Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Miscellany: Budget Fountain Pens

I enjoy writing with fountain pens, but, as some have pointed out, they are somewhat of an impractical luxury item. Even a common "starter" fountain pen, like the Lamy Safari, will run you $30. Not everyone can afford that, especially if fountain pens turn out not to be your cup of tea.

Still, there is a certain visceral pleasure to writing with a fountain pen, and, if you enjoy writing longhand, there is no reason not to at least try one. Here are a couple of sub-$10 fountain pens that are worth a look for those dipping their toes into the ink well...

Pelikan Pelikano Junior review

The Pelikano Junior is a plastic-bodied fountain pen designed for schoolchildren. The pen has a fat barrel and bold colors that are sure to entice kids, and the package even includes a little label so you don't get your pen mixed up with a classmate's.

The Pelikano Junior is a good beginner's pen because it lays down a generous, wet line of ink. This means that it's less sensitive to writing angle than the average fountain pen, and feels more like a rollergel or rollerball. In my testing, I never found the Pelikano Junior to be scratchy or uncomfortable.

There's no getting around the fact that this is a no-frills pen with a plain steel nib. The chunky plastic construction isn't very durable, and the pen has a tendency to roll around since it has no clip. The cap on mine eventually cracked from one too many falls off my desk. Still, the Pelikano Junior's overall smoothness and low price makes it a good option.

Pilot Penmanship review

This pen is also designed for students, albeit those attending middle or high school. The Penmanship is a Japanese pen, and it's unlikely you'll find it in a store here in the U.S. I ordered mine from pen importer JetPens.

As with the Pelikano Junior, the Penmanship's plastic construction and plain nib won't impress anyone. Its saving grace is that it lays a fine line, much thinner than most fountain pens. The pen can get a little scratchy, depending on how long it's sat unused, but it writes remarkably smoothly considering how little ink is being drawn by the nib. This is a great pen for those who like fountain pens, but find them too wet and imprecise compared to a good ballpoint.

Ergonomically, the pen has a tapered barrel and indentations near the nib for your fingers. The screw-on cap has two anti-roll "wings;" it looks a little strange, but it works pretty well. To sum up, for the beginner in search of a fountain pen capable of taking notes in the smallest of margins, the Pilot Penmanship is an excellent choice.


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