An admiring look at the Italix Captain’s Commission fountain pen.

I have a soft spot for pens with shiny chrome caps. This one is particularly handsome and comes from Mr Pen, an online pen maker and seller, based in Ruislip, on the outskirts of North West London (web site:

The Italix Captain’s Commission

Mr Pen is the trading name of P J Ford & Associates Ltd. As well as selling pens of many  well-known brands, the firm also has its own brand, “Italix”,  manufactured in England, Germany and the Far East. As the guarantee states, all Italix pens are hand finished in the UK. The nibs are ground in their own workshops in Ruislip.

As I grew up in Ickenham, less than two miles from Ruislip, it feels nice to deal with a local company, which provides a high quality personal service, even though Italix pens are now known the world over. The Italix Parson’s Essential is very well-regarded and was one of the first pens that I bought online, when my interest in fountain pens began to expand into the world of the internet.

Appearance and design.

The Captain’s Commission, from the same stable as the Parson’s Essential, is a larger pen and quite heavy, with a brass barrel and cap. The barrel is finished in glossy black lacquer, whilst the cap has shiny chrome plating with a very attractive guilloche pattern and a black domed finial. A burgundy version is also available.

The Italix Captain’s Commission, with the smaller Parson’s Essential above.

An unusual feature is that the pen when capped, tapers gently down from the top to the bottom, with the cap fitting perfectly flush with the barrel, to create a very smooth and elegant piece, rather suggestive of a silver topped walking cane. The pocket clip is firm and springy and should secure the pen in a jacket pocket, against the hazards of being pulled out accidently with other items (as I did recently with another pen, sending it scuttling across the floor of a busy airport terminal).

Lovely detail in the cap.

Uncapping the pen was a surprise.  First, what looks like a cap band with the Italix name, is actually fixed to the barrel and so the cap separates above it. Secondly, there was an uncommonly smooth, cushioned feel to the uncapping. I think that this may be in part due to what appear to be, two rubber O rings on the inside of the cap. In any event, the cap unscrews very smoothly, although the cap needs about three and half full revolutions (or about five twists) before coming away from the threads. Some might have issues with this but I do not mind it at all. It adds to the feeling of handling a well made, good quality writing instrument. The cap does tighten with reassuring bite. However you do need to take care at first, not to put the cap on cross-threaded.

There seems to be no risk of inadvertently unscrewing the barrel  when you think you are unscrewing the cap, as can happen with some pens. The threads to unscrew the section, are on the underside of the threads which unscrew the cap; so you would have to remove the cap first, otherwise you could not anchor the nib and section while unscrewing the barrel.

Beneath the cap, is an impressive, large (size six) nib with attractive scroll work and the Italix brand name.

Size 6 F nib, ground to Italic Fine by Mr Pen.

A Schmidt converter was included although the pen also takes standard international cartridges.

Schmidt converter included. The nib and feed are friction fit.

Nib and performance.

Mr Pen offers a huge choice of nib options, (I think, 27), mostly steel but with one gold option. I chose the steel Italic Fine, having a width of approximately 0.85mm. I hoped that this might suit me better than a 1.1mm stub, given that my handwriting is not large and I have to be careful to avoid filling in all the loops when I use a broader nib. I was a little apprehensive that an italic nib would have sharp edges and dig into paper unless handled very carefully, whereas cursive, or stub options have more rounded edges. An hour or so after putting in my order online, I telephoned Mr Pen and spoke to proprietor Peter Ford who gave me further advice about the nib choices. By this time, my order had already been packed and franked ready for dispatch! However, he offers a nib exchange within 30 days and so there is no need to worry if you do change your mind.

My pen arrived in the post the following day.  I need not have worried about my nib choice. This was my first ever custom grind nib. The only previous experience that I had with italic nibs was on cheap calligraphy sets, where the nibs do have sharp edges that can dig into the paper unless held at a very  precise and consistent angle.

