Straight out of the “No idea what to expect” files, here’s a review of the…
Delta Vintage Collection Fountain Pen
Price: $29.00 (Typically retails for $110 to $150)
Filling System: Standard International Cartridge
About the Pen:
No, this is not a vintage pen. It’s a modern pen. Its name is Vintage. The Delta Vintage. Why, Delta? Why? Anyway…
I went back and forth on buying this pen several times before pulling the trigger. And this pen truly is an exercise in paradoxes:
- It’s made of a beautiful, swirly-pearly acrylic, but it only takes cartridges (as I understand it, the mini Monteverde converter will fit, but I don’t have one to test it).
- It’s been around since at least 2009, but there is very little information about it on the Internet. It’s not listed in Delta’s own web site, and you have to really hunt to find it in the Yafa site (Yafa is the US distributor for Delta).
- I found two reviews of the Vintage: Mike Dudek from The Clicky Post loved his, but Amanda Crawford had a ton of problems.
My first Delta, the $76 Unica, is magnificent. The online retailers that carry the Vintage list it for anywhere between $110 and $150 (with $140 the most common price). Delta doesn’t market this pen, it’s over $100, and it doesn’t take a converter. Didn’t seem like much of a deal to me. But then I found it up for auction on eBay by a dealer in Italy (yes, a respected one) starting at $29. So based on the pen’s looks and my previous experience with Delta, I thought $29 seemed like a pretty sweet deal.
The box it comes in is pretty nice. It’s sturdy, has a faux leather crocodile pattern over it, and has a nice, soft fabric lining.
My first impression of the pen itself: “Wow!” The red acrylic is out of this world. It’s a shimmery, slightly translucent red and pearl swirl with black spots that remind me of the storm on Jupiter. It’s pretty stunning, actually.
Similar in style to the Unica, the barrel of the Vintage is a simple, single piece of acrylic, flattened off at the end with a nice, polished bevel around the edge. The section is fairly small, made from the same acrylic as the barrel and cap, and tapers gently toward the nib where it flares out a bit.
The Vintage has a simple steel nib, I’m guessing it’s a #5. There’s a bit of scrollwork around the outside and has the Delta nib and name logos stamped in the center, just below the breather hole.
All the pen’s adornments happen on the cap. There is a wide, two-tone cap band around the cap’s mouth. It’s mostly chrome (or maybe steel), with a thin, raised, gold-colored band slightly offset from the center of the band. The Delta name logo is engraved below the gold band.
The clip is Delta’s common roller-wheel style clip. It’s a single piece of steel that comprises the clip itself and the attachment ring that is secured to the cap by the finial. The wheel at the end of the clip rotates smoothly and freely for slick insertion into a pocket or pen sleeve. The finial is made from the same acrylic as the rest of the pen, tapering slightly from the clip band to the end, where it mostly flattens off to a gently rounded surface. At the top of the finial is a small, plastic disc with the Delta nib logo embossed at the top. Although made from plastic, this disc is styled to look like brushed metal.
The main body of the cap really shows off the translucence of the acrylic. There’s some sort of tube inside the cap up at the finial. I can’t tell if it’s metal or plastic, but I’m guessing it’s there to seal up any space between the final and cap body to prevent the nib from drying out. I hate that it’s visible through the acrylic, but it seems to be doing its job.
Overall, I really like the look of this pen. The material is beautiful and the shape is very classy.
Build Quality (3.5/5):
Here’s where most of my disappointment with the pen lies. The acrylic they used is simply gorgeous, but Delta didn’t pay enough attention to some of the other details. The threads on the barrel look fine, but they don’t marry up perfectly to the threads in the cap. When replacing the cap onto the pen, the first few turns are smooth, but then it sticks a bit as you get near the end.
Some pens have threads that are machined so that you get more resistance toward the end to keep the cap from coming loose easily, but I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. The last 1/8 turn (or so) feels “crunchy.” I think the threads are just not cut properly and are slightly off from each other toward the end. I’ve noticed that the threads have gotten a little smoother over time. The section/barrel threads do not have this issue, they marry up perfectly.
I knew up front that this pen doesn’t take a converter. It’s a pretty small pen with a short barrel. And the opening on the back of the section where you insert the cartridge is not wide enough to fit most converters. Even though I knew about this going into it, I still don’t like it. You could probably use this pen as an eyedropper, however, there’s a chunk of metal wedged down into the bottom of the barrel (probably a weight, I’m guessing), so you’d have to fish that out of there before filling the barrel with ink.
