Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen in Black, Blue, and Purple

4 02 2011

This has got to be my poorest excuse for doodles yet. What is that thing up on the left there? That is just terrible nonsense.

Imagine replacing all the pictures on this blog with me standing in front of you in a hip and dimly lit bar, tipsily waving a pen in your face, and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what my Thursday nights are like. This is, of course, an excellent opportunity for you, if you’re getting a pen waved demonstratively in your face, to make a suggestion for what kind of pen I should review next. Now, replace “Thursday” with “last Monday,” and you’ve got the full picture of how this review came to be. This time, I believe the suggestion started with “that really cylindrical pen” (which is only nearly all of them) and eventually meandered into “Pilot Varsity,” courtesy of one Devin T. Rooney (friend of Risden–remember Risden?); at least, I assume that was his name, because this was what he wrote down when I asked “What do you want me to call you on the internet?” So now you know who to blame thank.

I guess this is kind of collegiate-looking? Varsity teams wear pinstripes, yeah?

So I originally bought these in a Staples, an impulse as usual, just because they were fountain pens! at an affordable price?! in an actual, physical store?!?!?!!! This is apparently my biggest weakness. Right out of the package, the blue pen didn’t want to write (though it now works, months later). Black and purple did all right, and I was really enamored with the rich, purple ink.

There's a handy window where you can almost distinguish one dark ink color from another.

Speaking of the ink, there’s something strange smelling about this ink. Sort of…like a hospital? (My coworker says vinyl, perhaps PVC.) I can’t quite put my finger on what it is right now, because I’m scribbling on and sniffing a piece of paper in public. The black isn’t a perfect black, but the colored pens are very rich–I’d peg the blue as Wikipedia-defined ultramarine, and the purple as … well, there isn’t an easy match for the shade. So we’ll just say it’s lovely.

On my first draft of this post, I kinda failed completely to mention much about the writing and drawing performance of this pen, as I was just so …anti-impressed (or impressed, but in a bad way). The ink flows out more in the manner of water than ink; too much flow, too much ink on the page, too much bleedthrough and just ink everywhere, either getting absorbed clear through the page in my Behance journal, or sitting pooled on the line on Rhodia paper. I couldn’t find any medium suitable for this pen. Moleskine sketch paper came the closest, as it’s thick enough that its absorbent tendencies didn’t draw the ink all the way to the other side of the paper. You’ll notice I didn’t sketch much with this pen. When the pen is good, I’ll fill up the doodlespace because I just want to keep making lines, using the pen is that enjoyable. But with a pen like this, I go through the cursory sketches to test the pen and leave it at that. Things just feel sloppy, in terms of markmaking. I’m not even really excited to be writing about this pen! It’s so…BLAH.

As for the body of the pen, the plastic barrels show no signs of damage so far, and, like many of the cheap fountain pens I own, have no problem writing right away after months spent dormant.

Look familiar?

We’ve seen this nib before. It’s just the medium nib to the Pilot Petit1’s fine nib, which is to say, neither nib ever actually approaches medium and it’s really the gigantically awful nib to the Pilot Petit1’s medium.

The <M> is for MASSIVE

This pen has made me realize that I have a fine-nib bias in my pen preferences. This pen gives out ink like it’s free. Like it’s candy. Like it’s hotcakes? I think this is just a function of the medium nib, and all my problems with this pen–heavy ink flow, slow-drying time and/or bleedthrough (paper dependent), fuzzing and feathering–may be problems I have with medium nibs in general. There are some problems I can isolate specifically to this pen–terrible squeaking while writing on a Staples junior legal pad as well as fuzzing/feathering I don’t see from other pens/inks on the same paper.

In hindsight, I was too harsh on the Platinum Preppy (but the fact that its fine nib is equivalent to a Kaweco Medium nib still stands), another thing this Varsity has made me realize. If you want an entry level fountain pen (like, really cheap entry level), the only reason to get the Pilot Varsity, in my opinion, is if you just have to have it from a physical store and can’t wait the 2 or 3 days it takes for JetPens to ship better pens to you.

It is durable, yes. And a fairly smooth, consistent, easy-start writer. It WILL write. But will it write well? Will I ever find a kind of paper where I’m satisfied with the ink flow, appearance, drying time, amount of bleedthrough? Doubtful. Also, ink shouldn’t smell this weird. Sorry, Pilot Varsity! You are a pen for someone else.

But that doesn't mean I won't take your picture.

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens at Staples

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens at JetPens

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12 responses

5 02 2011
Peninkcillin

That’s the major weakness of the Varsity: the thickness of the nib. There’s a version with an “F” nib called V-Pen.

7 02 2011
No Pen Intended

Yeah, I tried comparing the Varsity to the Pilot Petit1, which has the Pilot F-nib, but I still think the Pilots are edged out by the performance of the Preppy. :/ Of course, I haven’t actually tried an actual V-Pen, so I can’t say with 100% certainty that it would fall to the Preppy…I just have my suspicions.

