Affordable fountain pens with flex for drawing- A review of the FPR Dilli and Noodler's Konrad

Most fountain pen reviews out there are for people who want to write with them. And it's hard to judge whether a fountain pen is good for drawing from those reviews because writing with a fountain pen and drawing with it are something very different from each other. Especially when it comes to fountain pens with flexible nibs. From my own experience using fountain pens, a super flexible nib that writes beautiful lettering may not necessarily feel and behave like an artist's flexible dip pen nib when you draw with it. A super flexible nib can be too soft that you don't have enough control when drawing lines with it. A good flexible drawing nib needs to be flexible and yet have a certain level of firmness or spring to it.

Most good flexible fountain pens are usually very expensive ($300+) or vintage, which are also expensive. But sometimes we artists do not want an expensive pen for worry that we might drop it while sketching outdoors or ruining the fine finishing with ink/paint-stained fingers. Sometimes what we really need is an inexpensive fountain pen with flex that we feel comfortable tossing into our bag together with our art tools and watercolours. If you are such an artist, I've narrowed it down to two pretty good options for you to consider. They are flexible and yet have a certain level of firmness/spring to them. There are very recent additions to the fountain pen world and I will do a comparison for you:

The FPR Dilli flex nib fountain pen- US$18+ flat worldwide US$2 shipping
Noodler's Konrad flex nib fountain pen- US$20 + regular shipping charges.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

Aesthetics
I think most artist care more about the function rather than the aesthetics of a pen but we will start with this anyways. The Konrad seems a little more well-made. The design and finishing of the materials used look a little more classy. The Dilli looks a little cheaper (it is) and the finishing has some rough edges to it. But the Konrad (like it's relative, the Ahab) is smelly due to the resin it is made with. But the smell wears off after (quite some) time. There are low-cost pens so don't expect too much in the aesthetics department.

FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

Filling mechanism
Both of these are piston fillers. That means you twist the end to move a pump inside to pump ink into the pen. These pens can hold a good amount of ink. More than you will probably be able to use up in one sketch session. Please note that for the Dilli, the pump section cannot be dismantled. Stop twisting it when it reaches the end or they will break! From the instruction manual, it looks like the Konrad's pump can be dismantled. But please consult the manual or any online tutorials on this before dismantling. In any case, there should be very little reason for you to dismantle it.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

How easily do they flex?
Do note that they will NOT compare with a dip pen nib's flexibility. If a hunt 101 nib is a 10 on a 1-10 scale, Both these pens will maybe be a 4-5 on the same scale. Which is easier to flex? Maybe the Konrad. But the difference is so little, it could be my imagination.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

How wide do they flex?
The widest they flex (with delierate maximum pressure) is around 1.5mm-2mm. When it comes to drawing, line variation usually shows up less obviously then when you are writing. So expect a maximum line variation range to be 0.3mm - 1mm when you are drawing at normal speeds and a natural level of pressure. Still this can look pretty good. And it is a decent alternative when you are out at a cafe and don't want to carry around a dip pen and bottle of ink with you.

Konrad drawing samples:
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

Dilli drawing samples:
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

How do you flex a flex pen?
When you draw or write with it, place your index finger on top of the pen. When you want to flex it, just press down.
When it comes to flex lettering, press down only on the downstrokes. That will take practice.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

How well does the ink flow?
The Konrad has a wetter flow. That means that ink pours out more generously from it. There are pros and cons to this.
Pro- This makes the pen glide more smoothly across the paper with the ink acting as a lubricant. It feels great for fast sketching. |
Con- After flexing at maximum width, the lines take a little more time to get back to the thinnest line when you are not adding pressure because ink is still flooding out.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

The Dilli's flow isn't as wet.
Pro- you get more control over the line variation. The lines switch quickly from thin to thick to thin again depending on your pressure.
Con - with less ink flowing out, the pen has less lubrication. It will also railroad easier if you flex it to the maximum constantly and quickly. But if you only flex it to the max only now and then, it should be fine.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
Note: For comparison I've put the same Pelikan black ink in both these pens.

How smooth are the nibs?
Both the pens have equally and remarkably smooth steel nibs. They are not scratchy like dip pen nibs. No scrtch scrtch sounds when you draw. That is because these pens have a ball tip at the end of their nibs. That means that you can move your pen in any direction and it will not catch the paper. Even watercolour paper. And that is an advantage over some dip pen nibs with sharp pointed tips. And it is perfect for the contour drawing technique (where you draw and not lift up your pen).

