Pen Class: Executive ($500-$999)
Street Price:: €523.25 (~$671)
Body Material: Acrylic
Nib Material: Titanium
Nib Size: EF, F, M, M Stub, OM Stub
Cap Type: Screw On/Off
Filling Mechanism: Bulk Filler
Ink Capacity: 2.5mL
Overall Weight: 28g
Body Weight: 17g
Overall Length Capped: 136mm/5.35″
Overall Length Posted: 160mm/6.31″
Length (body + nib): 128mm/5.05″
Nib Length: 24mm/0.94″
Section Diameter: 10.3-12mm/0.40-.47″
Cap Diameter w/o Clip: 15mm/0.59″
Cap Diameter w/Clip: 17.5mm/0.68″
Body Diameter at Ink Window: 13mm/0.51″
Body Diameter at Blind Cap End: 11.85mm/0.46″
If this pen were a movie, it would be…
Clear and Present Danger (1994)
Azizah: 6.5 – This is a first production run but I imagine packaging would not change very much. I was not blown away by the packaging. I was pleased that the pen arrived safely in a leather or leather-like feeling case (I can’t tell if it’s leather or not) but that’s about it. It opens up to reveal a felted bed and a ribbon that holds the pen in. The felted bed layer lifts out where the little Conid tools can be found, in this case. So I wasn’t really thrilled by the packaging and it isn’t packaging I would be inclined to keep.
Dan: 6.75 – Conid packages the Bulk Filler in a standard clamshell style box, but with one exception: they include a personalized plate on the top of the box inscribed with the name of the pen and the name of the person who purchased it. This my not seem like much, but I can’t recall any other manufacturers going to such lengths to personalize the packaging. This simple addition alone would be reason enough for me to hold onto the box.
Azizah: 10 – Well now, this part caught my attention! At first I was thinking, what on earth is a bulk filler?! For the reason of sheer awesomeness, I was inclined to score this section high. After a bit of fiddling (as in, learning how to operate the Bulk Filler, which I do admit took me a few tries), I finally got the hang of it. All the parts operated smoothly and nothing sounded weird or felt cheap as it was moving, which I very much appreciate. I love the awesome ink capacity of this pen, which measures a whopping 3mL! That put a big dent in my ink sample tube! Since the piston can be disengaged from the piston rod, it takes up less space when it is replaced in the barrel after inking, leaving more room for ink. This is so cool and I had no negative experiences with this filling system.
Dan: 10 – Francis Goossens, a.k.a. Fountainbel, is the man responsible for designing and creating the Bulk Filler, a revolutionary new positive displacement filling system that utilizes much more of the barrel volume than the traditional screw type piston filler.
The Bulk Filler is principally a syringe filler in which the piston can be stored securely at the rear of the barrel after filling while the piston rod is stored within the barrel. Contrary to a plunger filler, where ink is in pulled in by a vacuum created during the downstroke, the Bulk Filler is a positive displacement piston filler: the ink intake being identical to the volume displaced by the piston.
Inside the piston (the white part shown in the image below) are 2 rod seals which, contrary to a plunger filler, are never exposed to vacuum or pressure forces, hence risks for leaks are very low. The seal between the piston and barrel is created by using an x-ring, which tends to minimize the stick-slip effect when compared to an o-ring.
The stick-slip effect still required more force to overcome than what Francis found acceptable. To resolve the issue, an axial cam was integrated into the black barrel closure nut. Now, the rotational force required to unlock the piston from the barrel closure nut forces the piston up the cam 1mm, overcoming the large initial force required to break the seal between the piston and barrel. From here, the force required to move the piston is much closer to the force needed during actual movement of the piston, resulting in a less jerky movement and a more pleasing filling experience.
The piston rod is turned from 316 stainless steel and the entire filling unit can be disassembled since no parts are glued or shellacked together. Also, all static and dynamic sealing elements (o-rings, x-rings) are standard off-the-shelf components, which means they’re cheap and easy to replace.
At the end of the piston rod is an o-ring which seals off the barrel from the section. This avoids any risks of leakage by changes in air pressure and/or temperature variations during traveling. For longer writing sessions the filling knob should be opened to allow ink from the barrel to reach the feed. This feature is very similar to that found on the TWSBI Vac700 and Pilot Custom 823, if you’re familiar with those pens.
Azizah: 9 – In general, I was pleased with the test drive. While I was not very excited about the opening of the box itself, I knew what was waiting for me inside and I was fascinated by figuring out the filling mechanism and getting used to the nib. Of course, these are the two best parts of the pen! Both caught and held my attention quite well and I was already excited for the 21-minute road trip at this point because I was quite curious how it would turn out.
