Posted on Thu 26 January 2017

2016 fountain pen recap


I recently wrote about the planners and notebooks I tried throughout 2016. Not long after I got my regular Traveler's Notebook I decided to try fountain pens. I'd always been turned off by fountain pens, thinking they were too fancy and corporate for me. But I'd come across some details on modern, cheap pens that used cartridges rather than messy ink bottles. I decided to try a Lamy Safari first up, and it was the start of a long journey.

Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari and Traveler's Notebook

My first fountain pen actually had a defective nib, but I didn't realise it until months later. It was probably just an alignment issue but I had it swapped out for a new nib anyway.

So my first pen, an extra-fine Safari, was very scratchy and dry. It had a nice fine line, which is what I wanted, but not the smooth writing experience I was after.

Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot Metropolitan

I decided to try a Pilot Metro based on recommendations that the Metro has a very smooth nib. I did find it smoother than my scratchy Lamy, which made it nicer to write with, but it was also wetter and wrote a thicker line (if that seems weird, remember the Safari was defective—it wrote a finer line than it should have).

I also didn't like the feel of this pen. A lot of people do, but I found it very heavy, and combined with the cigar shape it made for an uncomfortable writing experience for me.

Lamy Safari, again

Lamy Safari and Traveler's Notebook

After switching between these two pens for a few weeks I started noticing that most people said the Safari should write smoothly, and should write a thicker line than the Metro. I took mine back to the shop I'd bought it from and had it swapped for a new extra-fine nib. The new nib was indeed smooth and great to write with, but it wrote a true Lamy extra-fine line; that is, definitely not small enough for my tiny handwriting. At the same time I picked up another Safari with a 1.1 nib which I loved, though it was definitely too big for my writing. I'd love to get a smaller stub nib in the future.


TWSBI Eco and Traveler's Notebooks

I actually don't remember how I discovered the TWSBI Eco or where I bought it. It's a piston filler, so I had to buy an ink bottle for the first time as well, and I can't remember what I thought about that or how I decided what to get.

I think I probably bought my bottle of Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Brown with my first Eco because I'd heard the 4001 inks were dry and I really like writing in brown.

TWSBI Eco and Traveler's Notebook

I got a clear Eco with an EF nib and loved it immediately. The Eco is still one of my favourite pens, though I now have a white one that I like even better because it flows a little drier. The Eco turned out to be easy to fill and clean, and I was quickly hooked on bottled ink and the world of possibilities it opens up after only using cartridges.

TWSBI Eco white

Pilot Custom Heritage 92

Pilot Custom Heritage 92

This was my first gold-nibbed pen. These pens seem to be notorious for writing quite dry out of the box and needing some adjustment. I was quite shocked after having several sub-$100 pens that mostly wrote perfectly out of the box that paying $150 got me the most troublesome pen I'd ever owned.

My CH 92 was extremely dry. So dry, in fact, that even after trying to adjust it I was barely able to improve the flow. Despite protestations from the fountain pen community that I should stick with it and work on the nib, I was so disappointed in the experience that I quickly sold the pen to someone willing to put more time into improving its flow.

However... it was only a few weeks later (after a very brief trial of a TWSBI Vac 700 that was cool but way too heavy for me, since I only ever write with the cap posted on the end of my pens) that I was searching for another higher-end pen to try. I'd sold off everything but my two TWSBI Ecos, and wanted a higher-quality pen in the mix.

As I searched I realised the CH 92 was really the perfect pen for me. The length was good (I hate short pens), it was a piston filler (my favourite type of filling system), it was a demonstrator (that means it has a transparent body, which is my favourite kind of pen), and it was in the $100-200 price range. So I bought another pen just like the one I'd sold off.

Pilot Custom Heritage 92 with Jibun Techo

Luckily the second one (pictured above with my Jibun Techo), though a dry writer, didn't have as much of a flow problem as the first. It did need a little adjustment but I was able to improve the flow fairly quickly and easily.

Even after writing with my second CH 92 for a little while I failed to see what all the fuss was about re: gold nibs vs. steel. I'd always enjoyed the steel nibs on my TWSBI pens and didn't feel a huge difference in the Pilot gold nib.

More recently, however, I've found myself picking up the CH 92 more often than my Ecos, and I think that's due to the feel of the nib. Pilot gold nibs are notorious for being springy, which some people dislike, but it seems I've developed quite a fondness for that feeling when I write.

The fine nib is a bit too thick a writer for my small handwriting. Since this pen doesn't come with any nib sizes smaller than fine I ordered a Pilot Custom 74 with an extra-fine nib that's compatible and swapped them over.

With the extra-fine nib this is easily my favourite fountain pen I've ever used.

2017 pens

I've already added two more pens to my collection in 2017 (though I did sell a couple off as well, so my total is only four). I'll mention them briefly, since this is mainly a post about my 2016 pens.

Pilot Decimo EF

Early in January I bought a Pilot Decimo with an extra-fine nib. I'd been debating whether to try this pen for a while. It's a bit shorter than I'd like, and since I always write with my cap posted on the end of the pen I do miss that long, top-heavy feeling of capped pens.

On the other hand, during meetings and phone calls I was still finding myself reaching for gel pens because they're retractable and I don't want to screw and unscrew my fountain pen caps over and over during the course of an hour. So the convenience of having a retractable fountain pen has been great.

A word of caution, though: don't leave your retractable pen open/on. I picked it up the other day without looking, pressed down hard to click it on, and actually pressed my thumb right into that extra-fine nib. Ouch.

The second pen I bought in 2017 was another Lamy Safari. This time I ordered a custom-ground XXF nib for it. It's definitely lost a little of the smoothness in going down a size, but the thickness of the line from this nib is a much better fit for my small handwriting.

I'm really enjoying having a Safari back in my collection. I love the length and shape of this pen, and how light it is, which helps to avoid hand fatigue when writing a lot. And they're really cheap, even with an extra $12 or so for the custom nib.

Currently inked as of Dec 20

P.S. I make some stuff you might like: Exist, a personal analytics app to help you understand your life, and Larder, a bookmarking app for developers.

© Belle B. Cooper. Built using Pelican. Theme by Giulio Fidente on github, edited by Belle B. Cooper. Theme inspiration from Jordan Smith and DuoTone snow theme.