(Susan M. Pigott is a fountain pen collector, pen and paperholic, photographer, and professor. You can find more from Susan on her blog Scribalishess.)
I don't know why I never considered purchasing a Franklin-Christoph fountain pen. I've seen a few photos of their pens in ice acrylic, and those didn't interest me. But after Franklin-Christoph came out with their monster 1.9 music nib, I found myself on their Web site looking at their pen offerings. One caught my eye: the Model 19. I liked the shape of the pen, and I saw they were working on a new color combination that I thought was unique and gorgeous–smoke with cinnamaroon bands.
I haunted the site daily, wondering when the new color would come out. Finally, I emailed them to get the date and received a response almost immediately: "They're done and should be on the Web site tomorrow!" The next day I ordered one.
The pen arrived a few days later, but I made myself wait until Friday, my writing day, to open it. It was well-packaged, and by that I mean an outer postal box, an inner postal box, bubble wrap, and packing paper around a plain white cardboard box with the Franklin-Christoph logo.
Inside was a maroon leather zip pouch with the pen, two blue ink cartridges, a couple of Franklin-Christoph business cards, and a Mike Masuyama card verifying that my medium 18K nib was ground by him into stub.
The pen is large. The barrel is .61 inches in diameter, and it's certainly the fattest pen I've used. It's a good thing they included the pen pouch, because Model 19 absolutely won't fit in my Franklin-Christoph Penvelope.
Although the barrel is wide, the grip gradually narrows from .50 inches to .425 closest to the nib. So, while the pen itself is much wider than my other fountain pens, when you compare the grips, they aren't drastically different.
Its length is more typical of fountain pens: 5.50 inches capped, 5.1 inches uncapped, and 6.62 inches posted (though I would never post this pen). At only 28.35 grams without ink, the pen isn't heavy for its size.
Made of thick acrylic, this version has swirls of dark and light gray with beautiful sheen. The cinnamaroon bands sparkle and offer a truly unusual contrast to the smoke colors.
The clip is rhodium plated and etched with four diamonds. I never use the clip on my pens, but this one seems sturdy.
The cap top is inscribed with the Franklin-Christoph logo, and "Franklin-Christoph" is etched into the cap where ordinarily you might find a cap ring.
The nib is a single-tone, rhodium-plated 18K gold nib with minimal styling. A yellow diamond with the logo adorns the nib. I'll admit I don't like this nib's design (the stainless steel nibs are actually prettier). The etched yellow diamond clashes with the rhodium plating of the nib. I wish they had simply etched the logo into the nib itself (like they do on the stainless steel nibs) and added scroll work.
I like the size of the nib and the stub doesn't catch on the paper like some of my italic nibs do. Although the nib has no flex, it's springy, and you can get a little line variation if you press down.
I've noticed a few hard starts and a tiny bit of skipping with this nib. Normally I wash a new nib thoroughly before inking it, but I failed to do that this time. When I change ink, I'll do a good cleaning and see if the skipping stops. The problem may be related to the converter. I noticed that the ink pooled in the middle of the converter after the pen had been lying on its side for the evening. I had to force the ink down using the knob to get it flowing again.
The pen uses cartridges or an included converter. The cartridges look minuscule next to this big pen. The converter seems adequately sized, but I'm not impressed with its performance so far. It lacks a metal ball to keep the ink flowing. And, unlike other models in the Franklin-Christoph line, apparently you can't turn the Model 19 into an eyedropper.
Unfortunately, this pen is simply too wide for my small hands. I noticed that, after just a few pages of writing, my wrist felt fatigued, a problem I've not encountered with my other fountain pens. It's not the weight of the pen; the large barrel seems to be the main issue.
Franklin-Christoph offers a lifetime warranty on the pen, which tells me these pens are built to last. There's also a generous 30-day return policy, no questions asked.
You can order the Model 19 from Franklin-Christoph with a stainless steel nib in a variety of sizes for $195. If you want it with the impressively-sized music nib either in shiny stainless steel or the new stealth shadow, you'll pay $205. With 18K nibs from EF to B the cost is $285. For a Masuyama specialty nib in stainless steel you'll pay $210 and $300 for an 18K.
- Stunning pen at a reasonable price. The smoke design with the cinnamaroon bands is unique and beautiful.
- An amazing variety of nib choices in both steel and 18K gold.
- Very light pen considering its size.
- The Masuyama medium stub writes beautifully (but see below under cons).
- Comes with a handy zippered pen pouch. You'll need this, as the pen won't fit in normal-sized pen loops or pen cases.
- Prompt and courteous customer service.
- Comes with a lifetime warranty.
- This pen is large. If you have small hands it might not be comfortable for you.
- I prefer piston-fillers over cartridge/converter pens. But converters are often easier to clean.
- The converter does not move the ink to the feed without some user intervention, which is bothersome. This could be due to the ink I was using (Diamine Red Dragon). Some inks flow better than others.
- My nib had some hard starts and a little bit of skipping, perhaps due to the converter/feed flow problem.
- I don't particularly like the 18K nib design, but this is purely personal taste.