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Testing Out a Noodler’s Flex Nib Fountain Pen

June 24, 2011

See the complete post for details.

110613BulldogFlexPen Left: quick sketch of a dog using the Noodler's Flex Nib fountain pen, filled with Platinum Carbon ink. (I'm working in a Japanese school exercise book and the paper is really that grey.)

In February I read that Noodler's was selling a Flex Nib fountain pen. Nina Johansson, on her excellent blog, posted that she had purchased one. Her post was accompanied by lovely sketches executed with the pen, demonstrating a wide variation in line thickness.

Nina also mentioned The Goulet Pen Company. I tried to purchase a Noodler's Flex Nib locally but when there were none to be had I went to the Goulet website and signed up for the email notification list. They were out of stock and were going to send an email when they had more pens. Since they run their sales for this high-demand, short-supply item on a first come first serve basis I strongly suggest that you go and sign up there (or at another vendor that sells then as I think several companies are doing this).

Note: On June 6, which was Goulet's sell date I followed their instructions and went to their site just before 1 p.m. EDT. I created an account and got ready to order. I started my order at 1:01 p.m. The site moved VERY slowly from order form to order form, and calculating the mail cost was a limbo I frankly don't want to relive. Obviously there was a lot of traffic on the site at that time. My order went in at 1:09 EDT. Friends ordering slightly later told me that mail calculations took upwards of 20 minutes.

You can read additional comments about using this pen in Nina's second post about the Noodler's Flex Nib.

Artist Cathy Johnson has also purchased this type of pen and on Artist's Journal Workshop she has posted lovely sketches of people (sketched with this pen of course). Her range and control of line quality is also beautful.

In the hands of these two talented artists I think you can begin to see the range that is possible with this pen.

How Do I Like the Noodler's Flex Nib Fountain Pen?
I'm torn. It's a lovely fountain pen and it is great fun (really great fun) to sketch with it. But it SMELLS!

Readers of my blog know that I'm sensitive to a lot of smells. Plastics of certain types are the worst for me. This pen's body is made with a "vegetal resin." It smells like some of the toys of my childhood (Nina helped me narrow it down.)

110613dogFlexPenDetail Left: Detail of the dog's face showing thick and thin lines. Note that the thinnest lines are also broken. This is because you can work so fast with this pen that you get ahead of its ability to deliver ink. When I am making quick strokes such as those beneath the dog's nose, I'm working at a speed where the ink flow gets interrupted. The obvious remedy for this is to slow down a bit, but I happen to like the way the line breaks up, adding more texture. I see this as more "functionality" and versatility. If that isn't to your liking in your sketches you can simply slow it down a bit.

When I hold the pen in my hand I can smell the barrell 15 to 20 inches away, near the paper. It's subtle at first, but the smell builds, and brings on a headache—FOR ME. (Also I don't seem to suffer from or be blessed with [depending on your view point] nose fatigue.)

After 10 minutes of working with this pen I have to stop using it. By then my hand has absorbed the odor and I have to wash my hand to clear the odor (not always possible in the field). I worry about carrying the pen into the field in case its odor transfers to my other writing implements.

Because of the odor I haven't sketched much with the pen. I just wish I could use it more. So far I find that I'm still more focused on varying the pressure than actually drawing. Since I haven't been able to go somewhere and immerse myself in sketching without noticing the smell it remains a lightly used pen.

It's too bad because I've NEVER found a commercially made, unaltered, fountain pen that is this flexible. Only dip pens are more flexible in my experience.

Sigh. I've filled it with Platinum Carbon ink. This is one of Dick's favorite black inks and he always has some on hand I can "pilfer." I have found that the ink dries pretty nearly waterproof on most of the papers I've tested it on. I can wash over it with watercolors almost immediately, with little noticeable bleeding. (If you wash with clear water you can see a little bit of bleeding on some papers, but nothing a good wash of color won't hide.)

Sigh. If it weren't for the smell this would be the perfect sketching and writing pen and it would never leave my hand.

If smells do NOT bother you, I recommend you spend the $14.00 and purchase one of these pens. You will really enjoy it.

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 24, 2011
    Reply

    So, if you like the pen, 3 things come to mind. Put the mechanics into a pen where the resin is not a problem, encapsulate the pen in something that isn’t a problem; ( I have an image of a pen in a condom, but can’t think of a suitable punchline),use something as a barrier, between your hands and the pen. Posh cotton gloves and pretend to be an museum curator?. I used to use contact adhesives, they always gave me a rotten headache, I ended up using a different glue. but there must be a coating; even a varnish that’ll help seal the pen. Will go follow th emopwer round the back lawn and think of a solution, Love the sketch BTW.

  1. After reading all the wonderful things abut this pen – and wanting one I could “afford” to take out of the house, I checked Amazon and found the Flex pen in 2 colors, ordered with 1-click since I already have an account, and had my pen in 3 days. However, a quick check this morning showed no listings for the pen, but people might want to keep an eye out for more to appear on Amazon. I’ve been hoping the smell will diminish with time…

  2. Reply

    I got mine from Art for Life on Amazon – he is also on Ebay as GreenMan508 and is an authorized Noodler’s Dealer – He also sells all of their inks 😉 I got it quickly and the first one was defective. He sent me another one straight away to replace it with a prepaid envelope to send the lemon back. This one works great and I love it! I fill it with Noodler’s Bulletproof ink.

