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……

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26 thoughts on “Cross Century II Fountain Pen Review

  1. Aaaahhhh yes, I too received a fountain cross pen and pencil set as the quintessential gift for graduation. Still have them, though I never liked writing with either. Maybe I should try a Cross fountain. Thanks for the very thorough review!

    • Thanks Lynn for coming by. Cross has done a remarkable job catering to the gift crowd. I’m sure you are not alone in any room or place of those who have Cross sets packed away with special meaning to them. I wouldn’t say their fountain pens are my top choice now that I have spent some quality time with other brands but Cross continues to deliver a solid product and even some neat writing instrument innovation.

  2. Strange for all the pen’s I’ve tried… I don’t think I’ve ever tried a Cross. Probably has to do with one side of German… and receiving Pelikans.

    As for handwriting, pens and cursive. Munchkin is learning cursive, Grade 3, but they don’t let the Grade 3’s near ANY ink… He and I have that as a special home ritual as yet.

    • Thanks for stopping by Kira. I have an 8 year and 10 year old and fountain pen time is treasured but certainly supervised! That ink is hard to get out of carpet. I’m still a Cross fan. I think they produce a quality solid product. Give them a try, I think you will find a keeper.

  3. I was a massive user of Cross pencils, ballpoints and felt tips. Bought a poorly designed A T Cross fountain pen and stopped using Cross. I had several other italic fountain pens to compare it to, so I knew it wasn’t me.

    Best thing in your post was the link to Danny Fudge! Many thanks!

    • Thanks Dick for stopping by. I have owned alot of Cross products over the years as well. After clearing up the Century II nib I bought a Cross Apogee and found it heavy and less than impressive. Not for me, but I still love the balance the experience with my Century II.

  4. Your review brought back memories for me. My first fountain pen is a Cross Century II matte black, it matches my pen and pencil set. My experience with this pen is positive. I now write with a replacement from Cross as my original pen tended to leak a bit. Cross replaced it no questions asked. This pen is why I enjoy writing with fountain pens.

    • Thanks Matt for stopping by. I also had many Cross pens through the years that served me well. The other one I will always save is the ball point I got to commemorate 5 years of service with my currently employer.

  5. Hello,
    I now know more about Cross Pens than I ever dreamed there was to know. Thank you for the review and all the detailed information. it was most helpful in my buying decisions.

    • Thanks for stopping by Sam. Cross does a good job, both in marketing and final product. I don’t think they get the credit they deserve from the pen enthusiat crowd. Good luck on your purchase.

  6. I have two Cross fountain pens, both too pretty and precious for me to consider taking them into the workaday world. They feel good: Solid, good fit, not too slippery but not sticky, they balance well. they are prized possessions but I feel like they own me more than I own them.
    Day to day I use a Diplomat which is quite fine an only cost about $180. I broke it once and they completely re-serviced it for free. But it ain’t no Cross….

    • Thanks Maxwell for stopping by. Since being tuned I love my Cross fountain now. I have not tried the Diplomat. I would encourage to get some nice paper and exercise those Cross pens you treasure. You will enjoy them even more and they don’t even need to leave the house!

    • I like alot of Cross’ model that are shown in your link. I own an Apogee as well. Both by Century and my Apogee have had nib work done so for me Cross’ out of the box nib performance has been hit or miss.

  7. I bought my first fountain pen, the Cross Century II Medalist, as a gift to myself after finishing my undergraduate degree in 1995. I have used the piston-style converter, always with Cross ink, and with only occasional cartridges. As a complete newbie, I never realized that the pen would require periodic cleaning, and thus, have never done so in more than 20 years of solid use. The pen still go’s on, flawlessly, as it has since day one.

    I have enjoyed it so much that, after completing my Masters in 2012, and now after a milestone on my PhD, I have decided to treat myself to a second fountain pen. This time, a Cross Century II, in black lacquer, with gold banding and clip… maybe now that I’m getting a suitable “backup”, I’ll take the time to clean out my old favorite.

    • Congrats Paul on your educational milestones. Great choices on pens. If you caught the fountain pen bug have you considered any other brands?

  8. Many thanks for your remarks, and for a great site!

    I have looked at other brands, the Schaeffer Prelude, and the Parker Sonnet have caught my eye; and can be picked up for some reasonable prices on sites like ebay and PenHero. But before I purchased those, there were additions from the Cross range that I wanted pick up, to compliment my first – and of course, that design appeals to me.

    As regards the nibs, I would guess that, as with any mass-produced product line, details like nib quality will vary. Not knowing a great deal about the subject, I would expect that I would have to “work in” a nib, to suit my writing style, depending upon how I apply pressure, and the angle at which I hold the pen.

    I’d be interested to know how people refine a nib… I’ve been tempted by some used models that usually sell new for more $1000, and have seen on ebay and Kijiji for about the $200 point. But have been held back by the expectation that I would have to replace the nib, or possibly get other work done… I wouldn’t imagine that I could buy an $80,000 car for $10,000 and be trouble free!

    • Paul, I agree Cross makes some great looking designs. I don’t own a Parker and I’m not sure why but all of my Sheaffers have been good performers. As for the nib tuning it’s a big thing. The people that practice the craft are called nibmeisters and for about $30 they can transform about any nib into a fantastic writer. Mark Bacas at nibgrinder.com is one I use. I realize sometimes that could reach the price of the pen itself but it really makes a huge difference for me whether the pen ever gets used again or is it now an enjoyable experience. The one brand I’ve had 100% success with on every nib being perfect for my tastes is Faber-Castell. Great pens. Also look up a Pilot Metropolitan, not better value in a fountain pen.

      • I really must remember how to spell “Sheaffer”!

        Thanks again, I shall look up the “nibmeisters”… this seems fascinating to me. Not for myself, but just the practice. I’m intrigued as to what it is, and how, that is actually done.

        I did check up the Faber-Castell… not sure if they’re quite my design taste. I’d have to hold one, but the “squared off” end of the cap on most models doesn’t appeal. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

        The Pilots look nice though, and now that I have the Cross pens, I find I’m reluctant to just tuck either one in my jacket and carry it daily. I don’t want to risk damage or loss, so they stay at home in the office! So a sub-$40 pen seems like the next step, and the Pilot Metropolitan looks like a candidate. Again, I’d have to hold one.

        I find that I like a little weight to the pen. Both for comfort in writing, and for a feeling of quality. I don’t like lightweight pens that “feel cheap” and have a tendency to flex.

        Now I sound like a complete pen snob already. I shall have to be careful 🙂

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