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Inexpensive pens that write well?


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41 replies to this topic

#1 stas

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 03:38

Hello everyone!

I need a little bit of help..

My first fountain pen was a Pilot Birdie, which I bought for $20.. It was great and I loved it to death, but then I got a green Parker Vector as a gift, and was instantly converted! Both nibs were labeled M, but the Vector wrote a much smoother, wetter line and felt better in my hand (the Birdie felt kinda small).

Now, I can't find my Vector and I feel like a mute, except unable to write ;p I went on eBay to look for a replacement, and found a lot of them for sale ~5GBP for the regular model or ~10GBP for the stainless steel ones.

Just before I bought one though, I found this forum, so I would like to ask you gurus if there is a better pen that I could buy to replace my Vector (but please in the $25 incl. shipping range). I read that inexpensive pens can be great writers, but I couldn't find a discussion to specifically which ones are good and which ones should be avoided.

Thanks in advance,

Stas

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#2 stas

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 04:02

Aha, I just found the FAQ smile.gif

I realize that my budget is ridiculous, and beggars can't be choosers, but here are my earnest answers to the questions about pen preference:

How much do you want to spend? < $25

Size: Medium (the Birdie is too small for my hands, the Vector felt like a good size)

Barrel: Also medium, and preferably cylindrical (not 'fat') with a smooth grip (I don't really like rubber grips or plastic 'grates')

Appearance: I think hooded nibs look really weird. And I don't like the way the Lamy Safari looks. I guess that makes me a traditionalist smile.gif I think the pens that look the nicest are the ones with dark, black, or stainless steel finish.

Oh, and this question has probably been answered a billion times, but is does a gold-plated nib have any effect on the feel of the writing? Or is it just for looks?

Thanks!

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#3 Bernardo

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 04:17

Get yourself a Pelikan Future. It's a great writer and totally unexpensive.

#4 helius

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 04:19

I wouldn't call your budget "ridiculous." Tight, perhaps, but do-able.

Esterbrook J's come to mind immediately. They're vintage, and you may still be able to find them on the marketplace board now and then at your budget.

As for new pens, barring a good clearance sale of some sort, I can think of only two options: The Ohto and Pilot pens at jpens.com, and Chinese pens (Hero, Duke, Uranus, Haolilai, etc). Some Hero/Duke pens need a little smoothing, and their QC isn't the strictest in the industry, but they can be excellent buys. One of my favourite XF pens, the Hero 329/330, can be had for $10 shipped. You'll have to decide on the looks yourself, but some of them are very "traditional looking."

You can also go with the "disposable" segment, which includes the Pilot V-pen/Varsity and the recently reviewed Manga pen. You'll have to be somewhat handy with your hands to refill the Pilot, but they sell for under US$3 where I'm at.

Oh, the Kaweco Sport pens are being cleared out at quite a few places, and these are supposedly rather decent.

As you can see, plenty of options. smile.gif

#5 JohnS-MI

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 04:19

You might find the Parker Frontier a little nicer than the Vector.

The Sheaffer No Nonsense (the older style, with screw on cap) is a pretty nice pen. Check the nib though, many were marketed as calligraphy pens with italic nibs.

Is the Pelikano too weird for you? It's supposed to be nice, but I don't have one. You might get a Cross Solo within your price range on eBay.

#6 kissing

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 04:24

I also recommend the Parker Frontier.

It retains the same smoothness as the Vector, but the nib is way higher quality wink.gif Comfortable rubber grip too smile.gif

(I think it also looks better aesthetically than the Vector)



Available in stainless steel and various colourful plastic finishes. Nib can be plain steel or gold plated wink.gif They're well within your price range too biggrin.gif
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#7 SallyLyn

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 04:29

I don't think your budget is out of line. There are many nice daily use writing pens for under $25. One I know most like your Vector in amount of ink flow and smoothness is a Japanese pen OHTO, model FINE $18-20 (I have a Vector and a Fine). I bought mine from Jetpens.com and they had fast service. Someone on this list advertised jpens.com also has OHTOs. Actually like the OHTO Tasche better, but it is smaller. I think the nibs are the same. Very smooth, wet writing and I'd say the nib is more medium. Fine is the model. There's a review of the pen on the Forum.

