2010/03/27

Pen Review: my "precious" Edison Pearl

Also posted on the FPN.

0. Background
When I saw a picture of an Edison Pearl back in October 2008, it was love at first sight. The design is so simple and elegant, I know I must have one in my collection. The question then, is why I waited for more than a year before finally putting in an order? Both parts of my answer have something to do with it being a custom-made pen. First, Brian at Edison Pen Co. offers a dazzling array of possible materials to make this beautiful pen and it is really difficult to pick just one. Furthermore, the idea of having a pen custom-made just for me somehow creates a luxurious aura to it, so I have been waiting for a special occasion to celebrate with such a special pen. Finally, something wonderful happened at work this spring and I quickly decided that an Edison Pearl would be the ideal milestone pen for this occasion.

It took quite some time, not to mention dozens of emails, to figure out what exactly do I want for this pen to be like. Initially, I was thinking about a colorful celluloid pen. However, after some unexpected twists, I ended up going to the other extreme and got a stealth-theme pen for its understated elegance (partly inspired by the Savage Detective Pearl). Working with Brian is a pleasure; he was fast in responding to my questions and provided many helpful suggestions in the process.

I waited about 3 weeks for the pen to arrive after placing my order. The waiting period wasn’t much fun because I really wanted to hold the pen in my hand immediately after spending weeks finalizing every detail of it. To his credit, Brian always kept me updated about the status and gave me a pretty accurate time estimate in the beginning. The positive side of this long waiting is that I lost interest in any other pen while I was waiting, so my pen budget got some time to recover from my recent pen-buying frenzy.

One special thing about Edison Pen is that Brian has a webcam set up in his workshop so you can watch him making pens. He told me about the date he scheduled to make my pen and invited me to watch if I want. Unfortunately, things were quite crazy at work on that day and I ended up missing it completely.

1. Appearance & Design
The pen arrived in a simple box with the Edison Pen Co. mark on it. Since I expect this pen to be in use most of the time, I don’t really care what the box looks like. In fact, I am happy to know that only a tiny fraction of cost went into the box.

The material I choose is a black acrylic, which Brian refers to as "faux ebonite". According to Brian, this material is almost indistinguishable from ebonite in term of the look and feel. I don’t have any ebonite pen and I am happy to take his words for it. I opt for acrylic because my two concerns about ebonite: the smell and the oxidation problem.

I chose the satin finish for this pen and I am very happy about this decision. The understated look of this finish is quite elegant and it does not attract fingerprints at all. The best part? It is wonderful to touch.




These photos were taken by Brian and he has graciously agreed to let me use them for this review.

Before getting the pen, I was a little bit worried about the step between barrel and section. Fortunately I don’t really notice it when I use the pen.

2. Construction & Quality
The pen is extremely well made. All threads are nicely done and the finish is excellent. The only imperfections I can find were some tiny tool marks on the cap lip. They are not really a big deal but when I asked Brian about how to polish them out, he immediately offered to take the pen back and make a new cap for it. I was stunned by this extraordinary level of after sale service. I struggled with this decision because (1) I didn’t want to part with this wonderful pen, and (2) as I mentioned, these are really tiny marks and I felt like I was just nitpicking.

Finally, the desire for a ‘perfect’ pen got the better of me and my new pen went on a brief 2-week visit to its birthplace. I included a note in the box to tell Brian that a new cap wasn’t necessary and I’d be very happy if he can just polish out the tool marks. I am not sure if he had followed my suggestion but when I got the pen back the cap feels like a new one. This time, I can’t find any imperfection no matter how hard I try. Really amazing.

3. Weight & Dimensions
The specifications of a standard Pearl below are taken from Edison Pen’s website:

Weight w/ Cap: 16g
Weight w/o Cap: 11g
Cap Diameter: .610"
Body Diameter: .610"
Length Capped: 5 1/4"
Length Uncapped: 4 3/4"

I made two requests to modify the design so the one I have is slightly different. First, after trying out a bunch of different pens, I found the ideal length for me is 5 1/8” uncapped (I don’t post). Second, instead of the regular concave section used for Pearl, I asked the section to be slightly slanted toward the nib side with a lip in the end (similar to the design used for Huron). Brian accommodated both of my requests and delivered a pen that is ideal for my needs.

4. Nib & Performance
The black/silver dual-tone 18K gold nib is truly a beauty. The color scheme is unique and goes well with the “stealth” theme of this pen. Furthermore, I like the Edison Pen Co. logo engraved on the nib a lot. The logo looks like a light bulb with a nib in it; I think the Edison-connection here is quite clever. The logo also makes me looking forward to having some ‘Eureka!’ moments while writing with this pen.



I requested a custom regrind for a 0.6mm stub nib and Brian did a great job on it. The balance between smoothness/feedback and the wetness were both exactly what I have requested. Although I may like a 0.5mm cursive italic nib that Richard Binder did for me just a tiny bit better, the two are really close and both are my favorites.



It is worth noting that the nib unit can be screwed out for easy swapping and Brian sells additional nib units at a very reasonable price. I don’t have the need for extra nibs at the moment but it is good to have the flexibility.

5. Filling System & Maintenance
By default, the Pearl is a C/C filler that can be converted into an eyedropper. Although it is also possible to order a Pearl as a bulb filler, I prefer the simplicity of a standard C/C filler.

6. Cost & Value
A standard Pearl is priced at $250 and I paid some more for the gold nib upgrade and the custom nib regrind. Brian didn’t add any charge for my requests to change the dimension and the section profile of the pen. I feel the price was quite reasonable for a pen of this quality. Considering that it is a pen custom-made to my spec, just for me, I have to say the value is quite good.

7. Conclusion
This is my first experience of ordering a custom-made pen. I really enjoyed the process of being involved in the making of my ideal pen and I am extremely satisfied by the end product. The pen certainly will be a daily user for the years to come. My only problem now is that I have already started thinking about what my next Edison pen will look like.
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