Fountain Pen

TWSBI GO Fountain Pen Review

TWSBI is known for producing some of the best bang-for-your-buck pens on the market. The TWSBI 580AL fountain pen was my first “fancy” pen purchase (read-greater than $20), and it’s still the best value pen in my collection. TWSBI recently introduced the TWSBI GO fountain pen at its least expensive price point yet. How does it compare to its more expensive counterparts? Read on to find out.

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The TWSBI GO fountain pen offers many of the same benefits of other TWSBI pens, without the frills of its more expensive brothers and sisters. Most metal parts have been replaced with plastic, aside from the nib itself, piston spring, and ink chamber seal. The pen is still sturdy and well-built, and the heavy plastic helps it maintain a nice heft in hand. Most TWSBI pens have a twist-operated piston, but this has been replaced by a sturdy metal spring-loaded piston in the GO. It’s less finicky than a twist piston and won’t need to be greased every now and then, but it does give the pen a cheaper appearance.

To fill the pen, dip it into your favorite bottle of ink and press the piston. The TWSBI GO is a bit thicker, so I did have some trouble getting it past the halfway mark in my smaller Diamine bottles. It turns out TWSBI has developed its own solution for this issue, but unfortunately, the GO doesn’t work with TWSBI’s easy fill mechanism in the top of its inkwells. You're just going to have to fill this pen the old-fashion way.

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TWSBI pens-or any piston fillers for that matter-aren’t designed to use ink cartridges. This might scare away fountain pen novices, but the huge ink capacity is worth the tradeoff, in my opinion. If you’re considering purchasing this pen as your first fountain pen, check out my Penventory page for ink recommendations. Diamine inks are a great place to start, since they perform well and are affordable.

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Although the TWSBI GO does compromise in certain areas, the nib writes just as well as any TWSBI nib I’ve ever used. I usually rely on F (fine) nibs but purchased an EF (extra fine) nib and have been very pleased with its performance. TWSBI nibs tend to run broad, like most European nibs, and are wet writers in most instances. I have to admit, I think I may prefer the EF nib to the F.

TWSBI 580AL (top) and TWSBI GO (bottom)

TWSBI 580AL (top) and TWSBI GO (bottom)

This brings me to my only true issue with the pen—its grip design. Most TWSBI grips are smooth, and slipperiness is something that comes with the territory. The TWSBI GO grip is tapered and smooth, except for a molded grip at the base of the nib. I typically don’t grip the pen this low, since its uncomfortable and tends to result in inky fingers, but the GO grip somewhat forces you into this position. I wish the grip design was either fully molded, like the Lamy Vista and Safari, or completely smooth, like the TWSBI 580AL.

TWSBI 580AL (left) and TWSBI GO (right)

TWSBI 580AL (left) and TWSBI GO (right)

Instead of a clip, the TWSBI GO fountain pen comes with a keychain loop. If you absolutely must have a clip but want a TWSBI, try the TWSBI Eco. Personally, I like clip-less designs since I carry most pens in a Nock Co. Sinclair Pen Case. The pen also caps and posts securely and the cap relies on a snap mechanism, instead of a twist mechanism, so no need to worry about pocket leaks.

Overall, the TWSBI GO fountain pen is a competent addition to the $20 and under category. Those looking for an affordable piston filler will be hard pressed to find a pen that offers such a high quality writing experience for such a low price.

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Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen Review

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Inventery’s Pocket Fountain Pen is a sleek and stylish modular pen that can be customized with a variety of caps and tips. At first glance, there’s a lot to love about this little beauty. The slim design has a smaller footprint than the Kaweco Sport, yet the sturdy brass body gives the pen a nice heft.

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The pen extends to full size by posting the threaded cap, and the cap posts and caps securely. I have large hands, and the posted pen rests comfortably in the web of my fingers.

Pocket Fountain Pen with optional extender (top), Lamy 2000 (middle), Pocket Fountain Pen without optional extender (bottom).

Pocket Fountain Pen with optional extender (top), Lamy 2000 (middle), Pocket Fountain Pen without optional extender (bottom).

