Early thoughts on the Graf von Faber-Castell, Classic Anello fountain pen.

Recently I had a rare treat. A pen friend in Australia asked if I would do him a favour and take delivery of a pen for him, that he was to order from Izods. He gave me free rein to open it, to test it out and use it as much as I wished and even to review it. To add to the fun, he did not tell me what pen it was.

The pen duly arrived, lavishly wrapped by Roy of Izods and was in fact a Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Anello (the version with inlaid metal rings along the barrel) in Ebony.

The pen arrives in a chamois-coloured linen bag, in a solid wood gift box.

Description.

This is a luxury pen, priced towards the bracket at which stationery becomes jewellery, but with a great deal of attention to detail and no compromises in the exquisite 18k gold nib, for a wonderful writing performance.

Graf von Faber-Castell (“Graf”) is the luxury arm of Faber-Castell. This is a slender but weighty pen, with the distinctive highly polished cap with a flared top, which reminds me of the funnel of Stephenson’s Rocket, of 1829, contrasting with the warm texture of the black Ebony segments in the barrel, with four platinum rings.

The distinctive flared cap.

The cap has a sturdy hinged and sprung pocket clip, above which is the brand’s coat of arms. The name Graf von Faber-Castell appears on the rim and “Germany” on the other side.

Hinged clip and coat of arms.

The cap unscrews, in three-quarter’s of a turn. The cap feels very secure with no wobble and no fear of coming undone by itself.

The section is long and slender, tapering gently towards the nib but then flaring out again, creating a natural curve on which to rest the pen on your second finger as you write.

At the other end, there is a shiny plated metal knob, shaped to allow the cap to be posted. However, posting is not advisable as the pen becomes very back heavy and about 175mm long.

The nib.

This is a stunning piece of work, in bi-colour 18k gold, the front part and the coat of arms picked out in silver coloured plating against the gold background. This one is a Medium nib. Although I take it that this is a pre-owned pen, the nib looked perfectly set up and with a generous amount of tipping and no signs of wear.

The 18k gold Medium nib is superb.

According to Graf’s official web-site this is a handmade nib, run in by hand and with a manufacturing process that involves over one hundred steps. This is a polite way of saying “Please don’t drop it, you ham-fisted oaf.”

I was thrilled to dip-test the pen. I reached for my customary Waterman Serenity blue, and spent a very happy few minutes enjoying this smooth and springy nib, on a variety of different papers. The wetness from this initial test and the degree of feedback seemed spot on to me. I later filled the pen with Graf’s Cobalt Blue, probably my favourite dark blue and the pair seemed made for each other.

Graf von Faber-Castell pen, Cobalt blue ink, and headed paper. Other brands are available.

Filling.

This is a cartridge-converter pen, taking either standard international cartridges (look no further than Graf’s Cobalt Blue!) or a converter. The pen arrived with a Faber-Castell branded converter, which worked well and drew up a decent amount of ink.

The section unscrews from the barrel on very long screw threads, which are metal to metal. These will be hard-wearing but I noticed the occasional tendency to come loose, whereupon the section just needs tightening again.

On the rim of the cartridge-converter holder, I found the markings “031011 PT” which I presume to be the date of production in 2011. For comparison, my Graf Guilloche has the markings “010717” here. Even Graf’s ink cartridges have a date mark which I think is a very nice feature.

Production date code, just above the threads.

Size and weight (approx.)

The Classic measures 138mm closed, 130mm open and 175mm if you try posting. The whole pen weighs about 41g comprised as to 27g for the pen uncapped and 14 for the cap.

Likes and dislikes.

This pen is hard to beat for sheer elegance and sophistication. The flared cap with its smooth, secure, precision fitting threads works perfectly. I have not noticed any hard starts, after intervals of over 24 hours. The pocket clip has a good amount of movement and is reasonably tight although personally I would carry the pen in a pen case rather than a jacket pocket. The contrast of materials and textures from the almost black Ebony wood and polished furniture is very pleasing. But although this is clearly a luxury item, it is no less a fountain pen and the nib should delight any pen fan.

