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Looking For Cheap, Smooth Reservoir Pens

cheap disposable reservoir pen pilot v-pen fountain

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#1 lampwater

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 14:10

Background:

I travel a lot, and write professionally. (When the local stationery store sees me walk in, they start stacking bottles of ink on the counter.)

 

My go-to instrument has therefore been the Pilot V-Pen, a brilliantly smooth-writing disposable fountain pen that holds enough ink to last even me for a while.

 

However, it has one flaw: refilling it is a pain in the derriere. You need two syringes, which always makes me feel like the pen addiction has crossed some kind of line. (When a girl sees empty syringes on your nightstand, pen refilling isn't what comes to mind.)

 

Therefore, my quest for a replacement.

 

What I'm looking for:

A pen that's...

  • Cheap, so I can buy a couple and knock 'em around.
  • Widely available, or at least can be easily mail-ordered in Asia.
  • Writes astonishingly smoothly. Trust me, when you're putting industrial quantities of ink to paper, you want it to be easy.
  • Has an ink capacity measured in liters, or at least feels that way. This almost certainly means no converters... since they take up space that could be used for holding ink!

Edited by lampwater, 26 April 2018 - 14:11.


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#2 sirgilbert357

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 14:44

Im going to throw a curve ball here...but stay with me:

Wing Sung 3008
I got mine for less than 8 bucks shipped to the US. I've heard of them going for 2 bucks shipped though. Lamy nibs are an exact fit and also cheap (less than 15 bucks) in case the stock Wing Sung nib isn't to your liking. Nib literally just slides off the feed and back on. All you need is a paper towel. Capacity is probably over 1 ml. If you saturate the feed and double pump the piston (get all the air out and then fill again), I'm guessing it holds about 1.5 ml.

Not sure on availability in your location, I got mine on eBay. Wing Sung has a ton of other pens that might also work for you, maybe with more capacity -- just look at their entire range. I chose the 3008 because I have like 4 extra Lamy nibs for my Lamy Studio...

If the capacity isn't enough, you could order two of them or carry a 5ml ink sample vial to refill from.


Edited by sirgilbert357, 26 April 2018 - 14:54.


#3 Mew

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 15:05

Lecai eyedroppers?

#4 mitto

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 15:17

A Dollar piston filler. Cheap and holds tons of ink.
Khan M. Ilyas

#5 inkstainedruth

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 15:20

Look at something like a TWSBI.  I have a 580-AL, and it holds a LOT of ink because it's a piston fill.  I don't know what your budget is like, though, so you might also want to look at a Dollar 717i.  They're made in Pakistan and really cheap (way cheaper than even the smaller size TWSBI Eco).  But even with a plastic feed, mine is a pretty smooth writer.  Will it supplant my Pelikans?  No.  But for being a roughly $5 US pen, it's better than I would have given credit for.

I wouldn't necessarily recommend an eyedropper pen.  Yes, they hold a ton of ink.  But in my experience that's kinda relative -- because once they get below being about half full, they tend to burp and drool ink due to changes in air pressure.  If you keep them full all the time, they're okay.  But I'd rather have a pen that holds a lot of ink and DOESN'T burp, and for me that tends to be piston fillers.

Mind you, I absolutely love my Parker 51s and Vacumatics too.  And both of those models would fit the bill for being great writers which don't have to be refilled all the time.  But the odds are good that you're not going to find one inexpensively (I have, but I know I've been extremely lucky, and -- particularly with 51 Vacs and Vacumatics -- you will likely have to factor in the cost of repairs).

Good luck with your search.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


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#6 Mech-for-i

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 15:23

OK that pretty much ask for ED, Piston, or similar. But then the capacity is only half of the story, just how you write, what do you write onto and what kind of ink are you specifically using and in what kind of environment are you needing to write. An EF nib can be so demanding on the paper and ink ; while a B nib might require the opposite.

