As you’ll no doubt be aware, I’m quite the fan of fountain pens, especially ones made by Pelikan. These were the ones I used to write Not So Perfect with.
So I thought it might be a nice idea to invite someone who knows a thing or two about Pelikan pens on here for a chat.
I give you, Ray Adams from Niche Pens…
How and why did you become interested in fountain pens, Ray?
I started to use a fountain pen in my days in the police; I was a PC and had to write pages and pages of statements. I was not happy with my handwriting and the quality of the cheap ball pens I used up until then. I bought a relatively inexpensive fountain pen (I cannot recall the make) and was impressed by the writing quality it gave and how it seemed to improve my handwriting.
Let’s talk about the specific brand you sell – Pelikan (the pens that I use). Why Pelikan? What do they have that others don’t?
I was introduced to Pelikan purely by accident. My son finished his GCSE exams and when asked what he would like as a congratulations present, he asked for a Mont Blanc fountain pen. We purchased one from the internet and were both unimpressed by it. I did some research and read around some forums about Pelikan, a little know, but very established brand who were regarded as making the best pens in the world. Some have said they are the best pens you’ve never heard of. I tried to make a purchase and discovered there was no shop local to me selling them when I contacted Pelikan UK. They invited me to fill the void and sell them myself, which I accepted with the intent to set up a simple website to sell from at a slight discount from the RRP. Since then I have expanded greatly and I now have 4 million hits a year to my website.
All of the good things I read on the forums about Pelikan have proved to be true. They have great build quality, smooth nibs in a very wide range of widths to accommodate differing tastes and look timelessly elegant. I have a couple of pens which I used everyday; one is a 1940s M400 and the other is a larger M800 fountain pen which was made in 1987, both still write faultlessly.
How do they work?
Pelikan’s fountain pens have a very clever internal plunger which is used to fill the pen with ink. There is a knob at the end of the pen which is turned to move this plunger (which is geared, so the plunger moves more rotations than filler knob when it is turned. This system allows the pen to hold a very large amount of ink and means that the nib is ‘flushed’ every time the pen is refilled reducing the likelihood of it becoming blocked with old, dry ink.
Pelikan also design their nibs to be easily interchangeable, so that different sized nibs can be placed in simply by unscrewing the unit from the pen.
There is a lot of attention to detail in the pens, the clip, for example, on the Souveran and Traditional pens (Pelikan’s flagship ranges) is shaped like a Pelikan’s beak and they have a 4 start thread on their caps, so that it requires very little effort to screw the cap on and it makes an air tight seal so that the pen will start to write first time even when it has not been used for some weeks.
Could you tell me a little about their history?
Pelikan started off as a company in Hanover making inks. They have been making ink since 1832 but they started to make fountain pens around 80 years ago. They had the patent for the differentiated piston filling mechanism which I talked about earlier. The ‘100’ model was an instant success because of its quality and ease of refilling and so piston filling systems became the fountain pen standard with the manufacturers in Europe.
In 1960, Pelikan brought out the Pelikan children’s fountain pen which has been the standard school pen in Germany since, through several model generations. They have just brought out the 2010 model. I am led to believe that most school children in Germany has used a Pelikano to learn to write with since the 1960s and as such Pelikan is well known in Germany.
As well as their pens, I am also a fan of Pelikan’s inks – could you tell me about them?
As I said earlier, Pelikan have been making inks since 1838, so they have some experience of what makes a good ink for painting and use in pens. The current range is a succinct affair with a nice range of colours: black; blue; blue-black; turquoise; violet; red; green and brown. There is also a pink colour available, but only in ink cartridges, not bottles like the rest of the colours.
Whilst we only sell Pelikan pens, we do sell another make of ink – Noodler’s. The America chemist who is the designer has managed to produce an ink which reacts with an element of paper so that it irremovable when dry, he calls it bulletproof. It can be cleaned from other items, but not from paper. He has been running a competition with a $10,000 prize if the ink can be removed from a bank cheque so that it could be altered and the prize has yet to be won. He also produces a huge range of colours, although not all of them are ‘bullet proof’. The standard Bullet proof Black is a very good ink, a dark rich colour and a leaves a very smooth line.
What is your favourite pen?
My favour pen is probably the M800 which I use from 1987. It still writes very smoothly and refills without issue. It has a very nice weight due to the brass internal components and looks classically elegant. I do like the M900 Toledo fountain pen which is based on the M800, but with intricately engraved gold on the barrel, I have not yet treated myself to the upgrade.
Is there anything else new and exciting on the horizon?
Due to demand, Pelikan are going to produce an italic nib for the M800 as well as bringing out a special edition based on the M800 – the blue o’blue which is a blue marble design. This can be seen on our website on the new and forthcoming products sections. There is also a smaller, less expensive ‘demonstrator’ pen. This is transparent so that the internal mechanism can be seen working. This too, can be seen on the website at the same page.
And talking of Noodler’s – how cool is this!