Tag Archives: jentle

Pelikan 400NN Brown Tortoise (1950s)

I jumped on this one because Pelikan no longer makes anything near the range they used to have, both in terms of pen shapes as well as nib types:

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Look at the rounded cap finial and piston knob.

The 400NN was developed after the 400N was a “neu” version of the old 400, which looks like the modern M400. The finial and knob gradually got rounder, finally arriving at the rather cigar shape above. The binde of the vintage tortoise variants also varies far more in colour and evenness compared to the modern browns on the M400 and M800 pens; mine shades from dark brown to as light as yellow and green in some places — to my eyes, much closer to a tortoise’s patterns than the rather averaged-out modern colours!

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Such a beautifully uneven brown binde!

It arrived clean but definitely shows signs of age and wear: the finial is rubbed fairly smooth, not to mention the brassing on the clip and the cap band. The nib itself is in excellent condition though it has a slightly stubby quality, which is a sign of long periods of intense use.

Indeed, it was the nib that attracted me to the pen. Pelikan used to make a range of italics and obliques and “ballpoint” (Kugel) sizes with different sorts of tipping, and this dates from the era of pre-ballpoint carbon papers, when special nibs were made to withstand larger pressures without flexing. Mine is a DF (Durchschreib-Fein) nib, or a manifold fine, and comes in almost as fine as my Japanese pens — no modern Pelikan “fine” here! It is a single-tone 14k gold nib and has shorter tines. Unusually enough, it also has two breather holes. 

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Old-school cool: the DF nib.

In writing on Fabriano paper (below), the pen gives a very pleasant sort of toothy feedback — a sign of wear — and yet absolutely glides along on Tomoe River paper. As with my other Pelikan fines, it writes on the drier side, but is wet enough here to show the shading in Oku-yama. The pen itself is light to hold, as one would expect from the rather small 400 size. And while it is very firm, it does not feel like a nail…

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My most even fine nib!

A size comparison (in featured photo) places the 400NN as intermediate between my M200 and M620s, which is only to be expected. More delicious photos in better lighting here:

Pelikan M620 Grand Place

The pride and joy of my collection and my favourite pen:

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Drooooooooool.

I first learnt of this design when I came across the larger M800 Grand Place of 2015, which had a black piston knob and a black section. But then I saw a comparison picture with this and instantly fell in love: thus began my first pen hunt.

Curiously, an even smaller version exists: the M201 Bayou was made in a limited edition of 100 for Fountain Pen Hospital in New York. I had the forturne to see one at the 2016 Pelikan Hub in London, and was amazed to see just how translucent the barrel was. No need for an ink window when you can still see the ink sloshing around inside! Neither of the M620 or M800 models have translucent barrels, however.

Why this? Prior to this purchase I had only owned the M205 Amethyst and it has not gone uninked since I bought it. But I felt confident enough in the experience to take the plunge on a larger size, especially since the M6xx series was lighter than the brass-piston M8xx. Furthermore, the resin used in this pen is of a far warmer colour than the M800, which is slightly greyer to harmonise with the black parts. The copper colour of the M620 is incredible in photos — and even better in person!

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It practically breathes…

The Grand Place is the last of the Cities series (2002–6), and so it has the one-chick logo on the finial. Some of the earliest of the series have the two-chick logo, which was found on pens until as late as 2004. 

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Look at that sparkle!

All nibs in the Cities series are 18k gold nibs instead of the standard M6xx 14k nibs, though they are interchangeable. Unlike the M600/605 designation for two-tone/rhodium-plated nibs, however, the M620 nibs come in both, depending on the trim colour. The Grand Place was supposed to come with a two-tone nib but I opted for a rhodium-plated fine nib instead, because I liked the silver-coloured contrast with the pure warmth of the rest of the pen.

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Stunning nib, too.

When it arrived in London, a bottle of Sailor Jentle Oku-yama had just been delivered that day, and when I dipped the pen to write, I gasped. Such a smooth line, yet not without a certain feeling of precision. It was everything I had hoped for!

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Sailor makes some of the most ridiculous sheeny inks.

It matches my Massdrop Allegory leather wrap perfectly, and most of the time I’m torn between keeping it inked because it writes so beautifully and keeping it in storage because I’m worried about losing, damaging, or dropping it… But there you go. Grail pen #1 obtained!

Mabie Todd Swan 2C (c. 1920)

It gets interesting here: this is (half of) the first vintage purchase I made, and it has a real flex nib. I bought this off eBay, and it came fairly cheap because of a previous owner’s personalised engravement on the cap. I didn’t mind that at all; it was really strange to realise that this was a pen used by generations of people up to a hundred years previously. It was the first time I felt like I was holding a real piece of history in a writing instrument.

I sent it to John Sorowka in Oxford, who gave mine a date of 1913–20. There are several kinds of Swan out there; the earliest were made in 1887, and there were lever fillers as early as the 1910s. But here we go:

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Vintage pen number 1; several more to come…!

A very slim pen, made of finely chased hard rubber, the cap unscrews to reveal a very interesting feature: a slim gold stalk with a little hole in it.

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It’s really quite hard to take a photo of things that are the same colour…

I have been told this is rare in Swans, and indeed I haven’t managed to find another example like it.

That’s an overfeed, and it keeps the ink flow to the nib going even when the nib is flexed hard away from the (under)feed, as below:

Hey, I tried.

The overfeed still exists today in nibs like the Sailor Emperor series, though that is not designed to deal with flex like this.

The nib itself is pleasantly fine for my taste, if slightly toothy on the upstroke. A little 12000-grit micromesh made it sufficiently smooth for reverse writing as well.

Close-up of the nib, too!

That’s a 5mm Fabriano dot grid, the same paper as I used for the Namiki Falcon review. And with all of that business going on in the section, it still remains very slim – all of these parts are delicately balanced. I had some trouble with the way the parts came together, and initially had to readjust positions so that the overfeed did not touch the paper when I flexed. And for the true test…

Writing sample with different types of cursive writing.

That’s a line thickness that varies from 0.3mm to 1.5mm easily; 1.8mm would perhaps be possible with a little pushing. But I’m not risking springing this nib! What a beautiful piece of art.

In closing, here is a complete tear-down of the pen: