Modern Pilot Fountain Pens


That is my collection of Pilot/Namiki fountain pens. Nice variety to it, but they seldom get inked. In comparison to other pen makers, I’ve experienced more flow issues with their modern pens than any other brand. While the fine nibs can be temperamental, the wider nibs and flexy ones are the most frustrating.

With more than thirty Pilots having passed through here in the last few years, I am certain their feeds and nibs are not created equal. The nibs write well enough but the flow is not able to keep up. The pens are too often hard starting and skip mid-word even failing for a full word or occasionally even several. This has never happened with my Sailor and Platinum pens. It has been a rare issue with a vintage Western pen but that could be attributed to careless handling by a former owner. My Lamy, Waterman, and Levenger True Writers have had very rare flow issues though matching ink to pen has helped in a few cases.

Pilot Elite pocket pens from the 1970’s are not so quirky though some of the Script nibs write dry and especially narrow. The ink flow keeps up nicely maintaining an even line. The pretty, decorated ones have had a higher than acceptable rate of cracked barrels so that’s a different kind of warning. However, my Socrates, Isaac Newton, and Black Striped models have been especially good writers and aren’t at all picky about brands of ink. That sort of versatility puts them on my list of favorite fountain pens.

This doesn’t mean all of their pens have flow issues. However, this post can be considered a caveat to my previous pen recommendations from the Pilot Custom 742 to the Custom 74 to the lower end Prera and 78G and the bottom of the line Plumix. Even the Namiki Falcon Soft Broad (SB) nib unlike the Soft Fine (SF) has a flow that is inadequate for the amount of ink that should be laid down. A nib adjustment might help though I’ve experienced mixed results on that score.

A free-flowing ink can improve performance a notch. Pilot Iroshizuku ink is a good match though some Diamine and J. Herbin inks have proven up to the task as well. Waterman Blue-Black is my standard test ink and one that can bring out the best in a multitude of pens so that’s a good one to have on hand. Unfortunately, ink won’t fix a pen but it can improve one that is borderline.

This isn’t meant to dissuade you from buying a Pilot or Namiki fountain pen but it is a warning. Your sleek, new pen may need tweaking to be the best it can be. Or it may only take finding the right ink and paper combination to bring out its most charming qualities. Even better, you could get a pen that is perfect from the start. Shouldn’t they all arrive that way?


  1. Thanks for the information; good to know. My recently-acquired Falcon has been performing very well — but then, it only drinks J. Herbin Perle Noir. A VP that’s a teenager by now worked flawlessly for several years, got a rest, and refused to cooperate when put back to work a couple of years ago, behaving very much as you describe (I tried cleaning, fussing with the nib, and a few other measures, but not switching inks). Perhaps I should bring it back online and experiment with its diet. (My Metropolitan, on the other hand, works flawlessly with anything I feed it. Hats off to Pilot for this workhorse.)


    • Changing inks is a given around here though some pens are wedded to certain inks. Pilot Blue-Black works well in any pen if you like the color. Herbin inks are in of my pens at the moment and get along well with everyone. Lie de The has been especially good with one of the SF Falcons. Maybe I will try it in the SB some day.

      What do you have on hand that would suit the VP?


  2. This is a very interesting take, and it makes me wonder whether I just like really dry pens and didn’t know it. I have loved Pilot nibs of all stripes, especially my Falcon SEF (probably my desert island pen). The only exception is a Penmanship italic that wrote dry as a bone despite multiple attempts with brass shims and a transplant to a newer Perera feed. My 1970s Elites, both of which are FM, seem like firehoses to me.


    • An SEF uses a relatively small amount of ink under any circumstances so it would be a great pen to make your limited supply of ink last on that desert island.😉

      It’s really helpful to recognize FP preferences so purchases can be tailored to your tastes. Do certain inks work better for you? More and more I am finding there are some that just work well for me no matter which pen they fill.

      Two of the three Preras I’ve owned had flow issues. The Kakuno has less of that problem though the nib is too narrow to get a permanent slot in my rotation. At the price point, it is hard to beat.

      The Elites are a mixed bag. I’ve had at least ten and they have ranged from stingy to average flow. Other than the plastic barrels that split easily, they are a good match for anyone who likes an extra-fine nib and dry flow. Best inks for them might be Pilot or Platinum.


  3. […] Modern Pilot Fountain Pens That is my collection of Pilot/Namiki fountain pens. Nice variety to it, but they seldom get inked. In comparison to other pen makers, I’ve experienced more… […]


  4. Interesting! My only Pilots are two Namikis, and both have been flawless. They can sit for weeks and fire right up, and the soft flex is really nice. Looks like I’ve been lucky. In spite of this, I do prefer the writing experience with my Sailors.🙂


    • April, the Namiki soft fines are the best of my Pilots. One was broken in when I received it and a good writer, too. The other was new and took some use to develop well. Which nibs do yours have?

      What do you like better about the Sailors?


      • I believe both Pilots are Soft Fines… they are at home (and I’m at work, chatting pen stuff LOL! Ssshhh!)

        The Sailor Fines (Professional Gear)… one was my first introduction to a Japanese Fine, and initially felt almost needle-like. But oh, how we grew together. Even new, it was never like a nail; light lines of ink, yes, but solidly consistent. A year and two later with them, and they are soo smooth and reliable. The Fine nib gives me amazing precision when teeny writing is called for. I also think they’re beautiful. From the anchor on the “capstone” to the gorgeous nib, they are eyecandy…that writes with amazing reliability. I really need to try other Sailor models, as my pen fund allows. 🙂


        • Your secret is safe.🙂

          Sailor fit and finish is excellent. As my interest has moved toward wide nibs, my collection of Sailors has been reduced to two. The Sapporo is a very rigid fine and the 1911 is a fine that has a bit of spring to it. With wider nibs, they would get plenty of use. These days, they rarely get inked. Maybe when I build my next rotation…


  5. I barely have experience but I do have a Metropolitan and a unknown vintage-ish pilot pen, both M, and I find ’em quite unconstant, with hard starts and irregular lines.
    I thought this was just plain bad luck, but I’m starting to wonder if it’s a Pilot Issue.
    on the other hand, I have no experience in more upscale models whatsoever.


    • In my opinion all pens should write well regardless of price point. Nibs will vary depending on the metal and how well they are ground, but flow and hard starts shouldn’t happen at all even in mass produced pens. It’s a betrayal of trust between the manufacturer and customer. Still I’d wager people who are dissatisfied are a very small minority and unworthy of attention in the grand schemes of management.

      If you are willing to tinker with your pens, flow can be improved. There is a lot of repair advice for the intrepid at fountainpennetwork.com. Sometimes even a really crummy pen can be salvaged and that’s a good place to start if you are so inclined.


  6. I have a Prera, which has given me no trouble at all, and a Metropolitan which definitely skips and has flow problems unless I use certain inks. I assumed it was the price point but perhaps not.


    • At least the more expensive of the two is a good one and you’ve found suitable ink mates for the Met. Which inks might those be? I am curious to know if they are made by Pilot?


      • Yeah, the Iroshizuku seem to work just fine. I also think I’ve used Diamine inks in it with success. Those are my two go-to brands when I have troublesome pens.


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