    • Patty
    • June 24, 2011
    Reply

    There might be some light at the end of the tunnel, Roz. I got a resin Noodler several months ago and the smell, quite pungent at first, has dissipated over time. In fact, I don’t smell anything now. While I do not have your sensitivity to odors, I can only hope that you will eventually be able to use your Noodler Flex without “protection.” I would love to see the amazing things you would make this pen do!

    • Dali Lobo
    • June 24, 2011
    Reply

    I ordered mine from isellpens.com over the weekend and had it two days later, with no hassle or delay on the website. I wrote several emails to them asking questions about cleaning and the use of their inks, as I had purchased a couple of noodler’s inks -one of which was white of whale. Another artist had suggested to me that the white ink was not suitable for this pen and to use a dip pen instead. I received email answers immediately and they were informative and helpful. Regarding the use of the inks, all their inks are suitable in the flex pen.

  3. Reply

    Thanks to everyone writing in with alternate ways to buy this pen, because it’s good for people wanting one right away to have options!

    Leslie, as for the smell of the pen. I can’t take it apart and put it in another pen because of the way the mechanism really is the pen. It would be better to simply buy a different pen than spend the time trying to work it out.

    Gloves might be a possibility, but I’d still smell the pen in the air, just not on my hands.

    The idea of coating it with something is interesting. I’ll ask Dick when he gets home—he’ll know the possibility of success and what to use if possible, but I remain doubtful.

    Patty’s comment fills me with a little bit of hope—but not much. I am very sensitive to such things.

    The main thing is I think everyone should give one of these a try as they are great fun!

    • Leslie Schramm
    • June 24, 2011
    Reply

    a possible solution, exposure to a lot of UV should evaporate away the volatiles you’re detecting. Go find a friendly hairdresser who uses a UV cabinet to sterilize the combs and brushes,and leave your pen in the case for a couple weeks, if nothing else you’ll have the cleanest pen on the planet. The only solution I came to, cutting the lawn, was roll a new pen with thin paper soaked in “paste” and after wrapping the pen in Saran Wrap, form a new paper body. Let it dry pull it out, the saran wrap will act like a removable mould liner and stick the workings back into the new paper tube; got to be a fun and messy job for a wet and stormy night

  4. Reply

    Got my 1st Noodler that same day approximately the same time. Got the Volcanic Coral but mistakenly did not order waterproof ink. It’s fun experiment with the nib in different angles and force you can press down with to flex it for various widths. Somewhat different from my Lamy Safari.
    No scent, aroma or odor on my end though that I can detect.

  5. Reply

    I have also heard that the smell will dissapate in time. It is worse when the pen is freshly made right off the lathe. I would disassemble the whole thing (Brian Goulet has a video on it on his Ink Nouveau blog) so the insides of the the pen can air out too and let it sit out for awhile before trying to use it again.

  6. Reply

    Roz, I got one this week and noticed the smell almost immediately and thought of you!! It doesn’t have an impact on me..but sorry that you can’t use it!
    I am testing my at the moment and loving its impact on my writing (creating a slightly calligraphic look) but still discovring how to make the most of the flex!

  7. Reply

    Dennis I’m glad you’re enjoying your pen. Try out the Platinum Carbon ink. I think you’ll really like sketching with it (esp. if you watercolor over your ink).

  8. Reply

    Carolyn, I can hope it would dissipate. Dick and I were talking about it yesterday and he said it should, but because of my sensitivity it would be 10 years before I could use it. We had a good laugh. I remain hopeful.

  9. Reply

    Liz, you’re going to have great fun with in and make great sketches I know. I’m glad you’re testing one!

    • BJ
    • June 25, 2011
    Reply

    I purchased three of these from Goulet this month. I’d been waiting for some time to get my hands on one. Two of them are great, and one of them is just awful. . . it skips, it railroads and it sometimes glops. I’ve tried three inks in it, I’ve tried taking it apart and cleaning. No dice, that pen is a lemon. I know of someone else that had gotten one a while back and her is also similiar to this one. So I think that they are lovely pens, if they work. But seems that they quality varies.

    • Miss T
    • June 26, 2011
    Reply

    Love the sketch, Roz. I do hope the smell will eventually dissipate. I’m having the same issue with some plastic cards I bought (which I think were printed with very stinky ink), so I’m leaving them lying out. They’re gradually getting better.

  10. Reply

    Fingers crossed Miss T, but right now I’m looking into other options that might not take as long and might yield more useful results for me.

    We’ll see if I can come up with any happy news.

  11. Reply

    BJ, I’m glad that you were able to get pens from Goulet. I’m sure that if you return the one that is a lemon they’ll make it right (with a refund or replacement when they are available). They seem like a very reputable company. Gina (above) wrote that she had a defective one purchased through an Amazon.com dealer—but he replaced it.

