Right out of my “I always wanted one of these” file, please give a warm welcome to the…
Pilot Falcon Fountain Pen (a.k.a. Namiki Falcon)
Nib: Soft Fine
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Pilot Proprietary)
Disclaimer & Giveaway
This pen was provided for review by Pen Chalet. Because I don’t want you clowns thinking I’m handing out artificially inflated reviews in exchange for free products, I decided to give this pen away to one lucky reader (details at bottom of post).
About the Pen:
I’ve been using fountain pens for…oh, just over two and a half years. My first was a total impulse buy. I was wandering through Staples, noticed a $7 Sheaffer Viewpoint calligraphy fountain pen hiding on the bottom peg, and decided I couldn’t live without it. Two hours later, I had blown through half a cartridge and was completely engrossed in YouTube, watching video after video from Brian Goulet, Stephen Brown, and a few others. Pen reviews, how-to videos, disassembly/repair instructions, and Q&As. I was hooked. I began researching different pens and started a list of those I “had to own.”
One of the more interesting pens often mentioned was the bold & mysterious Pilot Falcon, with its strange and unique-shaped nib, its soft springiness that allows you to get some line variation with just a little pressure (don’t you dare call it a “flex” nib, though!), and its $150 price tag. At $7, my still-freshly-inked Sheaffer was probably the most expensive pen I had in the house, so the thought of spending $150 on a pen seemed ludicrous. I put the Falcon on my “When I’m Rich” list and went on binge-watching videos.
Over the course of the last couple years, I heard many things about the Falcon, both flattering and not-so-flattering. The most common argument against the Falcon was that the nib “isn’t for everyone.” Some people had a devil of a time trying to write with it, found that it skipped or was scratchy. Of course, other people thought it was the cat’s pajamas…or the weasel’s cheese…or the shiznit…or whatever colloquialism your village/hamlet uses to mean it’s pretty freaking great. The negative comments more-or-less dissuaded me from plopping down the 1.5 Franklins, and I figured if I ever found myself in a pen store, I could try one before buying it.
I was surprised to receive an email from Ron at Pen Chalet, who had some flattering things to say about my reviews, asking me if I’d be interested in reviewing a pen for them. I was thrilled when he chose to send me the Pilot Falcon because I was going to get an extended period of time to try out the pen and see if it was (a) as awesome as some people claimed, and/or (b) as rotten as other people claimed. Honestly, I expected a Jekyll & Hyde experience with the nib behaving well some times and turning into a murderous beast at others. In my experience over the last six weeks or so, the nib was far more gentle Jekyll than hideous Hyde.
As with many other mainstream Japanese pens, the Falcon is pretty nondescript. It’s a black pen with gold trim. It’s definitely nice, but nothing that slaps you in the face and yells “I’m fancy!” The Falcon is almost identical in size and weight to the Pilot Custom 92, but has a number of stylistic differences, such as the section length and shape, barrel length, and the shape of the barrel’s taper.
The Falcon’s barrel and cap are made from a highly polished, lightweight resin. At first, I didn’t really notice much difference between this resin and other, cheaper plastic. But then when I went to photograph the pen, I discovered just how polished and reflective it is. This pen is practically impossible to photograph well because the pen body, clip, and gold disk on the finial reflect everything in the room (including my head and my camera).
All the pen’s accents are gold plated, which gives the otherwise mundane design a classier look. Most of the accents are simple and unadorned, with the cap band being the only one that’s stylized. It actually consists of two bands: a very thin, plain gold band above a much thicker band that has a two-strand braid design around it and PILOT JAPAN stamped into the back (opposite the clip).
The clip is the most interesting piece of furniture, I think. Looking at it straight on, it has a three-faceted shape at the top (where it attaches to the cap). The side facets taper off quickly, leaving the center facet to extend down the length of the cap, where it flattens off at the end (nicely matching the shape of the finial and end cap). If you look at the clip from the side, it has a pronounced curve to it, a concave depression making the center lower to the cap than either end. It reminded me of a Japanese sword. Of course, I know nothing about Japanese swords, so I had to do a little research to find the one I was imagining. After checking out a few photos, I think the curve in the clip is identical to that of a Katana. I tried to find some link or reference to make that connection, but I didn’t turn up anything. This can’t be a coincidence, can it?
Speaking of the clip, one thing I really like about it is that it was machined from a single block of metal. Many pen manufacturers will bend the top and/or fold the end over to create the tab on the underside (the part that pins your pocket material to the pen body), which can scratch the pen’s finish or rip your pocket. The Falcon’s tab is nice and smooth, though, and will do its job without damaging the pen or whatever material it’s clipped onto.
Of course, the real star of the Pilot Falcon is the nib. It has a very unique, triangular (or wedge) shape to it, with long, slender tines. The nib is designed to add a “soft” bounce that gives you some very pronounced line variation with just a little bit of pressure. Beware, though, it’s NOT a flex nib. If you really crank down on it, you will spring the nib. Even the feed is unique, as it has a very low profile and no fins. This doesn’t seem to affect ink flow at all, though.
The other accents consist of a thin band separating the end cap from the barrel, another thin band separating the finial from the cap, a small gold disk affixed to the top of the finial, and two more thin bands on the section.
The one complaint I have about this pen’s appearance is that it’s a vicious fingerprint magnet. The finial and clip are the worst offenders. If fingerprints annoy you, this pen might make you a bit batty (especially if you’re trying to photograph the damn thing…I swear, I just have to walk into the room and look at the pen, and my fingerprints appear all over it!)
