Your Guide to Getting STARTED with FOUNTAIN PENS
Recently, we have been getting more and people asking for recommendations for entry level fountain pens.
For those who just want the summary table... it's down the bottom.
More often than not, the amazing people who ask these questions are new to the world of fountain pens and are looking to start out with an easy to use pen, that doesn’t break the bank!
For this reason, we have decided to put together the Nibspotter guide to selecting your first fountain pen!
What should I look for?
When looking for your first fountain pen, there are three key things that you should be on the lookout for.
- Ease of use
- A connection to the pen
Ease of use is a big one. There is no point going out and buying a pen that is so intimidating that you are too scared to even fill it with ink! That is why all the pens on our list of suggested pens are cartridge/converter pens. This basically means you can put in the ink refill, just the same you would for a rollerball or any other pen you’ve written with!
Next, we are looking at price. For those who are used to writing with a cheap biro, $20 may sound like an awful lot of money to spend on a pen. In the grand scheme of things, however, this is actually just a good entry level price. So until you are sure you want to buy a more expensive pen, we have kept all the pens suggested under the $20 mark.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly (and most cheesy), you must look at the connection factor. We haven’t included things like the Platinum Preppy on this list because frankly, they just don’t feel special. We believe that a fountain pen should be a tool that makes writing enjoyable, rather than something to simply take a note. For this reason, we suggest you pick the pen that you connect with most. The first experience should be a good one.
The best entry level fountain pens
Whilst there are other good entry level pens out there, these are five best that either Aaron or I have owned.
The list includes the old favourites (Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan), as well as three pens that are often overlooked (Muji Aluminum, Kaweco Classic Sport & Platinum Plaisir).
Honestly, in terms of build quality these pens are all top notch for the price.
We will run through some key points for each pen here. We have also made a handy table down below that will tell you everything you need to know about each pen (because who doesn’t love a handy spreadsheet?).
When people in the fountain pen community refer to the big three Japanese companies, Muji isn’t one of them. This pen really surprised us, but in a very good way. The pen is made out of a single piece of Aluminum, with a cleverly filled grip section to keep your hands in place during a long writing session. The modern design is met with outstanding performance and reliability. You could throw this pen around, leave it for a month then come back and it works without skipping a beat. The nib comes from Schmidt and is only available in fine. It provides a slight amount of feedback, giving you good control when writing. The Nib is also not too wet which is a good thing for a first fountain pen. Our only criticism is that the body can be a little bit narrow for some hands, but we didn’t find this to be a problem. Buy here!
The Lamy Safari has become somewhat of a classic. The design has hardly changed since its introduction in the 80’s, and for good reason. The plastic bodied pen is available in a vast array of colours and nib sizes. With everything from Black to Neon Yellow, there will surely be a design to suit you. The performance of the nib is once again spectacular for a pen at this price point. We found the extra-fine nib to be a bit too scratchy, however, the fine and medium options are free from most of the scratchiness and are smooth writers. The pen is the longest of the bunch, however, it isn’t very heavy due to the plastic construction. The only reason not to buy one of these pens is because of the triangular grip section. Personally, I don’t find it to be a problem, however, there are many people who would rather the freedom of a round grip section. Buy here!
This is a very different pen from everything else you will find on this list. The pocket-sized Kaweco is a true everyday carry. The compact body and large cap give the pen a unique design. Additionally, the hollow plastic construction makes this pen very light. I found that posting the pen made it far more usable. The performance of the pen is slightly more erratic than the other pens on the list. We had issues of hard starts (where the ink took a little while to flow). After a few lines of writing the ink begins to flow well and the pen becomes a great writer. The reliability may not be quite as good as the other pens but it certainly has good looks on its side. When carrying this pen around, you receive more comments than any of the other pens. The vintage design has a charm to it that we found very appealing. Buy here!
What do you do when you love the way the Platinum Preppy writes but hate the way it looks and feels? You get the Platinum Plaisir! The Platinum Plaisir is an aluminium bodies design that shares the same nib and feed, that so many have grown to love from the Preppy. We are a fan of the simple design and anodised finish, however, that silver band isn’t to everyone’s taste. The performance of the pen is quite impressive. We found the nib to be a bit on the dry side however it wasn’t unbearable. You can get some good line variation out of the pen which is fun! Buy here!
Ah, the Pilot Metropolitan. Out of the box, you would never guess that this is a $15 pen. The weight of the Brass body and cap make this pen feel somewhat more substantial than almost any other pen at this price. The writing experience of the Metropolitan nib is extremely smooth. There is very little feedback, with the pen gliding across the page. Another thing we love about this pen is the design. There are many different finishes available, however, our favourite is the Black Plain model. There is something about that combination of matt and gloss black that give this pen a sophisticated look. Our only criticism of the pen is the grip section. There is a rather defined drop down from the barrel to the grip which poses a problem for those that hold the pen high. Despite this minor detail, this pen is a true class leader. Buy here!
Your quick selection tool!
We made this table to give you all the quick details you need for selecting your pen.
The table includes a summary of all the information included above as well as our thought.
The Pen Muji Aluminum Lamy Safari Kaweco Classic Sport Platinum Plaisir Pilot Metropolitan
Description This sleek offering from Japanese giant, Muji, has a cleverly understated design, giving it the lines of a ballpoint pen. Standard international cartridges can be used and some converter fit it. The simple plastic body and ergonomic grip, make the Safari a good choice for a first fountain pen. Lamy uses proprietary ink cartridges and you can add a cartridge converter. Vintage design meets modern German functionality. These pocket sized pens take standard international cartridges. A squeeze style converter can be purchased for it. This is the understated and simple offering from another Japanese giant, Platinum. It accepts proprietary cartridges and Platinum's converter. The modern design and wide range of finish options make this pen an attractive choice. The Metropolitan takes Pilots proprietary cartridges and a Converter can be used with it too.
By it if You want a great writing, durable and sleek pen that has some weight to it. You want a highly customisable and virtually indestructible fountain pen. You want a pen that will complete that vintage look. You care about the exterior of your pen enough to pay an extra $10 over the preppy. You want a fun designed and writing pen that has a track record of being consistently great.
Our take Not many people would see Muji as a first choice for a fountain pen, that said, this all Aluminium model must be taken seriously. Watch out for the hard nib though! The classic suggestion for a first fountain pen has the reputation for a reason. All the nib options are stellar performers, but look to the fine or medium options to begin! Apart from the dependable Bock nib and the spectacular design of the pen, the sheer practicality of a pocket pen make this a pen worth considering. The forgotten bigger brother of the famous 'Preppy'. Whilst it still performs the same (well), the refined exterior make this a pen that you could carry around proudly. What is a first fountain pen list without the Metropolitan? It has so many fans for a reason. The Retro pop finishes aren't for everyone but there are plenty of other options to keep you happy!
How much? $18 with 2 cartriges! $25 with 5 cartriges! $23 with 1 cartridge $10 (normally $20!) $13 (normally $19!)
For those with any questions, feel free to reach out and ask us anything!
Let us know if you’d like to see more guides.
For those of you who do have a few pens, what was your first one?
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