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Looking For Cheap, Smooth Reservoir Pens

cheap disposable reservoir pen pilot v-pen fountain

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45 replies to this topic

#21 inkstainedruth


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Posted 27 April 2018 - 14:34

If you have large hands, a TWSBI 580 might be a better pen (although it's not cheap).  I have a 580-AL and it's a fairly heavy pen -- although it does hold a lot of ink.  The only quibble I have with it (other than the weight -- it's now my benchmark pen, where anything heavier is *too* heavy for me) is that the piston does not go all the way to the back of the feed.  I think this is a design flaw, because if you get an air bubble in the chamber it's hard to get the rest of the ink down to the feed sometimes.

Have a look at the Goulet Pens website -- they have technical specs for all the pens they sell, including the length (both posted and unposted) and weight (capped and not) and the girth of the pen.  Do some comparisons and see which pen(s) might fit your needs, and that may help narrow down your choices.

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth


​ETA: I suspect that the problem you had with the Preppy and the Parker converter is that they weren't a good match.  Parker cartridges and converters are proprietary (and while I have read that they fit in Aurora pens -- and POSSIBLY in a Lamy Safari) they really are designed for Parker pens.  Other brands take International Standard cartridges and converters, and you can use any International Standard ones.  I don't know about what Preppies take (I have a few, but use them as eyedroppers), but I believe that in general Pilot may also be proprietary cartridges and converters.

Edited by inkstainedruth, 27 April 2018 - 14:38.

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#22 lampwater


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Posted 27 April 2018 - 14:46

@Mech-for-i: Thank you for that very thoughtful reply. Yes, I'm aware my requirements are somewhat contradictory, and I realise I may have to focus on the best working solution.
(At the moment my top choice seams to be a TWSBI + finding some kind of pen case to protect it.)
I have used cartridge pens before, the issue I have is where I am supposed to get cartridges when travelling away from a city, or in poor areas where fountain pens simply aren't used. I can carry 50-100ml of ink (across multiple bottles) without trouble, and it's not too hard to find good quality bottled ink the next time I'm in a city (whichever city it might be). Finding good quality cartridges is another matter, and my experience with converters is they just don't hold enough for my purposes.
Certainly the piston / vac factor is the whole reason for posting this thread, I can find usable cartridge / converter pens on my own, even if they wouldn't be quite as good as what you recommend :)
Regarding the nib, I'm not very experienced with nibs. I used to be a "give me the finest line at all costs" man, with tiny handwriting, but I've moved towards a fatter (but not extreme) line with more visibility and smoother writing. So maybe an M?
Thanks for sharing your experiences as an engineer. I will take another look at the lower end Chinese pens, particularly the Wing Sung 618/698.
I see you are from Hong Kong. While I will probably pass through Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, or Bangkok before Hong Kong, if you can recommend stores or markets in any of those places where I could try and buy these pens it would be very helpful.
@KLscribbler: The Pilot "tank" looks cool but I would prefer to avoid mail order off eBay (it's a pain to coordinate shipping long distances /long shipment times when you travel).
I do fly a lot so the extensive measures TWSBI take to avoid leaks are very attractive.
(Incidentally, since I see you're in KL -- as I asked Mech-for-i, if you have any recommendations for places to try/buy pens, I'd be much obliged)
@sirgilbert357: That's great, thanks. I will see if I can find a Wing Sung 3008, as you say, you can't beat that price for a refillable.
Regarding budget, I would prefer sub-25€ but can do 50€ if it's really worth it. (Which is enough for quite a lot of pen, even a TWSBI Vac700R, but -- sadly! -- not quite enough for a TWSBI Precision, which fits the bill for a metal body piston filler.)
@inkstainedruth: Great, thanks for that. Yes, I'm leaning towards one of the TWSBIs. I will take a look at the Goulet Pens site.
You're absolutely right about the Preppy and Parker converter, that was no doubt a huge part of the issue. However, I'm not sure if that was the whole issue.

#23 SoulSamurai


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Posted 27 April 2018 - 14:47

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

Why shouldn't you? They are great pens, and really practical if you write a lot with the same ink (much less so if you like to change inks in a single pen).

If you're worried about the filling bottle getting damaged (which to be honest I don't think is something to be too worried about), well, last time I checked spares were 10 dollars on ebay (possibly including ink, which I believe is the well-behaved Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue).

#24 inotrym


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Posted 27 April 2018 - 15:05

Something like this maybe?





edit: Sorry, I just read that you are not comfortable ordering from ebay. I kind of doubt that this brand will be available from physical stores anytime soon...

