Cross Century II, black lacquer and chrome

wp-1480514661650.jpgI have not always been very lucky with Cross pens. I find that the nibs can be a bit hit and miss. Some years ago I bought the Apogee, in black, thinking that it would be “the one”, the lifetime companion. Perhaps this was unrealistic, but I became a bit irritated by the amount of sideways play in the sprung clip. Then when unscrewing the barrel, instead of the barrel coming off, the collar of the section rotated loosely instead. Finally, it suffered from “ink starvation” and would not make it to the end of a page. I gave up. I know that they have a lifetime guarantee but I didn’t bother and just wrote with something else.

I have the Aventura (black again) which came with a wonderful steel medium nib – the sort that just works beautifully without any aggravation within seconds of having a cartridge inserted. But for me, I was not a fan of the chrome finish grip section nor the oddly and pointlessly truncated design of the barrel end, which put me in mind of a passport that has expired and had a corner cut off.

I have since had a nice Bailey, also in black, which I prefer although I had to work on the nib a bit at first, to get a wetter, more lubricated flow. The thick steel nibs are difficult to bend. If anything, it is a little too wet now, but good for more challenging surfaces such as thick sketch book paper.

I had seen the Cross Century II on special offer a few times, in a set with a ball-point pen, in matching black lacquer and chrome outfits. I had handled the fountain pen but initially been put off by the thin section.

However, when I saw a fountain pen for sale on its own recently, in gleaming black lacquer with chrome cap, I gave in and bought one. Certainly the metal cap, with fine guilloche scrollwork is very appealing, especially under the spot lamps in a shop display case. Then the medium nib, in stainless steel but long and slender, again with fancy scrollwork is also very attractive.


Yes, the section is narrow, although it has ridges to help with grip and it is of a resin or plastic material and not slippery chrome. The Century II has a wider section than the Century classic.

Examining the section more closely, I was very surprised to find that it is actually translucent, with a dark blue tint, when seen with an illuminated x7 loupe (as you do).

One great thing, for me at least, with Cross pens is that the date of production is stamped on the metal ring, where the cartridge goes. Mine, although purchased in November 2016, bore the date 0415. I love it when pens are dated.

The cap is a pull-off type, and with a good firm grip, but without being too hard to remove, (as I found with a Bailey Medallist rendering it almost unusable). Having a secure cap is great for an EDC pen, so it won’t come loose in your jacket pocket. The cap also seals the nib well and I have had no problems with hard starts.

The pen measures 123mm open, which even for my medium to large hands, is ok to use without posting, but I do prefer to post for the extra length, weight and sheer beauty of the combination of black lacquer and chrome. The cap posts nice and deep and grips the barrel well and gives an overall length of 155mm.

Another plus, is the fact that it takes the screw-fit type of Cross Converter, which fits very snugly and securely into the section. At present mine is filled with Parker Quink, black ink, which although has been hanging around the house for several years, still performs beautifully in the Century II with a nice dark line, wet flow, good lubrication but not too slow a drying time and a little bit of shading.

But perhaps best of all, as I am noticing as I become more discerning in my fountain pen journey, is the lovely feedback from the nib. This is hard to put into words. It is smooth, but it delivers a lovely sensation of nib-on-paper as you write, a faint sound, not a scratchy sound but a gentle play of well-designed metal on the page. This is what fountain pen use is all about and is what sets the fountain pen apart from a ball point pen – this effortless gliding of pen on paper and the glossy trail of freshly laid ink in its wake.

The pen is a joy both to use and to look at. It is smart enough for business use without being showy but dainty and elegant for social use too. Perhaps the narrow section might not be well suited to lengthy writing sessions for people with larger hands and I have yet to put this to the test. But there is something about the narrow section and slender barrel which creates a feeling of using a precision instrument.

Rumour has it that HM The Queen uses a Cross Century.

Perhaps this could be “the one”.





Campo Marzio Acropolis fountain pen

If you find yourself in the vicinity of London’s Piccadilly and feel like a pen prowl, then there are several establishments along the way that can all be visited within an hour or so.

