There’s nothing Regular about the Conid Bulkfiller

12 weeks of anticipation

It took more than 12 weeks to get my Conid Regular Bulkfiller from the time I hit the ‘buy’ button (on the 3rd December 2018). I was mentally prepared for a wait of 8 weeks, but the last month of delays felt like agony.

When you anticipate a purchase for that long, it’s always a bit of an anti-climax to finally unwrap it – especially when the product is something as expensive and universally adored as a Conid pen.

I had a lot of questions running through my head. Would the Regular live up to the high standard set by the Kingsize, or annoy me like the Minimalistica? This time instead of a stock nib, I ordered a cursive italic steel nib, tuned by the guys at Conid – would the grind be as good as, say, FPnibs?

The Regular I ordered is the demonstrator version, flat-topped with Titanium filler knob and finial with Delrin bands, Titanium cap band and clip, Titanium threads on the barrel, and a black Delrin section. It cost me around £550 with a steel nib, which is of course on the pricy end of the spectrum. It arrived in the usual Conid ammo box, which is compact and protective and fits the utilitarian ethos of the brand.

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An engineer’s design

I’d briefly used a friend’s Regular before at a pen club meet, but the memory was a few hazy months old and the size took a little adjustment when I got it in my hands. Capped, the Regular is about the same size as a Pelikan M800, but it feels longer in the hand. I think that’s because the section is long, then behind the section there’s a kind of ink window, then at last the cap threads – the “front end” of the pen takes up quite a lot of the overall length before you get to the barrel.

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This is a good-looking pen. Although there’s a family resemblance, the Regular is surprisingly different to the Kingsize because it’s all straight lines. The mix of Ti and acrylic and Delrin works, and breaks up the lines of the pen – the effect is a bit like a dazzle ship.

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There are some features that are quiet evidence of a well thought-through design with the kind of attention to proportion that I’ve only previously seen in the obelisk from 2001: A Space Odyssey. For example, the band of Ti threads is exactly hidden by the Ti cap band when the cap is fully tightened.

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The length of the ink tank is exactly the same as the length of the clear section of the cap, between the cap band and the clip band. The end of the barrel narrows where the filler knob and filler mechanism sit, behind the ink tank. This length of this segment is exactly the same as the length of the section and ink window. This is a pen that’s been designed by blueprint, not by a sketch on a napkin.

Turning the pen over and over in the hand there are no rough edges to trouble the fingertips – build quality is nearly flawless, apart from some grind marks on the top of the clip that escaped polishing. Part of the extra four weeks of delay in my order was due to Conid rejecting a batch of caps for finishing during QC. That’s the kind of delay I’m happy to wait for. The Regular feels robust, durable.

Ready to write

The cap comes off on perfect, triple-start threads in 1.25 turns. It posts well, cushioned by o-rings on the filler knob, but that makes for a very long pen with all the metal at the back, so it’s unbalanced.

I’m not sure what I think about the Delrin section. Delrin is a bit of wonder material, used on motorbike crash guards for its durability and low friction. Here it’s polished to a satin finish with only the slightest machining marks remaining for grip, and there’s a prominent concave shape to the cross-section. Your fingers are urged to grip at the lowest point, and they slip down the slope unless you fight it. For me that midpoint of the section is just about far enough back from the nib to be comfortable, but the section there is narrower than I like. For a little variety I sometimes end up holding the pen on the ink window, quite high up the barrel.

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The ink tank and filler is trademark Conid. The Bulkfiller mechanism is now very familiar to me, and there’s nothing new here compared to the Kingsize and Minimalistica. The grip on the filler knob is helped by the two stacked o-rings, and I quickly got a full fill of Iroshizuku Tsuki-Yo.

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Wiping off the Delrin section was easy. Full marks for filling, and of course the pen can be completely disassembled for cleaning (although I didn’t buy the optional tool to do so – I’ll use the one from my Kingsize.)

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On the page

I wasn’t totally thrilled by the Regular’s writing experience. The pen’s weight and size are pretty good in the hand (although the weight is a bit back-heavy), but the nib left me cold.

I’d specifically asked for a fine cursive italic grind, tuned to be wet. The flow I got was medium at best, and I found it scratchy compared to the various italic nibs I have from Nakaya, Pelikan, FPnibs and others – it’s more on the sharp italic than cursive italic end of the spectrum.

Looking at it under a loupe, the nib slit was cut uneven and the grind wasn’t too great.

