Conklin Duraflex Review
Conklin's new Duraflex is the latest offering in the budget flex pen category. With the introduction of its new "OmniFlex" nib, Conklin hopes to leverage its popular Duragraph line to offer flex writing at an affordable price. But does it have what it takes to become your next flex pen?
Materials & Construction
Conklin uses a handmade black resin material throughout the cap, barrel, and section of the Duraflex. It's polished to a high-gloss finish that looks quite elegant when it's unused or freshly cleaned, but fingerprints do quickly mar the pristine finish. It's not the most interesting of materials, but I'm satisfied with the quality.
The clip and the bands on the cap and barrel are rose gold in color and I must say they do help add a bit of character to what would otherwise be an uninspiring set of materials. The metal components have a pleasing luster to them when polished clean.
The Duraflex features a fetching blend of classic and modern design elements. The cap and barrel have a conventional flat-top design that is handsome, if somewhat staid. The cap band is inscribed with "Conklin" on one half, while "Duragraph" appears on the other half, flanked by three Conklin crescent logos on either side. It's an attractive look that would be fitting even on more expensive pens.
The clip features a familiar angular, tapered design that leads to a teardrop-shaped end. It has a gentle curve when viewed from the side, and tapers upward at the end. The clip is quite stiff, and I did have to make more of a conscious effort when slotting the Duraflex into pen sleeves or in my various bags' pen slots.
Conklin engraves the limited edition number on the barrel of each Duraflex. The engraving is deep enough that you'll notice it if you run your finger across it, and seems as though it wouldn't rub off easily over time.
The Duraflex accepts standard international cartridges and includes two in the box. It can also be used with a converter, and a screw-in converter is also included with the pen. A metal tenon connects the barrel to the section, so the Duraflex likely is not a good candidate for eyedropper conversion.
One thing I don't enjoy about the design of the Duraflex is the "Conklin Est. 1898" text placed on the end of the cap. While I do think it helps add context to the unique number associated with the limited production run, it just looks out of place and distracts from an otherwise understated design.
In the Hand
The Duraflex is quite comfortable in the hand. At around 125mm uncapped, the pen rests easily in the crook between my thumb and index finger. The section is conveniently shaped with a subtle taper that works well for my 4-finger grip. The section threads are not prominent enough to be an issue.
Though the Duraflex is quite balanced overall, it's a touch back-heavy. I can technically post the cap on the Duraflex, but it's a tight fit, to the point where I feel like doing so over time will eventually either scratch the end of the barrel or, worse yet, cause the cap to crack. Regardless, posting the cap makes the Duraflex unwieldy, and I never find myself using it posted.
Material & Design
The Duraflex marks the debut of Conklin's new "OmniFlex" nib, or should I say "OmiFlex," as the typo on the box sleeve would have you believe. The nib is steel and coated with a sinister black finish that immediately tips off there's something special about this pen.
Conklin has cut away portions of the nib's shoulders to facilitate the nib's flexibility, and it works: the Duraflex requires significantly less pressure to flex than other steel flex nibs, such as those offered by Noodler's or Fountain Pen Revolution. The steel is supple and allows for great line variation when ink is flowing smoothly.
Writing with the Duraflex is an inconsistent experience. The issue appears to be ink starvation. No matter how slowly I write, or how gently I apply pressure to the tines, the ink supply to the nib will eventually get interrupted, and the pen will railroad. Don't get me wrong; when the feed has been freshly primed, it's possible to get an enjoyable experience. It's just short-lived, as the feed in the Duraflex ultimately doesn't seem capable of providing enough ink to keep up with the demands of flex writing.
One thing I've definitely noticed is that the Duraflex's writing performance seems to have higher than average variance across different inks. I originally filled the Duraflex with Monteverde Copper Noir and did not have a pleasant experience: skips, hard starts, and railroading were routine encounters. I know that Copper Noir can be a bit finicky, though. When I flushed the pen and swapped in some wetter inks, it performed more consistently, but the hard starts and railroading never went away completely.
Out of the box, the tines on my nib were splayed too far apart; the tipping on the tines weren't even making contact. The pen barely wrote out of the box, but fortunately gentle downward pressure on the tines closed the gap and greatly improved the writing experience, subject to the aforementioned issues with ink flow.
As of the time of this writing, in the United States the Duraflex is only offered by Goulet Pens and is currently sold out. At $60, the Duraflex hits an interesting price point: it's a step up from Noodler's flex options, and that feels somewhat justified given the materials used in the Duraflex, which I prefer. Having said that, my Ahab and Konrad both write more consistently than the Duraflex, even if they do require more pressure to flex the tines. Similarly, Fountain Pen Revolution offers models that are also cheaper and perform better, though not quite as nicely designed.
If I didn't experience issues with ink flow, I would have no problem deeming this pen a great value. As it stands, though, the Duraflex offers only decent value, and the Noodler's and FPR flex pens are still attractive alternatives offering better performance for less money. Ultimately, if you are captured with the Duraflex's design and temper your expectations of its flex writing performance, the Duraflex may be a good fit for you. For me personally, the design is charming, but isn't enough to justify the compromised writing performance.
Final Thoughts & Score
- elegant black and rose gold design
- OmniFlex nib flexes easily and allows for great line variation
- comfortable in the hand, balanced when used unposted
- inconsistent ink flow; requires regular priming of the feed for best results
- bland black resin material
- logo on cap feels a bit chintzy