With gift box.

There were no such problems with the Captain’s Commission. I flushed it first with water before filling with my usual Conway Stewart Tavy, blue-black ink. Putting pen to paper for the first time, was a delight and has been ever since. It was smooth from the word go, firm but with a decent flow which allowed me to write in my left-handed, overhand, slanting handwriting and still have a smooth writing experience, with suitable paper.

From the hymn book. The words seemed appropriate.

I mention this as being left handed and writing the way I do, sometimes means a drier writing experience, as the pen is doing more pushing upwards and sideways, than down strokes where more ink is released. To cater for this, I have also developed an “elbows in”, upright style of writing too, but find it harder to write neatly in this way.

From West Side Story.

Size and Weight (approximate).

The pen is 145mm long capped, 131mm when opened or 160mm when posted. It weighs around 53 grams in all (including converter and ink) or 28g uncapped. The cap weighs around 24.5 grams, by my scales.

The cap can be posted securely. (The rubber O rings inside the cap keep the cap from slipping off when posted and also protect the lacquer, I presume). However, in practice I would envisage the cap only being posted for ceremonial purposes or photo shoots. It adds a lot of weight to the back end and causes imbalance, unless you hold the pen quite high up. So in general, you have an uncapped pen of 131mm and 28 grams, which is very nice indeed.

Conclusions and value.

I have been using the pen for just a week now and have been thrilled with it. It looks stunning, feels weighty and substantial and writes among the best of steel nibs that I have experienced. I have had no hard starts. The writing experience will differ depending upon inks and papers chosen, as with any pen, but I have already found some winning combinations.

The cost (including the ground italic fine nib) with post and packaging and vat came to £57.22. My delight at the pen has been far in excess of what this price might warrant. For comparisons, there are many steel nibbed pens such as the Cross Bailey or Sheaffer 300  but none that I can readily think of, certainly at this price, which has the elegance and vast choice of ground nibs as the Captain’s Commission.

Now, who shall I write to?



Wanted: an identity for this pen.

This fountain pen was one of my lucky finds at the London Pen Show, in October 2017. Unfortunately I cannot tell you what it is called, since the pen, the nib and the packaging are devoid of any branding. I have been calling it “my Mystery pen”. I hope that someone reading this might recognise the make or model and let me know by commenting on this post. Meanwhile, if you want one, all I can suggest is that you come to the London UK Pen Show next time and hopefully the seller might be there again. I hope so, as I would like to buy another one.

Construction and appearance

This is a large, cartridge/converter/eye-dropper pen, with a suitably large stainless steel nib, in a plastic body. It has a clear demonstrator barrel, with a distinctive bullet shaped end cap in an attractive, marbled blue and black. The grip section is of the same blue and black pattern. The cap is black, but with a rounded finial also in the blue and black. Other colours were available.

Uncapped and inked for action.

The cap screws on and off in two twists. There is a sprung inner-cap (like on a Platinum 3776 Century) and so as you cap and uncap the pen, you feel the resistance of the spring inside.

There is a sturdy, metal pocket clip, a shiny chrome cap band (no branding) and one chrome ring separating the clear part of the barrel from the end cap. Presumably, there was intended to be some branding on the cap band.

The packaging consisted of a black cardboard tray, with a foam insert with cutaways for the pen and a syringe for eye-dropper filling, in a black cardboard sleeve. There was a page of instructions for each of the filling options, but again with no brand name or address.

Mystery pen in box with syringe for eye-dropper filling.

The syringe did have a brand name, Terumo, which seems to be a medical supplier and nothing to do with pens.

Nib and filling mechanism

The nib is stainless steel, and looks like a size 6. There is some scroll work on it and the letter M for medium, but a smooth empty space in the middle, where presumably a brand name was to be inserted.

The plastic feed and the nib are friction fit and can be pulled out for cleaning or adjustment.

