I've previously only reviewed one Conklin pen - the Mark Twain Crescent Filler - and came away from that review impressed with both the looks and the build quality. While I felt that the sale pricing on that pen was reasonable, especially given the unique design, I wasn't sure that the feature set on the pen (steel nib, so-so trim) justified the standard MSRP of $175. I did enjoy Conklin's steel stub nib option, however, and spent some time looking for that same writing experience in a less pricey package.
I found it, and, more, in the Duragraph. Out of all the modern Conklin designs, the Duragraph is my favorite. Like the Crescent Filler, it features vintage-inspired style (think 1920's "flat-tops" from Parker and Sheaffer), some unique acrylics that you don't typically see on a pen priced this low, and a good nib. The filling system is cartridge/converter, which isn't really a surprise given the pen's $50 price point.
The stainless steel stub nib on the Duragraph is the same nib that was on the Crescent Filler that I tested. It writes well, with no significant skips or hard starts. Like many lower-cost steel stubs, this one doesn't have much tipping material, so some might find it a bit crisp or sharp. The nib writes wet enough that I can still describe it as a smooth writer, it's just that this pen won't be considered a gusher like some gold stubs. That's perfectly fine for me, since this is a nib that I can normally use at work on cheaper paper, especially if I choose the right ink.
The Duragraph is a moderately sized pen, and I can easily use it unposted. The hourglass-shaped acrylic section provides a comfortable grip. While the pen does technically post, this makes the pen comically long, like a nightstick. Maybe if you have huge hands this would work, but not for me.
Takeaways and Where to Buy
If you like the vintage-inspired designs, Conklin should be a brand on your radar in the $40-75 price bracket. Conklin still has a bit of a bad rap in some circles of the pen community, due to the fact that the quality was "spotty" at best when the brand was first relaunched several years ago. It's now owned and distributed by Yafa, and I understand that respected Italian pen company Stipula manufactures the pens for Conklin, or at least many of the components. The quality and consistency are both much better today.
While the Conklin Duragraph is widely available from most major pen retailers, I purchased this one from our sponsor Pen Chalet, which currently has the Duragraph available for $52 (and sub-$50 with a coupon code). In my opinion, this represents very good value. As I observed with the Crescent Filler, if you're a fan of vintage pen design, but don't want to mess with expensive restoration and/or the finicky nature of vintage filling systems, modern Conklins represent a good compromise without significant financial investment.
Disclaimer: I purchased the pen featured in this review from Pen Chalet with my own funds. I did receive a discount on the purchase. This post contains affiliate links.