Attention to detail is key in taking on the established fountain pen brands and Inventery delivers. The body finishes and coatings are flawless, and the modular components screw smoothly into place and hold together firmly. The pen clip even aligns perfectly with the nib when posted.

I have to take a moment to point out the pen’s modular cap system. It comes with four interchangeable cap tips: clip, keychain loop, stylus, and clip-less. My favorite tip is the simple clip-less, which gives the pen a stunning minimalist look. It’s simply one of the sleekest looking pocket fountain pens that I’ve ever seen.

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Speaking of clips, Inventery’s Pocket Fountain Pen clip is sturdy, although there’s an intentional gap between the clip and the cap body. I like the appearance, but it certainly won’t hold the pen in place like some of the tighter clips on the market. Personally, I have no problem carrying the little guy in my pocket without the clip attachment. Since it caps so securely and looks stunning without the clip, I find it worth the risk and have had zero issues.

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Okay, okay—design is great, but how about the nib? The pen comes with a Schmidt Iridium tipped nib (more geeky info on “Iridium tips” here). Overall, the nib is adequate, with a nice amount of flex for a steel nib, but some scratchiness on side strokes. Although the nib isn’t quite as special as the pen itself, it works well, and its few idiosyncrasies shouldn’t scare you away. Yes, a gold nib would be nicer, but I’d also feel much less comfortable carrying around a gold-nibbed pen loose in my pocket. Steel nibs are just so inexpensive to replace.

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I have to admit, the ballpoint tip sat in the pen box for several days. I tend to use fountain pens by default, but I swapped out the fountain pen tip for the ballpoint tip and was pleasantly surprised. It’s also a consistent writer and sits in the middle of wet and dry. When I’m not writing with a fountain pen, I’m writing with a Retro 51. This tip isn’t quite as nice as a Retro 51 Easy Flow refill, but for a pen that offers so much versatility, it writes nicely. The fact that the pen comes with both fountain pen and ballpoint tips makes it an easy recommendation for someone wanting to dip their toe into the fountain pen world.

Even the packaging is stunning (shown with optional metal extender).

Even the packaging is stunning (shown with optional metal extender).

All in all, the folks at Inventery have produced an extremely well-designed and customizable pocket pen that clearly succeeds in its attempt to be both sleek and functional. The price point is the only detail that gives me pause; however, I think that it’s a fair price when considering all of the included customizable components, excellent design, and the overall obsessive level of manufacturing quality. It even comes with nine ink cartridges to get you started. The nib is nothing to write home about, but the pen makes up for the standard nib in almost every other aspect of its design.

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The Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen is available in three styles: onyx, brass, and brushed chrome, and all three finishes are stunners. There’s also an optional pen extender, which extends the length of the pens body by a cap-length or so, but I personally found it unnecessary, especially for $30. For full details on the Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen, check out the product page.

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The Inventery Pocket Fountain Pen was provided free of charge for the purposes of this review.


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Pilot Metropolitan Animal Print Fountain Pen Review

It's hard to believe that it's been more than two years since I published my original review of the Pilot Metropolitan. The pen regularly makes the short list of recommended starter pens and is one of the few fountain pens that you'll find in non-specialty stores. I thought that it would be fun to revisit the Metropolitan, and what better way to do it than with the Animal Print edition?

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The Metropolitan doesn't feel like an inexpensive pen. Its metal body provides a nice heft, and the cigar-shaped sleek design really is stunning to look at. The clip has some give but still grips material firmly, so you won't have to worry about the pen sliding around or coming loose in a bag or pocket.

Compared to pens like the Lamy Safari or Pilot Kakuno, the Metropolitan has an understated design that will fit right into an office environment. In my original review, I mentioned that the pen was a bit boring on the surface, and the Animal Print edition, although a step up in flare, still holds true to this. Compared to my black Metropolitan though, the Gold Lizard is a nice change of pace. I actually didn't realize that the pen was gold until looking at the product details. It seems to be a gold/silver blend, of which I'm a huge fan. If you're looking for a more colorful version of the Metropolitan, there's also the Retro Pop edition.

