The Moot Times UCalgary Law
By Glenn McAleer
Welcome back to another edition of Glenn’s Pens, which I use as an excuse to take the time (and money) to dive deeper into the rabbit-hole of fine pens. Today I’ll be inking up the Majohn A1, talking about the pen that inspired it, and trying to convince some of my fellow law students to close their laptops in favour of a fountain pen.
In this edition, I’ll be talking about a lesser-known pen styled after the well-known Pilot Vanishing Point. The Vanishing Point is an 18-karat gold-nibbed industry staple. It comes in at $250.00, far exceeding the budget of a law-student, but the pen we’ll be looking at today, the Majohn A1, comes in at just $60.00.
To shed that hefty price tag, the Majohn A1 comes with a steel nib as opposed to a gold nib. The steel does not allow for the same spring and bounce that a gold nib would provide. While I have had the opportunity to experience the difference a well-tuned gold nib can have on the writing experience, the lack of gold makes this pen much better for travel. Nibs fashioned from steel typically need less tuning over time, and while still delicate, are more likely to withstand the occasional bump while on the go. Pair the steel nib with a retraction mechanism and this pen becomes a wonderful pocket-pen, despite its relative size compared to simpler fountain pen designs.
Just like the pen that inspired it, the Majohn A1 is retractable, a rare feature for most fountain pens that allows for faster unsheathing and a satisfying “click” for fidgeters everywhere. It was the inspiration behind my purchase, to be sure. All my other fountain pens, be they twist-on or snap-off, are capped. If the lower price point and retractable nib weren’t enough to get me to bite, the “clipless” option was certainly the final selling point. Pictured below is the Pilot Vanishing Point. Take notice of the reversed placement of the clip, affixed to the bottom of the grip section of the pen. While many people tout that the clip being affixed to the grip of the pen does not bother them, it always worried me. I have stayed away from pens with grip sections that are too rigid on account of my strange, claw-like grip.
(The Pilot Vanishing Point)
As you can see, the Majohn A1 (pictured in matte black below) has a clipless option. You may also notice the small square that is affixed to the backside of the A1—this is called a roll-stop, and you can likely discern its function from the name. The Vanishing point’s clip fulfils the roll-stop function, so there is no need for one. Also different between the two pens is the center-band. The Vanishing Point utilizes a dual-ring mechanism, whereas the A1 has a stylized single-band. That, however, is where the differences end.
(Matte black Majohn A1, clipless)
Both pens weigh approximately the same (the A1 is lighter as it is made mostly of aluminum), are the same length at 14 cm, and utilize what is called a “trapdoor” mechanism to stop the pen from drying out between uses. This mechanism is held closed by a small spring, but once the button is pressed, the nib unit slides downwards and the feed of the pen (the little black plastic piece that draws the ink to the nib) pushes the trap door open. Having the feed push open the trapdoor is ingenious, as it prevents the nib from being bent or otherwise damaged by the trapdoor mechanism by ensuring little to no contact is made between the mechanism and the nib.
(The Vanishing Point trapdoor in three different stages, pictured above)
The Writing Experience
I always hesitate in purchasing pens from companies that haven’t stood the test of time. While I have heard good things about Majohn pens, purchasing a pen only available in extra-fine was a risk. Finer nibs can cause a distinct scratching sensation when they are not properly tuned, and I tend towards a fine or medium nib, as my handwriting is messy and the smaller nib can exacerbate squiggling lines and the like. I have never owned a pen with an EF nib, though I have had pens with a Japanese fine nib, which is said to be approximate to the experience writing with an American extra-fine. All of that to say that I have no regrets in purchasing the extra fine nib. The pen moves wonderfully across the page with minimal feedback and no scratchiness. As one’s collection grows, a spare Vanishing Point nib-unit can be purchased for around $120, 18-karat gold nib and all, and it would slot in perfectly to the A1, making it an easy upgrade down the line if the user should wish for a Vanishing Point A1 “hybrid”. I would highly recommend the Majohn A1 to anybody with a fledgling interest in fountain pens who wants a retractable pen without the expense of purchasing a Vanishing Point.
“To hold a pen is to be at war.” – Voltaire