Jul 2, 2016332 views

Looking for pen recommendations

Howdy all.
I bought a cheap Cross Aventura (pic above) a few years back that is finally starting to give out. I now want to replace this pen with something slightly more 'advanced'. Here's what I'm looking for:
  • Refillable - I'm seriously done with cartridges. I've probably lost like 20 of those things. Having the option to have cartridges would be nice, but I don't want to rely on them.
  • A fine nib - Or at least, finer than what I have now. I think my handwriting has improved to a point that I am writing much tighter than I used to and I'm having a hard time making round letters easily distinguishable .
  • Pedestrian - I don't want anything too flashy or showy for a couple reasons. One is that I am literally using this thing every day. I need a workhorse, not a showpiece. The other reason is that it just doesn't suit me. My current pen is black with gold accents and that's about as far as I want to go. Other colours are fine.
Where should I start looking?
Bonus question: do you have an ink recommendation?
ltopper, steve, and 2 others

I finally shook the cobwebs off my wallet and got a TWSBI 580... Absolutely LOVE it ! LOVED it so much I bought another... They have fine and extra fine nibs. Beautiful pen, piston fill that holds a generous amount of ink.. designed to allow you to clean it easily. Really lovely when filled with your favorite color. Definately a workhorse that looks sweet - IMO :) Check it out @ http://www.gouletpens.com/twsbi-580/c/258 and SBrown's youtube review -
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Dear Dr,McCoy... The problem isn't with the pen my friend... the problem is the Los Angeles heat... No TWSBI sweaty grips here in beautiful Michigan.... Perhaps your gal can knit a tiny sweat band for the grip section ;) ... Enjoy !
I did actually think about putting one of those foam grips on it, but then I realised I wouldn't be able to get the cap on.
I would strongly recommend Sheaffer Prelude. You can find new old stock for like $20 on Ebay. Full ss body is very durable; nib is a dream and uses standard sheaffer converter. I have long ignored recent, nonvintage Sheaffer pens, until I recently got the Prelude by accident in a lot purchase. In my opinion, there is no competent in this price range.
Cool! I'll probably give that a look soonish. I ended up going with a TWSBI Eco - but my gal has taken to it and sharing it has already been a little difficult. Thanks!
I actually own a prelude with a palladium cap in fine nib. It writes beautifully right out of the box. It is a great everyday pen
I really enjoy the Pilot Custom 92 (which I got for a good price on Ebay, shipped from a Japan), as well as the Lamy 2000. For inks, I really like the Goulet-Noodler's collaborative ink called "Liberty's Elysium." (There is also a less expensive Pilot called the 74, which has the same nib.)
Is there a list of legit sellers for Pilot pens on Ebay? I'm really interested in the Decimo/VP still (also the E95s).
i'm not sure about a list, but i went with a seller listed as 'from Japan' with a lot of good reviews -- that particular seller is called "made-in-japan.store"
Not quite my 2 cents worth. I am stuck on Preppy but you may want something a little better, you might go the plaiser. I have not tried it but it is seemingly "better" than the preppy. I have done eyedropper and love it. I am venturing into TWSBI ECO, $30. There are Lamy's without the triangle, but my fingers slide down the grip. I am using Waterman ink but am finding it is a little too wet. All these are xf (.2) or f (.3).
With respect to nibs, stub, italic, cursive, oblique, flexi, etc., are all nib shapers intended to provide more variation in the width of the pen stroke. A stub nib draws a wide line when moved down the page vertically, and a fine line when moved horizontally. You can read about nib shapes here: http://www.richardspens.com/?nibs=primer
If you write small, just as you suggest, you will probably be best served with a fine or extra-fine nib, and you probably won't be very happy with a stub nib. Having said that, if you are seriously interested in pens, it won't be long before you look for some of the different nib shapes just to see what all the fuss is about.
And to show what is possible, I like the way my handwriting looks when I use a stub nib, but before I retired, I maintained a day planner with narrow line spacing, and any stub nib made a mess. I bought a custom-ground nib for my Pelikan Demonstrator that has a stub nib, but when rolled over, the top side if the nib is ground to write a fine line. I could use the fine line in my planner, then roll the pen over to write a note or a showy signature.
Personally, I think it is hard to beat the value of Lamy 2000 (gold nib with a piston filler), if you can get it at the Massdrop price ($100+). And it is one of the smoothest pens I have. But be aware that some people do hate it. You can read the background here: http://blog.gouletpens.com/2015/12/discussing-lamy-2000-quality-control.html.