The pen came with a converter but also accepts standard international cartridges, or can be eye-dropper filled.

Disassembled. Nib and feed are friction fit.

Size and weight

The beauty of this pen is its generous size making for a very comfortable writing experience and no need to post the cap. Sizes and weights are approximate.

Length closed: 151mm (6″)

Length open: 140mm (5 1/2″)

Length posted: 174mm (6 9/10″)

Weight closed/posted: 25g

Weight uncapped: 15g

Weight of cap only: 10g.

My favourite figure above is the length open, 140mm. What a treat. I am happy with 130mm (a Lamy Safari) but this is even nicer, even allowing for tapering of the end cap.

Making the Lamy Vista look small.

Likes and Dislikes

Since I bought the pen, it has remained inked, mostly with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue but more recently with Conway Stewart Tavy, by Diamine. There is such a lot to like about this pen and here are a few points, in no particular order:

  • nib writes smoothly with no effort at all (I even wrote “dreamtouch” in my ink journal, in a nod to the vastly more expensive Visconti);
  • very comfortable to hold and grip, leading to neater writing;
  • a great size for me, especially that 140mm unposted length;
  • sprung inner cap. I have not had any problems of hard starts;
  • screw cap, rather than push on;
  • excellent value; I paid £30.00 for it.
  • a good low-cost way to test whether you like this size of pen, before buying a more costly one.
  • Smooth and tactile.

As for dislikes, there are none to speak of, really. I just wish I knew who made it and what model it is.

Writing sample, with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue on a Paperchase notebook. Words from Shakespeare, Sonnet 27.


As you can tell, I am very pleased with this pen. I enjoy writing with it. I have so far used it only with the supplied converter and have not tried to eye-dropper it. I imagine it would hold a vast amount of ink. I have no real need to do that. Using the pen, especially with the lovely Cobalt ink, I noticed that my usually rushed handwriting looked a little more tidy and legible (what I might call the Pelikan effect), from slowing down and writing a little more carefully and deliberately. And that has got to be a good thing. I will be on the look-out for one or two more of these in other colours, if I get the chance.

Medium nib, gives some shading with Tavy ink.

A look at the Faber-Castell E-motion fountain pen.

On a day of beautiful autumn sunshine in September 2015, I went into central London to look in a few pen shops. I bought a bottle of Waterman Harmonious Green ink at Pen Friend in the Burlington Arcade, before going into Fortnum & Mason to visit their fountain pen department.

As I hovered over the displays, the sales assistant Robert asked “What’s caught your eye?” I had found the Faber-Castells and was rather taken with the  striking looks of the E-motion, with its combination of natural wood and shiny metal.  A delivery had just come in and he went to find one in the dark Pearwood finish. I preferred this to the lighter brown version or the all black “stealth” model. After trying the pen on a pad of Graf von Faber-Castell paper, I bought one. It was rather an impulsive buy and at £87.99 was one of the more expensive pens that I had bought.

Faber-Castell E-motion fountain pen.

I was delighted with my choice. Before leaving the shop, with my pen and a much appreciated complimentary Graf von Faber-Castell note pad, in a distinctive Fortnum and Mason carrier bag, I went to ink the pen with my new Harmonious Green, then went to the Royal Academy across the road, to try it out.

First inking. Waterman Harmonious Green.

In the years that followed, it has been a pen for which I have mixed emotions. I have bought four more Faber-Castell fountain pens (an Ambition, two school pens and a Loom) and have always found their stainless steel nibs, even on the entry-level school pens, to be very pleasing. The Ambition, E-motion and Loom share the same nib unit. Today I will look back at the E-motion, my first foray into Faber-Castell fountain pens.

Construction and Appearance

This is a metal pen, rather short and tapering at each end, with a large, heavy, shiny polished metal cap. There is a smooth, curved pocket clip, which is sprung and can be operated one-handed.  The cap is tastefully embellished with the Faber-Castell name and logo and the words “since 1761”.