Dan: 9.75 – My first few moments with the pen were absolutely fascinating. From checking out all the machined parts, to the titanium nib, to inspecting the filling system, I just couldn’t get enough! To top it off, the filling system and nib worked perfectly and the pen even felt great in the hand. Once I had the pen inked and actually started writing, things only got better.
Azizah: 8 – The appearance of the nib is unusual. It is mid-size and looks like something out of a video game. I’m not particularly attracted to the design on the nib so design-wise, it just doesn’t do much for me. On the other hand, the color is very neat. The titanium is a unique shade of gray that I think looks cool. Otherwise, it is interesting because it is an extra-fine ground nib and the tines feel very sharp and slim, almost like a dip nib. The titanium nib has some spring to it and is decently flexible, and ink flow kept up pretty well as I flexed although I generally write a little slower when I am flexing a pen. Occasionally, a letter here and there would run dry so I would have to go back and fill it in. The section is smooth and comfortable. The threads are actually metal and end up flush with the section and barrel. At first it felt strange, going from the material of the barrel to the metal, but I quickly became accustomed to it.
Dan: 8 – When placing your order for a Conid Bulk Filler there are three options for nibs: steel, titanium, and 18k gold that each add €5 (~$6.45), €30 (~$39), or €130 (~$168) to the price of the pen, respectively. My review pen came with the titanium nib and if I was going to buy one, that’s definitely the choice I’d make.
The matte gray color of the titanium nib does a better job matching the tone of the rest of the pen than steel or gold could. Its performance also can’t be matched by either other nib. The titanium nib is capable of achieving near vintage semi-flex qualities, going from XF to B, possibly even BB widths. What I enjoyed most was the responsiveness of the nib while flexing it. There was enough tension in the nib to prevent unintentionally flexing the tines, and when you did flex them they’d snap back to their original position quickly.
The excellent performance of the nib would be lost without a comfortable way to control it. The large diameter of the section combined with its long, slightly concave shape should allow everyone to maintain control of the nib in a comfortable, satisfying fashion.
Moving further away from the nib towards the end of the section are the threads where the cap attaches. Notice that these threads are machined from titanium instead of cut from acrylic like the rest of the pen. A common practice in machine design is to never use identical materials in parts that thread into each other. Doing so avoids fretting and wear. This is just one of the many instances where Francis Goossens’ years of experience in machine design has come to life in the Foutainbel Bulk Filler.
Azizah: 8.5 – I dislike the posting on this pen. Shape wise, the pen can be posted in that the cap sits on the back of the pen, and it does post deeply. The cap stays in place with the help of two O-rings at the back of the pen which means you have to give it a good push and pull to put it on and remove it. It’s a bit of a noisy process that I don’t care for. It also makes the pen particularly top heavy when posted, with all the metal back there. I guess I should say I dislike the weight of the posted pen, but I don’t care the posting process either.
Other than the posting, I have no complaints. The pen is comfortable to hold and write with, nothing weird digs into my fingers, and the clip works really well.
Dan: 9 – I couldn’t agree more with Azizah about posting the cap on the Fountainbel Bulk Filler. Since she covered it so well I’ll discuss the pen’s performance elsewhere.
As mentioned in the previous sections, the nib and feed are incredible and the filling system sets a new standard. But let’s move on to other areas, specifically, the clip.
Instead of being made from a sheet of metal and having the clip bent into shape, the clip is machined from a 25mm diameter rod of solid titanium. Francis says this method of manufacture combined with the concave inside/convex outside of the clip finger ensures optimum flexibility and springy memory. In practice, it operates as well as any other clip I’ve ever used. Maybe after years and years of use its advantages would become more apparent. I did find it easy to clip into a pocket and there was a enough tension to keep it in place.
Azizah: 7 – The pen has an interesting appearance and I can’t think of any other way to describe it besides blunt. It’s very flat-ended. I think the color scheme is intriguing although I prefer look of polished clear pens, whereas this one appears slightly cloudy. There are several black rings here and there – both plastic and the O-rings – which I don’t care for on the clear body and I think they would look better on a black body where they blend in better. The pen feels somewhat futuristic aside from its shape. I dislike the bluntness of the clip and it is boxy looking but that is fairly minor. Overall, the appearance of the pen is not really to my taste.
Dan: 6.5 – Conid has done an excellent job of integrating design decisions that are practical and useful, but not without their flaws.
