Today, my heart breaks. Not just because one of my most coveted grail pens is on its way back to the vendor within a week of my receiving it, but also because my three-pen grail list is now reduced to a single, lonely entry.
Grail Pen? What the Heck is a Grail Pen?
So let’s back up a little. If you’re not familiar with the term “grail pen,” let me set the stage before getting into my story of sadness and despair.
Most collectors are familiar with the term “grail” when paired with the items they collect. A grail item is a highly desired collectible of such rarity or expense that it’s well beyond the collector’s everyday reach.
My Own Grail List Emerges
I started collecting fountain pens about two and a half years ago, and in the time since, I’ve built up a pretty healthy list of pens I’d like to own. Most of them are relatively affordable, and are common enough to just be on my normal, “keep it in mind” list.
But along the way, I discovered a few high-end brands. There are luxury brands that offer pens with mind-blowing designs or that are built from exotic or rare materials. There are also pen makers that make absolutely gorgeous pens by hand, using unique or difficult-to-make materials.
I’m not impressed by gimmicks, jewels, spokesmen, logos, or reputation. I am, however, impressed by beauty. While sifting through the absurdly expensive (and often just plain gaudy) offerings from some of the more overblown brands, I discovered a handful of pens so beautiful, I had to start an “I must have them” list to put them on.
My grail pens. Three of them:
- Visconti Divina Elegance in Blue: Designed with the golden ratio in mind, a beautiful translucent blue body with silver inlay.
- Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age: It’s made of lava from Mt. Etna. LAVA!
- Nakaya Decapod Twist in Kuro-Tamenuri (Black-Red): Handcrafted from ebonite, then layered with Urushi lacquer finishing
Hard Decision: Pulling the Trigger
Of course, I created my Grail List with the almost certain assumption that I would never actually own any of them. They’re ridiculously expensive. Beautiful, yes, but quite the monetary investment.
So how did I make the jump from “It’ll never happen” to “Send it my way, baby”? I took on a side job that put a little extra money in my pocket. I wanted to treat myself, so I decided to just go ahead and scratch one of the pens off my list.
In an admittedly weak attempt to be at least somewhat responsible, I opted for the least expensive of the bunch: the Visconti Homo Sapiens. It’s made from an acrylic plastic mixed with lava from Mt. Etna. It’s gorgeous. I put in the order, set up camp by the mailbox, and waited for it to come in.
The pen came in a few days later, and it was every bit as amazing as I though it would be. At least until I inked it up. I have tiny handwriting, so I prefer Fine and Extra Fine nibs. I got the Extra Fine because I know that European pens tend to fall on the broad side of the spectrum.
I inked up the Homo Sapiens with one of my all-time favorite inks (De Atramentis Plum) and started to write. To my dismay, the line it put down was much closer to Broad than it was Extra Fine. It wasn’t even close to EF. And it was an absolute gusher of a pen, putting down a line that was as wet as it was broad (I’m sure the wetness of the nib contributed to the broadness of the line, too).
I may have been able to get over the broader-than-should-be-considered-reasonable EF nib if it wrote consistently, but the pen was absolutely riddled with hard starts. I found about half of my downstrokes and the vast majority of my left-to-right strokes suffered from hard starting.
Yes, I flushed the pen before filling it. Yes, I checked nib for anomalies (misaligned tines & baby’s bottom). Didn’t appear to be any issues…it just didn’t write.
I did notice that if I rotated my hand a little (counterclockwise), the pen wrote a lot better. Unfortunately, it was very uncomfortable for me to hold that way.
Like Popping a Ballon with a Pin
How deflating. I had been drooling over this pen for more than a year, and when I finally got it in my hand, it wasn’t compatible with my writing style. I’m not going to pan the pen or the brand, as many reviews out there indicate that others have a much different (better) experience with them than I did.
But for me, the pen was one I couldn’t use. I just couldn’t justify keeping such an expensive pen if all I could do was look at it.
Oh, How the Mighty Have Fallen
So, with much disappointment, I’m sending it back. And to make matters worse, I kind of have to remove both Visconti pens from my Grail List. As amazing as the Divina Elegance looks, it uses the same nib as the Homo Sapiens, so it will probably give me the same type of writing experience. Not even going to consider dropping the bills for that one.
Bummer. It really is gorgeous.
So my Grail List has now been reduced from a triumvirate of awesomeness to a lone, hand-made writing instrument. Will I ever buy one? Maybe. Probably. But maybe not. But probably.