On the negative side, the grip section is slim, tapering and slippery. Personally I like to hold pens quite high up and for this pen, I have found a grip where the section rests on my second finger, my first finger is at the threads and my thumb anchors the pen at the wooden barrel, which is not slippery. Fortunately the 130mm length uncapped still allows the pen to sit just about comfortably in the web of my hand although I sometimes find myself holding the pen slightly more upright like a ball point pen.

Comparison with the Graf Guilloche.

I have a black Guilloche, with a Broad nib. Although they share a similar style, the Classic is superior in having extra weight, length, and girth, a threaded cap and a bicolour nib.

Guilloche (left) and Classic Anello.

However, it appears to me that the nibs are the same size and that the only noticeable difference is that the Classic’s nib is bi-colour. Fun fact: the nib and sections of the Guilloche and the Classic are interchangeable and so if you have a different nib in your Guilloche, you can simply screw the Guilloche’s entire nib, section and converter, into your Classic Anello body.

The nibs of the Guilloche (left) and Classic.

Conclusion.

The Classic is a lovely pen. I am sure that my friend will be happy with his purchase (when eventually he can collect it). I know that as a long term user of pens with plated metal sections this is not an issue for him.

For me, whilst I appreciate the pen’s artistry and quality, the grip would take a bit of getting used to and whilst I am able to use the pen, I do not yet find it the most comfortable. But I anticipate that with time I would get more used to that, particularly whilst swept away by the superb nib which sings along the page. But to do that would mean to bond with the pen, of which in this instance, I am its temporary custodian.

Another comparison shot of the Guilloche and Classic.

For further reading, see Graf’s official web site. It seems from this that currently there are four versions of the Classic Anello fountain pen, namely the Rose Gold, Grenadilla, Ivory and Black. There is currently no mention of Ebony or Pernambucco. See also the excellent reviews of versions in other woods by UK fountain pens and The Gentleman Stationer.

Inky Pursuits round-up.

Here is a brief round-up of some of my recent fountain pen related activities.

Currently inked.

If you had met me when I was aged 11, and asked me then about my ink pens and accessories, the sum total would have looked something like this.

A single Parker pen and bottle of Quink. “Can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every line?”

Somehow in the intervening years, (but particularly in the last few) the pen accumulation has mushroomed and I have an entire drawer full of inks, the use and enjoyment of which has become a major hobby.

However, my number of “currently inked” pens at home, in a neat array of pen cups, has grown to an all-time high at 31, (not counting a couple of others kept at my place of work and another in my jacket pocket). Here is what 31 pens looks like.

The 31 currently inked, bunched roughly according to ink colour

This is due to a combination of factors: a number of new arrivals; an eagerness to try out new pen and ink combination ideas without waiting for another pen to run dry, and a general reluctance to flush away good ink.

The currently inked list. Note, five all inked with Tavy blue black, three with Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-kai, three with Graf Cobalt blue and two with Montblanc Royal blue.

I do not really see this as a problem. (Perhaps THAT is my problem!) I could go and flush them all this evening, but this would mean wasting the equivalent of almost one entire bottle of ink. Whilst I could cut down, I do enjoy having the choice of all these pens at my finger tips. And the joy is that each and every one feels different.

Recent purchases.

At the end of January, I bought a Montblanc Meisterstuck 145 Classique with platinum trim. As usual it came fitted with a Medium nib but I had six weeks in which to request a free nib exchange. I did visit a Montblanc store in London where I was able to try out the various nib options. I was very tempted by the Broad, which would have been my choice if I were to have swapped. But in the end I did not want to part with my Medium nib that I had grown to enjoy. The nib had taken a few weeks to run in and in short, we had “bonded”.

In the early weeks since buying this pen, I tried a different ink on every fill but have now settled on the lovely Montblanc William Shakespeare Velvet Red, for the time being.