 

Do you need to write on the go , on a steno pad ( or reporter flip note ) ; or is it that your business require you to document long text ( professional secretaries .. ) or is it creative writing tha are more desk job than field work ..

 

AFAIK and my own experience, the Pilot V pen is a trusty workhorse but no where near a smooth nib as in smooth as in gliding across ice; nor is it truly feed-back positive like some others. So I would assume any workhorse style would do. In that regard I do agree with Mew, the Lecai ED , especially the one equipped with the quasi calligraphy nib.



#7 Sailor Kenshin

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 16:34

<p>Background:I travel a lot, and write professionally. (When the local stationery store sees me walk in, they start stacking bottles of ink on the counter.) My go-to instrument has therefore been the Pilot V-Pen, a brilliantly smooth-writing disposable fountain pen that holds enough ink to last even me for a while. However, it has one flaw: refilling it is a pain in the derriere. You need two syringes, which always makes me feel like the pen addiction has crossed some kind of line. (When a girl sees empty syringes on your nightstand, pen refilling isn't what comes to mind.) Therefore, my quest for a replacement. What I'm looking for:A pen that's...

  • Cheap, so I can buy a couple and knock 'em around.
  • Widely available, or at least can be easily mail-ordered in Asia.
  • Writes astonishingly smoothly. Trust me, when you're putting industrial quantities of ink to paper, you want it to be easy.
  • Has an ink capacity measured in liters, or at least feels that way. This almost certainly means no converters... since they take up space that could be used for holding ink!
We have successfully refilled a Foray pen (similar to VPens and Varsities) by putting the barrel in hot water, then immediately placing the nib in a vial of ink. You might try that at least once. Or you can pull the VPen nib/feed and eyedrop ink in. Worth a shot, right? ;)

#8 SoulSamurai

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 18:15

It doesn't fit all your criteria, but consider a Pelikan L65. It holds 4 ml of ink: much more than a piston filler and almost as much as an eyedropper, but without the issues of leaking and burping that eyedroppers can have. Plus it's incredibly quick and easy to refill. Also I believe it's airplane-safe. Mine has a nice smooth nib that you can leave uncapped for ages (relative to my other pens) without it drying out or skipping.

They don't make them anymore, but you can still get them on ebay for around $30 with the ino bottle.

#9 katerchen

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 19:11

Fails your cheap requirement, but a Vac700R with a fine nib (they are actually western fine, the Medium almost feels like bold) will last a *very* long time on one fill.

 

The Opus 88 eyedropper holds probably even more, but that's the same price range.

 

IMO: If you write a lot, you enjoy the actual act of writing, you deserve to treat yourself to a good pen.



#10 sciumbasci

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Posted 26 April 2018 - 19:15

Why not Platinum Preppy, eyedropper converted?

#11 lampwater

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 03:06

@sirgilbert357: The Wing Sung 3008 looks fantastic, but some Amazon reviewers suggest it isn't the sturdiest or best designed:
 
"I don't feel safe taking it outside. The body feels weak. The part that you twist to suck up ink also doesn't feel very secure, and I could imagine it could be turned quite easily by accident and spew ink" (https://www.amazon.c...ASIN=B075XCNTND )
 
The way I travel, these pens will have to survive airplanes, trains, boats, ferries, nice buses, 3rd world "chicken buses" bouncing up and down over potholes, trekking up volcaoes... you get the idea.
 
Therefore the idea of a pen spewing ink all over my stuff at random intervals is kind of a deal killer. (And that's been my experience with a lot of "made in China" stuff... wonderful, and wonderfully cheap, except for some minor design flaws which make the whole show unusable.)
 
You did mention the Lamy Studio. I'm not very familiar with the Lamy line (despite being from Germany, ha) but I've seen them on sale around here. Are they worth looking at as well, even if they're not quite as cheap as the Pilot V-Pen/Varsity?
 
