Let’s get the politics out of the way
This review has a little backstory. Some time ago I reviewed the Venvstas Magna, an unusual carbon fiber fountain pen from Italy. I felt my review was thorough and balanced, and I quite liked the pen, but I had some problems with the nib and flow and (more importantly) struggled with several poor design decisions that would have annoyed me even if the nib wrote well. I titled the review “the frustration of innovation”, which sums up how I felt.
Shortly after publishing the review I received a series of emails, blog comments and social media messages from the Venvstas founder and designer, Lucio Rossi, that were argumentative and crossed the line into personal attacks (and, hilariously, he called me a “twit”!). Luckily I have thick skin and I’m not easily intimidated, but I’m not paid to deal with that kind of shit, so I drew a line under it and decided I’d refuse to engage any further with this company. I moved on.
Some months later a contrite Filippo from Venvstas approached me offering a re-review of his next model; I politely declined. Then a retailer I’m friendly with also asked me to reconsider; OK, they’re being persistent. There must be a reason: time to retread old ground, perhaps?
It turns out there have been some personnel changes at Venvstas; the rather egotistical fellow who ranted at me is no longer at the company, and every engagement I’ve had with Filippo, the current owner, has been polite and professional. And there have been some product changes, too. Venvstas now has a cartridge-converter model of its Magna pen, and a line of inks.
Meet the Magna CC
Filippo sent me one of the new Magna CC fountain pens, and an ink bottle, to review. All I paid was £50 to get it through customs into the UK. I’ve been using it heavily for a few days.
And was it worth retreading old ground? Yes, actually.
The Magna is still not a perfect pen, but it has made a lot of progress that’s immediately obvious.
Let’s start with what hasn’t changed. If you want more detail, check out my original review.
This is still a long pen made from a tube of carbon fiber, with a titanium nib.
The cap and rear of the pen are still friction fit; there are no screw threads on this pen. It still doesn’t leak or dry out.
It’s still possible to rotationally misalign the components so they don’t fit seamlessly.
There’s still nothing to stop this pen rolling off your desk, capped, uncapped or posted.
The aesthetics are still extremely distinctive, even polarising. There’s the same flat brass/bronze disc with the company logo etched.
The same subtle laser-etched serial number, proclaiming made in Italy:
In the hand the Magna CC is still light, warm, grippy and well balanced.
It’s also still, from what I can tell, not designed to be user-serviceable in any way. Use your judgement about whether that matters to you.
Improvements across the board
Most importantly for me, this one writes. The V-branded Titanium nib is in fine width, and it writes a clean line with a tiny bit of flex and a good flow.
Under a loupe the slit and tipping are not the cleanest, which is a common thing with titanium nibs, but it writes well. This time the nib and feed are installed straight and aligned.
That may be luck of the draw, or improvements in process, tooling and quality control. I’m inclined to think it’s the latter, because…
Fit and finish is much improved. Although the cap still attaches to the pen via metal-on-metal friction fit, it no longer scrapes and grates — it’s much smoother.
The edges of the cap metal insert are no longer sharp and uneven.
Rotating the cap to properly align with the angled end of the pen is no longer a chore.
Where before the carbon tubes could be pushed off axis to leave an overhang, now the tubes fit more precisely with much less slop.
The original Magna had a push-pull piston filler, which protruded dangerously beyond the end of the pen.
Now, hidden behind the rear tube of the Magna CC is a standard unbranded converter, which fits neatly and securely into the section.
The converter has a few advantages over the piston: first, you can’t accidentally squirt ink from it; second, it’s easy to clean and replace if it breaks, which is important when the design is not user-serviceable; third, it means you can fill the pen without dipping the nib and trapping ink in the various crevices around the nib:
…and fourth, you can check the ink level.
A converter may not have the engineering appeal of an integrated filler, but in this case I think it’s a significant improvement.
A fresh start?
So: the Magna CC brings with it a working nib, better fit and finish, and a more practical filling mechanism than the first Magna I reviewed. Three very positive changes. It’s not perfect, but now it feels like decent value for a list price of €239. And it still feels totally different to the other pens in my tray, both in materials and aesthetics.
The improvements are enough to make me like this pen — and to let bygones be bygones with Venvstas.
A footnote on the ink: Venvstas now has a range of ten inks, priced at €15 for 50ml, shipped in a hexagonal glass bottle.
Venvstas sent me the dark green called Muschio, but honestly the whole range of colours looks great and I’d have been happy with any of them. I’ve really enjoyed the army-green colour of Muschio, which shades well, flows smoothly and behaves nicely, with decent dry times and no smudging. I’m keen to try some of Venvstas’s other inks now.
If you’re interested in the Magna CC, you can get it from Appelboom or direct from Venvstas here.