The "new Conklin" has been one of those pen brands that's flown under my radar, because the pens typically sit in that odd $50-150 price range. While I had heard good things about Conklin's nibs, the designs at the lower end of that price range didn't really appeal to me enough to get me to pull the trigger on a blind purchase, and I was similarly hesitant to spend $150 (or more) on a pen with a steel nib from an unfamiliar brand. A few weeks back, Ron at Pen Chalet asked whether I'd be interested in reviewing the Mark Twain Crescent Filler, and I have to say that I've been pleasantly surprised with both the aesthetics and overall quality.
American Heritage, Italian Design
Those familiar with vintage pens know Conklin as one of the original American fountain pen companies, which was based in Toledo, Ohio and rose to prominence with its patented "crescent-filler" mechanism around the turn of the century. The filling mechanism is an early take on the button or lever-filling fountain pen, and consists of a crescent-shaped piece of metal that you depress in order to collapse the sac. When you release the "crescent," the pen fills with ink. The crescent does double duty as a roll-stopper, and there's a plastic guard that you can rotate to lock the filling mechanism in place and prevent you from accidentally squeezing the sac and squirting ink all over the place.
The original Conklin Pen Company went out of business in the late 1940s, but the brand was resurrected in the 1990s and eventually sold to Yafa Pens, which owns brands like Monteverde and is the U.S. distributor for the Italian pen companies Delta and Stipula. I understand that Stipula currently manufactures the Conklin pens for Yafa. (Some new limited edition Mark Twains are being released in materials such as Ambrosia celluloid and red and black striped ebonite - materials previously used to make limited runs of the Stipula Etruria.)
My Experience with the Mark Twain
Let's be honest, the Mark Twain Crescent Filler isn't the most streamlined of pen designs, but I found it attractive and fun to use nonetheless. There's definitely a sort of steampunk aesthetic going on here, combining the antiquated crescent-filling mechanism and vintage-style Conklin clip with the modern colored acrylic used to make the demonstrator pens. The construction is solid, and I had no problem whatsoever with the filling system. Do note, however, that eventually you may have to replace the sac, though I believe these modern pens use silicone sacs which are much less prone to failure than the latex sacs used in vintage pens.
Where this pen really impressed me was with the nib. This pen features Conklin's steel 1.1mm stub nib, which is excellent. I experienced zero hard starts or skips, and the nib was super smooth. While I haven't tried multiple pens and can't personally vouch for consistency across the various Conklin lines, I don't think this is a one-off experience. Many people have raved to me in the past about Conklin's stubs, especially on their lower-priced pens such as the Duragraph.
Takeaways/Where to Buy
Conklin now has my attention. I'm probably going to pick up one of these crescent fillers at some point in the future, because after I sent the pen back to Ron I found myself missing having it around. It may not be the most practical everyday writer for pocket carry, etc., but if you want a vintage-style pen without having to worry about tinkering with fragile materials and vintage parts, this is a good option. Pen Chalet currently has the Mark Twain Crescent Filler on sale in red, blue, and clear demonstrator models, marked down to $125 and subject to further discount with one of Ron's various coupon codes. (Last I checked, there were only a couple of these pens left at his sale price, but other models of the Crescent Filler are available).
NOTE: It's unclear whether Conklin will continue to manufacture this particular demonstrator fountain pen, as its currently on clearance at multiple retailers. Since stock may run out fast, here are a few different options if you have trouble finding the particular pen/nib combination you are looking for: Pen Boutique; Fountain Pen Hospital; Fahrney's Pens.
Disclaimer: Pen Chalet loaned me this pen for review purposes at no cost. The pen was returned to Pen Chalet following the review. This post contains affiliate links. Pricing and availability are current as of the time of publication of this review.