 
 
@Mew: Thanks, but people (@inkstainedruth) seem to suggest eyedropper pens have their own issues which would make them unusable for my purposes. (it's gotta write RELIABLY.) Do the Lecais get around those problems somehow?
 
 
@mitto: Awesome suggestion. I found this review of the Dollar i717 (http://althaven.com/...trator-giveaway ) and it looks ideal. I do hope it's robust and seals well, one of the things I've liked about the Pilot V-Pen/Varsity is it's leak- and bomb-proof.
 
 
 
 
@inkstainedruth: Thanks for the comments on eyedropper pens. I was initially considering one, but what you say suggests they are not the right pen for me.
 
I looked up the TWSBI and the Dollar i717 (see my reply to @mitto above), thanks for the tip! I see Straits Pen even allows pickup from their offices in Singapore, that's great. The TWSBI Eco is certainly within budget and the TWSBI 580 might be workable.
 
Two questions:
- How much smaller is the Eco, physically? (I have big hands)
- I've looked around and been unable to find a comparison of the pens' ink capacity. Do you know where I could find them?
 
 
 
 
@mech-for-i: Generally I'm writing on a locally purchased notebook (probably cheap paper, though sometimes I can find the good stuff) while sitting at a cafe table. Or lying on a bed. Or sitting on the back deck of a ferryboat, perched on a plastic stool that's been so degraded by sunlight it's about to disintegrate out from under me.
 
I also have BIG hands.
 
 
 
 
@Sailor Kenshin: Wow that's brilliant!
 
 
@SoulSamurai: I looked up the Pelikan L65. I love the concept, but can you refill them without a special bottle? My experience is specialised stuff tends to break or get lost or get clogged with dirt, I would prefer to stay as simple as possible.
 
 
@katerchen: Ha, well if I wasn't a perenially broke writer bumming around the poorer parts of the planet then I would have just got a Montblanc 1949 and called it a day :)
 
Fortunately TWSBI pens look to be cheaper in Asia than they are elsewhere in the world, and not too hard to find (see my response to @inkstainedruth).
 
I like that TWSBI includes silicone grease, tools, and o-rings with the Vac700r.
 
 
 
@sciumbasci: The joke is, I actually bought a Platinum Preppy once as an experiment, but (maybe because I was trying to crunch a Parker piston converter into it) it absolutely failed as a pen... writing reasonably well but vomiting ink onto the page at unpredictable intervals.


#12 SoulSamurai

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 03:23

@SoulSamurai: I looked up the Pelikan L65. I love the concept, but can you refill them without a special bottle? My experience is specialised stuff tends to break or get lost or get clogged with dirt, I would prefer to stay as simple as possible.

 

I have heard you can refill them using a syringe with a blunt needle. I have not tried it.

 

BTW there's eyedroppers available with a shut-off valve, such as the Opus 88 Koloro, that I understand prevents (or at least reduces?) the usual problems and makes them travel safe, but to my knowledge they are usually quite pricey. I don't think that's a good solution for you due to the price, but just throwing it out there for consideration.



#13 lampwater

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 03:37

@SoulSamurai: If I need a syringe, I might as well just stick with the Pilot V-Pen!

 

I looked at the Opus 88, but it's too pricey for me, and I'm not super enthusiastic about the clear acrylic.

 

(I'm also unsure of the TWSBI pens for this reason)

 

If you could see how my plastic-bodied Pilot V-Pens look, you'd understand: scratches everywhere! They get stored in a backpack with other stuff, and while I can do some things to protect my pens, I can only do so much.

 

The ideal pen for me, material wise, is one with a stainless steel body. (The Parker Vector would be great, except you have to refill it after every run-on sentence.)



#14 SoulSamurai

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 03:47

Hmm, the only non-cartridge steel pen I can think of is the steel L2K, but I usually hear that the makrolon L2K is cheaper, better, and functionally as tough. I guess Conid can make you a pen in about any matrial, but I think those start at like 300 dollars. Are you OK with ebonite or non-clear acrylic piston fillers? Because then you've got options like the Noodler's Konrad. I guess a large Standard International cartridge is not enough ink capacity?



