Before I start I need to clear one thing up for those not aware. Raden is the use of mother of pearl with urushi and maki-e work, not the material itself. This is the reason why pens with that finish are so expensive. Mother of Pearl and the abalone sourced variant can be cheap, depending on where they are fished and the sub genre.
There is an argument that abalone shell is not mother of pearl, but this depends on who’s definition you are looking at. As far as dictionaries are considered mother of pearl, or nacre, comes from the inner shell of molluscs and abalone, being a sea snail, is a mollusc. Whatever your views the material used is still iridescent and has been used for decoration in utensils, furniture, and jewellery for over a millennia. Price wise it has moved from a luxury product for the rich to a material used to make cheap items look expensive for the poor. This is a good thing as it allows the likes of Conklin to use comparatively large quantities of it in a pen without any real increase in cost. In fact while at first appearing more expensive than most of their range, this model is of a comparable cost to the other Conklin limited editions made with metal bodies.
Available in two finishes, this model uses a blue shaded mother of pearl, which the Conklin website says comes from a variation of abalone found in New Zealand. With the option of rose gold or gunmetal bright work, the colour combinations work well and the dark blue nature of the body means this pen is far from being bling. While I only had one option available to me on the Black Friday week sale at Cult Pens, I do not feel the rose gold variant would have quite appealed to me. With the gunmetal finish you have a surprisingly subtle pen until you shine a light on it.
The mother of peal part of the pen is 10 facets on the cap and barrel, covered in a clear acrylic to provide a traditional circular cross section. The nacre itself is in 2x1cm strips neatly laid out and reasonably well colour matched, so unless you look closely you are not aware they are not full length strips. Depending on the light you can see blues, purples, turquoises, and aqua marine shades and shimmers, but at the same time it is not as ‘in your face’ as you would get with the more traditional white/cream mother of pearl we see in the west.
The Endura model is metal made with flat, plain finials. I am not sure if it has been used for any other pens as a quick search revealed none, however Conklin have used the same finish with their Duragraph so this may be a model which has been dropped aside for limited editions. Due to both the shape and finish there is something very Victorian (turn of the 19th/20th centuries) about the looks despite the pen being of a modern size. Visually all works well with one exception. The threads for posting at the end of the barrel.
The cap has straight sides with the collar and clip ring extending out, but in a way that works. The top of the cap is the same width as the abalone part, which helps keep the pen looking balanced and at the same time some what retro. The clip is the traditional Conklin shape with t-bar mount. It works very well being decently sprung and the combination of that and a decent nub meaning it keeps the pen secure in a pocket. For those who want to quickly remove a cap, this one takes just a single turn. The cap ring has Endura laser engraved into it on one side and Limited Edition xxxx/1898 on the other, with mine being 1229. This actually looks better than you might think despite the Conklin branding on the clip and the impressed ring either side of band text being impressed before the gunmetal layer was applied.
The cap will post very securely. Reason being that there are threads at the back of the barrel to screw it on to. This does considerably back weight the pen, in addition to which you will discover the cap has multiple threads so there is no guaranty you will line the clip up with the nib unless you take care. Unfortunately this shows a certain level of lack of attention to detail with the design of the Endura though I know some may feel I am being picky here.
You can see the same design language on the body as the cap, with the back of the section and the start of the barrel finial both being raised when compared to the abalone part of the body. The section is relatively short, tapering down from the barrel for about 2/3rds of it’s length before angling back out again. It is hard to hold the pen without your fingers resting on the threads or barrel ring, however the former are actually recessed with the result that you can not feel them and the latter is wide enough to feel comfortable. The short length does mean that, while you can easily slide a finger along its length, the grip does not feel slippery when held.
The back of the barrel is the visual weak point of this pen. The end tapers in towards the finial with the same starting width as the section, but while this provides a certain level of symmetry ruined only by difference in length, it is the threads to allow the cap to post that ruin the effect. I can understand from an engineering perspective why they are there, but to me they hamper the looks.
I find the pen to be comfortable in the hand with a nice bit of heft without being heavy and a decent balance point just forward of the centre, however if my hands were any larger or the barrel any shorter then the raised part at the rear would be on the crook of my hand and potentially that could make holding the Endura uncomfortable. Certainly anyone with larger hands will need to post the cap and this throws the balance right out and makes the Endura back heavy.
The pen comes fitted with a threaded Schmidt K6 converter. I did try the ubiquitous K5 version and this also fitted in with no problems and felt secure with no side wobble. A couple of short international cartridges were also included in the box.
