Whenever I get the chance to travel, one of the joys is to visit the stationery shops and supermarkets to see whether they have anything different from the familiar range of fountain pens found in our local WH Smith, Rymans or Paperchase.
The hope is that I will discover a nice new pen, from a well known and respected brand, which writes like a dream, targeted at school students and costs very little.
Last week, without even travelling, I was browsing in a local Waterstones book store and was distracted by the sign for Stationery. There, among the greeting cards and notebooks, on a revolving stand, was a Faber-Castell Schulfüller School pen, for just £4.99, in a blister pack with a box of 6 Faber-Castell cartridges.
This looked to be a good find. The design was a basic, bright coloured plastic barrel and cap, a black rubberised section with two flat grip surfaces left and right of centre, (like a Lamy Safari), and an attractive-looking stainless steel nib. With 6 cartridges included, it was a no-brainer and it just remained for me to decide whether to go for blue or red. I chose blue. There was only one of each colour left on the rack and it seemed greedy to take them both.
On closer inspection, the packaging declared that the pen featured a tough stainless steel nib with iridium tip, a rubberised grip zone and was for right and left handers and had a tough plastic barrel with metal clip. The ink cartridges were made in Germany and the fountain pen made in Slovenia.
On first inking the pen, using one of the supplied cartridges, I was delighted when the pen wrote immediately with no shaking, squeezing or coaxing, very smoothly and with good flow. The Royal Blue ink is very pleasant having some shading when a little added pressure is applied to the nib.
I will not go overboard in describing what is a very simple and inexpensive pen. It measures around 133mm capped , 122mm opened and a very comfortable 150mm with cap posted. It takes standard international cartridges. A very useful feature is that there is room to carry a spare cartridge in the barrel so that you are unlikely to run out in a day. The barrel does not have an ink window. It does have some air vents at the base of the barrel as an anti-choking feature and so this is not suitable for converting to eye-dropper. You could however use a converter, for bottled ink although none is included.
For such an inexpensive pen, there is a lot to like. I was disproportionately pleased for my modest £4.99 outlay. I particularly liked the following:
- Respected, long-established German brand;
- Attractive stainless steel Medium nib, with dimple pattern (similar to the Faber-Castell emotion and Ambition range) and jousting knights logo;
- Writes smoothly with good flow and lubrication; nib is firm but can provide a little line variation with some pressure;
- Comfortable to hold either posted or unposted; light-weight cap posts well, without upsetting balance;
- Barrel has space for a spare cartridge;
- Secure, snap-on cap has a springy, metal pocket clip with Faber-Castell name in black letters (the correct way up for left handers like me, when posted);
- A white plastic inner cap to stop the nib from drying out;
- Good, practical and simple design; does not look like a child’s pen;
- Excellent value.
I could not find much to dislike, especially for the low price. I did notice that the nib and feed seem to point downwards, (like the droop-nose design of the Concorde when taking off and landing). In a photograph on a mobile phone camera, the distortion made this even more pronounced. It is not a concern as the pen writes very well. However I was curious to see whether this was just a one-off or whether this was by design. This was all the excuse I needed, to go back to buy the red one.
Well, the red one had the same nib droop as the blue. I was not quite so fortunate with the nib of the red pen at first, as the tines were not quite aligned, viewed with a loupe and there was a little bit of scratchiness in side strokes. This was easily remedied by a little gentle bending of tines until they were level. Thereafter the pen wrote smoothly, like my blue one.
I decided to put a red cartridge in the red pen. I had a bag of 50 standard international cartridges in assorted colours from Paperchase which had cost just £2.00, although they might be a bit more now.
I have not experienced any hard starts with either of the pens (although, admittedly, both have been in quite frequent use so far) and I think they make ideal pens for carrying around without worrying too much. In conclusion, these are very enjoyable pens to use and would make great gifts, if you can bear to part with them.