What if your grail leaked?

Edson in presentation boxRegular readers of Monochromatic Outlook may recall mention of the Waterman Edson Diamond Black fountain pen. It was the pen I wanted dearly but thought I would never own because it was indeed too dear. At a MSRP of an even thousand dollars, its lovely platinum trim and inset nib seemed out of my reach.

I had a chance to write with one at the Flax pen fair, and its smooth writing cemented its place as the pen that I really must have. Pen collectors have a name for such a desirable and unattainable item: they call it one’s «grail» pen.

Back in 2007 I must have been making more money than I am now because I was able to secure one. It was purchased at a significant discount, but it still remained my most expensive pen until… well, I’ll talk about that pen another time.

Edson with flaking platinumThe Edson arrived and I found that 1,233 people had ordered one before me, as I had gotten serial number 001234, a number I thought auspicious. I was very excited to have this pen and the writing did not disappoint. The Edson proves that a nib need not be flexible to provide a pleasurable writing experience. The Edson is large and much heavier than most pens. Its fine point is ultra-smooth and the pen is generally impressive.

Pictures (at least my pictures) fail to do justice to the beauty of the Edson Diamond Black. The shape of the clip is mirrored in the inlay just behind the nib, making it very tempting to use with the cap posted. It’s bold but understated (despite those attributes being seeming antonyms) and elegant while being masculine. The Edson with its silver cap and black acrylic-over-brass body reminds me of the white jacket over black pants tux Sean Connery wore in Goldfinger. How’s that for high praise?

However, a couple of days after the Edson arrived, my thumb—not my thumbnail—caught a rough edge on the side of the clip on the cap. I rubbed my thumb gently back over the area to see what the matter was and found platinum plating flaking off on my thumb. So after just a few days with the pen I had to send it to be serviced.

Waterman’s service department did not replate the cap or do anything to preserve my serial number. When the pen came back to me, I no longer had number 001234 but instead 001659. I reconciled myself to the fact that it is better to have a different number than a peeling pen, but it was still disappointing to be reassigned to a higher and less-desirable number.

ImageIn October or November of 2009 I had the pen sent for service because the pen was seeping ink out of the spring-loaded cams that hold the cap on when the pen is capped.

The pen was returned to me with a piece of paper indicating that the section had been replaced, but functionally nothing had changed. I was understandably disappointed that the leak continued and was immediately noticeable. This indicates to me that Waterman Service had not even tested the pen to see if there was a leak. Disgusted, I put the pen on the shelf and tried not to remember that it existed.

On May 25th of 2010 I sent an email to the Waterman service center explaining that the pen was still leaking and asking what they were willing to do to correct the situation. I waited for a reply that never came and the Edson continued to sit on the shelf unused.

This is a terrible fall: from my favorite pen to not even being used. I don’t even like thinking about the fact that I own the pen. I can’t even sell it in good conscience with the leaking clutch cams. But last week I remembered that the situation was never resolved and furthermore I never received a reply to my polite but understandably upset email of May 25th 2010.

Waterman’s service page indicates that Waterman can be contacted for service only by email, so once again I wrote an email and sent it to Waterman’s Service department on 10 March of 2011. As of this writing (15 March) I have yet to receive a reply.

I would love to report that the Edson is the amazing pen that it should be. However, I cannot in good conscience recommend anyone buy products from a company whose standards of workmanship and service have fallen as low as Waterman’s under the wings of their parent corporation, Newell Rubbermaid. They took a pen I was predisposed to love and turned it into a painful memory.

So leads to the sad occasion that I write a post that ends up both in the Writing Instruments and Caveat venditor categories. I’d hoped this day wouldn’t come. Buyers of fine pens, beware both Waterman and Parker, as these penmakers are not their former selves. They have been reduced to brands bought and sold by a corporation best known for plastic food containers.

Of course, this is not the end of the story. If I cannot get satisfaction from Waterman, I will send the pen to Richard Binder at Richard’s Pens. He can fix just about anything that holds ink. It will end up costing a little bit of money, but I’ll know that when it comes back to me, it will behave the way it should. Then perhaps it will once again be my grail pen.

Waterman Edson Diamond Black: 42 grams.



Its the same way as their carene skips.How pitiable it feels that you write with a world class product and initial letter of your sentence is skipped during the writing. No one is able to correct this technical shortcoming. Remembering old time scooter which had to be tilted to start it.It wont start otherwise.At price of one thousand dollar, company can engage some good firm to R&D its issues.Just they go on selling it on and on with the help of their brand name.

The nib never worked very well, and eventually stopped doing anything more than chew paper. It sits looking pretty, but I get wistful whenever I see it. In the end, my Vanishing Point, and a new Lamy Safari Vista are my two daily writers. I have an Aurora resin fountain pen in yellow, but it leaks around the cap as well, so ... that leaves me with two of four pens that I'm comfortable writing with.

Seriously though - for the cheap cost, that Vista is pretty amazing. It writes very well on pretty much any type of paper. I'm quite surprised.

Sad to hear about the trouble you’re having with the 100. It’s frustrating to have a pen you expect to love so much give you trouble. It makes me angry that people so often have trouble with expensive fountain pens while cheap pens work well. It tells me that some companies are just doing the absolute minimum they can get away with.

The thing is, people use cheap pens. Almost always. Rarely does a cheap pen get purchased by someone who doesn’t intend to use it. Sometimes people don’t end up using them, but that’s like anything else. But expensive fountain pens tend to be given as gifts and people who receive expensive gifts that don’t work don’t tend to return them for a refund. Quality control goes out the window because for a greater percentage of purchases, the bad news never gets back to the company.

I got a notice about your question on Google Plus but for whatever reason I cannot get logged in to g+ this morning. So I’ll answer here: I’ve never done any business with Fountain Pen Hospital except to buy ink from them. They are well-reputed and i wouldn’t hesitate to send them a pen for repair.

That said, I’d recommend you first contact Ron Zorn at Main Street Pens. He does a lot of work with vintage Parkers and will be familiar with the nib that the Parker 100 uses. The feed and filler of the 100 is not the same as the old 51s but Ron is the first person I’d go to. Richard Binder unfortunately does not do repair any more. Ron did great work on my Parker ‘51’ and I recommend him without reservation.

Another option is that you could bring the 100 to me and I could put it in the ultrasonic. It’s possible that it just needs to be really and truly well-cleaned. Sometimes just flushing with warm water doesn’t cut it. Might not be a bad thing to start with the cheap (free except for transportation costs) options first.