Pen Review: Conklin Duragraph

  • Material: Resin
  • Nib: Steel. Medium
  • Appointments: Silver-colored
  • Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter
  • Length (Capped): 140mm
  • Length (Uncapped): 125mm
  • Length (Posted): 174mm
  • Section Diameter: 10mm
  • Barrel Max Diameter: 12.6mm
  • Cap Max Diameter: 15mm
  • Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 28g
  • Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 14g

Prior to my purchase of this Conklin Duragraph, I had never had any experience with Conklin Pens. Conklin was one of the earliest manufacturers of fountain pens in the United States, and were quite well regarded from what I understand. As fountain pens fell by the wayside, however, Conklin was one of those names that winked out of existence. Several years later, the company name and designs were purchased and the Conklin name was reborn. Although I’m not a scholar of Conklin history, I understand that the man who revived the company (who is also in the process of “reviving” the Esterbrook name) sold the company in 2009 to Yafa.

Having had no experience with the Conklin name, either before or after its revival, I had no idea what to expect when I ordered the Conklin Duragraph.

P1010113

Overall, I find the Duragraph to be a lovely pen. The modern Duragraph comes in three colors: cracked ice, forest green, and amber. From the photo above, you can clearly see that I opted for the Amber resin  version of the pen. The material is warm and lovely, with an almost tortoiseshell feel to it. It seems almost as if the material is in motion. Plus, the resin is partially translucent, which results in a nice effect.

The pen is a traditional (even old-fashioned-feeling) flat-topped pen and feels well-constructed. The tolerances on the threads are fairly tight. The clip is stiff and solid. The printing on the cap is clean. The engraving in the cap ring is sharp. And even the masking on the nib’s gold plating is done well. The workmanship of the pen doesn’t feel sloppy or slapdash.

The pen utilizes the standard international cartridge/converter filling system, and comes with a converter and two standard international short cartridges. The threads of the section, unfortunately, are made of metal, so you can’t use this pen as an eyedropper, which is a shame. The size of this pen, along with the partial translucence of the barrel, could have resulted in some lovely ink sloshing and a massive capacity.

Holding the Duragraph is actually quite comfortable, largely thanks to the concave section. So long as you don’t post the pen, it’s quite light and very nicely balanced. The threads aren’t particularly sharp, so even if you hold the pen a little higher on the barrel than the section, it shouldn’t drive you crazy.

As for posting: well, I wouldn’t recommend it. The pen can be posted, but a small metal ring between the barrel and the end cap keeps the pen from being posted deeply. (This may be a design mistake, or it could be by design to help prevent cracking of the cap lip. ) The cap posts solidly, but very shallowly, resulting in a very long pen. Writing with it posted feels like trying to write with the skinny end of a baseball bat. Fortunately, the pen is large enough that it can be used comfortably without posting.

P1010124

Then we come to the nib. The Conklin steel nib has a simple design, with a crecent moon-shaped breather hole and a simple gold-plated oval with the Conklin name. It’s fairly boring nib design-wise. The nibs tines feel a bit longer or more slender than a regular #6-sized nib, however, and this can result in a bit of bounce to the nib when you’re writing. Not enough even to classify this as a “soft” nib, but enough that it doesn’t feel completely nail-like.

The nib tip is, of course, where the rubber meets the road. Unfortunately, in the case of my particular pen, the result of the rubber meeting the road was a nasty case of roadkill. I ordered a Medium nib on my pen, per my usual nib preferences. Unfortunately, Conklin’s idea of medium is much closer to Pilot’s or Platinum’s idea of fine than it is to any definition of medium I’ve ever seen. It wrote like my Sailor H-MF. It was also relatively dry. Not so much so that it wouldn’t write, but not wet and juicy.

The bigger issue, however, was one of nib polish. In short: it wasn’t polished. At all. Writing felt as if the factory had started a coarse grind on the nib, and had stopped there. Anyone who has ever ground their own nibs knows the feeling I’m talking about: where the nib tip is rough enough that writing on Rhodia paper feels a lot like writing on Sandpaper. It was a tremendously unpleasant sensation to put this nib tip to paper.