Build Quality (5/5):
I have yet to see a Pilot pen that doesn’t have impeccable build quality. The Falcon is designed, built, and assembled flawlessly. All the threads marry up perfectly and screw together smoothly. Nothing in the pen is loose. Nothing wobbles. The machining tolerances between all the parts is perfect (and there are a whole mess of thin gold bands that need to fit, too). This is one beautifully put-together pen.
Way up inside the cap is a plastic insert that seems to align with the forward lip of the section. Obviously, this keeps the nib from drying out when it’s not being used. It does its job, as the pen hasn’t shown any tendency to dry out. Even after a week of sitting unused, the pen wrote immediately.
One thing you might notice when handling this pen is a loud rattle when you tip it back and forth. There is nothing wrong with the pen. The rattle comes from the honkin’ huge, rivet-shaped metal agitator in the Con-50 converter. It’s got to be the largest agitator I’ve ever seen. They probably could have gone with something a bit smaller that would have done the job and allow for another couple drops of ink in the reservoir. The agitator definitely works, though, as it keeps the ink accessible to the feed.
A feature I always appreciate is the ability to completely disassemble a pen for cleaning. Some pens require special tools to remove the nib, but the Pilot Falcon nib and feed are friction-fit, meaning you can easily remove them from the section. They don’t come out easily, though (at least not the first time), so if you’re not comfortable tinkering with such an expensive pen, you might choose to leave them in the section and use the converter or a bulb syringe to flush them clean.
For the first four or five weeks I used this pen, I had no issues with ink flow. It never skipped or hard started, never ran dry or railroaded, didn’t even hard start when I’d let the pen sit uncapped for 60 seconds. Earlier this week, though, the pen began hard starting on me. I thought maybe I had gotten some paper fibers between the tines, so I flossed it with a brass sheet. That seemed to help for a minute, but then the hard starts came back (probably one every 15 to 20 words).
I decided to flush the pen and give it some fresh ink, and that’s when I noticed that the ink was almost out. It was still writing just fine, so the hard starting shouldn’t have happened. But after I flushed it and filled it up with new ink, the hard starts vanished. The capacity of the converter isn’t huge, so you’d hope that the pen could use up every drop of a fill, but it looks like as the ink level gets near the end, you may get some hard starts to indicate the end is nigh.
I’m pretty surprised with how comfortable this pen has been for me. It has a somewhat narrow grip section (just under 10mm). I typically grip narrower pens a little too tightly so my hand cramps, but I haven’t had any cramping with the Falcon. The pen is super light, and despite the glossy finish of the section, I didn’t find it slippery at all. So maybe the feel of the resin is enough to trick my fingers into keeping a looser grip.
One of the design elements that I really like is that the section is fairly long. It allows my fingers to rest forward of the threads instead of on top of them. Although, honestly, the threads aren’t sharp, anyway. So if you usually hold your pens farther back on the barrel, you may or may not be bothered by the threads. If you hold your pens closer to the nib, you’ll never even know the threads are there.
Writing Experience (4.5/5):
The Pilot Falcon is light and comfortable to use. The nib is amazing in that it provides a beautiful, wet, very fine line, while allowing some nice line variation through the softness of the tines. Some complain about the converter’s ink capacity not holding enough ink, but I’ve found that the ink lasts me a reasonable amount of time. I’m using a Soft Fine nib, though, so if you’re wielding a Medium or Broad, it might blow through ink a little faster.
The hard starts annoy me, though. Yes, they only happen when the pen is low on ink, but honestly, it still bugs me. It shouldn’t happen like that. The pen should write flawlessly until the ink is gone. Other than that one annoyance, the Falcon performs wonderfully.
Oh, and one other thing I wanted to mention: With many pens, when you whip the nib around the paper trying to add a flourish to letters, many nibs can’t keep up with you and the line breaks up. That didn’t happen at all with the Falcon. I tried all sorts of quickly sketched curly-q’s and flourishes, and the nib laid down a perfect line every time. That was a nice surprise.
The Pilot Falcon retails for about $150, so in order for it to be a really great value, it has to provide an awful lot. What you do get is a 14k gold nib that does something most nibs can’t do: provide legitimate line variation when you want it, while giving a wet and consistently fine line when you don’t. The pen’s aesthetic design isn’t going to elicit many wows (although I do love the clip). All the magic is in the nib. And I’ll give some props to the feed and converter, too. For as fine a line as it writes, it’s also a very wet line. The massive opening on the converter supplies a lot of ink, and the feed handles it perfectly.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 23/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Awesome soft nib / Line variation||Hard starts when running low on ink|
|Very lightweight and comfortable||Fingerprint madness|
|Fantastic ink flow|
The Falcon’s nib could be one of my all-time favorites. It’s fine enough for my tiny handwriting, smooth enough to write fast (i.e., note-taking at work), toothy enough to remind me that I’m writing, and soft enough to get beautiful line variation on downstrokes.
Back a ways, I tried to squeak out some line variation from my Baoer 79, and the tines failed to return to their original position. I didn’t spring that nib, but it definitely jacked it from a fine to a medium. Since then, I don’t attempt any line variation with my pens. I’m just not going to risk it. But the Falcon is made for doing that, so I gave it a try. It’s nice and springy, but goes right back to its natural position without affecting its beautifully fine line.
I’ve now moved the Falcon from my “When I’m Rich” list to my “Just Buy the Damn Thing” list. I have no fear that the nib isn’t for me. In fact, it’s downright luscious.
Congratulations to Michelle from the Philippines (@archsurot), who was the winner of this wonderful Falcon! Enjoy the pen, Michelle! And thank you to Pen Chalet for providing this really nice pen for me to review.