Review: The Pelikan M800 Demonstrator

The Pelikan M800 is one of those pens that is pretty often raved about, in fact I think Peter Twydle even called it the perfect modern fountain pen, certainly for many it is a grail pen worthy of the status. Until quite recently I had only tried the smaller pens in Pelikan’s line up but I saw this pen for sale on ebay, put in quite a low offer, thinking in the unlikely event it was accepted I could always sell it if I ended up not liking it. By sheer good fortune my offer was accepted, and I became the owner of not just a Pelikan M800, but one where you can see all the inner workings. It wasn’t immaculate, there was some staining from a pink ink (which I’m gradually winning the war on getting rid of), but I was happy with it. Whilst this is a review of the M800 demonstrator a lot of this review could apply to any pen in the M800 line up.

So let’s start with how it looks. It’s a demonstrator, which means it’s a completely clear pen. One thing I really like about the M800 demonstrator in particular is that it seems to really be a demonstrator in the true sense of the word, ie it does an excellent job of actually showing how the pen works. It has small arrows and descriptions of the various parts etched on to the barrel, which I quite like, although I appreciate that Pelikan had the good sense to A. make these small and inoffensive, so they’re easy to ignore if you want to and B. They made a model completely without them for those who wanted them. I can see how the annotations might bother some people, but personally I like them, and they really aren’t that noticeable. Another thing that I think Pelikan got right was that unlike some demonstrators everything (with the exception of the piston assembly) is clear. There are no frosted inner caps or solid piston knobs, everything is 100% see through. This is a nice feature not only because it lets you see everything, but it also feel like Pelikan were properly committed to making a demonstrator. Possibly my favourite demonstrator feature though is that to really show how everything works Pelikan even cut a little viewing notch into the brass piston assembly, so you really can see absolutely as much as possible. It’s a small detail, but again I really like the ethos behind it. It’s truly a pen that is designed to demonstrate how it works. Demonstrator features aside the M800 has pretty standard Pelikan lines, they’re quite traditional, but I don’t find them boring in the same way I often do with cigar shaped pens.

You can just see the cut out in the brass piston here

The design of the pen, as previously alluded to, is excellent. The pen fills via Pelikan’s icon piston filler, which I maintain is still the best piston filling system out there, it’s effortlessly smooth and only ever had the tiniest of air bubbles in it. The pen is also a good middle ground in terms of size, I have quite small hands and generally prefer smaller pens, but the M800 doesn’t feel too big for me. Anecdotally even those with bigger hands seem to like the M800, so it seems like Pelikan has really found a happy medium. The build quality is excellent, everything fits together perfectly and just looks exactly right. There’s definitely some truth in the fact that demonstrators really show off any imperfections and happily the M800 doesn’t seem to have any to show off.

I really like this labelling of the parts, it’s nice and inconspicuous

As far as writing goes, this particular M800 is a bit unusual, it’s fitted with an oblique broad nib. Pelikan discontinued their oblique nibs around 2013, so I was delighted when it turned out that this pen had one fitted. The short version of the nib review is that I like it, but there are quite a few caveats to that statement. Being a Pelikan when it say it’s a broad nib it really well and truly means it, the sheer width of it is quite something. This isn’t really a nib for a quick note scribbled in the corner of something, it needs a good few pages to really get a good run. Additionally it’s worth bearing in mind that oblique nibs are not for everyone, really they’re designed to compensate for those who roll their pen. Don’t get me wrong, you can learn to write with an oblique even if you don’t roll your pen, but it takes a bit of thought. Lastly, this pen is a wet writer, and I mean a seriously wet writer, there aren’t many papers that can handle it, even on Leuchtturm paper it just feathered. In short this is a pen that you’re going to have to think about when to use. Having said all that you might think I’m not a fan of this nib, which isn’t true. It’s a great nib, just not an everyday one. It’s wonderfully smooth, firm, but the grind gives you a nice bit of line variation and the flow is something else. It’s a real shame that Pelikan stopped making these nibs and frankly I hope that one day they might bring them back.

I maintain Pelikan nibs are some of the prettiest out there

So to finish, what do I think of the Pelikan M800 Demonstrator? Well I think it’s an excellent pen, would it be the the one pen I’d be marooned on a desert island with? No. But it is great fun to use in the right circumstances, if I want to sit down, break out the good paper, spend some time getting used to the nib then it’s one of my most fun pens to use. I love how much Pelikan thought about the design and looks of this pen, and indeed I just love how it looks. So there you are, not the most versatile pen, but certainly a great one.

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