You might also consider Tactile Turn Gist Fountain Pens that I don't see others mention here. You can buy directly from Will's website and occasionally find 25% coupon by google. Goulet Pens also has a great introduction and you can buy from them too: http://blog.gouletpens.com/2016/07/introducing-tactile-turn-gist-fountain.html.
For inks, JetPens has very detailed comparisons for several colors which I find useful: http://www.jetpens.com/blog/fountain-pen-inks/ct/71. Personally I like Pilot Iroshizuku Kon-peki the most for my daily usage.
Wow, great links! Thanks! I really like the look of those Gist pens from Tactile Turn (especially the copper).
Lamy 2000 in extra fine. It is a piston filler (no cartridges), it is a minimalist design (not flashy), and it is well made and will last you many years. It also writes like a dream.
Yeah, I think I'm gonna give that one an in-store try if I can. I will say that if I'm going to spend that much on a pen though, the Vanishing Point appeals to me a bit more (even if it is less pretty).
My two cents, for what its worth. I have most of the pens previously mentioned, and then some: Pilot Vanishing Point (4 of them now, I love these pens), Pilot Metropolitan (my first FP), Lamy CP-1, Lamy Studio, Lamy Safari/AL-Star, Lamy 2000, TWSBI 580 Diamond, TWSBI Eco, Kaweco Lilliput, and more. Lots of pen, but few of them would be in your desired price range.
Pilot Vanishing Point: Way outside of your desired price range, but there's a reason I have 4 of them: it is a f**king awesome pen. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. If you can ever get one, DO IT. One of my 3 daily drivers. Get it in matte black for a very stealth look.
Lamy Studio: The 2nd of my daily drivers. Very smooth in medium. Excellent pen. My only gripe is that the grip feels too smooth some days. It is something others have commented on as well. The grip is perfectly smooth, untextured metal, so you may wish to try it before getting it.
TWSBI 580 Diamond: The final daily driver. As a piston filler, massive ink reservoir. I love this pen to bits. Should be right at or slight above your desired price point. May be considered a bit more showy than the Studio, with the clear body that shows off the ink and all. Be careful if you disassemble it, reassembly can be tricky, but there are videos on youtube to help with that.
Lamy CP-1: If fountain pens are too big for you, this is the pen to get. Roughly the same diameter as your average ballpoint, this pen blends right in. Lamy nib, which means it writes just as smooth as the Studio. I found mine in EF too dry for my taste, but that sound like it would be right for you.
Lamy 2000: Mostly for future reference here. I have a love / hate relationship with this pen. Very smooth nib, if you can keep it in the sweet spot. Keeping it in the sweet spot though, is like trying to balance a pen on the end of your finger. Not something easily done, and compared to the TWSBI 580 and the Studio or CP-1, not something I will spend the effort on, as nearly every other pen I have is far less finicky.
TWSBI Eco: Comparable to the Pilot Metropolitan with regard to price point, roughly 20$ or 30$. The least expensive piston filler I know of. Personally, I'd skip it and go straight for the 580, since the 580 feels far better in hand, but a decent pen still.
Inks: My daily drivers are used at work, which require waterproof inks, so Noodlers Bad Blue Heron in the Studio (nib creep is a thing, but the Studio is easy to clean) and Noodlers Liberty Elysium in the TWSBI. I have Pelikan Edelsten Topaz in the Pilot VP for everything else.
tl;dr: Get the TWSBI 580. Save money. Get the the Vanishing Point later.
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Skip the TWSBI? Wait a month for the VP or get the TWSBI now? Mmmm... Hard call for me to make.
I note that you wrote that you didn't like the triangular grip of the Lamy Safari / AL-Star. The VP has the nib at the top, near the clip, which means you will be holding at or on the clip, which makes the grip roughly triangular. It'll change a bit depending on how you hold the pen. If you've written with a VP before, and you're good with that grip and how the clip is, get the VP. Otherwise, get the TWSBI, which has a standard round grip.
I ended up getting the TWSB Eco over the 580 due to the weight and size savings overall. It's a great pen - I'm glad I got it in EF. The two drawbacks are the slightly slippery grip and that my gal keeps stealing it for herself! I'll probably still end up getting a Decimo or VP. I dunno if you'd be interested in this, but I am trying to see if Massdrop would try to get Pilot to do a special matte black Decimo. Here's the poll link: https://www.massdrop.com/vote/-Product-I-would-buy-a-Pilot-Capless-Decimo-Vanishing-Point-in-Matte-Black
Depends on your budget. Personally, I'm a big fan of anything by TWSBI. A TWSBI Eco is a good inexpensive work horse pen, and their EF nibs are great. A Lamy Safari/Al-Star are also good options for an upgrade, as is a Pilot Metropolitan. But if you want a REALLY awesome pen, I would suggest the timeless Lamy 2000, but that's going to depend on your budget. That is my favorite pen, so I'm partial to that one. It's a piston filler with barely visible seams. Who knows, by the time I've gotten to this, you might have already purchased a new pen or two.
