I’ve been going through my stable of pens recently, and felt like sharing. Most of this is covered in my initial reviews of each, but time and use have changed some aspects of my opinion.
First, the Chinese pens – Jinhao, Hero, and Lanxivi. It may not seem fair to lump multiple brands together, but all of these tend to share most characteristics. Cosmetically, they are beautiful. At first. The finish is fragile on all of them, unable to resist more than slight wear or bumps before chips and/or discoloration appear.
Functionally, they are average. Nib size tends to be one broader than advertised, which can be an issue if you like a fine line since extra fine nibs are all but nonexistent. Mediums lay down lots of ink. Even fines are generous. They dry out quickly if not used, even if capped. More often than not, it is difficult to get the ink to flow after a cleaning and refill. They write well and with reasonable smoothness as long as you don’t let them dry out. In which case, just remove the cartridge or converter and clean the pen thoroughly. You won’t get it to behave otherwise.
In my opinion, they are a perfect example of getting what you pay for. They are the least expensive entry in the fountain pen market, and you will get an imperfect but serviceable product for a low price.
Next up, Pilot. My examples from them are both lower end models, so don’t take this as applicable to their premium pens. These are plain workhorses. Cosmetically, their plainness offers little to show wear or damage. They don’t require any special treatment to get the ink started. Nib size is accurately advertised. Fines will dry out quickly if left uncapped, but are easy enough to get restarted and back to normal operation. Capped, they don’t dry out or allow the ink to evaporate very quickly.
Writing is smooth, and only the tiniest bit scratchy with the finest nibs. They can be hard to find, but they don’t cost much more than the Chinese pens. My first Pilot was my favorite pen for the longest time, and it still sees regular use. I highly recommend anything with the Pilot name on it.
Lamy Safari. This was my first fountain pen, but I’ve had enough since that the sentimental attachment doesn’t color my evaluation much. It is somewhat more expensive than most “starter” pens, especially considering that the converter doesn’t come with it. It is a simple design, with a single color plastic body, but it is comfortable and well finished. Nib size runs about half a size broader than advertised. It writes smoothly, and resists drying out better than most.
Parker. Oh, Parker.I have both inexpensive Vectors and an upper mid-range Sonnet. Vector is my work pen. It feeds reliably, and doesn’t dry out very quickly if not used. Nibs are a half size broader than advertised. Like the Chinese pens, even fines are generous with the ink, only just slightly less so. They write acceptably, but are generally unremarkable.
The Sonnet is like a race car. It is gorgeous, and if you can get it running, it is awesome. But you will need the patience of a saint to get it inked, and to get it restarted if you set it aside for more than a couple minutes. I hate it because it could be great, but isn’t.
Nemosine Fission. This is a German pen, like the Lamy. It’s about the same price as a Safari, but comes with a converter at that price. It is a great pen in almost every aspect. It is metal, so it’s substantial to hold. The design is attractive but understated. Unlike the Chinese pens, the finish is rock solid. Short of putting it in a dehydrator, you won’t get it to dry out. As with the Lamy, nib sizes are slightly broader than I would expect. It’s a smooth writer, albeit not quite the smoothest I’ve ever experienced. Simply put, I love this pen. I’m just scared to mess it up at work, or lose it. Dollar for dollar, it’s the best overall pen I have. I also have a Nemosine Singularity. It is essentially a plain plastic body with the same internals and performance, but a lower price tag.
Finally, Platinum. The 3776 is a work of art, and the price reflects that. I chose the ultra extra fine nib, since most companies tend to rate their nibs narrower than I expect. Well, this time, the manufacturer and I agree. This nib is almost sewing needle thin. The instant you forget it’s a fountain pen and exert any pressure instead of just letting it glide across the paper is the instant it gets scratchy. Two nanoseconds later, a microscopic hole appears in your paper.
This one will become my favorite as soon as I can break myself of the four decade long habit of pressing on my writing instruments. When used properly, it is silky smooth and makes the thinnest of lines. It doesn’t dry out, despite the itty bitty nib. You can write miles on a single cartridge or converter fill. I want another one in a different color. Maybe two more.
Off I go to write something else in my Mokeskine notebook.