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Meet The Family! And: An Effort To Objectively Rank Pens.

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I got bitten by the bug some time ago, went through a steep learning curve with successes as well as epic failures, and enforced a personal upper limit of 10 fountain pens. These are the ones that made the cut (the rest was sold off). I'll briefly outline the basic strengths and weaknesses of each pen as I've observed them, in order of acquisition, followed by an effort at objective ranking (or as objective as I can get it).




Kaweco AL Sport F Stonewashed Blue. This was my first buy. I loved the design. Still do. It hasn't left my pocket since I got it. It was a dry writer when I got it, but I didn't know about such things yet and just accepted the pen as it was. It got a lot wetter over time (a recurring story and an interesting topic by itself). I love the nib beause it works well on every kind of paper. I use it when travelling, for signatures, for writing on office paper and for quick scribbling. Ink: Waterman Mysterious Blue.


Kaweco Classic Sport F Black This was my second buy. It was intended as a companion for the AL Sport with a different ink colour, to be used for reviewing and annotating documents. That's basically still how I use it today. This is the least-used of my pens but it doesn't deserve to be. The nib is wonderful. As with the AL Sport, it was originally dry but became a lot wetter over time. Ink: J. Herbin Rouge Carboniere.


TWSBI Eco 1.1 Stub Black This was my third buy and it had issues. The nib was terribly scratchy and basically unusable. TWSBI graciously sent me a new one, which is gorgeous: smooth, easy to write with (no major sweet-spot issues), just the right wetness. The pen also had some burping issues, which I fixed with some plumber's tape. No cracks yet, despite lots of use. Drawbacks notwithstanding, I love this pen. It's size and shape are perfect for my hands. I can write with it for hours without fatigue. The materials are pleasant to the touch. The pen can be easily dismantled and parts can be replaced or serviced as needed. Big ink reserve that lasts days and days and days. Rationally/economically speaking, I should've stopped buying more expensive pens at this point. I should've bought a few more Eco's with F or M nibs and used them for different inks. That would've saved me lots of money and I'd still have been happy. But I also would've missed out on a lot of fun. Ink: Diamine Ancient Copper.


Sheaffer Targa M 14k This wasn't a recent acquision. I bought this pen in the late '80s, used it, stopped using it, gave it away, and then it was given back to me when fountain pens became a hobby. Over time and with use, the cap has become a little wobbly and the pen has become very wet (that's 3 out of 4 now where that happened). I love this pen. Love the design, love the nib. It's a fabulous writer. The nib has a touch (and only a touch) of stubbiness that gives a certain character to the writing that I adore. Ink: Visconti Blue.


Visconti van Gogh 'Pollard Willows' F. This was my fourth buy and was purely based on its stunning looks. I selected the nicest barrel, the nicest cap and the nicest nib (in terms of feel) that I could find in the store. Initially it was bone dry, to the point of not writing. I flushed and flushed and flushed and tried lots of inks. No result. Bone dry. Following a tip found on FPN, I added a touch of pure glycerine to the ink bottle. Boom, perfect writing. The performance of the pen instantly became perfect and stayed on the same level. Bliss. Then it gradually started to get wetter. And wetter. That's 4 out of 5 where that happened. I thoroughly cleaned it and went back to dryer inks. Performance leveled out again and it's a very nice pen, but very wet. Perfect on Rhodia etc, basically unusable on office paper. I use it a lot. I enjoy it a lot, but price-wise it's an expensive pen compared to how well my cheaper pens write. Ink: Visconti Blue.


ca 1940 vintage 'Boston' pen, celluloid, with 14 nib, iridium tipped, F, ink sac. Probably made in Holland or Belgium and tagged with an American name to make it sell better. A very small pocket pen made of lovely, 3D celluloid. I was given this pen by my mother in law, who used it during her school days and for most of her life afterward. I had to ship it out to get it fixed because it was a mess. This week it came back and I love it. I've written for hours with it at work. There's a lot of character to the writing due to the nib shape. It's very wet, as most pens were during that era, but works great on good paper. Ink: Diamine 1864 Blue Black diluted with 25% water and 5% J. Herbin Bleu Nuit (the resulting colour pefectly matches the colours of the pen).