Nope, the pens aren't different sizes. It's just the photo perspective.

Nope, the pens aren't different sizes. It's just the photo perspective.

The Metropolitan has my favorite clip cap of all the entry level pens that I've encountered. The cap seems almost magnetic when it clicks into place, and I would feel comfortable carrying the pen loose in my pocket, with no fear of leaks. It also posts nicely, with just a little bit of friction to lock the cap into place.

The Pilot Metropolitan's grip is made of smooth plastic and tapers towards the nib of the pen. Personally, I prefer the shaped grip of the Lamy Safari, or Lamy Vista, which reduces my hand fatigue during longer writing sessions, but the Metropolitan's thin grip still works nicely.

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The nib is one of the Pilot Metropolitan's best features. Sometimes inexpensive fountain pen nibs can be scratchy or suffer from skips or hard starts, but this isn't the case with the Metropolitan. The ink flows steadily for long periods of time, and the nib is very smooth for its price point.

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For $15 or so, the Pilot Metropolitan offers a fantastic experience for those looking for a starter fountain pen, and the Animal Print edition adds a creative touch to the pen's classic design. It comes with everything you need to get started, including both an ink cartridge and a converter for bottled inks. The squeeze converter is less efficient than twist converters that come with pens like the Lamy Safari, but it still gets the job done.

Will the Animal Print edition change your mind about the Pilot Metropolitan? Probably not, but it's still a damn fine pen for the price.

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This pen was provided at no cost by For My Desk, for the purposes of this review. If you're interest in the Pilot Metropolitan Animal Print Fountain Pen, check it out on their site!


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Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen Review

Interested in fountain pens but not sure where to start? There are plenty of pens that can be had for less than $20, but what about those ultra-affordable sub-$5 pens. The Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen is one such pen. How does it hold up against the likes of its low-price counterparts? Read on to find out.

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Those who use Zebra V-301 Series pens and pencils will be right at home with the fountain pen version. Aesthetically, the pen shares a similar design style, including black plastic grip. The ridges on the grip make the Zebra V-301 comfortable to hold for longer writing sessions, although the matte plastic is less appealing to the eye than the smooth plastic grips on pens like the Pilot Metropolitan. Still, it's a worthy tradeoff for sweaty fingers and cramped hands. For those looking to try an ultra-affordable fountain pen in the office, it's hard to recommend the Platinum Preppy, which looks as if it belongs in a high schooler's backpack, rather than a briefcase. The Zebra V-301, on the other hand, has a professional look that would fit right in, in an office environment.

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Two critical pieces of a fountain pen cap design are the way that the cap fits securely on the pen body and how the cap posts for writing. Overall, the Zebra V-301 posts nicely, with a solid click, but its capping experience leaves something to be desired. It does cap securely, so there's no need to fear a dry nib or ink-stained pants, but I found the Zebra V-301 occasionally difficult to cap. This seemed to get better with time, perhaps as the cap and plastic grip became worn in.

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One of the most interesting features of the Zebra V-301 is its hooded nib. One of the downsides of some ultra-affordable pens, such as the Platinum Preppy, is their flexible nibs, which can be easily damaged by heavy-handed fountain pen novices. The Zebra V-301, on the other hand, has a plastic hood that reinforces the back of the steel nib. The nib itself is hard-as-nails and offers very little flex. This might be a turnoff to some but offers great protection from accidental damage.

The logo should be face-up, which is a small design flaw.

The logo should be face-up, which is a small design flaw.

The writing experience with the Zebra V-301 was surprisingly pleasant for a pen at its price point. The nib does run on the dry/scratchy side, and some online reviews did mention skips and clogs, but I used the pen as my daily driver for a week and didn't experience any major issues. Like the hood on the Lamy 2000, the hood on the Zebra 301 can obsure the view of the nib, making it more difficult to tell when the pen is at the appropriate writing angle. My guess is that this is somewhat responsible for the reviews that mention skips. I did notice a few skips after using the pen for extended periods, but I experience the same issues when using more expensive starter pens, like the Lamy Vista.

