So Staedtler makes fountain pens?
When I think of Staedtler, I think of distinctive black-and-yellow wooden pencils, Mars erasers and chunky highlighter pens. Probably every household in the UK has a Staedtler product in a drawer somewhere — I know mine does.
I’m rather fond of this historic German brand. But I never thought of it as a brand associated with fountain pens, and certainly not “fine writing”. In fact, if you look at Staedtler’s product menu on its website, you won’t even see fountain pens mentioned.
Yet here in front of me (after digging through the wonderful gift-wrapping from the Online Pen Company, and a rather impressive box) is the Staedtler Premium Lignum: a “proper” fountain pen. Not the kind you’d find hanging in Rymans in a blister pack next to a four-pack of highlighters.
This model has been around for years, but it flies under the radar. It’s also been known as the Initium, and it retails around £120-£150 — heading into perhaps the most competitive fountain pen market segment. Does it deserve a bigger reputation? Let’s find out.
Breaking down the design
The Lignum is a wooden-barreled design available in pale maple or darker plum, paired with satin-finished chrome-plated metal for the section, cap and finial. I opted for the plum wood version.
Overall Staedtler has created a pen of a good size, with a simple, even stark, design. The wood of the barrel is not overpolished, nor is it varnished; it’s natural, and minimally grained.
The flat-ended barrel finial is featureless.
The cap is similarly unadorned but for the wordmark around the circumference, in Staedtler’s distinctive retro-futuristic all-caps font.
On the end of the cap is the Staedtler helmet logo, embossed.
Around the cap at the other end is engraved ‘MADE IN GERMANY’, which is always reassuring.
All the detail in the metalwork is unobtrusive and flawlessly done.
The clip is large and strong, with an almost architectural pattern of rectangular indentations, practically the only ornamentation on the pen.
The Premium is a solid pen, weighty at 47g. Although there’s a subtle taper to the barrel, and curves where the cap meets the clip, the overall impression is of straight lines, flat faces and 90-degree angles.
Remove the cap (in just over one turn) and the pen is not so imposing. The cap accounts for much of the pen’s visual bulk.
The cap accounts for a lot of the weight, too. Of the total 47g, half the weight is cap, and you really feel it in your hand.
Lay the cap aside and you see square-profile threads, a very modest barrel step, and a long, slightly tapered metal section with a little flare at the end.
The cap is lined with black plastic, so there’s no metal-on-metal grating, and nor have I experienced any drying out.
And it posts, although with such a heavy cap, you wouldn’t want to.
Unscrew the section and you’ll find a pre-installed international converter and thick-walled barrel fittings.
Quality in the hand
Turn the pen over in your hands, whether assembled or in bits, and it really feels like a well-put-together object. The cap threads are silky smooth. The metal finish is beautifully even, and the balance between wood and metal is great. The clip is fierce, though.
The nib is plated stainless steel, number-5 size, paired with a plastic feed and lightly decorated.
It reminded me of the kind of nib installed on the Dupont D-Initial, and frankly looks a little small for the pen. Mine came in medium grade; it’s also available in F and B.
Held ready to write, the Lignum has presence but it’s not big by any means, which after the heft of the capped shape is a surprise. The section feels rather narrow. The satin metal risks feeling slippery, but something about the shape and the overall balance of the pen means it nestles well.
On the page
And writing? Well, I’m sad to say that — against the experiences of other reviews I trust, like Dries at Pencilcaseblog who reviewed this some years back — my Staedtler wrote abominably out of the box.
Inked with Waterman Tender Purple, a good-flowing ink, the steel nib was scratchy, dry, and generally pretty bad. The feel was unpleasant and the ink unsaturated, on both Tomoe and William Hannah paper. Heavy pressure freed up the flow, suggesting the tines were too tight.
I pulled the nib and feed, which were friction fitted into a plastic tube in the section. I shimmed the feed and worked it on micromesh, and within ten minutes it was back together and writing wonderfully.
I’m not crazy, or fussy. Look at the before and after.
Value for money?
Overall, the Staedtler Premium Lignum is a handsome pen that feels like it would take a lickin’ and keep on tickin’. It’s pretty comfortable for a day of meeting notes, built like a tank, practical, and actually I very much like its unassuming style.
There are downsides. I have a significant issue with the dodgy nib on my example, of course, and my views on that I’ve written about ad nauseam.
But I also scratch my head a little about the street price of £120-150. Plenty of German brands, like Otto Hutt, sell steel-nibbed metal pens for £120, so I understand it’s not an excessive number.
But you can pick up a Faber-Castell e-motion, Ondoro or Ambition for about £80, all of which are also wood-and-metal pens with steel nibs — except F-C probably has more brand recognition and better nibs than the Staedtler. So why would I pay upwards of 50% more for this pen?
One reason is to avoid the slippery sections on the e-motion, or the rather blingy polished caps on most of F-C’s models. But that’s somewhat me flailing for a rationale. Really, it’s a matter of style.
I rather like this pen. Handling it, it feels like a quality build and a dignified design. If the nib had been great out of the box, I would be quite a fan, but even more so if Staedtler could bring the price down.
I received my example for review from the Online Pen Company. You can buy yours for £119 — the cheapest price around — from here.