Day 4: Namiki Falcon Review by @LitoApostolakou

Day 4 header

Namiki Falcon capped on boxI have long lusted after a Namiki Falcon. What lured me to this Japanese pen was the promise of a flexible nib attached to a modern writing instrument whose name combined the allure of Japan with the elegance and speed of a bird of prey. I knew that the Day of the Falcon has come when on a visit to the Fountain Pen Hospital in Manhattan I saw a Namiki peering out of a glass cabinet. The visit almost coincided with a significant birthday so it didn’t take me too long to become a proud owner of a Namiki Falcon.

Namiki Falcon band  on capThe Namiki Falcon is not a fancy pen. With its polished jet black resin body and gold trim Namiki has a conservative design its only decoration being the chain link detail with Namiki Japan engraved on the cap band. The gold clip is modern and simple and the flat cap and shiny gold bands give the pen an understated elegance. It also feels quite light. Namiki is not a hefty pen so not one for those who like their writing instruments to possess some weight or a wide girth.

Namiki Falcon nibUncap the pen and the Falcon’s hooded nib is revealed. It is something in the shape of this nib – reminiscent of the falcon’s powerful beak – that I find irresistible. The nib is 14K gold and it comes in fine, medium and broad (I went for the medium). It doesn’t flex like the fountain pen nibs of the first half of the 20th century. It is semi-flex you get with the Falcon and quite a noisy one at that. To one who has experienced the exquisite smoothness of a Montblanc Meisterstuck nib, the Namiki Falcon comes across as scratchy. And I mean this in the best possible way. Because I just love the Namiki’s noise. I prefer to think of it as singing.

Namiki Falcon Medium nib line variationsThe Namiki comes with a proprietary converter which doesn’t hold a lot of ink and I so far I found that I need to refill more frequently than is the case with other pens. Once inked, the Namiki started writing straight away, no skips, no buts. The writing is full of character with great line variations which show off the shading of the ink. It is comfortable to write with either posted or unposted. Writing with it is both a visual and auditory pleasure and I’m looking forward to enjoying the Namiki Falcon in many years to come.

Namiki Falcon M nib writing sample with Noodlers

Lito (Twitter: @LitoApostolakou) is the author of the Palimpsest blog which started in 2009. It is a blog about writing instruments, pens, nibs and inks, in the hands of writers and thinkers, in the past and in the present, in shops, in texts and in memory.

7 Responses

  1. Sola 5 January 2015 / 2:14 PM

    David, thanks for this comment. It was very informative and I appreciate your taking the time to write it 🙂

  2. David 29 December 2014 / 2:43 PM

    Jason,

    This is a long reply – but I feel you deserve the effort having already purchased one of these Falcon pens…

    If you bought a Pilot/Namiki Falcon, especially with a SF or SEF nib expecting a “Flex” pen writing experience, then I am afraid you are a victim of false advertising. Pilot/Namiki knows the Falcon pens and pens with their FA nibs are being sold in the West as “Flexible” writers, which is patently false; but they do nothing to correct the problem.

    The Falcon (in-fact all Pilot/Namiki pens, even with an FA nib) are not capable of delivering a true “Flex” writing experience by Western standards. When flexed in Western writing, the plastic feeds in these pens are not designed to deliver enough ink to the nib to support the needed ink flow. As a result, the nib will (at-best) Railroad or (at-worst) stop writing entirely until primed again.

    The somewhat flexible Pilot/Namiki nibs are designed for forms of Japanese writing, which benefit from what flex (more like “springiness”) is delivered by these nibs. Again, these nibs are NOT designed for Western-style flexible writing, such as in the Spencerian hand.

    To support true flex writing, the nib and feed should be designed from the start for generous ink flow, and (critically) the nib material should be made of Ebonite (a form of hard rubber), not plastic. Good quality Ebonite rods to make feeds are difficult to find these days. The only remaining manufacturers of reasonably affordable yet decent quality Ebonite stock that I know of today are based in India and Pakistan. Ebonite feeds must be cut and formed by human operated custom machines one-by-one. Ebonite feeds are not cheaply mass-molded like plastic feeds.

    Some so-called “Nibmeisters” out there claim to be able to modify these Japanese pens to deliver a truly flexible writing experience. I find this hard to swallow. No matter what, you do, you are still stuck with a plastic feed, which is the real problem when it comes to providing enough ink. A truly flexible pen with flow that can keep up with the nib requires not only an Ebonite feed, but “tuning” of the feed to adjust and modify the flow as well as heat-setting the nib to the feed.

    You most often find true flexible fountain pens in the form of vintage pens with gold nibs. Manufacturing flexible gold nibs and mating them with Ebonite feeds is not only somewhat of a lost art these days, it is very labor intensive (hence costly). Making truly flexible gold nibs entails not only special gold alloys, but repeatedly folding the gold upon itself, fusing under heat, and quenching – much like fine hand-made swords are forged.

    The only reasonably affordable modern pens I know of that attempt to deliver a true flexible writing experience are the Noodler’s Ahab and Konrad pens, which have what I would term “semi-flex” steel nibs and real Ebonite feeds. But be prepared to learn how to modify and heat-set the Ebonite feed on a Noodler’s flex pen as the pen will most-likely NOT flex properly without railroading as it is straight out-of-the-box.

    Tuning and heat-setting a flex nib and feed is an art, and comes with a rather steep learning curve when done properly. But the effort is worth it. Fortunately Noodler’s now sells spare nibs and feeds for the Ahab and Konrad pens. So if you mess up on your first attempt to get the pen working, you can start over again without having to buy an entire new pen. There are many posts on the Fountain Pen Network forums regarding tuning the Noodler’s pens.

    As personally-owned automated home turning and milling machines become more and more affordable, you might begin to see people making custom replacement Ebonite feeds for modern pens that, after adjustment and heat-setting, may be able to deliver enough flow to support a true flex experience. It might even be possible some day to buy these replacement feeds for your own pens. Just don’t hold your breath waiting for any mass-production manufacturer like Pilot/Namiki to make true flexible writing pens – they’re too expensive and time-consuming to produce in volume.

  3. Jeanne 29 December 2014 / 12:21 AM

    Very nice review. Everything you said I find true. I have two Falcons. the first was the Soft Fine nib that I use for sketching. It is noisy and does give the feedback I would expect of a fine nib. (I am not a fine nib person) I later purchased the Soft Broad. Oh, wow! Yes, as you say it wrote straight away and so smoothly. Gliding on the paper. No noise. Lays down a wet line with beautiful variation. I really enjoy the SB. I have not experienced any railroading.

  4. Jason 28 December 2014 / 10:33 PM

    I have the Namiki Falcon with rhodium trim in a soft fine, and find the pen railroads whenever applying flex when writing. I’ve tried several inks and they all exhibit the same railroading characteristics. Do these nibs need to be tuned by a professional to get the most out of them?

    • Maybelline T. 28 December 2014 / 10:55 PM

      Hi Jason, one possible reason for railroading may be the amount of pressure you apply to the tines. I believe this nib is made for semi-flex and not full flex, so if you apply too much force, it flexes over the limit and railroads. Also try cleaning the nib before using, add a tiny drop of soap solution to your ink to improve the surface tension. The potential of the nibs may be expanded if tuned by a professional, but may not always be necessary.

I would love to hear your thoughts!