Since I started journal-writing, I've suddenly become very interested in fountain pens again. A coincidence? I don't think so. I still had all my equipment from my last obsession with fountain pens a couple of years ago. I had my old Sheaffer fountain pen, which I was issued with when I was in Grade 6 at school. I also had the Pilot Petit Pen and the 4 Platinum Preppy Pens that I'd purchased at the time, along with all the various cartridges and converters that they require.
This time, however, I wanted more. I wanted to go deeper with my pen experience. So, as a reward for journalling daily for a whole fortnight, I ordered myself a Noodler's Konrad Flex Pen. The pen is quite popular and some of the colours were already sold out, and yet I still hard a hard time choosing! I finally settled on the Galapagos Tortoise barrel colour, which is a dark brown with tortoiseshell swirls.
The Konrad is based on a German design from the 1950s, and is fully customisable. The nib and ink feed section pull off completely and can be set to produce a thin line or a thick, wet line to the user's liking. It also has a flex nib, so when you press down harder, the two points of the nib separate slightly and produce a thicker line. Just like the nibs used in Victorian times!
Noodler's, being the fine writing instrument purveyors that they are, have also tried to use authentic materials in the construction of the pen. The feed is made of ebonite, the body of biodegradable celluloid. This plastic, in use since the 1940s, warms when held in the hand and gives the pen a more authentic touch. However, it smells funny. I'm OK with that though, because of the authentic touch thing.
The filling mechanism of the pen is the classic piston-fill. The nib end of the pen is dipped into a bottle of ink, and the screw-top on the other end is wound up, drawing the ink into the pen using suction. The great advantage of the piston-fill design is that you're not tied down to using cartridges. You can use any brand of ink that you like, and you don't ever have to worry that the cartridges will become unavailable. Again, there's a lot of room for playing around with this configuration. For example, if the pen has run dry, you can screw the piston down just a tiny bit to force the ink down into the feed (I recommend having some paper towels handy if you do that, as a big drop of ink came out when I did it!) Or, if the pen is half-full and you want to fill it again, you can turn it upside down and screw the mechanism up to eliminate the air pocket, and just turn it right way up again and suck up some more ink. (I haven't actually tried this yet, but it seems quite easy.) The only disadvantage of the piston-fill is that you have to dip the whole nib up to the body in the ink, so you need to have at least 2cm of ink left in your bottle. This YouTube video has a good review and demonstration of the pen, for the interested.
The Noodler's Konrad pen is certainly not a beginner's pen. The fully customisable nature of the design and the mucking around with open ink bottles can be pretty daunting. Once I started to get over my fear of spilling ink everywhere however, I really started to have fun with it. I'm still a bit scared of this pen, but I also freakin' love using it! The price was also insanely reasonable compared to some vintage-styled pens out there.