Ink Drop Soup: Expensive Fountain Pens Just 30 and Below

21 12 2013

If you follow my Twitter, you already know about the humorous exchange I overhead at my local pen store. It went like this:

“I want an expensive fountain pen.”

“What’s your price range?”

“Thirty and below.”

For those not afflicted with the fountain pen condition, that probably sounds like a reasonable number. You may be thinking, why I could get upwards of thirty units of terrible crappy pen that I like for thirty bucks! But you’re thinking of an entirely different beast. For me, expensive fountain pen starts being an applicable label once we reach one Benjamin, and anything past about three of ole Benjy-boy is reaching the territory of “you had better not” expensive; any price tag with four or more digits is comfortably in the laughably unattainably probably-not-even-if-I-won-the-lottery category of expensive. Five figure fountain pens? Mythical beasts, the mere suggestion of which I will giggle madly at until I cry at the very idea of a mere mortal owning such an ethereal figment.

But back to real human numbers; there are a lot of good fountain pens you can get for thirty-and-below, so rather than merely laugh at the ignorance of the uninitiated, I figured I should throw some suggestions out there. So, random dude I didn’t even talk to in the pen store, it all depends on what you’re looking for when you say “expensive.” I’ll break it down by body types.

Mostly Plastic

They comes in colors everywhere~!

They comes in colors everywhere~!

There are all types of pens under 30 when you look at mostly plastic bodies. The advantage of plastic: bright colors. Stand-out in this category is the Lamy Safari (which apparently I haven’t actually reviewed yet, in spite of owning…several; for link purposes it’s similar to the Vista),  but I’ve enjoyed all of the pens pictured here. There’s the Paperchase Wonderland Fountain Pen, the Chelpark Terminator (and similar, yet unreviewed Conqueror), Noodler’s Ahab Flex and Noodler’s Piston Fill Fountain Pens, the Sailor A.S. Manhattaner’s (which is no longer available, but pretty much identical to the Sailor Clear Candy, and comes in a zillion colors), the Lamy Safari, the Pelikan Future (as yet unreviewed?!), and Pilot’s Penmanship and Plumix.

Plastic & Metal

I also have a Pelikan Steno I got for under 30 that would go here except I don't know where you would get one. Mine showed up at my local pen store...

I also have a Pelikan Steno I got for under 30 that would go here except I don’t know where you would get one. Mine showed up at my local pen store…

Not quite as many, but you’ve got the Pelikan Pelikano, the Hero 616 (as yet unreviewed!), the Ohto Rook, and the Sailor HighAce Neo Beginner’s Fountain Pen.

Mostly Metal

Bonus points if you start singing some kind of musically appropriate song when you see the word "metal"

Bonus points if you start singing some kind of musically appropriate song when you see the word “metal”

Metal is probably more what I’d think a person would have in mind when they want to put the words “expensive” and “fountain pen” together. All three of these are solid options: the Schrade Tactical Fountain Pen is probably the smoothest of the bunch, with three colors available, it also comes with a rollerball option if you get tired of the fountain pen, and it doubles as a weapon. What more could you want for about $25? The Muji Aluminum Round Fountain Pen is a little more comfortable than the Schrade, but less likely to help you win an impromptu brawl. And the matte black Sheaffer VFM is simple, classy, and smoother at both ends than the other two. Bonus, all three take standard international short cartridges.

In hindsight, I probably should have posted this earlier in the gifting season, but depending on your holiday you’ve still got potentially plenty of time to pick any one of these pens up.


Ink Drop Soup: Category Killers

3 08 2013

I want to do a brief lineup, a shout-out and nod to products so exceptional that it becomes almost impossible to review anything in their category without mentioning them, without adding a disclaimer acknowledging that the product under review certainly isn’t a so-and-so. Compared to the category killer, everything else lags behind in a competition for second place.

Mechanical Pencil: Uni Kuru Toga

Alpha gel grip for bonus points

Alpha gel grip for bonus points

It rotates the lead as you write. There’s an Alpha Gel grip model. All other mechanical pencils can go home because for me, this pencil reigns supreme.

Ballpoint Pen: Uni Jetstream

As close as a ballpoint can get to perfection

As close as a ballpoint can get to perfection

Your mileage may vary. I’ve heard some people complain that the Jetstream is too smooth, in what I assume is much the same tone that rich people use when they complain that they just have too much money. There may be good competition in the super smooth world, tolerable substitutes even, but a ballpoint pen can’t fall in my hand without being measured against the Jetstream.

Convenient Fountain Pen: Pilot Vanishing Point

  CLICK click CLICK click

CLICK click CLICK click

I love a lot of different fountain pens, but when it comes to convenience, the Vanishing Point is the undisputed champ. I own three now. Send help.

There are still categories out there where a single winner hasn’t seized my heart. Gel pens, rollerball pens, felt-tip pens, hardcase wooden pencils (though the Palomino Blackwing is pretty strong), lead holders (though I have a soft spot for the Ohto Comfort Sharp), highlighters … I don’t yet know the end-all champion in those realms (gel pens may never be settled, as there are many good gel pens). But now, henceforth, you all know when I review a mechanical pencil, ballpoint pen, or fountain pen touting its convenience, unless that product is the new category killer, it will go without saying that it isn’t in the same league as these fantastic writing utensils.