The makings of this review have been hanging around for the best part of a year. I even started a draft back in April of last year, but couldn’t find the right approach. Fast forward 8 months or so and a comment on Rupert Arzeian’s excellent blog and I figure it’s time to have another go. After something of a fallow period in terms of posts, I had to start somewhere. So here it is, a review of the Faber-Castell Loom fountain pen. Well, 2 of them, actually.
For a company with such a long history of making writing instruments, it’s always struck me that the design of a lot of Faber-Castell’s fountain pens is remarkably contemporary. So it is with the Loom. Its clean lines and distinctive shape make for an interesting starting point. I’d admired the Loom for a while before I bought my first one. Owning that one didn’t deter me and I’ve since bought a second. My first Loom came in a matt silver finish, but these don’t seem to be very widely available any more. The second came in a gloss silver finish, which I think looks more stylish. There are also some options in a gunmetal finish, although these command a premium on price.
The Loom is quite widely available from the usual sources. In UK pricing terms, the gunmetal version costs around £40, with the silver version coming in at around £30.
A Sense of Proportion
The Loom is not overly long, but looks stocky. The constant diameter of the barrel coupled with the limited taper of the section make it feel quite chunky. The photos below show some comparisons.
If the Loom was a more high end pen, the barrel might be milled from a single rod of metal. Instead, it comes as a plastic-lined cylinder with a concave plug at the end. It’s all well finished and it gets the job done, but it does look a little unusual. The plug looks a little less attractive on the matt version compared to the gloss. Luckily the pen posts easily and without any negative effects on balance so you can at least cover this up whilst writing.
Once you’ve decided on finish, the only other option to consider is what colour you’d like the cap. When I bought my orange one there was quite a wide range of colours, but this seems to have reduced over the past couple of years with more of a focus on muted and pastel shades. Not as much fun, but there are still options. The lack of threads is a bit of a giveaway – the cap is a snap on, rather than screw-on and it does so with a very satisfying ‘click’. You’re left in absolutely no doubt when the Loom is safely capped.
The cap is engraved with the company name and logo down one ‘side’ (relative to the clip). There’s no separate finial, but the part of the clip where it fits into the cap is engraved with the Faber-Castell logo as well. As seems to be the case with a number of Faber-Castell pens, the Loom’s clip is a fully-functional and substantial affair.
The cap is slightly bulbous in shape. From its widest point at mid-height, it tapers slightly towards the base and slightly more markedly towards its tip. I find the profile easy on the eye, and when the pen is capped it breaks up what would otherwise be a very angular profile to the Loom.
I mentioned the contemporary look of several Faber-Castell fountain pens, and one area the company seems to have gone its own way on is in the design of the section. On first reading, cylindrical and slightly tapered sounds pretty conventional, but I haven’t come across a design quite like this before. On both of my Looms, the finish of the section matches that of the barrel so there’s no concession there to promote grip. There’s also a slightly disconcerting lack of any flaring to stop your fingers sliding off the end of the section and onto the nib. The only feature to help keep your hand where it should be is a series of 5 rings that act as ridges to provide something to grip.
This works perfectly well in terms of stopping the Loom from sliding out of your grasp. Even so, I do find the section a bit ‘squirrely’. It has a slight tendency to try and rotate in your grip. That persists with use, but you do get used to it and everything settles down. I wrote the first draft of this review by hand with the Loom (and in 1 sitting) and it was fine. I don’t find that I have to grip the section any more tightly than normal and I haven’t experienced any noticeable fatigue as a result.
The Sharp End
I’ve spent a bit of time now highlighting some of the Loom’s quirks and (ahem) features, but it does have a trick up its metaphorical sleeve – the nib.
Faber-Castell has a reputation for high quality steel nibs, and the units I’ve got on my Looms are crackers. The nib is a #5 in size and suits the proportions of the Loom well. I think it’s the same as used in a number of other Faber-Castell pens, including the Ondoro and eMotion. Absence of a breather hole and a stippled finish in the form of a chevron add to the attraction, but at the end of the day it’s the performance that counts.
I have a fine and a broad nib and both have worked flawlessly out of the box. Ink flow is good, even with drier inks. Both nibs give feedback on a range of papers, but it’s not too intrusive.
The Loom takes either an international cartridge or converter, meaning there is a wide range of ink options available. As a slight note of caution, I’ve found that not all international converters fit equally well, so a bit of trial and error might be needed if you’re thinking of re-purposing another brand of converter.
I can see the Faber-Castell Loom being a pen that divides opinions. I’ve highlighted a number of ‘quirks’ in the design and execution of the Loom. The overall design might not appeal to everyone. Similarly the shape of the section won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. While none of them are likely to be killer blows in isolation, I could see how they might start to accumulate in the ‘deficit’ column of any evaluation of the Loom.
My take is that the overall design and feel of the pen, coupled with the quality of the nibs, make the Loom worth having. To reject it on the grounds of some kind of cumulative scoring system would be rather harsh.
Don’t smash the Loom! (As Ned Ludd almost certainly didn’t say.)