Cross Century II Fountain Pen Review

I wish I had a heartwarming sentimental story about my first fountain pen but I just don’t. I remember using a fountain pen in school to learn how to write cursive. I have never figured out how cursive writing and fountain pens go together but I recall handwriting class included both.  School was not my joy so I think I have blocked out as much of it as I can, including what kind of pen that was. I’m sure it was plastic and cheap and I think it was red. Maybe one day I will dig deeper and reacquire one.

I was always interested, collected and carried the better lines of rollerball pens but my fountain pen experience just wasn’t pleasant so I stayed away from them. The fountain pen that started me down the course of the reckless writing stick spending I enjoy today goes back to about 2003. I just landed a big new project at work and decided to treat myself to a nice pen. Wandering through the Dulles Airport on a layover I found a pen shop and decided I was going to try another fountain pen, yes at full retail plus I’m sure. There was a dizzying array of brands and prices so with limited time I headed for the Cross counter. I owned a Waterman, Pelikan and Mont Blanc rollerball but most of those displayed were out of my price range in the fountain pen configuration so I found a Cross Century II for $99.  Not foreign to me but still a lot of money for me to spend on a pen, especially one I couldn’t write with before I bought it.   I got it home, popped in an ink cartridge and took it to paper. I couldn’t have been more disappointed with its scratchiness and paper grabbing. I didn’t know enough to look at tine alignment or try different paper but I was using Levenger pads at the time so it was good paper.  I forced myself to write with it for about a week and finally just gave up in disappointment. I returned it to its box and relegated it to shelf space in the closet, not even knowing I should have flushed it, GASP!. I was ashamed to have spent that much money on a pen that wrote so badly.  It jaded me to the fountain pen world.  By 2011 I had owned about all the major brands of rollerballs and frankly was bored with just another rollerball so I dipped my toes into fountain pens and decided to try again.

I bought a Lamy Safari based on the positive reviews from a loyal fan base. I liked the Lamy but didn’t love it.  What the Lamy did was make me thirsty for fountain pen knowledge so I devoured every morsel I could find. During this brain fest I carried in the back of my head that Cross aching in the closet all clogged up with ink. I read about nibmeisters and the service they provide including one Danny Fudge. I sent Danny my Cross. What came back was an absolute joy to write with. Smooth, no skipping or hard starts and a real pleasure to write with. I finally got it!  I experienced the appeal and joy others have been enjoying with fountain pens for years.

Today I consider the Cross my first. I have no plans to sell it for that reason and just as important it’s a joy to write with. With the knowledge I have gained in the past 3 years I offer you my review.

The Pen:

Overall Cap On2f

Overall Cap Off

Packaging

Packaging is well done with a common clamshell piano hinged box wrapped in a thick outer sleeve. I don’t like some of Cross’ later packaging strategies for retail display in the big box stores. I understand it but the clear plastic typically needs a hacksaw to get into and it’s just not as nice a presentation if you’re gifting the pen.  In my book they did well with the Century II. Packaging is protective and makes a great presentation piece for the gift receiver.

Overall Appearance

I like the looks. The shape is very traditional Cross with a gradual taper on the body and a steeper taper on the cap that is topped with a nice chrome accent that I believe Cross calls their conical tip. The chrome tip on the cap, the chrome band at the bottom of the cap and the clip are all well plated and are sized right to be classy touches without being over blinged.

Cross calls the color of my model Grey. I think that’s a boring moniker that belies the pen’s attractiveness. Not to sound like a car company naming car colors but I would call the color of my pen steel grey with maybe a slight blue tint. The color is classic and professional worthy of any business environment and with no lean towards a man or woman centric hue.

Here is the best lighting picture I shot giving the best color rendition.

blue color

The CROSS marketing logo is tastefully discreet on the clip and again engraved at the base of the cap in the same color as the pen.

Ergonomics

I favor larger pens of which this Cross is not. I would call it a medium size but it still feels comfortable in my larger hands. I can’t quite explain why but I enjoy writing with it. The cap and body are metal construction so you do get a bit of the coldness that metal pens typically exude but it’s not uncomfortable. In return I’m sure the pen will take quite a bit of abuse without rendering it unusable. It feels stout and well built.

