Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Question from a reader: What would you recommend for the best fountain pen under $100?

Lamy AL Star w/ custom ground .05 Cursive Italic nib (Pendemonium did the custom work from a scratchy Fine)
Yellow Lamy Safari with EF nib
Gray Esterbook from Ebay, with a 9556 nib also found on Ebay
Lamy 2000 with Extra Fine Nib
Waterman Phileas Fine nib
Pelikan M200 Fine Nib

I went along with the flow on the FPN and tried things that people said were good - doing lots of research along the way.

For about $30, you get get a Lamy Safari & converter. I have 4 Safari's (and one AL-Star) and I love them all. I don't use the AL-Star too much because it's a really big pen. Of the five, I only got one with a scratchy nib - and that one I had turned into a Cursive Italic for $15.

All of the Lamy's run on the wide side, so if you want a really fine nib, you'd probably be best off trying an EF to start. If it's too fine, you can buy replacement nibs for $12 and they are super easy to install. Using a converter pen with an EF nib will mean not having to fill it up as often. On my M and the CI, I have to fill it much more often.

The Lamy Safari's are really good pens for the money, but know that they tend to run a bit bigger than your average pen. With smallish hands, I'm still ok with that. They have a rigid nib that some people will refer to as a "nail" meaning not much give. I find with that lack of flexibility, they work really well for drawing.

Some people are not fond of the wedged grip on the Safari's, meaning that it might be hard to write with for someone that tends to rotate the pen. I personally really like the grip - having it keep the pen in an even firmer position for drawing.

A smaller, slightly more expensive pen, (about $60) would be the Pelikan M200. It's a piston filler, which means that you can go a long time on one fill. I have a F nib, which I liken to be about the same width as the Lamy Safari EF. When I first got it, it wrote really thin and skimpy, and I immediately thought there might be something wrong with it. Once I continued to use it, the flow "broke in" (which I probably could have accomplished by flushing the pen a few times before filling it with ink) and it's now one of my favorite pens. It's smallish and lightweight, and the nib has a slight about of flex. Great for writing, not the best for drawing.

I also owned a used Waterman Phileas that I sort of liked, but I learned that it had a slightly bent nib that was probably causing the flow problems I experienced with it. I never replaced it with a new one, so I can't truly sing it's praises. It was a very hard pen to flush.

Spend a little more (about $105) and you can get a Sailor Sapporo F. Sailor are reputed to be some of the smoothest writers around, so if that's important to you - then give it a shot. It is a converter filler, and it's extremely small if left unposted. (writing with the cap off)

I hope that gives you an idea on what might work for you under $100..

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