Which Fountain Pen Would You Recommend?


Thanks to a recent donation, I can invest in a new pen and could use a little advice deciding which one to purchase.

It would be good to acquire a pen that either hasn’t been reviewed or a pen that would be good at testing inks. A TWSBI 580 would suit the former while an additional Conklin Duragraph would fit the latter. Both are stubs and that is my preference. An unmodified pen would be best since readers would be able to purchase the same model. Price should be no more than $60, making it accessible to most of us. For ink testing purposes, a converter or piston filler will do.

I have many Lamys, so skip that brand. Is there another pen with a stock stub or 1.1 calligraphy nib I should consider? My Kaweco only takes cartridges, so never gets used for ink tests. I know people love them, but the size isn’t ideal for my hand. However, if it’s the best option, I’ll make it work since the newer ones accept a converter.

A second Duragraph would be a good choice for my daily writing needs, but in Amber or Forest Green this time.

The TWSBI has an iffy reputation and I don’t like fiddling with my pens. They either work or they don’t which seems to describe the TWSBI very well. However, if mine turned out to be a good one, it would get plenty of use as well as praise.

The short list:

Have I missed a pen that ought to be on this list?


  1. Not a stub nib, but I absolutely adore my Hero Victorian pen. I got it through HisNibs.com and while they are sold out right now, I just looked, he keeps them in fairly regularly. I have found it takes well to most inks, though it did not like my Pelikan red ink. It has a very smooth nib, is gorgeous if you like a heavy, silver pen with a ‘steampunk’ look. Curlicues and lacy look. HisNibs is a little tricky to work around the site, but it’s under Chinese pens then into Hero, if I remember correctly. Oh, and it’s only about $35.


    • I really like steampunk designs and that’s a handsome pen. That one must get good responses when you whip it out in public. Not a bad conversation starter at all.

      The pen I purchase this time should be one that will earn a slot in my regular rotation. Stubs suit best these days. Some 1.1 calligraphy nibs write similarly when they aren’t too sharp. I know there is one with my name on it out there somewhere. Now if it would just whistle or jump up and down or do something so I could find it easily…


  2. Read this for ink testing.



    • Seen it before. Prefer using the pens I already own or one anyone can find. That eliminates vintage or modified nibs. Thanks, anyway.


  3. TWSBI has an iffy reputation mostly because of the older 530 and 540 models which were the predecessors of the new 580. The major issue wasn’t whether or not they worked, but cracking of the plastic. Since then, they have switched plastics and put reinforcing metal bands as well as o-rings to cushion caps on the stress points. I have actually not heard of many issues with TWSBI nibs (I have actually heard of none, but I’ve never investigated and I am certain some are out there) and I suspect a simple smoothing would eliminate 99% of any nib issue from them.

    In fact, as far as I can discern from the internet, they use nibs from German company JoWo. Brian Grey of Edison pens wrote, “JoWo and Bock are the two big German nib companies that distribute. They both manufacture excellent nibs. Clearly, some (sic) the best nibs in the world come from these two companies.”

    Plus, with TWSBI you can acquire whole new nib units to expand the versatility of your pen. They make an excellent inkwell that allows you to refill without getting your hands dirty and refills the pen (and many standard converters) completely full. Not to mention, TWSBI customer service is regarded very highly by many of those who have availed themselves of the companies services. Finally, I admire the fact that they donate 7.5% of their profit to charity.

    $50 gets you a piston filler with loads of options and the chance to affordably increase the function and enjoyment of the pen.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for the info on TWSBI. That makes it a far more tempting pen than previously. The model I’ve read the most favorable comments on is the mini. I don’t usually like to post the cap for weight reasons and the 580 looks like a long pen which solves that requirement.

      If it needs smoothing, what do you recommend?


  4. Smoothing is really simple. I would suggest watching SBRE Brown’s video: https://youtu.be/i5NImdKrE1k as well as Brian Goulet’s videos on Micro-mesh: https://youtu.be/r35cV_pe0-Q and Mylar Paper: https://youtu.be/05qCiZNXu7M

    They show the process and give what I feel are very good cautions to keep you from doing any harm to your nib.


    • Thank you for links to the videos. My experience with scratchy nibs has come from misaligned tines, sometimes difficult to see even with a loupe. Stubs and italics seem to be less troubled by such issues. Hopefully, an adjustment won’t be necessary. Pens ought to be good writers out of the box which is not too much to expect at any price point.


