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The current fountain pen landscape



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BambinoFortunato

Hi all,

 

I'm really glad that fountain pens seem to be gaining more traction and are being rediscovered by so many people. However, there are plenty of things happening with modern pens that are a total bummer. Modern pens seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and not just that but...chonkier. What's that about?

 

For example, the new Esterbrook JR isn't just bigger than the original J...like so many new pens, it seems like the plastic is too thick and inelegant, like a little kid tried to draw an Esterbrook J with a crayon. You see this with the modern Conklin crescent fillers. They look like a cartoon rendering of the vintage versions, which weren't nearly as formless and lumpy as the modern ones.

 

Modern pens also seem to be moving towards less definition in the section. The taper section that ends in a sort of flared lip on vintage pens is great: looks nice and comfortable to hold. A lot of pens now seem to be going for ever flatter sections. I love my Pilot Custom 823, but I wish the section had a bit more of the concave flare and definition of shape of the old pens. 

 

There's also the massive step so many modern pens have from barrel to section, the disappearance of lever fillers (so convenient!), and the increasing amounts of just too much metal trim.

 

I'm not against new designs, change, etc, but I wish there were more variety so that stuff that suits everyone's taste could be available rather than just all-or-nothing movements in the direction of one specific trend. It boggles my mind that, with the prices skyrocketing on vintage pens, someone hasn't brought back a chased hard rubber flat top design or that Parker hasn't just started making its Vacumatics again. What's the deal with all this? With the internet, you would think it would be much easier for people to make stuff like that and find their niche customer base.

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silverlifter

There were design fads and fashions with pens in their heyday as well. They are still designed, and puchased, by humans after all: plus ça change...

Vintage. Cursive italic. Iron gall.

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ParramattaPaul
1 hour ago, BambinoFortunato said:

Modern pens seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and not just that but...chonkier. What's that about?

Have you looked at the current crop of wrist watches? Bigger and chunkier seems to be the 'in thing' for accessories including watches and pens.  That said two of my recent pen purchases, a Gravitas Entry and a Stilform aluminium pen are neither big or chunky.  Neither is longer than 150mm nor more than about 13mm in diameter.  Both are top quality and excellent writing pens.

 

Gravitas Entry Fountain Pen - Black — Gravitas Pens

🔥 Items selling fast! (stilform.com)

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BambinoFortunato
1 hour ago, ParramattaPaul said:

Have you looked at the current crop of wrist watches? Bigger and chunkier seems to be the 'in thing' for accessories including watches and pens.  That said two of my recent pen purchases, a Gravitas Entry and a Stilform aluminium pen are neither big or chunky.  Neither is longer than 150mm nor more than about 13mm in diameter.  Both are top quality and excellent writing pens.

 

Gravitas Entry Fountain Pen - Black — Gravitas Pens

🔥 Items selling fast! (stilform.com)

Whoa! Those are rad! Had never heard of either but they’re really nice. Especially the Gravitas Entry. A really beautiful modernist design!

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BambinoFortunato
2 hours ago, silverlifter said:

There were design fads and fashions with pens in their heyday as well. They are still designed, and puchased, by humans after all: plus ça change...

So true! Lol. Despite my crankiness a lot of good stuff is being made today. Nice to see Tibaldi back with some good vintage vibes.
 

I’m with you, the chunky watch thing is bonkers.

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6 hours ago, BambinoFortunato said:

... someone hasn't brought back a chased hard rubber flat top design ...

 

Someone has: have a look at Osprey Pens' Milano.  There are polished and chased hard rubber versions.  Lots of nib options too.  Find them here:

 

http://www.ospreypens.com/

 

That's not to mention all the Indian pen manufacturers such as Ranga that make a huge variety of ebonite pens, including flat tops e.g. the Ranga Model 3.  See them here:

 

https://rangapens.com/

 

Usual disclaimer applies, no affiliation, just a happy customer.

Edited by effrafax
Fix typos; added more links and info.

Cheers,

Effrafax.

 

"It is a well known and much lamented fact that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it"

Douglas Adams ("The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The Original Radio Scripts").

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A Smug Dill
6 hours ago, BambinoFortunato said:

Modern pens seem to be getting bigger and bigger, and not just that but...chonkier. What's that about?

 

I disagree. While the company behind the brand was founded in 1997, HongDian more or less only burst into hobbyists' awareness globally in the past two or three years, and so their pens must be considered modern; and most of their models (e.g. model 1850 aka Black Forest and Birch Forest; model 517D which is somewhat similar to the Lamy Studio Lx All Black, itself a modern pen model; model 525; and so on) are slender. Wing Sung 698, Jinhao 35, etc. are anything by ‘big’. Sailor Profit Standard, Professional Gear Slim, and (the now discontinued) Promenade models are relatively small; so is the Platinum Procolor 500 (and whichever in-production ranges that stem from that product line) and Balance, and the Vicoh is particularly slender. Pelikan M1xx, M2xx and M4xx are no bigger than the Pelikan models that came before them in similar designs and at similar places in the brand's product line-up. The Aurora Ipsilon is small, and the Optima is only slightly larger than that. The Faber-Castell Ambition is slender, and the Essentio isn't much bigger save for the cap.

