Near the town of Rothbury in Northumberland, England there is a country house called Cragside which was the countryside residence of Lord Armstrong, an industrialist from Newcastle upon Tyne. The most interesting part of the properties history from my perspective is that it was the location of the first ever house with electric lighting powered via a hydroelectric power plant. Renewable energy in the 19th century! The first light source used was an arc-lamp, which works by igniting a vapour between two electrodes, but the big revelation in indoor lighting was installed in 1880 when the arc-lamp was replaced by the first reliable incandescent bulb invented by Joseph Swan.
The first recorded electric incandescent lamp predates Swan's invention by a fair number of years. Humphry Davy passed a high current through a thin strip of platinum in 1802, the thin filament heated to very high temperatures causing it to emit light, but the high temperatures caused the filament to burn and break very quickly. In 1878 Joseph Swan used a combination of a 'parchmentised thread' filament and a vacuum to produce the first long lasting & relatively affordable light bulb. This was installed in both his home & shortly after in the gallery of Cragside house. Thomas Edison obtained patents in America for what turned out to be almost a direct copy of Swan's technology, Edison eventually loosing a lawsuit in Britain to Swan for patent infringement. So whilst in America Edison is commonly thought of as the inventor of electric light bulbs, it was Swan who laid the building blocks for modern lighting.
So a brief history lesson aside, who are Edison Pens? Founded in 2007 by Brian & Andrea Gray, Edison Pen Co. is based in Milan, Ohio. The company is named after Thomas Edison who was also born in Milan, Ohio and some of their pen models are named after people or locations related to him. They produce a range of 'Signature Line' pens which are 100% custom made and these cover a range of models, starting at $225 and going upwards from there depending on nib choices, material choices, filling mechanisms and any other customisations you may want. If you want something that isn't covered in shape or design by these reference designs, all you have to do is ask.
A range of pens is also now sold via pen shops called the 'Production Line', these are finished items and come in a range of shapes and colours but unlike the 'Signature Line', where you can change everything about the pen, with these you can only change the nib. You do however save a significant chunk of money, costing as low as $150 with a steel nib and the finish quality appears identical to a completely custom pen. Today's pen is a production line Edison Collier in the Persimmon Swirl acrylic.
This pen is big and chunky, but has a surprisingly small grip section compared to the barrel diameter. The grip diameter increases slightly towards the nib which stops your fingers from creeping onto the nib and makes it easier to keep control of. The thick barrel sits nicely in the gap between my index finger and thumb, long enough to have a good balance but not unwieldy. The thinner grip will enable this pen to be used by a wider cross section of the population but I would happily have it be a touch thicker as my hands are also big and chunky.
The cap screws on in 1.5 turns which is about right, nice and secure without leading to RSI. It screws on very smoothly and has a well designed bite to let you know it has been tightened enough. The screw threads on the barrel are relatively smooth but if you rest your hands on them they can dig in slightly but this hasn't bothered me in day to day use. There is a step to the main barrel just after the screw threads, it has been slightly rounded so it is comfortable even when gripped on. The cap cannot be posted on this pen, but this isn't a bad thing as it could quickly become unwieldy. The cap is finished with a gold plated clip which has a ball end. It is very springy, making it fit for purpose, and stops the lid and pen from rolling off the desk.
The Persimmon Swirl acrylic is just stunning. It has a pearlescent finish running through it making it shimmer in the light. The orange colours vary from light to dark and it has a black & white swirl running through. I have spent far too long admiring the material and I find myself reaching for this pen because of this. It is finished beautifully with no machining marks and has been polished to perfection. The material is slightly transparent and so when used as an eyedropper, with a dark ink, you can sometimes see the ink sloshing around. If you need a workhorse pen then this is a good option as the barrel capacity seems cavernous so you can write until you fall asleep and still have some ink left. I have used this as an eyedropper and there have been no leaks or burping, all that was needed was a small amount of silicon grease on the screwthreads. When I finally finish the current ink loading though I will probably swap back to cartridge converter, it just lasts too long for my taste and the barrel isn't transparent enough to get the appearance benefit.
The nib is a two tone JoWo steel nib with the Edison bulb logo engraved. I bought the pen with a extra fine nib and it was unusably scratchy. When I looked at the times under a macro lens they were misaligned so the scratchiness could be easily explained. I contacted Brian & he offered two solutions, either a replacement or some guidance on how to fix the issue and then a replacement if this failed. A quick adjustment of the times and some minor work with micromesh and it was writing like a charm. It was disappointing that the pen arrived this way and unexpected at this price. I have since ordered a spare Edison nib in medium and a second Edison pen (a Menlo) and both worked perfectly out of the box. Normally I buy pens from vendors that check the performance of a pen before dispatch, in this case I saved some money instead by ordering from elsewhere in Europe. It seems probable that the nib may have been damaged when it was swapped into the pen before dispatch.
One thing I have noticed about this pen is a significant smell from the plastic. It smells like the odour from laser cut plastic and whilst I don't mind this smell at all, some people could find this off putting. A quick wash in fairy liquid solution removed most of the smell.
Apart from the poor initial performance from the nib this pen is absolutely amazing, experience tells me this is an anomaly and Brian's help in resolving the matter was quick and satisfactory. It is very comfortable in hand with great balance and a comfortable grip despite the chunky size. It writes excellently now and without any traces of skipping or scratchiness, just leaving a extra fine but wet line. The medium nib I have currently installed is even smoother and wetter, suiting this chunky pen more than a EF in my opinion. The plastic is stunning and the finish on the pen is excellent showing the great attention to detail Edison puts into all of their pens.
If you are looking to try out an Edison pen and see what all the fuss is about then I would recommend this pen, but to be honest my best experiences of the Edison Pen Co was during the ordering of my custom Menlo. More about this in the future, but if you can spare the extra $75 and the waiting time then I would suggest this is better value. I doubt that you would end up just spending $75 more once you see all the amazing options available.
Where to buy:
These pens are exclusively sold via pen shops, including the excellent Writing Desk in the UK who are one of my recommended retailers. I would highly recommend this Persimmon Swirl Collier, but they have also just released a Burnished Gold colour which looks amazing.