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I emailed Conid with a couple of photos; the very next morning they emailed an apology, took ownership, and started work on a replacement. That’s the kind of customer service I like.

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In the meantime I had quickly swapped the duff nib out for the #6 fine gold nib (shown above) that I’d loved in my Karas Ink. Swapping was easy – I sealed off the ink chamber and twisted out the nib unit to rinse off. The stock nib comes with the tension-piercing spike as on the Minimalistica, but I’ve noticed no difference in performance switching over to a spikeless standard nib unit.

Conid is not the cheapest place to buy #6 nibs, so if I were to order another Regular or Minimalistica I’d consider ordering it without a nib and instead get one from FPnibs or another UK supplier, or just use one of the nibs I have in my stash.

A keeper?

So I guess I have answers to my initial questions.

The Regular Bulkfiller definitely doesn’t annoy me like the Minimalistica. Capping and uncapping is an o-ring-free pleasure, the finish is great, and although ink still doesn’t migrate reliably back from the small ink chamber to the main tank, the problem is largely out of sight on this design due to the Delrin section and cap threads. If anything, the Regular is less comfortable than the Minimalistica’s seamless, chunky barrel – but I’m finding it easier to live with.

Is the Regular as good as the Kingsize? In my view, it’s not even close. The Kingsize is a more comfortable pen, with more visual impact, and a cleaner design (I’d drop the o-rings on the Regular’s filler knob for a start). But it’s also a few hundred euros more expensive, and not everyone wants a giant pen. The Regular’s standout advantage for most pen buyers is that it takes any #6 nibs you already have, while I’d wager that most people don’t have any Bock #8s lying around.

And how was the grind and tuning? A little disappointing for me. Don’t get me wrong, the nib isn’t bad, but I was hoping for a wetter and smoother writer. I may have had an outlier, though, and I’m confident that Conid will put it right in short order.

Overall, the Regular really impresses me. I admire it. It is fully evolved, fully functional: like a military tool. But I’m left with a nagging feeling that it doesn’t feel perfect in my hand. The section is just that bit too slippery and curved.

You’re buying into the company, not just a pen

My last word goes to Conid as a company. In the package with my pen was a machined Delrin pen stand and a Conid notepad block as apology for the delay with my order, along with a hand-written note.

When I requested customisations to the pen that they couldn’t accommodate (I wanted the engraved branding removed), I received a detailed and courteous explanation of why they were saying no.

When I queried the delays during the intervening weeks, I received prompt and apologetic explanations from named members of the Conid team.

When my order shipped, it did so by a fast and reliable courier and I received tracking details immediately.

Even leaving aside the quick response to my nib problem, this is the kind of great everyday customer service all businesses should aspire to.

 

14 thoughts on “There’s nothing Regular about the Conid Bulkfiller

  1. Many in the watch community rave about “in house” movements and you see the same with nibs now too.

    However, an argument is made that the quality control on mass produced watch movements is better than many in house movements. (Except for the finest, most expensive watches)

    Maybe the same can be said about nibs?

    I’d never thought that a nib slit could be that uneven. Good macro shot.

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  2. At 500+ Euros that pen never should have shipped with such a crummy nib. Also, before actually reading the article I scanned over the pictures and my first thought (after surprise when seeing the nib macro shot) was, “that pen is going to be too top-heavy when posted”. Sure ‘nuf, you called it out in your write-up. I suggest the designer get those proverbial “blueprints” out again and think about Version 2. Nice review, thanks. David

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  7. How was the replacement nib? Still underwhelming, or did it rise to the expectations for a premium pen? I am a bit surprised that with all the machining and detail that has gone into everything behind the nib, that the most crucial part is a stock item bought from Bock. I suppose as a small shop the cost of making the nibs as well might be more than they can handle.

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    • I’ll put it this way: I tried it out for half a day then put the gold nib back in. It was fine, but I still didn’t enjoy it as much as (for example) my Soubriquet stub, Kaweco FPnibs stub, Pelikan IB, or Nakaya F-CI. No big deal, but I agree with you that it feels a bit like “the space shuttle blew up because an o-ring failed” – all this engineering and it’s Bock at the business end.

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  8. Thanks for the great review. I enjoyed the read. My Minimalistica order was placed Dec 31, 2018, and delivered within 10 weeks. My overall experience was similar to yours, but my steel nib was flawless. A Kingsize is definitely in my future, but the Regular just might be a replacement as my Minimalistica will probably end up as a gift to my daughter. Conid has definitely enriched my writing experiences.

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