So I am relatively new to fountain pens, but I am very bitten by the bug. I currently have around 20 fountain pens (all bought new) since I started really getting into them. As someone new to Fountain Pens I always got a bit confused when it came to different models and what would suit me. Unfortunately here in Aus we don't have many Pen stores that we can go to and test out the pens. So I rely heavily on reviews and comparisons online.
I found the hardest pens to pick between are the Mid-range pens in the $80 - $150 bracket. There are just so many options out there, it's difficult to pick. So I figured I would give my opinion on some of the pens in this price bracket and give a quick comparison of them.
So the pens I have in the Round Up today are (from cheapest to most expensive):
- 2x Kaweco AL Sport with M Steal nib (a Blue one and a grey one) - Priced at around $80-$85
- 1x Sailor 1911m GT with 14k HB (Hard Bold) gold nib - Priced at around $150 (I picked mine up from eBay for $75 plus postage, so a real steal!)
- 1x Sailor 1911m ST (Rhodium trims) with 14k HM (Hard medium) gold nib - Priced at around $150 (I picked this one up from eBay for around $75 plus postage as well, so another great deal)
- 1x Lamy Studio LE Royal Red with 14k F gold nib - Priced at around $150 (can be picked up at around the $100-$120 mark from eBay)
- 1x Lamy 2000 with 14k F gold nib - Priced at around $150 (can be picked up on eBay for around $120)
And I have also included a Noodlers Ahab in the fix. Now I know the Ahab does not fit into the price range of the other pens (it is only a $20 pen after all), but I think it's good to show people the size, quality and performance you can get from a Noodlers pen IF you give it some time, attention and work.
The paper I have used for this comparison is a Rhodia Pad (standard, not R). I have also tested all these pens with standard copy paper, some good quality Dasio paper (for those of us in Australia near a Daiso store and can get this bargin quality paper), a Picadilly journal (a much cheaper Moleskine looking journal which is VERY fountain pen safe) and a Clairefontaine Metric 1951 (same paper as the Essentials books, just a different cover). This, I think, gives me a good idea on how each of the pens behaves and feels in use.
So let's start off with a few pictures of the the pens together (sorry about the pictures. I don't have a great lens for taking Macro photo's in relatively low light, but have done my best).
So here is a photo with them all in. Going from left to right we have a Sailor 1911m, a Sailor 1911m ST, Lamy 2000, Lamy Studio LE, Noodlers Ahab, Kaweco AL Sport Blue, Kaweco AL Sport Grey.
And here is a photo with all the pens with their nibs out! Same order as above, but obviously the Kawecos are above the other pens.
On with the review itself!
Kaweco AL Sport - The Kaweco AL Sports come arrive in a little plastic box (slightly shorter than the length of a Sailor 1911m) with a printed cardboard slipcover over it. The slip cover and box both have old-school styling, obviously as a throwback to the Sports origins. It's a really cool concept. Open the box and you are presented with the pen in a plastic bag and that's it. There is no extra pomp, no extra fillers, and nothing else other than the pen. I think this is great! Why do we need the other fillers cluttering things up when all we really want is the pen? I think this is a great move by Kaweco.
Even more in Kaweco's favor is the fact that's not it for the box. The box is designed to be a carrying box for 2 Kaweco's (or 1 and a bunch of extra carts), so unlike most other boxes it's use lives on after you open the pen! The Kaweco's packaging, in my opinion, is FAR better than any of the others.
Sailor 1911m - The Sailor 1911m's arrive in a similar fashion to the Kaweco's. You get a cardboard slip cover (in this case it's just plain white). In the cardboard slip cover is a much larger and heavier box covered in fake leather and Sailor badge in the middle of the top. While this box looks good as a first impression, it doesn't really have a great sense of tradition or usefulness the Kaweco box does. It's more only meant to be used for retail of the pen, and then stored/thrown away. When you open up the box there is a lot of empty space, a small cardboard box with the converter in, and the pen. You can also take out the fake floor the pen is sitting on to find the manuals, papers and 2 ink cartridges.
Honestly, I was not wowed when I opened the box. The big, empty box just took away from the pen. It also gives off a big sense of waste. Sure, the box can be used for carrying the pen around, but it adds a hell of a lot of weight and size, making it pointless. In all honesty I thought the Sailors packaging was the worst of the lot, but such a waste and didn't do the pens justice.
Lamy Studio and 2000 - I have put both of these in the same group as the packaging on both is identical. Following the same theme as above, you get the pens in a box with a cardboard slip case (in this case it's a brown recycled cardboard slip case). The box for the Lamy's is pretty plain and made of plain black cardboard. The texture kind of reminds me of the Lamy 2000's finish, kind of brushed look. The only bit of decoration on the box is a silver plastic Lamy logo on the middle of the top of the box, which acts as a clasp to keep the box closed. I do like this minimalist and recyclable design. No waste. When you open the box you are presented in the pen right in the middle of a wavy piece of cardboard. It does present the pen will with very little distraction from the pen. It also isn't so big that the pen get's lost in it. Under the wavy cardboard sits the papers and such.