      • I hope my comments were helpful, and best of luck in your search. For the record I own a TWSBI Mini and a TWSBI 580 and both came with good nibs, though the sweet spot on the EF nib of the 580 was a bit smaller than I’d like, so I will smooth it a bit. I’ve had my Mini for nearly a year and there are no signs of cracking at all under a loupe.


        • All comments are helpful whether to me or to someone who happens to venture into the comments on a post.🙂

          Your experience with the 580 is a good recommendation. A stub should have a decent sized sweet spot though on occasion I’ve found one that didn’t. JoWo makes good nibs so my concern would be over build quality and your earlier comment settles that issue. Thanks, again, for sharing your knowledge of the problem and how it has been resolved.


  5. How about the Kaweco Student?


    • Is the Student better than the Sport? Does it come with a stub nib?


  6. Another Conklin Duragraph would be a great choice as I own 3 in all colors and the 3 nib sizes. I would also add a Monteverde Catalina to your wish list as it fits most of your criteria including price. I paid under $60 and it writes and looks great!


    • Kevin, that Duragraph is such a nice pen both in the hand and for writing. The Catalina is on sale till Father’s Day for $80 at Pen Boutique. Elsewhere it’s around $100. Still, that’s not bad for a stub.


  7. Kaweco brass. That weight should make a difference and you can learn how to use a syringe to preload cartridges with the ink of your choice.


    • Dave, I’ve used a syringe to fill carts and it’s a good way to avoid cross-contamination. The Kaweco I have has been refilled that way a few times. Maybe I should try doing it again just to see if it is the deal-breaker it used to be.


  8. It may be simplistic but I don’t think anyone should have to adjust a pen out of the box … it shouldn’t be misaligned or need smoothing or roughing up.

    If companies can’t get their QC right, they don’t deserve our custom.

    Rant over ….

    I think the price point you have chosen is difficult, as I think the low end Lamy and Pilots (Metro & Kakuno) are fantastic but that I haven’t found anything better until I get towards $100.

    Good luck


    • Totally with you on the QC issue, Stephen. Newbies not have bad experiences with FPs or have to figure out how to make pens work properly. We need more FP users – not fewer. As for those of us who have been at it a while, pens that write right from the first down-stroke get high marks but shouldn’t that be the norm?

      The price point is limited, but some folks can’t afford a $100 pen or even $50. That makes the Duragraph at just over $40 such good value for money. If TWSBI has solved the build issues, then it may well be good value at $55 since it is a piston filler. I may have to purchase the latter just to see for myself. Do you have one and, if so, what do you think of it?


  9. I have a TWSBI 700 Vac with the 1.1 stub. It is a great edc, esp because of the large capacity and the ink bottle mentioned above. Mine cracked after 8 months of tough use and they replaced it immediately with no questions.
    I find the stub is writing wider than the Lamy 1.1 does, partly because it writes wetter. The nib is smoother than my Lamy 1.1, currently on a studio.


    • David, from everything I’ve read, TWSBI customer support does get very high marks, but it would be better if customer support wasn’t needed. Pens will break from time to time, but build quality is essential. Vintage pens prove that. Esties and Parker ’51’s are still running strong which still amazes me. I wonder if any pen made today will be half so sturdy?

      What you wrote about the TWSBI stub sounds good and better than the Lamy. Mine write too dry for the nib size. However, the EFs have good flow that perfectly suits the more narrow line width. Even the oblique broad has plenty of flow so it must be only the calligraphy nibs that are lacking. The TWSBI with its standard grip is a better pen for my current needs so a Lamy will not tempt me this time even if the colors are appealing.


  10. I would +1 the TWSBI 580. I own several 540’s and never had any trouble with them, though admittedly I’m not hard on pens. The 580 has noticeably better construction and materials. Not sure where they are at in your $60 range though.


    • The 580 can be had for under $60, Bob, so it fits the budget. Like you I am not hard on pens. They reside on my home desk and seldom go for excursions. As things go, it’s an easy life for a fountain pen if changing inks frequently isn’t a challenge to delicate construction.

      The 580 looks like the best choice for my needs from the TWSBI line. It’s on backorder at Jet Pens so it will have to wait until they restock. At $55 plus free shipping, that’s a very good deal.


  11. I favor the Kaigelu 316 as a stock nib, easily ground to a cursive italic.


    • Did you grind one yourself? It’s a nice looking pen and might be a good candidate for a workhorse medium nib.


      • I have ground the charcoal and brown pens. They both came with lovely stock medium nibs, but after a while I wanted the flourish of a 3:1 cursive italic.Currently have a third on order.


        • If you can grind it to meet your specs, you’ll have a great pen for a reasonable price. Good for you!


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