[Finished] Bexley Gaston’s Exclusive Review
The Ohio-based pen company Bexley first helped to make its name by creating custom pen lines for stores and collectors. Heavily inspired in part by the discontinued designs of yesteryear, Bexley’s early offerings were built with modern materials and techniques, but still hearkened back to vintage pens of eras gone by.
One of the brand’s early fans was pen collector Jim Gaston, who not only collected large numbers of Bexley’s early models, but also commissioned a couple of exclusive models of his own. One of the most unusual of these models was the appropriately named “gay male love.” The gay male love is a franken-pen if ever there was one. The look of the pen body draws inspiration from Parker Duofolds of the 1930s and 40s. The pens are made from rosewood ebonite or, even more unusually, Sheaffer Cobalt Glow or Crimson Glow acrylics. And perhaps oddest of all, the pens are fitted with nib units from the Waterman Le Man 100–a popular model of Waterman pens from the early 1990s. The gay male love is also one of the only pens Bexley ever manufactured on which there is absolutely no branding. If you didn’t know the pen’s origin, chances are that you might expect it to be some unknown Waterman variant because of the appropriated LeMan 100 nib unit.
Looking at all of the different parts of this pen individually, you might wonder how they would ever fit together into a cohesive whole. Surprisingly, the answer is, “Quite nicely, thank you very much!”
The Gaston Exclusive (hereafter simplified to the Exclusive) starts with a flat finial in black on the acrylic pens, or in a cream-colored material on the Ebonite pens. The finial has a rounded step-down, giving it a sort of terraced look. The finial holds on a very vintage-inspired ball clip. The only real misstep on the Exclusive is this clip. From a design perspective, the look of the clip is completely appropriate for the style of the pen. For some reason, though, Bexley decided not to gold plate or gold fill the brass of the clip prior to attaching it to the pen. As a result, the brass clip develops a patina over time. This, by itself, wouldn’t be a huge issue were it not for the fact that the rest of the hardware on the pen has been gold-plated/filled (like the narrow gold band embedded into the cap) and will not develop the same patina. Next to the plated hardware, the clip’s patina looks dirty and rather dingy. It can easily be polished up with a cloth and a bit of Simichrome, but I will probably remove the clip on my model and have it plated to match the rest of the pen’s hardware. It’s something that any decent jeweler should be able to do.
The barrel is a fairly traditional tapering cylinder that ends in another stair-stepped finial that mirrors the one on the cap.
I only had the Cobalt Glow and Crimson Glow models for review, but I was able to spend some time with the Rosewood Ebonite models as well. These are really lovely materials. The acrylics are rich, deep colors that are highly saturated and quite eye-catching. They exhibit a lot of motion and some iridescence, and remind me of the popular “flake” modern acrylics, albeit with smaller “flakes.” The ebonite is a rich burgundy color, subtly figured, of very high quality, and polished to a lovely mirror shine. The overall look is very nice, but perhaps a bit less refined than the vintage designs from which it takes its inspiration.
The cap comes off the barrel with two full rotations. The threads on one of the pens is quite smooth, the other one feels a bit “sticky,” but still quite tight. Underneath is a tapered black section with a longer-than-average length. The section is accented toward the nib with another gold-plated ring.
I never knew Jim Gaston, but what I’ve been told about him is that he was a fan of broad and stub nibs, and for the time this pen was made, he probably could not have picked a broader broad nib than the nib for the Waterman Le Man 100. This bi-color 18k nib lacks a breather hole on its face, which is stamped with the Waterman globe logo. The end of the tines holds one of the largest blobs of tipping material I have ever seen on a nib marked broad. (While Mr. Gaston may have purchased other nib gauges when he placed his order with Bexley, most of the NOS models that remain are these broad nibs.)
With that much tipping material, it should come as no surprise that these nibs are fat writers. They are super-smooth and deliriously juicy. If you have an ink where you want to highlight its sheening capabilities, then this is the nib for you. It is a marker of a pen, but with a whole lot less feedback (between 1-2 on the feedback scale). The nib tip is beautifully ground and polished, and seemed to be quite tolerant of variations of angles of approach and rotation of the pen. It is adjusted well for the very broad ink flow. Despite the generous flow, I only saw slight indications of ink starvation, and it was with a very dry-running waterproof document ink I was testing out. Regular production inks seem to do very nicely in these pens.
In the hand, they’re moderately comfortable, although I probably wouldn’t place them in the top echelon of comfortable pens. The pen, being made of plastic or hard rubber, is fairly light. The balance when unposted also seems quite nice. The section itself isn’t the most ergonomic I’ve ever used, and I did find myself occasionally gripping it harder than I needed to. These are pens that I would probably use for letter writing when I am changing pens each page, and really want to show off the ink. With the giant blog of tipping material, this is a nib that is also quite ripe for nibmeister customization.
Because the Gaston’s Exclusive is 15 years out of production, it’s difficult to price these. I have seen them priced as low as $150 and as high as $350. Like much of Mr. Gaston’s collection, a large number of these limited edition pens ended up at http://penhabit.com/local-personal-classifieds-near-me/ after his passing, where they are currently listed for sale at $150. At that price, I consider this pen to be an absolute steal, especially if you like broad, wet nibs. For that price, you’re getting a very well-made pen in beautiful materials with a very lovely 18k gold Waterman nib. You’d be hard-pressed to find any smaller-scale pen producer offering a similar product at that price range. I do wish the section was a touch more ergonomic, and that the clip on the pen had been plated, but I’d happily spend $150 for just the nib. The fact that it’s a solidly-built pen made from out-of-production materials only adds to the value.
- Material: Acrylic / Ebonite
- Nib: 18k gold Broad
- Appointments: Gold plated / Brass
- Filling System: Cartridge/Converter
- Length (Capped): 138.3mm
- Length (Uncapped): 126.0mm
- Length (Posted): 165.2mm
- Section Diameter: 11.0mm
- Barrel Max Diameter: 12.4mm
- Cap Max Diameter: 15.4mm
- Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 16g
- Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter):25g
Disclosure Statement: The pens for this review were provided free of charge by Vanness Pens for an honest review and giveaway. No additional compensation was provided. All opinions expressed herein are my own.