Sailor Pro Gear Slim 14k H-M in chrome attire. This one got me hooked on Japanese pens and inks. It's a very peculiar pen to write with, it has a lot of feedback, tons of it, but it's not scratchy. Due to this feedback it prefers smooth paper like Rhodia. This pen requires no pressure at all and will let you know quite clearly if you do apply pressure. The feel of the nib on paper is like... a large-tipped pencil on rough paper. Hard to describe. Need to post this pen otherwise it's too small for me. I dropped this pen and had to repair the nib. That hurt. That hurt a lot. Got it back to 95% of what it was. Ink: Sailor Kiwa Guro Black.


Sailor 1911 Standard 14k H-M in gold attire. This was an impulse buy because the price was irresistible, and I adore this pen. Everyone that tries this pen says something like: "ooooh, that's really really nice". If you've got a good Sailor, you know. If you don't, get one. When I write with this pen, I forget everything around me. Only drawback is that I need to use it posted, otherwise it's too small. Ink: Sailor Shikiori Yonaga.


Montblack 146 EF. I was going to buy a Sailor 1911L as my grail pen, because it would be the same quality of writing as my 1911 Standard, but larger so that I can use it unposted. Before committing on the 1911L, I forced myself to try some other grail-caliber pens, this to avoid tunnel vision. As part of this process, I visited a fellow pen lover who has a lot of old MB's for sale and I fell in love with this 146 EF. The nib is a lot older than the rest of the pen, it's labeled 14C instead of 14k, and it has a mild architect grind that is completely addictive. This pen fits me like a glove and it has a lot of mojo to it. Every time I pick this up, it makes me smile. In terms of price it was comparable to a new 1911L. Ink: Pelikan 4001 Blue Black.


Pilot Metropolitan M. This was my tenth and final acquisition. Everyone knows how ridiculously good these pens are. No need to explain. Ink: Blackstone Sydney Harbour Blue (but this ink is just too wet, pretty much unusable, and will not stay in this pen).


OK, which is objectively the best? That's tough. I believe that writing is emotion and that the best pen is the one you just picked up to write with. The same goes for musical instruments. Still, it is possible to objectively assess the quality of product. So, here goes. I'll express the build quality (5 is best), the quality of writing (5 is best) and the price (1 for pens below 50 euros, 2 for pens below 100 euros, 3 for pens below 150 euros). Then I calculate (build + writing) / price. The highest outcome "wins".


Kaweco AL Sport

BQ 4/5

WQ 3.5/5

P 2 ( 56)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 7.5/2 = 3.8


Kaweco Classic Sport

BQ 3/5

WQ 3.5/5

P 1 ( 19)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 6.5/1 = 6.5


TWSBI Eco 1.1 Stub

BQ 2.5/5

WQ 3.5/5

P 1 ( 35)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 6/1 = 6


Sheaffer Targa 14k

BQ 4/5

WQ 5/5

P 4 ( 180)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 9/4 = 2.3


Visconti van Gogh F

BQ 4/5

WQ 3.5/5

P 4 ( 196)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 7.5/4 = 1.9


Circa 1940 'Boston' pen

BQ 3/5

WQ 3/5


No score, purely emotional


Sailor Pro Gear Slim 14k H-M

BQ 4/5

WQ 4/5

P 3 ( 160)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 8/3 = 2.7


Sailor 1911 Standard 14k H-M

BQ 4/5

WQ 5/5

P 2 ( 99)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 9/2 = 4.5


Montblanc 146 EF (old pen, bought used)

BQ 5/5

WQ 5/5

P 7 ( 345)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 10/7 = 1.4


Pilot Metropolitan M

BQ 4/5

WQ 4/5

P 1 ( 19)