Fortunately, if you’re familiar with adjusting and smoothing your own nibs, this is a very simple problem to solve. I widened the tines a touch, which both increased the ink flow and widened the line to something at least approaching a Japanese Medium.  I also polished the nib quite a bit. I have never had a nib on any fountain pen that was as poorly polished as this nib was. Fortunately, that was the only real thing wrong with the pen. After this polish was done, however, I quite enjoyed my time with the Conkin Duragraph. It’s a lovely pen.

And, if I’m being honest, at $44 USD, the Duragraph is pretty good deal even with the nib problems. That being said, based on what I’ve seen online, modern Conklin pens have a history of quality control problems. Based on my own experience, I’d say I have to agree. My pen was beautifully built; the only real issue was the polish of the nib tip. I’m just fortunate that the issue with the pen is one that I could quickly and easily resolve myself. I’m certain the retailer from whom I purchased would have accepted the pen back if I had complained, but it was just easier for me to break out my Micromesh.

Would I buy it again? I believe I would. It’s a nice pen (especially for under $50) and it fits my hand well. I’ve even been eyeing the forest green version of the pen because I feel that the world needs more green pens. I just hope that they can get their nib QC locked down a little tighter. Then they’ll have a real winner on their hands.

 

  • Tas

    Delighted you’ve tested this pen as it’s my next “planned” purchase. Sorry to hear your nib is a duffer. I own a modern Conklin Crescent Filler and its medium nib is, hand on heart, the smoothest I own. Hope you sort it out and look forward to the post adjustment clip.

  • Elijah

    I bought this pen with a Fine nib & I had terrible issues with it right out of the box. I couldn’t bare to go 24 hours with that nib. Thankfully, I did have a Goulet nib laying around and now I thoroughly enjoy the pen. I even like the aesthetic of the Goulet nib better. Thank you for your review. It’s good to know I wasn’t the only one with a bad nib polish.

    • Ted

      so, the Goulet #6 nib is a good swap fit?

      • Ronald Boudreau

        Yes, I put a Goulet #6 in mine, and I’m finally enjoying this pen! The Conklin nib did put up a bit of a fight to come out though. Unscrew the nib unit first, then use some sort of rubber grips for good traction to pull the nib out. I find cut up bicycle inner tube works best.

  • Concord Pen

    I bought the green pen and right out of the box the nib was ready to go. Sorry you had to do some work on yours. I do love the color and the line this pen puts down.

  • Ronald Boudreau

    I had the same experience you did with mine, PLUS the cap falls off if I post it. This has left me really hesitant to purchase another Conklin as their QA is lacking. Too bad, it’s a nice looking pen, but it’s getting little to no use, even after I polished the nib, and it’s somewhat better. It’s just left me a bad taste…

    • From what I understand, there was a design issue with the cap not posting. I think the Goulets said they had to test each pen and send a bunch back to the factory. So, depending on when you got it, you may be able to get it swapped out with a different one. But I hate to see a pen with so much potential miss the quality control list so completely.

      • Ronald Boudreau

        Yes, I saw that video from Brian, but by the time I would have paid the international shipping, and the time it would have taken for the postal service and customs to do their bit, it wasn’t worth it for the cost of the pen. I was just disappointed in what was a good looking pen, and an historical name like Conklin. I find that these tactics, in such a niche market of fountain pen lovers, is not doing any good for anyone. It’s hard enough convincing new people of the pen’s charm and beauty as it is in this age of disposable everything, and electronic communications…

  • Austin Malone

    Mine was smooth with just a hint of feedback, but my thread situation was the same as yours.

  • Ace

    Further proof of the lack of QA at Conklin is this note on Goulet.com
    (Note: A barrel engraving of “Toledo, Ohio” will read as, “Toledo, Hoio” on a large percentage of their fountain pens. This cosmetic irregularity occurred in the initial production run, adding to the story and potentially the collectability of the All American. We expect to have these for the first two or three months of the pen’s release.)

  • Robert Bob Maguire

    I had your experience with my steel nib. I got rid of it. 7 years later inherited literally another pen with the 14kt nib and same nib experiences. Sooooo….I took it to DC Pen Show and waited for 2 hours for Richard Binder to align, polish and adjust it. It is now respectable and a nice wet fine writer. $25 Binder fee, plus $800 in travel expenses. But that pen is top notch now.