Which has better balance and feels better when drawing with it?
I would say the Konrad has a nicer feel to it because the pen is broader. But Dilli is slimmer but it might appeal to people with smaller hands. I like holding the Konrad better because I have big hands. Balance-wise, I have no complaints. I put the cap on the back of the pens (called posting your pen) whenever I draw and I have no complaints about the balance of the pens. They are fine.

Can I put waterproof inks in them?
Like all fountain pens, you must NEVER put indian ink into them. Those will clog up your pen and kill it when it dries in the feed of the pen (the part attached to the nib). The only exception to that rule would be Calli ink by Daler Rowney. It is a non-clogging indian ink, so it says on the bottle. And it is really waterproof. As in, you can put washes over it and it will not even bleed. Take note that when a fountain pen ink bottle says "waterproof", it doesn't mean that it will not bleed when it touches water. It just means that it will not completely wash away. But it may bleed. Calli ink comes in black, brown, and other colors. It is debatable whether they will really clog in fountain pens. But I heard that some people do put this ink into high-end fountain pens without problems (so far).

I would recommend only putting Calli ink into pens that you can disassemble the nib and feed so you can wash it thoroughly if it happens to clog. Not all fountain pens can be disassembled for cleaning. But it so happens that the Konrad's feed and nib can be pulled out easily (by holding the nib and feed with a cloth and pulling straight out. It's friction fit.) The Dilli's nib and feed can be pulled out, so claims the manufacturer, Kevin. But I had trouble doing so and have not done so in fear that it would break. It's really tight. But Kevin, said that you could try holding the nib on its sides and carefully wriggling it out. I haven't had success with that yet.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

If you want to stay on the safe side, there are 100% waterproof fountain pen inks out there, but they are rather costly. There is Noodler's bulletproof black and Platinum Carbon Black. You won't need to worry about disassembling your pen for washing if you use these inks. But it is recommended that you wash them at least every 2 weeks. The ink I used for this review is Pelikan Brilliant Black, a semi-waterproof and inexpensive ink. It bleeds a little when you apply watercolour over it. But that can be a nice effect.
Konrad: FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
Dilli: FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

Do different inks behave differently in these pens?
Yes. Some inks will give you a thicker line and some will give you a finer line, depending on how easily the ink flows. Calli ink tends to give a slightly thicker line.

Do the pens railroad much?
Railroading is a fountain pen term which pens that the ink stops flowing when you are at maximum or wide flex mode. They only railroad when I keep flexing it to the max, like constantly. But realistically, when I'm drawing normally, I seldom need to do maximum flex constantly. More often than not, I only need a mid-flex width using natural pressure now and then. So when in normal drawing situations, it seldom railroads with these pens. Because the Konrad has a better flow, the Konrad railroads less often than the Dilli when I'm constantly flexing it to the max. Even high end pens might railroad if you constantly flex it to the max. Though if you have a high-end flex pen, it should not railroad as much or none at all. If you are a more advanced fountain pen user, and if you know how to, you can make your own adjustments to the feed to there is more flow and that should help with the railroading.

If the pen railroads all the time, it may be that the ink you use is too dry (doesn't flow as well) or the feed is not centralized with the nib, the pen is clogged, or lastly the pen is faulty. In which case, you can contact the seller and they will most likely entertain your request for an exchange.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

Bonus
Presently, when you buy the Dilli, it comes with a free pen ,the Serwex. The Serwex is a cheap, no frills, piston filling fountain pen with a decent fine nib. But if you pull the nib and feed out (quite easily) and replace the nib with a hero 86 or 501 nib (if you have one. It's a curved nib which is great for drawing), it works really well. The flow is great and you get more ink usage because it is a piston filling pen. And yes, you can put calli ink into that because you can wash the nib and feed separately if it happens to clog.
FPR DIlli and Noodler's Konrad

The Konrad is designed to fit different nibs of the same size. If you have another fountain pen nib (vintage or modern), and they are of the same size as the Konrad nib, you can use it in the Konrad. This looks like it is for more experienced fountain pen users, though. Here is how: http://fpgeeks.com/2012/11/learn-how-to-adjust-the-noodlers-konrad-from-...

Which do I prefer better?
It depends on my mood. If I feel like a quick fast drawing, I'd reach for the Konrad. If I want a slower paced, more detailed drawing, I'll take the dilli. But I like that both these pens are low-cost, worry-free pens that I can throw in my bag or clipped to my sketchbook when I'm out of the house. And they do flex well enough for me.

You can purchase the Noodler's Flex Nib fountain pen in a variety of colours on www.amazon.com

And the Dilli can only be purchased at the Fountain Pen Revolution site: http://www.fountainpenrevolution.com/fpr_collection.html

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