Monday, April 25, 2022

Newest Acquisitions (Virtual "Show & Tell") ~ part 361

To paraphrase Bette Davis' line from one of my favourite films - Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride as I review my beautiful Conklin 'Nozac' in "Toledo Red"!

(please click on images to enlarge) Background: The original Conklin Pen Company started out in Toledo, Ohio before moving operations to Chicago and, eventually, went out of business in 1955. In 1999, the Conklin pen company was revived, and began producing writing instruments named after vintage Conklin pen models, of which this is one (there's an excellent write-up on the original 'Nozac' model here).

From their official website ( "
Conklin, the legendary name for fine writing instruments returns with a revitalized design of a timeless classic, the Nozac™ piston filler. Originally released in 1931, Conklin took the world by storm with their patented piston-filler and polygonal design, the Conklin Nozac™ “no sack” being the only American piston-filler in production at the time. Based on the original model, the Nozac™ is a writing instrument worthy of its legendary name."

To make things really confusing, there were actually four other modern Conklin 'Nozac' models (now long-discontinued) that predated mine. The 'Nozac' model I'm reviewing today was released in 2018, according to my research..

This 'Nozac' model is also no longer in production, but its original MSRP was $165 USD. I found mine in new, unused condition on eBay last September for $55 USD plus $15.95 shipping. It came in Conklin's hinged presentation box, which is dark blue with white stitching (love that colour combo!). The material lining the inside of the box is very soft, and cushions the pen very well. 

The pen was made from solid acrylic and its colours are really challenging to capture with a camera because they change according to the lighting conditions. The colours are a lovely mix of (predominantly) warm tones, cooler hues and metallic tints in a swirly resin that, in some places, looks like liquid metal. The pen's facets catch the light, causing the metallic colours in the resin to sparkle--a beautiful effect. The facets also serve a more practical purpose - to prevent the pen from rolling off a desk or table!

Here's what Conklin had to say about the material: "Made from European grade acrylic resin, each writing instrument displays a wide variety of color. Offered in Toledo Red, a stunning shade of dark maroon marbled with a mix of colors, flecked with purple, gold, blue, or orange. Or Ohio Blue, a dazzling shade of true blue, dappled with shades of white, silver, and greens."

The model was available as a fountain pen or capped ballpoint/rollerball. The latter accepts Parker-type refills, and the former only fills from a bottle due to its filling system.

Also from Conklin's official website: "Machined to perfection and painstakingly hand-polished, the Nozac™ body features eight smooth faceted sides and is then adorned with striking silver along the clip, grip, and ends."

(side note: the vintage Nozac models had either smooth barrels or 12-sided barrels - not octagonal!)

My measurements:

Capped length: 13 cm, Posted length: 14.9 cm, Uncapped length: 11.7 cm (nib tip to barrel end)
• Total pen weight: 37 grams; cap weight: 16 grams
• Ink capacity: I haven't measured it, but I heard it's about 0.8 ml

Above: the pen's chromed grip section and single-tone steel # 6 size Conklin nib in Fine width.

I'm pretty sure I didn't swap out the original nib after I got the pen, but I know this model came with two-tone steel nibs when in was released in 2018. In early May 2019, a well-known Conklin dealer announced on FPN that Conklin had switched to using single-tone steel nibs on all their steel-nibbed pens. I don't know if Conklin was still producing the 'Nozac' when they announced this changeover - the model was already being sold on closeout at this point. In any case, I much prefer the single-tone steel nib as it matches the pen's trim.

The nib has Conklin's famous crescent-shaped breather hole (a tribute to their vintage classic "Crescent-Filler" model) and is engraved/stamped with the Conklin logo, "Toledo", and "USA". You can't see it in the photo above, but the nib width (Fine) is marked on the right side of the nib with an "F". The pens were available in five different nib options (Extra-Fine, Fine, Medium, Broad or 1.1mm Stub) and came with a black plastic feed. The nib unit unscrews from the section and is compatible with many other Conklin and Monteverde (which shares its ownership with Conklin) pens, should you wish to change the nib on yours. The nib on mine has a tiny bit of feedback but writes very smoothly, with a bit of line variation (but nothing close to an italic/stub), but no discernible flex. In terms of ink flow, it's right in the middle--it's not a gusher, but not a dry writer either. In conclusion: I'm very happy with the nib.

The barrel imprint - "Conklin Nozac - Made in Italy" - is stamped into the resin in a very plain font; for such a pretty pen, I'd have used a fancier font, but maybe that's just me. This isn't the first Italian-made Conklin pen - the Conklin 'Heritage Sleeve Filler', 'Nighthawk, and 'Empire' (among others) were also made in Italy.

The clip is based on Conklin's 1916 patented spring-loaded rocker clip, and sports the Conklin name in a large, cursive font. It clips easily onto several sheets of paper, thick or thin fabrics, and being a rocker-style clip, it can be utilized with just one hand. Kudos to Conklin on a great clip design!

