Pen Review: Pelikan M600 White Tortoiseshell
Nib: 14k Gold Medium Nib
Appointments: 24k Gold Plated
Filling System: Piston
Length (Capped): 132.9mm
Length (Uncapped): 122.7mm
Length (Posted): 153.6mm
Section Diameter: 10.2mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 12mm
Cap Max Diameter: 14.2mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 12g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter):19g
Two or three times a year, the fountain pen community joins together to lose their ever-loving’ minds over the release of a new limited edition…something…from the German pen manufacturer, Pelikan. Sometimes it’s the color of the year ink or matching M200 pen. Sometimes it is a new color material for the larger pens like the recently released M800 Grand Place. Sometimes it is a new demonstrator model. And sometimes, it is a reissue of a design or material from days gone by. Whatever it is that causes thousands of fountain pen geeks to collectively lift their legs and pollute their britches in delight, Pelikan seems to have mastered the formula for how to keep their doings in the forefront of the public mindset. And damn it if it doesn’t work on me too. (I hope they pay their marketing team well.)
When I started my own small flock of Pelicans, I began with one of the standard production models: the M805 in blue. It was a lovely pen and a beautiful writer. But before I had really even broken the pen in, I sold it to purchase a limited edition M800 brown tortoise that was out of production. I had found it with a dealer in Singapore who happened to have one in stock. He also had some of Pelikan’s discontinued nibs and an even rarer limited edition pen: The M600 White Tortoise.
And this, really, is my problem with limited editions. They create a scarcity that helps to drive ill-considered purchase decisions. I had seen pictures of the Brown and White tortoise pens, and I liked them. But when I found one that had been discontinued, all rational thought went out the window and I bought them—all without much consideration of whether or not they would be right for me.
Pelikan’s first White Tortoise pen was released in the M400 size in the early 200s, and production continued for seven years. After the M400 size was discontinued in 2011, Pelikan released an M600-sized variety of the pen. (You can see a far more complete history of Pelikan’s modern tortoise pens in this great article at The Pelikan’s Perch. (http://thepelikansperch.com/2014/09/07/a-treatise-on-the-modern-tortoise-1980-2014/) The white tortoise variety of the pen wasn’t made for as long a period or, apparently, in as large quantities, as it is rather more difficult to find these days.
The pen follows Pelikan’s very recognizable design aesthetics. The cap’s finial is in 24k gold plating with the new Pelikan logo laser-etched into the surface in reverse, with the pelican and her baby remaining shiny. The gold finial holds the standard pelican’s bill clip onto the pen and the clip is springy but firm. The body of the cap is a white acrylic and there is a dual cap band at the bottom of the cap into which the words “PELIKAN SOUVERÄN GERMANY” are stamped. The cap requires 3/4 of a turn to remove from the barrel.
The white tortoise acrylic of the barrel is what really sets this pen apart. Most of Pelikan’s tortoise barrels have a gold/brown undertone to them. Rather than use that same material and slap on a white cap and piston knob, Pelikan introduced a different tortoise material—one with a gold/green/honey color combination. It’s actually quite an attractive material, and is far the most translucent of any of the Pelikan barrels I’ve ever seen (except for the full demonstrators, of course.) You can very easily see both the ink levels and the piston mechanism inside the pen. The barrel, which is completely cylindrical, terminates in a white piston knob features two small gold rings that echo the double cap band.
Under the cap you have a short, white section and a standard Pelikan M600 bi-color nib in 14-karat gold. I have often said that Pelikan has the prettiest nib design of any fountain pen company in operation today, and that holds true on this pen, although as you go down the pens in size, the smaller nibs start to feel a little cramped with all those intricate channels stamped into the nib face.
Overall, I find the look of the pen rather attractive. It is certainly a quite unique look in the fountain pen world: there just aren’t a lot of white pens out there. I adore the white tortoise material of the barrel. The white acrylic used for the cap, section, and piston knob, however, I don’t care for. The tactile sensation of the acrylic feels a little cheap, and I have a difficult time explaining why…except that it doesn’t feel as solid or hard as black or brown acrylics used on the other Pelikan pens. It almost feels a little soft to me where the regular acrylic has a more resinous, mineral feel to it.
Additionally, I find the white plastic on the section rather prone to staining. If you want to avoid that, you have to be very careful with how deeply into the ink you insert the nib unit when filling the pen. Thus far, I have had the ink wash off successfully every time I have cleaned the pen, but the stains remain between wiping off the section after inking until I am able to run the section under water (which I usually don’t to until cleaning after writing it dry.)
The 14K medium nib came in perfect shape: moderately wet, smooth, and consistent. As is commonplace with almost every Pelikan nib I’ve ever tried, the medium line is anything but medium: it writes more like a broad on almost any other European nib. Pelikan grinds their nibs really wide, and in some cases, a bit on the stubbish side. This nib does exhibit very slight stub-like qualities, with slightly narrower cross strokes than up/down strokes. The nib is fairly rigid, with only the slightest hint of a bounce. That bounce manifests itself a less in the feel of the nib, but more in a barely-perceptible spread of the tines on downstrokes, giving you some nice pooling for highly-shading inks.
My main bugaboo with this pen, however, is its size. I’ve owned/used Pelikans in the M200/400, M600, M800, and M1000 sizes. I adore the M800s; I own and regularly use two of them. The M1000 is a nice size for me, but a bit big. The M200/400 is far too small for me to use with any regularity. Which leaves the M600. I find this pen to be a weird in-between size, neither comfortable nor uncomfortable. Despite that (or perhaps because of it), this is not a pen that I would choose for long writing sessions. It is barely long enough to use without posting, but so light (due to its smaller size and plastic piston mechanism) that the balance is off for me. It can be posted, and that’s how I write with it. Even with posting, though, the balance is a bit unsettled. For me and my grip, the problem is the section, and this is a complaint I have with every Pelikan I’ve ever tried: their sections are too short. Even on my M800s, I am almost never able to hold the pen on the section itself without also holding the threads. Combine the slightly awkward grip with an unusual balance for my hand, and this is a pen that I want to love but just can’t. I like the looks a lot, but this is one that I rarely find myself drawn to using.
The Pelikan M600 is a lovely pen. I would love to see a brown (or green!) tortoise version of this pen released with the same honey green tortoise material couple with a brown or green cap and piston knob as well. But I would need the extra heft and size of the M800 or M1000 before I would be able to really get behind writing a lot with this pen. It’s a great pen and a great writer. It’s just not for me.