You might want to consider TWSBI. These pens are made in China, but are of excellent quality considering their price points ($50). All TWSBIs are either piston-filled or vacuum-filled, so cartridges are not an option. One feature of the pens I especially like is that the pens can be completely disassembled by the user, making them easy to clean if you want to change ink colors. I own a Diamond 580 Clear and a Mini Clear. I bought fine nibs and 1.1 stub nibs for each pen, and I have found that all four nibs write smoothly and start reliably. An extra-fine nib is also available, along with medium and broad. The nibs can be changed quickly and easily, and come with a protective storage case. Both pens stay balanced when the cap is posted, During the summer I wear pocket tees or polo shirts with pockets, both of which have pockets that are shorter than those found on dress shirts. The mini fits the short pockets very nicely.
I have used a variety of inks, including Noodler's. I have settled for the most part, on Private Reserve Avocado and Black Cherry because I like the colors and because the inks are washable (and NOT waterproof). I find Noodler's ink writes fine and there are lots of nice colors, but I can't seem to fill a pen without getting ink on my fingers, and Noodler's is much harder to clean off than Private Reserve.
Actually, yeah, TWISBI is in the lead right now in terms of pens I'm really interested in (within my budget). I like that they're easily cleanable - that's good info! Pretty much everything they sell looks up my alley.
I haven't looked into "stub" nibs so far. I don't even really know what that means. I think I want something fine because I tend to have a lot of closed loops when I write small (fairly frequently).
A stub nib means it's flat along the top, it gives your handwriting a calligraphy look to it. The good part about TWSBI is you could get two! One with a stub nib, and another with a F or EF nib on it.
I'm a doctor, not a escalator! Lol. Well,seeing as you've got some great ideas to start with here, I want give you more food for thought! Depending on your budget of course! For a great great basic FP with lots of styles to choose from, check out the Pilot Metropolitian series! Around $20. I have several (oops...) in Fine, and use them on a daily basis. Next up in price and style is the Lamy Studio! For roughly $70-80 (got mine here on Massdrop so keep an eye out for them!) A sweet ride, smooth and comfortable. Mine are in EF, and they write great on both copy/crappy paper and nicer paper. As for ink, man that can be very personal and subjective. I really dig the Pilot Iroshizuku line ( Take-Sumi [charcoal black], Asa-gao [blue]). Also look at Diamine (red dragon, Syrah). Noodleers is an American brand, so not too pricey and they also have a plethora of colors!! I've purchased some from Massdrop as well as Goulet Pens so look there too. Order some ink samples and try out as many as you like! In the pic below are some writing samples on Copy paper [75g] (top to bottom) Lamy Studio Extra Fine Black with Take-Sumi ink Pilot Metropolitan RedPOP F with Diamine Syrah Lamy Safari Fine with Diamine Red Dragon Have fun!
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I have a Vanishing Point with a fine nib and it's incredible. They are a bit spendy but are also sturdier than you might think. The fit and finish are great and have a heft to them that I found unexpected. I use mine as a workhorse. A word of warning though...once you get into gold nibbed Pilots, you'll never go back!
Also, De Atramentis Ocher Yellow is a great ink with nice shading that seems to stay under the radar for some reason. If red oranges are your thing you might also look into Franklin Christoph's Terra Firma.
Yeah I learned about the Vanishing Point from a Benedictine monk a few years ago - really dug that pen. Definitely my "ideal" pen so far.
I'll take a look at both of those inks - thanks for the tip!
I'm rather new to fountain pens so I probably shouldn't be speaking until I learn more but I can't help myself. LOL.
First, I've never considered the possibility of a Cross "giving out". But then so many are mass produced in China not that it's entirely possible. Sad what Cross has done to the brand.
Second, I REALLY like my Waterman Phileas for daily writing. VERY smooth but I think it has a medium nib. They can run from $35 to as much as you will fork over to some hustler for one. But if you are either unconcerned about the pens log(or lack there of) then the Harley Davidson edition of the Phileas can be had for $25.
For a fine nib with some awesome(and somewhat funky) flex, I am playing with a Noodler's Ahab. It cost me $23 on eBay delivered, smells ...odd(made of some kind of cellulose resin) but writes great. It makes you WANT to write more with it. If I had a bad thing to say it would be that it is about the cheapest feeling thing you can hold. Well, also when you post it the cap can sit wonky but snuggly. The flex nib is just very cool. It also has an oversized converter and the option of removing the converter altogether and filling the body with a massive amount of ink.