  • Philip Culbertson

    I really like the looks of the pen. I am considering ordering one and a Goulet nib to swap out. At the price point, I believe there is still value to be had. Thanks for the review.

    • Based on the comments I’ve gotten, you should at least try out the stock nib. (And if you’re going to swap it out, you may just want to polish it yourself if it needs polishing.)

  • Lois R

    Wow, I’m sorry to hear that you didn’t have the same awesome experience with your Duragraph as I did with mine. I bought the Cracked Ice in fine. It IS long, but I still always use it posted. I absolutely love the line the fine nib lays down and it NEVER fails me. It is smooth and delightful. I love to write with it and it has become an EDC for me.

    • Lois R

      By the way, this is the fattest fine nib I have ever seen.

      And thank you for a great review. The sexy pics of the pen make me want to run out and buy the amber one. ;o)

  • Ceit

    Hi Matt, I just purchased the Conklin All-American in Sunburst – THe pen is a beautiful pen, the color is outstanding — However the 1.1 nib I got is a nightmare.

    1. The nib unit is glued together. Even though it’s a #6 nib it doesn’t come apart and you cannot swap out the nibs. I love the Goulet 1.1 and wanted to use it, but I can’t.
    2. I unscrewed the nib unit from the pen and tried to swap it out for a Franklin Christoph, and Jowo – and neither one can be used. I had purchased an edison unit and I am waiting for that to come in, but I have little hope.
    3. I have tried to smooth the nib and it’s not taking to the smoothing very well.

    I talked to Yafa, who own Conklin and they say they know about the nib problem and have no plans on doing anything about it, they were willing to swap out nibs but they have no interest in quality control. To bad, I really like this pen other than the nib.

    • The one thing I will hand to Yafa is that they seem to be really good about swapping out nib units when they don’t work well. I personally don’t mind having to do that: I’ve got plenty of pens to use while I’m waiting for a replacement nib to arrive. I just hate to think of how a first-time fountain pen user would feel if they got one of the duds. It may turn them off of the hobby forever.

      • Ceit

        Poor Customer service though. LOL I don’t want to spend a large amount of time getting the nib smooth each time …

  • julie

    I’ve been waiting for your review on the duragraph for months! So glad it’s finally up!
    I got the duragraph in forest green, medium nib. I love it! It’s a smooth writer, and it’s comfortable to hold (even posted, in my opinion)
    I hate to hear of these QC issues though!

    • Me too. After I worked on the nib, I like the pen a lot. At the end of the season I think i’m going to do a quick re-visit of some of the pens and see what I think of them after I have worked on them. 🙂

  • Young Kim

    I purchased the cracked ice with 1.1 stub, and much like Matt’s medium, the nib was the downer – much too scratchy. The clip is a bit too tight as well.

  • Terra

    I have the same pen, and I had the exact same problem. I would argue that the M is more of a F/M and I will break out the Mircomesh. My first guess was that it was the ink that was the culprit. After doing some research, it is very obvious that it is a QC problem. With mine there is three small “globs” of flashing on the inside of my cap. So when I tried to post this pen it scratched the black end cap. Boy did I pout about that. It’s the first pen that I have that’s not pristine anymore.

    With all that said. I still love mine. It’s just going to be placed in the steady writers rotation and not be one of my favorite writers.

  • numinous palimpsest

    my first “real” fountain pen was in fact a Conklin Stylograph- it was irresistibly gorgeous and on sale. I was very disappointed in the nib, it was completely unusable. I’d only had a pilot petit1 and pilot vpen, and those were so amazing. (still as good as any other pen I have).

    I watched your videos on nib smoothing, and, after nearly being turned off by having to deal with this problem, I have a great writing, stunningly pretty pen. I followed your advice and steps exactly and was rewarded by having some fun, solving a problem myself, and becoming more comfortable with fountain pens very quickly.

    for those new to fountain pens,I would not advise buying a Conkilin unless you are captivated by the beauty and want to add to the cost by buying a goulet nib, or get into nib adjustment out of the gate.

    thank you Matt, my life is better because of you.

