|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.
But what about the most important part – its line
variability? Compared to my Sailor Naginata, the F-C fude’s range is very similar: Reversed, the nib is a bit finer than the reversed Sailor. It’s also wetter
than the Sailor, so when I’ve used its broadest angle, I have to remember to
allow extra time for the plentiful outlay of ink to dry. It moves effortlessly
and fluidly across the page, whether on toothy Stillman & Birn Nova paper
or smooth S&B Epsilon.
|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.
|10/20/17 Maple Leaf neighborhood|
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.
Excellent posting and I think I share everything mentioned here! An interesting fact is that when I received the notice about the nibs being in stock, I was in the airport in Sri Lanka and ordered it right there on the spot!ReplyDelete
Thanks for letting me know about this pen! - indeed a little different than the Sailor but it's a pen that feels really nice in the hands!
Happy to return the favor, Mike, since you were the one who turned me on to the Sailor Naginata fude in the first place! :-) So funny that you were at the airport, too! Glad you were able to snag one.Delete
Very interesting and informative. Thanks.ReplyDelete
Glad you found the post helpful!Delete
LOVING your blog! Spent the last week going down the rabbit hole and INSPIRED. Your blogs in search for the Grail saved me a lot of time, energy, and $$ in my search for the ideal (& comfy) sketching fountain pen. Thank you so very much! Just ordered my first high quality fountain pen, a F-C #46. Learned that F-C will no longer offer fude nibs but they referred me to Mark Bacas/www.nibgrinder.com because he ground the fude nibs for them. So exciting! Mahalo!!ReplyDelete
You're very welcome! I appreciate knowing that it's useful to you! I bet you just saw Mike D.'s Instagram live on fude fountain pens! ;-)Delete