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Long time basic fountain pen writer, grown curious.


mskb
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Hello Everyone,

 

I am new here, but have been reading these forums recently.

 

I have been using fountain pens for over 15 years through school and college. I have only been exposed to, and have experience only with the really basic entry level ones. Currently I use the Pilot metropolitan - the one I own now has been serving me well for the past 5 years. Until I read the forums over the past month, I did not know such remarkable variety and diversity exists in fountain pens!

 

I am curious to try. I am hoping a $100-$200 budget would be a reasonable place to figure what the higher price points would add to my writing experience. Do you think something along the lines of a Pilot Custom 74 is a reasonable place to start? Also, I think I prefer the opaque Custom 74 versions from Japan than the see through versions available in the USA from reputed online vendors. I am finding the opaque versions only on eBay so far. The eBay prices also appear to be quite a bit cheaper - I am sure we are giving something up in return. Could you share any insights on how to navigate pen purchasing? That would help greatly!

 

Thank you so much!

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$100 - $200 should give you plenty of "next level" experiences from the entry level pens, with a wide range of options to choose from. I think some of the more famous Japanese brands and German brands have recently gone a little higher than $200 on some of their more famous "mid tier" models, but there's still a lot out there. In particular, you can easily find a ton of options for different Jowo and Bock nibbed pens from a wide range of makers, and that might be a good chance to explore the many types of filling systems, pen nib points, and so forth. 

 

Given that you haven't experienced a lot of different aspects of pens, my personal recommendation would be to get a pen that has an alternative filling system than your C/C system in your Pilot Metropolitan (piston, vacuum, eyedropper, &c.) and that has a replaceable Jowo nib unit. Then I'd buy a small range of nibs in various sizes, including stubs, flexy, and regular pen point tips, and try out the various points to see what you like and don't like. That way, you can hone in on the experience you're looking for and what you like and don't like all in a fairly self-contained experiment. Of course, that's not the way most people (including myself) went about it. 🙂 I'd also invest in a range of ink samples of various inks that are on the spectrum of properties, such as dry, wet, viscous, permanent, &c. That way you had an idea of how the inks can affect your writing experience. 

 

As for the reason for the price discrepancies, it's because many of the items you will find online are grey market imports, often ordered direct from the country of origin, which may, or may not, be subject to import costs of one type or another. I believe almost universally you will find that grey market items do not come with a warranty or any significant customer service from the originating dealer. However, for many people, grey market often seems to be their preferred method of interacting. For others, they feel that grey market is, well, somewhat "morally" suspect. More concretely, often times, pens are packaged differently for different markets, so when ordering from "out of market" with cheaper prices than standard retail, you may find that the pen comes with a different set of accessories or is designed a little differently. I believe, for instance, that some versions of Pilot's pens that are intended for the European market can be found that take international standard cartridges instead of the proprietary Pilot cartridges. Additionally, pens intended for non-American markets are often packaged without a converter, but many such pens include a converter when they are imported for US retail sale. There can be other little differences and the like, and there can be hassles such as shipping times or getting hit with customs/import fees, depending on country origin and destination. 

 

Personally, I don't think I've done any grey market ordering, and I generally prefer to avoid the ambiguity, but that's partly because I place a higher value on the customer service interaction that I have, on occasion, reason to use. I rarely need it, but when I want it, it is *very* nice to have it. On the other hand, there are items, like Pelikan 4001 Blue Black or Pilot 350ml Blue Black ink bottles that are not "officially" imported into the US, and for such items, I'm not particularly upset at doing that importing myself. 

 

 

 

 

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For Pilots, I believe part of the reason one can find them for much cheaper on eBay is that like arcfide said, the pens are directly ordered from the country of origin (Japan in this case) and can bypass the rules Pilot has set for the USA with MSRP. Pilots in general can be found much cheaper in Japan over the USA, leading to this price discrepancy. If you buy from eBay I would just find a highly reputable seller.

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Which is to say, you may do the same: just login on amazon.co.jp and order from there. If they cannot send it to you it will say so, if they can, it will all be legal, with due customs and all.

 

That's what I did to get my Kuretake brush pens when local Amazon price was ~100€ and Japan Amazon price ~20-30€. Took about one week to get here, all dues paid.

 

On a side line, you may as well consider getting a Pelikan M200, with a piston mechanism and the possibility of switching different nibs. They are maybe somewhat more expensive (the nib units) than generic JoWo or Bock nib units, but they are excellent quality.