Cap detail.

Removing the screw cap, in two short twists, you have the nib and section in shiny steel. There is also a tapered finial (perhaps nugget or lump of metal would be a better description) in shiny polished steel at the end of the barrel. The main part of the barrel is very attractively finished with a layer of dark brown Pearwood, with its beautiful, natural dark wood grain and patina. There is no discernible join around the wood and so I suppose it to be a carefully drilled tube of wood, slid over the metal barrel, before the end finial is put in place. Correct me if I am wrong.

The barrel unscrews to reveal metal threads on both the section and inside of the barrel. Everything fits together very well and gives an impression of sturdiness and good quality. A converter was included with my pen but it also takes standard international cartridges.

With Faber-Castell converter.

The Nib

This is stainless steel, in an attractive shape and finish. There is no breather hole, but the nib features a pattern of dimples, which are subtle yet catch the light sometimes in a most pleasing way. My nib is a medium, but writes on the fine side of medium, which suits me. I later discovered that the nib and feed unit can be easily unscrewed from the section and that the nibs are interchangeable with those of the Ambition or Loom.

That nib though. 🙂

Dimensions and weights

Length closed: 138mm

Length opened: 117mm

Length posted: 148mm

Weight capped or posted: 53g

Weight uncapped: 31g

Weight of cap: 22g.

DSCN1622 (2)
Faber-Castell E-motion, below a Lamy Safari, (the standard unit of pen measurement).

Handling and performance

The pen writes very well. The tines were level, the tipping material was symmetrical, and the ink flow on all the papers I tried, was just right, neither too dry nor too wet. The nib gives a smooth writing experience, but not overly so; there is enough tooth for the pen to cope with smoother paper and to give a pleasant degree of feedback. Of all the stainless steel nibs that I have used, I would say that these have been consistently among the best. It also provides good “cap-off” time, remaining ready to write even if the pen is left uncapped for a few minutes.

On the downside, for my hands, the pen is just too short to use comfortably unposted. If I were to use it unposted, I would try to grip it low down around the section, but this does not work for me because the shiny metal section is slippery to hold and cannot be gripped steadily.

The cap can be posted (although it needs a hard push and a twist – with a worry of cracking the inner cap or marking the lovely wood covered barrel) and whilst this solves the length problem, this makes for a very heavy pen. You are carrying the full 53 grams as you write.


I do like to be flexible and accommodating to my pens, to allow for their idiosyncrasies and to celebrate their diversity. In the case of the E-motion, I found that the best way to use it was to post a light weight cap from another pen. This means the pen is probably confined to home use, but I have used this method to good effect on at least three pens now  (the E-motion, the Faber-Castell Ambition and the Bic Easy-Click). You might have to rummage around to find the best match of size, weight (and even colour if you are lucky) and try several tops before you find the best fit.

DSCN1623 (2)
Not you Scary. I said try several tops.

It is a good idea to keep some pen tops when roller balls or marker pens such as the Sharpie run out, for this very reason. For the E-motion or the Bic Easy-Click, the Lamy Safari caps work well.  For the Faber-Castell Ambition, I use a Sharpie cap. Obviously it looks unfashionable and eccentric, but it is better than leaving the pen unfilled and unfulfilled.

I find that when I post a Safari cap on the E-motion, I naturally grip the pen higher up and around the warm wooden barrel with only my second finger used as a rest for the metal section. Consequently there is no issue of the section being slippery to hold. And the pen is not too heavy or too short, although still on the heavy side. Length with a Safari cap posted is a comfortable 152mm and the Safari cap weighs just 8.5g as opposed to the E-motion’s hefty 22g.

E-motion with a cap from a Safari posted. It posts well to add length without adding much weight.

So this, for me, was the way to deal with my E-motions. YMMV. It is an attractive and good quality pen and it is worth persevering to make use of the excellent nib.