Fountain Pen Review: Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary Limited Edition

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

The Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary Limited Edition ($68) is (or was) an exclusive through Pen Chalet. The pen comes with a 30ml bottle of Conklin 120th Anniversary Blue ink as well as a converter. I didn’t test the ink for this review. As you read along. you’ll understand a bit more why I didn’t bother testing the ink.

I have not used a Conklin in five years, and the 120th Anniversary pen was my first experience with the Duraflex nib. I inked up the pen with Robert Oster Carolina Blue and set about testing it.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Almost immediately, I realized something was not right. The ink was seizing up immediately. I got a my loupe and took a look.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Okay, this is a crappy photo but there was a blob of extra tipping material on one tine (the right tine, if you are facing the nib, logo forward) which was preventing the nib from making even, consistent contact. To be honest, if you have good eyesight, you could see the imperfection on the nib without a loupe or magnifying glass.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Since this was a huge glob of tipping material and I was beyond annoyed, I set to work trying to sand and smooth down this flaw so that I could at least test out this pen.

I went into this experience not expecting that the Duraflex nib was going to be a true flex nib nor that it was going to get the same sort of writing experience, out of the box, that the Aurora Optima Flex was. I also realize that comparing the Conklin to the Aurora is unfair but both pens promise similar flex-ish writing experiences, albeit at wildly different price points. At least with the Aurora, I didn’t have to spend an entire Saturday trying to get it to write.

That said, I would much rather have purchased the Conklin with a well-tested, fully-functional firm nib than this flawed half-baked concept nib.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

After a good hour of work and debating whether or not to even write a review about this pen at all, I got it going. I wasn’t sure if writing a review about a pen that didn’t really write was the right thing to do. In the end, I decided that this pen might have been the exception. It happens. In manufacturing, be it clothing, pens, whatever, quality control can miss one. I’ve bought clothes with bad seaming or uneven hems. I’ve gotten pens with janky nibs. It happens. I know how to sew so I can fix a hem and I have micro mesh and enough experience that I can try to tweak a bad nib.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

Once writing with good flowing ink, the pen writes like a soft medium or medium fine. It is by no means, with regular writing pressure, flexible. I was, however, able to coax it into writing consistently and smoothly.

Conklin Duraflex 120th Anniversary

I did attempt to flex write with it and that was much more challenging. I don’t think the Duraflex nib is at all flexible. The amount of pressure needed to flex it is ridiculous. Its a one-way ticket to a repetitive stress injury. If you really want a flex nib pen, buy a vintage fountain pen. Contact Myk Daigle (AKA Mad Mercantile) on Ebay for a great vintage flex writer.

I realize that, to Conklin, this is a collector’s pen. To me, I liked the blue, marbled resin and the rose gold hardware was interesting. At this point, I may see if I can just swap out the nib completely for something that is a much better writing experience altogether.

Final Note: Should you decide that, even after my less-than-glowing review, you want to try the Conklin 120th Anniversary fountain pen, I reviewed Pen Chalet’s return policy. If you receive a pen you are concerned might not be for you… don’t immediately ink it up. Per their returns and exchanges policy, dip test the writing experience first to verify that it meets your expectations. They do not accept pen returns that have been fully inked up but will take returns if they have only been dip tested.


DISCLAIMER: The items included in this review were provided free of charge by Pen Chalet for the purpose of review. Please see the About page for more details.

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7 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I got one of the first Duraflexes and had a different set of problems, too much ink leaking around the feed. And no flex. I have given up on Conklin after that and a less-than stellar experience with their crescent fill.

  2. About 15 minutes with Mark Bacas and mine was writing well. He made it finer, smoother and fixed the ink starvation. It writes with a little natural flex and line variation now. Had I not gone to the trouble and expense to get an expert to adjust it, I’d be very unhappy.

  3. Honest reviews are sometimes hard to come by and I appreciate the level of detail you included in your review. One of the many reasons I enjoy this blog!

    1. My experience exactly with my Conklin. Someday I’ll take it to a nibsmith. So sad for a great looking pen.

  4. Thanks for an honest review, Ana. I bought 3 Conklin pens – their itty-bitty minis. Granted, they weren’t terribly expensive, but I was irritated to find that I had to tune all 3 of them to get them to write even acceptably (they were stubs). I love minis and stubs, so I had higher hopes for those cute little pens. But it just didn’t work out. I have one more Conklin, a larger one. It didn’t work out, either. Scratchy nib. I just gave up on Conklin at that point.

    1. I came to the point quickly that if I buy a Conklin, it needs to be inexpensive enough, or I really have to like the looks of it enough, that I will be willing to pay the additional price it’s going to cost to replace the nib. I have a couple Conklins. They both now have Goulet nibs in them and we get along much better now. I’m sorry it has to be this way, but I got tired of fighting with them.

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