Early thoughts on the Faber-Castell Hexo fountain pen.

A friend overseas alerted me to this new model. After taking a look on Cult Pens, I was eager to order one, in black. I had not yet seen one in the flesh.

Faber-Castell Hexo, matt black.

I have been a fan of Faber-Castell’s entry level pens for several years. I found their “school pen” for sale in a Waterstones book shop at about £4.95 (including a box of blue cartridges) and bought a pair, in red and blue. A reader informed me that there was also a black carbon fibre-effect version, which sounded exciting and I eventually tracked one down in a hypermarket in Dubai. These wrote well but all featured nibs which drooped downwards, perhaps to improve resistance to being sprung by over-eager young hands. Also the grip sections were rubber and faceted.

I have also enjoyed the Faber-Castell Loom, in the shiny gunmetal finish which proved a good choice for a work and every day carry pen – convenient, reliable, robust and with space for a spare cartridge in the barrel. In recent years I have also used an Essentio (also called the Basic) and the Grip – good value at around £18.00 now. All of these had medium nibs.

The Hexo seems to slot into the line-up, somewhere between the Grip and the Essentio and Loom. Cult Pens’ current price for the Hexo is £31.50 which is a little less than the RRP. That puts the price slightly higher than the Lamy AL-Star, which looks a close competitor.

Two aluminium stealth pens: the Lamy AL-Star and the Faber-Castell Hexo.

The Hexo looked to be a worthwhile addition, sporting a hexagonal body in matt black anodised aluminium and a nice girthy grip section in plastic. Other options were silver or rose gold.

It arrived in a small, simple green cardboard box. The sticker calls it the Hexo 2019 Fountain Pen. It is made in Slovenia.

Construction and appearance.

The cap is a snap-on one and is firm but not overly so. The cap finial has the Faber-Castell logo of jousting knights, although not very easy to see unless you have a magnifying glass and have the logo the right way up.

There is a very sturdy metal pocket clip which grips well but at the expense of being a little hard to operate. You may need to lift the clip before sliding it over a pocket.

The barrel features the Faber-Castell name in white with the logo again. This aligns with the nib. As there is only one entrance to the barrel threads, the name is always in line with the nib, albeit upside down if you are left handed like me.

The cap facets always align with the barrel facets. If you do try to push the cap on with the facets not aligned, the cap and barrel repel each other like opposing magnets. This is due to raised ridges inside the cap, which I had taken to be for decoration at first.

Ridges on the barrel (left) find the gaps inside the crenellated cap to ensure that facets align.

The cap closes almost flush with the barrel and to a snug fit, with no wobble. Examined very closely there are mold lines down the length of the plastic section, at front and back but not prominent enough to be a problem. Also, a tiny gap can be seen between the barrel and section when tightened, but only apparent when inspected under a loupe.

The grip section is very pleasing: no rubber, no facets, just a gentle taper towards the nib and flared out at the end to provide a comfortable finger rest.

Removing the barrel, the threads look to be of a soft grey molded plastic. However, it turns out that these and the grip section are translucent although it takes a bright light source from behind to see through this.

The effect of a bright light behind the section.

The threaded collar, where the cartridge or converter goes, has an unusual cutaway. I think this may be part of a locking mechanism, as you feel a definite click at the end, when you screw the barrel back onto the section. If you use standard international short cartridges, there is room for a spare in the barrel, very useful if you are out and about. It fits in snugly without rattling but does not get stuck inside.

The unusual cutaway in the section threads.

The nib.

The nib is steel with a stealthy black plating. I chose a broad for a change, hoping for stellar smoothness. I flushed the nib and feed first and dried them, then inserted a cartridge of Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue. The pen wrote well once the ink started to flow, which needed a squeeze of the cartridge. However, for a broad, it was not particularly wide and not much wider than a typical medium. It looked to be well set up and wrote smoothly, with just a slight roughness in side strokes from right to left which I take to be nothing that writing-in will not solve. The tines and tipping material looked level. Judging by the writing experience at the sweet spot, the nib is of the buttery smooth variety, not a feedbacky one.

The dimpled and black-coated nib. Also, a glimpse of the cap finial logo.

Size and weight.

Being made mainly of aluminium, the pen is light. It weighed in at 20g (including two cartridges on board) comprised as to 13g for the pen uncapped and a further 7g for the cap alone. It measures 134mm when closed, 122mm open and 151mm posted.

Some size comparisons from Faber-Castell’s range: from left to right:- School pen, the Grip, the Essentio (Basic), the Loom and the Hexo.

The writing experience.

The broad nib writes well, although on the medium side. Out of the box it was not quite perfect but has the potential to be a smooth writer. I look forward to putting some mileage on it to run in to my writing angle. Some smoothing with micromesh would do the job quicker, which I may yet try, but there is a risk of taking too much off the tipping.

Writing sample on Tomoe River. Cobalt Blue ink.

Finding an optimum writing experience depends not just on the pen and nib, but on having a smooth, lubricating ink and a compatible, smooth paper that does not cause drag. Tested on Tomoe River paper, the nib does provide effortless writing. On some less suitable papers, there is a feeling of friction which becomes wearing once you are aware of it.

Likes and dislikes.

My favourite feature of the pen is its comfortable large section. I prefer plastic to the Grip’s rubber, gently faceted section. But as well as this, we have the stealthy black finish, the lightweight hexagonal body, the aligning cap and barrel facets, the barrel lock and a host of other boxes ticked: plastic inner cap, a good fitting cap which posts deeply and securely and a strong pocket clip. And that Faber-Castell smoothness in the nib.

I do not have any real dislikes. It is tempting to say that the nib was not quite perfect out of the box, but like a pair of shoes, steel nibs often require a little wearing in. The nib is perhaps a little narrower than expected for a broad. But overall, for its price, I am happy enough with the pen.

Conclusions.

This pen has a lot going for it. It is an attractive and interesting shape, whilst at the same time being plain and unflashy. There are a few surprises: the automatically aligning facets; the clicking lock at the end of the barrel threads; the section which looks black but turns clear with a light behind it. Best of all, it has a comfortably wide grip section which is not rubbery or faceted and a typically smooth Faber-Castell steel nib. Lightweight yet robust, with a capacity for a spare cartridge up the spout, it meets all my requirements for an EDC pen.

The stealthy Hexo in use, with a box of cartridges.