 

What I would not do is start down the rabbit hole of vintage pens: it is true that you can get excellent (or superb) pens at very affordable prices, but in my most humble opinion, it is better if you first know what you are looking for. Otherwise you may end up expending a lot on dozens of pens just to be sure what it is all about, what to look for and what do you like. To actually gain little over what a modern M200 may offer.

 

And, from my experience, I would probably stop there, unless fully justified by personal needs (in bold, underscored, italic, highlighted, and not blinky because I do not know how to make it). It is too easy to start expending, collecting, and trying out of ignorance (I know, been there, done that) just because one cannot test the real thing and it looks like a good idea.

 

At the most, if you really enjoy your new pen (whichever it is), and decide you want to try going one step up (and beware, it is very easy to get deceived by "upper" or "more expensive" pens), I would rather advice going to a pen show and seeing first hand what is there, trying different pens and seeing how they actually look, write and perform in your hand.

 

Oh, and welcome to FPN.

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Thanks @arcfide, @mallymal1, @aimi and @txomsy for the extremely useful responses.

 

This is more than sufficient to start me off! I will look around your suggestions and make a decision.

 

Cheers!

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Only one suggestion from me: Sailor.  Their nibs are to die for and if you stretch to a Pro Gear, you'll never need another pen. (Need and want are two entirely different things, of course!)  For what they are, they're really good value and, okay, the c/c is a bit underwhelming but otherwise...what a pen!

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1 hour ago, Firecrest said:

you'll never need another pen

 

Perhaps.

Sailor Pro Gear is a SHORT pen unposted.  Posted it's the same length as the Pelikan M200.  I find the Pro Gear back weighted and uncomfortable when posted.  For me the M200 is perfect when posted; perhaps because it was designed to be used that way.  It took perseverance to become comfortable with the unposted Pro Gear.  I found it worth the time and effort. 

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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My other favourite pen is a vintage Pelikan 400 (1950s) which is actually a little shorter posted than the Pro Gear.  Its ef nib is about as different from the Pro Gear's as you could imagine but both are sensational in their different ways.  I actually find the Pro Gear perfect when posted in my medium-sized male hand but all of this is only ever going to be subjective...apart from the sublime nib, of course, which is just sublime...period!

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The available options (including vintage) from the big three (Pilot, Platinum and Sailor) are pretty broad and there are few that would fail to satisfy the average writer.

 

My favorites in no particular order are:

 

Pilot Custom Heritage 91, which is functionally identical to the Custom 74 and able to use the CON-70, but with rhodium trim and a shorter length/different form factor.

 

Pilot Falcon/Elabo

 

Platinum BelAge/Classic(PTL-XXXX)/Riviere series, which includes many variations starting in the late 70s or early 80s, and still in production now, these all share the same nib and feed design, which in my experience are universally smooth and reliable writers, in both the large and small nib versions and steel or gold. The only real penalty here is that any nib size but fine or medium is comparatively uncommon :(

 

Sailor Pro Gear (Slim only for me please!), they're extremely reliable and come in many nib sizes, though the subtly coarser page feel may not be for everyone... My biggest gripe is the molding seam left unpolished on the section, which is annoying, though easily removed if you have the skill.

 

All late 1960s through 1990s Pilot pens that use the current cartridge design: there's a huge variety out there, often for ridiculously low prices, however there are also plenty of good *looking* pens that have dried ink in the feed and require disassembly and/or ultrasonic cleaning to function, so this segment is only for those who relish a challenge and have the tools and skills to work on the ones that turn out to be "project" pens. 

 

Similarly, Platinum and Sailor pens from the mid 1960s on, use their respective manufacturers' current cartridge types, but I have found both of these brands to be a bit quirkier than Pilot... There are gems to be sure, but also pens with functional or design issues that make them less suitable for everyday use, whereas the Pilot pens are more often faultless and faithful, once cleaned up.

 

Have fun! once I discovered Japanese fountain pens, my US and European pens fell out of rotation pretty quickly.

 

David-

 

So many restoration projects...

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On 10/5/2021 at 6:47 PM, txomsy said:

On a side line, you may as well consider getting a Pelikan M200, with a piston mechanism and the possibility of switching different nibs. They are maybe somewhat more expensive (the nib units) than generic JoWo or Bock nib units, but they are excellent quality.

Who do you think makes the Pelikan nibs? 

Generic JoWo nibs are excellent quality too - my favorite nib (apart from the Japanese ones) is Jowo 18k EF.

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41 minutes ago, mke said:

Who do you think makes the Pelikan nibs?

 

Pelikan.

 

In-house.

