A technophile lawyer rediscovers the joys of pen and paper

Friday, July 16, 2010

Noodler's Ink Piston-Filler Fountain Pen Review and Giveaway! (UPDATED)

Noodler's Ink Piston Fill Fountain Pen

(UPDATE #4: The announcement of the winners is here.)

I have several fountain pen reviews written out longhand, but I'm glad I haven't posted any of them yet, because it seems fitting that my debut fountain pen review  — and debut giveaway! — should be of a debut fountain pen: the new piston-filler from Noodler's Ink. Instructions for entering to win the pen are at the end of the post. (UPDATE: read the entry instructions carefully, as they are slightly different than the original instructions.)

Noodler's Ink Piston Fill Fountain Pen: Cap and ClipNoodler's has come out with two lines of fountain pens. The piston-filling model in this review is available in black, red, blue, burgundy or turquoise for $14 each at both Jet Pens and Swisher Pens. I bought mine from Jet Pens, which seems to have its hooks buried very deep into me. (Which I don't mind at all! By the way, if you follow the Jet Pens link, you'll also see Noodler's second line of pens, an aerometric/eyedropper filler, which goes for $24.)

My verdict, after a few days of use: this pen is terrific, but not without a few nagging quirks. I love the writing experience but not the aesthetics. Overall, however, the positive vastly outweighs the negative. I like it much better than any of my entry-level Pelikans (a P55, Style Silver, and Pelikano).

(If you're planning on reading the rest of this review rather than just scrolling down to the instructions for entering the giveaway, you might want to grab a beer, because you're going to be reading for a while.

Presentation

You don't expect ostentatious presentation for a $14 pen, and you don't get it. Instead, what you get is the usual down-to-earth Noodler's packaging. The artwork on the box tips you off immediately that there's something from Noodler's inside. Inside the box is an insert that touts the ease of aligning the nibs, the very low cost of replacing the piston seal, and the design that makes it easy to replace the entire nib. I'll have to take Noodler's word on those, since I did not try them (except for a nib adjustment). It also includes a blurb about why the words "Free Trade Forever" appear on the box.

One thing about the pen that surprised me is the name. Noodler's has all kinds of cool names for its inks. Bad Black Moccasin. Dark Matter. Bad Belted Kingfisher. Widow Maker. Heart of Darkness. You get the picture.

So you'd think Noodler's very first fountain pen line would have some cool name like Bad Ass Scribe or Wicked Scrivener. But, so far as I can tell, there's no name for this model at all. Jet Pens lists it as "Noodler's Ink Fountain Pen with Piston Fill & Ink Window"and Swisher's just calls it the "Noodler's Ink Fountain Pen." Couldn't they have but a "Bad" or "Wicked" at the front, at least? Is that too much to ask?

Fit and Finish
 
This is a $14 pen, so you have to have realistic expectations about how nice it's going to look. Sure enough, this is not a beautiful pen. It's not ugly, either, it's just . . . there. In fact, as much as I was looking forward to the availability of these pens, I was disappointed when I saw the pictures online. I didn't like the position of the ink windows, and the finish on both the body and trim looked uneven and dull in the photos.

When I got the pen, it looked a little better than in the pictures online, but still not impressive. If you look closely at the finish, you'll see lots of scratches at right angles to the the length of the pen. The trim also looks nicked up. Despite that, the black and silver color combination gives the pen a somewhat rich look . . . if the light is dim and you don't look too closely. I don't know how the other colors might compare.

Noodler's Ink Piston Fill Fountain Pen: Ink View Windows

Don't read this as a gripe. I accept it. As the package insert makes clear, the watchword for this pen is affordability. I'm not expecting much more (though a reviewer at Jet Pens was).

Barrel and Piston Fill Mechanism

The barrel is made from a "celluloid derivative," whatever that means. All I can tell you is that it makes the pen exceptionally light. It's also quite short. Here's the pen compared against four others, all with caps posted. You'll see the Noodler's is more diminutive than even my Pilot Knight. Folks with large hands may want to steer clear of this pen.

Noodler's Ink Piston Fill Fountain Pen: Size compare against (left to right) Pilot Knight, Lamy 2000, and Lamy AL-Star

Though I didn't take any measurements, the width of the piston suggests that the reservoir in this pen will hold quite a bit more ink than your typical cartridge or converter, so you should be able to go for a long time between ink changes.