#15 DriftingSands

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 05:50

The TWSBI Eco is a fair sized pen, certainly larger than a Varsity. I own a fair number of them and they are my "I'm taking my spear and coming home with wild bacon" pens. I have other pens, like my brace of Lamy 2000s or Visconti Homo Sapiens that might be more durable overall, but I haven't had an Eco fail me yet.

#16 lampwater

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 08:17

@SoulSamurai Wow, that's a nice looking, and out of my price range pen. Good to know Lamy makes piston pens though, do they make any at a lower price point?
 
Non-clear and/or non-acrylic, like ebonite, is probably fine. I had a clear acrylic table ages ago, and that thing scratched if you looked at it rudely... not something I necessarily want in a travel workhorse pen.
 
 
@theLorekeeper Well, if the TWSBI Eco has at least the capacity of a Varsity/V-Pen, great. How have the Ecos held up in terms of attracting scratches and other blemishes?
 
The Visconti Homo Sapiens sounds fantastic -- hardened basaltic lava! -- gotta love the Italians and their over the top ideas. But, also not a cheap pen.
 
The Lamy 2000 looks great too, but, not much cheaper than the Visconti.


#17 Mech-for-i

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 13:40

May I made a sensible suggestion, your original requirements as well as the added / desired property had in itself quite some contradictory ; cheap and widely available is something not likely to come wit robustness and likely also not the large capacity required. And large capacity also, always come with its own limitation in term of handling ( sorry rough housing is not permitted usually ). And finally smooth writing is more a by product of all in combination and the situation and paper you described pretty much preclude most. It is unlikely any steel bodied pen today would be cheap ( perhaps with exception to some specific models especially the Chinese made ) and hold a ton.

 

So instead of trying to find that one elusive pen that just magically will satisfy all, might be its better to find the better or best possible working solution and that does not mean just the pen but also how you get ink into the pen, in particular you might want to try using cartridge ( since you say you write professionally I suppose the cost of that can be deduced / written off to travel and office expense ) or converter that can hold more ink than usual. You had not answer as yet what kind of nib width but considering I would figure F or M most likely. All piston / ED / Vac fill or any kind of fountain pen that had capacity and use the barrel as the reservoir would and are known to suffer same kind of issue regarding ink handling, you cannot avoid that its just physics.

 

For a long time when I am traveling as on site engineer I had similar issue, writing long engineering and site report on site or at the hotel room / cafe during those weird hours also. My experience is a decent ED work great, I had no issue with that. but that's me and your mileage may differ. And speaking of that ; I've had very good result using Chinese fountain pen ( and also that of many other countries ) when travel and needing to write.

 

Considering all ; I had my suggestion ; but first thing first, consider investing in a pen sleeve, no need to buy expensive leather one, a nice single pen sleeve using textiles of sorts is good companion ( they can be washed and they offer even better cushioning inside backpack ) and they are pretty cheap to had. even those given free would be better than just throwing the pen around without any protection

 

  1. Platinum Plasir 0.5 , use cartridge ( F if you really need it especially for poor paper )
  2. Piot Kaküno ( white barrel type ) equipped with the Con-70 converter, again M nib preferred
  3. PenBBS 350 , this is a new model, it won't give you the hugh capacity but pretty much satisfy all your other need still if you are traveling and work up a habit to top up the converter regularly it's going to serve you well, and the killer feature for this model is the ( extra ) roller-ball tip that came with the pen which just use the same converter and thus ink from bottle. Cheap paper would welcome a ball better than a nib
  4. The new breed of Chinese piston fillers non demo type in the form of Wing Sung 618/698 ( solid color variant ). So far they've all proven quite capable workhorse and the locking piston on most of them also made for insurance in travel. no less also they can be disassembled without any special tool. The 698 can be had with an M nib.

