Pen Review: The Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen

Today we’re going to talk about something a little different than just your ordinary average pen.  I was introduced to the Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen at this year’s 2012 Chicago Pen Show.  I was tapped on the shoulder and told, “Brian, you’ve got to check this out!”.  After ten minutes of demonstration I felt this was something I needed to get.  This was just too cool, and too much fun to let pass up.

First off, could they have come up with a longer name?  I don’t know, but it might as well be called the Duke Monster Nib Pen.  At first glance we immediately notice the beautiful presentation box and the overall grand size of this package.  The pen is big and hefty, but doesn’t seem too ungainly though.  I’m not sure why I’m not immediately turned off by the size, but I think I have an idea.  🙂

Duke Confucius Art Pen Box

Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen Box Top

The barrel has a bamboo outer sleeve and is both visually appealing as well as tactfully so.  It is warm in the hand, unlike your typical cold plastic.  I like the natural variation from pen to pen and the stripes almost give it a bit of that Pelikan striped look.

Duke in Box

Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen in Box

Now I admit, when I first hear the word “Duke” in the same sentence as “Fountain Pen” I’m thinking poor quality cheap Chinese made student type pens.  Not necessarily my cup of tea. Frankly, when I was first introduced to it I’m sure if there would have been a video camera nearby I would have been caught wrinkling my nose.  However, if you can hold your criticism on the name brand for just a few seconds, you may just change your mind and see what I mean about how cool this pen actually is.

Ok, enough of the preparatory babble, let’s grab our helmets and take this bad boy for a spin.  Let’s take off the cap and what do we see?  A most different type of nib.  First off, it is a 3-tined music nib bent at a 45 degree angle with a large metal over feed or “ink collecting plate” on top of the nib.  This enables plenty of ink to be able to make its way to the nib at all times.  The nib can be used either in the traditional feed down or feed up position, although feed up is a very XF line and a very dry writer.  Care must be taken to keep good contact with the paper in order to keep the ink flowing.  I’m not an XF kind of guy, and the unusual nature of the bent nib writing upside down seemed a bit awkward to me.  I would think if you wanted that XF line, you would get used to it.

Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen

Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen

To get F and wider you use this pen in a more traditional manner with the feed side down.  For the finer lines, tilt the pen forward and write just on the tip of the nib.  Bringing the nib and pen back towards you can give wider line variation until the nib is completely flush with the paper at its widest point giving you some really fun monster brush strokes.  This does take some getting used to, and perhaps a slower hand than normal, but in no time, you’ll find yourself just making wide stripes down the page, well, because you can.  I never had a problem with running out of ink or the pen trying to catch up in all my testing.  It was always smooth and free flowing.

I can imagine this would be a great pen filled with a highlighter ink.  Some of the so-called highlighter pens on the market I don’t think have anywhere near this much line variation in them, much less this broad a stroke.

Duke Sample

A Sampling of the variation available with the Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen

The Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen does post well, and for those who don’t like metal section pens, you may want to post this one.  I find unposted, I’m gripping it further down on the metal section whereas when posted, I grip it further up on the bamboo part of the pen.  This seems more natural to me than unposted.  I think the balance is pretty good this way and don’t really believe it was meant to not post, although with a small hand it may sit well without the cap.  It seems like the cap should post further down on the barrel than it does, as there is about an 1/8″ of the barrel end that is not covered by the cap.  That still means about 5/8″ of the barrel end is covered during posting.  Not really a big deal and this cap isn’t coming off unless you throw the pen across the room.  Even then I’m not sure it would.  Length posted is about 7-1/8″, 5-3/4″ capped, and the barrel length nib to end runs 5-3/16″.  Barrel diameter runs about 5/8″.  This is a big pen.

Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen

Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen

To fill the pen you’re either going to need a wide mouth ink bottle to accommodate the extra room needed for the tip of the nib, or you can fill the convertor or longer cartridge with the included bottle (which is full of Duke ink).  I like the idea of including this bottle, as one of my pet peeves, if you will, on modern fountain pens is the large number of cartridges that end up in the landfill.  While the convertor allows for modern ease of filling, the cartridge included would provide for a larger fill, and I could imagine running out of ink with this pen would happen frequently if you weren’t careful.  With the metal overfeed, filling from a bottle may make for an impossible endeavor just trying to clean the ink off the top of the nib.  After my convertor ran out of ink, I just filled the convertor directly from the bottle, bypassing the nib directly, which is also an option.

Duke Nib

Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen Nib

For design, I give the Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen high marks.  While I think an ebonite section would have been a better and perhaps more natural choice given the material present in the barrel, the metal section does at least continue the Greek key design present on the cap and clip.  I think the clip is a bit stiff, but this isn’t going to be something I’m going to be regularly carrying with me.  If I want to make a sign or other large note, I’ll just grab the pen from my pen tray or case and use it, so the clip isn’t really a deal breaker.

Most of the images of this pen online show the cap having artwork of confucius and some traditional Chinese characters.  The pens I purchased do not have that, leaving for, in my opinion, a nicer, cleaner look overall.

In conclusion, the Duke Confucius Compound Art Pen is really an excellent value for what it does.  You’re not going to make this your everyday carry pen, but when you want to really make a statement, and in a BIG way, this is the pen for you.  Plus, the box is beautiful and could be re purposed for other use.

Brian & Lisa