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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I had heard, Pelikan is/was made by Bock - but that information was only hearsay.

Anyway, a JoWo nib is certainly not worse than a Pelikan nib.

 

But there is one feature of Japanese pens which cannot be mentioned often enough: they rarely dry out. If you want a hazzle-free pen in the 100-200 USD range - go for a Sailor 1911(L), Pilot Custom 74 or a Platinum 3776 - even used ones normally are of good quality. 

I also recommend to adjust your writing style to the pen. It is easier than finding the pen which suits your writing style. So any of the ones mentioned above are OK.

 

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Welcome to FPN. Buy a Large 1911 Profit/Pro-Gear with a 21k nib and live happily ever after (till the next). Fabulous pens. There are flashier, but there are few better. 

Too many pens; too little writing.

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46 minutes ago, mongrelnomad said:

Buy a Large 1911 Profit/Pro-Gear

 

 

Large Pro-Gear?  Yes please 😁

"Simplicate and add Lightness."

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Thank you all for your comments, suggestions and helpful discussions!

 

I have been following the thread and browsing suggested pens here and in other threads.

 - Pens. Besides the Pilot Custom 74, I am now also looking at the Sailor 1911 (S / L, or related Pro Gear) and the Platinum 3776.

 - Nibs. Much confusion exists here. All I wish for is the line width of the Pilot Metro Medium nib. It seems like several others before me have gone through this as well - settling with fine medium / medium in entry level gold nibs ultimately. In addition, there are also the soft / flex versions. Wow! I did come across several writing samples. I have come to the conclusion that I will personally not get the differences until I check for myself.

 

I had one question: if purchasing via eBay (e.g., the trustworthy cool-japan / penpen-avenue), how much $ does the US customs duty add up to, at least for these mid-range pens? Following txomsys' advice, I did check amazon.co.jp website, but the varieties offered are much less than eBay.

 

Thank you so much!

 

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The less experience with a large variety of pens one has, the more advantageous it is to go a brick and mortar boutique. Yes, that "next level" pen will cost you a lot more than ordering a pen online but being able to try the different nibs is absolutely worth the extra money. If I had to start over, my future self would advise my past self to not hesitate to pay 50% more to compensate for my initial lack of experience.

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2 hours ago, VillersCotterets said:

The less experience with a large variety of pens one has, the more advantageous it is to go a brick and mortar boutique. Yes, that "next level" pen will cost you a lot more than ordering a pen online but being able to try the different nibs is absolutely worth the extra money. If I had to start over, my future self would advise my past self to not hesitate to pay 50% more to compensate for my initial lack of experience.

 

Thanks @VillersCotterets. I agree. Looks like our local store has been recently bought by Appelboom. I have emailed them about a visit. I look forward to making my purchase at the store. Thanks! 

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14 hours ago, mke said:

...

 

But there is one feature of Japanese pens which cannot be mentioned often enough: they rarely dry out. If you want a hazzle-free pen in the 100-200 USD range - go for a Sailor 1911(L), Pilot Custom 74 or a Platinum 3776 - even used ones normally are of good quality. 

I also recommend to adjust your writing style to the pen. It is easier than finding the pen which suits your writing style. So any of the ones mentioned above are OK.

 

 

 

I agree, this is one of my favorite things about vintage Pilots as well (and a slight knock against vintage Plat and Sailor pens), most will go for months without being used or refilled and still not require more than a light tap to start writing. 

The all time price to useable time on a cartridge champion, in my collection is a tie between a Sailor Profit Junior S (the basic transparent plastic, screw cap pen, also called a 1911 Junior or 1911 Compass) and a 1960s Sheaffer Comp II, both of which have surpassed two years inked and written at the first touch when finally uncapped... thus proving a pen doesn't need to be expensive to have a well sealed cap!

 

All of my Profit Jr and Lecoule variants share this excellent cap seal as do most (but not all) of my Imperial family Sheaffers.

Another side note: Platinum 3776 pens with a snap cap don't have the same level of dry-out resistance as the screw cap models, they're actually a bit below average for a modern design.

David-

 

So many restoration projects...

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5 hours ago, mskb said:

...

 

I had one question: if purchasing via eBay (e.g., the trustworthy cool-japan / penpen-avenue), how much $ does the US customs duty add up to, at least for these mid-range pens? 

 

...

 

 

 

I've never been charged import duty on a foreign bought item shipped to the US ...and I've made several foreign purchases that exceeded $250 in the last decade, value of goods was always clearly stated on the package.

David-

 

So many restoration projects...

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