Edited by inotrym, 27 April 2018 - 15:08.

#25 holgalee


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Posted 27 April 2018 - 15:45

Lampwater, you'll most likely need an Asian pen that is a piston filler or eyedropper. You might have read some horror stories about eyedropper pens which involve ink burping, but that does not happen all the time. If you get a pen that was designed as an eyedropper (rather than covert a regular pen into one), it usually doesn't burp unless you have very warm hands. By the way, I understand your apprehension about Chinese pens, but some brands have come a long way to produce pens that are both inexpensive and high quality. Check out frankunderwater.com for more information.

Some suitable pens that I can think of are:

Twsbi Eco: There's enough information that's been written by others, so I won't add to their comments.

Caliarts Ego 2: Similar to the Twsbi Eco in dimensions but with a less chunky appearance. Comes with an F and EF nib. This is my favorite value for money pen that writes well and feels good in the hand. I'm not rough with my pens and always use a pouch with slots so I can't tell how well it travels, but I think the plastic used is quite hardy. Only drawback is that if you need to post the cap at the end of pen, it doesn't sit well. The pen should be large enough to be used without posting the cap unless you have very large hands, I think. Quality of pen is much better than the Dollar piston filler.

Penbbs 309 piston filler: Very well-made pen that comes in a wide choice of colours. Default nib size is F for most colours and it's possible to get replacement nibs in EF. Cap posts well.

Moonman M2: This eyedropper pen is the successor to the Lecai, which is no longer produced. Holds a tonne of ink and writes well. Comes with choice of either F or EF nib and the cap posts fine.

These pens are available from eBay. You may want to check out reviews on Youtube by Chrisrap52, such as
(Penbbs 309) and (Moonman M2)

If you don't mind sharing, which part of Asia are you from? There are some fountain pen groups in parts of Asia, and you may be able to meet up with some pen users to try their pens, to see if they fit your large hands.

P.S. Pardon any grammatical or typographical errors as it's nearly midnight where I stay.

#26 Torrilin


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Posted 27 April 2018 - 22:10

Ok, first things first. Most German pen makers (except Lamy) use standard international cartridges. There’s a few others that actually follow the standard. But otherwise... assume the brand uses their own cartridges and nothing else. (I’m leaving aside the issue of Chinese standard cartridges, which can be compatible with regular international cartridges but may not be) So no, a Parker converter won’t work in a Platinum pen and vice versa. Platinum does make a converter for their pens and it works fine. Don’t blame the pen for you doing things that didn’t match up.

Yes, this means growing up in the US you can’t just grab a pack of cartridges and have it work. I didn’t know converters even existed until I was over 30.

You can eyedropper a Kaweco Sport as well as a Platinum Preppy. If you’re traveling a lot in Asia, those two pens should be pretty flexible. Platinum seems to have good market penetration in places that aren’t Japan, and a Sport is a great pen for random Chinese cartridges. Pilot’s Kakuno is a similar pen in that vein, but it takes Pilot’s CON-70 for high ink capacity with a converter as well as being eyedropper bait. Pilot and Platinum cartridges won’t be sold everywhere, but the enormous ink capacity and good nibs help. Also both Pilot and Platinum have very nice basic ink in bottles.

I swear by my TWSBI pens too. I have a matched pair of xf nibs, one eco one 580, and they get used for a lot of general writing. I’ve added a 1.1mm eco to the collection, and it’s nice too. But the caps can unscrew themselves so they aren’t always ideal in your pockets. Great ink tank, and xf fills can last months. No joke. I don’t know how the 1.1 drinks ink yet, but it seems to work as a daily writer for many here.

#27 5Cavaliers


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Posted 27 April 2018 - 22:33

I travel a lot both internationally and within the US.  And I use my FPs exclusively.  I have tried an assortment of different pens including most of what has been suggested.  So, I can make a few suggestions:


1).  Leaking:  Of all the trips I have taken only two pens have leaked.  I have had far more problem with vials of ink leaking.  This includes all of my flights, and also all of the travel by car up and down mountain passes (some as high as 14,000 feet).  But, I always keep my pens in pen holders/cases and put them in plastic zip lock bags if flying.  Vials are always in zip lock bags.


2).  Flying: When flying remember that vials of ink must go in the 1 quart zip lock bag required by most airlines (yes, even most international carriers!).  But I have successful in carrying on a several boxes of ink cartridges without any problem.  Because of the issues with vials of ink, I generally don't take them and opt for cartridges.  On a 2-week trip I generally go through  8-10 long cartridges sometimes more.


