Review: The New Dunn Pen

So I recently had a work trip to an archive, archives almost always have a no pens rule, so I decided to leave my big pen case at home and just take two pens with me. One was an easy choice, my Graf Von Faber-Castell Guilloche, it goes everywhere with me. However the number two slot was a bit tricky, I wanted a pen that had a big enough ink capacity to let me not have to refill whilst on the trip, but that was also exciting enough that it’d make up for having only two pens. As this prompted much staring at my pens and scratching my head, until I had a sudden brainwave. Enter the New Dunn Pen.

This is a pen that requires a short history lesson, but I’ll try and keep the focus on the short. The original Dunn Pen Company started in New York in 1921, making a high quality pump filler. They seemed to make quite a big noise initially, with lots of advertising and reasonably strong sales. However by 1924 things had taken a turn for the worse, they went bankrupt, were briefly rescued and then by 1925 had disappeared completely. Fast forward to 2011 and Richard Binder’s Gate City pen company revived the pen in the shape of the New Dunn, which although not identical to the originals retained several key design features and much of the original design.

My New Dunn was an eighteenth birthday present, sadly in the intervening almost-four years it seems that the New Dunn is no longer available to purchase (please correct me if I’m wrong). That’s a real shame, as personally I think this is a little known pen that was pretty good value and something genuinely different. That being said I hope this review still proves interesting, either as a chance to ogle at an unusual pen or for the hardened few who are trawling the secondary market for one of these.

So, how does it look? Well in a word vintage. This is hardly surprising for a pen which was designed to be a pretty faithful re-creation of the original Dunn pen, and indeed it does a good job of recreating the looks of what would have been quite a distinctive pen originally. It’s very clearly going for a vintage aesthetic though, so if you don’t like that this may not be the pen for you. It’s not that it looks old fashioned, but it doesn’t have the definite modern feel of something like a Lamy 2000 or a Conid. On the subject of distinctive features on to another feature of the pen, my version is the clear barrel ‘Tattler’model. Personally I really like the clear barrel, it lets me see all the ink sloshing about, and it also means I can tell how much ink I’ve got left. The slight downside to this is that I have found it quite difficult to keep the pen crystal clear, it’s a common problem with clear pens, but it’s a little annoying. Of course the flip side of this is that when it’s filled with ink it makes no difference if your pen isn’t immaculately clear. This isn’t what I’d describe as one of my prettiest pens, but it’s quite interesting to look at, a bit different.

So what about the design? Well I have to say it’s a well designed pen, much better than you might at first think. Let’s start with possibly the pen’s biggest selling point, the filling system. The Dunn filler is quite unlike any modern filling system, you unscrew the red knob, pump it up and down several times and voila, the entire barrel fills with a whopping 3.4mm of ink. There is a little bit of a knack to getting a completely full fill, you want to wait a bit at the top of each stroke, but if you do that there really is barely a bubble in the entire barrel. I think this is something the New Dunn pen deserves a great deal of credit for, not only is it a unique filling system but in terms of filling the barrel with as much ink as possible this pen outshines them all, it can take more ink than a Conid Kingsize, which is no mean feat! The pen also feels incredibly well machined for a small batch pen, sometimes I’ve noticed that smaller batch or custom pens can be a little chunky, with quite thick cap lips and small things like that. This pen is exquisitely machined, the cap lip is thin but not fragile and everything fits together smoothly, you can tell it was made by someone with a real eye for detail. For me the pen is a really good size, not too big not too small, it sort of sits in roughly Pelikan M800 territory. The pen has a screw cap, so it might not lend itself to quick notes on the fly, but I’ve never found it’s particularly cumbersome to uncap this pen. I really appreciate the quality and inventiveness of the New Dunn, it’s not only different, but it works really well, whilst being novel it’s not simply a novelty, it’s a real workhorse pen, and that combination is something I appreciate.

And now crucially how it writes, well, for a pen that was created by Richard Binder there was only ever going to be one answer to that question… Unsurprisingly the pen writes wonderfully. Despite being equipped with what might seem like a fairly pedestrian JoWo No 6 nib it is one of my favourite pens to just sit and write with. Everything about it from the feedback to the flow is perfect and being a fine it’s a good choice for everyday use. Every nib on a Gate City pen has been ‘Binderised’ which means there is near enough zero chance of you getting a dud, which is something that I don’t think many brands can claim. It’s also worth mentioning that you could get the full range of Richard Binder grinds on this pen, so pretty well any nib type you can think of could be had on this pen. Whilst I wouldn’t call my nib expressive, there isn’t any line variation or anything like that, it is still an excellent nib that I really enjoy writing with.

So, to sum up then, the New Dunn is an interesting pen, if you like the idea of a vintage inspired pen, that has a mammoth ink capacity and a tuned nib then look no further. I have a real soft spot for the New Dunn, I like the inspiration behind the pen, I like that it’s both unusual and yet incredibly usable and I like that it’s just a bit interesting. Yes something cigar shaped and cartridge/converter filler is practical, and there are many pens that follow that design and are excellent, but the New Dunn is something completely different and I appreciate that. Perhaps the most most ringing endorsement I can give is that I used it all week long and was still just as excited to pick it up and write with it on the Friday as I was on the Monday. So, if I’ve tempted you well, happy hunting!

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