There are a few cultures in the world that I both admire and am fascinated with. One of them is the British culture. Now, before I continue, I’d like to make it clear that when I say “British culture” what I mean is the culture of the people who live in the United Kingdom as a whole. People who are not from the UK may not realize the distinction; I am also not from the UK, but I know enough to clarify.
Now, where were we?
I have always liked British music, legends, literature, and humor. Growing up in the 70’s and 80’s means that I listen to numerous UK music bands on the radio and later TV (Queen, anyone?). Much later I have collected insights on the British culture and a little glimpse on how that culture view themselves and the rest of the world — which is a big part of why it is fascinating to me. Which brings us to the name of the pen we’re talking about: Parson’s Essential.
In my mind, only the British could come up with a name I instantly like, sounds sophisticated, even though I have no clue what it means or where that name came from. I mean, compared to “Custom 74″, “Pro Gear Realo” (really?), “Pelikano”, “Homo Sapiens”, how about “Dude” ? I rest my case.
— bonus point if you know without googling, what brand the fountain pen called “Dude” belongs to.
So how is the pen itself?
I got this pen through a swap, so I don’t have the box, but you can look at youtube videos about this pen if you are curious about it. But I do have the pen, so let’s put up a picture of it:
Very gentleman-ly, eh?
A Dapper Writer
Here is what I knew about the pen before I got it: The pen made by Italix, a London pen company. It is a metal pen, but it’s finished in such a way that it doesn’t scream *Bling*. It’s made in the “Far East” (I’m guessing China), and assembled and finished in England. The nibs are made in Germany, and you can order them in any custom grinds that you can imagine (except “fude” grind, I don’t think they offer that).
When I did get my hands on it, I instantly love it. The pen looks simple but neat, The finish is lustrous, just like what Italix called it: Black piano lacquer. The clip looks vintage and boy, it’s not springy at all, but it’ll clasp on your jeans — or tweed — very, very securely.
Overall the pen has that understated sophistication about it, just like its name.
And the nib?
Here comes the minor ‘But…’ part of this review. The previous owner of this pen told me that the nib is 0.65mm Medium Cursive Italic. But as you can see in the “Before” writing sample below, it does not exhibit a lot of line variations. But the nib is smooth as smooth can be, I find no faults in that regard.
So now what? I have a pen that I absolutely like the look and feel of, but the line variation of the nib is rather lacking — my taste, yours may be different, which is why we have our own fountain pens, yeh?
Now it’s time to reveal my “Grand Plan.” Part of the reason I am seeking this pen is to see what a professionally grind CI nib looks like under the loupe.
I have been training quite extensively in CI grinding nibs while retaining the tipping material and achieve the smoothness, so I am eager to see how my grind stack up to those who are already established nib technicians.
So I went to break out my loupe and went to work. First I notice that the nib is ground to the point that it’s no longer a ball of hard tipping-material, rather it looks like a blunt arrowhead.
Making a mental note on how the part that touches the paper is shaped, I start to formulate where I’d grind the nib to narrow down the horizontal stroke. This part, to me, is the most important because with of all the nibs that I’ve ground (or grinded?? I never can be sure), no two are exactly the same. With this nib, I chose to grind the further-est tip of the nib.
So did you make it better or not, Mr. Nib-grinding man?
In the end, I do like the result of my re-grind. I can see the line variation more readily, but at the same time I managed not to turn the nib into a calligraphic one, and lost the smoothness of the factory tuning. The pen writes just as smooth as before, and the horizontal stroke narrowed down just enough to make my happy. See the “After” writing sample below.
As I said before, it’s a very personal preference, I know. But what else could be said about a fountain pen if not personal.
So, it’s a good ending, the pen now is routinely in my rotation. I took it to meetings with client and write Data Warehouse designs with it.
Sadly, despite using Diamine Marine as my ink, which is not exactly “common” ink colors, no one notices that I’m actually not using a ballpoint to write, and I wrote quite a bit.
So here is my summary:
- Is it cool or stylish?
Yes, if you like sophisticated, but understated elegance. The pen definitely does not attract attention to itself. You know, I wanted the orange or blue -marble version of the pen, but knowing now that I love even the plain black version, I want those to colors even more (sigh!).
- Does it feel cheap?
No. The pen body is metal, it came with a built in converter, and the finish feels durable and scratch resistant. No plastics -feeling on this one. The cap threading feels exceptionally smooth and definite. The only other pen I have that has a better feel in this regard is the Waterford. The gold trim compliments the shape and proportion of the pen nicely. Also the two-tone steel nib. I do wish that Italix custom engrave their logo or something on the nib. As is, the nib is a bit out of place compared to the rest of the pen with its typical “Iridium Point Germany” engraving.
- Is it comfortable to write with?
Yes. The pen feels very nice in the hand because of the body of the pen and its balance. My preference is to use it without posting the cap on the back. The nib is very smooth out of the factory, they did a splendid job with it. Even though it’s very firm, but the performance of the Cursive Italic (especially after I worked on it) is now very satisfying.
- Is it a good value?
Double Yes. This pen is about $70 USD including shipping from the UK. For those who live in the UK, I imagine the lower cost of shipping makes this pen even a greater value. Now, I got mine via a trade, so I am just relaying what’s known publicly. However, even if I had to buy this pen outright, I will not hesitate to choose this pen over many other pens retailing $100 or even $200. It is a tremendous value.
- Who would I recommend it to?
I recommend this pen to those who likes a bit of heft in their pens. I am not a fan of all-metal body pens that I can spot from a mile away, so this pen is also recommended for those who, like myself, prefer a more subdued appearance. The selection of nib grind out of the factory makes it clear that this is probably not geared towards total beginners in fountain pen, but rather as a “next step” purchase.
If I recall correctly, Stephen Brown (SBRE, if you must) included this pen as one of his GOAT pen one year, and I can only agree with him. You know that I’m a vintage pen guy, but every now and then, a good modern pen is good for the soul, you know what I mean?
(Afterthought: So, Who is Mr. Parson, and why select his name for the pen?)