I'm taking a break lately from being obsessed with cameras, to being obsessed with fountain pens.
There are a lot of people who won't use a fountain pen that costs less than $300, and hooray for them, it's their money. But there are lots of great fountain pens to be had for $50 or less--much less. As for the whole gold nib vs. steel: eh. I'm sure gold is probably smoother; but again, there are plenty of fine writing instruments with steel nibs.
I have been prowling stationeryart.com for Asian fountain pens that are both amazingly cheap (even with shipping from Hong Kong) and difficult to find in this country. Earlier this week I received a Pilot (the brand is called Namiki in Asia) 78G, a pen that cost me about $10, including the shipping.
It looks gorgeous. I got the red, which is a nice dark catsup-y red and looks fabulous with the gold accents. The stripes on the cap are not metal but painted on, so there may eventually be wear, but it's not an area of the pen that gets handled a lot. It's ergonomic, and I love the shape, which is reminiscent of classic 1950s design. It's comfortable to hold, not too wide or too narrow. It's a medium nib, but Japanese mediums are western fine.
And more importantly, it writes amazingly smooth. I mean, there's a noticeable difference between this and my other fountain pens. So far the only ink I've used in it is Private Reserve's Midnight Blues, and part of the smoothness may be due to the ink, but ink only contributes so much. The best ink in the world, coming out of a crappy pen, isn't going to feel nearly this smooth. It even makes my handwriting look better!
I only have 2 really minor quibbles: that the cap is screw-on, and that it comes with a squeeze converter. The cap bit is important because I use my fountain pens at work (I loathe the cheap ballpoints that the firm supplies), and you can’t leave a fountain pen uncapped during periods of disuse. The ink collected in the nib will dry and form a little ball of dry ink that will have to be shaken loose before the pen will write again. So I’m constantly having to screw on and screw off the cap. However, there are also advantages to a screw-on cap, mainly in that it’s much harder for it to come loose inside a purse and leak ink on your most important possessions.
My gripe about the squeeze converter is just that I don’t like them. They don’t hold as much ink as a screw-type converter, and they aren’t clear so you can’t tell how much ink is in them. But it’s the converter that the pen came with. *shrug*
Bottom line is: I would be impressed by this pen at nearly any price (any that I would pay, anyway); for $7 it may be, dollar for dollar, the finest fountain pen made. I would recommend it if you're curious about fountain pens and don't want to invest a lot of money in something you're not sure you'll love.
I’ve also ordered a Jinhao (a very inexpensive Chinese brand I've mostly heard good things about) X450 from stationeryart.com, and have the Pilot Prera from them on my wish list. My goal is to amass a modest collection of inexpensive but respectable pens. The most expensive pen on my to-buy list is a Sailor (also a Japanese brand) Reglus, which retails for about $115. I’m going to wait for my birthday, then finance it with whatever birthday moneys to ‘rents kick down to me. Should pay for about 2/3 of it.
Pens I have purchased thus far:
- Lamy Al-Star, graphite body and fine nib. This is the pen I take to work most days. It's not pretty, but it's a workhorse and a reliable performer with a large converter that never runs out during the day. I usually keep it inked with Papier Plume ink, right now I'm using a bottle of peacock blue.
- Noodler's Piston Fill, turquoise body with a fine nib. This is dedicated to Noodler's Baystate Blue ink.
- Sheaffer Prelude, incandescent green body with a medium nib. This was an impulse buy when Goulet Pens had it on special. It's a great writer (I use it for letters a lot) with a nice heft to it. Right now it's filled with Noodler's Cayenne.
- Ohto Tasche, pink body with a fine nib. I'll be honest, I mostly bought this for the cute factor, but it's a good pen with a clever design, and it's perfect for your pocket or purse. The only thing I don't like about it is it's too small for a converter. It takes universal short cartridges and right now it's loaded with Pelikan Brilliant Black. (I also have turquoise cartridges.)
Pens I plan to buy in the near future:
- Pilot Prera, ivory body with a medium nib.
- Taccia Overture, evergreen marble body with a fine nib.
- Parker Urban, ebony metal body with a medium nib. And probably soon, while Goulet Pens has it on sale.
- Sailor Reglus, orange body with a fine nib.
I've joined the Ink Drop at Goulet Pens, too. 5 ink samples a month for $10. So you can have ink ADD without dropping way too much money on full bottles. Each sample is enough to fill a converter at least 2 or 3 times.