Something about the Narwhal Original just feels really right.
It’s just the right size: not too long or short, not too thin or fat (good thing too: it doesn’t post). It just sits naturally in the hand. The section is long and free of extremes; add to that the almost imperceptible square-cut threads and cap band and almost any writer will find a grip that works.
It’s not too heavy or too light at 20g, with a reassuring solidity despite being almost completely plastic in construction.
The fit and finish is fantastic. Bands are even all the way around. The inside edge of the cap is smooth. The polish is good.
The clip is straight. I haven’t noticed any drying out when the pen is left capped. Nothing creaks, nothing leaks (although the nib dripped a few times after I first filled and wiped it — nothing since, though).
Personally, I’m not at all a fan of the looks, which give me big PenBBS vibes.
The shaped two-part clip and cap band are pretty generic looking, and the swirly pink acrylic (called ‘Hippocampus Purple’) is on trend but not my usual cup of tea.
What’s more, the 1.75-turn cap threads work great, but are a little noisy, and that kind of stuff irritates me. Again, the threads feel a little like PenBBS threads or Opus88, with an almost satin texture.
So it’s even more surprising that I really fell hard for this pen, and I’ve been enjoying writing with it immensely.
Part of it is the superb hand feel, and the effective integrated piston filler visible through the demonstrator body, which apparently holds 1.5ml of ink and can be disassembled with a TWSBI wrench.
But a lot of the experience is down to the nib, which is worth discussion.
Narwhal makes an incredibly bold claim that they make everything in house in their factory in China, including their nibs. Now, I’m initially wary of this claim for a couple reasons:
- The feed is identical to the feed used on Nettuno and Venvstas pens. I mean identical, not similar. I’ve googled and other bloggers have it on record that Narwhal makes the feed, which makes me wonder if they are selling components to other manufacturers.
- Neither the clip nor material look particularly distinctive.
I will take at face value the claim that the nibs are made in house, though. It’s a #6 size, which is a good proportional size for the pen.
At first glance the nib looks exactly like a JoWo, including the scrollwork, but compare side to side and they’re clearly different. What I’m most surprised about is that Narwhal didn’t go for a different appearance to make the nib distinctively in-house. I have no idea why the Narwhal logo is only laser-etched while the rest of the decoration is stamped — perhaps Narwhal intends to sell its nibs to other brands?
The nib, which is rated as an MF, the only size on offer, feels very distinctive. The flow is on the wet side (I’m afraid due to the large piston capacity I’ve only had it inked with Beaufort Peacock), and the tipping is bang on what I’d call an MF width, with nice rounded tipping and a lovely amount of tooth. It starts every time, doesn’t skip, sustains its flow for long sessions, and is generally flawless. A goldilocks nib if ever I used one.
What’s really surprising is that the nib delivers this performance with a really off-centre slit, all the way from the breather hole to the tipping. But if it works, I’m not complaining in this instance!
The Narwhal Original is £50, which invites competition to the TWSBI Eco at £30, another steel-nibbed piston filler that performs great and feels solid. I’d say the Narwhal feels more conventional, but it also feels like a more premium pen than the TWSBI, with rounded edges, more sophisticated clip, more use of metal, and a bigger nib. So I’m really happy with where Narwhal has pitched this product in terms of price.
If you’re looking for something a bit different to the usual sea of budget cartridge-converter fillers with Bock, JoWo or Schmidt nibs, I’d say the Narwhal Original is a great option to consider.
And for those of us who have escalated our tastes gradually to much more expensive pens over the years, I’d say make it an impulse purchase as I did — you’d be amazed how much bang for the buck you get here. It’s a lot of fun.