We often get asked which pen would be the best first forage into fountain pens. It may be the first pen at all, but it’s often the first pen since the Parker Vector or Frontier in school a few years ago.
There are some great quality and value fountain pens which you can get now, the range it actually probably larger than it’s ever been, even if the average person in the street assumes no-one used fountain pens any more.
The cheapest fountain pens we offer come from Jinhao a Chinese company who have been making fountain pens for a few decades. Their starter pen is the Shark which is a great fun little pen with a lid shaped like a Shark. It’s available in quite a few different colours and has some neat features like a transparent* section meaning you can see the ink inside and unlike brands like Lamy, Parker, Cross and Sheaffer, it takes the international standard type ink cartridge, meaning they are very easy to get hold of and you don’t have to get the own make brand like you do with the big names above. It also comes with a ‘converter’ which is a nifty little device which fits in place of the ink cartridge and allows you to fill it from an ink bottle instead. This is what many people would call a ‘real’ fountain pen rather than a ‘cartridge pen’. The advantages are that there is A LOT of ink choice in bottles – more colours and more value – they tend to be far cheaper per ml and this is important if you do a lot of writing (or plan to!)
The next rung up the ladder would be something like the Kaweco Perkeo fountain pen. It comes from Heidelberg in Germany in a choice of colours. It’s has a nice robust build quality with a reassuring click to hold the cap on when the pen isn’t in use. It’s a bigger pen from the Shark but suitable from young teenagers with no upper age limit. If it’s a first pen for a child, it may be a little too large. Some of the other Kaweco models are smaller though, see the range HERE.
A relative newcomer to the pen world is TWSBI. They come from Taipai in Taiwan and make some excellent pens which are often developed with input from the fountain pen community, so they have some great features – most are bottle fill only and have a choice of nib widths to cater for different handwriting styles and sizes.
The TWSBI Go is the starting point from TWSBI and it fills from a bottle with a simple spring loaded system, a bit like a syringe which springs back after you have pushed it down. It’s also transparent* so you can see how much ink you have left and there are a few colours to choose from.
The next model up is the TWSBI Swipe fountain pen and this is the only TWSBI which allows for ink cartridge use (again the international standard type) but also comes with a converter to use bottled ink.
The next fountain pen we would recommend for a pen beginner is the TWSBI Eco fountain pen. It’s been out for a few years and has been made in a selection of colours to suit all tastes. Like the other TWSBIs, it has a choice of 5 nibs from EF to B & 1.1mm italic and a bottle fill only mechanism. I personally have a collection of (almost) every colour they have produced in the past and it’s often my go to pen for note-making.
*Transparent fountain pens are popular because they were historically salesmen’s demonstrators used to show off the mechanisms in action to shops in an attempt to persuade them to be stocked. They became collectable as they were rare an unique, so many manufacturers started to make them as special editions ‘demonstrators’. The increase in ink colours available mean people love them as they can see the ink level and colour inside their pen.