Conid Bulkfiller Regular Review
If you were to lay my fountain pen collection out on a table and ask 100 people to describe it, I suspect that the adjectives “utilitarian,” “industrial,” or “understated” would be conspicuously absent. Those are visual styles to which I am not generally drawn. I find that I prefer designs that dazzle with spectacle over those that shine solely from their refinement and attention to detail. While all pens are engineered, I find that I am most interested in those pens which also exhibit artistry. Yet, every once in a while, I get a chance to use a pen that eschews the flashes and bangs of showy design for a simple, quiet precision. These pens are so exquisitely and intricately engineered that the engineering itself becomes a work of art, and captures my attention in the process. The Conid Bulkfiller is one such pen.
Conid is an Antwerp, Belgium-based pen company with a focus on obsessively engineered pens…and engineered really is the right word. Absolutely nothing on this pen feels superfluous or out of place; everything is there for a specific reason. The result is the Conid Bulkfiller Regular, a clear demonstrator featuring by polished titanium, rubber o-rings, and black highlights which form a unified and cohesive whole. The Conid Bulkfiller looks like it could be right at home on the bright floor of a modern, high-tech manufacturing facility.
The design of the Bulkfiller Regular screams minimalism. The flat-topped design is capped by a titanium finial into which is inset a medallion of black and white half-circles. Along the side of the finial, the words “Conid Antwerp Belgium” are etched in block capital letters. There is a ring of black material (acrylic? metal?), then another titanium ring onto which is attached the clean-lined titanium clip. The clip is firm and strong and can be engraved at the customer’s request (as it was on the model I reviewed.) The rest of the cap is a perfectly crystal-clear cylinder of acrylic in which you can see internal stair-steps of machined lines which help to create a sort of inner cap seal to keep the nib wet when capped. The cap is then accented by a single cap band, again of titanium, engraved with the words “CONID BULKFILLER FOUNTAINBEL.” (Fountainbel is the FPN forum name of one of the company’s founders, and I suspect means fountain pen in Flemish.)
The pen’s barrel consists of another cylinder of the same clear acrylic. Toward the end of the barrel there is a small cut-in to accommodate the posting of the cap. The pen’s unique filling mechanism (more on this in a moment) screws into the barrel and is controlled by means of a polished titanium knob and piston on which rubber o-rings have been placed—again, to assist with keeping the cap secure when posted.
The acrylic threads on the cap mesh with beautifully machined and polished titanium threads on the barrel. The 4-start threads mean the cap can be removed with only 1 1/4 turns. Removing the cap doesn’t “reveal” much since the cap is completely see-through already. Under the caps lies a black matte metal section and a clear ink window. The section is nicely textured and contoured, resulting in a very comfortable grip in the hand.
Conid pens are all custom-ordered, so when you order one, you can choose your nib picking between steel, titanium, and gold in a variety of nib gauges. Custom grinds are also available on request. The pen intros review came with a titanium nib ground to an extra-fine point installed, and a separate steel nib unit with a medium italic grind. Neither of these is grinds which I would choose for myself, but both were exceptionally well-done.
I have grown to really enjoy titanium nibs in the last several months, but they have something of a reputation for being difficult to adjust and work with. The extra-fine grind on this titanium nib results in a western-style EF line, but the softness of the nib provides some nice bounce and correspondingly juicy ink flow. (Inasmuch as an EF nib can be juicy.) EF nibs generally tend to give more feedback than I prefer, which was the case on this particular nib, although I suspect that some of that feedback also came from the fact that I was on a slightly-textured paper for writing this review. On a related note, I found that I had to clean wet paper fibers out of the tines of the nib tip every so often with this nib, as the very fine point combined with a bit of flex often resulted in paper fibers getting picked up from the wet ink flow.
When I switched over to the medium italic nib, that’s when I really started to appreciate the Conid Bulkfiller. The steel medium nib was ground to a relatively crisp italic with a generous, although not juicy, ink flow. It was, as you might expect, a touch sensitive to my tendency to roll the nib, but not as much as most other italic nibs I have used. I found myself really enjoying this nib, putting it in the same general category as the medium italic nibs ground by Mike Masuyama I have purchased on some of my Franklin-Christoph pens.
Regardless of the nib I used, the Conid Bulkfiller was right with me every step of the way. I never had a hard start. I never had problems with the ink flow not being able to keep up with me. This pen does have a sort of double-reservoir ink system (more on that in a bit…I promise) which I didn’t realize, so one time I did write the “active” reservoir dry without realizing that it wasn’t connected to the main reservoir. But aside from that, it’s been a great pen.