Beginning at Piccadilly Circus and heading westwards along Piccadilly, you soon come to Paperchase, a bright and inviting store full of stationery. There are greeting cards, novelty gifts and a huge selection of notebooks to cater for all ages and tastes. As for fountain pens, there are racks of Lamy Safaris and a few others but head to the back and you find a large glass display counter, with fountain pens including Cross, Kaweco, Faber Castell, Lamy, Tombow and Waterman.

Continue along Piccadilly a little further and you will reach Fortnum & Mason, an elegant and prestigious department store where the staff still wear morning suits. The Stationery department is up the stairs on the first floor. On a recent visit I found that the display counters had been re-arranged from one side, out to form an island in the middle so that you can walk all round them. It is a good place to see luxury pens from Yard-O-Led, such as the Viceroy Grand in Sterling Silver. Also you will find some Visconti Rembrandts and Homo Sapiens and Cross pens as well as calligraphy pen sets and leather covered note books. I once bought a Faber Castell E-motion in dark pearwood here and was delighted to be given two of their test pads of Faber Castell paper and then went to find the mens’ room where I could fill it up from a newly purchased bottle of Waterman Harmonious Green.

After Fortnum & Mason, head into the Burlington Arcade on the north side, to the far end where you find the delightful shop Penfriend.


The shop is one of the few places I know where you can find the Japanese Sailor pens in London and also many vintage pens and a good choice of inks.

Finally, back on Piccadilly, do not miss Campo Marzio, a small Italian shop selling their own brand of competitively-priced modern pens starting from just over £20 and up to around £80. The display is quite unique and eye-catching, with the fountain pens and ball pens and roller-balls each nestling horizontally in a felt-lined rack of little ledges, mounted on a wall, each section containing  models of the pen in each of the available colours.

On my last visit I chose a Campo Marzio Acropolis, a lovely cigar-shaped pen in dark blue marbled effect “Celluloide mix” (according to their web site) with black section and a large, (size 6) German-made stainless steel nib. The pen is a cartridge/converter filler, taking standard international cartridges. I had already purchased the Ambassador in marbled brown, which is similar but larger but using the same large nibs.

One advantage of these pens is that the entire nib unit can be unscrewed from the section for disassembly and cleaning, making it easy to flush the nib and feed if changing inks. You unscrew the unit from the section and are then left with a collar, housing the nib and feed. The nib is friction fit and so you then pull out the nib and feed together, using some grippy material. The shop sells these nib units separately (consisting of a nib, feed and collar) for only £5.00 and so it is well worth buying one or two spares in different widths as you can chose what you need, from a selection of silver and gold coloured nibs.


The packaging is a simple but attractive carboard tray in a sleeve, with a cut-out for a “bottle” of ink which in fact contains six cartridges. However the shop also sells converters and its own range of bottled ink in attractive retro-looking bottles with enticing names such as “Tobacco brown”.

Departing the shop, there are plenty of coffee shops nearby where you can ink your pen and try it out. Mine proved to be very pleasing, smooth and on the wet side but not overly so and I have put it into immediate use.

I like the look, size, and feel of the pen which is beautifully tactile. I prefer to write with the cap posted. My only slight niggle is that the screw-on cap does not post very deeply and perches on the barrel a little crookedly if you are not careful. I worry then about accidently forcing it onto the back of the barrel with too much force and cracking the cap but there are no signs of this happening so far and I will take care not to over-tighten it on the metal threads when capping the pen.

I mostly use bottled ink and the pen will take a converter but it is nice sometimes to have pens to use up one’s bags of standard cartridges and enjoy the convenience of easy refills if travelling.





Autograph Artist fountain pen review

Back in July, my family and I spent a very pleasant summer’s day visiting the Woburn Deer Park, in Bedfordshire.  The Woburn Estate includes Woburn Abbey and gardens, set within the 3,000 acre Deer Park, home to nine free-roaming species of deer. Woburn Abbey is the seat of the Duke of Bedford.

Before driving home to London, we stopped to take a look around Woburn village. There we found the Woburn China Shop and had a browse inside. Upstairs I was pleased to find a display of pens, each shown in its accompanying gift box. Closer inspection revealed that almost all were ballpoint pens but I found one unusual-shaped fountain pen, with the name “Autograph”. It was marked at £22.00 but with an unexpected 10% off, was mine for £19.79.