3).  If you have to have a piston filler(s) and carry bottles or vials of ink, then I would spend the money and buy 2-3 Lamy 2000s.  They are durable and reliable and offer a smooth writing experience.  I would suggest with your ink usage getting fine nibs rather than medium or broad nibs.  I would not recommend an EF.   These are NOT cheap pens, but they will provide a better writing experience. 


4).  Invest in a good, protective pen case.  It not only protects the pens but makes it easier to find your pens in your briefcase or backpack.

"Today will be gone in less than 24 hours.  When it is gone, it is gone.  Be wise, but enjoy!  - anonymous today




#28 lampwater


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Posted 28 April 2018 - 02:18

@SoulSamurai, @inotrym: Thanks. but I'm currently on a small island several days' travel from civilization, and I'm in a different country every month or so.
Mail order, or needing to rely on mail order in case something goes wrong, is something I'd rather avoid.
@holgalee: Well, I'm perfectly happy buying Chinese pens (like TWSBI) that are reputable, it's just my experience with *cheap* Chinese products has often (but not always!) been bad.
So if I am going to get a *cheap* Chinese pen then I would ideally try it out in person before I buy, so I can make sure the quality control is up to scratch and the design doesn't have any crucial flaws that are invisible in photos.
I will take a look at those pens. 
Currently I'm based in south-east Asia, though (as noted above) where exactly tends to change frequently. Is there a directory or listing of pen groups?
@Torrilin: Well, the issue was the Platinum kept leaking even AFTER I switched back to the cartridge that was supplied with it.
So, maybe I broke the pen trying to shoehorn in the Parker converter, or maybe the pen was at fault. Who knows, I trashed both shortly after.
(The store did not have a Platinum converter, otherwise I would have bought it!)
Thanks for the comments on the TWSBI.
@DrPenfection: Good to know. I'm quite careful with ink bottles (double bagging them) and no issues yet. The Lamy 2000 looks fantastic, everyone says Makrolon is very durable, but it's 4x my budget if I buy it in Asia and 3x my budget if I wait til I'm in Europe...

Edited by lampwater, 28 April 2018 - 02:19.

#29 Torrilin


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Posted 28 April 2018 - 09:47

Yeah someone on here describes fountain pens as controlled ink leaks. They’re not very complicated designs and yet...

So yeah it’s entirely possible for a “wrong” cartridge or converter to break a pen. You can hack pens to a pretty large degree, but it’s gonna take a certain degree of feel for how liquids work and what bits go together. I haven’t messed with any Parker stuff ever, so I don’t have a sense of how it works. But Platinum cartridges have a ball bearing sealing the nipple that the feed attaches to. So the fit is pretty precise. And there’s a built in agitator to minimize ink bubbles and foaming. And just in general the parts are SMALL. Capillary action kinda requires it. So that doesn’t help.

TWSBI designs the pens to be user serviceable, so that’s an advantage. But the Preppy is a damn nice pen and the eyedropper conversion takes a touch of silicone grease, which you get free with your TWSBI sooooo.... same goes for Kaweco. I haven’t tried eyedropper converting a Kaweco yet, but it’s on the list of things to try. Right now my Sport is being the ink ADD pen, as a kind of complement to the TWSBI pens and their massive capacity. Just keep in mind an eyedropper pen is going to work best if it’s kept topped up, so that means you’ll want a set ink for it. So for me and my love of ink variety this maybe isn’t ideal. For you tho, it may work great if you’ve got some favorite inks that wind up teaming up well with one or the other body and nib.

#30 Mech-for-i



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Posted 28 April 2018 - 11:17

considering all, I think a M nib Wing Sung 698 in the solid color version sounds the deal, I would add PenBBS 309 also. oth of which you can find review online quite easy. If indeed wanting to go all out with ED, then try the PenBBS 308 instead.

#31 lampwater


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Posted 28 April 2018 - 13:47

@Torrilin: Well, having to top up an eyedropper pen totally defeats the purpose of a large capacity pen... which is that I can go a long(er) time between fills.
So I guess that rules out the ED route. Thanks for clearing that up!
User serviceability (re: TWSBI) is ideal, I'm quite used to keeping all sorts of things maintained that people usually take to repair shops.
@Mech-for-i: Thanks, I will see if I can find a solid color Wing Sung 698 and PenBBS 309 to try. Do you know if any shops sell them at all, or are they strictly sold online?

#32 Mew


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Posted 28 April 2018 - 15:01

@Lampwater: regarding the eyedroppers, I think you only have to top them up when they are about 70% used. That 70% would be more than almost all the other pens.