Now, what gives the Bulkfiller its name is the filling system that Conid has incorporated into their pens. And when I talk about engineering turning into artistry, I am largely referring to the Bulkfilling system. The Regular-sized Bulkfiller can hold up to 2.5ml of ink, and utilizes a filling system that is so perfect in its simplicity, it really is amazing nobody thought of it sooner.
Most piston or vac-filled pens operate by moving a plunger of some kind up and down to suck up ink. The problem with nearly every one of these designs is that the rubber, cork, or silicone plunger tip is attached to the end of the mechanism. With the plunger on the end of the filling mechanism, taking up space in the barrel, the amount of ink with which you can fill a pen is limited. Some older piston fillers used telescoping parts to accommodate a longer piston. Others only fill half or a third of the barrel. Modern vacuum fillers have come up with a sort of valve that allows you to fill most of the barrel but makes the pen far more difficult to clean. Conid engineered their way out of these problems by answering an incredibly obvious question: why does the plunger need to be attached to the piston at all?
(See the video about at the 9:55 mark to see the filling system in action.) Inside the pen, there is a long titanium piston rod that runs the full length of the barrel. But at the very end of that rod there isn’t a plunger: just a small rubber stopper and some threads. The stopper serves as a barrier between the main part of the barrel and the smaller “active” reservoir. (This prevents the heat of your hand from heating up the air inside the barrel and causing ink to burp. If you’re a regular flier, it also prevents the pen from leaking when you fly.) The actual plunger head itself is “stowed away” at the end of the barrel, independent of the piston. When it comes time to fill the pen, you unscrew the piston knob and pull back the piston all the way to the back of the barrel. Then you twist the knob a little bit and the threads on the piston attach to the plunger stored there. Now, you have a regular pull-type piston filler. You depress the piston all the way, insert the nib unit into the ink, and pull the piston back out all the way. (You might need to repeat the process a time or two, as the plunger may have sucked up some of the air in the feed, preventing a full fill.) Once the barrel is full, a twist of the piston knob reattaches releases the plunger from the piston and re-attaches it to the back of the barrel. Then you can depress piston rod through the now-full barrel of ink, and tighten down the knob.
It is an ingeniously simple solution to the problem of how to get the best possible fill for a pen. If you’re the kind of person who prefers large-capacity pens, the Bulkfiller may be one of the most perfectly engineered options. It’s hard to explain in writing, but when you see it in action, the simplicity of the solution becomes almost artistic. It just works.
And that, overall, that’s how I feel about the Conid Bulkfiller. I have held off buying one for a long time because I was just never all that wowed by their appearance. For someone who likes flashy Italian celluloids and perfectly cured Urushi, the sterile lines of a Conid Bulkfiller were never that interesting to me. But once I held one in my hand, I realized that what made the Conid Bulkfiller a work of art wasn’t the materials, but the sheer perfection of the whole assembly. There is not one bit of superfluousness. No corners have been cut. No workmanship glossed over. But neither have there been any unnecessary bells and whistles added. The Conid Bulkfiller is a pen that has been obsessively engineered, beautiful built, and carefully assembled to create a pen for writers. It’s comfortable, it is consistent, it is attractive in its visual simplicity, and it has a massive ink capacity. If I wrote novels by hand, this is pen with which I would choose to do it.
The Conid Bulkfiller starts at a price of 388EUR. (At the time of writing, about $433 USD). Additional options will add to that base price. Even with an upgraded nib or some extra bells and whistles, the Conid Bulkfiller is a wonderful pen. If you’re the type of writer who wants a rock solid writing instrument with a large ink capacity, great nib, consistent ink flow, a comfortable feel in the hands, and a masterfully-engineered design, you simply won’t do much better than this one.
Nib: EF Titanium, Steel Medium Italic
Filling System: Bulkfiller
Length (Capped): 136.5mm
Length (Uncapped): 130.5mm
Length (Posted): 165.0mm
Section Diameter: 10.4mm
Barrel Max Diameter: 13mm
Cap Max Diameter: 15mm
Weight, Uncapped (with ink and/or converter): 18g
Weight, Capped (with ink and/or converter):30g
The pen for this review was lent to The Pen Habit by Pen Habit Viewer Phillip, and was returned following the completion of this review. No compensation was provided. All opinions expressed herein are my own.