Section

Section

The section is plastic with faint ridges running parallel to the pen. They form a good grip and the transition from barrel to section and section to nib is gentle and non-obtrusive. The transition from section to tip has a slight bump that gives your grip fingers a gentle stop. Comfortable is the one word description here.

Cap

CapInside Cap

The cap is a push on pull off variety. The style is my preferred for a quick deployment. Cross does a great job with a rubbery plastic type seal that gives a good positive closure. You feel the cap and body touch then a gentle push gives you good feedback that the cap is seated. The tug to remove the cap is not excessive but the effort confirms your confidence that it’s not going to rattle loose in a bag or purse.  Some other makers’ push on pull off caps try too hard to get a firm closure and seal. The subsequent removal effort required can cause a jolt and give you an unwelcome ink splash from the nib if you’re not careful.  Cross has spent some time engineering this connection and it’s evident. They got it right.

Clip

Clip

Clip is pretty standard fair, well-shaped flat steel that gives it a good stiffness and adequate roll on pressure to a pocket or pen holder. The entry tip is rounded and polished which further helps with the attachment. Hold strength is good. The Cross name/logo is etched high on the clip. Tastefully executed, common with Cross.

Filling System

The Century II out of the box uses standard cartridges. Cross sells the usual blue and black under their own brand name.

Converter

Converter

Cross sells two fountain pen converters for around $6 each. The Type I and the Type II. The Century II takes the Type II.  The Type II is a standard converter that works very well with a smooth piston mechanism. I have never had any leakage. Construction seems good and fits tight on the section. I like the metal ring reinforcement where it goes into the feed. Impressive at a $6 price point. I’m not sure about the purpose of the amber tinted reservoir, I would rather have it clear in the event I forget what ink I have loaded but that’s a nit pick. Ink capacity is typical converter sized small.

Nib

nib

You can get the Century II with a stainless steel nib or a 23K gold plated.  It appears that certain finishes only come with one or the other nib varieties. I suspect the 23K gold plated nib is just a steel nib made to look gold with the plating. I doubt either will give you any different writing experiences plated or not.  Scroll work on the nib is attractive without being tacky or gaudy.  The nib size is small but right sized for the pen’s overall size. It’s not nail stiff but don’t expect much line variation even with pressure.

Writing

Out of the box my specimen was scratchy and I was unimpressed. I was currently carrying many rollerballs that were smoother and just as pretty on the outside.  After Danny Fudge worked his smoothing magic it is a whole different experience. A smooth traditional slightly wet medium. No skips, no hard starts and after several weeks sitting you can still pick it up and start seeing ink immediately.

I would wager that at the quantities Cross produces you are just as likely to get a superb writer right of the box as you would be getting a less than perfect example as I did. I wish those odds were better but I have learned unless your supplier of choice is one that checks the nibs individually before they go out I have to be willing to take the chance.

Conclusion

I like this pen and plan to never sell it. It doesn’t have a real sentimental history with me but I do consider it my first real fountain pen.  Most importantly I like the way it writes and even though it’s smaller than my normal daily carry arsenal it’s comfortable in my hand.  There are probably more Cross pens given as gifts than any other brand in the world. They have done a great marketing job, as has Mont Blanc, in promoting the writing instrument as a special gift of accomplishment.  Cross makes a good solid pen and you couldn’t go wrong with their Century II model.

Are you a Cross Pen fan?

Remember: Write something nice……

MPNI FTC Disclaimer For Purchased Products

We have a WINNER! Diamine Orange Ink Giveaway

Congratulations to DILLON,  winner of the bottle of Diamine Orange Ink. Random.org chose #11.

random org orange ink winner

Thanks very much to all of you who entered and for taking the time to read through my blog. Your quips and wit were entertaining and put a smile on many faces, mine included. I hope you chose to stick around and next month we’ll do it all again!. Thanks again.

Remember…..Write something nice

InCoWriMo Half Way Hooray!

