I took a break from my quest to find the perfect inexpensive Chinese fountain pen to play with something a little higher up the food chain…
Nib: 1.1 mm Italic Stub
Filling System: Screw-Type Piston Converter
About the Pen:
I’ve had my eye on the Duragraph for a long time. I stumbled upon it while perusing the GouletPens site and it immediately caught my eye. To put it simply, the pen is just gorgeous. There were three color models available, all of which looked really nice. The one thing keeping me from making the purchase was that Conklin is run by the same people behind the Monteverde brand. I have a beautiful Monteverde Invincia that just refuses to write.
Knowing the two brands are related, I was hesitant to pull the trigger, fearing that the Duragraph would suffer from the same ink flow problems (both pens have 1.1 mm italic stub nibs). I read a pile of customer reviews on the Duragraph, and no one reported any difficulty in that area.
Soooooooooooo, I finally gave in and ordered one. And boy, am I glad I did.
All three color models looked amazing online, but the Amber version was the one that really caught my eye (yeah, I’m a sucker for anything orange). The barrel and cap are made of a translucent orange resin with swirls of black and silvery pearl throughout. The silvery portions shimmer if you hold it in just the right light.
The finial and end cap are both made of glossy black plastic, flat on the ends, and separated from the resin by a silver-colored ring. The finial sports a stylized silver clip and “Conklin Est. 1898” on the top surface. I intially thought this emblem was screenprinted onto the finial, but upon closer inspection, it seems to be actually etched into it. Nice touch. The cap band is silver-colored with “Conklin” etched into the front and “Duragraph” along with with six crescents (three on either side) etched into the back.
The lines of the cap and barrel are straight with no tapering toward the ends. Together with the flatness of the finial and end cap, they combine to give the pen a very cylindrical shape, with the barrel a slightly smaller diameter than the cap.
The grip portion of the section is the same smooth, glossy black plastic found in the finial and end cap; however, the threaded portion that screws into the barrel is metal. The section tapers a bit, then flares back out at the nib, giving the section an hourglass shape that makes it easy to hold onto. I thought the plastic would be slippery, but I didn’t have a problem with it slipping while I was writing.
The nib is a simple italic stub made from stainless steel.
And I’d like to take a minute to describe the packaging, which I usually don’t mention. The Duragraph comes in a pretty large, faux leather box, which is hinged. A lot of people have commented that it reminds them of a coffin, and I can see why. In the top lid of the box, there is a soft, white fabric with the Conklin logo embossed in gold print. The bottom of the box contains a cutout mold for the pen, which is enshrouded in a soft, billowy satin-like fabric.
Yes, it looks like the pen is lying in a coffin. Also in the box are refilling instructions, information about the company, and two short international standard cartridges (one black, one blue).
Build Quality (5/5):
In addition to looking good aesthetically, the pen feels like a very well built writing instrument. Because it’s made of resin, it’s pretty light; however, there is enough metal in the section to give the pen a little extra weight so that it doesn’t feel cheap at all.
One thing I love is that the converter screws into the section. I’ve never had a push-in style converter fall out of a pen, but it’s something that always concerns me. So whenever I get a pen that has a screw-in converter, it always makes me happy.
The cap posts quite tightly, although doing so makes the pen absolutely huge.
Nothing is loose. Nothing rattles. Nothing falls off or pops open. There are no construction or design flaws, and all the pieces fit together perfectly. Nearly every detail of this pen is indicative of an extremely well crafted product.
Of course, nothing is perfect, and there is one flaw that bothers me a bit. The threads in the cap don’t seem to marry up perfectly with those on the barrel, so when screwing the cap onto the pen, I often have to back it out several times before I get the threads aligned properly. I would say that I probably have difficulty 4 out of every 5 times I recap the pen. It’s a small flaw, but it’s irritating enough to mention.
When selecting this pen, there was no Extra Fine nib available, so I opted for the Italic nib. I worried about the ability of the feed to keep up with the ink demands of the nib (based on the aforementioned experience with the Monteverde Invincia).
As it turns out, my fears about this pen’s ink flow were unfounded. I have had absolutely no problems at all with the Duragraph. In fact, due to a busy February schedule, I ended up leaving the pen unattended for about two weeks. I figured I’d have to either prime it or clean it, but to my surprise, it wrote straight away.
The only thing I encountered was that if I wrote too fast, the ink thinned out a bit and the resulting text was noticeably lighter on the page. This is due mostly as a result of the physical properties of an Italic nib requiring more ink, and not an indication of a problem with the pen. In general, you can’t write too fast with any Italic nib because the feeds will have a hard time supplying that much ink that fast.
Despite the lightness of the pen and the glossy finish of the section, I found the Duragraph very comfortable to write with, particularly unposted. I tried writing with the cap posted, too, but found that the pen is way too long and slightly back-heavy for me. So I just use it unposted, and I love the way it feels. I had no problems with cramping, even after long periods of writing.
Writing Experience (4.5/5):
When I first wrote with the Duragraph, I found the nib to be a little scratchy and to suffer from some skips and hard starts. But after I wrote about a page of text, the scratchiness went away and the ink flow improved.
The pen is comfortable to write with, the nib is nice and smooth, and the line it puts down is pretty consistent. Other than the first page of text I wrote with it, I no longer encounter skips or hard starts. It’s really just a consistent and dependable fountain pen.
As I mentioned before, you can’t write fast with it (mostly because it’s an Italic). Once I get going, I tend to start writing a little faster, and I find myself having to force myself to slow down a bit to make sure the ink flow stays consistent.
Overall, I’m very happy with the way the Duragraph writes, especially for an Italic. Stubs can be hit-or-miss. This one is a hit.
I have a lot of pens that cost me less than $10, and some of them are excellent performers. So when I look at the $44 price tag on the Duragraph, I have to ask myself if it’s worth the extra cost. The answer: YES, it certainly is.
First of all, the pen is absolutely stunning to look at. Of the roughly 50 or so fountain pens I own, the Amber Duragraph is easily in the top 3 or 4 most attractive.
Second, concerning the design and build quality, you can tell that this pen was not built by a manufacturer: it was built by a craftsman. It was meticulously designed and built to be a prize possession AND an excellent writing instrument. By simply holding it in your hand, it should be obvious that lot of thought and care went into the creation of this pen.
Finally, it’s just a wonderful writer. I like using Italic nibs for the line variation they offer, and the Duragraph puts down some beautiful lines. And by the way, it’s amazing with shading inks (check out the sample with Apache Sunset above).
You might be able to find a less expensive pen that will write as well as the Duragraph, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find one that’s also as beautiful, as comfortable, and as well made. In relation to my own collection, this pen far outperforms its Monteverde cousin, which was twice the price of the Duragraph.
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Absolutely Gorgeous||Cap & Barrel Threads Don't Marry Perfectly|
|Excellent Build Quality||Very Long & Slightly Unbalanced When Posted|
|Very Consistent Writer|
In case you couldn’t tell, I absolutely love this pen. My Monteverde Invincia cost almost twice as much and doesn’t perform as well. I was surprised at how consistent the ink flow is, especially for an Italic nib. I expected hard starts to be inevitable, but they’re practically non-existent.
The Conklin Duragraph is a real attention-getter and a dependable, solid-performing writing instrument. I would probably consider it the all-around nicest pen I own, and it’s likely that I’ll eventually look to get another one with a finer nib for everyday writing. I’m extremely impressed with this pen and highly recommend it to anyone looking for a high-quality fountain pen at a reasonable cost.