Why do we buy the pens we buy? Most of the time when I am in the process of buying a pen I weigh a few things. Budget (can I afford this, can I not afford this but lack willpower, etc), aesthetics (do I like how this looks? do I want to see this on my desk, etc), rough priority compared to other pens I want (yeah this is on sale, but it’s way lower on the list than the pen I’m two weeks away from saving for), and finally, do I think I’ll use this enough to justify the purchase. That last one is the one I’ve been thinking about a lot over the past few weeks slowly writing this review.
In the beginning, there was a pretty strict correlation for me between “use this enough to justify” and “will I write with this a lot.” As I’ve started figuring out what I like and don’t, why I want certain pens and don’t like others, and what role pens can and do play in my life, my view has become a little more complicated. Justifying a purpose is about understanding why I want a particular pen, and realizing the appeal/justification can take a number of forms. For a long time I justified primarily by trying to gauge time I’d spend with a pen and seeing if I thought the price was ‘worth’ that time. But obviously we all want pens for a number of reasons. Collecting, aesthetics, use, etc.
Maybe I want that Retro 51 Tornado because I love cats, and I want the TWSBI Eco because I am interested in understanding how a company can make a piston filler for that little money. I think most of us want a Nakaya primarily because they’re so jaw-droppingly beautiful. etc. etc. So I’ve moved away from this strict correlation between amount of use and amount of money, and it’s freed me to buy things that are really fun, but that will never be everyday writers for me.
Enter this beautiful guy. Officially, the Italix Parson’s Essential in Black with Left Oblique Italic Nib. I’d seen people post about these pens, and specifically the oblique italic nibs. Now, my handwriting is terrible, pretty much full stop. I write small letters that are mostly messes and I’ve lost the patience for practice on this front. This means I tend to write with small nibs that allow me to scribble quickly and not blur my letter forms too much. That means early on I had a hard time convincing myself to purchase anything larger than a fine because I was afraid I “wouldn’t use it enough.” These days I’m more willing to experiment because I’ve realized I really like what larger and unique nib grinds can do for my writing. When I’m writing slowly, a stub nib can make my handwriting more readable, and even if its just in my journal, or random note taking that may end up in the trash, I enjoy the result even if the time and care needed can’t translate to, say, a note-taking at work pen. So when this popped up on Massdrop with all the nib options I decided to give it a go, and settled on the medium left oblique italic nib in the black body.
It’s an understated pen overall, black with gold furniture. Very classic, and honestly not normally in my wheelhouse. I don’t love gold for furniture, but something about the cap band really spoke to me and I liked it in pictures better than the other options. I chose the nib based on the writing samples and a bit of reading. I knew going in this nib would require a bit of dialing in but I really have liked seeing the writing from this nib on this pen. I got it via Massdrop, which, per usual, gave me a nice little discount. Enough to push me over the edge on something I already wanted, but that’s about it.
I have to say, this pen has really impressed me in person. While it’s simple, the cap band is a nice subtle pop of color that pushes this beyond your normal black fountain pen. It also has heft which I like a lot in my pens, feeling sturdy with a satisfying weight capped or uncapped. When you uncap it you’ll see a generous section. While I’ve never really been bothered by shorter sections unless they were extreme (pocket pens and the like) it’s always nice to feel like there’s no reason to worry about digging in your fingers. The cap screws on solidly and the threads are really smooth, and feel incredibly fast. I think it takes a turn and a half or two to get off/on but it’s so smooth! They’ve done a great job manufacturing these.
It feels great in the hand, too. I tried posting it a couple of times, and while it felt safe/secure it made the pen a bit too back-heavy. The cap is HEAVY, almost as heavy as the barrel I think, so adding it to the back made it too much. That said, I’m a guy who doesn’t post his pens in general, so it’s pretty rare that I feel a posted cap makes the balance better. Unposted it felt great. I wrote a few different thank yous and then used it in my Hobinichi off and on for the next month before flushing it out. I never felt cramping at all, and in fact really looked forward to writing with this pen.
Now, the nib. I really like it. It’s not an everyday nib for me, but it’s smooth, with medium to heavy flow in general. It has some sweet spots for sure, but that’s just italics in general. The oblique part gave me the most trouble honestly. It requires a pretty specific posture/hand position. I never found this uncomfortable, just unusual. Once I figured out the angle it took, and this isn’t an exaggeration, maybe a few lines at most to get the muscle memory down. I think it was easy to get myself used to it in large part because of just how smooth and great this nib is to write with.
The first thing I put in the pen was J. Herbin’s Emerald of Chivor, and man did it make this nib sing. I had planned to use that ink for some thank you letters and the left oblique italic nib worked flawlessly. I got enough line variation to make the writing interesting, and enough of a line width to see the beautiful sheen and crazy gold sparkles. It was fun to write notes to folks with that extra little sparkle and the extra interest from the italic nib.
Overall I am very pleased with the Parson. It will stick around, and I may even get a spare nib unit in something a bit more everyday-y to have a reason to pull it out more. As is though, it’s become a favorite. In fact, as I’m typing this I reached over to pull it out of the case. I had flushed it and put it back in storage a couple weeks ago but think I’m going back on that. For a pen I really didn’t expect to want to use regularly, I’ve been impressed and expect to keep finding reasons to keep it inked regularly.