Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Airmail 444 Eyedropper Fountain Pen - Flex

I was fortunate enough to be one of the winners of an FP Revolution giveaway held on the Fountain Pen Network awhile ago. I got to pick what nibs and pens I wanted in a certain price range. I really wanted eyedroppers and was thrilled that both Airmail 444s I picked had the option of adding a steel flex nib, so that's what I picked!
Airmail 444 + Flex Fountain Pen
ABOUT

Brand: Airmail
Model: 444
Body Material: Plastic
Trim: Metal (of some sort...)
Origins: Made in India
Length (capped): 5.0"
Length (uncapped nib-end): 4.95"
Length (posted): 6.40"
Barrel Diameter: 0.48"
Section Diameter: 0.38"
Nib type: Unknown
Nib material: Steel
Weight: 16 g/0.6 oz
Barrel design: Round, torpedo
Fill type: Eyedropper
Price: $19 ($15 + $4 for flex nib)

PACKAGING

There is no packaging to speak of. At least not from the packaging in this giveaway. The pens arrived safely wrapped in bubble wrap packs in a box so nothing was hurt in transit. For $15 + $4 for a stub nib, I don't care. It doesn't need a box. Sometimes boxes are just a thing to be attached to for no reason (especially if it's an underwhelming box). I would prefer these pens remain at this price and were just shipped in bubble wrap.   

APPEARANCE

The Airmail 444 is a very simple but attractive fountain pen. I think its combination of features highlights its cool factor and makes it stand out. It is a fairly small fountain pen, relative to others in my collection (such as the Pelikan M1005 demonstrator, and the Ken Cavers cigar). The body is round, smooth, and torpedo shaped, with a clear hard plastic barrel, and each pen has a mottled/swirled cap - one in red, one in green. The nib is a matte steel, and the clip is gold coloured, which matches the band around the base of the cap. 
Airmail 444 + Flex Fountain Pen Caps
IMG_8733

NIB & PERFORMANCE

After my experiences with the Noodler's Creaper piston-fill flex pen and the Ahab flex pen, I decided to flush these pens properly before even considering inking them, so a good flush was performed with dilute dish soap, then with water. I let them dry overnight and then inked them up - one with Diamine Imperial Purple, the other with J. Herbin Lie de Thé

The one inked with Diamine Imperial Purple wrote flawlessly - no railroading, good, wet ink flow, consistent lines, and great flexing. The ink and feed kept up with the flexing so well, it exceeded my expectations (which, to be honest, were low to begin with).
Airmail 444 + Flex Fountain Pen Writing Samples
The one inked with J. Herbin Lie de Thé did not write flawlessly. In normal writing, the ink flow was good, wet, consistent, and did not skip, but once I tried to flex too much (as in, too often), the feed could not keep up with the ink demands and it started to railroad and dry out.
Airmail 444 + Flex Fountain Pen Writing Sample
To determine if this was an issue with the nib & feed, or my choice of ink, I tried using this same pen with a different ink - Diamine Scarlet this time. I find J. Herbin Lie de Thé somewhat dry so I thought an ink with better flow might solve the issue. As it turns out, it did improve the writing performance, but in this particular pen, it is not as wet as it is in the other pen. I have no idea why. It writes normally and consistently when not flexed, but when flexing, I have to go slowly so the ink can keep up so there will be no railroading. Going slowly so ink flow can keep up is very common and is a requirement with fountain pens, but its companion keeps up much easier. Not a big deal. It can still write normally, and I can still use it flexed, I just have to go a little slower.
Airmail 444 + Flex Fountain Pen Writing Sample
So overall, one works flawlessly, the other works well, in my humble opinion. So despite one pen requiring a little extra attention - though no tweaking - I'm still impressed.

IN HAND

The Airmail 444s are solid pens - the barrels feel really well made. There are no loose parts, nothing clicks or rattles, the pens both post nicely and come to a perfect length in hand. No fatigue while writing for long periods or anything. Overall, quite great in hand.
Airmail 444 + Flex Fountain Pen and Noodler's Flex Pens
PROS  

Great price for a flex pen - especially for those who want to venture into flex pens but don't want to shell out a whole bunch of money for something like a Namiki Falcon or a vintage flex pen. Most beginners are directed towards the Noodler's flex fountain pens which can be great, but in my experience, the Airmail 444s are more reliable with less tinkering (or no tinkering, as in my case).

Eyedroppers are low maintenance and have great ink capacities.

CONS

If aesthetics are a concern for you, certain inks may stain the plastic barrels. The pens also have a mild leftover smell to them. If you have a Noodler's Ahab, it's that smell but much less intense. I personally like peculiar smells like this, but I'm a weirdo.

It's hard to say if this is a con, but what does happen is if you flex too far, the feed touches the paper and leaves a little smear of ink. The sad thing is, the nib is capable of flexing that far, and the feed is capable of keeping up with the ink demand, but the physical set up doesn't work. So it's not really a con actually, just a thing. 
Airmail 444 + Flex Fountain Pen
OVERALL   

I think these are great fountain pens, especially for the low price of $19. What a great way to try out a flex pen, and especially an eyedropper (which all flex pens should be since they guzzle ink). I highly recommend these pens whether you're a beginner interested in flex nibs or an experienced flex nib user, or you just want to check out an eyedropper fountain pen. The Airmail 444 pens are good looking, solid, well-made pens to begin with and become even more fun with the added flex nibs!

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GourmetPens by Azizah Asgarali is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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