Budget Fountain Pen Showdown

Budget Fountain Pen Showdown

After lampooning the Pilot Varsity, I got a lot of feedback from readers that they had a good experience with the pen and that it helped to inspire them to try fountain pens. While I am still not over the bruising experience of the Pilot Varisty, I was willing to try some other sub-$5 fountain pens. I did like the Zebra V-301 that I’m willing to admit that not all entry-level fountain pens are cheap. So I ordered a Platinum Preppy 03 ($3.30) and a Pilot Petit 1 (fine) ($3.80) from JetPens in hopes of finding a gem or two.

The most notable difference between these two pens is the length. The Platinum Preppy is a full-length pen (5.5″ closed) while the Pilot Petit 1 is a tiny pocket-sized pen. The Pilot Petit 1 is about the same length as a Kaweco Sport when closed at 4.25″ long. It’s 3.75″ uncapped and 5.25″ with the capped posted. The Preppy is 5″ uncapped and 6″ with the cap posted. If small pens are uncomfortable in your hands, then the Preppy will definitely be better suited than the Pilot Petit.

Platinum Preppy vs. Pilot Petit 1

Both nibs seem similar in width. The Pilot Petit actually has a longer nib-to-grip ratio and the Preppy nib is tinted to match the cap and ink color chosen at purchase. Both pens are cartridge-filled and use a proprietary cartridge style. Preppy cartridges refills are available in packs of two for $1.65 and the inks work in both the fountain pens and their line of Preppy sign markers. The Pilot Petit 1 cartridges work with the fountain pen and their two other pen styles — the marker and brush pen. Their cartridges come in sets of three for $1.90.

Budget Fountain Pen Showdown

In writing tests, they both preformed really well. For me, surprisingly well. The Preppy had a little bit of friction on the paper but no more than a pencil would have — I never felt like the pen was moving without my control. The Pilot Petit 1 was silkier on the paper but I think the grassy green ink is much wetter than the red in the Preppy.

I will probably refill the ink cartridges in both these pens with my syringe method to see if they behave differently with other inks. In general though, I am quite satisfied with the results of these pens. If I had to pick one, I like the way the Preppy writes a little better than the Petit 1 but I think both are great options if you are just getting into fountain pens or are looking for pens you wouldn’t be heartbroken to lose in the office or while traveling.

Lefty-approved. Recommended for anyone.

(This pen was tested on the Miquelrius medium flexible 300 grid paper book purchased from B+N.)

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16 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I have both of those (several of each) and I love them! My Pilot Petit 1 with baby pink ink writes a little scratchier than the other colors, but I haven’t used it as much yet, either.

  2. Great test, thank you. I have ordered a while ago 7 Pilot Petit 1 (all colours except baby pink), and the first week there were some different behaviours. Some felt a bit scratchy and greedy wit ink. But after a week they all work well. of course, they are still no Mont Blanc 24ct gold nib pens. But they work very well as all day tools. And I like the pilot colours.

  3. I’m a true fountain pen rookie. I haven’t tried the Preppy yet but I do have a couple of Petit1’s and they seem to work fine. Could you explain the syringe refill method for these pens? I saw a post on Jet Pens about the eyedropper refill on the Petit1, seems like it might be worth a try.
    Thanks for the info !!

  4. I’m a huge sucker for the Pilot Petit1 because of its sheer cute factor. One thing I’ve learned about the Preppy is the colour on the nibs come off! I had put one of my nibs + feeds in the ultrasonicator to clean out some dried ink and half the black paint (I assume it’s some sort of paint?) came off. Now I have a half silver/steel, half black nib hehe.

  5. I have the pilot petit and I did refill a cartridge with some Noodler’s ink. I picked up a syringe with needle at the local Feed store. You fill it with ink, then refill the cartridge. Couldn’t be easier. I mostly use the Pilot Petit for my making-a-grocery-list pen.

  6. I’m a fan of both pens. The Preppy ships free with some of the larger Noodler’s ink bottles, and is converted to an eye-dropper fill system, which allows for a huge volume of ink in the entire body. I use it with Noodler’s Nikita red to mark all of my essays. I keep the Petit 1 in my coat pocket.

  7. I’ve been following your blog incognito for months and I recently bought my first real fountain pen (refillable). I’ve been refilling the Pilot Petit1 cartridges with some bottled india ink that I have left over from dabbling in calligraphy. Ink seems to be pooling in the thready area (like on the Preppy), am I doing something wrong?

    1. Meg, you’ve probably already discovered this since you posted, but india ink isn’t meant for fountain pens–it’s designed for dip pens. If you’ve managed to keep using it the Petit1 without the pen jamming up, I’d be curious as to which ink it is! 🙂

    The new Preppy (you can tell it’s new because the nibs aren’t coloured) has an extremely narrow line width of 0.2 & even finer if you use the back of the nib! A true Japanese EF.
    Also it uses the Platinum patented “snap lock” system within the cap which is basically a inner second cap within the main cap. This system was developed so that Platinum could guarantee the safe use of their waterproof Platinum carbon inks in their own pens without it drying up & going solid & killing the pen – a serios concern with their pens costing 100 times the cost of their Preppy.
    This is on a par with the finest lined fountain pen ANY money can buy but costs only small change !
    The nib & feed system is ridiculously high quality & for the same money you pay for a disposable fine liner.
    The only down side is that the base of the top around the threads cracks really easily but then I just wrap it with a thin bit of tape when it is new.
    Cheers Mike

  9. Those two are lovely. The Preppy is more Moleskine friendly than the Petit which bleeds through the page. I don’t know if it’s because of the pen or because of the ink. So if like me you ditched this notebook brand for other ones more fountain pen friendly (Rhodia, Midori, etc), the Preppy may be an opportunity to use the ones you still have.
    Also, with such a price, modding looks fearless. Yesterday I successfully (and recklessly) cut the nib ball with a multitool knife to transform the 03 nib to a stub nib. As it obviously was scratchy, I polished a bit the nib on a knife sharpening stone and I now have a working stub nib for half the price of a Pilot Pluminix 🙂

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