involving Conklin Omniflex nibs and I’m not the only person with the same issues. Some reviewers replaced their Omniflex nibs with standard Conklin nibs as the solution to the problem.

If you like this pen or it’s cousin the Duragraph, make sure you DO NOT choose an Omniflex nib.

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Posted in Pens, Stories

Vintage Trendsetting Pens, the original “Influencers”

I was reading a blog the other day by Deb Gibson (of Goodwriterspens) where she was musing about pens that she thought were the primary influencers impacting the direction fountain pen appearance has taken over the years. I was considering a posting about the history of fountain pens and felt her blog was far more interesting and considered “reblogging” it. In her humble opinion, the following are the biggest influencers:

  • Parker Duofold
  • Sheaffer Balanced
  • Parker 51

I’m not going to go into great depth summarizing her thoughts, she does such a great job. I invite you all to read her blog; however, I would venture the Conklin Crescent should be on the list, replacing the Sheaffer Balance. But more on this later.

The Sheaffer Balanced, I’ll be honest I don’t know much about this pen, I honestly don’t like it, though Walt Disney was a big fan. It’s claim to fame is the torpedo shape and there are plenty of contemporary pens with the same shape.

I absolutely agree with her choice of the Duofold, clearly a landmark design and development. Many a contemporary pen is designed with the Duofold in mind. The Parker 51, I can see that as well. It’s influence is less pervasive because it came into being when the ballpoint pens were coming of age, but I feel the design impacted the appearance of all “clicker” ball point pens.

Missing from the list is the Conklin Crescent, why you may ask? I am getting a little off topic by adding this pen based on it’s self filling mechanism which impacted it’s appearance.

The Conklin Crescent is renowned for two firsts 1) first mass-produced self-filling pen and 2) the first mass-produced pen to use a flexible rubber ink sac. The crescent filling system employs an arch-shaped crescent attached to a rigid metal pressure bar, with the crescent portion protruding from the pen through a slot and the pressure bar inside the barrel. Which in turn compressed the internal rubber sac, creating a vacuum to force ink into the pen.

The crescent filling system is the basis for the Sheaffer introduction of the lever filling system in 1912, and the subsequent Parker button filler system. Clearly the pressure bar, and ink sac self filling system introduced by the crescent filling system became the primary direction of fountain pens for the next 60 years. In order to accomplish this, pen manufactures had to incorporate self fill levers, which petruded from a slot cut into the barrel – like the Crescent fill. Or they introduced a button under a blind cap which depressed a pressure bar. I know it is a stretch but it’s just my opinion which is the reason for the post.

So I ask, what are your thoughts? Do you agree, disagree, what pens do you think made a significant impact to fountain pen appearance over the years?

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Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Conklin “All American” – yeah right

I decided to add some variety into my collection and acquired some contemporary pens. As I didn’t want to simply invest in good quality expensive pens, I thought I’d make things interesting and challenge myself to find budget friendly decent pens. Today I present the first in that group. It has a MSRP of $95, generally retails for $76 but I got it for less than half that price, at a mere $35.

The Company

The Conklin company was established in 1898, and. Came to prominence when Mark Twain began his relationship with them in 1903, becoming their spokesman. During the Great Depression, Conklin launched a collection that was priced to be affordable to the public – The All American. This collection was offered in a variety of sizes, filling mechanisms, and finishes.

Fast forward to today, inspired by the original depression era models, Conklin has developed a new All American collection. These pens are crafted from handmade European high-grade resin, but it is named “All American!” OK, well anyway, I picked one up at a significant discount in the Yellowstone resin. The modern Conklin Company is part of the Yafa Brands group, having been revived in 2009.

The Pen

The first impression was OMG this is a “fluffy” pen (we don’t use the adjective “fat” in this family, we don’t want anyone or thing to develop a complex). It is by far the fluffiest pen I have. The Conklin website doesn’t provide dimension so I will. Capped the pen is 5-5/8” (142mm) long and the barrel has a 5/8” (16mm) diameter. Did I mention it is a heifer, weighing in at 31g. As for the overall appearance it is a BEAutiful pen. The pen has decent weight to it, which feels good in my hand but posting the cap on the end makes it feel very awkward. Overall the pen feels solid like a quality product, but damn it is fluffy.

Oh and did I mention the walls of the pen barrel are a whopping +3mm thick.

I can’t stress how BIG this pen is. Now I have short stubby fingers so this is NOT the pen for me or anyone with small or dainty hands. I know sounds like I just contradicted myself.

The pen included an ink converter which screws into place. A feature I really like. It sports a German made JoWo #6 steel nib, they also offer an option to choose the JoWo Omniflex steel nib. Did I mention the pen is called the “All American?”

(L-R) Phileas, All American, Meisterstuck, Hemisphere

Performance

Let’s take it for a jot. Got out my bottle of Waterman’s Serenity Blue – the general purpose ink of choice. In went the nib, down to the section and I gave the converter a twist, expecting to hear it bubbling as the plunger descended but nothing. This is odd, I reversed the plunger and no ink. Hmmmmm. Did this three times, same result. So I got out two backup converters and got the same result. Are you F@&$ing kidding me? The damn thing won’t ink up. To say I am annoyed is an understatement. I know I normally focus on vintage pens with ink sacs but I used converts in my Hemispheres and Phileas for over a decade so I know how they work.

I hate to admit defeat so after pouting for a couple days I took the nib and feed out of the section. Eyeballed each for defects then put it back together. Tried to ink up the pen again and SUCCESS it took ink. The nib is stiff, not an Omniflex. I’ll let you know if it leaks.

Opinion

There are many comments in the FPN forums bashing Yafa Brands and retelling horror stories about their support. I chose to ignored the “negative Nancy’s” and learned the hard way. Sorry to say this pen is not the pen for me. I know lots of people prefer fluffy pens, sorry they are not for me.

If you have had a different experience or a strong opinion about Yafa Brands or if you are interested in buying a fluffy pen. I’d love to hear about it – don’t be shy.

Revision/Update

After using this pen exclusively for a month it has grown on me. Still feels like I am writing with a cucumber but I’ve grown to appreciate the feel for the nib. It is doing a fine job on cheap paper, I also used it to create a sketch in a 100 gsm art book with textured paper. The difference in nib performance between the cheap smooth paper and the more textured sketch book paper was significant. Cant say I will use it for sketching any time soon. Back to the update, overall I am pleased with the pen, the size is still an issue but that is lessening with each passing day.

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