Noodler’s Ahab fountain pen review

A little bit of history  Back in the heyday of the flex nib, one that flexed as readily as a slice of soggy pasta was known as a ‘wet noodle’ (whereas non-flex piston-fillers were, of course, dry fusilli).  Then, many years later, a nice chap by the name of Nathan Tardiff started making inks designed to work well in a flex nib, and decided to claim all the enterprise as one for Noodler’s everywhere.  Well, fair enough – we’ll feature some of those inks next week.  But one thing led to another and sooner or later a few pens to accompany those inks were, surely, inevitable. There’s quite a range of these Noodler’s pens now, but the model we’ve all tried is the Moby-Dick themed Ahab.Ahab blue2How it looks  A large rounded-end pen with a clip which faintly resembles a whale floating on the sea’s surface, about to dive.  The demonstrator versions are translucent rather than transparent, and there are some marbled opaque versions available now too.

How it feels  Big, but not uncomfortably so, and the resin is usually warm to the touch. For flexing purposes the grip is about right, even if the body is perhaps a little light; all the down-force is going have come from your own muscles.Ahab writing sample blueHow it smells This is admittedly an unusual category for a United Inkdom meta-review to consider, but in this case we’d probably be ignoring the elephant in the room if we didn’t mention the Ahab’s distinctive olfactory appeal.  Actually, it’s not so much an elephant in the room as a goose – it honks.  There is just no ignoring the distinctive whiff of the vegetal resin used to make the Ahab (and several other of the Noodler’s pens), and it seems to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it things.  Ross at Pure pens has got used to it, but tells us he always knows which part of his stock-room he’s in because the Ahab draw is detectable even with his eyes shut.  Ian finds it so objectionable that he’d be embarrassed to turn up with such malodorous matter at meetings.  It’s a hard aroma to describe but imagine, if you will, a rubber sack of forest fruits that’s been left out in the sun for a couple of days.  It does fade over time, and inexplicably some of us actually rather like it.  There is also the odd distinction that, alongside the recycle-ready steel fitments, the rest of the pen is biodegradable – although why you’d want to do that to a pen we can’t imagine.  Still, it’s not a plume-perfume for everyone, it’s fair to say.

How it fills  The Ahab comes fitted with a proprietary syringe-style piston.  This is simple to use and has an impressive capacity, so it’s a good way to get started.  Once you find an ink you want to write with all the time, it’s a fairly straightforward job to convert the barrel to an ‘eye-dropper’; Pure Pens also sell the o-rings recommended to make the seal watertight, and the ink capacity which results is huge, even if – like all eye-droppers – the price to pay is the occasional ink-burp on the page.Ruth's Ahab

Crucially, how it writes…  The best reason – and honestly, probably the only reason – to reach for an Ahab is in order to try your hand at flex writing without the experiment costing you a fortune.  This it achieves quite comfortably.  The nib is semi-flex really, but it’s a good introduction to the process of generating line variation with differential pressure, and unlike exotic gold flex nibs it’s cheap enough that you can afford to give it some abuse while you’re putting it through its paces.  The results can be rather impressive, once you get used to it!  These days a lot of Ahabs are despatched with a non-flex nib included too, which is a considerate touch even if it’s a bit pointless really; if you want a non-flex nib, there are plenty of other choices out there in this price range.

Pen! What is it good for?  It’s great for trying a flex nib for the first time.  Once you’ve got the bug and started moving on to posher flex nibs, as is quite likely (be warned!), it’s good for jotting shopping lists and the like.Ahab honeyVFM  Even if it should really come with a free nose-peg, this is impressively inexpensive for what it does. Only FPR flex options really compete.

If this isn’t quite your cup of tea, but almost…  Then have a look at the many flex-nibbed models available from FountainPenRevolution.  Some of those are a little ‘aromatic’ too, but starting flex the affordable way makes good sense.Ahab writing sample purpleOur overall recommendation  If you’ve always wondered what the flex fuss is all about, don’t want to spend a fortune, and aren’t too particular about your choice of cologne, go for it.