 

Not to put too fine a point on it, but few people care about ‘modern’ Esterbrook and Parker pens, given the choice of in-production models (across all brands, now made more accessible to consumers globally than ever) in the market. That's not to say absolutely nobody cares; there is still a small minority of fans of the brands. Just as there is also a small minority who want to see more oversized pens or larger-than-JoWo-size-#6 nibs. I don't think they're setting the trend, and I'd love for them to get more options in the market but forever remain in a small minority compared to the countless thousands of fountain pen users today.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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What with the second hand market of many great designs from the past that still can be used on a daily basis, the variety of new modern pens of different design, and the explosion in the number of available of inks at the present time, I think we are very well served in our day and age. Add to that that the internet allows us to know instantly what is available all over the globe and to acquire what we want (and can afford!), and I have no complaints.

 

Yes, I agree with the OP that there are many ugly pens around, that many of these cost obscene prices in the context of global poverty, but I do not have to use or buy those products. I am thankful that I can own and use productively a Parker from 70 or more years ago, or a LAMY safari which costs peanuts, and that there are craftsmen (and women?) making pens like the Gravitas: pens of beauty and high quality at a price I can afford to enjoy.

 

David

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Bo Bo Olson

Sorry I don't know your flag....so can not be as exact as necessary.

 

I've ranted often enough about that....there are many vintage and semi-vintage pens that have  great balance posted as they were deigned to be, have better nibs. They were once flagships at now affordable prices.

 

Suggest you try German Ebay.de.

If you Hunt and take your time you can get lots of good to better vintage and semi-vintage pens for E-100..............and not the basic $285 for US prices of the same pens.

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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2 hours ago, Bo Bo Olson said:

Suggest you try German Ebay.de.

If you Hunt and take your time you can get lots of good to better vintage and semi-vintage pens for E-100..............and not the basic $285 for US prices of the same pens.

 

I agree, I love German eBay. But it's also very easy for me, being right next door, so to speak. Most sellers are more than willing to send things to me here in NL despite sometimes having it listed as Germany only, and the postage costs for me are not unreasonable. I also opened an account on Kleinanzeigen and have found myself several nice little bargains on there, even after paying the extra postage! 😊

 

I also think that it is, in general, a good idea to set your eBay location to neighboring countries to find good bargains, especially on their 'local' brands. Many sellers (mostly private, but some shops as well) set their shipping to domestic only, but I have found them all to be happy to send it to me if I pay the (extra) postage.  

FP addict thanks to #Penpalooza. Currently can't stop collecting Diplomats.

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Bo Bo Olson

The Dutch made many good and pretty fountain pens***, and or German fountain pen companies like Osmia made fountain pens for the department store Akkerman. (who now makes the in in the great funny looking bottles....Diamine makes the inks, that are a slight bit different than the normal Diamine ones.).

 

 

***Don't know why I only looked there twice. Didn't buy though. Would have had to learn some new names.

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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inkstainedruth

@BambinoFortunato-- There ARE modern pens that are smaller/thinner.  Have you looked at Japanese pens?  I have several Pilot pens, including a couple of Decimos (the smaller version of the Vanishing Point/Capless).  A full size Vanishing Point is too large for me (I ran across a used one several years ago in an antiques/collectible store about an hour and a half north of me -- the clip, in particular, was in an awkward spot) -- but the Decimo (which takes the same nib assembly) is a much better size for my hand.  I gave the full size VP to my husband and bought myself a Decimo with a nib more to his preference and swapped the F nib on the VP for the EF nib on the Decimo.  And he actually USES the pen now :thumbup: (I got him a back-up bottle of Namiki Black and a converter for it when I was at the Commonwealth Pen Show a couple of weeks ago, because he hates refilling the cartridge with a syringe even more than I do!)  I also picked up a Pilot Falcon last spring, and have a couple of inexpensive Metropolitans (people with larger hands complain about the step-down from the barrel to the section on Metropolitans, but I have no trouble with them).  I also have a few of the smaller size Sailor pens (a Pro-Gear Slim and two 1911S pens).

You might also have a look at smaller size Pelikan pens (M200/M400 size) although those are getting pricy.  And if you want really thin cheapies?  I'm a complete sucker for Parker Vectors, which come in a bunch of different colors and designs.

But I also am a huge fan of vintage pens, as other people have suggested (I can't believe the size -- OR the prices -- of the "reboot" Esterbrook pens.  Especially when I've never paid more than about $35 US for vintage ones (Js, LJs, and SJs) -- even ones with 9xxx nibs on them.  And my Plum Demi Parker 51?  They'll have to pry that pen out of my cold dead fingers -- unless I can ever find a reasonably priced full-size Plum....

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

 

ETA: The advantage of the pens I've mentioned is that while a lot of them are not super cheap, they ARE less expensive than their larger counterparts.

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

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sirgilbert357

Funny...I have had the opposite observations: I think most pens are too small and wish there were more pens in the M800 to M1000 size...

