If you’re on the quest for affordable italic nibs, you’ll want to read about the…
Italix Parson’s Essential Fountain Pen
Nib: Fine Cursive Italic (FCI)
Filling System: Cartridge/Converter (Standard International)
Background & History:
Italix is the “house brand” of the British online fountain pen retailer MrPen. The Italix brand was born in the mid 2000s, when Sheaffer and Cross decided to discontinue many of their italic nib options. According to MrPen owner, Peter Ford, “We thought this odd because 30% of our sales were speciality nib options.”
Knowing the decision of their two largest suppliers would leave a gap in product offerings (and likely cut into sales), Ford worked with a pen manufacturer that would take kit pens and outfit them with Manuscript calligraphy nibs. This initial product was called the Originalis. It was extremely popular and is still in production today.
Looking to expand their line of high-quality, affordable italic fountain pens, MrPen developed a new model, commissioning the bodies from an Asian company and the nibs from Jowo in Germany. This new model was initially called The Buddy, and sales were not so hot. They changed the name to Red, and sales continued to be disappointing. In the meantime, they worked out a technique for quickly and efficiently modifying the nibs into a number of various italic grinds.
While the Parson’s Essential nib is from Jowo, other pen models include nibs made by Bock and Manuscript.
Upon perfecting their nib modification technique, they decided to rename the pen again, this time to reflect the quality of the market sector they were trying to attract. After a few positive reviews for the newly christened Parson’s Essential, sales of the pen “went ballistic” (in Mr. Ford’s own words).
After about a decade of producing affordable, custom italic fountain pens, the Italix brand boasts about 11 different models, each with a dizzying array of nib grinds available (standard, crisp italic, cursive italic, oblique, etc.).
The nature of cigar-shaped pens is one of clean, simple design. Cigar-shaped pens don’t have finials or end caps, and as such, are often described with terms like classic, plain, understated, even boring. The Parson’s Essential, though, has three design elements that place it a step above its round-ended brethren. The pen’s premium finish, cap band, and clip give the Parson’s Essential a more upscale design aesthetic, while maintaining the simple elegance afforded by its classic shape.
The cap and barrel are made from brass and have a thick and shiny coating of piano lacquer applied to them. The lacquer provides a vibrant “pop” of color, but is also partly transparent, allowing the underlying shine and texture of the brass to show through.
I’m really impressed with the lacquer job…it’s fantastic. It’s evenly applied, beautifully polished and smooth, and it seems very durable. If I look at the finish under my loupe, I can see some micro scratches that I’ve managed to put into it. But with the naked eye, it looks perfect and blemish-free. After several months of knocking around and traveling back and forth to work, the pen’s finish looks pristine.
In true cigar-shaped-pen style, the barrel has a really simple design. It gently tapers from the mouth down to its rounded end. The lacquer coats the entire barrel, except for a very thin, beveled ring around the lip of the barrel and the coupler that attaches to the section and to the cap.
I’m guessing the thin, beveled ring is gold plated, as it matches the color of the clip (which I know is gold plated).
The cap mirrors the barrel in design and finish, tapering from its mouth toward its rounded end. Unlike many other cigar-shaped pens, though, the Parson’s Essential breaks from the “plain and understated” design approach with its clip and cap band.
The gold-plated clip is as sturdy as it is snazzy. It’s widest where it attaches to the cap, and tapers down toward the end, where it culminates in a flat oval-shaped tip. On the underside of the oval tip is a rounded half-sphere that rests against the barrel, holding the pen in your pocket, pen case, etc. This is a great touch! Because it’s rounded and smooth, it won’t scratch the finish like a folded-metal clip could do.
One thing I like about the clip is how it’s attached to the cap. It’s not affixed to the cap’s outside surface. Instead, there is a slot cut into the cap, and the clip is inserted into this slot and it is affixed inside the cap, out of sight. The final effect has the clip laying flat alongside the cap, then gently bending inward and disappearing inside the cap.
It’s a very tight and firm clip, which is a good thing considering how heavy the pen is. It will definitely hold the pen in place, and look good doing it.
The cap band is super classy. It’s a wide band (just under 6mm) with a raised Celtic Braid design around it. The raised parts (the braid and the rings at the top and bottom) are gold plated, and the inset area is painted with black enamel. At least I think it’s enamel. It’s shiny and perfectly painted, whatever it is.
The section is pretty simple. It tapers down from the barrel toward the nib, then flares out again, providing a nice, comfortable curve for your fingers to grip. Near as I can tell, the section and its coupler are made from aluminum. The coupler has no finish, but the section itself is painted black.
Most of my pens with removable nibs have the nib and feed friction-fit right into the section. The Italix Parson’s Essential is similar to brands like Pelikan & Esterbrook in that it uses a collar to hold the nib and feed together, and this collar screws into the section to hold everything in place. I like this, as it makes removing the nib and feed much easier. The collar opening is actually molded to ensure that the nib and feed stay in place and remain aligned at all times.
The Parson’s Essential sports a two-tone, #5 stainless steel nib. There is a little bit of scrollwork stamped around the outside of the plated area. The Italix logo is etched into the center just below the breather hole, and the nib grade is stamped below that (F in my case).
Starting life as a standard Fine nib from Jowo, this nib got the “Cursive Italic” treatment from the staff at MrPen, where it was transformed into a wonderfully smooth cursive italic.
The Parson’s Essential isn’t a huge pen. I’d say it’s about average in size…very comparable to the Lamy 2000 and Pilot Falcon, although the Parson’s Essential is easily the heaviest of the three. Here it is hanging out with some pen pals who happened to be nearby (see what I did there?)
