Monday, January 7, 2013

Edison Herald: the pen I hated to love

Once again, Joe in Seattle is stepping into the breach - not only has he spent the bulk of his time lately caring for my bronchitis-laden-and-still-frantically-working self, decorating the house for the holidays, cooking, cleaning, and helping host Christmas for our family  - he has also contributed this lovely review of his custom Edison Herald!

I’ve followed Brian Gray’s career from the very early stages, before he built his shop, back when the Edison Herald was his mainstay pen - and I loved it. I really felt the red and black streaked ebonite was the epitome of a perfect pen. I liked the shape of the section, the fact that it was of the same material as the body, and just about everything except the clip. 

Over several years, whilst I dithered about ordering one, the price rose a bit and Brian began putting out really nice two tone nibs with his own logo in place (answering one minor criticism that I had). 

I finally ordered one – with a medium nib ground to a .9 cursive italic and a standard F as well, both in steel. I had read Brian’s comments about steel vs. gold nibs and liked the idea of having two nibs - and, frankly, the cost of gold was too much of a stretch. I asked him to use the original signature Herald section, not the current production curve, and to replace the clip with a more vintage-looking one. He made two recommendations for a clip, and we both felt the one I chose was the best. It’s entirely, to my eye, more finished, elegant, and appropriate to a fountain pen. 

He did all this, creating a pen to exactly my specifications, then sent me a photo – and my heart sank.  
(photos, as always, are clickable)
The ebonite currently available to him wasn't the streaked black and red I’d been mooning over for more than 5 years; it was mottled. “Well, perhaps the pen will look better in person,” I thought. 

It arrived (the excellent packaging, quick service, pen box, etc. have all been described by other reviewers). The colour reads predominantly more a blended “brown” than discrete red and black to my eye. Sad, sad, sad. Well, I thought, I can always sell it at only a slight loss. 

Ah, heck, let’s try it out anyway. The first two weeks I wasn’t impressed at all. Adequate, but not pleasant. Flow was OK, but nothing special. Then, the stars (or the tines) aligned to my ‘hand’ and I found myself using no other pens and running through that big Schmidt converter of ink every 2 days! That Schmidt converter holds a powerful lot of ink. 

I loved the pen’s weight, size, balance, and feel – and the fact that I can carry it in a shirt pocket and not fear exposing it to the rigors of real life. I love the way it screws together like a finely machined object – which it is. I use it posted, but don’t baby it. It’s a really, really nice and useful tool.  I like the ease of hot-swapping the CI and F nibs. I write with the F nib for a while and I’m convinced I like it the very best of the two, then swap for the CI and say, “oooooh! I forgot how nice this makes my hand look!” and I enjoy the CI for a while. It also seems to inspire occasional flourishes that telegraph to me how much I’m enjoying using the nib. After all, isn’t that why we relish nice pens? 


This pen writes the way I wish some others did. It also loves Private Reserve inks (my favourite) and seems to have a special affinity for PR Chocolat, my best brown. The overall ‘retro’ appeal of the brown ebonite, two tone nib, vintage-style clip and the cigar shape along with the chocolate ink on off-white paper is very pleasing. One almost feels sepia-toned as one writes. 


So, what I really like about it is the sheer feel of Brian’s polished ebonite. The feel and tactile pleasure I get from using, and playing with, the Herald is very much like using my Nakaya in Aka Tamenuri Urushi. Often, as I write, I fondle the cap in one hand whilst using the pen in the other. Over the past months the pen has picked up a very subtle patina of use, a tangible sense that it has been used – as opposed to a pristine shiny surface, but my fingers continue to play with it. 


As to using the pen as an eye-dropper, I seem to be the only person in Pendom for whom an Edison does NOT work well as an ED. It gets a runny, drippy nose. Ah, well. I change ink colours often anyway and that small failure never bothered me enough to ask Brian about what I might be doing wrong. 

On the other hand, it seems to love sipping from cartridges just as well as the converter. I wondered if the barrel was machined deeply enough to allow for two international cartridges to be inserted back-to-back. It is not. The photo below shows how I extracted  the spare the first - and only! - time I tried the camel trick. 


I wish I’d had a pen like this in college. Actually, I did – sort of – it was a Pelikan 120 or 140 green/black with an F nib and a piston, which allowed me to write forever on a fill of ink and all day with no writer’s cramp or fatigue. 

Forced to choose, I’d take this pen with the F nib with me to that fabled Desert Island. 

I hate reviews that can’t find a thing to criticize about a pen. Yet, I find myself grasping for superlatives in this case. The weaknesses I found were the colour (Brian says he can no longer get that ebonite he used in the early days, plus the ebonite he uses now is better) and the eye dropper failure for me.
Oh, that colour? It’s growing on me.



  1. Great review! Looks like it has excellent flow as well, no start up issues or bleeding to be seen in your test scans!