I’m looking for my first fountain pen, mainly for journaling while I’m in college, and I came across wellappointeddesk.com reading a review for a pen I saw on Amazon. I don’t want to spend too much money on a pen since I’m just getting into it but I don’t want a real junky pen either that will totally turn me off to fountain pens. Are there any brands or particular pens you would suggest for a beginner? I’ve also seen that there are different size tips or nibs. Which size would you recommend to start with? Thanks for your help.
Stephanie, this is probably the Number One question that all pen bloggers get and often the hardest to answer. Most first-time fountain pen buyers are looking to make a small investment as they are not sure this is a rabbit-hole they are ready to go down. First, the pen needs to be pretty dependable from a brand you can trust so I don’t recommend buying from an off-brand for your first foray into fountain pens. Then, not all first-time fountain pen buyers want to go to buying full bottles of ink either, so knowing if you are more inclined for a cartridge filling pen over a pen that will accept a converter or other filling mechanism that will let you fill your pens from an ink bottle may be a deciding factor. And finally, deciding on a nib size can be hard initially so a pen that makes it easy to switch the nib is a great option. Whether you change the nib soon after purchasing it or years later when your collection has grown.
So, based on price, ease-of-use, reliability and nib swap-ability, I pulled together my best recommendations for the first fountain pen purchase. Your final decisions will depend on which factors most influence you.
In no specific order:
Lamy AL-Star or Safari (both are equally good, its an aesthetic preference): The Lamy Safari and Lamy AL-Star offer the molded grip which many people find very comfortable and helpful in mastering a good grasp in handling a pen and are charmed by the colorful plastics and aluminum finishes of the pens. Lamy has converter and cartridges which make it easy to fill with ink. The nibs are smooth and consistent and its easy to swap out nibs should your taste in nib widths change. The only caveat is for left-handed writers who may have an unusual grip that might find the molded grip uncomfortable.
Kaweco Sport: The Kaweco Sport has a retro design that is quite pocketable. The pen is available in a variety of finishes from clear plastic demonstrator to a weightier brass with prices that range from about $25 to about $100. The nibs are steel and range from a European EF to B. There is also a calligraphy set available. The Sport has a converter available but I would not recommend it so really, its a cartridge filler only. I do refill cartridges so its not really all that limiting but it moves the Sport into more of an “advanced beginner” pen or at least an “adventurous beginner” category. Of course, the small size of the Kaweco Sport makes it unique, the cap is postable which makes it more comfortable but if you have large hands, the small size may make this pen less appealing.
Pilot Metropolitan/Pop: The Pilot Metropolitan and Metropolitan Pop are wonderful starter pens. The price point is excellent, the nibs work great and the pens ship with both a cartridge and a cartridge converter in the box. All for one low, low price, usually below $20. The pens are full-sized with a satin metallic finish and in a range of colors. The nibs are in Japanese sizes so they run a bit finer than the Kaweco and Lamy nibs. There is an italic/stub nib available though.
TWSBI Eco: The TWSBI Eco is on the higher end of the price points but it is a piston filler so if what you are looking for in a fountain pen is the chance to play with lots of fountain pen inks, than this is your best option. It’s available in a couple colors but that only alters the cap and twist filler, the barrel of the pen remains transparent to see the ink. The cap posts and the nib ranges from extra fine to a stub 1.1mm. TWSBI uses German nibs so assume the nibs are more comparable in size to Lamy or Kaweco than to Pilot in sizing.
So, those are my recommendations for starter fountain pens. There are many others but these pens will most likely be easy to find at most online pen shops, pen shows or even a well-stocked brick-and-mortar pen shop. TWSBI being the exception, though a lot of online shops are carrying TWSBI these days.