Pen Review: OMAS Ogiva Alba
Material: Cotton Resin
Nib: 14k Gold
Filling System: Piston Filler
Length (Capped): 141mm
Length (Uncapped): 129mm
Length (Posted): 172mm
Section Diameter: 12mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 13.4mm
Cap Max Diameter: 15.1mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 14g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter): 24g
Over the past two years, as I have continued to journey my way through this brave new world of fountain pens, I feel as though I have really started to hone in on my own personal preferences and tastes. I have a solid understanding of the kinds of things I like, and the kinds of things I don’t. This is especially true of specific pen brands, which have started building themselves into a pretty specific hierarchy in my mind. Right at the top of that list, sharing the number one position with Visconti, is the Italian pen manufacturer, OMAS.
The OMAS Ogiva Alba is the third OMAS pen that I have purchased since I began my collection (the first being my OMAS Bologna, and the second being my beloved OMAS Ogiva Celluloide.) It was released late in 2014 as a limited edition of 327 pieces in each of three colors: violet, green, and orange. I was first made aware of the pen when it became available as an exclusive to the Goulet Pen Company, but didn’t purchase the pen until a bit later. I am one of those suckers who falls for the whole “limited edition” marketing schtick every time it comes up, and the Ogiva Alba was no exception. I wanted on the bandwagon, even though the pen wasn’t quite up my alley, design-wise. In this case, it actually turned out to be a fairly wise decision, because the Ogiva Alba sold out quickly from a lot of retailers’ stores. There are still some to be had there and there, but they are not as readily available as they once were at the beginning of the year.
OMAS’ Ogiva line features a relatively standard, cigar-shaped profile with understated (for Italian Pens, anyway) hardware. What makes the Ogiva pens special is the materials that OMAS uses to make them. Since the design is relatively understated, they usually manufacture these pens out of incredible materials like their Green Saft or Brown Arco celluloids. The Alba, by comparison, is made from a translucent “cotton resin.” According to a few sources on the ‘net, cotton resin is a resin made from the by-products of cotton seeds, and can take up to two years to manufacture and cure. The violet, green, and orange colors selected for the Alba were intended to be representative of the colors you might see in the Aurora Borealis.
I opted for the violet version of this pen, as I have often said there just aren’t enough purple pens in this world–especially this rich, dark, deep purple. The material of the violet Alba is so dark it almost isn’t see-through, but the color is lush and royal. When combined with the rounded ridges carved into the pen’s cap and barrel (a departure in design from the smooth surface of my Ogiva Celluloide), the deep violet resin almost looks like gently lapping waves against a dark shore on a twilight lake in late summer. It’s a luxurious-looking material in the right light.
The pen’s cap is made from a single piece of resin stock shaped into a traditional torpedo shape. The Alba’s rounded ridges start just past the top of the cap and continue down to the pen’s silver-colored cap bad. The cap band appears to be two rings, but appears to actually be a single piece of metal that is perforated to show the resin underneath. The lower portion of the cap band is then engraved with the Greek key design common on OMAS’ pens. The pen’s clip is clean and understated, with a slightly bevelled appearance, and features a roller wheel for a clip ball.
The ridges of the cap carry through to the barrel of the pen which tapers smoothly down toward a silver washer. The piston knob which makes up the “finial” of the pen is devoid of ridges and is polished to a lovely, smooth shine.
It’s takes a turn and a half on silk-smooth threads to remove the cap from the pen’s barrel, revealing a section made of the same resin with another perforated band that runs along the edge of the section and mirrors the greek key design found on the cap band. One slightly odd design decision that was made with the Ogiva models is that OMAS has placed the threads for the cap smack-dab in the middle of the section. This placement of the threads basically ensures that those threads will always fall under my grip when I write. Considering that the cap extends another 3/4 inch past the threads, it should have been possible to move the threads further back on the section and avoid the whole “gripping the threads” issue entirely. It’s really the only thing about the Ogiva series I don’t like.