When THAT is your preferred size, you have much fewer options...and they are usually more expensive.

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Bo Bo Olson

Many people absolutely refuse to post standard or medium-large vintage or semi-vintage pens that were designed to balance and be long enough posted......

....so need 800's 1000's or 149's all of which I find a bit too short, un-posted :P and ill balanced posted.

 

Others want real fat pens.............or medium fat pens like a 149. :happyberet:

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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13 hours ago, Bo Bo Olson said:

Many people absolutely refuse to post standard or medium-large vintage or semi-vintage pens that were designed to balance and be long enough posted

 

It's good that you mention this because I have been afraid to post my vintage pens for fear of scratching them (and yes, as you mentioned, Bo Bo, there are some nice Dutch vintage pens, and I have a few in my tiny little collection - a Boston, two Akkermans, a pretty gold zigzag Duchesse, plus a very nice grey striated no-name with a flexy-ish Bock nib that is probably either Dutch or German, but the Unions and some others have become more expensive).

 

But because I don't post them, and I have relatively large hands, I often find them a little too small to use comfortably, especially when they have a needle for a nib that needs a really low angle. I also have some much larger pens like the Pilot 823 and the Diplomat Excellence A2 that I always found to be quite fat. What I have noticed since rotating between the teeny tiny vintage pens and the Pilot that a friend calls 'the Godfather' and just about every size in between is that I kind of like the variety. I like to be able to grab a big pen after using small pens and vice versa. There's a bit of a relief in my hand when I switch which is hard to explain since it goes both ways.

FP addict thanks to #Penpalooza. Currently can't stop collecting Diplomats.

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Bo Bo Olson

Mars can be polished off/out with bare fingertip (no cloth) application of a light chrome polish (then buffed with a flannel cloth...can take three applications), like the old no longer talked about Semi-Chrome that was the thing back when folks bought old vintage pens needing a bit of loving care, instead of buy one, get six Chinese pens.

 

Then if the pen is waxed and almost any wax will do, but Renaissance Wax is rated best.....There Is No Mars.......Period!!!

 

5-6 years ago, this was common knowledge....now I'm the only one telling of the Olden Times....:happyberet:

 

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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On 9/24/2021 at 9:44 PM, BambinoFortunato said:

I'm not against new designs, change, etc, but I wish there were more variety so that stuff that suits everyone's taste could be available rather than just all-or-nothing movements in the direction of one specific trend.

 

If you look to the new offerings from China, you will find nearly everything that you wish for here, in fair abundance. Except, perhaps, the lever-fill. 

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A Smug Dill
On 9/25/2021 at 11:44 AM, BambinoFortunato said:

I'm not against new designs, change, etc, but I wish there were more variety so that stuff that suits everyone's taste could be available rather than just all-or-nothing movements in the direction of one specific trend.

 

Funny you should mention ‘all-or-nothing’… I think any single physical or functional attribute one could reasonably want in a fountain pen can be satisfied by some product in the market today, with the expectation that the prospective buyer or user will have to accept some compromise in the candidate's (or candidates') other attributes. Being able to get something, let alone a range of alternatives, that tick ‘all’ the boxes at once and on entirely one's terms — including (but not limited to) two particular attributes that has nothing to with physical or functional requirements: price and country of origin of a product — is what is unrealistic; but some shoppers are self-limiting with an all-or-nothing mindset, i.e. if they can't get a perfect fit, then they conclude there is nothing in the market to suit their preference in whichever headline attribute or quality.

 

I think it's perfectly fine if someone is not able to get the size of pen, the type of nib, or level of affordability they want from, say, Italian brands and must look to Indian, Japanese and Chinese brands to tick that box. A landscape dotted with ‘imperfect’ choices does not support the argument that there is insufficient variety available to make for a healthy market.

I endeavour to be frank and truthful in what I write, show or otherwise present, when I relate my first-hand experiences that are not independently verifiable; and link to third-party content where I can, when I make a claim or refute a statement of fact in a thread. If there is something you can verify for yourself, I entreat you to do so, and judge for yourself what is right, correct for valid. I may be wrong, and my position or say-so is no more authoritative and carries no more weight than anyone else's here.

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On 9/24/2021 at 8:12 PM, ParramattaPaul said:

Have you looked at the current crop of wrist watches? Bigger and chunkier seems to be the 'in thing' for accessories including watches and pens.  That said two of my recent pen purchases, a Gravitas Entry and a Stilform aluminium pen are neither big or chunky.  Neither is longer than 150mm nor more than about 13mm in diameter.  Both are top quality and excellent writing pens.

 

Gravitas Entry Fountain Pen - Black — Gravitas Pens

🔥 Items selling fast! (stilform.com)

I disagree. I think the trend of bigger watches has reversed itself. 

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Sailor Kenshin
21 minutes ago, piblondin said:

I disagree. I think the trend of bigger watches has reversed itself. 

 

You should have been around in the 60s, when Enormous Watches was the Thing du Jour.

My other pen is a Montblanc and...

 

My other blog is a tumblr.

 

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