The piston in this pen is sent toward the feed by unthreading the end of the barrel (much like the Lamy 2000). Screwing it back on draws the piston back, which draws ink into the pen. Though many people suggest repeating this cycle to fill a piston filler completely, the package insert does not so instruct. (For a primer on how a piston filler works, click here.) Full instructions for this pen are in the package insert. The ink view windows in the barrel were one of the things I found unattractive about this pen. Unlike the view window on the Lamy 2000, these are visible when the pen is capped, and I didn't like that at all, but it turned out to be a non-issue for me. Once you put ink in the pen, the windows virtually disappear — with the black barrel, anyway. You mileage may vary on other colors. I actually find the windows on this pen more functional than the one on my Lamy 2000 (which retails for ten times more) because they are less cloudy, making it easier to estimate the ink supply.

The pen seems to flush clean in much fewer cycles than my other piston filler, a Lamy 2000. After four or five cycles of filling with water, the water comes out clean (takes more like 7 or 8 with my Lamy 2000).

Noodler's package insert emphasizes that one of the aims of this line is to make the fountain pen more competitive, presumably with an eye toward entry-level users. If that's so, I wonder why they didn't introduce a cartridge or cartridge/converter model, which is probably more convenient for a beginner than a piston filler. Because its a piston filler, the beginner must also buy a bottle of ink, and the pen is more troublesome to fill and to clean between inks than a cartridge pen.  Then again, I think filling and cleaning is part of the joy of fountain pen use, so you can't get started too early!

UPDATE (9/30/10): Be careful when unthreading the barrel end. I can tell you from experience that if you go too far, it's easy to eject the piston rod from the threads completely. If that happens to you, unthread the end of the barrel completely and grab the piston rod with some needle-nose pliers to pull out the piston. Thread the barrel end onto the piston rod, then insert the whole assembly back into the barrel and thread the end back onto the barrel. When filling, you should actually look through the ink windows for the piston ands stop twisting when you see the piston reach the section.

Cap

The cap is threaded, a feature I usually avoid. It takes about 1 and 1/4 turns to remove or replace. I don't know how that compares generally to other pens with threaded caps, but my only other pen with a threaded cap (Monteverde Invincia Stealth) twists on and off with less than a full turn, so the Noodler's takes a little more turning than I'm used to. The cap posts securely, but does not thread into the posted position.

Since I own only one other pen with a threaded cap, I kept forgetting to thread this one when replacing it, and the cap would click over the first two or so threads before I would remember to thread it. Do that enough times and I figure you may screw up the threads for good, but it's going to take a lot more than a few days to do that.

The cap is designed to accommodate larger nibs, should you ever decide to change out the nib for something else.

Nib & Section

The nib is, of course, stainless steel. It is tipped with "a hard platinum group metal alloy" according to the package insert. It's very plain, and comparable in size to the nib on a Lamy AL-Star/Safari or Pilot Knight.

I experienced quite a bit of nib creep with some of the inks, and uncapped the pen a few times to find ink had leaked. I can't be sure I wasn't jostling the pen around, though, so I can't lay it on the pen.

The pen is designed so you can replace the nib with any other #2 size. The size apparently refers to the insertion point, because the package insert touts that extra wide nibs will fit fine inside the cap.

Noodler's Ink Piston Fill Fountain Pen: Section ComparisonThe section is very narrow, even as compared to the otherwise comparably-sized Pilot Knight. Granted, this is a small pen, so maybe a narrow section is to be expected, but the section on the Pilot Knight — also a small pen and barely bigger than the Noodler's — is significantly thicker. This is a second feature that suggests the pen is not well-suited for those with larger hands.

Feel & Writing Experience

This is the important part now, isn't it?

Whether it's Noodler's insistence on separation between the tines or something else, the writing is very, very smooth. I didn't find it the least bit scratchy, even on cheap office paper. I tried four different inks, and every one of them wrote smoothly in a variety of notebooks and on a variety of papers. I honestly wasn't expecting such a pleasant experience.

I also appreciate that this pen starts right up every time, even after being left uncapped for upwards of an hour. I can't even say that for my Lamy 2000, which you'd think would start up even better because it has a partially hooded nib. This reliability makes the Noodler's perfect for me to keep next to my timesheet and notepad at work, as I can pick up and put down the pen all day without having to uncap and cap it every time. That makes the threaded cap less of a hassle.

The nib is a "fine-medium," so I was expecting it to lay down a broader line than I'm used to, but it actually writes more like a Japanese medium. As a point of reference, here are the lines from the Noodler's compared against those laid down by a Lamy AL-Star with a fine and an extra-fine nib. I think the Noodler's is very close to the Lamy AL-Star fine nib, but a little wider. The pen seemed to lay down a thicker line with the one Noodler's ink I tried (Lexington Gray, which is in the photo) than with the others (Private Reserve Midnight Blues, Private Reserve Copper Burst, and Iroshizuku Tsukushi.) Other inks might bring the Noodler's closer to the fine or even between fine and extra fine Lamy nibs.