InCoWriMo is more than half over and I am proud to say I have kept up and still have a few backups or cheaters, already addressed in case I get behind. It has been fun and I have never had a shortage of unsuspecting recipients. Below is a summary of who hath suffered from the tip of my pen.

incowrimo17Day 1 – I sent a note to the principal of my children’s school telling her what a great job her and her whole staff was doing.
Day 2 – My lovely wife received thanks for putting all with all my craziness
Day 3 – Brian Anderson about how much I enjoyed his recently discovered pod casts
Day 4 – Heath Cates for all he has done to promote the month
Day 5 – A note to Nathan in Thailand to support the INTERNATIONAL part
Day 6 – President of Nakaya asking for free samples to review on my blog
Day 7 – Eric down in Mexico
Day 8 – Pendleton Brown because he is such a gentlemen and a master of the nib
Day 9 – My long distance FPN friend Inky Pete from down under
Day 10 – President of Lamy (see Day 6 purpose)
Day 11 – The far more talented blogger Ana Reinhart over at www.wellappointeddesk
Day 12 – A willing InCoWriMo participant Bill in Huntsville, AL
Day 13 – Fred Krinke at The Fountain Pen Shop asking for a free tour
Day 14 – Michael Gutberlet (see Day 6 purpose)
Day 15 – Fellow Pen Blogger Gary at Afoolwithapen http://afoolwithapen.com/
Day 16 – Fountain pen community veteran Bert Oser from Bertram’s Inkwell

How is your month going ?

Remember: Write something nice……

Giveaway – Bottle Diamine Orange Ink

I’m giving away a nearly new bottle of Diamine Orange Ink. The bottle is missing 2-3 converter fills. I loved this color when I saw it reviewed and the sample I got performed well in all the pens I tried it in. So why am I giving it away?

Here are some reviews of the ink that you may find interesting:

Rants of the Archer

Fountain Pen Network

Pen Ink cillin

Tyler Dahl

All I ask is for you to leave a witty comment as to why I would be giving it away, why I should keep it or why you should win it. Simple right.

Sunday 2/16 @ 7:59 pm est will be the last time to enter. I will utilize random.org to select a random winner and email him or her Monday morning. The winner will have 3 days to respond. If I don’t hear back I will ask random.org for another number and repeat the notification until I get a winner.

Thanks for reading My Pen Needs Ink. I’m always encouraged by your comments and suggestions.

Budget Pen Mini Reviews

I read a lot of pen blogs and I am so grateful to be getting more and more feedback on my small piece of the blogoshere here at My Pen Needs Ink.  The pen blog community gets a fair amount of questions and comments originating with new users of fountain pens. That’s awesome to see the hobby and interest grow. Whether you are buying your first fountain pen or your 100th the choices are mind boggling and the pricing spectrum is enough to make one’s head spin.  My fountain pen experience barely spans 2 years so I do not consider myself an expert any more than I claim to be a journalist because I have a blog. However, I have spent a considerable amount of money, time and effort immersing myself into the fountain pen market and community to learn as much as I can. Having gained that small slice of knowledge I feel confident enough to share my limited experience with a new fountain pen user in hopes of being able to assist with their next purchase.

What I have learned is the entry level fountain pen arena is well populated. There are some great choices to pick from and some great suppliers to exchange money for pens with.  Prices start at just $3 for a great candidate to introduce someone to fountain pens who may be hesitant to spend $30 on a starter pen when they may not be sure a fountain pen will appeal to them.  A wide variety of styles helps insure people can find something they like whether it’s bright colorful pens, the traditional disposable pen look or even upscale dressier designs. All with a great writing experience.

Here is a mini review of my favorite bargain and gifting pens for the fountain pen beginner or seasoned veteran alike. These are also my choice to throw in the bag, car, kitchen drawer as a knock around pen without worry of losing too much of my allowance if they are damaged or lost. All of these accept standard ink cartridges. I have a Pilot converter in my Metropolitan so I’m sure some of the others have a converter option as well.

Budget Pens 1

Budget Pens 2 A.   Pilot Kakuno  ($16.50)

You will see a propensity to the Pilot brand in this round up. Pilot seems to put a lot of money and effort towards this pen genre as well as making some great higher line fountain pens. One of their newer entries, at least in the US markets, is the Kakuno.

The Kakuno comes in some great fun colored caps, all with an attractive dark gray body. The shape is a nicely rounded hexagonal shape and everyone seems to love the little smiley face on the nib. It’s a smooth medium nib with no skips or slow starts.

