In January this year, I hopped onto a mass order wagon together with my pals from SFPL, and bought a Noodler’s Ahab Flex Nib Piston Fill Fountain Pen from Goulet Pens.
Phew, what a mouthful. Let’s keep things short and sweet and call it the “Ahab”. This post, however, is not going to be short and sweet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Speaking of mouthfuls and sweetness, This pen looks very much like candy to me. I mean, it’s green with white swirls. Or white with green swirls, whatever you will. Doesn’t it remind you of candy such as the one in the picture?
Not only does it look like candy, it smells too. Not really of candy, as it isn’t a very delicious smell, but it’s somewhat sweet-smelling. In the beginning, the smell was absolutely disgusting (sorry it wasn’t intended to be this way), but when it grows on you, it’s actually alright. Just remember to give this pen a good wash, inside-out, when you have just received it. I used dishwash liquid to soak the pen at Day One and tried rubbing the surfaces with my fingers to remove the top layer of volatile substances causing the smell. This slightly improves the situation, but I can still smell it when I’m writing with it. Fast forward four months to today and the smell is much less distinct. Now, I need to put the pen right up to my nose in order to detect the smell.
Back to the topic about pen appearance. I bought this pen along with a King Philip Purple which is a translucent purple version. I got those two because I was supposed to help a friend get one as well, but since she was open to any choice of colours, I just got two of my favourites from the list that was available on Goulet Pens at that time.
It was a bad decision. Why? Because I liked both so much that I totally could not decide which one I should take and which to pass to my friend. So on the evening that I received the pens, while sweating with excitement and impatience to try out the Ahab, I texted my friend and forced a decision out of her:
Me: Hey. Choose one. Green or Purple. Quick, before I make my choice.
Friend: Errr Mayb what was what for?
Me: The Noodler’s pen. The purple is a solid colour, semi-clear body. The green is opaque with white streaks. So you’re taking the purple? Or you change your mind? Because I want to fill it now and don’t want to dirty yours just in case.
Friend: OK. No, purple is fine. I kinda guessed it was the pen but I could be wrong. You could be asking me which Teletubby costume I wanted to wear.
Me: Eww but Halloween’s isn’t even near…
Friend: Well it’s to wear for Valentine’s. Didn’t you know that Valentine’s is also the Halloween for singletons worldwide?
And henceforth the Green Swirly Jade Ahab became officially MINE.
This green pen is so green you can’t say it’s not green. It’s the epitome of green. To tell the truth, green is really not my colour. My colour is probably something like a dark red, a wine red, a black, a white or most other dark colours. Think Private Reserve Arabian Rose. That ink is currently my favourite of all favourites (and I have many favourites, including those I don’t even own yet). Just like how a hot chilli red screams out “BOOMZ” for Ris Low (Singaporean inside joke), a nice dark and rich colour screams out “SUCCUMB TO MY FINGERS OF TEMPTATION AS I REACH OUT TO YOU” for me. Therefore, this green is totally not my colour. So how did I come to love this design, then?
BECAUSE IT’S SWIRLY. Swirls make everything doubly pretty. Swirls can be put anywhere. On a notebook cover. Along the edges of calligraphically-written alphabets. Bordering a handwritten or hand-typed letter. On bar soaps. On liquid soaps (I make pearlescent liquid soaps at work which are so beautiful because of the swirly layers that can be seen when you pump them out onto your palm). Swirls can appear on the side of sunglasses. In paintings to depict clouds and waves. On greeting cards. At the ends of ribbons. On wrapping paper. By a tuft of hair on Superman’s forehead. -I’d better snap out of it before I start losing readers- Swirls are just too aesthetically-pleasing to reject!
Along with the art of a pen, the box that came with the pen is a piece of art itself, art contained within and without. Other than the sketches on the outside of the box, there is also a big piece of paper inside containing a sketch of Ahab with one of his legs in a piston on one side, and details about the Ahab PEN itself on the other side. If you’re wondering what or who Ahab is, look at Wikipedia. Otherwise, just look at pictures below:
The pen is made of supposedly biodegradable “vegetal resin”, so if you are one of them eco-friendly people, this is a nice pen for you! To my surprise, this material is quite light. I had expected this pen to be one of those heavy types judging from its size. It’s a fat pen, and I love fat pens. Fat but not heavy, you don’t need to post the cap to get a good balance, because I always use this pen unposted and have zero problems with it. Even if the cap is posted, it hardly affects the balance of the pen overall!