For instance, let’s look at posting the cap. The cap posts deeply onto the rear of the pen, ensuring the pen doesn’t become too long and unwieldy or heavy. Francis also devised a method for posting other than simply wedging the cap onto the barrel. This alternative method prevents the possibility of cracks forming in the lip of the cap. Unfortunately, o-rings were used to secure the cap on the rear of the barrel, which do an excellent job at performing their task, but is simply an inelegant solution. It’s an aesthetic design that’s just not acceptable on a $600+ pen ($800 if you opted for the gold nib).
Secondly, nearly every part of the pen is machined from solid bar stock, either acrylic or titanium. Except for the feed, there’s not a single part on the Fountainbel Bulk Filler that’s injection molded. As much as I love exotic metals and machined parts, those two aspects don’t do any favors to your wallet, especially when so much waste is created by machining the clip from a solid 25mm diameter rod of titanium.
However, the entire pen was designed to be assembled without adhesives, and use non-proprietary o-rings that should be easy to replace. Both of these factors greatly increase the ease of user serviceability, should that ever be required.
Azizah: 8.75 – The pen is quite well put together overall. With a loupe, I found a little part on the barrel that looks like it has been scratched – remnants from when the pen was being made I suspect. There is a small gap between the piston knob and the body of the pen; it is not completely flush with the pen when it is screwed in place. These are very minor things you wouldn’t notice with the naked eye though.
Dan: 9 – Fit and finish on the Bulk Filler is impeccable. Everything fits together perfectly without a wobble or a wiggle to be found.
Since no part of this pen is injection molded you won’t find any flashing. However, since every part is machined, there should be a high possibility of finding machine marks. But, there’s not. There’s just none to be found. A matte finish has been applied and any evidence of machining has been removed.
The only thing I could find to nitpick about are the slight differences in diameters of the black closure nut and the filling knob. It’s not a lot, but it’s enough to be able to feel by just running your finger over without having to use your fingernail. I noticed that same thing with the black piece of plastic in the cap that sits between the clip and the cap top. This isn’t a deal breaker by any means, but I would like to see (feel) smoother seams on a pen in this price range.
Azizah: 8.25 – I selected Pilot Iroshizuku Yama Guri for this road trip as this ink works quite nicely for me in other pens. First of all, the pen writes very well. The lightest hand and very little pressure is all that is needed to get this pen to write. While I enjoyed this extra-fine flexible nib, I struggled to find a comfortable grip that lasted throughout the entire 21 minutes of the road trip. It was comfortable to use for the test drive but at that point I didn’t start to feel the top heaviness. Posted, the pen was just too top-heavy for my (relatively) small hands. The issue for me was maintaining control of the pen. With the nib being so fine and only needing a light hand to put down ink, it was hard for me to control the top heavy pen and still maintain a light touch on the nib, especially if I did not want the nib flexed.
However, even with the top heaviness, I enjoyed the experience of the nib and its flexibility. It is interesting and fun to write with.
Dan: 9 – The Conid Fountainbel Bulk Filler tore up the Road Trip like the Cookie Monster going through a pack of Oreos. Not only did the Bulk Filler devour every challenge, but it did so much better than I thought it would.
Starting off with the top down (unposted) and fueled up with Montblanc Hitchcock Red, I found the Bulk Filler to be very comfortable. If you’ve ever used a Pelikan M800 then you’ve used the Fountainbel Bulk Filler, they’re that similar. One aspect I really like about the Bulk Filler is the elongated section. Since I grip pens a little further back than most people the section fit me perfectly.
Writing for about 8 minutes with the pen not posted I decided to post the cap, which noticeably changed the feel of the pen. After a few minutes I adjusted, but it’s not something I’d suggest doing regularly during writing.
The nib and feed performed very well. My only issue was with the custom ground XF nib. During normal writing with light pressure it wasn’t an issue, but when I started to flex the nib the sharp edges would dig into the paper at the slightest hint of horizontal movement.
|Choice of nib materials||Clear demo no longer available|
Famous Last Words:
Azizah: While I wouldn’t fall in love with this pen based on its appearance alone, it has other interesting aspects to it that I appreciate such as its unique filling system and great ink capacity, and I really like the flexible nib. However, the discomfort of its top heavy weight made it too difficult for me to write with for very long.
Dan: Conid has put together a great pen with the Fountainbel Bulk Filler. Its size and weight make it a very comfortable pen to use and the option of a steel, titanium, or gold nib should please everyone. Then there’s the Bulk Filler mechanism, which really is an advancement in fountain pen filling systems. Unfortunately, the pen is held back by a high price resulting from choices in manufacturing methods and liberal use of titanium.
See all the available options at ConidPen.com