It can be confusing if you are new to the fountain pen world. There are so many different options out there, that it can be hard to know what are the best fountain pens to get started with. You want a pen that doesn’t break the bank, but that gives you a great first impression. In this article I break down some of the pens that I really like as beginner options.
There can be nothing more disheartening than having a bad experience with a fountain pen.
This is especially true for a beginner. Whether your pen leaks, has a scratchy nib, or stops and starts and doesn’t write smoothly. These problems can be very frustrating and put you off fountain pens for life!
I wanted to write an article that gave a few of the better options for people who are new to fountain pens.
… the manufacturers…
Straight out of the gate, I’m going to advise sticking with mainstream fountain pen manufacturers.
These are companies with a good reputation for a quality product. You may not know who they are, so here are my top five picks before we talk about specific pens:
- Lamy – A market leader in fountain pens and inks from Germany.
- Kaweco – Going head to head with Lamy, also from Germany.
- Parker – A high quality manufacturer from USA. You must have heard of them!
- Pilot – Gorgeous fountain pens from Japan. Exquisite engineering.
- TWSBI – Perhaps unknown to you, an exceptional manufacturer from Taiwan.
There are other manufacturers such as Conklin (pictured above), Monteverde, Diplomat etc and these are worth considering, however the big five listed above are the manufacturers that most come up with conversations with folks who are new to fountain pens.
… the fountain pens…
I’ve chosen one fountain pen from each manufacturer that I consider a good starter for a fountain pen novice.
In general these pens are extremely reliable and range in price from around CAD $33 (Kaweco) up to CAD $151 (Parker).
While the upper end may seem a little expensive, you get an amazing writing experience for the price. This is also true of the lower cost pens. It’s a fountain pen palindrome.
… The Lamy Safari…
The Lamy Safari is well known and classic, and one many beginners choose as their first pen.
It’s a low cost fountain pen that is beautifully engineered with quality well above pens you might find in your local Staples.
The pen comes in a variety of colours and nib sizes – Medium (a good choice if you are not sure what size to go for), Fine, Extra Fine and Broad.
Lamy manufacture their own nibs and as such have a great mechanism that allows you to swap your old nib for a new one that you can purchase separately. Including stub nibs to give a little italic style to your writing.
Nibs are generally smooth out of the box and give few problems. Lamy use a propitiatory fitting for its cartridges and converter.
If you prefer to use cartridges over bottled ink, as many beginners do, then you are stuck with a limited number of colours and have to use Lamy’s own cartridges.
While this may seem a pain, it’s not a big deal and their ink is delightful to use.
Eventually you may graduate to using bottled ink, in which case their Z28 converter is exceptional and fits snuggly on the pen. You’ll be able to use any bottled fountain pen ink.
… The Kaweco Sport …
The Kaweco Sport is as well known as the Lamy Safari and is an interesting and exceptional pen for a new fountain pen owner.
The first thing you will notice about the Kaweco Sport is its small size. This could present a problem for you especially if you have big hands…
But wait! Here’s the solution: Post the cap of the Kaweco on the end of the pen before you write. The act of posting the cap means exactly what it sounds like: stick the cap on the top of the pen.
This makes the Kaweco Sport suddenly become a full sized pen and easy to handle! Exactly how it was designed!
Kaweco use nibs from another German manufacturer, Bock. These nibs are second to none and are generally very good out of the box.
The great thing about the Kaweco Sport is that once you screw the cap on, you have an incredibly small and convenient pen that fits in a pocket or a bag. The Sport is designed to be easy to carry and well, thrown around (hint: it’s in the name).
Another great thing about the Kaweco Sport is that it uses international standard fittings for its converter and cartridges.
In terms of cartridges, this means you can use any fountain pen ink from any manufacturer who adheres to the international standard (J. Herbin, Kaweco, Monteverde, etc). It gives you a wide range of colour choices.
Because of the small nature of the pen, Kaweco has two converters you can use for bottled ink. The first is a piston converter that looks like a mini plunger. The second is the squeeze converter, a lower cost bladder converter.
Both converters take a little bit to learn how to use, but given a few minutes you’ll easily be able to fill them with ink.
... The Parker 51 …
The Parker 51 is the 2021 redesign of an extremely well regarded vintage pen.
I wanted to add a pen that was more what a beginner might be expecting in a fountain pen.
Like the Lamy Safari, Parker use a proprietary fitting for cartridges and their converter. Unfortunately they only have two colours in their cartridge range – blue and black. But Quink is good ink.
The pen itself is not large. It’s a diminutive pen that has an amazing nib that performs exceptionally.
You’ll notice that the nib is ‘hooded’ and it gives the pen an extremely distinctive look and feel. The original Parker 51 had a hood to stop the Parker fast-drying ink from doing just that before it hit the paper.
While it’s lovely to see the hood back on this pen, it’s more for cosmetic value than anything else. But it does finish the pen very nicely indeed.
If you are looking for a more traditional fountain pen, perhaps as an executive or someone who appreciates classic design, then the modern Parker 51 is sure to delight you.
… The Pilot Metropolitan …
The Pilot Metropolitan is a delightful pen and is certainly one of my first choices for a beginner to the world of fountain pens.
The world of fountain pens often revolves around European pens. Until someone mentions Japanese pens and oos and ahs come from the crowd.
Japanese fountain pens stand alone and manufacturers from Japan create fountain pens with the amazing surgical precision you would expect.
For a low cost pen, you get a high cost experience.
The Metropolitan is extremely reliable. It has a good weight and lovely texture to the barrel. The nib performs very very well.
Pilot use a propitiatory fitting converter and cartridge system – as all Japanese manufacturers seem to – but again, it’s reliable and works well.
You could sneak up the chain and go for a Custom 74 or Custom Heritage 91. And then there are the amazing Capless pens that have a clicker like a ballpoint pen has. But you don’t need to.
The Pilot Metropolitan provides a really good experience for the novice fountain pen owner.
One thing to note about Japanese fountain pen nibs. Sizes differ somewhat compared to European nibs. For example, a Japanese fine nib writes more like a European extra fine. A Japanese medium might seem like a European fine. Just something to keep in mind.
… The TWSBI Swipe …
TWSBI are an amazing fountain pen manufacturer from Taiwan.
Take a look at their amazing and unique TWSBI Eco or 580 fountain pens and you’ll see a pen with an integrated piston filling system that means you have to use bottled ink right off the bat.
Luckily for the novice fountain pen owner, TWSBI have only recently introduced the Swipe. This is a low cost pen that uses international standard cartridges and also comes with a piston converter in the box (two for America and Canada).
TWSBI also use nibs from the extremely well known German manufacturer, JoWo. JoWo nibs are among the most renowned nibs that are currently manufactuered.
The long and the short of it is that the Swipe gives you an amazing, well engineered and reliable writing experience straight out of the gate.
I suspect that once you use the Swipe, you’ll be curious about the Eco or other pens. Expect the same quality as the Swipe, but to a higher degree.
A note about TWSBI cartridges. These are international standard, but they are LARGE. They have a greater ink capacity than the most common short international cartridge, and come in three colours at this time.
As always, TWSBI surprised fountain pen fans with this cool pen that comes in Prussian blue or smoke.
… The End …
Actually, not really the end. Probably the beginning. Welcome to the rabbit hole.
I’ve listed five amazing choices for the first time fountain pen owner. Links to the pens and where we have them, videos follow below.
I think you’d be happy with any of the choices listed above.
Find the fountain pens listed here at Knight’s Writing Company: