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Purchase Suggestions: First Time Buyer

I mention on another page that I’ve got a blog entry full of suggestions for the first pen purchase, and while I don’t regret that entry I do recognize that it will get increasingly dated.  This list is going to get rather more maintenance, and will wax and wane as models pass through production or at least decline in availability.

I have a five-lozenge (because Word Press doesn’t have a star character) rating system attached to each of them, which is not an indicator of how much I like the pen, but rather the level of dedication to joining the fountain pen life required:

◊ Just dabbling.  If this takes any serious effort or cash, I’m not interested.

◊◊ Willing but uncertain.  I don’t mind applying myself a little, but I’m not convinced it’s going to be all you’re suggesting.

◊◊◊ Well, I know they’re not cheap, and I know I need to think about what I’m doing until this becomes a habit, but it’s a habit I’m willing to develop.

◊◊◊◊ In for a penny, in for a pound.  I want to learn the some of the ins and outs, and the point of buying a fountain pen is to have a good pen, right?

◊◊◊◊◊ I’m coming at this with both hands!  I don’t just want a good pen, I want the full pen experience, including tinkering with bits.

So, a pen gets more lozenges if it asks a little more of the user, in terms of both cost and awareness of using a pen well.  A five-rated pen will either be rather expensive or require extensive assembly (possibly both) while a one rating is apt to be quite cheap and relatively short-lived.

Baoer 388

Why you’ll like it:  Attractive, inexpensive, well-made, and accepts commonly-available cartridges.

Why you won’t like it: You may struggle to get cap off.  Vague feeling of criminality because it looks a LOT like a Parker Sonnet.

 

Dollar 717 ◊

Why you’ll like it:  It writes well, and it’s cheap as can be.  It’s got a built-in filler of good capacity.

Why you won’t like it: It has a pretty unsophisticated feed, and this can lead to it acting rather like an eyedropper when the ambient air temperature is cooler than the human hand (it’s from a part of the world where that’s not often an issue).  Keep an eye out for dribbles.  The plastic is also rather low-grade and doesn’t give the impression of lasting for many years.

 

Faber-Castell LOOM ◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Extremely nice point, extremely easy to find cartridges for, and it’s got a good warranty.

Why you won’t like it: Not everyone can live with its looks, even in the less strident colours.  Cartridge use might be considered a limitation.  That finish will certainly show scuffs.

 

Hero 100 ◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Reliable, and a great way to decide if you’ll like a Parker “51″ without spending the money for one.  Has the cachet of a gold point.

Why you won’t like it:  Some people don’t like sending money to China.  Occasional quality control bugbears.

 

Hero 616 ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Slip-on cap, which is very convenient, and it’s one of the cheapest pens you can find– I paid just over $10 for a package containing ten pens.  Including shipping.  Built-in filler.

Why you won’t like it:  Not every pen in the package works particularly well; a far bigger QC problem than with the 100.  This isn’t a big deal for me, as I can take ‘em apart and fiddle with ‘em, but not everyone can or is willing to do so.  The filler is a bit of a joke, too, and the “press-bar” cage is best done away with.  Not a huge capacity for ink, even when you do get rid of the useless cage.

 

Jinhao X450 ◊

Why you’ll like it:  Looks pretty good, sturdy.  Not a lot more expensive than the Hero 616.  Uses readily available cartridges.

Why you won’t like it:  Really heavy, insists on being used without the cap stuck on the back.

 

Jinhao 159 ◊

Why you’ll like it:  Looks like an expensive pen, sturdy.  Costs less than fast food  Uses readily available cartridges.

Why you won’t like it:  Gigantic.  Heavy.  The fact that it looks like an expensive pen might have people pointing fingers and giggling (both the “look how that person spends too much money” and “you aren’t fooling us with your lookalike” lines of derision).

 

Kaweco 0445
Kaweco Sport ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Compact, sturdy.  Uses readily available cartridges.

Why you won’t like it:  Really wee, can’t be used without cap in place.  Single cartridge limits capacity.

 

Lamy Safari ◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  A very good converter, an ink window that works with converter or cartridge, utterly reliable German engineering and manufacture, and a wide range of point sizes.

Why you won’t like it:  It’s sort of funny-looking, and that clip does not go with a lot of more formal outfits.  The section is cut with “Thou shalt hold me THUS!” guides.  Proprietary cartridges, so you can’t easily find refills.

 

Noodler’s Creaper ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Low cost, shares some performance characteristics with vintage pens.  Built-in filler.

Why you won’t like it:  Messing around trying to get a grip on the flex point, if you got the flex version (and why wouldn’t you?).  Slightly ink-picky.  Possibly too slender.  Not a huge capacity on the filler.  Smells funny.

 

Noodler’s Ahab ◊◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Most of the same reasons as the Creaper, plus a more interesting and capacious filler.  Converts to colossal eyedropper, if one needs to write for a month without a refill.

Why you won’t like it:  Even more messing around with the point than the Creaper Flex.  It’s a giant pen which may overwhelm a petite user.  Smells funny.

 

ohto-0501

Ohto Dude 

Why you’ll like it:  An uncomplicated pen which takes commonly available cartridges.  Interesting to look at, doesn’t roll off a desk as briskly as some.

Why you won’t like it: Only adequate points.  Potentially slippery grip. The finish is apt to wear

 

Ohto Tasche ◊

Why you’ll like it:  All the same reasons as the Kaweco Sport, at a lower cost.

