Staedtler Initium Lignum Fountain Pen Review

This is one of those fountain pen posts I’m trying to keep out of this site, but this time you will forgive me because it features a venerable pencil brand that has made forays into a new market (or, rather, re-entered it): Staedtler’s Premium line, comprising resin, wood, and leather-accented writing instruments. I saw the new lineup for the first time while still in Canada, and was very surprised and pleased to see it; however, I had the not quite favorable impression that they were trying to do too much at once (e.g. everything from ballpoints to $2,000+ collectors’ items) instead of expanding the collection slowly and organically as they learned the ropes. I also felt the aesthetics were vaguely reminiscent of the Graf von Faber-Castell line. The price tag was outlandish: upwards of CAD 200 for a steel-nibbed pen. This particular model, the wood-barrelled Initium Lignum (the only one I considered buying, then or now), still costs CAD 279 (plus 15% tax). I liked the idea, I was a fan of the brand, but for that kind of money I could get myself a proper gold-nibbed pen (or two) from other manufacturers. So I passed on it then, until I got wind of a CultPens sale* that included a free leather-bound Atoma notebook with any Initium pen, so I took the plunge. Pricewise it was now or never.

A new pen, like a drop of water in a desert :)

However, once the euphoria subsided, I was unfortunately reminded of all the other reasons I didn’t buy it back then. It’s not only the price. The pen itself looks very nice, but the balance feels all wrong. It’s a heavy pen, and that by itself is not a huge problem (I have some Waterman heavies that I am quite fond of), but the problem is that that weight is not distributed evenly across the pen but overly concentrated at the nib end. The cap is substantial, too, and all this makes for a very top-heavy pen: it threatens to slip out of your hand when you try to write with it, because the grip section pulls it downwards and there is nothing to counterbalance it at the back. (And no, posting the cap doesn’t work either, because it then threatens to topple over backwards.) Perhaps I tend to grip pens more lightly than other people, but this is because I was told at the beginning of my pen life that I was unwittingly wrecking the soft nib of my Pelikan M300 by pressing down on it too much, and I have had to relearn how to hold a pen since. This is important, as this is precisely one of the advantages of using a fountain pen – it allows you to write for longer without your hand cramping. If a fountain pen forces you to hold it like a ballpoint, something is wrong.

I also should have known better than to buy a pen with a metal grip. I’ve avoided those ever since my experience with the Graf von Faber-Castell Pernambuco; these kind of pens look fabulous but are less than optimal for actual writing, because they are heavy, and they slip. (Come to think of it, I always tend to gravitate towards wood-barrelled pens, but once purchased, they don’t seem to make it into my regular rotation much.) I’m very curious where Staedtler sources its nibs, or whether they make them in-house; this particular nib is smooth enough but can be a bit slippery on paper like Tomoe River. I personally find the nib a bit small given the size of the pen and the price; small nibs, like the one on the Waterman Charleston, make me feel shortchanged, and I believe they write worse too.

Well, this wasn’t a rational purchase. I had tried out the pen in the shop and I knew what was coming. But strangely, inexplicably, I still wanted it, even with all its shortcomings. Brand loyalty is a funny thing: the sight of the logo-engraved cap peeping out of my pen pouch makes me happy, and I am willing to accomodate it, get used to its quirks, and see what good I can coax out of it. Sometimes a pen proves itself better than you initially thought it to be: I didn’t think much of my Kaweco Sport at first, for example, but later on I found that it never dried out, not even for months, which was pretty impressive for a cartridge-use pen in that price range. I’m curious to see what happens with my Initium. As for Staedtler, I do wish they will stay committed to the Premium line, but learn from their mistakes and come up with better models. There must be enough inspiring material in the Staedtler archives for them to make use of in this retro boom!

* This blog is not associated with CultPens in any way. I got to know of this promotion thanks to Matthias @Bleistift – they had the same offer last November.

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9 thoughts on “Staedtler Initium Lignum Fountain Pen Review

  1. Thank you for sharing your experience with this pen with us.
    I, too, am a fan of Staedtler, but somehow never warmed up to their Premium line. One point you mentioned is very true – I wonder whether they tried too much in one go by releasing so many varieties at once. I think my main problem is that I don’t find the look very appealing – at least not for this price tag.

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    1. I happen to like the look (of the Lignum at least), so that helps, but they certainly could have thought harder about how to price the line. Regarding incremental growth, I think TWSBI did it really well – starting with just one model, tinkering with it, upgrading it, and only afterwards expanding the lines and colors. I wish Staedtler had done the same.

      BTW I was a bit harsh on the Lignum, but hopefully the resin models balance better… I do like the Mars head on the nib :)

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    1. I know it’s going to take a lot more work to win you over to fountain pens and ink, but hey, I’m trying 😅 and yes, maybe it’s time to call up some good vintage Staedtler graphite!

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  2. I took advantage of the same Cult Pens offer to get a Resina. Lighter that the Lignum I find it well balanced and I much like the really small nib. But the section is too thin for my taste and it seems that all the range has similar proportions. I like Staedtler but I will wait for a renewal in their line before going for another pen.

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    1. Good to hear the Resina balances better! I agree, there are some things to love about the Initium line, definitely, but on the other hand it could benefit from some modifications for sure. I wonder if there are plans for any new models…

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  3. I’m new to wordpress and stumbled into your blog. I have an initium metallum that I bought last January. A hefty price indeed but good things I got some allowance from my office during the Hongkong trip. Definitely will blog it in this week as an opening first post.

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