If you are trying to resist the temptation to buy more fountain pens for a while, then drifting into Selfridges on London’s Oxford Street and heading for their new pen department, is probably not going to help.
The pen department has moved, from the ground floor to the lower ground floor, near Dolly’s cafe (for afternoon teas). There is a Mont Blanc area and then, next to it, another section with a generous area of brightly lit and enticing glass counters and wall displays, for all the other fountain pen brands that they stock.
As I was not looking for anything in particular, I made the customary lap of the cabinets, admiring but resisting the expensive offerings, but then hesitated at the display of Faber-Castells. These looked particularly good value, after a circuit of all the other brands. I asked to see the Loom fountain pen which I had not handled before. On a previous visit a year or two ago, I had looked at a Loom but at that time, they had only the roller ball version.
Now, there were numerous Loom fountain pens to chose from. Typically, these have a grey coloured metal barrel and section, with a coloured plastic cap in a range of colours. The section is reasonably wide but tapers towards the nib and has five raised rings, to aid grip.
In addition to several models like this, I saw one with a shiny silver chrome barrel and glossy black cap and another, with shiny gunmetal grey barrel and section, and matte black cap. It was this latter model that I was to go for.
I was particularly interested to try holding the pen and to see whether the metal section was slippy or whether the raised rings solved that.
What I found was that the standard, silver coloured metal sections are still a bit on the slippery side for me. However, the shiny gunmetal version was not slippery at all. It seems to have some sort of thin plastic coating over the barrel and section. If you press on it hard with your thumb and then try to slide your thumb on the section, it judders along and squeaks, as it overcomes the surface resistance.
The shiny gunmetal version cost a little more than the others, (£45.00 as opposed to £37.50, I think) but seemed the better option to me, both in aesthetics and handling. I have learned since, that there is also a matte gunmetal version which I have seen online only. I also bought a box of 20 Graf von Faber-Castell cartridges in Cobalt Blue because (a) I love this ink and (b) I loved the orderly ranks of five rows of four cartridges in this handy dispenser, like a box of bullets, and which can be used again.
The pen comes in a decent, white cardboard give box with a slide out tray in a sleeve and also a cardboard outer sleeve. It comes with one royal blue cartridge plus a dummy cartridge, (showing that there is room for a spare in the barrel) but no converter. There is also a little instruction manual which is now date stamped, 6 January 2018, Selfridges, London. Naturally you pay a bit more than with online-only dealers, but you get personal service, an opportunity to handle the pen (and try it if you wish) and a memorable buying experience.
Examining it more closely at home, the shiny gunmetal finish is interesting, as it appears to have under the plastic coating, an oily finish of patches of dark red and dark green which reflect the light, like a gun that has just been oiled, except that the surface does not feel oily and on the contrary, can be gripped very well.
The pull-off cap is very stiff. (Lips pursed, eye-brows furrowed, elbows a quiver, “Pop” – there it goes!) and also snaps closed with a reassuring click. This stiffness of the cap, so far, is my only negative about the pen but I find that it can be “soft-capped” if in use for extended but intermittent note taking and which I now do. Also the nib and feed are much better than most, at remaining ready to perform, even when left uncapped for several minutes. The pocket clip is, I think, metal but plastic-coated and is hinged, although it lacks the ability to be opened one handed by pressing down at the top.
Unscrewing the relatively weighty metal section, I discovered a tiny code “f7” on mine. I have not yet been able to find any information about these codes but I am guessing it is a production date code, the 7 being for 2017. I think this because each of my 20 Cobalt Blue cartridges also has f7 stamped on them, in black. Also, I looked again at a Faber-Castell Ambition that I bought two years ago and discovered that it also had a stamp near the threads for the barrel, reading “d4” and so I guess that would indicate a manufacturing date in 2014. If anyone has any further information about these codes I would be interested to hear. I do like a production date code. Next best thing to a serial number.
In use, the metal barrel and section initially feel cold to the touch but swiftly warm up. The cap posts quite deeply and securely, making for an extremely comfortable and nicely balanced pen. At 120mm opened and unposted, it could be used without posting but my preference is to post the cap, bringing the length to around 155mm. Weights are 33g in all (including two cartridges), or 26.5g uncapped. The cap alone weighs 6.5g.
The best thing about this pen though, is the Faber-Castell stainless steel nib. This is a traditional shape, but with an attractive dimpled pattern and no breather hole. There is the Faber-Castell logo of jousting knights (although you need a magnifying glass to make this out) and an M for medium. Mine performed perfectly, glassy smooth and with ideal ink flow, straight out of the box. This has also been my experience with the same medium nibs of the Faber-Castell e-motion and Ambition. Some reviewers find the nib to be too smooth, so that it runs away with you. I do not think this is a fault but you do need to slow down, particularly if you are used to writing with a ball pen. It is not a feedbacky nib and so it might skip on very smooth papers.
Incidentally, the nib and feed are within a black plastic collar and the whole nib unit can be easily unscrewed from the section. You may then extract the nib and feed from the collar, which are friction fit, if you ever need to. I refer to SBRE Brown’s useful Disassembly Line videos which demonstrate this process. When replacing, take care to a line up the nib and feed correctly with the air replacement channel.
Using the pen extensively at work and at home this week I found that the weight, balance and feel of the pen in the hand were so comfortable, that I soon stopped being aware that I was holding a new pen and was aware only of what I was writing. It is rather like having a very comfortable new pair of shoes.
I used up the supplied royal blue cartridge first, rather impatient to get on to my Cobalt Blue cartridges. The Cobalt Blue is one of my all time favourite inks, being a rich dark blue but without being blue-black.
So, the New Year pen fast has been broken. But I have no regrets and am delighted with this pen, which I personally find more comfortable than both my Faber-Castell e-motion or Ambition. At this price level, other comparables for a metal-bodied, stainless steel nib cartridge converter pen would include a Lamy Aion, a new model Parker IM, or Sheaffer Sagaris, but which all use their own proprietary cartridges. But for handling and nib performance, I would recommend the shiny gunmetal Loom.