All up I think this packaging comes second to Kaweco's. It's plain, it really frames the pen, and it's recyclable (so no waste).
Noodlers Ahab - There really isn't much to say about the /b] - There really isn't much to say about the packaging for the Noodlers pens. They come in a small cardboard box, only slightly bigger than the pen itself. In the box the pen sits in a plastic sleeve and is wrapped in the pen's instructions. Nice, easy packing, but not much to write home about.
Kaweco - My first impressions of the Kaweco, looking down on it in its box, where it's tiny but so nice looking. Pictures on the internet do NOT do this pen justice! They are nice, well finished pens. Pick them up and you can feel their heft. They are nice and heavy, but with great balance. The cap screws on and off nice and smoothly and there are no gaps or blemishes on the pen at all. They are truly top notch pens!
Sailor - As I said above, my first impressions on the Sailors was not one of awe. Looking down at them in their large boxes they simply looked lost. A smaller box with a bit less pomp would really show of the Sailors better. Once you pick them up you start to really appreciate them more. They feel like good quality instruments, have no blemishes and are a reasonable weight. Once out of the box I loved the Sailors, but my first impression of them was slightly marred by the box.
Lamy - My first impression of both Lamys was, in all honesty, 'WOW!'. There they sat in their little, unassuming box. They both instantly looked to be high quality instruments. Picking up the Studio and feeling its weight it was clear it was very sturdy and made to last. The 2000, while it didn't have the same weight as the Studio, felt no less sturdy or of lower quality. Both are simply stunning pens and make a first impression that lasts!
Noodlers - Noodlers first impressions are so-so. The pens have a bit of weight to them and feel sturdy, but there can be evidence of the injection molding on the bottom. Nothing that really stands out unless you really look for it, but it can still be there.
WEIGHT AND SIZE
OK weight and size is a REALLY subjective topic. What is perfect for one person is horrible for the next. So I will give you my opinion on this.
My hands are large. I would not say they are very large, but they are certainly bigger than most. For this reason I prefer slightly bigger pens with a bit more weight to them.
To my hands pens in order of lightest to heaviest are:
Kaweco AL Sport
Although all the pens have different weight, I find them ALL comfortable to use. Noodlers is probably the least comfortable of the group, but that's a hard call as it is still comfortable to use. However I can say with confidence I find the weight of the Lamy 2000 to be the best of them all. Combine that with its ample girth and length, and it is the perfect pen in my hand.
NIB PERFORMANCE AND FILLING
OK, so here is a sample page I wrote with all the pens and indicated the Ink used:
Kaweco - The Kaweco's are, by a fair margin, the cheapest of the mid-range pens. It's right at the lower end of the scale. However the nib is very nice to write with. They are pretty smooth and offer a pretty good ink flow. They do seem to struggle with the Clairefontaine and Rhodia paper at times, giving some hard starts and some skipping, but are fine on other papers. While the nibs are smooth, there is something about the way the nib writes which makes it feel a little strange. I do like the way the Kaweco's write, but it does not have the high quality feel that the other pens do.
The filling system for the Kaweco's is the worst of the bunch. It can ONLY use Mini International carts. Kaweco does have its own carts (and the ink in them is FANTASTIC), but they only hold a very little amount of ink and you are limited on what inks you can use. It is possible to refill the used carts with your choice of inks, but this is a bit fiddly and messy. The tradeoff on with the great small Kaweco's is you are limited to carts. Bit of a pain, but I think it's a fair compromise.
Sailor 14k Gold Nib - Hard-Bold - Ahh yes, Sailor nibs. They are well talked about here on FPN. They are often boasted as being the smoothest nibs currently being made. While I am not sure on this claim, I do know the HB nib is very smooth, with a little bit of feedback to let you know you are writing. The sweet spot on the HB is fairly large, so it is rather forgiving on the writing angle. To be honest, writing with the Sailor HB Nib is a treat. It feels great and works well. No skipping, hard starts or anything. The flow is not wet and not dry either. The line comes out to what i think is a nice width, not too thin and not too thick. It's just right. The only detractor from the HB nib is how stiff it is. There is no spring to it. It's as hard as a nail. This isn't a deal breaker, but I think with a bit of spring this nib could have been the best in the world!
Filling system is either Sailor Carts or a converter (convert comes with the pen). I don't mind converts in Fountain Pens, they seem to work well. Only detractor is the relatively small capacity, but that's not a huge issue.
Sailor 14k Gold Nib - Hard-Medium - My experience with the HM nib is very similar to the HB. The HM nib is smooth, however it has a bit more feedback than the MB nib and a smaller sweet spot. This can lead people to think the nib is scratchy, which it isn't. You have to be a bit more careful to hold the nib at the right angle, or the feedback will increase a bit and the line width will narrow. The line width is pretty thin, but not spindly. I think it is just a bit too thin for my ideal width, but still pretty good. The flow, same as the HB, is not wet and not dry. It is slightly less wet than the HB nib, but nothing that really impacts using the pen.
