Those who know me or follow this blog may be aware that I am a fan of the Cross Bailey Light fountain pen. I posted some early thoughts on these inexpensive fountain pens, on 19 October 2019 soon after buying my first one.
I had bought the grey version, which had appealed to me most from the colours then available. In the following months I bought one of each of the other colours too, being royal blue, black, white, coral and turquoise (which they call teal).
My plan, you might have guessed, was to use them with different colour inks. I bought the optional Cross push-in converters with each one, except the black pen which I planned to use with my stock of Cross black cartridges. I used the white pen with Rohrer & Klingner Salix, iron gall ink.
I used the royal blue pen at work for a while, with Waterman Serenity blue. This is in many ways an ideal office tool, with its quick pull-off cap, comfortable body and smooth, firm nib. The girth of the pen is ideal for me. It is also long enough to use comfortably without posting the cap, but you can post the cap securely if you wish.
Sometimes it is not what a pen has, that makes it a success, but what it has not: in the case of Bailey Light, the grip area has no step, (a sharp-edged drop in diameter from barrel to section), no facets (such as the Lamy Safari) and no slippery metal to deprive you of grip and control.
Whilst soft, expressive nibs may be enjoyable for those who can use them well for beautiful leisurely calligraphy, I personally find the Bailey Light’s hard nib better for work, when I need something nicer than a ballpoint to sign a letter or make some notes. (As a left-hander, when I want line width variation, I use a stub nib, like the oblique broad on my Moonman S5 and not a flex nib).
I had no trouble using the Bailey Lights with the push-in type of Cross converter. A few people reported in the comments on my blog post, that they could not get the converter to go in. Their problem turned out to be easily remedied: they had not realised that there was already a cartridge wedged in tight at the back of the barrel. If you do not realise it is up there, and try to screw the barrel on over a converter and a spare cartridge, obviously the barrel will not fit.
Rather confusingly, Cross makes both a push-in and a screw-in converter and tells you on its web site to use the screw fit version for the Bailey Light. But the Bailey Light does not have the benefit of a threaded collar to make use of the screw-in converter, but the screw-in converter can still be used: just push it home securely.
As well as the fountain pens, there is a ball point pen available in the same range of colours. I bought a grey one to try. It has the same pleasing aesthetics as the fountain pen and is operated by twisting the cap.
It came to my notice some months ago that Cross had introduced some new colours to the range of Bailey Lights, including a dark green and a burgundy, both with gold plated nib and furniture instead of the silver coloured finish of the originals. I had seen these online. The fountain pens with gold coloured trim tended to be priced slightly higher at around £25.00 as opposed to £20.00 for the silver trim, but still very good value in my opinion.
What with the lockdowns, being busy at work and with limited shopping excursions to our local John Lewis, it was not until last weekend that I found myself there with a first opportunity to see the dark green Bailey Light in person.
A dark green fountain pen with gold coloured furniture has a special association for me, reminding me of my mother buying a Parker with a gold nib for me, from Arthur Bird’s, our local Ickenham stationer, to take to my new school in 1970. So I simply had to have one of Bailey Lights in this colour.
I also bought a gel pen to try, in the burgundy and gold, which looks really gorgeous! The gel pen writes well but needs to be held more upright to write smoothly, whereas a fountain pen can rest in the web of the hand.
Having laid out above, my credentials as a reasonably experienced user and fan of the Bailey Light fountain pen, I have to report that I have experienced my first problem! My green and gold model would not accept a converter, for some reason. It was not that I could not put the barrel back on, but rather that the converter would not attach securely to the pen. I tried pushing one onto the section as I have done many times, but it would not stay on. I also tried the screw-fit version (just in case there had been some change to the pen’s specifications) but this one could not even get close to the feed. This was disappointing as I had been looking forward to inking the green pen with a blue black ink for a vintage vibe.
Currently, I am using the green pen with the included Cross black cartridge. This pushed in nicely, with the usual “pop” as the seal punctured. The black ink flows well. The nib writes very nicely (firm, smooth and with ideal flow) and so I am reluctant to send the pen back.
But being unable to use a converter in this pen would mean being tied to buying Cross cartridges. This is a costly way to buy ink, at almost £1.00 per cartridge – rather like paying pub prices for a glass of wine when you could buy a bottle. Also, you are limited to Cross Black or Cross Blue and have the plastic waste on your conscience.
I am hoping that there is a simple explanation of why I cannot attach a converter to my green pen. If and when I find out, I will let you know. If anyone else has had a similar experience and knows the answer I will be glad to hear it.
Update: 22 July 2021.
After using my green Cross Bailey Light with a cartridge for a while, I thought I would have one more go at fitting a Cross converter. I found another, push-in converter. Pulling out the cartridge, I first marked how deep it sat in the converter by holding a thumbnail against the cartridge at the point where it disappears from view behind the metal collar, and then placing it beside the pen, to measure how far in it had gone into the section.
I then pushed in this converter. Lo-and-behold, this one did go into the section and to the same depth as the cartridge as it should, meaning that it was sitting over the coupling. It did not grip very securely, but securely enough to work, I think.
For completeness, I tried again fitting a screw-fit converter but still this type would not fit into the collar. However I was very happy that I can use my pen with a converter after all. I guess that the converters that I had tried previously may have just have become loose at the nozzle.