Other low priced but good workhorse pens are the Heros. The 2004 is not a hooded nib. You can get use to the hooded, but most of the Heros, 616, 329, 100, 110 (very nice pen) run fine. I bought mine from isellpens.com Excellent service.

For $50, you could have 2-5 pens and have a great time. Enjoy.
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#8 Ray-Vigo

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 04:46

Before the Sheaffer Viewpoint became a transparent type calligraphy pen, the Viewpoint was a decent writing pen at about $8-10 per pen. They're a little liberal with the ink, so a fine or a medium is probably where you'd want to be. You might be able to locate some still.

Edited by Ray-Vigo, 19 January 2007 - 05:39.


#9 Mocksy

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 05:26

I have a few nice pens, but my old stainless steel Vector that got me through University is my best writer. Works great with a converter or cartridges.

I'd say get another Vector.

#10 stas

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 06:07

Wow, thanks for the fast replies everyone!

I read up on some of the pens that you suggested, and here are my thoughts (in no particular order):



The pens that don't seem right for me:

Pilot V-pen/Varsity
The V-pen was the first pen I tried (even before the Birdie), and was rather disappointed with it. I didn't like the way it wrote and the fact that it only came in one color, black, at the Grand & Toy that I bought it, at least. Also, the nib is of very low quality, and it got bent completely out of shape from a little extra pressure.

Manga
This pen doesn't seem to have any converters available for it. I guess I should have added the ability to use liquid ink as one of my requirements.

Kaweco Sport
The Kaweco Sport has a rather unattractive appearance (except the Art models, but those are really expensive ;p)

Sheaffer No Nonsense
I had some trouble finding this one, and all of the ones on eBay had italic nibs. Same story with the Viewpoint. Also, is it alright that they're so old?

Pelikan Pelikano and Future
You were right, the Pelikano and the Pelikan Future are pretty garish. If they write really well, appearance isn't that important at all, but if it's possible to find a good writer that's also attractive, I'd opt for it instead smile.gif)

Cross Solo
I couldn't find a review here or decent pics of the Cross Solo, but it looks similar to the Kaweco Sport aesthetically, but more toylike, I guess.



The pens that appeal to me:

Esterbrook J
That looks like a nice pen, if one comes up on the BST board, I'll look into it.. I did read a review here about one that said that the writing is scratchy.. is that true?

Ohto pens at jpens.com
The Tasche looks a bit too small for me. I really like the appearance of the Fine, and the review it got, however the review also mentioned that it requires a separate converter. jpens.com doesn't sell converters and claims that the Fine is cartridge-only. Is that true?

The Parker Frontier
This pen has quite a nice appearance, and the fact that it's similar to the Vector but higher quality makes it sound very appealing smile.gif It's in my budget, too. I guess I could live with the rubber grip, especially if it's as comfortable as you claim biggrin.gif


As for the Chinese pens, there's such a huge variety, my head is swimming with them all! I'm going to look at them in more detail a little later.

By the way, my mom has a Chinese pen from the Soviet Union (1970s) that I really like. Unfortunately the labeling is entirely in Chinese so I can't tell you what it's called! Maybe you guys can help me identify it? (I'll post some pictures later)



After looking at some reviews, I realize that 'minimalist' is a better description of my taste in pens than 'traditional' smile.gif

The very important thing that I forgot to tell you guys is that I still have a bunch of beautiful liquid ink that I would like to keep using, so a converter is pretty much a must. Also, if it comes down to it, the 'slide' filler of the Vector easily beats out the rubber bladder of the Birdie (in my opinion).



Thanks for the suggestions guys!

btw, is the Parker Jotter any good?

P.S. I really appreciate your help in finding the perfect pen for me:) You're awesome

Edited by stas, 19 January 2007 - 06:42.


#11 solaris

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 06:10

IF you can find it, it is possible to grab a Cross Solo for that cash...

#12 stas

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 06:23

Oh, I have another question for the experts: I found the Parker Frontier on eBay: It's sold for 8GBP with chrome trim, or for 10GBP with "14k gold plated trim" and "23k gold plated Stainless Steel nib"

Does the gold plating on the nib have any effect other than the aesthetics? Will it corrode less, or write differently? Finally, is it worth the extra 2 pounds?

Thanks!

-Stas

#13 JimStrutton

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 07:48

The plating on the nib should prevent it from corrosion, but the plating on the trim is just a touch of glitz, liable to wear off quickly I would think

The most robust version is the all SS 'Flighter'

You might find a 45 in your budget on eBay, try J M Lwertoski, great seller and a friend of this board to boot.