Another detail that Delta missed was the alignment of the cap band and clip. They should be centered, meaning that the clip should line up directly with center of the Delta logo in the cap band. The clip should be even with the L in DELTA, but it’s actually lined up with the T. That’s very unfortunate. It’s one of those things that once you notice it, you can’t stop seeing it. Argh!
My final, and most serious gripe is with how the pen writes. It is a hard start machine. I’ll discuss this more in the Writing Experience section, but suffice it to say that a pen that skips and/or hard starts makes me want to throw things…starting with the offending pen.
After my previous statement, you probably expected me to score the Delta Vintage low in the Dependability category. But other than the hard starts, this pen is extremely dependable. I can let it sit for two weeks and it will write immediately. As I was taking the photographs for this review, I had the pen uncapped for about 15 minutes…I even had the cartridge pulled out of the section for most of this time…and the pen wrote immediately when I put it back together and started the writing sample. I thought for sure I’d have to find a way to coax it to write, but I didn’t have to. I’m super impressed with that.
For the most part, the Delta Vintage is a very comfy pen to write with. The section is short and a bit narrow, so I occasionally find myself gripping it tighter than I need to, and my hand will get a little sore. The pen is well balanced when not posted, although because of the pen’s lack of length, if you have large hands, you may need to post it. If you do, you might want to remove the weight in the barrel, because I find the pen to be quite back-heavy when posted (which makes me grip the pen even tighter and gives me hand cramps). When I post this pen, it feels like the nib wants to pull away from the paper.
Writing Experience (3.5/5):
Before I start to register a complaint on the hard starts, I want to say that this steel nib is freaking smooth! The nib just glides across the paper with no resistance or feedback at all. The medium grade is actually a little broader than I hoped, but it’s definitely in the realm of usable for everyday writing.
Now let’s get back to the hard starts. They’re maddening. When I first inked up the pen, I used the black cartridge that came with the pen. I gave the pen a quick flush with water and then popped in the cartridge. It skipped and hard started so much, I had to dump the cartridge within the first ten minutes, disassemble the pen, and give it a thorough cleaning. I then filled it with Iroshizuku Asa-Gao and tried again. It was better, but still hard started on a lot of ascenders (like l, d, t, etc.) and round letters (like c, g, a, etc.).
As I was finishing up this review, I ran out of ink, so I took the opportunity to take it all apart and give it another good cleaning. I then filled it with Montblanc Blue Hour ink to see if it would behave better. It does, but not enough to cure my frustration.
The nib is smooth and the ink flow is excellent. I wasn’t sure if there was a problem with the nib (like baby’s bottom), if the feed had issues, or if the tiny mouth on the standard international converter didn’t allow enough air to enter the cartridge. But the ink flow seemed nice and wet, so that really just left the nib.
On a recommendation, I tried some reverse writing to see if I got any skips or hard starts. Nope…the pen wrote perfectly like that. Not a single hard start. So really, it seems like baby’s bottom is the most likely suspect. But I examined the nib several times under my loupe, and I don’t see any sign of baby’s bottom. Maybe it’s too small to notice? Maybe I’m getting old. I don’t know. I’m going to try smoothing the nib a bit to see if it fixes it, but I think this pen is going to be a good candidate for a nibmeister.
These two images show the writing sample, with most of the hard starts called out. There were a few minor ones that I didn’t bother with, but I marked the most annoying ones. Click the images for larger views.
This is an extremely difficult attribute to score. As I said earlier, this pen typically retails for about $140, so that’s the price I’m scoring against. I really don’t think this pen is anywhere worth that much money. The acrylic is beautiful and the nib is smooth. But it doesn’t take a converter, I’m not convinced the machining is done very well, and the hard starts are driving me crazy. There’s no way I’d recommend spending that kind of money on this pen.
However, I picked up the Vintage for $29, and I do consider that an excellent value. I can probably have the nib fixed by an expert and have a stellar writing instrument. But a pen that costs $110 to $150 should be flawless in function, flawless in fit, and I think the Delta Vintage falls short in both areas.
The Nutshell: Overall Score: 18/25
|Best Qualities||Worst Qualities|
|Gorgeous acrylic material||HARD STARTS|
|Extremely smooth steel nib||Suspect machining & quality control|
|Very dependable / never fails to write (other than the hard starts)||No converter|
If you can find this pen for $29, get it. And if the nib gives you trouble, get it worked on. But if you can’t find it for less than $140, then take a pass. There are better pens out there for that kind of money.
Delta makes some real beauties, and I’ve heard a ton of praise for all their nibs (my Unica is fabulous). But the Vintage seems like a bit of a dud. Delta doesn’t promote the pen, and they don’t appear to put the same level of Quality Control into it as they do their other pens. My Unica is a far superior writer and is half the street price of the Vintage.