A little bit of history The Pen Shop is a rare beast – a small chain of actual bricks-and-mortar writing kit specialists, with a website attached. Based in the North East of England, they’ve been epitomising the archetypal canny Geordies recently by creating their own brand, Dex. There are two sizes of Dex fountain pen, the larger ‘soft’ (which describes the plastic of the body rather than denoting nib feel), and the smaller ‘compact’, the mini version that we’re reviewing here. The Dexs, Dexa or Dexii (depending upon your etymological preference) have been around for a few months now and are attracting quite a fan-base in the fountain pen message boards, so we were very pleased when the Pen Shop sent United Inkdom its first dedicated test samples…
How it looks It looks pretty good, for the money. The clear barrel shows off the ink colour in the cartridge rather nicely, and it looks like it it’s going to be a fun thing to pick up and play with – which, actually, it is!
How it feels With the cap on, we think it should be about the right size for most people’s needs, and it posts fairly securely so it feels reasonably robust too. It’s very light indeed – the other end of the scale from the chunk of heavy metal we reviewed last week – but that’s often good news for beginners. The rubber section is slightly shaped to add good pen posture, which is again quite helpful for anyone getting to, err, grips with writing properly. It feels comfortable to grab and have a go with.
How it fills This is a straightforward whack-in-a-cartridge job, and for the likely purposes of most owners that should be ideal. The blue it comes with is perfectly adequate, and of course there are many tempting alternatives from Diamine which we’d recommend.
Crucially, how it writes… Considering the tiny price tag, it writes rather amazingly. The Dex pens use a steel nib made by Bock, whose reputation for quality probably needs little introduction to most people reading this. It’s only available in M size as yet, but we don’t blame The Pen Shop for starting there as it’s a good size to get started with.Pen! What is it good for? This is one for the classroom, without a shadow of doubt – indeed, our test samples have been enthusiastically ‘adopted’ by pupils and teachers already (and cats, of course). Some of our reviewers are just little envious that there wasn’t a school pen this nice to use when they were getting started too…
VFM For a beginner’s fountain pen. this is just about the best value for money there is. High-street stationers will sell you pens which perhaps look a little shinier on the outside for only a little more, but for £10 this has everything a budding scribbler could need; that Bock nib really is built to take some abuse and still write well, and we suspect (although for obvious reasons it has been neither confirmed nor denied) that the body is made by Diplomat. So it’s both Geordie and German, and should be flying off the shelves as an export if there’s any justice in the world… Auf Wiedersehen, Pen.
If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost… then other purveyors of appalling puns based upon 1980s television comedy dramas are available. But, getting back to the Dex compact, the diminutive size might be the one thing that puts off some potential purchasers, but the larger Dex ‘soft’ model solves that quite easily.
Our overall recommendation Buy one of these for a child who you want to see enjoying writing – and a bigger Dex ‘soft’ for yourself! This is brilliant value, and the Dex fountain pen deserves to be a success. We’d really like to see a wider range of nib sizes available (and maybe an italic too), but we’re informed such developments are on their way soon…
Where to get hold of one Obviously, enough, from the Pen Shop. You can drop into one of their bricks-and-mortar establishments if you wish, or order direct from their website.
This meta-review references:
- Scribble Monboddo’s hand-written review
- Ian Hedley’s text-and-photos review
- Ruth Hanson’s video review
Thanks to The Pen Shop for providing review samples and a handy discount for the first few weeks after the meta-review was published. We do love a bargain…
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