#33 welch


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Posted 28 April 2018 - 15:44



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!



If you really like the Pilot V-Pen (Varsity in the US), 


- buy a dozen or so. 


- Buy a good Pilot cartridge/converter pen, along with a couple bottles of Pilot ink and some cartridges. Carry the bottle when you travel, and refill every morning. You will never run out...although you will have a cartridge just in case.


Pilot makes good pens. Their Custom 74 and Falcon are both pretty good. (I have a Falcon and people praise the 74). With one good fountain pen, or two, you won't need to accumulate more.  

Washington Nationals 2019: the fight for .500; "stay in the fight"; WON the fight

#34 hari317



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Posted 28 April 2018 - 16:10

A pilot V pen is unbeatable given your requirements. Thd following refillable solutions come close:

First option: New old stock Sheaffer NO NONSENSE fountain pen. Just apply some silicone grease to section threads and fill ink directly in the barrel. A very sturdy pen. Superb nib and feeder. Wont burp or leak. Pretty much like your v pen.

Second option: Pilot NON SELF FILLING PEN. It is also called the Pilot Tank pen. An eydropprr filled pen with an excellent ink capacity, no burps or leaks. Again pretty much like your v pen.

Both the pens above can be written dry to the last drop of ink. Thanks to their well designed feeders.

Hope this helps.

Edited by hari317, 28 April 2018 - 16:13.

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#35 lampwater


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Posted 29 April 2018 - 09:38

@Mew: Aha, I see.


@Welch: Thanks, I already have a few V-Pens, so it's definitely a good idea! 



@hari317: Yeah, I was afraid it would be hard to find something better than the Pilot.


I will see if I can get either the Sheaffer or the Pilot Tank. I wonder if there are any pen fairs or pen shows in Asia?

#36 Arkanabar


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Posted 29 April 2018 - 16:48

Ruth may not know for sure, but I do -- Platimum has a proprietary cartridge, which they use in all their c/c pens.  These are relatively large cartridges (1.43ml), with a relatively large throat -- it's possible to refill them using 3ml disposable polyethelene pipettes (as sold by Goulet, Anderson, and Amazon, where it's marketed as supplies for mixing essential oils). This is one of the things I like about the Platinum Plaisir, and one reason why I have two.

#37 Princeps Anglorum

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Posted 29 April 2018 - 17:05

I have been abroad to many different parts of the world for extended periods and always took a cheap supermarket cartridge pen and a couple of boxes of international standard cartridges. I think it is better to go prepared than having to spend time in unfamiliar locations chasing down supplies. I think if I was in the same situation now I would take a couple of Platinum Preppies and a few boxes of Platinum cartidges (which are larger than most brands) plus a converter and the Platinum international adapter to enable the use of  either bottled ink or international short cartridges in an emergency depending on which was available. Not that expensive and a decent pen for the price.

#38 mitto


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Posted 29 April 2018 - 17:32

Ruth may not know for sure, but I do -- Platimum has a proprietary cartridge, which they use in all their c/c pens.  These are relatively large cartridges (1.43ml), with a relatively large throat -- it's possible to refill them using 3ml disposable polyethelene pipettes (as sold by Goulet, Anderson, and Amazon, where it's marketed as supplies for mixing essential oils). This is one of the things I like about the Platinum Plaisir, and one reason why I have two.

I make my own squeeze converters for my Platinum pens. I am tired of the cartridges and the sub-standard Platinum converters.

Khan M. Ilyas

#39 sirgilbert357



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Posted 29 April 2018 - 21:03

Why shouldn't you? They are great pens, and really practical if you write a lot with the same ink (much less so if you like to change inks in a single pen).

If you're worried about the filling bottle getting damaged (which to be honest I don't think is something to be too worried about), well, last time I checked spares were 10 dollars on ebay (possibly including ink, which I believe is the well-behaved Pelikan 4001 Royal Blue).


I am just trying to have a very small, focused collection. Pens like this would likely get less use than pens like my M800 and Lamy 2000. I'd like to stick with quality over quantity. But this filling system is kind of interesting and I've wondered if there is a way to adapt the cap of the ink bottle to other bottle types...

#40 dcwaites



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Posted 29 April 2018 - 23:54

To add to the PenBBS and Wing Sungs already suggested, I would mention the Caliarts Ego.

Piston Filler, about 2 mls, cap seals with an o-ring and is transparent, so any leaks are visible before you open it.

Comes with a Pilot 78g compatible nib, so if you aren't happy with the nib, you can replace it.


I have been using mine as an everyday carry for a couple of months now, and haven't had a skerrick of a problem.






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