In my review of the Pelikan P200, I alluded to my general disdain for the cartridge filling fountain pen. Intellectually, I understand the void that it fills and just how useful it can be to some. While my personal preference has always gravitated towards Pelikan’s piston filling pens, I do appreciate the diversity available to us and I try to approach each pen with an open mind and strive to keep my pre-formed notions from getting in the way of enjoying a nice pen. When the opportunity to review the Pelikan P3100 Ductus came along, I was actually excited. The Ductus demonstrates modern styling and was “developed for straightforward people with a unique style” according to Pelikan. The line has since been discontinued as of 2014, marking the end of a seven year run. The name Ductus is reported to be Latin in origin, translating to “guidance” or “leadership”. The pen’s styling was welcomed at its release and it won the “Stylus Icon Award 2009” from Stylus Magazine. I can see the merit behind that award. When capped, this pen is sleek and stunning. Read on to find out if that opinion holds up when we take a more in-depth look.
Appearance & Design (8/10) – Very upscale appearing but it loses a little of that magic when uncapped
The Pelikan P3100 Ductus is a patronen-füller or cartridge pen but you wouldn’t know that by the look and feel of it. The Ductus has a brass barrel which gives the pen a fairly significant and reassuring heft. It certainly has a more robust feel than most other cartridge pens that I have previously encountered. The finish exudes quality craftsmanship and the design gives it a very upscale appearance. Pelikan notes that the barrel is first lacquered and then polished to a high sheen. Afterwards, the lines are created through engraving which is then filled with palladium before a coating of clear lacquer is applied to make the surface smooth. All of this comes together to form a pen with very clean lines. There are three trim rings on the pen; one at the piston knob, one at the front of the barrel (above the cap threads), and one at the end of the section. The cap top has a single chick logo which became plated on pens produced after 2010 (the example shown here dates 2007-2010). The single cap band is engraved, “PELIKAN GERMANY.” I particularly like the appearance of the clip which is a departure from the traditional pelican’s beak that we are familiar with. Where I become a little less positive about the design is evident in the nib and the filling mechanism, both discussed in further detail below. Suffice it to say that when capped, the pen rates a 10 out of 10 in my eyes. Points are lost because the design does not hold up throughout but, if you can put those few issues aside, it’s still a very handsome pen.
Construction & Quality (10/10) – A solid feel in the hand with outstanding craftsmanship
The Ductus feels absolutely solid and I have no qualms about its construction. The pieces have an excellent fit and finish. My example had a very smooth nib that was perfectly aligned. The cartridge tray threads securely and the cap post well. This is a pen that looks to be durable and more than capable of standing up to decades of use.
Weight & Dimensions (9/10) – The size and weight are sure to put some people off but don’t knock it until you’ve tried it
The thing that surprised me most about the Ductus was its heft. Most cartridge pens that I have encountered have been light in weight but that’s not the case here. The P3100 weighs in at a respectable 1.41 ounces due to the brass barrel construction. That’s 0.38 ounces heavier than an M800 and 0.21 ounces heavier than an M1000. That kind of weight is likely to discourage many who already find those two form factors to be a bit too heavy for comfort. Weight aside, the pen is 5.59 inches long when capped and 6.37 inches when posted making it a touch taller than the M800. It has a diameter of 0.51 inches. A long standard international cartridge should provide a max ink capacity of about 1.4mLs. I was worried that the added weight and length would be disconcerting but the pen is actually quite comfortable to use. When unposted, it does not feel heavy at all and is very comfortable in the hand. It becomes a tad heavy and a bit unbalanced towards the rear when posted but not overwhelmingly so.
Nib & Performance (7/10) – Looks more like a shovel than a nib but it gets the job done
Perhaps it is due to me being so used to Pelikan’s wonderful design on their Souverän nibs but the Ductus’ nib kind of falls flat with me. It has grown on me with ongoing use but it just doesn’t feel as elegant or refined and detracts from the overall appearance of the pen. The nib is broad and oddly shaped, more like a shovel than a nib. One big thing in its favor is that the nib is 18C-750 gold that is completely rhodium plated. There are a pattern of lines on the most distal aspect of the nib with a smallish Pelikan logo just below that. On the left side of the nib, the size designation is engraved and on the opposite side, “18C-750.” The nib on this example is very smooth and puts down a wet, medium line. I have not had any issues with hesitations or hard starts though I do find that it doesn’t start up as well from a few days rest as its piston filler brethren. Interestingly, I do get a tiny bit of variation between the horizontal and vertical strokes of the nib which is an unexpected and welcomed find. The nib sizes available were EF, F, M, and B. There also appears to have been BB and OB nibs available by special order. Unlike the nibs on the Classic and Souverän lines, I don’t believe that the Ductus nib is removable though I cannot be 100% certain of this.
Filling System & Maintenance (7/10) – Leaves you a little wanting for a pen at this price point
The Ductus has a unique cartridge system which, unfortunately, is the second black eye for this pen. The blind cap is attached to a rigid tray that unscrews from the back of the barrel. This tray will accommodate one long or two short international cartridges. What it will not accommodate is a converter meaning that there is no bottle filling for this model. Don’t get me wrong, you could fill a converter with a syringe and then insert it into the tray but that defeats the purpose. It is a bit disappointing that a high-end cartridge pen of this caliber doesn’t go that extra mile to work with a converter. The nice thing here is that there is no concern about a poorly seated cartridge as the system ensures a good fit. It’s a competent system for a cartridge pen but leaves you a little wanting at this price point.
Cost & Value (7/10) – A heavy pen that seems priced by the ounce
The P3100 Ductus has been discontinued since 2014 but examples can still be found in retail channels. Once these are gone though the only available models will be those found on the used market. The US MSRP is $675-700 while the overseas MSRP is 380€ (~$426). Again we see the huge disparity between US and overseas pricing. Current street pricing varies but seems to range from $435-540 domestically. I can certainly understand a premium price point as this pen includes an all brass barrel, a rhodinized 18C-750 nib, and palladium trim. It certainly feels like a higher end model but I’m not sure that I would pay the same price for a cartridge only pen as I would for a piston but that is a matter of personal preference. This pen looks to be quite durable so it is likely to be a much better value if you can find an example on the used market.
Conclusion – A beautiful pen that takes a few knocks for its filling system and nib
P3100 Ductus: 48/60 or 80%
The P3100 Ductus and its gold counterpart the P3110 are aimed at the higher end pen market. It’s a cartridge pen that has a large footprint and an equally large price tag. While its styling is beautiful, it is not without its flaws. The nib is a bit unsightly though very capable and the cartridge system is limited in its implementation. I don’t think anyone could go wrong owning one of these but I’d favor a second-hand purchase given the large price tag to get the most value for your money. The Ductus may not have changed my opinion towards all cartridge pens but it surely makes me rethink that segment of the market. I’m a fan of the Ductus despite its issues and suggest that you check one out if you’re at all interested in a high-end cartridge fountain pen.
- Beautiful, modern styling
- A very respectable size & weight
- Very smooth & comfortable writing experience
- Unappealing nib design
- Inability to use a converter/fill from a bottle
- Very high retail price
A Look At The Pelikan P3100 Ductus
Pelikan P3100 Ductus Writing Sample
*The pen utilized for this review is my own from my personal collection and therefore the opinions expressed are also mine and free of any undue influence.