The pen is of metal construction, with a glossy black lacquer finish to cap and barrel and a shiny chrome section. The section has a distinctive pattern of engraved wavy lines giving the impression of diamond-shaped cross hatching, making this a very pretty pen.

The other unusual features are the bulge where the section meets the barrel and the gentle concave shape of the cap. The shape was reminiscent of a glass dip pen (shown above for comparison).

On the gift box, a sticker identified this as the AUTOGRAPH Artist Fountain Pen. On the pen itself, the name Autograph appears on the centre band and also on the converter. However the nib had the name DUKE and some attractive pattern with a crown logo. The twist converter has a small piece of coiled metal inside to act as an agitator.

Looking up Autograph pens online, I found that this is the brand name of Suchak & Suchak, a family firm with interesting beginnings as migrant entrepeneurs from Tanzania, started in 1986 and now specialising in the design, manufacture and distribution of quality writing instruments for the gift and stationery trade.

Their website announces with great regret that a fire in Perivale, on 4 July 2015, that engulfed some 20 properties, burnt theirs down to the ground and that they are in the process of relocating.

Looking online into the Duke name, I found that the pen is also known as a Duke 600 Lady, Duke being manufactured, on the Huangpu River, Shanghai, by Shanghai G Crown Fountain Pen Co Ltd and registered in Europe as Duke Pen Lux Germany GmbH. I read on FPN that Duke is one of the best quality Chinese pen brands.

Thus I am interested to discover that I have a Duke 600 Lady fountain pen, re-branded by Suchak & Suchak as an Autograph Artist.

I am happy to say, that the pen performs beautifully. The nib is a stainless steel medium, with very smooth and pleasant touch and an ideal not-too-wet-not-too-dry ink flow. It is always a joy when first filling a new pen, to discover that it writes perfectly straight out of the box.  The cap posts securely and the curve of the cap makes the pen very comfortable to hold. I filled mine with Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine, a lovely blue-black that I have been using a lot this year. Paired with a pad of Basildon Bond letter writing paper, you have the dream combination.

The pen measures 137mm closed, 120mm open and 144mm posted. The weight including converter is around 22g uncapped, or 34g when posted.

It is also a pleasing coincidence that the pen is secretly a Duke, as a reminder of a happy day in beautiful Woburn.







Noodler’s Ahab

What a fun pen this is. I had often read about the Noodler’s Ahab and its eyedropper filling capability but did not get my hands on one until visiting the London pen show in October. There was a good display of Noodler’s pens and inks, including the Ahab in various brightly coloured demonstrator options. Also there was a helpful display of writing samples of the inks in the range.
I was able to try an Ahab and was shown how to convert to eyedropper by removing the pump filler and rolling down the O ring so that it sealed the join between the barrel and the section instead of between the pump filler and section.
I was impressed by the unusual pump filler mechanism with its large capacity in which even the hollow tubular pump handle holds ink.
I decided upon a clear demonstrator Ahab and a bottle of Noodler’s Sequoia ink, an unusual olive green-black.
The pen came in a small, simple cardboard box with a helpful A4 sheet of information and pictures.
At home I was excited to fill the pen for the first time with the Sequoia. The writing experience was very pleasurable from the smooth, fine, flex nib, giving nice light and heavy shading. The only issue was that it tended to blob occasionally but I later learnt that this was easily avoided by releasing three to five drops after filling.
I am now on my sixth different ink within a month. After the Sequoia, I tried Mont Blanc Burgundy red, Diamine Pumpkin, Waterman Harmonious Green, Parker Quink Black and finally Omas Blue which I like the best, for the moment anyway. I do not remember ever before trying so many different inks in a pen, in such a short time.

The pen is such a joy to use that I pick it frequently and write just for the pleasure of it.

We do not see Noodler’s pens in the shops in the UK which is a pity as they would make a good alternative to the Lamy Safari or entry-level Parker pens and may even encourage more people to experience the joy of fountain pen writing.