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Really Good Fountain Pens

01/02/2014

Comments and email queries often suggest subjects worthy of further exploration. Such was the case when a recent email cast my collection in the light of pens that hold up well and are worthy of recommendation. After restricting choices to pens that can be purchased online and whose nibs have not been modified, here are the models that made my list of

Really Good Fountain Pens

  • Platinum #3776 and #3776 Century – These pens rank at the top of my list. The build is slightly lighter than the Sailor pens I own, but that is good for my hand. No flow issues and the nibs are excellent. Someday I hope to get a medium for a real workhorse. It may not replace the #3776 music nib as my most used pen, but I would love to give it a shot at the top slot.
  • Lamy Safari and AL-Star – An entry-level pen that is one of my most durable and reliable writers. The extra-fine has been a staple here for years. I haven’t tried a fine or medium, but the broad might be a tad too wide and free-flowing for most people. The 1.1 mm can have an erratic flow, but the nibs are usually smooth. The nibs run a bit wider than most and they are quite stiff, but they are also easy to swap. Nibs come in stainless steel and black. The latter looks particularly sharp on a model with a black clip. Put one on a charcoal Safari to make a stealth model. Two of my Lamys have been so modified. The build is very good at the price which won’t matter if the oddly shaped section doesn’t fit your grip. My daughter and I found it to be comfortable after the initial sessions. The control afforded by the section shape is excellent and prevents slipping. That is a decided plus for me.
  • Pelikan M400 and M215 – These are very different pens, but equally well built. Both wrote well from the beginning. The M215 feels more sturdy, but it is a metal pen. I am extra careful with piston-fillers and run Noodler’s Eel ink through them from time to time to lubricate the plungers. The M400 was adjusted for extra flow several years ago and is now a terrific pen for long sessions.
  • Pilot Namiki Falcon – I have three of the resin model and that says a lot. The build is good and the section very comfortable for me. The nibs can be a tad scratchy, but a little use fixed that in one of mine. The other two were smooth from first use. The design is understated and puts the focus on what the nib can do. No flow issues with the supplied converter so the nib and feed are well matched.
  • Sailor 1911 and Sapporo – These pens have outstanding build quality. No flow issues and the converters are very well-suited to the nibs and feeds. My Sapporo is a fine nib and a nail. The 1911 is an extra-fine that is a bit soft. They are very different nibs, but both are very smooth.
  • Baoer Eight Horses – Not everyone has had the good luck I have had with a Baoer. However, I do have two that write remarkably well. This is a heavy pen, but well balanced. The build quality is excellent for the price. The converter even has a plastic ball to keep the ink flowing. I am not as thrilled with the Jinhao 750 which is made by the same company, but one of these days I’ll purchase a silver Eight Horses with a B nib if I can find one. That will make a full set.
  • Pilot Custom 742 – This one is a bit harder to recommend given my 742FA can be flow challenged. However, the build is excellent and the size perfect for me. I think it would be a terrific pen sporting a different nib. The FA is very smooth and does flex, but no ink so far has conquered the feed. There are five on my desk ready to take up the challenge so more testing is ahead. When I advance ink into the feed, it writes well enough with virtually no pressure. The slit is always inky, but this pen arrived used if not abused. Giving it the benefit of the doubt, I think it has an imperfect nib on an otherwise very nice pen.

The price range for these pens purchased new is $6 to over $300. Message boards are the best place to buy used, but eBay can be good for inexpensive pens like Lamy and Baoer depending on your risk tolerance level. If you want perfection, buy from a seller who tests the nib and who has a good reputation for standing by his wares. As careful as I am, one in four pens arrives in need of assistance. That really isn’t surprising considering how a tiny mistake in the nib can make a pen write poorly. Basically, don’t get your knickers in a twist if you get a stinker. It happens to all of us. Get help from the seller immediately. Most will make it right one way or another.

So that’s my list. Is there a pen you would recommend without reservation?

Really Good Fountain Pens

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14 comments

  1. Without reservation I would recommend:

    1.) Fountain Pen Revolution Dilli – 15 dollars for decent (beter than Noodler’s) semi-flex in a piston filler.
    2.) Kaigelu 316 – My favorite Chinese pen and a dead ringer for a Parker Duofold Centennial.
    3.) Monteverde Invincia – Great brass body, great cigar design, great swappable nib.

    Thanks for this post!

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    • Thanks for adding to the list pens I’ve never used.

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  2. I’d add the Pilot Metropolitan (inexpensive) and the TWSBI. Both very reliable.

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    • Again pens I’ve never used. Thank you for adding to the list.

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  3. Wait a sec. Are you saying that Noodlers Eel inks lubricate the piston on a Pelikan? Man, anyone who doesn’t know fountain pens is gonna find that last sentence confusing.
    My M400 has a very hard-to-twist piston and I fear it’ll break. Will Noodlers Eel do the trick? I’ve got a bottle of green somewhere.
    Nice selection of pens, too. The Sailor 1911 is a personal favourite of mine. And the Lamys can’t be beat, as far as affordable introductions to fountain pens go.

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    • Yeah, I don’t use “pen porn” for the same reason. Too suggestive for the uninitiated.

      I don’t know if eel Ink will cure a piston’s ills, but it can help keep it moving properly. The repairs forum at FPN would be a good place to research your question. However, if the o-ring is drying out, it may need to be replaced. Repairs like that are one of the reasons I moved to converter fillers a number of years ago.

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  4. I love my Conway Stewart Belliver. It’s heavy in the hand and flows effortlessly across the page. Have you tried the Caran d’Ache Léman? Another beautiful pen – and a pleasure to write with as well.

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    • Two more pens I’ve never used. Good to see them recommended.

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  5. I have had good results with Pilot iroshizuku inks in my FA nib Pilot Custom 742.

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    • Which inks? Syo-ro and asa-gao did not work well. So far Noodler’s Black has been the best, but only if I write slowly. Railroad tracks if I write at my normal pace and sometimes blobs of ink happen with other inks. I have Diamine Jet and Quartz Black as well as Aurora Black if I stick to the black inks. Suggestions are welcome. With the right ink, it’s a pen that would see regular use. I still think is a good pen and mine is just one that needs an adjustment.

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  6. I see a number of Japanese pens in the list. I love Japanese pens too! They are really great writers. I have also made a list of my own top 10 pens here: http://onfountainpens.com/2014/01/top-10-pens-2013/ and there are a couple of Japanese pens who made it there. I really love my Platinum music nib pen, for example.

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    • That’s a nice group of pens. Thanks for including the link.

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  7. […] Really Good Fountain Pens […]

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