Are we too quick to blame our tools for things that aren’t their fault? Does an inability to perceive our own flaws influence how we form an impression of something? Can we push back and adapt to these issues to grow long-term?
I promise you this is still a pen review. But I need to apologize to Franklin-Christoph upfront because this first half of this post will make this journey of self-discovery and growth sound like a tragedy when really this story has a happy ending — I swear.
I recently acquired a Franklin-Christoph Model 20 Marietta. I’d been checking out the brand for a while (mostly on the strength of reviews from blogs like The Gentleman Stationer and Pen Addict); still, I had put off purchasing until they restocked this model in the vintage green colorway. If you’ve been reading this blog or following my Instagram, you know I’m a sucker for a pretty green pen.
The past few months, I’ve been trying to expand the repertoire of nibs that I use. I’m generally most comfortable with a medium or 1.1 mm stub and recently added an outstanding architect nib to one of my Schon Pocket Sixes. Someday I may even get up the nerve to dive into the dangerous and exciting world of fine nibs (after a few drinks to reinforce my courage). On this occasion, I decided to take one step closer to the edge and ordered one of Franklin-Christoph’s S.I.G. ground nibs in a medium.
The S.I.G. (an acronym for Stub Italic Gradient) is a nib ground in-house by Audrey Matteson. Being a fan of stub nibs, I’d been curious about the S.I.G. and saw it as a means of broadening my horizons a little bit and stepping further outside of my comfort zone when it came to my everyday writing choices. The S.I.G. is promoted as blending the characteristics of two nib styles — offering the smoothness of a stub nib with the crispness and line variation of a cursive italic. It sounded like a perfect fit for me.
After the requisite few days of waiting excitedly, my package from Franklin-Christoph finally arrived. After taking a few minutes to gaze deeply into the calming green of my new acquisition, I decided to flush it, ink it up, and take it for a test drive.
Then it skipped again. Then it began hard-starting on every single word I wrote. It mortified me; all of the excitement for this pen that I had built up in my mind was suddenly lit ablaze by a fiery disappointment that reduced my expectations to ashes. Worse still was that it seemed to be teasing me with brief glimmers of hope — when it wrote, it wrote so beautifully, with an elegant and shapely line that left me wanting more.
I hold a general opinion that with few exceptions, anything over $100.00 should work out of the box. But, counter to that is the fact that by nature, I’m a tinkerer. I rarely shy away from something that’s not working right because I know I can usually get it to work if I spend enough time with it. I stared at this nib for an hour under a loupe. I couldn’t see anything wrong with it; everything was aligned, and I couldn’t see any sign of physical damage, defect, or obstruction. I even gave it multiple flushes and dissembled it to double and triple-check over the next few days. Something deep inside told me that the problem I was having had nothing to do with the nib — and maybe a lot more to do with me.
Can a tool be held responsible if you are misusing it? Do you get mad at a hammer that won’t turn a screw?
I reached out to Franklin-Christoph directly, not to complain but rather to beseech them for assistance. And rest assured that help was given — in the form of Rhonda.
I gave Rhonda the rundown of what was going on, and Rhonda came back to me with some practical suggestions, some much needed calm, and some confirmation of what I hoped to be true – that yes, there is a learning curve to this nib, give it time, and slow down. First, she suggested I try a different ink than what I had been using (I think this has become the fountain pen equivalent of “have you tried turning it off and back on again?”). Rhonda also surmised that I both over-rotate my nib and habitually write with too much pressure (both of which are real and vital issues I am trying to correct in my personal pen adventure). On top of this, I’m usually a very rushed writer; I rarely slow down as my hand tries to keep up with my head, leading to most of my handwriting being a messy and overly kinetic (but passionate) scrawl. In essence, my writing style could not have been more inappropriate for this nib’s optimal use.
One of the main reasons I use fountain pens is that they help counter the impulse to race to get my thoughts down on paper and force me to take just a little more time with what I write. And working to improve my handwriting is a long-term goal of mine. After getting that much-needed pep talk and advice from Rhonda (Thank you, Rhonda!!!) I swapped ink, sat down, and decided to give it another try — this time with a proper grip, a little more intent, and with a pace more in line with how a rational, non-hyperactive human would write.
It wrote so well.
So, so, well.
In just a few days, I went from being disappointed to feeling delighted with my purchase. Over the past several weeks, this pen/nib combo has become a personal favorite. Especially for writing sessions that I want to be a little more meditative and intentional, it has become a regular companion during my evening journaling and handwriting practice. I’d venture so far as to say that the S.I.G. nib has been an important teaching tool for me. It has influenced me to adapt and grow to use it most optimally and get its benefits. This has become one of those pens that seems to make me a better and more aware writer.
One of the reasons I insist on writing with a pen for several weeks before reviewing it is that first impressions are often misleading. We tend to make snap judgments and then stick blindly to our opinions with unyielding certainty, only to find later on that they have led us astray. When I first met my best friend in high school, there was instant friction between us, a strong and instantaneous dislike. Over time, we got to know each other better and realized just how much we clicked. By the end of sophomore year – we were inseparable. The same is valid for food. I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of claiming to not like a food, sometimes for years, only to try it years later and come to the revelation that we, in fact, LOVE that food (I am so looking at you right now anchovies on pizza). Being unyielding and stubborn is a surefire recipe for unhappiness and shattered expectations, whereas embracing adaptability and being open to growth often leads to far more enjoyment out of our lives. Please note that I am writing this just as much as a reminder to myself as to share it with others. We all falter, and I am by no measure always successful at taking this lesson to heart.
As per Franklin-Christoph’s site:
5.0″ from nib tip to barrel end = 127mm
5.45″ capped length = 138.43mm
2.175″ cap = 55.25mm
.575″ cap diameter = 14.61mm
.51″ barrel diameter = 12.95mm
.41″ smallest diameter of grip section = 10.41mm
The pen posts securely, adding a bit of length where needed without significantly changing the balance. I do keep instinctually trying to unscrew the cap, rather than just pulling off, which has led to me absent-mindedly ending up with a barrel in my hand and the section and nib still in the cap — I’ll keep practicing this part, I promise.
How Do I Feel Now
Once I got past my initial user error issues, I really clicked with this pen/nib. It feels great in my hand, even unposted, and feels reliable and well built without feeling weighted or heavy. The S.I.G. nib yields some beautiful line variation, is wonderfully smooth, and gives a satisfying writing experience — and don’t be afraid to spend some time with it and meet it halfway. The best things sometimes take a little work.
This pen is gorgeous. Seriously, I am so into the look of this pen and the color of the material that even If I had not come to the happy conclusion recounted above, I would have found a way to MAKE this pen write so that I could enjoy using something so lovely. The design is simple, timeless, and classic but almost daring in its lack of ornamentation and hardware other than a single clip and an understated imprint encircling the cap. The mood of the dark green and lightly translucent material falls somewhere between academic and adventurous. I feel like this pen would be equally at home in a lecture hall as it would be mapping out the uncharted desert. If this pen were a movie character, it would be giving off strong Indiana Jones vibes. If we’re talking T.V., it would be River Song.
I will not hesitate to buy another Franklin-Christoph. Between of the enjoyment I now get from this pen and their excellent customer service, I now have my eye on a few other models and finishes I’d like to add to the collection. Maybe I’ll even try an extra-fine nib on the next one.