It Started with a Cross

Like a lot of people who quite fancy a fountain pen, my first pen was a treat to myself when I completed my biology degree back in 1995 in England. I had no idea what I was looking for in a pen, I’d done no research, but had just felt attracted to fountain pens in general, and wanted to use one now that I had grown up. Perhaps I thought it would make me seem more sophisticated or intelligent, well, whatever the idea behind it was, it didn’t do either of those.

I wandered into a department store with pretentions of Selfridges in Ealing, west London, and let my self be guided by the salesman (you can see where this is leading can’t you?). All too brief a time later, I owned a Cross Century II Medalist fountain pen, with 23k appointments. I’ve always liked this pen, I think most collectors like myself have fond memories of their first whatever (be it a fountain pen, a Dickens first edition, Action Comics #1, or some other collectible). But I’ve not always known how crap it really is… that is, not until I started buying really good fountain pens.

For some while, I liked it so much, I even bought another Century II, the second one in black lacquer, and a matching ballpoint…

century_ii_medal_01
Cross Century II Medalist (chrome/gold), and the Century II in black lacquer fountain pens, and the Century II ballpoint in black and gold.

And I enjoyed them for years. Yes the nibs were scratchy (I now realise), and the ballpoint used a refill which seemed to trap dust and smudge the ink on almost any surface, but I didn’t really know that fountain pens could be any better.

As you can see, the pens look great. The caps snap on with a soft, reassuring click that speaks of quality manufacturing. The Medalist’s chrome and gold-plated finish is of a high standard, and fairs well over time. I have had mine for more than 20 years now, and despite a few minor dents and scratches, it is still an attractive pen. I haven’t had the black lacquer model for quite as long, but that has weathered even more impressively. The Medalist’s chrome barrel can be a little slippery at times, but nothing too extreme, whilst the black lacquer’s body is pretty faultless… warm to the touch for metal, and a pleasing texture.

The clips, with the Cross logo at their top, are still firm and grip a pocket securely.

century_ii_medal_nib
Cross Century II Medalist, medium, 23K gold plated nib.

 

century_ii_blk_lacq_nib
Cross Century II in black lacqeur, medium, 23K gold plated nib.

It’s All in the Nib

No, it’s the nibs that let these pens down, and I only found that out when I started to look elsewhere. The nibs look lovely; the gold etching and the Cross logo are the epitome of a classy fountain pen. But from day one, both nibs suffered from dry starts, poor ink flow, and even after adjusting to the best of my meager ability, felt like writing with a small chisel.

And once I discovered what a smooth nib, from a manufacturer that was really  known for their quality work, the Cross’ were returned to their nice presentation box, and have seen no ink since.

Details…

The Century II is not a small pen, uncapped and unposted, it’s shorter than the TWSBI Eco, but a fraction longer than the Platinum 3776. It’s a medium then, but…

 

Metric (mm/g/ml)

US (in/oz)

Length Unposted:

124

4.9

Length Capped:

135

5.3

Diameter:

10.9

0.4

Length Posted:

156

6.14

Weight:

23

23

Nib Size:

Med

Med

Nib Material:

23K Gold-Plated

23K Gold-Plated

Cartridge Notes:

0.5 (Cross Code #8921)

0.02 (Cross Code #8921)

Converter Notes:

0.5 (Cross Code #8756)

0.02 (Cross Code #8756)

When it’s posted, the Century II is one of the longest pens I own. It’s well-balanced, and feels possibly nicer with its cap perched on the end—even though I don’t usually write with my pens posted.

The Cross Century II range takes Cross’ own proprietary converter, or their own ink cartridges. Neither holds a particularly large amount of ink, but it’s enough to last for a few pages of solid A4 handwriting. Though to be honest, I haven’t inked up either of my Cross’ for more than a year.

Because the barrel is metal, and screws onto the nib unit with metal threads, the pen can’t be filled with an eyedropper (ink corrodes the metal over time), but this is one of the few pens I really wouldn’t bother filling like that anyway.

Summary

In all, the Century II fountain pen is a lovely pen. Out of the box, both of the pens I own had their issues, and were not (I know now), particularly good writers. But I have read other reviews (e.g., MyPenNeedsInk), where the reviewer had the nib professionally tuned, and they have enjoyed their pen ever since; to date, I haven’t missed writing with either pen enough to send them away. Instead, feeling like I was missing out on something, I went hunting for a new pen; and this time, I did a bit of reading

5 thoughts on “It Started with a Cross

  1. Hello Paul, thanks for the mention. Our experiences with Cross are so similar. Enjoyed your read and though I don’t pick up my Century very often anymore I’m pretty sure it’s forever in my collection probably for many of the same reasons as you. Take Care

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks Bob, and it was mostly your innocent, “Have you bought any pens from any other manufacturers?” That launched me on this journey… I think I should thank you 🙂

    Like

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