The Alba, like its Celluloide cousin, is a piston filler with a decent ink capacity. However, the piston filling system on this pen does not turn smoothly at all, and feels just a little cheap or flimsy. I ran into the same issue with the filling system on the Ogiva Celluloide as well, which leads me to believe that it’s just the way OMAS manufactures their piston-fillers. I don’t know if the feel can be attributed to the mechanism itself, or if the piston knob isn’t well-lubricated, but it feels a little “sticky.” When I compare it, for example, to the pistons in Pelikan piston fillers, it just doesn’t feel high-quality enough for a pen in this price range.
The Ogiva Alba comes with OMAS’ standard 18k nibs (rhodium-plated in this model) in a variety of nib widths, or the normally lovely 14k “Extra-Flessibile” nibs in Extra Fine, Fine, or Medium. I purchased my Ogiva Celluloide with one of the Extra Flessibile nibs, and really, truly loved it. It was soft and bouncy, and provided a surprising amount of line variation. At the time I did the review of the Ogiva Celluloide, I remember saying that it was the closest to true flex I had gotten in a modern pen. (That claim has since been surpassed by the flex in the Pilot Custom Heritage 912.) Since I had enjoyed the Extra Flessibile in my Ogiva Celluloide so much, I decided I wanted to get another one for my Ogiva Alba.
Unfortunately, the nib that came with my Ogiva Alba was nothing like the nib on my Celluloide. I don’t know if it was due to the nib being part of a different batch, if the goldsmith changed the formula for the nib blank, or if the Rhodium plating impacted the nib in some way, but the Alba’s Extra Flessibile nib was anything but. It required a comparatively great deal of pressure to spread the tines at all (more akin to a Noodler’s “flex”), where the natural bounce of my handwriting would create lovely line variation on my Celluloide. Additionally, even when deliberately “flexed,” the nib wasn’t able to provide quite as much line variation. If I didn’t know better, I’d almost swear the nib was made from steel, rather than 14k gold.
The nib on this pen was also a firehose: it simply pours ink on the paper. So much so that nobody in their right mind could consider the line that this nib lays down to be anything approaching a fine even when used with the lightest of pressure. (Looking at the photo above, it appears that the nib slit on this particular nib doesn’t taper quite the way it should.) On top of all of that, the nib was rather scratchy. The tines were very slightly out of alignment, but I resolved that issue. I found this nib to be disappointing almost across the board. It is my hope that this is just a one-off issue. I love nibs with bounce, and I will almost always gravitate toward them. As much as I loved the FEF nib on my Celluloide, it is my hope to get another nib or 50 like that on future OMAS pens.
I should also point out that, for some reason, OMAS’ 18k nibs are some of the most beautifully-designed nibs on the market right now, with lovely, art deco-inspired designs splayed across their faces. By comparison, the 14k extra flessibile nibs are downright boring. Just some san serif text and a couple of gold hallmarks. Yawn.
The Ogivas come with real ebonite feeds, not the plastic feeds more commonly used today. Manufacturing these feeds is more expensive and labor intensive, but ebonite feeds are almost always worth the effort. These ebonite feeds are rough-looking by most feeds’ standards, with tool marks still visible on the feed’s underside and fin cutouts. I actually like this. It feels slightly more handmade. (Their feeds aren’t handmade, but it just feels that way…much less industrial than injection-molded plastic.)
Overall, I like the Ogiva Alba pretty well. I’m not normally a big demonstrator fan, but I love the violet cotton resin of my Alba. The ridged barrel and cap make for a nice design that is beautifully offset by the bright, silver-colored trim. The pen fits nicely in my hand, and is comfortable to use for long writing sessions. It’s lightweight, and has a good-sized ink capacity.
Unfortunately, as nice as the pen is, I found the nib on my Alba to be a little disappointing. This pen will absolutely find its way to a nibmeister in pretty short order. (I may take it with me to the DC Pen Show to see if someone can work on it there. Or I may just send it out now, because patience is not one of my strong suits.) If anything can be done about the ludicrously wet ink flow, the too-wide line, and the scratchiness, then it’ll become a very nice writer. As far as the lack of flessibile-ness, I suspect I’ll just have to consider this to be a rigid nib and call it good.