Talking of the box, this is the standard Conklin clamshell affair, which is no bad thing as it does look good and also reflects the vintage ambiance that Yaffa want for the brand. There is also a suitable model specific outer cardboard sleeve.
Before I go any further I feel I ought to mention the 1898 number. This was the year the original Conklin was founded, however the company closed it’s doors just after the Second World War in 1948. The brand was controversially restarted in 2000 and bought by Yaffa in 2009. So why do I mention this number. Well it is in the model name on the Conklin website and it is also the number of pens in this limited edition. Problem for me is I see no other significance. This pen does not reflect a key date as it was launched in 2021. I can understand it was the production run size and I appreciate that, but other wise I am confused.
Now you may have noticed I segued off slightly before I mentioned the nib and writing experience. Conklin never said where they got their nibs from before switching to JoWo, however I have actually seen evidence that suggests it was Camlin in India. Camlin do not make particularly nice nibs to use and in the past both Conklin and Monteverde fountain pens suffered from poor reputations for the way they wrote. The move to JoWo made sense and should have made a difference and certainly happened before this model was launched. The Conklin website does state the pen uses a steel JoWo nib. Now you might wonder why I bring up this recent history. Well to put it mildly this was a horrible pen to use out of the box. While the tines were nicely aligned and the tipping was smooth the ink flow was very poor and the nib felt like a rough nail. Nothing like a normal JoWo steel nib. Shape wise it looks the same with the exception of the crescent breather hole so associated with the company and the Conklin branding. I had to flush the pen out multiple additional times and also shim the tines. The ink now flows well and the experience is smoother as a result, but this is still not a nice pen to write with. Interestingly enough someone else in my local pen club also bought one of these and had the same issues resulting in him swapping the nib out, which proved to be an interesting experience.
Despite what Conklin say I am not 100% convinced this is a JoWo nib, partly down to the feel when writing, but also due to the fact that the threads on the collar do not fit other pens that use JoWo #6 nibs. Additionally the feed is the standard Camlin one, again not JoWo. Quite possibly Conklin have carried on using the same collars so their nibs can be interchangeable with older pens while the feed was kept to keep the visual appearance consistent. Certainly the aforementioned person who did the nib swap, literally swapped just the nib having found the normal JoWo collar would not screw in place.
I am very much conflicted about this pen. I do like the looks, the shine, the sheen, and the colours, all without them being in your face, however the way the nib feels and acts brings the whole ownership experience down. Certainly now the ink flows well it is much to do with my preferences for how a steel nib should feel and someone who likes Parker and Narwhal fountain pens will probably like this one. I suspect in time I will sell it, but for the moment it will stay in my collection, more as a visual artefact. At full price it is actually of reasonable value once the nib was sorted out. I think what sums up my present ownership experience so far is the fact I can normally write a review after using a pen for a week. I have now owned this Endura for almost two months and the reason it has taken me so long is actually a complete lack of enthusiasm. Perhaps if some one were to make me a reasonable offer I might let it go.
Would I recommend this pen to others. Certainly with the way it came out of the box it is unlikely. If you like the looks then visually it will appeal to you, but the nib experience harked back to the pre JoWo days for Yaffa pens and that is not a good thing. The fact some one else had exactly the same problems as me with the same model of pen (bought at the same time in the same sale coincidentally) does not fill me with confidence and if I were to be honest I am not sure I would buy another Conklin or Monteverde pen as a result. I am sure if I try others I might change my mind.
Side note before I get to the summary. Growing up in a sea side town/resort (Southport, England) in the days when tourists and day trippers still wanted to buy souvenirs and seaside related tat, there were a number of shops amongst those selling rock (a long British sweet/candy rod that would have the name of the town embedded through it) postcards and amusing hats, there were also a few that sold sea shells and related craft items to older tourists and school kids. This included sheets of cream and white coloured mother of pearl. I never bought or used those but did grow up feeling it was the sort of thing that the old folk, grand parents and the like, would look for and buy. I think this has resulted in me feeling that large usage of nacre lend to a vintage feel at a time when that has started to appeal to me. This is much more in respect to the more subtle (if you can use that word here) darker coloured variants than the white and cream mother of pearl I grew up around.
- Attractive pen.
- Looks are more subtle than you would first think.
- The abalone hues work well with the gunmetal bright work.
- Victoriana feel due to the materials.
- Good value when it was available.
- Pen may be too short for people with larger hands.
- Short section.
- Might actually not be bright/loud enough for some people.
- Threads for posting look out of place and ugly.
- Truly awful nib.
- Out of the box writing experience.
- When posted clip might not line up with the nib and looks untidy as a result.
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