Noodler's Ink Piston Fill Fountain Pen: Fina-Medium Nib

When I first started writing with this pen, the thin section bothered me. It's almost like holding onto a stick ballpoint. I got used to the narrow section after a while, but I have to think about my grip, as I sometimes tend to grip smaller sections more tightly, which can cause fatigue.

This pen is so light you barely know it's there. The Noodler's feels almost weightless, and not just compared to brass-barrel pens, but also compared to very light pens like the Lamy Safari. If you like heft, this may not be the pen for you.

Giveaway Rules (UPDATED - PLEASE READ CAREFULLY)

I have two more of these on their way from Jet Pens (both in black), and if the number of entries exceeds 100, I will give away the second pen, too!

UPDATE: Aaaauuugghhh! I've screwed up my first giveaway. I'm more used to the Wordpress commenting system than Blogger's. As a result, I forgot that you can leave comments on Blogger without leaving your email, and I have no way of getting in touch with several of the first commenters!  I am so sorry! Hate to make this a pain, but it looks like I will instead have to publish the winners in a future post, so here are the new rules:

To enter to win this pen (a new one, not the one I've been trying out), all you have to do is leave a comment on this post. I will choose the winner (or winners) at random and announce them in a new post on Monday, July 26, so you will have to check the blog. I will give the winner(s) one week after that post to contact me via email. Failure to contact me within one week will forfeit the pen and I will select an alternate.

The deadline for leaving a comment is midnight on Sunday, July 25. The time stamp on the comment will be the official time of the entry. (Sorry to keep this contest open so long so long, but I want to leave time for plenty of people to enter, and it may take a while to get a appreciable number of comments. I don't exactly get the traffic of The Pen Addict or Office Supply Geek.)

My apologies for the screw-up, everyone.

Good luck!

(UPDATE #2): This reviewer and I are about 180 degrees apart. We both like the pen, but each of likes what the other found fault with.

(UPDATE #3): Another review, this one by Bleubug, who offers some points only an experienced collector could. Check it out!

(UPDATE #4): Here's a review I missed at The Fountain Pen Network, which I found through The Amateur Economist.

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73 comments:

  1. Thanks for the chance to win the Noodlers Pen. I had one in my cart at Jetpens and talked myself out of it until I read a few reviews. Looks like it's worth a try!

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  2. Great and thorough review! And thanks for the giveaway.

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  3. I would be very interested in winning this, although my wife would end up with it.

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  4. Oh! many sites are making giveaways, thats awesome! I order one of this from jetpens too but it would be great to get another one :)

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  5. Sweet! Thanks for the giveaway. These look like nice little pens so I'd love to win one of these.
    ~ Jan

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  6. Thanks for posting a thorough review. I have N. Cayenne, N. Bad Blue Heron, and N. Black all asking for a chance to fill such a pen.

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  7. I would like to put my name in the hat for this! Thanks. Great post.

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  8. First I'm guessing the reason they made it a piston filling pen rather than cartridge is because they don't sell cartridges. So if you don't own any ink and your new to fountain pens your more than likely to purchase their ink with their pen. Second Thanks for the chance to win one!

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  9. Love the review! Also, a great giveaway.

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  10. I have been looking forward to trying this pen out. Excellent review.

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  11. It'd be fun to try one! Thanks for the opportunity.

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  12. I have one of these in blue that I purchased direct from Nathan at the New England Show. I love it and keep it as a dedicated Baystate Blue pen. The combo is so perfect and BSB is so "specific in its needs" I don't want to break them up! I would like to win another so I may try it with different inks and not mess up the perfect pairing of ink and pen.

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  13. Thanks for the chance to win. I am new to foutain pens and still testing the waters. I would love to try this pen.

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  14. I don't have anything fancier than an old large barrel Shaeffer, so this would be a really wonderful addition to my collection. Thanks for the review and the opportunity!

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  15. Nice review. I'd love to add one of these to my small collection.

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  16. Thank you for this contest. I would love to try out one of these.

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  17. You've got to love Noodlers!

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  18. Thanks for the wonderful review! I'm looking at all your supplementary links religiously, hoping to ease into fountain pens. How exciting!

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  19. I regularly browse Jet Pens' New Arrivals section and this caught my attention! Since I can't order things online I do hope this will be my chance to get this pen. Thanks so much! :)

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  20. Ooh! Ooh! This will be the perfect pen to go with my black Lamy Safari! Then I'll have two decent entry level fountain pens to play with!
    Yay!

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  21. Very comprehensive review. I have never had a Lamy pen that I like so I must say that I was a little biased. Moreover, the size fine-medium is perfect for those of us with average to poor handwriting!