The cap closes via a magnetic closure mechanism: "New to Conklin, each cap is magnetized along the barrel and innermost lining for a secure closure, whether at the office or traveling."
(from their official website). One online reviewer warned buyers not to trust the cap to stay on if the pen was kept in a pocket, but mine caps quite securely. I don't know if the magnet will rust or weaken over time (apparently, magnets /do/ weaken), but it's not something I'm too worried about.

Because of the magnet, the cap is fairly heavy. I post a lot of my fountain pens, but this one is a bit too long and back-weighted for me to use comfortably when posted. Too bad the barrel wasn't just a bit longer, to make the pen more comfortable for "high grippers" (such as myself) or those with larger hands, to use unposted.  The unposted ‘Nozac’ is about 1 cm shorter than an unposted Lamy 'Safari' fountain pen, which is a very good size for my hands. A longer barrel would also better suit the large #6 size nib on the ‘Nozac’; if you look at my photos of the uncapped pen, you’ll see what I mean (note: the photo directly below was taken at an angle, so it doesn’t show how relatively short the barrel is, in comparison to the nib - the photos below that one do).

Get ready---here come the complaints! 😒

Let's start with the cap's top... Why isn't there any ornamentation on the cap finial? This wasn't an inexpensive fountain pen when it was first released, and the resin material is stunning ... so why not make the finial as nice-looking as the rest of the pen??

The pen fills via a mechanism described by Conklin thusly: "Similar to winding watches, to fill the fountain pen you must engage the piston filler mechanism. Simply twist the non-ending screw located at the end of the barrel counterclockwise to create suction within the body, then dip the nib into your ink of choice, and twist the screw clockwise to fill." 

Well, apparently the pen actually uses a captive-converter filling system, not a true piston-filling system (which explains its low ink capacity). Captive converters always seemed a bit gimmicky to me, but I don't hate them. This pen has an opaque body and no ink-view window to check the ink level in the converter. Normally this isn't a problem - with most pens of this type, you can unscrew the barrel to check the converter's ink level. With this model, however, the barrel can't be unscrewed from the section. This means that (a) you never know how much ink is in the converter and --even worse -- (b) if something goes wrong with the converter, you're screwed (so to speak).

It's such a beautiful fountain pen - I really wish the section was made of the same resin material as the cap and barrel..."But what about the magnetic cap closure?" you ask. Well, I think they could have made the section out of this resin because the thin magnetic ring is actually part of the nib assembly, not the section itself.

Another complaint--the section is really slippery. I usually don't have an issue with metal sections (tbh, I often roll my eyes at people that complain about them) but this one is very slick. If they'd machined the section to make it less slippery, that would have solved/alleviated this problem. Some people have complained about the turning knob at the end of the barrel being slippery, but it's fine for me.

And speaking of that turning knob... Why the heck didn't they make the the pen's ends the same shape?? The cap top finial is cylindrical with straight sides, but the finial on the barrel end is slightly convex and tapered! One online reviewer lamented the fact that the top finial wasn't faceted (like the cap and barrel), but I would have been satisfied with a cap finial that matched the shape of the barrel's finial. Pens with mismatched cap tops and barrel ends drive me crazy (e.g. my beloved Laban '325' pens 😭) Symmetry people ....symmetry!!

This isn't a great photo, but I think you can see the metal section/resin barrel border... and I have two gripes about it. First, that border has very sharp edges, and given that this is where most people grip the pen, they really should have smoothed them down. The fact that they didn't do this is puzzling, as the pen's facets are very smooth, with carefully-rounded corners (thanks to the time spent polishing them by hand).

My second gripe is that the section-barrel interface has a thin, semi-transparent resin "collar" that looks
odd and makes the pen look (even more) unfinished. I think the collar is made of the same resin as the rest of the pen, but it's transparent in several places. If they'd made the collar completely opaque, I think it would look more visually appealing. It's a small detail, but every time I look at the pen's section, I see it and it bugs me.

Final thoughts: The "Nozac' is a lovely, smooth-writing fountain pen made of gorgeous acrylic (one of the nicest I've ever seen) and the workmanship on it is very good. I applaud Conklin for tackling the job of creating a beautiful faceted pen ... and they achieved that goal. I do, however, have issues with some aspects of the pen's design, and for that reason, I don't think I would have paid full price for the pen. I think this is the harshest pen review I've posted on this blog, but it's because this pen has so much potential; if they refined some things and made the design a bit more cohesive, Conklin could have a really great fountain pen in their lineup. I hope they do.

(photos & review by Maja)

I'll be back with a favourable review of a very pretty fountain pen on Wednesday, so stay tuned!


Cableguy said...

Aside from a few quirky faults it is a gorgeous pen.

Another nice and informative Show and Tell ...thanks Maya!

Vancouver Pen Club said...

Thanks for the kind words :) It's so close to being a truly great pen. Maybe Conklin will make yet another version of the 'Nozac' lol -- I'm hopeful, given how many versions they made so far!