Pilot Namiki Falcon Collection Fountain Pen, Black, Soft Fine Nib (60152)
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From a culture that has revered the art of writing for more than a thousand years comes instruments that celebrate both writing and art. Where traditional techniques and modern innovations are fully realized in writing instruments that bridge art and technology, poetry and science, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Soar to new writing heights with the Namiki Falcon. Sleek in its unique style, this jet black fountain pen is a remarkable feat of engineering and elegance. The Namiki Falcon's most extraordinary feature is its flexible, "hooded" nib that gently yields to the user's writing angle. The nib was designed by our engineers with input from the association of pen shop owners in Japan who recommended a soft, flexible writing feel. This group subsequently endorsed the product. It is available as a fountain pen with a 14 karat gold nib in soft fine, medium or broad. Each pen is packaged and merchandised in a sleek black gift box. For the collector and connoisseur, Namiki is a revelation. For the valued client, friend or family member, it will be the gift of a lifetime. For every creative endeavor, Namiki is the ultimate writing tool.
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1) On the flexibility scale, it is semi-flex. So compared with vintage true-flex pens, you have to apply more pressure to achieve decent line width variation. The amount of pressure needed tires and strains the hand, and the steady pressure required also makes it harder to write flowing letters, especially compared with a dip pen nib. Still, it's hard to beat the convenience of a flex fountain pen.
2) There is a break-in period. The nib will feel super resistant at first, but gradually softens after some flex writing. The initial resistance may be disappointing, but it does decrease over time.
3) In terms of modern flex pens, Namiki's only competitor is the Noodler Flex pens (which retail for around $20). But you really do get what you pay for. When the Noodler works, it works great, but more often then not, I found myself having to tweak the Noodler and still found it unreliable. The Namiki Falcon on the other hand has reliable ink flow, and seldom rail-roads.
4) The flexibility of the nibs doesn't change between the nib sizes. This means that the max line width you can achieve is the same. Thus, you get maximum line width variation with the Fine nib, and reduced line variation with the medium nib, etc. If you're choosing between nibs for flex writing, the Fine nib is best to accentuate swells.
5) In terms of the spectrum of flex pens price points, I think this is the best entry point. The Noodler is too unreliable. The next price point begins at around $250, by custom nibmeisters such as Richard Binder, or vintage pen restorers such as Mauricio Aguilar.
As others have noted, the Namiki Falcon has a subdued elegance, and just feels right in the hand. To be honest though. If you're just looking for a pen for everyday non-flex writing, the TWSBI Diamond 540 is what I would recommend. It's $50 and in terms of smoothness in normal writing is comparable to the Namiki Falcon.
I bought a bottle of black Noodler's Ink to go with it. This has also been very good. A full discussion of the issues of fountain pens and inks would take up many pages, so let me just say one thing for you folks who are new to fountain pens: there's really no such thing as waterproof ink for fountain pens, no matter what the advertising says. There IS waterproof ink -- you can use that when you intend to watercolor your drawing -- but never, never put that kind of ink in your fountain pen, it will ruin it.
The Falcon comes in a handsome black box that looks too big for it. The removable tray has space for 3 pens, so I am using it to store my most-used fountain pens, which now include the Falcon. The pen comes with a converter and one ink cartridge. Namiki/Pilot converters and cartridges are proprietary. Like many Japanese pens, they have a much larger hole for the ink supply than standard international cartridges. That's good, since a flex nib requires good ink flow. But I'm not fond of Namiki inks, so I've been using the converter, which is metal with a plate press on the side. It is easy to clean between ink refills because of the gaping hole in one end. But the nib is difficult to flush with an ear syringe, nasal aspirator, or soldering bulb. To make it easier, you can cut an empty Namiki cartridge in half, attach it, and flush the water through there.
Of course, you are considering the Namiki Falcon for the nib. It's one of very few flex nibs available on contemporary fountain pens. It's semi-flex. It requires a fair amount of pressure to flex to its maximum. If I am writing for a long time, it makes my hand tired, which a wet noodle might not. But semi-flex is an advantage with my small handwriting. If I used a more flexy nib, I would have to write unnaturally large. Semi-flex is perfect for everyday writing and letter-writing. I have the fine nib, which, being Japanese, is more like a European extra fine. It writes a line about 0.2 mm wide unflexed and flexes to 1 mm. The Falcon nib does not have an overfeed, and it separates partly from the underfeed when flexed, but it lays down a lot of ink. It's not for thin paper. I recommend at least 80 g paper.
In conclusion, some advice on writing with a flex nib: Don't be disappointed if the Falcon nib doesn't flex as much as you would like right out of the box. It took a few days before mine loosened up to its full potential. If you're not accustomed to flex nibs, look around online for advice on how to write with them. You apply pressure in the downstrokes and release pressure in other strokes. The nib has a nice bounce, and this will become natural with practice. At first attempt, it may seem impossible to get the pen to flex when writing cursive, if you normally hold your pen in the 4:30 (o'clock) position. That would be the correct position for normal cursive writing or italic or blackletter calligraphy. But, in order to flex on downstrokes, you must hold the pen closer to the 6:00 position. If you want your handwriting to slant to the right, turn the paper. I love my Falcon.
I bought this beautiful looking pen with a view to having my first "flexible nib" fountain pen, for daily use (dip pens are fantastic but you can't carry them around). I wanted a modern pen as opposed to an antique/used pen, and I chose a Soft Fine nib.
The Soft Fine nib is slightly finer than the usual fine nibs we get in the UK. The pen has a wonderful ink flow. The nib gives a little, but is NOT a "flexible nib". Posting the cap on the body makes the writing lighter and better. The line width variability, a key feature of "flexible nibs" is imperceptible. (The writing is nothing like the sample writing shown on the website. In fact I felt misled, but I won't return the pen.) It writes like a pen with a rather nice fine nib; but the scratchiness is distinctly audible, although reduced after writing some 200 pages of A5, so far. Recently I had to complete a lot of forms and the fine nib was excellent for the purpose. Also the SF nib deposits less ink on paper compared to say a M or OBB. With so many notebooks sold with somewhat thin paper, it is an advantage that this nib does not soak through, and one can write on the reverse side of the paper.
The refillable ink converter has an infuriatingly tiny capacity. A disappointment for a pen that carries the founder's name - Pilot should re-think. Cartridges have their advantage, but with such a wonderful range of inks now available today, users want refillable pens. (Since bottled ink is far from cheap, I don't see manufacturers or retailers making less money selling bottled ink as opposed to ink cartridges. So why not provide decent size converters?)
It is a good pen with a Fine (not flexible) nib. Without a good size converter it is not practical/dependable enough for daily use. Over priced, I think.