Pen Review: Italix Parson’s Essential
Material: Metal & Lacquer
Nib: Steel. Broad and Medium Oblique
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge/Converter
Length (Capped): 140.6mm
Length (Uncapped): 124.5mm
Length (Posted): 161.4mm
Section Diameter: 10mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 12.8mm
Cap Max Diameter: 14mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 21g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter):37g
One of the pens I am asked to review most often is a pen exclusive to UK retailer, Mr. Pen. Italix pens are manufactured by English firm P.J. Ford, and are sold (mostly) exclusively through Mr. Pen and its website. (Italix pens do show up occasionally on Massdrop as well.) Usually, exclusive pens are priced higher than more widely available pens as you’re paying, in part, for the exclusivity. But Mr. Pen and P.J. Ford seem content to offer their Italix Pens offers at a very reasonable price for what you get.
The Italix Parson’s Essential is, perhaps, the most popular model of Italix pens. (It is also, not coincidentally, the most economical model of Italix pens.) The metal-bodied, lacquered pen comes in a relatively standard cigar-shaped body, but is made of high-quality materials and has a well-refined design.
The pen comes in a variety of colored lacquer finishes including black, burgundy, green, amber, or blue. I opted for the amber version of the pen, which features a lovely tortoiseshell-like pattern in ambers, yellows, and browns. I am usually rather averse to painted or lacquered finishes, as most of my experience with lacquer on metal has been on cheap, low-quality pens where the lacquer isn’t very durable. The lacquer on this pen does feel thick, solid, and able to withstand a few knocks and dings. Combined with the fact that I’m not very hard on my pens, I feel pretty confident in the quality of the finish work on this pen. And, as someone rather appreciates autumnal colors, the yellow-brown pattern of the amber finish is quite attractive.
The pen’s shape is fairly standard; it is a twist-on capped, cigar-shaped pen with no finials on the rounded cap or barrel ends. The clip on the cap is cast metal that attaches through a slit in the cap wall. The clip is very rigid…almost too much so. I would find it difficult to slip this clip over the elastic pen loops in any of my cases. The shape of the clip is nice, though; it gives the pen a nice profile. There is an attractive cap band as well, cast and an enameled braid pattern that I find rather dignified.
The cap is removed from the barrel (which is devoid of any additional decoration beyond the lacquer) to reveal a tapered black section and a #5 bi-color steel nib. The threads between cap and barrel are smooth and tight. On metal-bodied pens, the meshing of machined, metal threads often results in a squeaky or loose fit, but Italix manages to get around this by the use of a full-cap plastic inner lining, which serves as the inner cap and as the material into which the threads are cut. This also seem to help in keeping the nib from drying out, which seems to be another common problem with metal pens.
The Parson’s Essential take standard international cartridges and converters, both long and short. As a metal-bodied pen, I certainly would not recommend using this pen as an eyedropper. Stick with the cartridges or converters.
Aesthetically, the Parson’s Essential is a pen that looks well-proportioned and designed, especially for a pen in its price range. Some of the photos of the pen I’ve seen online make the pen feel cheap and a bit garish. In person, however, it is a much more refined and classic look than most other advanced beginner pens which often rely more on injection molded plastic and contemporary designs. This has the feel of a pen that an old world doctor or lawyer would be happy to use in any corporate environment.
one aspect of Italix pens makes them quite interesting: the positively mammoth array of nib options that are available. The #5 steel nib is a fairly standard-looking nib with the Italix logo etched across the surface, but the array of grinds is impressive: fine, medium, and broad in round, italic, and stub and well as medium and broad oblique and italic oblique in both left foot and right foot varieties, and even an 18k gold nib option (medium only.) Plus, ordering additional nib units is quite affordable, making the Parson’s Essential one of the least expensive ways to try out less-common grinds like obliques. The additional nib units come with a full section and converter, so swapping between nibs is surprisingly easy.
I ordered my pen with two nib units: a broad round nib and a medium left oblique (aka medium oblique for the right handed). The broad nib was quite nice: smooth, well-adjusted, tines in perfect alignment. The oblique nib, on the other hand, had a very unusual grind to it. I am a big fan of oblique nibs due to the angle at which I both hold and rotate my pen. With this Italix oblique I could not easy find an angle at which the nib was not terribly scratchy. I am not a seasoned nibmeister, but I can say that under magnification, the grind on this oblique was quite different than that of any other oblique in my collection. I think the nib will be salvageable, but I fear it will require a fair bit of work to adjust the oblique grind for my grip.
One other thing to mention about the nibs and feeds on this pen is the ink flow. Both nib units ran into problems with running dry on long writing sessions. It would never write to a full stop, but ink starvation would cause the pen to write drier and drier until I would begin to see hard starts and the line of the nib would move from broad to medium to fine. Priming the feed would usually resolve the problem for a page or two. A thorough cleaning fixed most of that issue. Even so, after cleaning, I found the pen didn’t care for certain inks, and would tend to choke up a bit. As someone who enjoys a juicier ink flow, drier inks (like many Iron Gall inks) were too dry for me over the long term. Even with a very wet ink (like De Atramentis Aubergine), this is a pen that seemed to like shorter, notes-style writing sessions to extended sessions of writing fiction or long letters. There was just enough ink starvation for me to become a touch annoyed.
In the hand, the Parson’s Essential is mostly comfortable, albeit a touch on both the narrow and heavy sides. (But only a touch.) I suspect that if this pen had a #6 nib, the extra uncapped length provided by that longer nib would have helped my grip fall in a slightly more comfortable place. With the smaller nib, I often found myself holding the pen right on the threads. Fortunately, the plastic-covered threads are quite smooth and didn’t make holding the pen too uncomfortable. This is a pen that I was able to use both posted and unposted, although I tended to prefer the posted version.
Problems aside, the Italix Parson’s Essential is a solid, well-built, and (I think) attractive pen. And best of all, it is surprisingly affordable. At £32.50 (approximately $50 US), this pen falls into the same range as the Lamy AL-Star, Faber-Castell Loom, the TWSBI Diamond 580, or the Pilot Prera. I find the Parson’s Essential is far more classically refined and restrained than any of those other offerings, which tend toward the plasticky and modern than these offerings, and just as robust as the best of them. Just make sure you clean the pen thoroughly before you start inking and you should have a good writer with a wide array of nibs to choose from. It may not be the ideal pen for long writing sessions due to the ink starvation issues, but if you use your pen for jotting notes, signing checks, or writing shorter memos (a page or two), this is a great alternative to the under-$50 pens out there.