Review: Desiderata fountain pen with a G-nib (Matte Black Delrin 101-Z)

Update 17 March 2015: Part 2 with new conclusion on drawing with the pen.

Like many artists new to fountain pens, I asked the question “why doesn’t someone make a fountain pen that holds a dip nib?” Dip nibs are so flexible and great for drawing. But there was no such fountain pen out there. So I tried stuffing dip nibs into fountain pen and that usually didn't work. They wouldn’t fit or the ink wouldn't flow. Sure, there is the Ackerman pump pen. But really, that cannot be counted as a fountain pen because it uses a totally different mechanism from fountain pens and you need to keep pumping to get ink flowing.

Well, finally The Desiderata Pen company (Youtube channel) has stepped up to produce fountain pens that use existing Zebra G-nibs. G-nibs are popular among manga artists. They are disposeable but have a nice flex and are great for drawing. As an illustrator, I was excited to get one.

Here is how the Desiderata fountain pen looks. The company produce many models that are made of nice wood. But this one is made with some sort of plastic material. This was the Matte Black Delrin model. The plastic feels sturdy, not cheap. It has machine marks all around it. Some people might want a more finished product but I don't mind. It looks more raw and handcrafted that way. I could also polish it myself if I wanted. The metal bolt on the cap is to keep the pen from rolling off a table, I assume. Nice.

The threads are sharp and they screw into each other very well. Bits of material still hang off the edges of the threads but they work well and that is important! It keeps the pen capped tightly and the section tightly screwed into the barrel of the pen.

The cap can be posted. It fits very nicely into the back of the pen, which has been made thinner just to fit the cap. Very functional. The pen feels more balanced when posted, otherwise, it feels a little too light for me.

The nib and feed is friction fit into the section and they fit nice and snug. The pen does not leak when full of ink or when I bring it out and about.

The filling mechanism is a rubber sac much like vintage fountain pens except it is transparent. You have to use your fingers to pump ink into the pen with the nib submerged in ink. You won’t be able to fill the whole tube by pumping. But you can fill most of it.

Now for the most important part -How does it perform?

It takes a few starts for the ink to come to the tip of the nib. That's rather normal with dip nibs. Once the ink flows, it writes nice and wet. Take note that the G-nib has no iridium tipping like a standard fountain pen has. It can feel very sharp and scratchy on paper (depends on the paper). But that’s how most dip nibs are.

Writing test: Note that this writing sample was done immediately after pumping ink into the pen. So the nib and feed was full of ink. It wrote pretty well. There was just a few bits of skipping (ink stopped flowing) now and then as you can see. I wrote with a moderate speed. Not too fast or not purposely slow. This is the speed I write with all my flex fountain pens. The paper I used is a 160gsm sketchbook paper that takes most of my fountain pens. It bleeds on this paper because the ink is heavier with this pen. And it also scratches the paper as it writes. The ink I used was Pelikan Black.

Drawing test: Few seconds later, I did a drawing test. Moderate speed. It skipped a lot more. That was frustrating because when drawing, you don’t want to be interrupted.

I did another drawing: Moderate speeds. Some skipping occurred when I was doing fast flex lines.

3rd drawing test: A slowed down a bit. Not too bad. Ink seemed to flow ok this time.

4th drawing test: Moderate speed. Ink just stopped flowing for a big part of the picture. I had to wait about 30 seconds before ink started flowing again. It was frustrating.

I went back to a writing test again: It writes alright with just some skipping.

Some line test: Again, the ink stopped flowing after making some flexed lines. After waiting about 30 seconds, it would flow, and then skip some more and then flow. After I put more ink into the pen, filling the nib and feed again with ink, it worked ok again for awhile.

My conclusion: The pen does not have consistent ink flow. When used for writing, it performs better. But still, it skips every now and then. When used for drawing, it does not perform well. I can’t recommend this for artists. Drawing uses a lot of abrupt flex strokes in quick succession and the ink flow in this pen just can’t keep up continuously. It’s a pity I can’t use it for drawing, because a G-nib is great for that purpose. It does not perform consistently like a regular vintage flex fountain pen (e.g. Wahl Eversharp Skyline or Waterman 52)

Since the issue is about ink flow, I took the pen apart to study the feed. It’s made of ebonite - a good material for feeds. The Desiderata feed is just an ebonite rod with a simple channel cut into it for ink to flow. Nothing else! For comparison, I put it beside a feed from a vintage Wahl Eversharp Skyline, which is a flex pen that has great flow and doesn’t skip. So I’m comparing a flex pen vs flex pen feed.

There are quite a few features missing from the Desiderata's feed. The most obvious are the thin slits for ink the flow down the feed. To be fair, it’s not my place to say which part is made wrong or right. Only a proper pen expert can rightly say so. But I guessing that the inconsistent flow of the pen is due to the overly simple design of the feed.

All in all, I think the pen bodies Desiderata makes are good. They are have a lovely basic design and everything fits/screws into place very well. Not an easy task to make using a lathe. The pens are well made when it comes to that. I just hope that they will improve on their feed design very soon. Once that is fixed, it should be a big hit with artists. If it is not fixed, people who buy it will have to bear with the ink skipping every now and then. Therefore, I don't recommend the pens for artists just yet.

Desiderata Fountain Pen : PART 2 (NEW CONCLUSION!)

Pierre, the maker of the pen contacted me and asked if I had read the manual. I didn't! Because the manual was lost before Parka passed me the pen! So the frustration in the post above is a good example of what happens when someone DOES NOT read the manual before operating this pen. So although the pen works right out of the box, please read the manual before using this pen as urged upon by the maker of the pen. This is the manual:

So in the above review, I tried the pen right out of the box and it worked rather ok for writing but did not perform well enough for drawing. But, if I had read the manual, I would realise that the pen can be converted into an eyedropper, meaning that the barrel can be filled entirely with ink. What you do is simply pull out the rubber tube that usually holds the ink and also grease the threads with silicon grease so that the ink does not seep out the threads. (I think this is only for his pen made with certain materials other than wood. Mine was made with Delrin.)

With the entire barrel holding the ink, the ink flow (pressure?) is increased so that if you do abrupt continuous flex strokes when drawing, it does keep up! I've done 2 new drawing tests with the pen in eyedropper conversion mode below. It did skip a little, but I did notice that there WAS ink flowing down the nib, but not all the way. So the problem here was not the feed this time but the nib. This is usually caused by oil (from your fingers) or some dirt on the nib. Just remove the nib and wash it with soap. Or sometimes, the ink is just not flow-y enough. This is common with dip nibs. A more thorough set of cleaning instructions can be found in the manual.

So although the Desiderata feed doesn't quite imitate the design of a regular vintage fountain pen feed and it has an overly simple design, the bottomline is that it does seem to work. And that's what matters, right? So sorry, Pierre, for skipping on the manual and jumping to the conclusion that the pen does not work so well for drawing. With this eyedropper configuration, drawing with this pen is possible.

But having said that, there is some hassle in keeping the pen working well- such as cleaning the nib every now, making sure the tip has capillary flow, shaking it a little to start it, etc. So it still can't be compared to a regular vintage flex pen where it just writes and draws once the nib touches the paper. Read the manual to see the full maintenance tips for the Desiderata pen before deciding on this pen.

I've not tested it for prolonged use yet. And will update down the road to see if the ink flow does keep up for longer periods of drawing with the eyedropper configuration.

The price for this pen was US$50. Pierre, the man behind Desiderata makes limited batches of pen models at various prices depending on the materials he uses. So the pen body you see here may or may not be on sale on their website.



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