|The Franklin-Christoph fude nib|
Two-and-a-half years ago, I undertook an epic search for the ideal drawing fountain pen – one that would give me a wide range of line variation and fluidity. Eventually I found my grail: the Sailor Naginata Fude de Mannen, a premium pen in Sailor’s specialty line that is worth every penny. (I like it so much, in fact, that a while later when I had heard that Sailor’s specialty nibs were becoming harder and harder to find, I bought a second so that I could always have one in my bag for waterproof ink and one for water-soluble ink.)
The Sailor Naginata fude has been on my Top 10 list every year since I bought my first, and I’ve been so happy with it that I rarely use other pens. Occasionally I’ll ink up one or another pen from my epic search just for variety, but by the next inking I always go back to a Sailor. I don’t feel a need to keep looking for a possibly better nib, and I don’t mind feeling smug about something that serves me well nearly every day.
However, that doesn’t mean I ignore new nibs that appear on my fountain pen radar. Several months ago, something very interesting caught my attention: the Franklin-Christoph fude nib.
|Franklin-Christoph model 20 Marietta pen body|
with fude nib
This American pen manufacturer wasn’t new to me; in fact, Franklin-Christoph’s music nib was one I considered during my epic search. An appealing feature of F-C’s designs is that most of its pen bodies are compatible with multiple nibs, so if you own one body, you can buy a variety of nibs, and each would be at a price much lower than buying a whole new pen. When I learned about the Georgia company’s specialty fude nib, I realized I could buy it and pop it onto the Model 20 Marietta pen body I already owned – sweet!
There was one catch: The Franklin-Christoph fude nib was being made on a very limited basis; like Sailor’s fude, it is difficult to obtain (though not nearly as elusive as the Sailor, which seems nearly impossible to find now except on the secondary market).
I put my name on the “interested” list. A couple of months later, I happened to be waiting in the TSA line before boarding my flight to the Chicago Urban Sketchers symposium when I received an e-mail informing me that a very limited number was available for purchase. I knew these would be snapped up quickly, so I ordered my fude nib right then and there while standing in line!
I wanted to try the F-C nib mostly out of curiosity but, I admit, also with a bit of skepticism. Up to that point, all the fude (which means brush in Japanese) nibs that I was aware of were made in either Japan or China. This makes sense because the curved or bent nib is designed to mimic the up-and-down fluid brush strokes of Asian calligraphy. Using a fude nib for western writing isn’t ideal (as much as I love drawing with it, I don’t enjoy writing with it). Since this was the first non-Asian-made fude nib I’d heard of, I couldn’t help looking a bit askance. But after giving the F-C a solid two months of testing, I am happy to say that it’s an excellent fude.
|Left: Sailor Naginata fude; right: Franklin-Christoph fude|
It’s important to point out that, unlike my Sailor Naginata fude, which is made of 21kt gold, the Franklin-Christoph nib is made of steel. F-C’s nib isn’t quite as smooth and fluid as Sailor’s, but it’s not fair to compare an apple with an orange. The Sailor Naginata also has a gentler curve and a rounded tip that impart an exceptional writing and drawing quality. I love it. That said, if I hadn’t been spoiled by that Sailor for more than two years, I’d say the F-C fude is the smoothest I’ve used. It’s far and away smoother than Sailor’s budget-priced steel fude models (which I had used for years before upgrading to the gold version). I’ve also tried a China-made Duke fude that is remarkably smooth for a steel nib, but it leaks, runs dry and is unreliable in other ways.
The Franklin-Christoph was both smooth and completely reliable right out of the box. It has remained so after several inkings with both waterproof (Platinum Carbon Black) and water-soluble inks.
|Line variation comparison|
While I will not be permanently swapping out one of my Sailors for the Franklin-Christoph anytime soon (those Sailor Naginatas will have to pried from my cold, dead fingers), it is more than a worthy stand-in for the elusive Naginata fude de Mannen (which currently has a multi-year wait in the US). In fact, at $55 for the nib (plus $105 to $175 for a body; you’ll need one that fits a No. 6 nib), it’s a fantastic value – a much better value than the premium-priced Sailor unless its golden smoothness is important to you.
Every now and then a blog reader who is seeking a Sailor Naginata fude will ask me if I know of a source, and I have to give them the bad news. But now I’m going to suggest that they get a Franklin-Christoph instead of torturing themselves with an indefinite wait for a Sailor. It’s not the same, but it’s pretty dang good.
(All sketches shown here were done with my Franklin-Christoph fude pen and Platinum Carbon Black ink except as noted. I used Field Notes notebooks except as noted. I’ve been doing most of my InkTober sketches with it the past couple weeks, so you’ve seen some of these before.)
|8/8/17 Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo ink, S&B Epsilon paper (from photo)|
|10/11/17 Maple Leaf neighborhood, S&B Nova|
|8/8/17 Green Lake neighborhood|
|10/17/17 Montlake neighborhood|