Where to get hold of one  Naturally we’d recommend heading to Pure Pens, the sole ‘proper’ UK stockist – if for some reason they don’t have the colour you’re after, they’re happy to order in more stock too.  Ebay is also a useful import source at times, but the waiting times can drag rather.Ahab purple2

This meta-reviews references:

Thanks to  Pure Pens for lending Ruth an Ahab and selling Scribble one too.

3 thoughts on “Noodler’s Ahab fountain pen review

  1. Had a Noodler Ahab myself too, found the build quality distinctly lacking; the threads on all the various disassemble-able parts are too shallow and quickly lose their effectiveness.

    The design is good in principle but the tolerances need to be tighter and the fit more substantial.

    The flex nib is great though.

  2. I love my Ahabs! I have two of them, a Honey (amber yellow) demonstrator like the one you show above, and a beautiful turquoise demonstrator.

    Mine I got in January 2016 for ca. 30€ from Niche Pens (UK) via Ama*** sice I could not find it locally here in Berlin. For years I have played around with calligraphy dip pens and had grown tired of open India ink bottles and all the maintaining of the nibs.

    Having read some reviews about the Ahabs in the last years since it came out I knew that I might have bad luck or need to tinker a bit, but all in all — as a fountain pen user from 1986 in first grade yet surely no expert — my experience was really good after a bit of work and figuring out:

    1. From videos I knew how to disassemble the pen (easy), rinse nib and feed with warm water to wash eventual machining oils off and to align the feed with the nib/tines.
    2. Fill it with ink, go!
    3. After a while I did notice that the ink flow stopped whenever the “needle” that sticks into the “knob” of the piston had emptied that part, so I shook the pen slightly to get ink into that part of the piston again so it could be drawn by the needle. I think that had I gotten an opaque Ahab I would not have understood the stopping ink flow, because as you turn the pen or open it, there is ink in that back part of the piston, so you might go like: “What, there is ink, what is the problem, da*n thing, does not work, meh!”
    4. The solution was to convert both pens to eyedroppers. One of my Ahabs seems to need the needle to be left inside, otherwise the inks just drops and gushes out of the feed, the other one seems to work best without the needle and when the feed and the nib look _very_ disaligned, with the feed almost 1 mm off-center to the left, maybe because I write at a small angle unintentionally.
    5. An additional step for one of the pens (the one with the intentionally misaligned feed) was “not-so-hot” heat setting: I just dropped the feed and the nib in a cup of hot water (not boiling, but almost too hot to touch), let them sit there for some seconds and then pressed the nib and feed together and back into the pen.

    All in all I would recommend this pen, because my two make me happy everyday! They are convenient fountain pens, write like a European F/fine M unflexed, do not run dry and let me play with them for some minutes here and then, writing random funky flexy words while on the phone or to-do lists without the hassle of dip pens. (I am self-employed and sit at my desk all day long, so I may take a deep breath every now and then, doodle some words in calligraphy style and then happily carry on my work.)

    What I find most astonishing is how well the Ahabs’ nibs work now. I must admit that I never owned or even used a vintage flex nib, so I may be unspoiled, but I do own and regularly use calligraphy nibs for dip pens since 1992, which require a high level of concentration and control. My Ahabs’ flex nibs have become considerably softer (maybe this is just a feeling as I have adapted to them and know where to exert pressure, but still they feel softer) over time, and with the adjusted feeds and filling they work exceptionally well for me. I am not lying: I can draw a flexed line around a whole sheet of A4 paper several times without any skips or railroading. Amazing!

    Oh, and regarding the elephant: The odour is really weird and strange and strong at first but now it has faded almost completely and is only noticeable when I actively sniff my pens. And I would like to add that it does not smell poisonous or dangerous (chemicals etc.), rather natural in an unpleasant way. But it does fade. 😉

  3. Got me a very yellow one. It is great in the hand, looks great and is fun to write with. I found it is not a great one to to carry about (unless you keep the nib facing upwards) as it leaks into the cap. I keep it on my desk. It’s always good for taking notes, signing forms (can make a splash … Sometimes) good in board meetings (deals a bit with the being bored aspect). It is what it is, and not what it’s not! For what it is it is GREAT, and a lot of fun. It’s thirsty, it smells a bit but it is always good for providing a bit of that kick for the fountain junky – when needed.

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