The heart of most pens, I am finding, is the ink. With my Waterman(the smoothest writing pen I have at present) using the Noodlers Bad Black Moccasin, the nib feels like it is riding over oiled glass. With the cheap Higgins Eternal Black I bought to try to save a but the same nib feels like a rusty nail dipped in battery acid. Spring for good ink. Noodler's offers some great "Bulletproof" ad water proof inks. Montblanc inks are superb. I had thought Diamine was a better name but I am a bit disappointed with the Matador red I bought.
My latest purchase has been two fountain pens and one ball point from Skilcraft. I always admired the fact that Skilcraft makes pens and other products to benefit the blind and the products are made BY the blind. So when I saw they had two different fountain pens I jumped on them. The fact that the burgundy fountain and ballpoint pen set was $11 and the nave blue fountain pen was $13 didn't hurt. I wondered why the blue pen was more by itself than the burgundy set until I got them. The blue pen is much better balanced and outstanding for writing posted. The burgundy is too short un-posted and badly top heavy posted. For a cheap fountain pen to throw in a pocket or console I love the skillcraft. It's all metal(brass I believe) body and smooth writing nib are awesome for the price.
Nibs and tongues can be changed. Aftermarket as well as OEN converters can be had for relatively reasonable prices and cheap pens can write as well as the most extravagant Cadillac ink shooter. The bottom line is THIS IS FUN!
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I got in a couple of pens today. One is my Parker Urban and the other is a Chinese "Hero 901" with a medium nib.
The Parker was a heck of a deal since it was the gift pack with pen, 4 cartridges and a bottle of black Quink. It was supposed to have a converter too but that was missing which is why I got it for about $21 rather than the average of about $50. It's a great looking pen and I really want to love it. It has a great heft, nice matte black finish with silver accents and a sexy, sleek body, But it is like holding on to an eel that is trying to swim out of your hand. Again, it FEELS great but the sexy curves make it hard to hang onto.
The Hero 901 is a work of art. It is slightly heavier than the Parker, a rich, glossy black with finely detailed gold accents and a gold colored, fluted cap and tail cap. There is diamond cut etching around one band and a radiant starburst on the cap top. The nib is two toned and stamped Genius Iridium. And how mush did this work of art set me back? All of $2.57 shipped.
I have at least a dozen more Hero, Jinhao and Baoer pens coming from China(slow boat apparently). I hope I am as thrilled about them as I am with this one. And I am sad to be disappointed with the Parker.
Oops. Forgot the pics:

Oh, forgot to mention that the Hero also came with a converter.
I'd ditch cartridges all together. The image below is my newest "daily driver," I'd definitely recommend it.
The ink shades really well and complements the modern flex nib--plus, you can't beat the price.
Cool! I'm interested in something with a flex nib so I'll definitely check this out! I'm planning on visiting Flax Pen to Paper soon - hopefully they'll have a demo model. Thanks!
I could probably fill two pages with suggestions that would fit your description above, but I will exercise restraint.
1st- five great pens under $80, in no particular order: 1--- TWSBI 580 AL; ridiculously popular piston-filler, does not take cartridges

2---Faber-Castell Ambition; prices vary by finish; all versions include a converter except the most basic version; takes standard international cartridges
3--- Levenger L-Tech 3.0; a clone of one of the most desirable fountain pens ever; can be had on sale for as little as $50; converter included
4---Online Germany Business Line; the most undervalued and underrated brand of fountain pens OR the best German-made fountain pens you never heard of; Can be had on eBay right now for $27, a fraction of its value; uses cartridges, recommend Schmidt K5 converter

5---Delta Dolcevita Media or Stantuffo; a $300 pen that can be had for as little as $70 from an Italian seller on eBay

2nd- recommended blues: -Diamine Sargasso Sea -Rohrer & Klinger Koenigsblau
-Seitz-Kreuznach Pacific Blue -J.Herbin Azur Bleu -Pelikan Edelstein Topaz
3rd- check out seitz-global.com for the best deals on the ink brands mentioned above. They ship free (to most countries) from Germany and the promo code "Neu05" gives you €5 off if you place an order of €25 or more. PS: McCoy has always been my favorite Startrek character :)
Wow! That's a great list to work with. Thanks! I'm going to head out to a local-ish writing supply store (Flax Pen to Paper) in the next few days. I'll make sure to test all of these out. Hopefully I'll get a crack at the inks too.
P.S. Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor not a scrivener! (I've been dying to watch some Star Trek recently - TOS is just outta this world great sci-fi).
