I like pens with uniqueness and character, especially when coming from countries with reputations for living in the past and blatant copying, and as such the produce of the Mumbai based family business Magna Carta Pen have been on my radar for quite a while. With an ever expanding range Hiren Kanakhara has been bringing his own style and design language to the fountain pen world. With most being metal bodied and using cartridges/converters, it was his Elements range that caught my eye. Not just because of appearing to be longer and sleeker, but more due to the filling system, for the Sky, Water, and Earth Elements pens use a pneumatic filling system. With Magna Carta also producing their own nibs and ebonite feeds, this means this pen is produced near entirely in-house, with the one possible exception being the sac used in the filling mechanism.
Now I must admit when I saw the pictures of this pen I assumed it would be around the size of a Platinum 3776 or Montblanc 146, maybe a little longer. Guess again. This is a beast of a pen but with very good and balanced proportions which hide it’s true dimensions. There is also something slightly old worldly about the shape. I think it’s partly to do with the cap, partly because it is noticeably wider than the barrel. These days non-flush caps are kept as thin as possible to make them lighter and look neater. Not so here and it is something that works well for me.
The adornments are quite simple with just four bands. One towards the top of the cap, doubling as the clip band, two more close together near the opening, and a final one on the barrel, marking the location of the blind cap. The only other markings are the branding, MAGNA CARTA, laser engraved on to the barrel. The finials at both ends are unadorned, unlike on their metal pens where the cap finial normally hosts the company emblem.
The clip is quite stiff, however the angle of the nub means it works well, sliding over a pocket seem with no problems and holding the pen secure.
The cap removes in two turns to reveal a reasonable sized straight section that is angled in slightly towards the nib. The threads and step towards the back of the grip are unobtrusive and while hard when you move a finger across them they are shallow making the pen comfortable to hold regardless of finger placement.
In the hand the balance is nicely in the middle of the pen and there is a surprising amount of heft considering the acrylic material. This almost certainly is due to the pneumatic filling system. You can securely post the cap but there is little need due to the length of this pen, in addition to which it does add weight to the back and throws the balance out.
These days you normally only see the pneumatic filler system on a few expensive high end pens. It’s nice to see it on something considerably more affordable and it has been well implemented here. Remove the blind cap, pull the brass tub out as far as it goes, dip the nib in the ink, put your finger over the hole at the back of the plunger, push the plunger in then release your finger. Simple and effective. With the blind cap removed you can see the barrel ring is not just decorative but is part of the threaded unit containing the plunger.
The nib is in house, as is the ebonite feed, and regardless of whatever the reason was with Magna Carta moving away from Bock, Hiren made the right decision as it is a joy to write with. The tipping is smooth, the nib has a little bounce, and some line variation can be safely obtained. The feed looks neat and provides a decent ink flow. There are actually three colour options for the feed, black; red; and green, so with the pen being blue I went for the more traditional/standard choice.
I’ve really enjoyed using this pen however there are a few niggles. First is really minor and due to the cap being triple threaded. No issue here, however if you have a high enough level of OCD to want the barrel branding to line up with the clip then you need to make sure the clip is roughly lined up with the text before you start capping the pen. Simple enough, but just one to be aware of. More of an issue though is the shallow threads mean get the angle wrong when inserting the pen and it is possible to block the cap from closing. You do not feel like you’re going to be cross threading as there is no further movement, but it can be annoying. I tend to find this only happens if I go to close the pen too quickly. With a more casual re-capping the the problem does not seem to occur.
The third niggle is more one to be aware of if you keep your pen on it’s side, as I do, and live in a country where you can get sudden temperature drops/rises, such as in the UK and Europe. The thing is while the pneumatic filling system works well, Magna Carta have used a silicone sac, not a latex one. I found out the hard way when I replaced the sac on my late father’s Parker Duofold the down sides. Twice I’ve now opened my Elements pen in the morning to find a cap full of ink. I pinged Hiren to find out if he had used a silicone sac and he confirmed this. Part of me does contemplate finding how to safely open up the pen and replace the sac with a latex one, part of me does not want to risk it. Rather than stopping using the pen I have instead resorted to resting it propped up against my keyboard.
Thing is I do really like this pen. It is comfortable in the hand, writes really well, starts first time and looks good in a slightly old school way. I can see my trying another Magna Carta pen at some point, maybe one of the metal ones.
So would I recommend a Magna Carta pen to others. Certainly. There’s a large range to choose from, and while I might caveat the pneumatic filler, the metal bodied pens look interesting and follow the company design language. In addition there is the nib. I think it was a really good decision for Hiren to go his own way and it will be interesting to see if he starts supplying them to other makers and parts resellers. We already see the Magna Carta ebonite feeds for sale else where.
- The nib.
- The feed.
- Very well balanced pen.
- Attractive appearance.
- Pneumatic filling system is simple to use and holds a decent amount of ink.
- Filling system prevents being able to see the ink level.
- Silicone sac means the pen should not be kept on it’s side, especially if there’s going to be a sudden pressure rise (such as a humid night in the UK).
- Pen may be too large/wide for some people.
- Shallow threads means some times it is possible to misalign the pen and cap preventing closure.
For these shots I’ve chosen a Constellations88 Elements as it’s another original Indian made pen and also one of girth, plus it also shares the model name. In addition there is an Onoto Magna Classic, less so for the Magna name and more because it also encompasses a more classical design. Finally there is the ubiquitous Lamy Al-Star/Safari.