Conklin OmniFlex nib
This is a reply to an innocent Facebook question about whether the Conklin OmniFlex™ nib is “worth it”. I’ve replied to this question before with my opinion, but I finally got around to taking microscope photos of the OmniFlex nib that came with my Duraflex Limited Edition.
Hopefully I’ll improve this into a fuller review in time, but I’m just leaving this here for reference.
I bought one of the original early batch Duraflex Limited Editions second-hand (unfortunately). It never worked. A very hard starter – after even mild flex, it’d railroad and would require a full priming to restart.
I did try adjusting the nib to correct the baby’s bottom, the badly-spaced tines, and so forth. I only got so far before the nib unit actually cracked under practically NO pressure, and the pen leaked everywhere.
I contacted Conklin / Yafa for a replacement unit in June, and I still haven’t got it yet.
Anyway, on Fountain Pen Day I gave in and ordered a replacement from a local supplier. It does write, but it’s weird. And, I can tell that even if it was operating as designed, it’d still be a bad nib. The FPR Ultra-Flex is a far better cheaper nib (in the FPR Himalaya Ebonite… nice… and IMHO, an ebonite feed is a massive improvement for flex, and the OmniFlex’s plastic feed will never work as well.)
I finally got the USB microscope out today so you can see what the nibs look like. They’re completely misshapen; the slit is cut off-centre, and the replacement nib looks completely deformed. The original nib has a huge gap and baby’s bottom (and I’ve actually improved this one as far as I’m comfortable… with very mild micro-mesh and brass shims)
I mean, what the heck is going on with the tip of the replacement OmniFlex?!?
In comparison, the Pilot Custom 912 FA nib, the FPR Ultra-Flex nib and the much-maligned Jinhao standard #6 nib are smooth, well-aligned and even. Admittedly, a little messy, as I haven’t cleaned them recently! :) [Note, the Jinhao is actually symmetrical. I didn’t get the photo straight as focusing this cheap microscope is a pig]
Now, the Jinhao isn’t flex, but it shows how a pen that costs less than £3 ($5) can have a nib produced with far better quality control than a pen twenty times more expensive. And the FPR Ultra-Flex nib is made in India I believe as a standard FPR Flex – almost identical to a Noodler’s #6 Flex nib – but it’s manually converted to an ultra-flex by the guy who owns and runs the company in Texas. The replacement malformed OmniFlex cost me £30, while an FPR Ultra-Flex is $22.
Oh, and the Duraflex’s metal feed liner came unstuck from the section, so I had to superglue it back in. This is all a real shame, because the pen body feels nice in my hand. It’s got good weight and the black and rose gold is nice. Being a Limited Edition I don’t really want to fit it with a replacement as others have, as it spoils it a bit. If I didn’t have a bunch of other good pens I would re-nib it with a non-Conklin nib, but as it is I keep it as a reminder not to buy a Conklin pen again. (UPDATE: Oops. In my defence, it was really cheap.)
So far, this is just the experience I had with OmniFlex. Others have bought Conklin OmniFlex-nibbed pens and had no trouble with them. So, let’s just assume I was unlucky – twice – and consider how it would be if the nib had been manufactured as designed. The nib itself is relatively rigid, so it could barely be called semi-flex. It’s nowhere near a good modern flex like the Pilot FA nib, and about as far from a good vintage flex as a ballpoint. It’s a Medium nib, rather than the usual Fine for a modern flex, so what line variation it does have is even less significant.
So, if you want cheap modern flex, get an FPR Himalaya with an Ultra-Flex upgrade. It’s only a #5.5 nib, but their #6 offering right now, the Triveni, uses a plastic feed unit rather than the ebonite, so I won’t recommend it. Their cheaper pens, I feel, are a bit plasticky and low-quality. They write fine, but they won’t last and they won’t feel nice in your hand. You can fit an FPR Ultra-Flex in a Jinhao X750 body easily, but the feed will be identical to the Triveni plastic feed and it might not keep up with the flow required by the Ultra-Flex when you’re really pushing it, like ebonite will.
Failing that, either save up for a Pilot Custom 912 FA or even better a Pilot Custom 823 FA special order from Tokyo Pen Shop Quill; or just go on eBay and get yourself a nice vintage flex.
Actually, I find the mild line variation from a Platinum 3776 Soft-Fine gives a better ratio of line variation (albeit not absolute width) as the OmniFlex, and it’s very reliable as an everyday carry.