I like a bargain… Some time ago I wrote a series of posts on the expectations one can realistically have of fountain pens in differing price brackets. Part of the rationale for that was to contribute to the thesis I hold that a great writing experience shouldn’t cost the earth.
Today in that same vein I’m reviewing one of the starter priced offerings from manufacturer Faber-Castell, specifically one of their appropriately named ‘Basic’ range, which alongside the newer ‘Loom’ range of pens, are about the cheapest Faber-Castell fountain pens about at present. Many of you will know that Faber-Castell are a German company that were originally pencil manufacturers. The company can trace its roots back to the latter part of the 18th century (1761 to be precise). A sign that continuity and tradition play a large part in this company’s values can be seen in the fact that a member of the founding family still led the company up until very recently. Sadly Anton-Wolfgang von Faber-Castell, the eighth generation of his family to run the enterprise, died last week. He was 74. Our sincere condolences go to his family and all who knew him.
Anyway to the pen…
Description: I should first of all say that the Basic comes in a number of contemporary finishes. This one is the ‘mother of pearl’. There are others, including polished and matte metal versions, a leather version, and a carbon version (there may be others out there too). They all have their distinctive modern design in common and their looks are pleasingly contemporary. This is not surprising as Faber-Castell appear to take the design of their pens very seriously across the price range as evidenced by their other, more expensive, ‘E-motion’ and ‘Ondoro’ pens.
The basic fountain pen is a cartridge/converter pen (a converter is not supplied with the pen) and the pen is compatible with standard international cartridges which increases its utility.
I purchased the mother of pearl version over Christmas very cheaply via an Amazon warehouse deal (check out the picture of the packaging to see why it was discounted). The pen boasts what I can only describe as a black sparkly cap and grip section, a cylindrical black barrel with a mother of pearl style inlay and a chromed base cap with a concave base.
The cap is large, and some would say somewhat bulbous in shape. It has a large chromed folded metal clip with a decent amount of spring to it. The company name and logo and the words ‘since 1761″ are cast in relief on one side and it push fits onto the main body of the pen with a reassuring click.
The grip section is quite long. It is made of plastic, is cylindrical in shape and sports regular grooves to help your fingers gain better purchase.
The barrel is also cylindrical, but is slightly wider than the section to be congruent to the end of the cap. After the plastic screw threads there appears to be a short semi translucent ink window before the mother of pearl finish truly begins. The bas cap finishes the barrel off nicely and would seem to add the majority of the weight to this particular pen. The pen posts securely enough, although doing so makes the pen look comically long. I wouldn’t ever use this pen posted.
The nib on the pen I have is an extra-fine. The basic is available with nibs from EF through B. A great thing to remember here is that Faber-Castell appear to use the same nibs on their entire range. This means you get the same nib on the Basic as you do on the more expensive E-motion and Ondoro. I think these Faber-Castell steel nibs are some of the best available. I really like them.
Dimensions: The pen weighs in at about 35g when inked. It is 140mm (5.51″) long capped and 135mm (5.3″) uncapped. When posted it is a ridiculous 190mm (7.5″) long
On Test: I started to use this pen as soon as I got it. I was fortunate to have a couple of Faber-Castell converters hanging around. interestingly one didn’t fit well at all, thankfully the other, a slightly different design, was much more secure. I filled this pen with Pilot blue-black ink as I think that finer nibs appreciate darker inks and went to work, literally.
My first impressions were favourable. Firstly, the pen stayed securely in the pocket and when called upon to write, it did so admirably. It is a nice writer. The pen writing with a consistently fine and wet line. It is very comfortable in hand and possesses decent heft. It is somewhat back weighted but this is no problem The EF nib is firm but not nail like and is reassuringly smooth. There is some feedback but that is what you get with this size of nib. I should say that this is a western or european EF, I have used finer EF nibs from Japan.
On the negative side I worry a little about the possible fragility of the grip section. I have heard stories of these cracking near the screw threads if they are unintentionally over-tightened. I also think that I will have to be careful refilling this pen as the grooves could collect ink when dipped in an ink bottle. In terms of the model I have I’m not a great fan of the sparkly black plastic used on the cap and grip, a plain black would have sufficed and I think contrasted nicely with the mother of pearl finish on the barrel (which I love). I may be nit-picking a little here, as in truth my general feeling about this pen continues to be a very positive one.
Summary: I think there is a lot to commend this pen as a viable starter for those just beginning their fountain pen journey. For a first pen I’d probably still recommend the Pilot Metropolitan (MR in the UK) but this would be close if found at the right price. As I found out shopping around online may be worthwhile in snagging yourself a bargain. What you get for your money is a distinctively styled, contemporary looking fountain pen in a range of finishes. The nibs are top quality and can be swapped to and from other Faber-Castell pens. All in all a basically positive review.