Vintage Value: The Conklin Duragraph Fountain Pen (Cracked Ice)

Many thanks to Ron, at Pen Chalet, for sending along this Conklin Duragraph fountain pen. I was not compensated for my review, and this post reflects my experiences with the pen. There are no affiliate links in this post.

Conklin Duragraph
The Conklin box is a little coffinesque, but it holds a very nice pen.

The Conklin Duragraph originally launched in 1923. I won’t pretend to know much (or anything, really) about the history of the Duragraph line, but I was intrigued by the appearance of this recently released updated version. The look is distinctly vintage, with rich-looking resins and a flat-top cap. Branding is quite simple. The center band sports the words “Conklin” and “Duragraph,” bracketed by two sets of three tiny crescents. The flat-top is imprinted with “Conklin Est. 1898.”

Conklin Duragraph

I own a few Conklin fountain pens— all crescent fillers— and while I enjoy them, cleaning them is something of a chore. It takes A LOT of filling and flushing to clean the internal “bladder” of those pens. The Duragraph is cartridge/converter pen which means that it’s simple to fill and to clean. The pen ships with two cartridges AND the converter. (I love when the converter is included.)

Conklin Duragraph

I filled my Cracked Ice version with Pilot Iroshizuku tsuki-yo, and set pen to paper. The stub nib on this Conklin Duragraph is smooth and plenty juicy, but not overly so. My other Conklin pens have equally smooth nibs (that’s 4 for 4), so I’ve either been lucky or nib QC is quite good. Flow is perfect— neither too dry or too wet.

Conklin Duragraph

Available in Amber, Cracked Ice, and Forest Green versions, I was initially drawn to the Amber version (fall colors are kind of my “thing”), but decided to branch out a bit and chose the Cracked Ice resin. I haven’t seen the other finishes in person, and I’m sure they’re great looking, but, to me, the Cracked Ice resin accentuates the vintage roots of the pen. It looks like a pen my grandfather would’ve used— sort of understated, but still interesting— like a pen made from crushed sea shells.

Conklin Duragraph

The stainless steel nib is available in fine, medium, and this 1.1 mm stub. Though not really suitable for me as a daily writer, the stub gives my handwriting more flair than it normally has, even though I’m not particularly proficient with it. I’ve never experienced a hard start or any skipping. I’m really pleased with the flow and the feel of the writing experience. It’s silky smooth.

Conklin Duragraph

This is a pen that’s meant to be used unposted. Though it’s possible to post the cap, it doesn’t post securely at all (the cap could/would definitely wiggle off), AND extends the pen to an unwieldy feeling 6.9″ (175 mm). Capped, the pen measures 5.9″ (140 mm). Unposted, it measures 4.9″ (124 mm), which feels fine in my hand, but might be a bit short if your hands are very large. The concave grip gives my fingers the perfect resting place for writing and doodling. The capped pen weighs 26 grams— sort of a nice “middle-ground” weight. I have NO complaints with anything about the look or the feel of this pen.

Conklin Duragraph

This newly released Conklin Duragraph stays true to its vintage roots without the price tag that can come with a vintage pen. Listing for $55, and available from Pen Chalet for only $44, this is a pen that’s hard to resist. I really can’t get over the price. I suspect that the Amber one is in my future, maybe with a medium nib.

Conklin Duragraph

The Conklin Duragraph is a pen that’s easy to fall for. The cartridge/converter set-up means that it’s easy to maintain, the resins are gorgeous, and the nibs smooth. And that price? What’s not to love?!

Conklin Duragraph

Check out the Conklin Duragraph line at Pen Chalet HERE. You really can’t go wrong.

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Branching Out: Conklin Mark Twain “Halloween” Crescent Filler

Conklin Mark Twain

Before attending the DC Pen Show, I did a lot of reading about the best ways to navigate such a large show. One rule I heard over and over was to walk around the entire show before making a purchase. That made sense to me. By doing so you can eye ALL of the offerings and shop around for the best deal. So that was my plan.

I stopped at Pendleton Brown’s booth VERY early in the show and walked away with this pen. No browsing. No comparing. I just swooped in and purchased.  So there goes THAT rule!

Conklin Crescent Filler

Apparently I have a thing for orange swirly pens (see “Tiger Stripey” and “Persimmon Swirl” as evidence)- especially ones with a cool filling system. The Conklin Crescent Filler was a pen I wanted to try in person before buying because it looked as though the pen’s Crescent Filler mechanism could get in one’s way. I’m happy to report that this is not the case. The resin ring sits in the “web” between my thumb and forefinger and is not even remotely a nuisance.

Pendleton Brown
Pendleton having a blast!

Even in the very early hours of the show, nibmeister Pendleton Brown was grinding nibs at a furious pace. People walked by his table, and literally tossed their pens at him, asking for “smoothing” or a re-grind, then wandered off. How he kept track of what he was doing is beyond me. But despite all of the nib work in front of him, he graciously took the time to explain how to fill this Crescent Filler. It’s all very simple- just twist the resin ring until it loosens, align the slit in the resin ring with the crescent, insert the nib into the ink bottle, and depress the crescent. This compresses the “bladder” inside the pen so when the crescent is released, ink is drawn into the pen. After a few compressions, the pen is filled. No cartridge, no converter. Just fill and go.

Crescent Filler

This style of Conklin pen is reportedly an exact replica of the original Crescent Filler used by Mark Twain…thus his signature on the cap band. Twain was a fan because “…it carries its own filler in its stomach,” and also because the crescent kept the uncapped pen from rolling off of his desk.

Mark Twain
“Mark Twain”

The spring-loaded clip is sturdy and quite springy. Pressing down on the end of the clip easily rocks the clip so that it can be clipped to a pocket or bag. The cap screws on and can be easily posted but I find that I usually don’t. (In fact, I hadn’t even tried to post it until I sat down to write this review.) The resin pen feels equally well-balanced posted or unposted.

Springy clip

So I was intrigued by the color of the pen and the filling system, but what sealed the deal was the SUPER SWEET 1.1 mm stub nib. It should be pretty obvious by now that I’m normally an EF or F nib person (small writing), but once I wrote with this crazy smooth stub, I had to buy it with this nib- even though Pendleton would have swapped it for something finer. Nope, I said. This is the nib I want. (Who AM I?)

1.1 mm stub

One drawback of this filling system is that there really isn’t any way to monitor the ink level. So I just use it until it runs dry. No biggie.

The stub nib means that this isn’t an everyday writer for me (though I DO doodle with it almost every day), but who cares? It’s so gorgeously smooth that there was no I was going to pass up this stub.

P1020639

So even though I stepped a bit outside of my comfort zone when I chose this pen, it feels so good.

P1020648

I thought that I might find focus at the DC Pen Show, but instead I found myself wanting to branch out a little bit. And you know what? Branching out is fun. And oh so smooooooth.

The ink used in this review is Monteverde Black, and the paper is from a Rhodia dotPad No. 16. Purchased for $99, this pen turned out to be a very good deal, despite my lack of “shopping around.”