Sunday, April 24, 2016

Getting Started

This post was requested by a reader and it makes perfect sense to provide this information.

Picking out your first fountain pen!

You have done the research, gotten excited about the prospect of giving fountain pens a try but, which one do I buy?

I will list some here that are solid pen choices and will break them down by price and any gotchas to make note of.

$1 - $25 Range

The first pen that pops in my head would be the Jinhao ($5 - $10) brand from China. I prefer either the Jinhao x450 or the x750 models. They are cheap pens but for the price, come with a converter so you can use bottled inks. The nibs on these 2 models are #6 medium nibs.

The Pilot Metropolitan ($15) also needs to be mentioned as it is so very popular. This pen brand is made in Japan and also comes with a converter but it only works on Pilot pens. The Metropolitan comes in many colors and has a metal body but the nib sizes on Japanese pens are usually ground thinner that western nibs so a medium Japanese nib is more like a western fine.

Noodler's Konrad made of plastic ($20) is also a popular pen in this range. These pens are made of a durable plastic but more importantly this pen is a piston filler. This means that the converter is built into the pen so it only takes bottled ink. Noodler's pens also have a steel flex nib which take a little breaking in but you can get some decent line variation out of it.

Noodler's Ahab ($23) is a popular pen but I don't feel it is quite the right pen for a beginner as the nib and feed need to be tweaked and fiddled with if you want to use the flex nib. It is a great pen for your third or fourth pen, in my opinion.

Kaweco Sport ($25) is also a very popular pen. It is a bit smaller and generally needs to be posted to fit your hand. They traditionally only take cartridges as the pen body is not long enough for a converter but Kaweco does offer a very small converter, but it doesn't hold much ink.

$25 - $50 Range

Lamy Safari ($29) is a very popular pen brand and this one is from Germany. These pens are plastic and light but are durable. They come with a triangular grip and you can change the nibs on these with other Lamy nibs. It is a great way to find out which line width you like without having to buy multiple pens. The downside is that these pens do not come with a converter but they can be purchased seperately for roughly $5 and they are proprietary.

Twsbi Eco ($30) is a pen brand from Taiwan and is the economical model to the Diamond 580 model of Twsbi pens. These nibs are super smooth and these pens are piston based filler pens much like the Noodler Konrad. They only tak bottled ink and are great pens.

Lamy Al-Star ($37) is exactly the same size as the Safari but is made of aluminum and has a smokey translucent grip.  Otherwise the Safari and Al-Star are the same.

Noodler's Konrad ($40) made out of Acrylic or Ebonite. This is the same Konrad pen as the $20 plastic version, just made out of different materials.

Conlklin Duragraph ($44) is a decent pen but from my experience, the broader the nib, the less scratchy the writing experience. These pens do come with a converter and are now made in Italy.

Faber Castell Loom ($45) is another German pen brand and comes in a variety of colors. This is a metal pen and it writes like a champ. Like the Lamy Safari and Al-Star, it does not come with a converter so if you want to use bottled inks, you will need to purchase the proprietary converter for around $5.

$50 and Up Range

 Twsbi Diamond 580 ($55) Much like the Eco but with metal parts where the Eco has plastic. It is a much more sturdy pen in the hand compared to the Eco but essentially the same piston filler pen. Great smooth nibs.

Twsbi Mini ($50) is the same pen as the 580 but smaller. It is the same piston filler pen with great smooth nibs. 

Twsbi Vac 700 and Vac mini ($70) is a Twsbi pen but has a vacuum filler mechanism rather than a piston filled version. It only takes bottled ink like all of the Twsbi pens but just uses the power of vacuum compression over piston filling. That is the only difference.

Lamy Studio ($70) is a very attractive pen that looks nothing like the Safari or the Al-Star but it takes the same nibs. These pens are made of metal and have a very professional look to them. They also have an interesting clip that resembles an airplane propeller. These Lamy pens do come with a converter, which is a welcome change.

Monteverde Invincia ($70 - $99) are a US brand that made solid pens. Monteverde do make cheaper pens but they have been known to have finish issues after mild use so I did not include them. Granted that is merely an aesthetic thing but it bothers me. Monteverde has good solid steel nibs and they are nice and smooth writers and generally a heavier pen. 

Noodler's Neponset ($75) are a very interesting large pen if you can find one. They are made of either acrylic or ebonite but they come with a stell music nib, which is very cool.
And lastly, I will make mention of the Pilot Vanishing Point ($148). This pen is a bit pricey for a beginner but is an amazingly unique pen. It has a retractable nib like a ballpoint or rollerball pen but it is a 18k gold nib. They are very stylish and unique and I highly recommend this wonderful pen.

I sure hope this helps with the choices. There are a lot of great pens out there but these are some solid ones to really look at.

The vendors listed above have not paid me in any way. These are my opinions and I am not being compensated in any way.

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