Filling is the same as above.
Lamy Studio 14k F Gold Nib - It's been said over and over on FPN that the Lamy Gold nibs run a bit thicker than their steel brethren, and based on my experience I would say that is true. The nib writes about the same width as the Lamy M nibs, maybe a little bit thinner. This is the PERFECT width for me and is a dream. The nib is as smooth on the paper as the Salior nibs, with slightly less feedback. The sweet spot on this nib is far bigger than even the Sailors HB nib, so it is very forgiving of the angle of the nib. Flow is really good, maybe a little on the wet side. The nib is nice and springy, not stiff, giving a fantastic writing experience. To be honest it is pure bliss with the Lamy nib.
The fiolling system with the Lamy Studio is either Lamy Carts or the converter. Lamy's ink colours aren't the best (Blue-Black and Turquise are good, the rest are just OK), but the included converter works well. All up the filling system on the Studio is pretty good.
Lamy 2000 14k F Gold Nib - If the Lamy Studio's nib is bliss, The 2000's nib is heaven. It is out of this world. Smooth, crisp, springy, it ash it all. All I can really say about this nib is - You Need It! I can find no faults AT ALL with the nib, and it is perfect on all paper. The 2000's nib is better than the Saliors.
The filling system on the 2000 is Piston - You unscrew the end-cap on the end of the body (you REALLY have to look to see it on the 2000, it is almost impossible to see the end IS separate to the rest), put the nib into some ink, and then screw the end-cap back down and the ink is sucked into the pen. HUGE ink capacity in the 2000 (something like 2.6ml) so you won't run out of ink any time soon! The only problem with the 2000 and the piston is the ink Window in the body is a bit hard to use, but this is not the end of the world.
Noodlers Konrad - Ahh the Konrad. A cheap little pen with so much promise. First thing I will say, and I have said it before, if you are buying any Noodlers pen and expect it to work perfectly out of the box YOU ARE DOING IT WRONG. The Noodlers pens are MADE to be fiddled with. Out of the box not many of the 11 Noodlers we have at home wrote well. After I spent some time with them and cleaned them, tweaked them, and tweaked them some more they are fantastic pens, better than most pens worth many times their price. The nibs are simple Steel things, and the more they get used the easier the flex becomes and the smoother they get. They aren't the smoothest nibs, but they are fairly good. With no pressure you can write an EEF line, with moderate pressure you can get a good F-M line, and with a bit more pressure (and if you have tweaked it right) you can get a really thick smooth line (take a look at my picture above). While the Noodlers will never equal the nibs on the Sailors or the Lamy's, it does a FANTASTIC job compared to other pens in the Midrange.
With Time and effort you can get a great pen, more than worthy of the title of a mid level pen. But you have to accept you NEED to put the time in. This will also give you a much clearer idea of what happens in the a fountain pen and how it works. For a $20 pen, the Noodlers are a total steal!
So there we have it. I have judged these popular mid range pens against each other. In all honesty they are all great pens.
The Kaweco, while not the greatest writer, is a great travel pen to take on the go. I use it while writing notes for my stories on the train each day, and when taking notes when I am out at the shops.
The Sailors are great value pens with very smooth nibs. They are a bit more picky than the Lamy nibs, but that's not such a bad thing. They are great every day writers for all types of paper.
The Lamys are absolute stars. The quality of them is undeniable. The nibs are fantastic. I use my Lamys for more special writing tasks, like copying my story notes and writing draft versions of my stories into good quality journals. I do pick them up for more every day tasks as well, and they are great for that too, but I feel such great pens are better suited to the more special tasks
The Noodlers pens are every day writers. Use them all day every day for short notes to pages of text. This is where they excel.
All up, all these pens are great. But If I have to rank my favorites it would be like this:
- Lamy 2000
- Lamy Studio 14k F Nib & Sailor 1911m 14k HB
- Sailor 1911m 14k HM
- Kaweco AL Sport
Value for money wise, I think the best 2 are the Kaweco AL Sport and the Lamy 2000. Both are worth a lot more than they sell for. The Lamy Studio and Sailor 1911m are both worth their price, but not much more.
Noodlers pens are a hard one to judge. At $20 plus some work they are a total steal. But much more than $20 and people start to complain that they need work to get them writing how they like them. I honestly think, if Noodlers was selling the Ahab's at $80 - $100 each, and they wrote well from the box (and were otherwise the same in terms of customisability) then they would still be great value. They are nice, solid pens.
So, there we have my comparison. Let me know what you think,. I am sure some people won't like my opinions, but they are what they are. If you have any questions, let me know
Edited by msolok, 26 February 2013 - 11:14.