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  22. Great prize, good luck for all!
    Marco Bona

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  23. I am excited about these new pens and they sound like an affordable and decent pen. Thanks for the review and giveaway. Nr

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  24. Ok, let's give this a whirl. Nice review by the way.

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  25. This sounds great, a Noodler's pen for my Noodler's ink.

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  26. I really enjoyed a good down to earth review of this pen... maybe ill get lucky.

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  27. Been itching to try out one of these Noodler's pens!

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  28. I'd love to try it, thanks!

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  29. i'd love to win the pen....

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  30. Quite a thorough and informative review

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  31. Oh, yet another nib tempts me! Would love to win the pen. What a treat that would be.

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  32. I hope I win this pen!

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  33. Would love to win one of these

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  34. Wouldn't mind having one of these to try/review... :D

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  35. Would love to try out a Noodlers pen! Thanks for the thorough review and giveaway.

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  36. Would love to try the pen. doug@triggerplants.org

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  37. all my co-workers think I'm a geek for using fountain pens already. adding another to my meager collection would be great! thanks for the opportunity.

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  38. I've been looking for a decent affordable fountain pen. I've been hearing things about the noodler's ink so why not look at their pens? I would love to win to try it out but I think I may just buy one anyway even if I don't.

    Thanks for the chance !

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  39. I'd love to give this a try ---

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  40. Great review - have been on the fence about this pen. Don't really need another pen, but do like the idea of a long lasting piston that might get me through a day at work. I'll jump into the give-away - thanks!!

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  41. Review looks wonderful - would lurve to win it!

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  42. I have never owned piston-filler fountain pen ever since my school days. So I'll try my luck this time :-)

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  43. I'd love to try one of these pens.

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  44. great review and thanks for the chance to add a Noodlers to my collection.

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  45. This is my first attempt at a contest like this. I'd love to give that pen a tryout. Thanks for the interesting review.

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  46. I would like to give this pen a try...

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  47. Thanks for the review and the generous giveaway! Would love to try one of these pens out (and try swapping nibs)! :-)

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  48. Just getting into the whole fountain pen thing and would love to be able to win it! PeppWaves03@gmail.com

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  49. maramirez2@liberty.eduJuly 21, 2010 at 1:14 PM

    Thanks for the opportunity to win the pen. maramirez2@liberty.edu

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  50. YES!!
    THIS IS VERY GOOD NEWS!
    I WANT THIS PEN TOO~

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  51. I would love to try this out with Noodler's Polar Brown...I can't use this ink on any of my pens bec. it tends to clog up the nibs...maybe the tine separation on their proprietary pens would work better?

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  52. I'd love to try it! Thanks for the opportunity.

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  53. I would really want to try this Noodler's pen...Today only I have ordered 5 bottles of Noodler's ink online...we don't get that ink directly in shops in India

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  54. I never win anything, but I would love to try out this pen!

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  55. I've just received a bunch of noodlers inks from a local supplier here in New Zealand, and a few pens from jetpens (including a rather tasty wee Sailors fountain pen) so can't really justify buying another pen already, but if I was to win one in a giveaway, well that would be different.

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  56. Looks like a great pen.
    Would love to win one of these pens.
    Thank for the review and gieaway.

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  57. Great review! Add me to the contest.

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  58. This is one of the most comprehensive and thorough reviews I've seen of a pen yet. I have just recently become aware of these pens on Jetpens and have been thinking of buying one. Thanks for the review and the giveaway.

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  59. Very nice review. I love it when people come up with new pens! Thanks for the opportunity!

    gls.luckett99@yahoo.com

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  60. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  61. wow! such a deal! just leave a comment and be in the running! :) how cool is that. thanks for the opportunity. This pen looks like a winner from your review, and i would love to be one, too. nice, detailed review, btw -- and ALL my inks are Noodler's so this would be a great pen to hold some of their great ink. now, the next decision... what color ink to buy next.

    bboop25@gmail.com

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  62. Great review! I'm going to have to break down and buy one of these. ;-)

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  63. Speedmaster, glad you found the blog. I have been trying to invite you, but you are a hard man to contact! Stop by again sometime, and maybe you'll find something worth linking at The Amateur Economist.

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  64. @Note Booker, Esq. I think the reason Noodler's don't market a cartridge pen is because the company doesn't and probably never will sell ink in cartridges. Nathan Tardiff considers ink cartridges to be very wasteful of resources and extremely poor value for the customer.

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  65. Noodler’s makes a bunch of great quality fountain pen ink,the Noodler’s aerometric actually to keep a good deal of ink, although I have used it for a few days now so I have not had a run on me yet.


    promotional pencils

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  66. Bought two pens--red and blue--and use them with Fahrney's Velvet Black ink. Love the pens and the balanced writing. I plan to buy the Demonstrator when I can find it. These are great value for the money.

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