    • Thank you so much for the kind words. I’m glad you like it. I really enjoy my pen now that I’ve fixed the nib as well. Also, what a killer username! 🙂

  • The Wasp

    Just wanted to share that I loved the nib of my Duragraph. It was a smooth Medium Italic, in black material. I was in love with this nib, much smoother than TWSBI’s 1.1 (I have two of them) and 1.5mm, until the nib discolored and showed the underlying shiny material.

    I used Noodler’s and Diamine inks and I never heard they caused such an effect! Wished Conklin would replace the nib, but I bought from eBay. nevertheless I have contacted them today. Pen has been only 3.5 months with me.

  • TJ Zidaroff

    I’m sorry you have problems with this pe. I have a Duragraph with a F nib. This pen writes great! It wrote great straight out of the box. It’s one of the few pens I’ve bought that did that, including, but not limited to, names like Aurora, Visconti, and Platinum. Those are great pens and I like them. But this one required no adjusting or anything. I’m going to order a M or a B in a week or two, and plan on ordering a few more for gifts. Yes, I like this pen that much.

  • José Ignacio Silva

    The nib on this pen is as terrible as Monteverde nibs, they’re both made by Yafa, I guess.

    I did exactly what Matt says in the video, I tossed the Conklin nib (which is nice, specially for the crescent breather hole) and put a Goulet EF nib, and the pen now writes like a dream. A similar pen is the Monteverde Prima Tiger eye, it looks similar and the nib is as bad as the Conklin one. So I put a Goulet two tone, and problem solved.

    To sum up: Monteverde/Conklin/Yafa make the worst nibs.

  • José Ignacio Silva

    The nib on this pen is as terrible as Monteverde nibs, they’re both made by Yafa, I guess.

    I did exactly what Matt says in the video, I tossed the Conklin nib (which is nice, specially for the crescent breather hole) and put a Goulet EF nib, and the pen now writes like a dream. A similar pen is the Monteverde Prima Tiger eye, it looks similar and the nib is as bad as the Conklin one. So I put a Goulet two tone, and problem solved.

    To sum up: Monteverde/Conklin/Yafa make the worst nibs.

  • Jakob Ehrhardt

    Got my Conklin Duragraph today – and I agree: beautiful pen, looks fine … I’d love it. If I had not encountered just the same nib problems like so many here … out of the box it wrote awful … scratchy, loud, thin. After adjusting inkflow, tines and after polishing the tip it writes more or less decent … but nobody told me before buying I’d get a banana pen (reaping at the customer) … even worse: a pen kit that has to be finished by the customer. And that’s not what I’ve paid for. Each LAMY Safari does a better job for half the price.
    (If my english seems to have an austrian touch … well, it has 😉 )

  • Glenn Higley

    Today I received this pen in amber with a fine nib and (likely thanks to your review) it’s a stunning writer. It’s one of, if not, the smoothest fine steel nib in my collection. I’m certainly glad that I waited until now for one as it seems the early production nibs were uniformly lousy. At the $45 price point I consider this pen to be a truly excellent value. YAFA has now made the modern Conklin pens real contenders and I’ll certainly not be wary of them in the future. Thanks, Matt.

    • I’ve heard from a few folks that Conklin’s quality has improved over the last couple of years. (I know some of their pens are being made in Italy now…not that that means anything, necessarily.) I hope to be able to try some of their other models at some point in the future.

  • Glenn Higley

    For the price this is an excellent pen. I like the design and the amber acrylic. The fine nib on mine is spectacular. What a surprise on a fountain pen this cheap. When YAFA first rebooted the long defunct Conklin brand, many reported as you have that the nibs were horrid. I’d heard they corrected the issues and they’ve done so amazingly well or I really lucked out. The out of the box experience with most pens (at any price – excluding Pilot, the original OMAS and most Sailor pens) is the luck of the draw with most requiring at least some adjustment or smoothing. This pen required none. The fine nib is likely the smoothest I own and it’s always a ready writer. I can’t recommend this pen highly enough – vintage good looks with a great steel nib at a low price.