(BQ + WQ) / P = 8/1 = 8



1. Pilot Metropolitan (8 pts)

2. Kaweco Classic Sport (6.5 pts)

3. TWSBI Eco (6 pts)

4. Sailor 1911 Standard (4.5 pts)

5. Kaweco AL Sport (3.8 pts)

6. Sailor Pro Gear Slim (2.7 pts)

7. Sheaffer Targa (2.3 pts)

8. Visconti van Gogh (1.9 pts)

9. Montblanc 146 (1.4 pts)


No score: vintage ca. 1940 'Boston' pen


If I were to rank them on emotion, the result would obviously be very different. Still, if you want to have a ton of fun for very little money, get a Pilot Metropolitan. To be able to make such a good pen at this price point is, well, amazing.


This result basically demonstrates the Pareto effect: you get 80% quality for 20% of the price, and the last 20% of quality add another 80% to the price. But that remaining 20% can make you very happy.


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Thanks for sharing and for the analysis - your last pen was my first (the Metro) and I am still amazed at its overall quality and bang for the buck.


Will you consider overthrowing any of your current 10 pens if something else appeals to you?

Whenever you are fed up with life, start writing: ink is the great cure for all human ills, as I found out long ago.

~C.S. Lewis


Current Rotation:

Edison Menlo <m italic>, Lamy 2000 <EF>, Wing Sung 601 <F>

Pilot VP <F>, Pilot Metropolitan <F>, Pilot Penmanship <EF>

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Your last pen was my first (the Metro) and I am still amazed at its overall quality and bang for the buck.

Yes, incredible. I do prefer the old-school looks of my Kaweco Classic Sport (I adore Art Deco designs) but as a writing instrument, the Metro is in a league of its own.


Will you consider overthrowing any of your current 10 pens if something else appeals to you?

Yes. Definitely. The process of discovery is just too much fun. But my focus is on using pens, not owning pens. Hence the upper limit of 10; with 10 pens I can still use all of them at least once a week, and I do. When something else comes along (not if, but when), I will only consider it if it seriously helps me to move forward as a writer. Apart from the build quality of the pen, I judge this by the neatness of my handwriting and by the degree of hand fatigue. My handwriting is poor. A good pen makes me write better and doesn't make my hand tire. But given how well these 10 pens suit me, I think it will be quite a while before I find a pen that lifts me up to the next level. One pen that I will have to spend time with one day is the Lamy 2000.


Can you outline how you fixed the burping issue with plumbers tape?

Sure. It depends on the cause of the leak. I realize now that I shouldn't have said "burp", I should've said "leak". Occasionally ink seeped between the section and the feed. This started happening after I changed the nib. The materials of the section and the feed have very small tolerances and even one removal may (as in: not always) lead to problems of this kind. It did with mine. I simply took some plumber's tape, which is extremely thin and highly elastic, and wrapped exactly one layer around the part of the feed that contacts the inner wall of the section. This minute increase in diameter combined with the elasticity of the tape (meaning it acts as a seal) solved it. Now if your pen really burps, i.e. if ink comes out through the feed, then plumber's tape won't fix it. In this case, there are two scenarios I know of. First, it can be a normal phenomenon after a refill. TWSBI cautions users to thoroughly wipe the feed with an absorbing material (I use something like Kleenex) after refilling precisely for this reason. Second, if it happens intermittently during writing and there's no relation with a recent refill, then there are air leak problems within the pen. Search FPN, there are many discussions on this topic.
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Bo Bo Olson

If the Visconti has a classic nib, place your thumbnails under the shoulders of the nib,and spread it a slight, slight tad. That will make it write wetter with out screwing the ink (& for your other pens), making it feather or woolly line.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:


The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.




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Thanks DutchGuy. I was trying to picture it in my head. Presumably the plumbers tape is wrapped so tightly that it leaves the channel free still to receive ink?

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Presumably the plumbers tape is wrapped so tightly that it leaves the channel free still to receive ink?

Yes. And one wrap only. Too much, and the pressure build-up when pushing the nib back into the section might cause cracks.

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