I did a full review just a little while ago here

B.   Pilot Plumix ($9.00)  and   Pilot Penmanship ($9.00)

The Plumix comes in a stub nib and the Penmanship is the regular nib version. Other than that and color choices they are the same pen. I really like how the inexperienced (ME!) can get some nice line variation with the small stub of the Plumix. The corners of the nib are rounded off well which prevents a lot of scratchiness and paper catching with the inexperienced (ME!).

The form factor on both is odd but the ergonomics is done quite well. The pen is probably a bit long for a pocket but might be a good candidate for a purse or bag due to it’s longer length making it easier to find or grab by feel.  Cap is a solid, though small screw on type. No clip on this one.

I understand this line has swappable nibs with other models in the Pilot line but have never played in that area.

C.   Pilot Varsity ($3.00)

Another Pilot entry is the Varsity. At $3 it’s the least expensive pen in our round up. It’s the closest you’ll find to a disposable style mass market big box store looking pen. That’s not a slight at all just don’t expect a lot in the looks department at this price point.  It writes well with a standard medium nib and comes in a variety of ink colors with matching caps.  Conventional plastic clip on the snap on/off cap form factor.

D.   Pelikan Pelikano Jr.  ($14.00)

Pelikan is in the game and openly markets this one to the younger generations. Its unique feature is you can put your name on a tiny label that will show through a little window on the pen. Cute but I can’t write that small.

It has a great writing medium nib, comes in fun colors and I like the ergonomics on this pen best of all due to it’s larger than normal diameter and a nice comfortable rubberized grip. Snap on cap with no clip.

Another interesting feature of this pen is it’s marketed in a left hand and right hand version. I confess I don’t know the difference but I use the right handed version and maybe someday I’ll get a left handed version to compare.

E.   Platinum Preppy ($3.95)

Platinum makes great pens so at $4 I jumped at the chance to own my first Platinum pen with a Preppy. You could even consider this a demonstrator if you like that sort of thing. The nib is smooth enough but tends to drag just a bit on several different types of paper. On the two examples I have purchased the body has cracked at the neck threads and kept coming unscrewed.

The Preppy has a standard clip on the snap on cap which I always found snaps a little too tight for my preference, required a good tug to remove it.

This pen and I just have not cozied up well together. The pen gets a lot of positive reviews so I suspect it’s just me.

F. Pilot Metropolitan ($15.00)

The Pilot Metropolitan is my example of the fountain pen home run. The Metro, as it’s affectionately coined, looks and writes like a far more expensive pen.  It’s my number 1 gifting pen for two reasons. The packaging is like no other pen in this price range. It really makes a nice gift experience. Secondly, every Metro I have ever picked up writes perfectly out of the box.

The all metal construction, the medium nib is swappable and a cap that posts and snaps shut well makes for an awesome package for $15.

Missing?

What you may notice missing in my list is 4 popular recommendations that I’m sure you have seen on other sites. I want to be clear, none of these are bad pens or poor value they just weren’t a good match for me or I have no experience with them.

I have never owned a Jinhao or a Hero. I really did want to like the various examples I bought from the Noodlers line but it’s common feedback that many times they need adjustment out of the box to perform well. That frequently stated requirement was justified on my purchases so I quickly sold them to a Noodler’s fan.

The Lamy Safari is hands down the most often recommended starter pen. I bought a Safari early in my fountain pen tenure and liked it but never really fell in love with it. Lamy certainly has great quality products and has marketed the Safari line superbly with all the special edition color releases and a huge selection of nib sizes. I’ll probably get flamed for this one but the Safari and I just didn’t gel for two reasons. The grip is iconic Lamy and it’s just not a comfortable hold for me. Secondly is the clip. The clip is cool looking but is not the best design for me.  I find its width is slightly too wide and causes some curling in my pockets and other thinner material that I would clip it to. This picture gives an exaggerated illustration of what I mean as I don’t clip my pens to single sheets of paper. Lamy Clip

Summary 

I hope these mini reviews will give you some ideas if you’re jumping into fountain pens for the first time or just looking for your next bargain purchase. I’m sure there are many more inexpensive fountain pens out there and for me that’s part of the fun: Finding that next great bargain.

What’s your favorite bargain pen?

Remember: Write something nice……

MPNI FTC Disclaimer For Purchased Products