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Blog

Conklin Duragraph Review

Fr. Kyle Sanders

In total transparency, I decided to give this pen away on Instagram. Since I knew it would be leaving my possession I also decided to review it. The difficulties that arose, then, were not the deciding factor for me to give away the pen. 

I was visiting my local brick and mortar, Scriptura, to get some pens for couples I was preparing for marriage. I inevitably got into pen conversation with the proprietor, Dave. He'll show me the new pens that come in and some of the really expensive pens customers ask him to order. It was during one of these new inventory tours that he brought out the Duragraph. I had seen it before on some blogs and on Goulet Pens, and, although the acrylic looked interesting, I wasn't up to purchasing the pen. 

When Dave showed it to me, I had a better impression of its beauty, but this was around Christmas. I didn't have much money to spend. I was hesitant. Then, the exchange turned into a conversation at a pen show with a vendor. He gave me a price I couldn't refuse. 

I took it home, massive box and all. When I went to ink it, I tested the writing experience dry (I honestly bought it for the looks. I didn't even write with it in the store, I don't recommend that). The tines were misaligned. I was disappointed in Yafa's quality control because I've never had a problem like that with any of my Monteverde pens. I actually took it to the Atlanta Pen Show to get someone to fix it and make it buttery, but Masuyama's time was so precious I felt it was better used on a fancier pen. So when I got home, I realigned the nib myself. What follows is my experience of the 'worked on' pen.

Form

This pen is a modern restyling of a Conklin model from the early 1920's. They tried to give the pen an Art Deco feel with certain contemporary upgrades (no sack!). On all accounts but one, they were successful in bringing out that vintage look (you'll hear about the one soon enough). Looking at the old Duragraph, what stands out first, in both pens, is the flat top. I'm a big fan of this design choice. It gives the pen that classic look. It is unafraid to be blunt. I also don't mind the logo printed on the top. Some might find it kitsch. I find it vintage advertising strategy. 

The main material is what originally drew me to the pen. It comes in cracked ice and amber acrylics, but the forest green, to me, rounds out the Golden Age feel. It takes me back to the time I worked on the stock-exchange in the late 20's, buying and selling, and signing with my Conklin self-filler. It takes me back to when I worked in the only surviving bank in the neighborhood, and this pen was the only thing left of the good ole days. The greens pop out as you rotate the pen, something I often did under my banker's lamp, wishing I could actually loan someone some money for them to survive. I know it sounds depressing (pun unintended), but the pen symbolizes the roar of the twenties. 

At the butt and at the top of the cap is black acrylic, a subtle reminder of the rubber pens of the era. The black, also, seems to frame the green acrylic well. Against the black and green, the chrome accents well. It provides a rich transition from black top to forest, like the train tracks that made this country strong. Lightly engraved on the cap band, directly under the clip, is 'Conklin.' On the back side of the pen is lightly engraved 'Duragraph,' which is flanked on both sides by crescents. This is, no doubt, an homage to the Crescent, Conklin's flagship pen.

Once you uncap the pen, you notice the section, too, is black. It gives the impression that work is about to be done. Accounts will soon be balanced. Maybe, through shrewd banking, somebody can be helped.

And then there's the nib. I'm immediately brought back to the 21st Century by its blackness. It's a great looking nib, but it doesn't work, at all, with this pen. It takes me out of my banker's drama and into, into ... into nothing exciting or exhilarating (that is unless that banker is a ninja Robin Hood). I will give credit where credit is due (again, pun unintended). The crescent breather hole was part of the nib design of the original Duragraph, but it should be on a chrome or two-tone nib. Stealth doesn't fit here. 

Function

As already stated, the nib came shipped with misaligned tines. Being that this is an attractive pen for a newer user, that's not a good start (I'm really running with these puns). Smoothness aside, if the nib doesn't work properly, it incapacitates the pen, making it near worthless. At the price point, quality control should be better.

Enough of that. It is an easy pen to post. The cap remains stable and un-wobbly (very scientific word there).

When I decided to review the pen, before sending it off to the Instagram giveaway winner, it became my daily carry pen, sitting in my breast pocket. However, it was difficult to clip it to the thin piece of fabric of my clerical shirt. The tension is so tight it's not easily moveable, no spring. I can imagine it would be even more difficult to clip it to jeans. 

Speaking of carrying around, a day or two into my daily carry rotation, I noticed the pen had seemed to run out of ink, even though I hadn't written enough. I unscrewed the barrel to check the level in the converter, and there was ink everywhere. I made an inky mess at my favorite donut shop. The pen had lost capillary action because air was entering in the wrong place and ink was leaking out. I found that strange because Yafa designed the converter the same as the Monteverde pens, where the converter screws into the section in order to create a better seal. I cleaned everything up, and, when I returned home, I put some silicone grease around the threads of the converter. That solved the leaking problem. 

To be honest, these difficulties really turned me off to Conklin pens.

Feel

This is a light pen, and so succeeds in being reminiscent of American made pens in the Twenties. It's weighted well and doesn't have a 'heavier' part of the pen. Posting it doesn't effect the balance enough to complain about the cap. 

I love concave grip sections, and here my wishes are fulfilled. It is comfortable and hasn't left me weary while writing in 10 min + writing sessions. The cap threads are dull and shouldn't be a bother to larger hands/fingers. 

The nib is a solid writer and is ready to be a workhorse, putting in the long hours at the bank. It doesn't have excessive feedback and, on this Tomoe River paper, it isn't glassy either. As you can see, it has a nice medium line. It has above medium flow which caused some feathering in my Standard Memorandum notebook.

Financials

The Duragraph goes for $44 at most retailers. This is a great price range for people who are looking to step up from a Lamy Safari or a Pilot Metropolitan. However, due to the difficulties I had with the pen, I think that purchasing it might be a risk. I doubt what I experienced was typical, but two separate problems is not a good indicator

Is the Writing Reverenced?

NO. I think not. There are better pens with less problems at this price point. I love the looks, but you can't judge a pen by its acrylic. 

Ink: Organics Studio Laboratory Series #14
Paper: Tomoe River Paper