Another purchase, made at the London pen show in March, was the new Leonardo Officina Italiana, “Furore”, in a vibrant orange with gold colour trim and a Fine nib. In a rare stroke of genius, I have paired this with Waterman Tender Purple – a fun ink for a fun pen and am loving the combo. Also the feel of this nib on Leuchtturm journal paper makes me want to exclaim “Ooh, that’s lovely!” every time I write with it.

The artificial light does not do this justice.

My only other pen purchase from the show was my Diplomat Excellence A, Marrakesh, with a Fine nib in 14k gold. This has been inked with Tavy and I have been using it happily for my daily journal. The first fill had been with Diamine Cherry Sunburst, which I did not enjoy so much with this pen; perhaps it was just too matchy matchy for the metallic brown pen.

Unexpected gifts.

In February I received a wonderful surprise gift from a pen friend in Australia, who sent me his Pilot Custom 823 and Graf von Faber-Castell black Guilloche, both with Broad nibs and both fantastic pens. The 823 had been a grail pen for me and difficult to find in the UK. On my last visit to Hong Kong in 2017 I had hoped to have a chance to do some pen foraging and perhaps bag an 823 but my shopping plans were cut short by a bout of Sciatica and so the 823 had remained on my wish list. So I was extremely happy when one arrived on my doormat out of the blue.

Then in March, having read of my new Classique and my dilemma over whether to go for a nib exchange, my friend sent me a superb, 1970’s Montblanc 146 with a broad nib, which unlike the modern versions is an all gold finish and rather softer too. The pen also had a solid clear ink window instead of the small rectangular windows that the modern piston fillers have. This was an extremely generous and unexpected gift and you can imagine how thrilled I was on opening this package.

Montblanc Meisterstuck 146, with Broad nib. Believed to date from the 1970’s.

London Pen Club.

Our pen club met on 6 April, with a good turnout of around 15 people. Being the first gathering since the London pen show, a few of us had some new goodies from the show for others to try. My orange Leonardo Furore drew some admiring comments.

John had brought along his Montblanc 146 and 149. I was interested to compare these alongside my 145 and 146 and got a photo of them all in a row.

The first and third are mine…the 145 and 146.

Cameron had brought a recently acquired Pelikan M815 shiny stripes Stresemann, which was impressive, being heavier than the normal M800’s due to the metal in the barrel.

Penultimate Dave brought along an entire pen case of Arco beauties from his collection and some lovely Conway Stewarts which felt good in the hand.

However, I am pleased to report that I was feeling very content with my lot and did not feel the need to acquire anything else. Whilst it is always great to try other people’s pens, and many of brands that you just do not see in pen shops, I was happy in the end just to know that they exist. I felt, for the moment at least, cured of the need to acquire any more pens!

Harrods and Selfridges.

To put this to the test, I took the opportunity after the pen club meet, to visit both Harrods and Selfridges, to have a browse around their fountain pen departments and see what was new.

In Harrods, there is a particularly good range of Montegrappa pens. I had a second look at the “Monte Grappa” models, a recent range of retro style piston fillers, in black, navy blue, lavender or coral. They are available with either steel nibs or 14k gold nibs, the latter version being £445.00 in Harrods.

I was pleased to discover a very quick route to Harrods’ pen department currently located on the third floor, as “Pens, Books and Games” rather than the “Great Writing Room” of the past. (If you walk round to the back of Harrods, in the Basil Street entrance, take the escalator to the third floor, go left through Stationery, you will get straight to the fountain pens. You’re welcome).

A few tube stops later I was at Selfridges, where the pens are on basement level. I had a good look around the displays, with a good selection of the high end brands, including Yard O Led, Graf von Faber-Castell, Caran d’Ache, Chopard, SJ Dupont, Montegrappa, Pelikan and a few Viscontis, as well as Parker, Cross, Sheaffer and Waterman. As with Harrods, there is a separate booth for Montblanc.

I noticed Pineider there for the first time, with La Grande Bellazza models in Malachite and various other colours and two demonstrator models, one being the Honeycomb, which I had not seen before. The other with a gold coloured spring inside appeared at first glance like a posh TWSBI Go.

I was able to leave both Harrods and Selfridges without parting with any money. This time.