Original article: www.pencilcaseblog.com
As a Belgian, I’m quite proud of the product I’m about to show you… With Belgium being only a small country, there isn’t much of a fountain pen scene -unlike some of our neighbouring countries that house some of the largest pen manufacturers in the world! No need to explain that I’m super stoked that we finally -since a couple of years- have a pen brand to be proud of as well: Conid. Yesterday, we already had a look at the Conid ‘Bulkfiller’ mechanism (You can find that post here), which is a topic on its own. Today, we’ll see if the Minimalistica is equally fascinating as the filling system it is built upon…
Based in Antwerp, Conid is a daughter company of industrial machine builder Komec. With the engineering and design expertise from ‘Fountainbel’ Francis Goossens, and the high-tech machinery and knowhow of Komec, Conid makes their patented (patent pending) Bulkfiller fountain pens.
The Minimalistica could be presented as being the ‘entry-level’ Conid. Unfortunately even so it’s still quite an expensive pen (I’ll come back to that in a minute). As the name suggests, the design is minimal, more so than the industrial design of the standard bulkfiller line. I personally prefer the clean lines of the Minimalistica, I’m a sucker for minimal design, so this is completely up my alley!
The version I have in my hands today, is the ‘doue’ version, and one of the most recent additions in their product line. It has a clear resin barrel, as opposed to being made completely out of matte Delrin, which gives a proper insight on the bulkfiller mechanism. Designwise, I personally find the uniform appearance of the delrin model a bit more attractive, as it suits the ‘minimal’ theme a bit better. But on the other hand, the demonstrator feature adds a more unique element to the otherwise simple design.
Another benefit this demonstrator model has over the non-clear version -and this might sound quite silly- is that it’s easier to operate the bulkfiller mechanism. Not that it’s a troublesome experience, but being able to see what you’re doing is useful, especially the first few times of using this filling system. As I said in the beginning of this review, we already extensively discussed the Bulkfiller filling system yesterday, you can click here to read about it.
Maxed out, the Minimalistica can hold up to 2.5ml of ink (larger Conid pens can do even better). That’s four times a standard international cartridge, or about two times the capacity of a normal piston-filled pen. With this kind of capacity, you’ll last quite a while between refills, that’s for sure!
Designwise, as I mentioned in the beginning of this review, I find the Minimalistica a worthy opponent to the Lamy 2000. I think that’s about the biggest compliment one can give, since the 2000 is such a milestone in design and fountain pen history. The Minimalistica isn’t just an exact copy of the Lamy 2000 of course, but the overall form factor is quite alike. It’s a bit beefier and just a hair longer overall, and of course it uses a #6 nib instead of the famous hooded nib on the 2000. The lack of a clip -as this is the clipless model- adds to the minimal appearance, and I find it suits this pen quite well. Of course you can also get the Minimalistica with Conid’s handmade Titanium Clip (which does come at a premium unfortunately).
The demonstrator barrel adds a lot to the appeal of the Minimalistica. The high-polish clear acrylic is made from a single piece, and the clean lines aren’t interrupted by any threads or metal rings (like on the Lamy 2000). The barrel could be made so seamless and without threads because Conid decided to go for a rather unique closure mechanism: friction! A rubber O-ring inside the cap provides friction for the cap to stay on the smooth barrel surface. ‘Won’t the cap come off easily then?’ – some may think, but in reality it’s quite the opposite.
When you push the cap on all the way (How it’s supposed to be, according to the measurements found on Conid’s website), it may prove rather difficult to take the cap off again, especially if it sat undisturbed for a few hours. You’ll have to exert quite some force, and pull with a twisting motion (to break the seal) to open the pen. Of course you don’t have to push it all the way on if you don’t want to, I’ve never had the cap come off accidentally regardless of how far the cap was on.
At 13.7 cm (5.4 Inch) closed, and 12.6 cm (5 Inch) open, the Minimalistica is a decent mid-sized pen. Just like the Lamy 2000, I prefer to use the pen unposted, I just find the bulbous contour of the barrel to fit my hand perfectly without the cap posted. Because of the ergonomic shape, it doesn’t bother me that it’s not overly long. I tend to hold the pen closer to the nib than usual, but since there’s not really a section, you can pretty much hold it however you like. The cap can be posted of course, which makes for a total length of 16 cm (6 Inch), but the cap is light so it doesn’t mess with the balance (total weight is 26 grams uninked).
I visited Conid/Comec’s factory a few months ago. Seeing their impressive machinery and skillful team, I expected nothing less than perfection. And indeed the product they delivered is pretty much flawlessly built. If I could find one flaw, it would be that the titanium part of the piston mechanism (which doubles as the decorative band above the piston knob) is ever-so slightly offset to one side. I had to look very carefully though, and you won’t notice unless you run your fingernail across, so it’s not a huge deal.
My unit came with a steel #6 (Bock) nib unit. It’s tastefully laser engraved with a simple pattern and the Conid brand in small lettering. I’m not a huge fan of laser engraving on nibs, but in this case it fits right in.
A steel nib on a 350 euro pen might seem like a bit of a buzzkill, but in the couple months I used it, I never even remotely felt like it didn’t belong here. The material of the nib doesn’t really add much to the writing experience anyway. At best, a gold nib will feel a bit more springy. All nibs are inspected and tuned during assembly, which is noticeable right away. My fine nib started up right away the first time it was inked, and it hasn’t had any issues ever since. It’s tuned for a slightly wet flow, which it is able to maintain with ease as long as the writing reservoir gets ink (sometimes an air bubble might get trapped, but flow starts right back up after a quick shake. The line it puts down leans towards a medium, also due to that wet flow, it’s definitely on par with the European standard. The nib is a performer ‘pur sang’, it’s not overpolished, so I didn’t have any issues with hard starts or skipping, which is truly how an ‘everyday carry’ pen should perform.
My only gripe with the Minimalistica, and any other Conid pen for that matter is their retail price. With the large capacity filling system, they are aimed at everyday use, everyday carry, but I don’t feel like walking around with over 350 Euros worth of pen in my shirt pocket. I know a lot of people would beg to differ, but when I think of EDC pens, I expect a pen somewhere within the 20 to 100 Euro range. A pen I can take with me and forget about, not having to worry about losing or damaging it. Needless to say, I WOULD freak out if something happened to this pen. With a pen in this price range, you’ll automatically take good care of it. If you’re willing to take it with you, that’s your personal choice, but I personally wouldn’t want to take the risk.
If your aim is to get the highest possible ink capacity, then the Minimalistica, and any other Conid, will be an excellent choice. But it’s not entirely flawless. As I said, I find cost the biggest issue, even on this ‘entry-level’ model. At around 330 EUR for the clipless version with steel nib, and close to 400 EUR for a model with clip, this feels a bit overpriced. If you live outside Europe, you’re lucky, because prices excluding VAT are already quite a bit better! I hope that one day, the people at Conid will be able to up their production capacity and lower their prices. On the other hand, the small scale production does mean that you’ll get a pretty unique pen!