No they are not as cheap as a V pen but then also they are not mean as single use either. I think one Q you need to ask yourself, can you or will you live with traveling with bottled ink around ... seems like with your need, even ED pen would not do , you will need to refill anyway, and for that you need ink, how you carry ink around then .. and if you do carry ink around, might be then capacity is not the issue, the issue is if you work up the habit to top up the converter regularly and frequent. it's like out mobile device, we would need to recharge them regularly , right ...


Edited by Mech-for-i, 27 April 2018 - 13:46.


#18 KLscribbler

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 13:43

Another possibility: the Pilot Non-Self-Filling Fountain Pen, which is sometimes called the Pilot "tank". It's like an eyedropper-filling version of the Pilot 78G, with a metal cap. If you have used or handled a 78G before you will know what to expect in terms of handling and writing characteristics. It uses the same nib as the 78G, and is a very similar shape and size. As a dedicated eyedropper filler, the ink capacity is enormous, and it also has a silicone "sleeve" sealing insert inside where the section threads into the barrel. This helps to avoid leaks.

 

The Pilot "tank" is not an expensive pen - it should only cost somewhere around $25 or so. So not too much is lost if you damage/lose the pen.

 

That said, however, if you need to fly with the pen inked very frequently, I think the TWSBI pens might be a better match for you. They have O-ring seals in the cap that prevent leaks, and even if the pen does burp ink into the cap mid-flight the O-rings will keep it inside the cap and prevent messes. I've only flown with my TWSBI Mini before, and can confirm that it does well on planes.



#19 sirgilbert357

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 13:54

Lampwater:

 

I just refilled my Wing Sung 3008 today and measured its capacity. It came out to about 1.2 - 1.3 ml. Just in case anyone is wondering. That was with a very tiny air bubble in the chamber. Anyway, I have no reason to think it will break all that easily. It doesn't seem any more fragile than a TWSBI and plenty of people like those just fine. For less than 8 bucks, I was willing to give it a try and it's been clipped to my shirt for over a week now. If you are worried about "3rd world chicken buses bouncing around" (LOL - great visual BTW!!), maybe a pen case would be in order. I tend to "wear" all my pens, either in a shirt pocket or clipped to my collar. If I'm carrying a pen and it isn't clipped to my person, I have it in a Franklin Christoph leather pen case. Just giving you my habits in case it's helpful, you might have different needs during travel.

 

About the Studio: it's a great pen, but its cartridge/converter, so you would get lower capacity out of it. I wouldn't recommend it for that reason alone. Other than that, it's very solid. But, they are also 50 bucks used and up to 80 or so new. I guess in my mind, your criteria of "cheap" puts me in the less than 15 bucks range. You might be open to spending more. If so, (from Lamy at least), I would suggest the Lamy 2000.  They can be had for about 100 - 120 bucks new and around 85 used. I have one of those too and love it. But due to the slip cap, I would carry it only in a shirt pocket or in a pen case, never just clipped to my t-shirt collar. I had a bad experience with a slip cap once, lol. That's all I'll say!

 

I haven't read all the other responses, so if you haven't already, could you state what you're willing to spend? Maybe we can offer more targeted suggestions with the dollar amount in mind.



#20 sirgilbert357

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Posted 27 April 2018 - 14:16

It doesn't fit all your criteria, but consider a Pelikan L65. It holds 4 ml of ink: much more than a piston filler and almost as much as an eyedropper, but without the issues of leaking and burping that eyedroppers can have. Plus it's incredibly quick and easy to refill. Also I believe it's airplane-safe. Mine has a nice smooth nib that you can leave uncapped for ages (relative to my other pens) without it drying out or skipping.

They don't make them anymore, but you can still get them on ebay for around $30 with the ino bottle.

 

I wish I hadn't seen this...I am so intrigued! Might order one of these, even though I know I shouldn't!!







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