Thursday, 29 March 2012

Noodler's Ahab Fountain Pen Review (with Inky Fingers)

I write this with inky hands. All was well ‘till I've decided to fiddle with the feed. Let me start from the beginning: Noodler’s Ahab.

Presentation is good. I like paper packaging as opposed to metal or plastic boxes, and Noodler’s does not disappoint. The Ahab comes in a simple box adorned with sketches of fantastical animals, like the auspicious catfish dragon, and writings like “whale of a catfish and a whale of a pen!” and “Yankee whaler, the first global citizen.” Inside the box is a full A4 drawing of a scene from Moby Dick, only the legendary Ahab has a filler in place of a wooden leg. At the back of the drawing the pen’s parts are all illustrated and explained.

The Ahab is a very substantial pen with a smooth surface and I am a fan of substantial pens as opposed to slim lined ones. Its size is deceptive because this is in fact a lightweight pen. It is easy to write with either posted or unposted, but I prefer the latter option. The cap is a twist-on cap which I find slightly annoying (it takes more than 2 turns to come off) but I’m getting used to this. I understand the inspiration behind the clip design (hump of the Right Whale and all that) but it doesn’t do so much for me. However, I can accept the hump in combination with the Lapis colour swirls – it has a kind of seafaring look.

I happily cleaned the pen prior to use and inked it with Pelikan 4001 Turquoise. The Ahab has a pump fill system. Dip nib fully into ink and two pumps of the plunger are enough to fill the reservoir with ink, a lot of ink. I didn’t find the nib as flexible as I had expected but let it be noted that I am a flex fountain pen virgin and the only flex nibs I have used are in dip pens. So I did not know what to expect but I have expected more. The nib is very large compared to other pens, not super smooth perhaps but comfortable enough and this is, mind you, a $20 pen. I’ve had an enjoyable writing experience, with a good ink flow, the nib happily sliding along and the Ahab sitting comfortably in my hand. Until the devil convinced me to adjust the feed.

 The feed of the Ahab, let me note, is made of ebonite and both it and the nib are friction fit and can slide in and out. If the pen feels too dry, push the feed in by one or more fins. If it’s too wet, do the opposite. So the common wisdom goes. And thus, the inky fingers I’ve spoken of at the start. I have fiddled with the feed. And I didn’t find it so easy (feed and nib did not slide in and out so effortlessly as expected ) and in addition the Ahab now presents some erratic writing. Every now and then it would need a good shake for it to start writing again. And I have not even attempted to add fins by means of (God-forbid) a razor.

I have now only 7 fins exposed and the pen is wet enough for my liking. If you are sitting at the edge of your seat waiting for a final verdict on the Ahab don’t. I haven’t got one yet. There is also this unpleasant plastic odour the pen leaves on the hand after use. The leaflet informs me that the Ahab is made of a celluloid derivative aka “vegetal resin” and I suppose it is this resin that gives out that smell. Some find it pleasant. I don’t subscribe to this category. It is something that I can see will be put me off in the long run, should it persist.

Despite all these drawbacks I find myself using the Ahab increasingly these days. It is an inexpensive pen, a substantial pen, a comfortable pen. Its large circumference appeals as does the smooth barrel and the pleasant flex of the nib. I seem to be getting fine with the last fiddle of the feed and maybe, just maybe, the smell will go away. Then, Ahab will be a real winner.

Noodler’s Ahab reviews:

An excellent review in PenInkcillin



  1. Hey great review! Thanks for mentioning me.

    It's funny but mine didn't have that smell this time. I have an original flex pen in Lapis Inferno (just like yours) and that one had a more pronounced smell. I also have a clear piston filler which smelled even worse. But my yellow Ahab only had a mild smell which went away completely after a couple of days.

    I don't see you flexing enough. Don't be afraid! Push harder on the down stroke.

  2. Is the only place to buy one in Toronto?

    Kind of excited.

  3. Why can't I warm to Noodler's, despite its enthusiastic constituency? Maybe it's the sales aggro, the rhetorical flamboyance in naming its products, plus, not least, the availability of substitutes that suit me fine. But--never say never.

    Long John Silver's (pace R. Stevenson) is a chain of casual seafood restaurants in the States (think, roughly, fish and chips for takeaway). Its television advertising was awful, a NYC ad agency's offensive caricature of bumptious Midwestern rustics snarfeling up the battered perch. I overcame my prejudice one day, ordered a meal--and liked it.

    Maybe the same thing'll happen to me with Noodler's.

    BTW, Palimpsest, I've read on some blogs (can't remember any references) that the Pakistan-made Dollar pen can be a fairly good piston-filler at the right price (say under USD $10). Jack/USA

  4. You're one of the few lucky ones - your Ahab worked out of the box. I have one and even after hacking on the feed for quite a while, it still won't write. Good Luck - David

  5. I really love this pen, and i will buy two more next week.
    I have to say that I'm not agree with this post.
    The pen doest not smell, and is extremely flexible. But the flexibility is necessary for the ones who are into copperplate/spencerian scripts.!/beppeartz/status/191268262166798338/photo/1

    The packaging is very bad and I do not care.
    Is cheap and very good pen.

  6. I am waiting for mine to arrive. Excitement and fear fills me for when I finally get my white whale!

  7. Good luck. Let us know how it goes.

  8. Very cool! Thanks for sharing! I had some trouble with my Ahabs, maybe I was putting the nib and feed in wrong. They are extremely hard for me to get out, I'm afraid I'd break them. >_<;;

  9. i've got 2 of this Ahab pens recently and it seems like i have been neglecting some of my other pens.. its generous flow of ink and the flexibility of the nib that gets back to me... but my forth finger always got ink on it, not sure if my way of holding the pen is awkward.. but still the flow n flex gets me all exicited.. i can sit for hours just writing random words. haha. to me the smell gets me writing more. ive never smelled that smell before and it tingles my nose. haha.. im not their salesperson or something.. just sharing as a writer :D