The first time I bought a Zebra V301 Fountain Pen was July 2011. It was utter rubbish, I decided to attempt to take it apart for reasons unknown (some vague notion of fixing it, no doubt), and basically obliterated the pen beyond all hope of ever functioning.
So what would possess me to buy such a piece of crap again? Poor decision making / it was there / it was only $5 / being sick makes me impulsive
The Stainless STEEL Barrel (so the packaging claims) with black plastic accents makes for a simple, rugged looking pen. The cap snaps on hard (perhaps a little too hard) to close, and snaps a little more easily to post. When closed, the cap stays still. When posted, the cap spins around freely. There’s not much weight that would send it needlessly spinning around, but it’s a bit vexing.
The pen body is of a comfortable thickness, the grooving and shaping of the grip is nice, and the whole body is very lightweight. I bet it would be a nice long haul writing experience, if the pen actually wrote.
You know when Cruella DeVille, in 101 Dalmatians, tries to write a check and her fountain pen doesn’t work? And she shakes the pen, shouting, “Blast this pen, blast this wretched, wretched pen!” That’s me right now. Except Cruella actually got ink to come out of her pen. The V301, for the most part, operates on an entirely inkless philosophy.
I put in the ink cartridge. Nothing. Let it sit, capped, nib pointed down for a while. Nothing. Tapped it on the page. Nothing. Eventually I took the ink cartridge out, smacked that on the page, and got ink on paper. Then I dipped the tip of the fountain pen in the ink sitting at the lip of the cartridge and was able to write for a little while. It’s a shame, because the writing felt great for a cheap pen—no scratching, just a very tactile workhorse type of nib. Then the dipped ink ran out, the pen fitfully managing a few more scribbled lines and frustrated expletives before giving up entirely. The pen seemed to work best when writing with the nib upside down, though whoever finished the nib wasn’t in on that plan because the nib is very scratchy upside down. Just so we’re clear:
Metal to the sky is right side up. Feed to the sky is upside down. The pictures on JetPens agree with me. But the instructions on the back of the V301 packaging state:
Gently hold your pen with the nib facing down and properly balanced when making contact with the paper.
What do they mean, exactly, nib facing down? Is it really possible that they designed the mechanics of the feed such that the pen only works upside down?? It can’t be. How could it?!?!
Other gems from the packaging include:
Your new fountain pen will become a personal writing instrument as the nib of the pen adapts to your personal writing style. For this reason, we recommend that the fountain pen be used only by yourself.
No, I don’t think, if you’re using your steel nib with the appropriate pressure, short of writing with it for a hundred years it will really make that much of a difference in the shape of the nib. Other people can use your fountain pens as long as they know what they’re doing. And as long as you’re using a pen that writes.
Zebra Pen guarantees the performance of this writing instrument. If it fails to perform properly, please return it to Zebra Pen Corp. for repair or replacement.
Why would I spend more of my own money to mail Zebra this terminally dysfunctional pen? I could literally use the money it would 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 you’ve done, it’s something very wrong. Perhaps it’s the (what seems to be) felt-like mechanism in the feed. That part is garbage. Throw it out. Re-evaluate your life choices.
Bonus, this trainwreck of metal and ink takes proprietary cartridges! ZEBRA, WHY. This pen is the price-point opposite experience of the Paperchase Wonderland Cartridge Fountain Pen I found at Target. For only $4.99 plus tax, Paperchase knocked it outta the park. A near-perfect beginner fountain pen. The V301? Possibly a diabolical plan by Zebra to keep the masses from ever falling in love with fountain pens, pushing them to pursue a life only of ballpoints, gel pens, and rollerballs.
For five bucks, I don’t want a pen I have to mess around any with. It doesn’t have to be life-changing, it just has to write. For the second time now, this pen fails to meet the basic functioning definition of a pen.