My first pen was a Lamy AL-Star on EF, which now in retrospect is quite scratchy and dry. So with that in mind, I wouldn't personally get another Lamy unless it has a gold nib, or a larger sized nib than EF.
The Metropolitan by Pilot is quite nice, but feels small in certain situations for me. It writes well though, smooth and wet.
For under 80, if you can find the Monteverde Invincia, I really liked it. It has weight and size, and writes well from my experience.
Interesting. I tried out a Lamy AL-Star for all of three seconds (didn't like the grip). I don't remember the nib. Shame too - I'm tempted by the CP1 that Massdrop is offering right now. I keep missing the Pilot Metropolitan (or they keep offering ones I don't care for). I'll check out that Monteverde if I get the chance.
I personally like a bit for flex to my nibs, I'm using a Namiki Falcon. Great pen, can be used casually but also has great line variation so you can have some fun with shading and sheening inks.
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The Namiki Falcon is the only kinda high range pen I've been using for the past few years. My first kinda high range pen was the Parker Sonnet. That pen served me very well, until I gave it to a close friend of mine. Very smooth, but I didn't try flexing that nib before since I didn't have much confidence with flexing my nibs back then, but I've read that it's a semi flex nib and can be used for some flexing. Apart from these, I mostly just have some 20 dollar-ish pens to just be there with different colored inks.
Gotcha. Yeah, I can't do anything high-range yet. I need something that can take a beating and just keep goin'. Maybe once I have a real office I could have a nice pen at my desk.
I believe that Cross cartridges are proprietary. Meaning they won't fit inside most pens. So if you want to be able to use the cartridges you currently have, you will need to buy another Cross pen.
Many pen brands use their own proprietary cartridges. This presents a choice if you want to go with something other than Cross. You can buy a pen that takes standard international cartridges, which gives you the option of having other pens in the future that can all use the same cartridges. Or you can go for a brand with proprietary cartridges with the knowledge that if you get different brand pens in future you will need different cartridges.
Gouletpens.com is a good place to start looking. They have a large, well-reviewed range, respectable pricing and excellent customer service. If you contact them they will help you find exactly what you need.
As for individual pens, something like the Italix Parson's Essential (standard cartridges), the Platinum 3776, or the Pilot Vanishing Point (both proprietary) are often recommended as excellent workhorse pens. I own and recommend both the 3776 and the Parson's Essential, though I find the solid brass body of the Parson's Essential to be on the heavy side for all-day use. The pens I use most are the much cheaper Pilot Metropolitan filled with Pilot Blue Black or Rohrer + Klingner Salix and a vintage Parker 51 filled with Iroshizuku take-sumi or Pelikan 4001 Black.
Regarding nib sizes: Japanese nibs are finer than Western nibs. A standard rule of thumb is that a Japanese M is equivalent to a Western F. This is not always the case however, so it is best to ask the retailer if you are unsure.
As for inks, what do you need from them? If you want to be able to write on paper that isn't designed for fountain pens I recommend Pilot Blue Black, which is waterproof and performs well on just about all paper. You can find it cheap on ebay, though shipping from Japan takes at least a month (for me in Australia). Diamine, Noodler's and Sailor inks have wide ranges and followings for various reasons. What you end up going with will depend on how much you want to spend, what's easily available in your country and what kind of paper you use.
gouletpens.com (USA) cultpens.com (UK) lacouronneducomte.nl (EU)
I would recommend the above stores as good places to start.
Good luck!
I'm not wedded to the Cross system. The pen I've got has served me well over the last 3ish years - but I've had some annoyances along the way with the cartridge system and the clip failing on me.
I love the Pilot Vanishing Point - but it's out of my budget right now. I really don't think that I want to spend more than 80USD and 50 is really a better goal. The Parson's looks nice as well, but it seems to be difficult to get a hold of outside of UK/EU.
I'm eyeing the LAMY CP-1 Massdrop has right now. Do you have any opinions on that?
As for inks - I imagine the most versatile is the best option right now. I'll do everything from writing cheques, note-taking, groceries, etc. I come in contact with a wide variety of papers throughout the day. I'll check out the Pilot blue-black you mentioned - are there any keywords I should be looking for when trying to find a suitable ink?
Thanks for all the info! Really helpful.
I love the enthusiasm. Could I make a request and ask you to move this to Mech Keys for now? I remember Binge and some other folks showing off their pen collections at KeyCon and maybe they can provide some input.
In the meantime, as soon as we are ready to open up the "Talk" tab in the Writing Community, I'll let you know.
Sure thing! I was considering putting it there first anyway.
Moving this to Writing. It has launched! :)