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Crescent Filler (modern)

Maker: Conklin

I can’t say much about the modern Conklin Crescent Filler without at least referring to its ancestor. The original Conklin Crescent Filler was invented in 1897, which makes it one of the earliest self-filling mechanisms around. It was also extremely successful, spawning many imitators, some of whom were able to make the case that their mechanism was different enough to survive a lawsuit.

Fast forward a century or so: Conklin is revived, and the new owners look at what iconic models from the past they might bring into current production. Clearly, it’s hard to find something more iconic that a pen with that big lump of metal sticking out of the barrel, and so the Crescent Filler was with us once more. Impressively, the original function was maintained, rather than becoming a mere decorative application to put people in mind of the older version– see, for example, the “piston knob” on the tail of the modern Kaweco Sport.

I have read that initially the Crescent Filler was originally treated as a platform for limited editions, and that it was only after the brand came into Yafa’s hands that the model entered regular production. Most, but not quite all, bear the signature of Mark Twain on the cap band, as it was this model which impressed him favourably enough that he became a spokes-celebrity for Conklin. This leads to some taxonomic difficulty when looking at the modern Conklins, since the regular-signature bearing examples are referred to by the company as Mark Twain Crescent Fillers, while there is also the discontinued Mark Twain Signature on hand to cause confusion.

While not an inexpensive pen, the Crescent Filler is surprisingly affordable for something with such a labour-intensive mechanism, and all the more so if the rumour of the pen being made by Stipula is accurate.

The filler is just as charmingly strange as it looks. The locking cuff has an eccentric hole, so the farther away from aligned it goes, the more of the space under the crescent is filled until it is held in place by friction between the two moving parts. This is a nice assurance against accidental pressing, although it’s not certain; I make a point of fiddling with the cap until the filler is at right angles to the clip, preventing a press coming out of leaning against a desk edge or perhaps a passionate embrace. The last line in the instructions for filling which Conklin provide are a disclaimer; they will take no responsibility for anything you wreck through dribbling ink on it.

The one part of the pen which is nothing like the vintage model is the feed. This is an entirely modern object, which means there’s plenty of buffering against ink expansion… but there’s also a lot of surface area in the volume of the section for ink to cling to when it’s time to flush the pen. It’s very nearly as much of a chore to clean this pen as is a Parker “51”.

One of the point options for the Crescent Filler is the “Omniflex”, which does indeed offer a degree of line variation. This is achieved by cut-outs on the shoulders of the point, removing structural rigidity, rather than by extending the slit right down to the section as some other modern flexible pens have done. Having tried this point, I will say that it does work properly… with caveats.

The first is that this is not like using a vintage flex pen. There are some “semi-flex” vintage pens with a similar feel, as well as some that were purpose made back in the day to flex and produce an impression through carbon paper. If you’re used to vintage flex, this may be initially disappointing, because getting variation demands much more pressure than one would like to exert. The flip-side of this coin is a need for those who have their first experience of flex writing through this pen to be extra careful when and if you get a vintage pen in your hands, because the amount of pressure you’re used to will utterly destroy an old pen.

Caveat number two has to do with the lessening of structural rigidity. You do need to apply a fair amount of pressure to flex, but there’s a limit to how much is safe. Try to get seriously big fat downstrokes can exceed the resiliency of the steel. A sprung point is the consequence of over-enthusiasm.

I have read of some bad experiences with ink starvation, but these were with early instances of the point. Mine is definitely damp enough to keep up with full flex writing. It’s also possible that these experiences come from not having a lot of flex experience, and this inducing a mild case of sprung point.

I do like this pen, both in the looks department and in writing, but I can easily see how all that filling hardware might be unsightly or uncomfortable.

Production Run:  Intermittent limited editions from c. 2000 (if assumptions above are all correct), with regular production of “popular” price models starting about 2009 and continuing until the present.

Cost When New:  Base model cost in 2009 was $130.  Currently $185 base model, $195 with gold-trim, and limited editions post-2009 run between $225 and $250.

Size: 13.9 cm long capped, 16.6 cm posted, 12.9 cm uncapped.

Point: Steel.

Body: Some early LE models were celluloid, which the post-2009 production offers resin and some metal bodies.

Filler: Crescent, capacity approx. 0.9 ml.

Conklin Mark Twain Crescent Filler. With the patterned (not actually chased) black body and gold trim, this is the closest in look to the originals. Check out that crazy clip mounting!

The filler imprint is also a reproduction of the original. I’m not a huge fan of this rose gold trim– I’m afraid copper thieves will mistake it for their prey.



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