There is no question that vintage pens have quite an appeal, from their unique designs to their different materials. But what if there was a pen which combined some of the best of both worlds? In step the Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler Fountain Pen in black chased finish with rose gold trim. This pen has many of the beautiful design aspects of the original. However, it uses modern materials giving greater durability and reliability to a timeless design while keeping the intrigue of the original filling system.
It began with Roy Conklin. On July 12th of 1901, he applied for, and on October 28th of 1901 was granted, a patent for a new type of pen filling system. In this new system, a built-in spring loaded pressure bar would be used to depress a rubber bladder; when released, it creates a vacuum drawing ink into the pen. This revolutionary design became the catalyst for many other self filling pen designs and was produced up through 1930 when Conklin fully switched to lever fillers.
This modern Conklin comes in the standard Conklin packaging we have come to expect and includes a set of instructions for operating the crescent filler in addition to the usual warranty card. This pen truly invokes the aesthetic of the original design. Conklin did a beautiful job of incorporating the look of black chased hard rubber using modern resin. The chasing pattern on this pen is consistent throughout. The barrel has a slight taper to the rear and a straight cylindrical cap with a domed top just like many vintage models had. They even used the spring loaded rocker clip invented by Frank H. Mooney for which the patent was applied for in 1917 and used on many vintage Conklins. This clip design is especially useful for anyone who frequently takes their pen out of and back into a shirt pocket multiple times in a meeting.
This pen is not just a copy of an original design. It is a modern pen, using modern resins, a modern screw in nib unit, and is truly an evolution of the original for today’s pen user who may not want the issues that sometimes comes with vintage pens. The crescent filler itself is marked with the Conklin brand on one side and the words “Crescent-Filler Trade Mark” on the other. The clip is also marked with the Conklin brand name. Additionally this pen plays homage to Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) by having his signature engraved in the cap band.
Ok, so what’s it like using this pen? Well, first off, it’s fun to fill. Looking at the pen, there is a locking ring under the crescent mechanism. This prevents the filler from being accidently depressed. In order to fill this pen, the first step is to rotate the locking mechanism so that the gap in the ring lines up with the crescent. I did notice on mine that when the ring is not fully locked, it is a bit loose feeling on its axel. This is not a defect and is normal for this design. The plus side is that it ensures it won’t bind up on you with various temperature changes.
Once you have rotated the ring you are ready to fill. You insert the nib into the ink just as you would with any other piston or converter, but then you depress the crescent and release it. After releasing the crescent you still need to hold the pen into the ink for several seconds while the vacuum draws in the ink. You may repeat the procedure to try to get a more complete fill but it’s not really necessary. The pen will hold quite a bit of ink, up to about 1.6 ml when full, which is more than many modern pens.
The pen is fairly light weight in the hand. At only 18 grams, or about 0.6oz, and with the pen balancing right by the filler, it is very comfortable to hold. For those who like to post the cap, this posts easily and securely. The cap only adds another 11 grams. While I still prefer not to post, doing so does not make the pen feel too back heavy. Unposted, the pen is just over 5 inches, posted it becomes right about 6 and a half inches long.
Not only is the pen light in the hand and well balanced, but the grip section is very comfortable to hold. It is a resin grip which is tapered forward to a finger stop by way of a reverse taper at the end where it meets the nib and feed. This is one of my favorite grip shapes. The thickness of the grip is comfortable and is a good in-between size. It should be comfortable to write with for the vast majority of users.
Writing with the pen is a joy. This particular pen is fitted with Conklin’s Jowo made black finished nib with the crescent shaped breather hole. This one is a fine nib and is what I would expect from Jowo. It is a smooth writer and performs well with no skips or hard starts. I had no issues at all with the functionality of the pen, thought I would have personally liked if it came with a rose gold plated nib to match the rest of the trim. The benefit though of having removable nib units, is that I could always switch it out later on.
Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one of the more unique features of this pen’s filling system. Most fountain pen users at one point will end up having a pen either roll off their desk or pretty close to it. A byproduct of the fact that this pen uses a crescent shaped bar, is that this pen will not roll away if left unattended. Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), a spokesman of Conklin for a time once said “Dear Sirs: – I prefer it to ten other fountain pens, because it carries its filler in its own stomach, and I cannot mislay even by art or intention. Also, I prefer it because it is a profanity saver; it cannot roll off the desk.” I have experienced when a pen did not save me from profanity and can easily see why this is such a great benefit.
Cleaning this pen is a bit different than your typical cartridge/converter pen, however it follows the same basic principals. There are actually two ways to clean it. The first, like with any similar filler, is you can continually fill and empty the pen with clean water until it runs clear, however this is where having a removable nib unit comes in handy. Another option is to simply remove the nib unit and rinse out the pen, then you can run the nib unit under water to clean, or use any other normal cleaning method for cleaning nib units including sonic cleaners or bulb syringes.
Just a few other things to point out are that the Sacs are made of latex (except for the demonstrator model which is silicone). If it does require service at any point, the pen is covered under Conkin’s warranty as outlined in the card provided with the pen. Some users have reported that the clip or nib may not line up with the crescent. The threads of the cap and nib are double threaded. If after reassembly they do not line up, back the cap or nib unit out until it clicks (about a quarter turn after it is out) and screw it back in, each click should be a quarter turn which can then be used to align it when reassembling after cleaning.
This pen is really a fantastic pen for anyone who loves a vintage design but wants something which is easier to clean and more reliable. It is available in 6 different nib sizes: extra fine, fine, medium, broad, 1.1 stub, and Omniflex. While it retails from $185 to $250 USD, it can regularly be found in the $150 to $200 range from various retailers depending on the color choice.
This pen was provided to me courtesy of Yafa Brands for this review as part of the Yafa Ambassador program. The photo of the Crescent Filler patent is from the Conklin website. The photo of the clip was found using a google patent search.