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#14 Col

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 09:54

QUOTE(stas @ Jan 19 2007, 06:07 AM)
You were right, the Pelikano and the Pelikan Future are pretty garish.

Pelikano, garish? Heresy! ohmy.gif Cheerful's what they are.

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#15 kissing

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 11:17

I have heard from various Frontier users that the all-Stainless Steel model, preferably with a gold plated nib, are often more consistent and of better quality.



You asked about Jotters. Jotters have the EXACT same nib/feed as the Vector. If you pull out the Jotter nib, you can plug it into a Vector, and vice versa. The Jotter is of lower quality than the Vector, in my opinion. They're lighter and the plastic is thinner. The Metal "flighter" version of the Jotter (which is only available in Australia and UK) has thinner metal than the Flighter Vector


I think the all-stainless steel Jotters are more visually appealing than Vectors though. The Jotters are also shorter in length - more compact ("demi" size).

Upon using all three pens mentioned...out of the Vector, Frontier and Jotter, I'd definitely prefer the Frontier over them any day wink.gif
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#16 jsonewald

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 11:38

The Chinese pens offer more variety in your price range, including several with a very traditional appearance. There are quite a few avaialbe for under $20. Overall my luck has been better with cheap Chinese pens than cheap big name brands. Look at isellpens.com. I don't have any relationship with them other than as a satisfied reapeat customer.

#17 helius

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 12:12

QUOTE
Pilot V-pen/Varsity
The V-pen was the first pen I tried (even before the Birdie), and was rather disappointed with it. I didn't like the way it wrote and the fact that it only came in one color, black, at the Grand & Toy that I bought it, at least. Also, the nib is of very low quality, and it got bent completely out of shape from a little extra pressure.


Unless yours was a very bad copy of the pen, you were pressing on it way too hard. The half dozen that I've gone through have had very rigid nibs. They come in at least four colours (blue, black, purple, and turqoise), some have complained about the lack of writing consistency from copy to copy.



QUOTE
Esterbrook J
That looks like a nice pen, if one comes up on the BST board, I'll look into it.. I did read a review here about one that said that the writing is scratchy.. is that true?


None of my Esterbrooks are scratchy except the extra-fine nibs, which are somewhat scratchy no matter the brand. In any case, you can easily change the nibs on these if you get one you don't like.



Good luck, and welcome to this madness we call fountain pen appreciation (or was it obessesion?). smile.gif

Edited by helius, 19 January 2007 - 12:13.


#18 nscampos

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 12:31

You can buy a Parker 45 GT for less than 25USD on ebay.
I did.

#19 Mike S.

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 13:07

If you were willing to add a few more $ to your budget, you might like the Pilot Knight. I think they're around $30. At least that's what Pam at www.oscarbraunpens.com sells them for.



#20 JohnS-MI

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Posted 19 January 2007 - 13:39

QUOTE(stas @ Jan 19 2007, 01:07 AM)
Esterbrook J
That looks like a nice pen, if one comes up on the BST board, I'll look into it.. I did read a review here about one that said that the writing is scratchy.. is that true?

Two points on the Esterbrook:

*These are 50 year old pens. If you get a "vintage" one at cheap price, it will need a new sac and possibly other restoration. If you get one already restored, it will be at or over your budget.

*I would say a medium nib is quite smooth, if you have the angle right. I'm not sure this is the right terminology, but the nib is a bit "square shouldered." If the pen is rotated a few degrees from optimal, it gets scratchy faster than most pens. (I'm old enough I used one in school when it was new, and recently picked up a restored one.)

On Frontier, stainless steel is pretty corrosion resistant. I would say the gold plating is pretty much esthetics. On other steels, or other materials, it might be important for corrosion too. The Frontier uses the slide converter, and in some eBay auctions, is included. ARe you in US or UK? I've seen US auctions for pen and converter for $7.50, or a boxed set for $9.95 (plus S/H). I think this might be the best for you, as a slight upgrade to your Vector.

Sheaffer No Nonsense: Yes, it is an older, discontinued model, but auctions are generally for "new old stock", not used pens. The only problem is the calligraphy kits with italic nibs, but a few auctions have regular nibs. Just read carefully.






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