I’ve been meaning to write this blog post for a while, but now that there will be a price increase coming up,* I figured it would be a good time to share a bit on what adjusting your Noodler’s Flex Pen might entail to help you decide if you’re going to pull the trigger on one.
Using a flex nib can be a lot of fun and an easy way to create elegant looking writing or to use in drawing or sketching, and the Noodler’s pens are often a great choice, especially if you’re just starting out. Noodler’s is most famous for their inks in so many different colours and with gorgeous labels. One of the philosophies of their business is to offer reasonably priced goods, rather than always striving for the profit margin, and in line with this philosophy, they also offer a few reasonably priced flex nib fountain pen model: the Ahab, the Konrad and the Creaper.
I have an Ahab that I love, and I use it to scribble and doodle with, and I also use it for a lot of my Instagram writing shots. Sometimes people ask what pen I’m writing with (the Ahab), and then they say, well, I have the same pen, and it doesn’t write like yours! While each pen might a bit different, there are a few steps on adjusting your pen so it will write a bit more like how you’d like.
One of the idiosyncrasies of the Noodler’s flex pens, in line with the fact that it’s not going to run you out of your wallet, is that it sometimes takes a bit of fiddling and adjusting to get it to write the way you want. This can sometimes be a good thing (if you enjoy fiddling around, or if you like the flexibility of adjusting how your pen writes) but sometimes a not-so-good thing if you don’t have the patience to adjust it.
In the bricks & mortar shop, we try to emphasize this fact, that you’ll likely have to spend some time getting to know your new flex pen. One of the things about test driving an Ahab flex nib in the shop is that it’s almost guaranteed that your Ahab will not write like that one, so writing with the one we’ve adjusted and softened up over time can be a bit misleading to yours straight out of the box. Stay the course!
If all you’re going to read is the first bit, then there are two pieces of advice I might give:
1. Take your nib and feed out of your flex pen, and wash them with soapy water. I give it a squirt of dish soap, and rub them between my fingers for maybe 10 seconds. If I’m feeling like daydreaming, I might do it twice. Rinse.
2. Give it time! Not only in terms of adjusting it and maybe if it’s not working perfectly, leave it overnight and try again the next day, but over many months of using it, you may find that the nib softens up on you a bit.
The general rule of thumb for adjusting your Noodler’s flex pen is:
For wetter flow, push the nib and feed closer together, and closer in.
For drier flow, pull the nib and feed further apart, and slightly further out.
And then keep fiddling.
I generally suggest sitting down and getting ready to get your hands really inky the first time, and then you may have to do small adjustments later, but you hope the bulk of the adjustment is done. You may have to do more adjusting later if you change the ink, or if you’re giving it a thorough washing by taking out the nib and feed.
– Noodler’s Flex Fountain Pen, in this case we’re using the Ahab in Topkapi
– Ink – you may want two or more inks just in case you get bad luck and the first ink you pick is not so good in your Ahab – we’re using Stormy Grey
– Ink Syringe (if you’re filling as an eyedropper)
– Silicone Grease (if you’re filling as an eyedropper)
Step One: Pull your nib and feed out and give them a nice soapy bath.
Remember when you’re putting it back in that the Ahab has a grove where the nib fits in, and it won’t fit in properly if it’s not lined up. In the photo below, you can see that the nib would fit at the top.
Step Two: Fill the pen with ink.
If this is the first time with the pen, I generally recommend using the converter because you won’t have to waste as much ink if you end up dumping it, but more importantly, you can use the converter to “prime the feed” a bit by pushing it down and forcing ink through as you’re testing. Obviously this is not the long term solution, to have to continually push down on the converter, but it may be helpful as you’re trying to adjust.
If you’re filling as an eyedropper, put some silicone grease around the threads of the barrel (to prevent leaking) and put some ink directly in the barrel. You won’t have any option to push more ink through, but you get a LOT of ink.
Step 3: Start writing and see how it does.
You may find that it writes fine if you’re not flexing too much, but the more you flex, the more problems you may have. If you just need the tiniest bit of variation as you’re writing, then maybe you don’t need any adjustment at all! Or you may have found the golden ticket pen and it writes and flexes with no problem. If not, don’t worry!
Especially at first, give your Ahab some time! Don’t just write a few strokes with it and then adjust it right away if it’s not writing for your the way you like – the ink flow may need a few moments to settle and fill your feed, and get flowing properly. Try a few strokes, a few sentences, wait a bit. You can try pressing a cloth to the nib and feed to draw some ink through.
However, at a certain point, you just know it’s not going to give anymore, so, you adjust.
Step 4: Pulling the nib in and out, also known as, when the fingers start to get inky.
Give it some time and a LOT of writing. You may find that it blobs and then starts railroading, so is it too wet or too dry?? It may just be that the feed needs some more time to regulate the flow, so a bit more writing to try and even it out before you figure out how to adjust it next.
Keep going and adjusting. Write, write, write, give your pen a chance for some flow, and then write some more. Adjust slightly, and then see how it does. This is a pen that does best with a healthy dose of love and patience, so if it railroads, give it a few more strokes before you adjust it again.
I personally like my Ahab nice and wet (if you watch the video above, you’ll see how wet the ink is!), which occasionally results in blobs of ink, but I like it wet so my inks show lots of shading. Keeping this in mind, I generally use higher quality paper with my Ahab so it doesn’t become a hot mess. I also find a bit of ink in my cap every once in a while (I’m not sure if the two are related, I think it’s probably more to do with the fact that I knock around my Ahab quite a bit). This tugging the nib a bit in or out is literally all I do with my Ahab if I’ve changed the ink and I find the flow isn’t what I’d like.
Step 5: If this all isn’t working, you can trying heat-setting your nib and feed.
Heat up some water so it’s hot, just off boiling, and dip your nib and feed in. You can hold it there for a minute or two, which should soften up the ebonite feed a bit. Press together firmly, so the nib and feed will end up cooling and re-hardening against each other. You may end up trying this a few times, but remember to give the testing a fair shake before you re-adjust as it may just need a few minutes for the ink flow to really regulate.
Your Noodler’s flex pen will probably not ever write like a vintage flex pen, not as soft, or with as consistent a flow, but with a bit of adjustment it can do pretty well. You may also have to slow down a bit as you write, but the more you write with your pen, the more you’ll get to know exactly how much you can ask of it. Eventually over time, you may find that your Noodler’s flex nib will soften up, and not be quite as stiff as it was when you first got it.
One last thing to keep in mind about your Noodler’s pen: some inks may just not be great in it, and they never will be. Just like you may know one of your pens is a bit of a dry writer or a wet writer or a pen likes a particular ink, even more so for a Noodler’s Flex Pen where the ink flow is so variable. One ink may work in your Clear Ahab, but strangely not in your Apache Tortoise Ahab. It’s a bit of trial and error.
In my Ahab, I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that J. Herbin Ambre de Birmanie, my favourite of all shading inks, is just not going to work in my current Ahab. It was a long road to acceptance, and along the way I think I’ve tried Ambre de Birmanie six or seven times, but I’ve finally reached it.
Good luck with yours! And don’t give up!!
*As of August 1st, 2015, Noodler’s flex pens will be undergoing a price increase, due to manufacturing costs:
Nib Creaper from 17.50 to 20.15 CAD
Ahab/Konrad from 25 to 28.75 CAD