Build Quality (5/5):
This pen is built and assembled beautifully. The fit and finish are pristine. The one thing that really stands out to me is that all the threads marry up perfectly. Screwing and unscrewing the cap or the section from the barrel is smooth as silk, with no wobble or “sticky” spots.
The Italix Parson’s Essential comes with a Schmidt converter, which seems to have a slightly larger ink capacity than the Standard International converters I’m used to getting. That’s actually a really nice touch, as this pen puts down a good amount of ink when writing. This slightly larger capacity lets a single fill last a very reasonable amount of time.
Most of the pen is made from brass, but there’s a plastic insert in the cap that includes the threads for screwing the cap onto the barrel. This is a bit of a worry point for me, as it creates a metal-on-plastic thread action, and I’m afraid I’ll crack the plastic insert if I accidentally over-tighten the cap. Luckily, though, the cap seems to snugly and gently close at just the right point, so it’s been perfect so far.
The clip is very firm and strong. It won’t rip your fingers open when you try to clip it into a pocket, but you don’t have to worry about it flying out unexpectedly, either. Typically, with such a heavy pen, I’d recommend setting it on your desk when you challenge your coworkers to a cartwheel contest. But I think this clip is up to the challenge and would hold the pen in place. Please let me know if you attempt this type of activity with the Parson’s Essential in your pocket. I’d love to know if the clip held or if the pen flew from your pocket and broke a window or injured someone.
I really love how easy it is to disassemble and reassemble this pen! The nib unit collar unscrews from the section easily. The nib and feed fit snugly into the collar, but it doesn’t take a ton of effort to slide them out. I love this feature. Whenever I remove the nib & feed from a pen where they insert directly into the section, I fear snapping off the feeder stem on the back of the feed. The collar makes it easy to remove the feed without pulling it at a weird angle and breaking it.
The Italix Parson’s Essential has yet to let me down. I’ve gotten two or three random hard starts over the past few months, but those have been very rare. Typically, this pen starts writing every time I touch the nib to paper. Or carpet. Don’t ask.
Even if I leave the pen uncapped for a couple minutes, it starts up right away with no complaints.
I find the Italix Parson’s Essential a fantastic pen to write with.
It’s a heavy pen (because: brass), but the balance seems really good…at least when writing un-posted. I never post my pens—mostly from fear of marring the finish—but I sometimes post for just a little bit of writing to see what it’s like. Posting definitely makes this pen very back-heavy. It’s not the worst offender I’ve used in this respect, but posting the cap makes it too unbalanced for me to use. It just takes too much effort to hold the pen steady when I’m writing. So I recommend using this pen un-posted.
If I had any complaint, it’s that the section is just a bit on the narrow side for my tastes. I experienced a little bit of hand cramping because I tend to place a tighter grip on narrower sections. But if I keep my grip loose, the cramps go away. Your mileage (or kilometerage…is that a real term?) may vary, depending on the size of section you’re most comfortable with.
Writing Experience (4.5/5):
This is the first custom-ground nib I’ve used. When I first wrote with it, I thought it was too broad for a “fine cursive italic” nib. And I also thought it didn’t generate enough line variation. Cursive italic nibs differ from crisp italic nibs in that they are ground to be smoother, at the expense of crisp italic lines with clear line variation. I knew this was the case, so I wasn’t expecting dramatic line variation…but I still expected more than I got.
But after using the pen for a few weeks, I found that if I rotate the nib just a little, I got a slightly narrower line and more defined line variation. It might be tough to notice in general, but when you have tiny handwriting like I do, the differences become more noticeable. What’s nice about this is that I can change the writing angle of the pen to get slightly different styles to the line.
And this nib is extremely smooth. Extremely. They did a great job grinding this nib. I’m very pleased with how it writes and how it feels when I’m writing. If the section was slightly beefier, it would be perfect (for me).
Pound-for-pound (kilogram-for-kilogram? I’m trying to be more global in my wording), this pen is one of my best writers. It writes smoothly, has an interesting italic line, the feed can easily keep up with the wet, juicy ink flow, and the converter holds enough ink to last a while. And it’s just a damn good-looking pen on top of it.
There’s a handful of really nice fountain pens in the $50 to $60 range, but none with such a wide variety of interesting nib options available (18, to be exact). If you’re looking for a fountain pen with a non-standard italic nib option that’s well behaved, durable, and affordable, then look no further than the Italix Parson’s Essential.
It really is a fantastic pen, and one that’s destined to be a regular in my rotation.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 24/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Huge amount of cursive nib options||The section is a little narrow (could lead to hand cramps)|
|Very smooth, wet writer||Not as fine a line as I hoped|
|Build quality is outstanding (especially the finish)|
The Italix Parson’s Essential had some great reviews, so my hopes were pretty high when I ordered it. I expected a high-quality pen that wrote nicely. It definitely delivered on that. The pen is a smooth and juicy writer, and although it writes with a broader line than I hoped, I do find that it’s usable as a general, everyday writer (I wouldn’t use it for fast note taking at work…my handwriting is too small and I’m sure I’d make a mess and probably not be able to read what I wrote). Of all my pens, this would be the leading candidate for my signature pen.
And although the Parson’s Essential looks nice in pictures, it’s a lot prettier in person. The green finish is beautiful.
Italix isn’t a household fountain pen brand like Pilot, Pelikan, or Lamy. It should be, though. MrPen offers a great solution for people who want to use italic or oblique nibs and don’t want to pay a fortune for it.