It's impossible to ignore price when considering the quality of a fountain pen. The Zebra V-301 is far from perfect, but for an average price of $3, it performs substantially well, even when compared to the Platinum Preppy. The reinforced nib makes it an excellent choice for fountain pen beginners, and the generous double ink refill will ensure that you'll have plenty of ink to put it through its paces.

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This pen was provided at no cost by For My Desk, for the purposes of this review. If you're interest in the Zebra V-301 Fountain Pen, check it out on their site!


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Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen Review

When I think of U.S. campus bookstores, I imagine overly-priced flimsy spiral notebooks, cheaply made coffee mugs, and sports apparel. This isn't a place to go to find the best writing instruments or paper. Japanese campus stores are vastly different. I visited Kyoto Sangyo University, for a conference in 2015, and was amazed by the campus store. There were rows upon rows of notebooks, as well as a wide range of pens and pen cases. While this was drool-worthy in itself, it was the pen at the bottom of a glass display case that caught my attention. I had never seen a Pilot Vanishing Point in person before, but there it sat, shining in the florescent store lights. $200 seemed like an outrageous price at the time, but the experience cemented the Vanishing Point in the back of my mind.

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Fast forward a year and my pen hobby has teetered towards obsession. I worked my way up to the Vanishing Point over time and finally decided to pick up a Desert Orange Vanishing Point from Amazon. It's difficult to gage the orange color from pictures, but it's a subtle orange with shades of brown. Since this color is a part of the Metallic series, it has small flecks in the pen body which shimmer in the light. Overall, I wish that the orange was more vibrant, but it's still my favorite color out of the bunch.

The Pilot Vanishing Point's metal body gives it a nice heft. Although the smooth lacquered body would be slippery to grip on its own, the matte black tip provides a subtly-textured surface that grips well. The Vanishing Point is capless and uses a nock mechanism (the clicky thing) to reveal the tip, similar to a standard capless ballpoint. The pen clip is attached to the pen body at the grip area and has two small finger indentations, which allow for fingers to slide into place and grip the pen comfortably. The clip was my biggest concern, but I've been pleasantly surprised by how comfortable the pen is to hold. I am right-handed, so lefties should definitely try the pen themselves or refer to a lefty review before purchasing.

There are only a few capless fountain pens in the wild for a reason; they're hard to design. Pens like the early versions of the Lamy Dialog have received negative reviews, due to dried out nibs, but the Vanishing Point seems to have gotten this right. Depressing the nock pushes the nib through a small metal door, which moves out of the way and exposes the nib. Clicking the nock again recesses the nib and closes the metal door, keeping air out of the pen chamber. Side note, the nock's click is extremely satisfying.

The nib for the Desert Orange Vanishing Point is a sleek black color, but the nib color varies by body color style. Although the pen comes with a gold nib, there's little flex, since the nib itself has to be slender enough to retract into the pen. Nib units can be easily swapped between Vanishing Points, much like a traditional ink refill in a capless ballpoint pen. I chose the medium nib, since Japanese nibs run finer than their European counterparts, and the medium nib is on par with a western fine nib. The writing experience is smooth, although the nib has more of a marker feel on paper, compared to my Lamy 2000, which feels like writing on glass.

Speaking of the Lamy 2000, I'm sure that some readers of this review will want to know whether they should choose a Lamy 2000 or a Vanishing Point, since both are similar price points and popular choices when leveling up your pen game. The short answer to this question is that you should choose the pen that has the best features for you. The Vanishing Point's capless design makes it easy to grab and use one-handed, and you can store it in a pocket or bag without fear of losing the cap. The Vanishing Point uses a cartridge or converter, so it holds much less ink than the Lamy 2000, and the clip grip may be a turnoff for some users. The grip itself is a touch wider than that of the Lamy 2000. The base model of the Lamy 2000 comes in one color, while the Vanishing Point come in a wide range of colors. All of these factors are worth considering, but there is no objective answer to which pen is better. Both the Pilot Vanishing Point and Lamy 2000 are excellent pens for the price.


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