5 02 2011
simplytrece

I’m so sorry these pens don’t please you. I LOVE them!! I write with them all the time, I had to get my nose right up to the nib to noticed a smell in the ink (which is a vinyl-like odor) and never found it pooling on my paper. That said, I use cheap paper, so almost evrything except ball points has some bleed-through. I have not noticed these pens to be worse offenders than others. I definitely would use these to introduce a young person to fountain pens.

7 02 2011
No Pen Intended

I’m kinda sorry I didn’t like them either! The purple is such a great deep purple…

I dunno, I’d still use the Preppy as an intro fountain pen over the Varsity. It just looks so fuzzy on this cheap Staples paper! I should scan a couple more writing samples comparing the Varsity, Preppy, and the Pilot Petit1 (since I don’t own a V-Pen, this gives a good comparison of a Pilot F nib to compare to the Preppy fine nib). I feel like I’m especially critical of ink taking too long to dry, being left-handed. I don’t like having to adjust my writing posture into the distorted lefty cowl hand-position to keep from getting ink all over myself. I’d say it’s about a 8 to 10 second dry time on Rhodia paper…haha maybe I’m just impatient :) But if I’m writing quickly, having to wait for a line to be completely dry lest I smudge it…bluh, it matters.

7 02 2011
John M.

I also prefer the Preppy over the Varsity.(I have both) I haven’t tried the V-Pen but I’ve been so happy with the Preppy as my starter Fountain Pen that I just don’t feel the need to look around. I’ve already bought more ink for the black and blue/black. The Preppy is $3 and for a pack of two cartridges it’s $1.50 at Jet Pens. Plus, you can convert them to use whatever ink you want very easily. Yeah, I’m sold.

9 10 2011
ReginaPhalange

Odd, I’ve never had any problem with ink flow or bleedthrough with the Varsity and I mainly use marble-type composition notebooks. I have one requirement, though, whether they’re Mead or Norcom: Made in Brazil. I can *see* the writing from the other side of the page, but it’s not so distracting that I can’t use the other side of the page. Similar notebooks made elsewhere don’t seem to work so well with my fountain pens.

As for the thickness of the nib, mine writes equally well and smoothly if I invert it and then it produces a finer line.
Recently refilled one of mine with a mix of Quink Black and Noodler’s Black. yes, you can refill them. ;) “Disposable fountain pen” is an oxymoron.

Re: Moleskine’s sketchbooks–I’ve found that it doesn’t take fountain pen ink well at all. Not only does it not absorb as much as other paper, it doesn’t asbsorb it at all. It seems to be coated with something that’s incompatible with FP ink. I decided one day to try wiping down a page with alcohol to see if that would have any effect, and, like magic, the ink was actually sticking to the paper instead of just floating above it.

14 10 2013
Doc Holliday (@mtdoonmeister)

I haven’t written on moleskin, yet. When sighing contracts with my Legacy, an attorney friend of mind (who also won’t work with ballpoint pens), insists that I use a blotter to prevent any distortion on my sig… I, also, use permanent blue ink.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had the money to hire a person dressed in formal wear and white gloves to follow me around with a blotter and blot the paper every time I sign something important.

30 12 2011
BIC Disposable Fountain Pen « No Pen Intended

[…] it’s the hard ridge where the cap snaps on that’s being such a pain in the thumb. The Pilot Varsity, for all my complaints against it, barely has a ridge where its cap snaps on, making it a little […]

14 10 2013
Doc Holliday (@mtdoonmeister)

I am a regular user of Schaeffer Legacies (the originals, not the IIs), Mont Blanc and Waterman. I, also, spend a lot of time on the road. After I lost a Mont Blanc, ($500), and had to call the cops to help recover it from where the guy pawned it (for $25, no less), I decided (Additionally, banging Mont Blancs much causes them to have a tendency to leak.) And it had to be a fountain pen, because I don’t write with ballpoint pens

For me, these are great. If I leave them strewn across the landscape, so what. The way they work is okay for what I use them for. When I am not on the road, they stay in my briefcase and I use my good ones.

NONE of them have ever leaked or refused to write out of the box.

The only problem I have with this is the nib never lasts long enough to truly break in. Which makes my signature look more generic…

21 03 2014
Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen – Medium Nib – Black Crocodile Body | No Pen Intended

[…] am not familiar with this style of Pilot nib (I know the cheapo nib used on the Varsity and the Petit 1 (unique in its ability to fuzz and feather on nearly any paper); the Super Quality […]

7 04 2015
Zebra V301 Fountain Pen | No Pen Intended

[…] cost to ship this pen to buy a working low end fountain pen from another company (for example, Pilot Varsity, Platinum Preppy). Zebra, you need to take this pen back to the drawing board because whatever […]

11 09 2016
airinyan

Ugh, that nib. It’s the same as Pilot Petit1 (which writes ever so smoothly, but gosh it’s so wet I’m kinda disappointed)! I’d take my blue-black 02 Platinum Preppy any day over Petit1 (but I have both…).

Thanks for this review. I’ll probably skip this pen as my tiny handwriting prefers fine and extra-fine nibs.

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