After drying the washed pen, I filled it with Noodler’s bulletproof #41 brown, which came along with my order. Actually, while using the pen, I often forgot that the resin smell is from the pen, and thought it was from the ink instead. I don’t know what gave me this feeling. Perhaps it’s because the smell is more of a “brown” smell than a “green” smell? No I am not synesthetic, at least I don’t think so. Filling the pen is not a difficult task. One simply pushes the piston in to expel the air, pull it up to suck up ink, and then repeat. There is a small hollow tube that is supposed to be part of the plunger but it also fills up with ink! The advantage of such a design is that you can always count on having an additional ~ 0.5mL of ink when you would have thought the pen has run dry. The disadvantage is that ink does not flow down very easily from the small tube, and after using the bulletproof #41 brown, there was very bad staining of the whole converter including the small section which was incredibly difficult to clean out. It might work, though, if you have a sonicator which buzzes at ultra-high frequencies to dislodge the stains from the inner walls.
I filled it then with Pelikan 4001 Violet for two reasons. I really like the colour and saw on Facebook that an SFPL pal has used her King Philip Purple Ahab with the Pelikan Violet, writing a very nice piece of work which made me green and swirly with envy. The second reason was that I’m hoping the Pelikan Violet would “clean” out the stains in the converter over time and use. This may not be likely, but I don’t know the chemistries of the inks – just giving it a try!
The converter actually screws onto the pen rather than friction-fitting, by the way! My first pen with such an interesting mechanism. You can use rubber O-rings (also available on Goulet Pens) to help keep the converter sealed to prevent leaking.
Here’s a writing sample. It looks totally different from the writing sample I had seen on Facebook. Green doesn’t seem to go well with Purple, swirly or not. Sorry for the dissonance!
This is how my scribblings go: from attempted neatness to impatient scratchings. Tsk tsk. Bad habits. But for this pen it’s a good way to judge the nib. I don’t feel much resistance when pushing the nib against the paper while scrawling quickly around the paper! I totally love the nib. Firstly, it’s huge. I love huge stuff. Secondly, it’s flexible. But if you’re expecting the flexibility of a copperplate dip nib, forget it. Look, you can’t expect very much out of a stainless steel nib, right? Be glad that this is flexible enough to produce such line variations as per above picture! I don’t usually write with this pen using flex, because as you can see from the picture, my flex writing is absolutely horrendous (it screams of lack of control over the pen). However I love writing with this nib as it is so smooth even for left-handed me! This is the third and probably the most important reason for me to like this pen. The pen writes rather dryly out of the box but since almost everything on this pen is friction-fit, you can just slide out the nib and feed easily and adjust for ink flow by repositioning the feed respective to the nib. You can even add more of those slits on the feed to improve ink flow, simply by using a razor blade. I dare not perform such daunting surgeries on any of my fountain pens yet, though. If you’re unsure, just consult the piece of paper art that comes with the Ahab inside the box – the page reverse to the drawing has clear pictures, instructions, and even the story of the Ahab pen.
I’ve just gone on and on about how great the pen is; how about the negative aspects? Yes there are a few, but probably not too bothersome. One of them is ink creeping around the gap where the nib meets the pen barrel. While using Noodler’s #41, I found dried ink creeping around that area when I left the pen capped overnight. I thought it was because I did not reposition the nib properly, but after trying a few times there was still some creep. Then I thought it was due to the fact that I did not properly clean the area after filling the pen with ink, so I took extra care during my second filling, but it didn’t work. However, after changing my ink to the Pelikan 4001 Violet, I haven’t experienced something like that so far (1 week and counting). So this issue is probably something to do with the ink instead.
The second one is the uncapping process. It is, in my humble opinion, one round too many to turn in order to remove the cap. After some study I found that it takes about 2 1/3 revolutions to remove the cap, which makes uncapping sometimes a little clumsy. This is opposed to the TWSBI Diamond 530 which uncaps at 1 1/3 revolutions (a comfortable one I think), and the Pilot 78G which uncaps at 1.5 revolutions (decent enough).
As I said, those two issues are not crucial to me, and I still love the Ahab very much. Perhaps many years later when I have properly mastered the art of calligraphy with a flex nib as an old woman, I will revisit the Ahab and do up some decent writing samples with it!
Thanks to Goulet Pens for carrying this pen in their online shelves for only 20 USD! I hope everyone owns at least one of these (don’t forget to take a double look at the swirly ones)!