Sparkly Unicorns

Narwhal Key West Review

Narwhal Key West is the latest pretty pen offering from the California-based pen company. Made from sparkly, semi-transparent resin and a traditional cigar shape, the Narwhal Key West series are priced mid way between the Narwhal Original and the Schuylkill*. At £40-£45, this makes them budget priced, by pen enthusiast standards.

The Narwhal Key West series consists of three models. There is the purple Las Coloradas, which has a rose gold plated nib, and rose gold trim and clip. The blue Key Largo with a steel nib and chrome finish. Finally, the golden Islamorada with a gold coloured steel nib and trim.

*I have no idea how you pronounce that or avoid tripping over your tongue in the attempt.

First impressions

The pens are nicely packaged in a sturdy black cardboard box with silver logo and detailing. A drawer slides out to reveal the pen with a soft leather pouch. It’s a nice touch, though I initially assumed it was leatherette rather than leather. All the pens come with an International Standard converter, which is always welcome. Regular readers will know that pens supplied without a converter is something of a bugbear of mine.

My first thoughts when I saw these pens were “Ooh, sparkly!” and then, with the purple one, “Unicorn Princess”. Perhaps a little harshly, they do remind me of the sort of sparkly plastic gift you’d find attached to a magazine aimed at pre-teen girls.  They are undoubtedly rather pretty though, and my inner princess was wide-eyed with delight, especially at the purple one.

It didn’t occur to me immediately, but of course Narwhal horns were thought to be Unicorn horns at one time, and sold as such. Narwhals are sometimes known as “Unicorns of the Sea”, so perhaps the vibe is deliberate. I should state that although I wouldn’t include myself in that demographic, I have nothing whatsoever against Unicorn Princesses. Indeed, given my response to the purple Los Coloradas, it is entirely possible that lurking deep in the rocky cynicism of my soul, there is a Unicorn Princess trying to dig her way up to the surface. Or maybe not!

Writing Experience

I wrote a full page of A4 correspondence on Rhodia paper with each of the Narwhal Key West pens and found the experience oddly… Tom and Jerry. The Fine nib was a bit scratchy and the Medium nibs actually squeaked as I was writing! They did settle down after a while, but it was quite a disconcerting experience and further odd squeaks would catch me unawares. Clearly they have a ‘sweet spot’, where they will work as they should but, should you diverge from it, they will misbehave, which is not ideal.

Revisiting the pens on a subsequent occasion, also using Rhodia paper albeit a different pad, they all seemed to behave better, though I still had the odd squeak.  I found the Fine nib was still a tad scratchy, but the Medium nibs both seemed alright. It is possible that the nibs had settled or that they just needed to be used to adapt to my particular hand.

On the plus side, there were also no issues with ink drying out, despite the pens laying untouched for over a week. This is always welcome, as a hard start after a short period of inactivity is an unnecessary irritation.

I didn’t notice until I was photographing the pens that the nibs seem to vary hugely in terms of alignment on the feed. This does raise some concerns about consistency and quality control, though it could just be down to the difference in nib materials and thus, perhaps, slight differences in size.

In Summary

If you like sparkly things, then the Narwhal Key West pens will have you in raptures. If not, then you may have to dig deep for them to appeal to your inner Unicorn Princess. I’d say this would make a nice, relatively inexpensive step-up pen for a youngster. That said with the squeaky nib and erratic nib seating, I would recommend caution, as you may find yourself needing to tune or replace the nib. In all honesty, there are better, albeit far less glittery, pens in this price range.

If you are really taken with the sparkle and are prepared to take your chances with the nib, then these could be for you. Otherwise, I suspect you may find the performance disappointing.

Personally, I’m on the fence about these. As much as my inner princess covets a sparkly purple pen, I can’t see myself using it if the nib isn’t up to snuff. Life is too short to put up with a poor writing experience.

  • Pretty!…shiny!
  • Fairly inexpensive
  • Nice packaging
  • Leather pouch
  • Converter included
  • Good seal prevents ink drying
  • Temperamental nibs
  • Nib seating is inconsistent
Who is it for
  • Sparkly Unicorn Princesses (Inner or Outer)
  • Magpies
  • Fans of bling
  • Demonstrator enthusiasts
The lowdown

Available at many of the usual online pen emporia, such as Stonecott Fine Writing Supplies (who kindly lent us the pens for review),  Cult Pens, Art From The Heart and others. The Blue and Gold models retail at around £40, with the Purple gold-tipped model at £45.


One Reply to “Sparkly Unicorns”

  1. I have the Las Coloradas, but then I am a sucker for shiny, sparkly things. I now have four Narwhals and I think the best nib is on my first, the Hippocampus Purple, so I get your frustration and I hear you’re not the only one.

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