    I’m glad you’ve got two that work well. My pen is just lovely, except that it STINKS!!!!!!! (It resides in another room far away where it is airing out.) (Hey will someone remind me in 6 months to go and smell it?)

    • Patty
    • June 26, 2011
    Reply

    I just remembered that Noodler makes a clear version of its flex pens. I think they are rarer than hen’s teeth — they seem to sell out in minutes — and I don’t know if the resin they are made of smells like the opaque pens, but maybe, just maybe one of these clear flex pens would solve the odor problem for you. It strikes me that for you not to be able to use a Noodler Flex, Roz, well that just STINKS.

  12. Reply

    Patty, I purchased the clear one, hoping that the smell people mentioned was related to color additives.

    Sadly the clear (which is what I have) does smell.

    But you and I had the same idea!

    Drat! It just didn’t work out that way.

    • Liz I.
    • July 1, 2011
    Reply

    Thank you so much, Roz, for writing about this Noodler pen! I would never have bought it, but I’m so glad I did. I got it from Art for Life via Amazon, and it practically arrived before I ordered it! It’s a nice turquoisy-green and has the perfect nib for me–not too fat and not too thin and is a dream to write with. It also has a thin body, which I personally find much more comfortable than a wide bodied pen. I’m using it with Noodler’s (Bulletproof) Black.

    My journals tend toward writing and diagrams and visual thinking, so I haven’t done any “drawing” with it yet, but I do love to write with fountain pens and this has become my new cheap favorite (next to my Lamy Safaris).

  13. Reply

    Liz I., glad you got a Noodler’s Flex Nib Pen and are enjoying it!

    • baijoz
    • July 3, 2011
    Reply

    Hi Roz

    only just discovering your blog – what a mine of beautiful, interesting, informative (and more I am sure I will find….) stuff!

    with regards to the pen – a good old gran remedy for smells which may help resolve – i.e. help the smell become less and less potent – the problem slightly faster: Bicarbonate of Soda (I think Baking Soda in US?) – official name is ‘Sodium Bicarbonate’ – will absorb odours. You may not want to dip the pen in it as the little powder grains could clog the mechanism, although they would dissolve in time it could still be a problem, but if you wrap the pen in a layer of very fine muslin to protect and place it in a food bag filled with bicarb of soda and leave it there for a while, you will notice the smell will go very quickly! Book sellers use this to remove musty smells of old books which you probably know, if you are sensitive to smells, is a killer. Thanks for all your brilliant work and advice on these pages.

  14. Reply

    baijoz, I don’t know if that will work on something as slick surfaced as the pen body. I have a friend who’s a book conservationist and she’s done what you say many times with books and even has a technique for using kitty litter! I’ll look into it for the pen. Right now it’s just on a shelf in the back room airing out! She actually had to walk me through that process when someone at a journaling meeting I was hosting held my book with heavily perfumed hands and I could smell the book from 50 yards away—so as you can imagine I couldn’t stand to be in the same room with it.

    Sadly I have to be very careful when purchasing old books because of my odor issues.

    Glad you are enjoying the blog. Hope you come back often.

  15. Reply

    The nib and feed of the Noodler’s flex pen slide completely out of the body and will fit into other pens, such as a pilot. The nib of the pilot will fit into the Noodler’s as well. You have to be willing to fiddle with it but it will work.

    I have several of the Noodler’s pens and the amount of time it took the smell to dissipate varied. With the clear it took far less time, my understanding is that the clear is not made of the same vegital resin as the colored pens. With the colored resin it took much longer. I soaked each one in HOT soapy water until the water was tepid and then washed them thoroughly and allowed them to dry over night, uncapped.

    With the colored resin, December 24th edition, I put it in a tray of baking soda overnight. That helped considerably. I’ve had all my Noodler’s pens (total of 3) for about 8 months now. The clear has no odor at all and the colored only seems to smell on particularly hot day or when I first uncap it.

  16. Reply

    Leslie, this is very fun news. I will have to put my pen body in baking soda, and I’ll see what types of pens Dick has around (he always has extra pens for “parts”). We are both perfectly happy to tear down, build up and generally fiddle with anything off the shelf, if it means we’ll get something we can actually use.

    Since I have a clear pen I’m cheered that it will take less time!

    I’ve gone on to testing other pens at the moment so it has been quite out of my mind. I’ll have to put it back on the to do list.

    Thank you for such hopeful news!

    • Owen
    • July 12, 2011
    Reply

    Plasticine. That’s what they smell like to me. However, as I was an avid user of that famous modelling clay as a kid, I love the smell. Lucky me.

    I just got my pens and I love’em. Trying different inks but especially liking Platinum Carbon Black.

  17. Reply

    Owen, that’s close, but not quite what I’m remembering. Still scanning my memory.

    But lucky you indeed. I’m so glad that you have got the pens and are enjoying them. The Platinum Carbon Black is such a lovely ink. I’m glad you’re enjoying that too.

    I’ve been fooling around with their red ink as well, but not enough to report on anything yet.

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