Fountain Pens Don’t Have to Cost a Fortune
affordable fountain pens

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice. And I give absolutely no fucks.
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March 29, 2016

affordable fountain pens

Fountain pens are great–I love them so much. And they can also be surprisingly affordable, too. Not everyone can afford a ton of money on pocket-sized piece of art, so I thought I’d recommend three of my favorite pens that cost less than $40 (which I know is still a lot–I’ll have some suggestions for even cheaper pens at the end of the post).

TWSBI Eco

This pen retails for $28.99. It’s a solid pen and it’s a piston-filler for less than $30 which is really amazing. I have two of these–one with a fine nib and another with a medium, and I love them both. It come in black or white, with a wide array of nib sizes, and the nibs on both of mine are fairly smooth and they start with little to no problems–and the ink capacity is enormous.  These are pens that intended to be taken apart for maintenance, which is pretty awesome but also a little terrifying when you accidentally unscrew the piston knob and have to google a video to figure out how to reassemble it.  TWSBI is a Taiwanese brand that got their start as an OEM manufacturer for other brands until deciding to make their own pens–you can read more about their history here.

Lamy Safari

This is the most expensive pen of the group, coming in at $37. Lamy is a German company and the Safari is an iconic pen.  I’ve linked the plastic-body version, but for a slight increase in price you can also get an aluminum body (Al-Star), or a demonstrator (Vista). I have four Safaris–the plastic one shown, an Vista, and two Al-Stars. They’re great workhorse pens. They take either cartridges (proprietary or international) or you can buy a converter for a few bucks. The nibs are swappable and I’ve read that some folks think they write like nails–there’s no flexibility to them, they’re not designed for that–but I don’t have an issue with them.

Pilot Kakuno

The Pilot Kakuno is an entry-level pen that for whatever reason doesn’t show up on the U.S. website–but it can easily be purchased elsewhere, like Amazon or JetPens–and as you can see, it’s quite an affordable little pen at around $14. Intended for children or other people learning to write, it performs really well. It takes proprietary Pilot cartridges or a converter for about $5 more. Also, the nib has a little smiley face on it–how can you not love that?

Inks

I’ve tried a lot of different inks but by no means all of them–one great way to try out a lot of different inks is to join the Goulet Ink Drop Club and for $10 a month you get all sorts of different inks to try out–and the samples are usually large enough that you can get at least one full fill up from them.  I’d also recommend picking up a pair of ink syringes while you’re there, too–these are fantastic for filling up used cartridges or converters with ink. Just don’t be like me and manage to get it all over your hands–red or orange ink in particular will make you look like a particularly enthusiastic axe murderer. I’m a big fan of Iroshizuku (very expensive), J. Herbin’s 1670 line, and Noodlers (very affordable).  I cannot recommend J. Herbin’s regular line–every single bottle I’ve purchased from them since they reformulated their inks to comply with European environmental regulations has gone moldy on me.

Other Fountain Pens

A few other pens–some of these I’ve tried, others I haven’t.

  • Noodlers makes pens, the most affordable of which is the Nib Creaper. I used to have a few of the Noodlers resin pens but gave them away because I didn’t like how they smelled (they have a very distinctive scent). I see that they’re making non-resin pens, now, so I may give them another try at some point.
  • Platinum Metropolitan. This is another pen in the $15 range. I haven’t tried this one, but it’s on my list.
  • I’ve heard decent things about Jinhao pens as well–haven’t tried one, but for $10-12, you’re not making a huge investment.
  • The Kaweco Classic Sport will run you about $25 if you want a pocket-sized pen. I just got one of these with an aluminum body, and I’m excited to give it a spin.
  • Finally is the Platinum Preppy. One of these’ll run you about $5. And it’s not a bad pen for that price. It’s not going to be the best writer out there, but it’s not bad either. I have one of these knocking around the house somewhere. And the cool thing about this pen is that you can convert it to an eye-dropper fairly easily with the addition of some silicon grease and an o-ring (or you can pay the nice people at Goulet to convert it for you for $2 more).

Where to Buy

If you have a local pen shop, I’d recommend talking to them first. You’ll likely be able to try some different pens and be able to get some solid advice–pen people are geeky people. If you’re like me and don’t have a local shop, then I can’t recommend Goulet Pens and JetPens highly enough–they both ship quickly and I’ve never had anything damaged in transit, and that includes large glass bottles full of ink. They’re both independent and small businesses, but Goulet Pens focuses pretty firmly on fountain pens and accessories, while JetPens has a wider focus on Japanese stationery.  They both provide many different guides for their customers and are really good resources for anyone looking to buy their first fountain pen.

(And the pen wrap up there? I managed to catch an EXBPens update a couple weeks ago on Instagram and snapped this one up–it reminds of me Translator Zeiat! How could I not grab it?)

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