Let me start this with a bit of a slideshow. One of the great things about ordering a pen from Brian is that you get to watch it being born. As I was watching Brian make my pen, I took some screen shots of the process. I’ve included captions so that you all can figure out what was going on.
I just can’t say enough about how fun it is to watch your pen being made.
Now THE REVIEW:
This pen is everything I thought it would be and more. The material is unsurpassed. I never appreciated the difference between acrylic and celluloid. It is warm to the touch and seems to ‘glow’ for lack of a better word. This pen and material is near impossible to photograph properly, especially with my little Lumix TZ4 and rigged up lighting setup. I’ve done the best I can do, but please take my word for it when I say this is a material that can only be appreciated in person and in direct sunlight!
This pen just looks great! As mentioned above, I’ve used a celluloid material. It is Purple Web by American Art Plastics and is a true Celluloid not just acrylic. I find that I quite like the slight camphor smell as I write with it. It’s not overbearing at all. The material itself is a deep purple mauve sort of color. In poor lighting it appears a plain dark plum, but when the sun shines on it it just comes alive. The material has striations in it. These striations are actually translucent, so depending on how thin the pen is turned you can actually see through them. Brian turns his pens rather thickly, so I can only see through the material near the ink window and near the cap threads. It’s a rather nice effect. In addition to the striations, the material also has a bit of silver dust sprinkled through out. This also gives it a bit of a shine.
I’ve included a picture from Brian’s Flickr page that better illustrates this than my photos. Note this is not my pen:
The expert craftsmanship is evident. If one examines the pen closely one can observe the occasional maker’s marks. This is not to say that the pen is flawed. To the contrary, the glossy finish on this pen is superb. The occasional tool mark only adds to the handmade aesthetic of the pen. It’s a bit like observing handmade carpentry (did you know Brian is also a woodworker and does beautiful Marquetry work?). I love it!
The Glenmont design is itself a sight to behold. I love that it recalls the Waterman, Sheaffer, Parker flatops that were so popular in the 20s and 30s. While I love cigar shaped pens as much as the next person there really is just something about those flat tops.
I did make a few alterations to the pen design. Most notably, my pen has no coordinating color end caps. With the material I chose I did not think them appropriate. Also, my pen is a bulb filler. This required some changes to the design of the barrel. Also, my barrel does not taper as much as the original Glenmont design. I don’t post my pens, so it was not necessary to taper it so much. Finally, I added an ink window so that I can tell when I’m running low on ink.
The quality of this pen’s construction is really unsurpassed. Everything fits tightly and flush. The threading is precise and the finish is impeccable. Really, this pen is top notch all the way!
This pen is 5 7/8” capped and 5 1/4” uncapped. If I had one complaint it would be in regards to the girth of the pen. I’d like a fatter section. As is, it is a little under .5 inch in girth. I tend to like pens with a large section so that it keeps my grip on the pen loose and thus reduces fatigue during long writing sessions. This may be something that can be address during the customization process.
In most fountain pen reviews this would be the most important section. With regards to a custom pen, I think not. When you commission a custom pen you are really commissioning the body of the pen not the nib.
Brian has sourced the best prefabricated nibs and feeds he can find and will adjust them to your preferences. I ordered two steel nibs for my pen. One was a .8mm Stub and the other was a Medium.
I ordered the stub first. The grind was well done except that it was a bit more crisp than I’d wanted. I consider this my own fault as I was not very specific about what kind of writing experience I wanted. Brian ground the nib for maximum line variation which translated into the nib writing beautifully, but not quite as smooth as I’d wanted. When I contacted Brian about this he immediately offered to adjust the nib for me. I should receive it back next week, but I am confident that it will be excellent. ***
In the meantime, and mostly because I could not bare to take this gorgeous pen out of rotation, I ordered a medium nib. We went over my exact desires for the nib (I’m a quick learner) and I am very pleased to announce that it came to me EXACTLY as I wanted. It is a wonderfully smooth and wet writer. I have no complaints or reservations about it; it is simply a joy to use. I’m sure the stub will be too.
My pen is a bulb filler. This is a fun filling system. It takes a bit of getting used to, but once you do it is perfect. Might I also add that it is very easy to clean out. You simply suck up some water to rinse the feed and the filler tube. The nib unscrews so that you can rinse out the barrel.
My pen holds quite a bit of ink at over 2.5ml. I have my nib tuned to a very wet 7/10 wetness, so I go through the ink pretty quickly.
Cost and Value
What can I say? You get what you pay for. With the bulb filler, and customizations it is very easy to spend over $400 on one of Brian’s pens (though the base models are generally around $250). For the price I paid I got 1.5 months of superior customer service, it took him 3-4 hours over the course of 2 days to make my pen, and I gave my input the entire way through even as I was watching him make my pen over the webcam.
I could have gotten a Visconti Opera Master, Pelikan M800 or Auroura Optima, but I would not have gotten the service or the ability to be so deeply involved in the process. This pen was definitely worth it!
Conclusion (10/10, A++)
I am beyond pleased with this pen. It is everything I wanted and then some. I would not hesitate to recommend Brian to anyone looking to purchase a handmade custom fountain pen. Very well done!
*** Just adding an update to this review.
I have received my readjusted .8mm stub nib that I mentioned in my review. The results are as I expected. It is a wonderful writer. The sweet spot is very particular, but once I found it I as more than satisfied with the result. I’ve been using the pen for several days now, and I am completely adjusted to the sweet spot.
Wonderful nib, wonderful width, wonderfully juicy. I am well pleased.
As an added bonus, I had him fashion the top of the nib into a fine point so that I can flip it over and have a fine line when needed. He did a good job with that too. The fine side of the nib is not buttery smooth, but I did not expect it to be. It is quite useful though.