Why you won’t like it: Ditto.

 

Parker Vector ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  School pen durability without looking entirely like a school pen.  Large cartridges.

Why you won’t like it: Not the world’s most comfortable nor most beautiful pen.  Proprietary cartridges.

 

Parker IM ◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Most of the virtues of a Vector in a rather more attractive package.

Why you won’t like it:  Proprietary cartridge, slight aesthetic issue with the point/body ratio.  Somewhat over-weight.

 

Pelikan 0469

Pelikano ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Smooth points, decades of proven reliability, sturdy enough to stand up to school-children.  Takes international-pattern cartridges, or a converter.  Ink window where it actually matters.

Why you won’t like it: Less strident grip-guides than the Lamy Safari, but they are there (oh, those Germans…).  The clip is rather goofy, and leaves a lot of the thing sticking up out of a pocket.  Rather shocking colours; quite looks like a school pen.

 

Pelikan Future ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Everything the Pelkano has plus looks that more or less pass muster with “office casual”, and even more liberal grip guides.

Why you won’t like it:  “More or less”; it still has a little of the school-pen aura to it.

 

Pilot 78G ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  It really looks like a fountain pen, doesn’t it?  Colours to please most, without being gaudy, extremely reliable Japanese manufacture, comes with a simple but reliable press-bar converter.  Vintage style screw-on cap!

Why you won’t like it:  Rather dry feed, which doesn’t necessarily agree with some inks.  Uses Pilot cartridges, which are as scarce as yeti eggs in many parts of North America.  Vintage style screw-on cap!

 

Pilot 0470 Pilot Metropolitan ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Understated modern styling, extremely reliable Japanese manufacture, comes with a simple but reliable press-bar converter.

Why you won’t like it:  Funny step from section to barrel.  Same point and feed as previous.  Uses Pilot cartridges, which are as scarce as Zeppelin parking in many parts of North America (unless you’re not in North America, in which case you might be able to get one that takes International cartridges).

 

Pilot 0483

Pilot Varsity/V-Pen ◊

Why you’ll like it: Pleasant writing, a price that leaves one feeling no commitment whatever, and no maintenance concerns.

Why you won’t like it: It’s meant to be thrown away, it takes rather more effort to refill than anything else on this page, and looks as cheap as it is.

 

Platinum 0499

Platinum Plaisir ◊◊

Why you’ll like it: Inexpensive, reasonably good-looking, comfortable in the hand, excellent ability to start up after lying unused for long intervals.

Why you won’t like it: The cartridges are even less common than Pilot’s, and a converter has to be ordered separately.  The section is see-through.  That band on the cap.

 

Sheaffer VFM

Why you’ll like it:  Modern looks while still relatively understated in its lines.  Uses readily-available cartridges.

Why you won’t like it: Smallish.  One small cartridge means limited capacity.

 

Sheaffer 0435

Sheaffer 100 ◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Point and feed have a very long track record of reliability and good performance.  Uses readily-available cartridges.

Why you won’t like it: Proprietary cartridge; may not be available near you.  Slippery section..

 

Sheaffer 0430

Sheaffer 300 ◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Impressive without being over-priced.  Same point/feed as previous.  Cap posts on end of barrel securely. Uses readily-available cartridges.

Why you won’t like it: Proprietary cartridge; may not be available near you.  Slightly overweight, especially when cap is posted.

 

Sheaffer L4

Sheaffer Viewpoint

Why you’ll like it:  Reliable internals, big cartridge, inexpensive, likely available at a craft store near you.

Why you won’t like it: Proprietary cartridge; may not be available near you.  Only available with calligraphy italic points.  Slightly ugly in current trim.

 

TWSBI Diamond ◊◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Large capacity built-in filler, good writing qualities, well set up for user maintenance.

Why you won’t like it:  The cap doesn’t post well, it only comes in transparent colours (currently, at least), and it hasn’t been around for decades to prove its apparent durablility (about which there have been some grumbles).  Taking it apart is somewhat easier than reassembly.  It’s also one of the more expensive items on this page.

 

TWSBI0498TWSBI Eco ◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Relatively large-capacity built-in filler, good writing qualities, easy user maintenance, and profoundly inexpensive.

Why you won’t like it: The big hexagonal cap won’t please everyone in the looks department, and others may be put off by being able to see the guts.

 

TWSBI Vac ◊◊◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Easy to use built-in filler, vast potential capacity, extremely impressive for gesturing with, good user-maintenance, and the company is serious about customer service.

Why you won’t like it: It’s huge and transparent, filling to the full potential is potentially messy, and there’s the oddity of a shut-off valve.  The five-lozenge rating is founded on it costing what even I start to think of as rather a lot for a pen.

 

Wality 69

Why you’ll like it:  Vast ink capacity, esp. in eyedropper form.  Sturdy without looking like a school pen.

Why you won’t like it: Eyedropper dribbling.  The same in the piston model, and possibly worse if the seal lets go, which is not unknown in the Wality.

 

Waterman Hémisphère ◊◊◊◊◊

Why you’ll like it:  Very classical profile, from a well-respected maker.  Uses common pattern of cartridges.

Why you won’t like it:  Probably over-priced for its qualities; some of what you’re paying for is name.  The maker has had some quality control tremors of late.

 

X-Pen Atlantic

Why you’ll like it:  Very attractive, well-made, and takes readily-found cartridges.

Why you won’t like it:  Slippery section.  No room for a spare cartridge in the barrel (please take my word for it).

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