I have been getting questions from people that are interested in fountain pens, but they are hesitant to commit to trying one, so I’ve decided to do a few reviews of what I would consider to be good beginner or inexpensive fountain pens to try. I have to say, I dont usually see people using fountain pens as “office supplies” but I know that people like to experiment with different writing tools, so hopefully I can do my part in getting more people to consider them as viable options. I will probably review 3 of them, in addition to a review that I previously did on the Pilot Petit1. The first beginner fountain pen that I will be reviewing is the Pilot Varsity Disposable.
The Pilot Varsity is the first fountain pen that I ever tried, and it is the one that I can say is responsible for me wanting to commit to spending the money on a “real” fountain pen. The writing experience I had with it was very enjoyable and my initial thought was that if I could enjoy a $3 fountain pen, any of the more expensive ones that I was researching must be even better. I am not a huge fan of the design and look of the Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen, but when I originally ordered some other stuff from Colorado Pen Direct, they were offering a free Pilot Varisty with the order, so its not like I was going to turn that down.
When I received the pen in the mail with the rest of the items I ordered, I was excited to give it a try since I had never written with a fountain pen before. I was pleasantly surprised by how smoothly it wrote, and I didnt have any trouble getting a solid line with no skips or white areas, which for some reason I thought might be a problem. The only thing I didnt like (which I quickly got over) was the fact that this was a Medium size nib and it wrote fairly large for my taste. Understanding that fountain pens came with different size nibs, I didnt allow myself to get hung up on the fact that this pen forced me to write a bit larger than I was comfortable with, and I instead focused on things like the pressure required, the smoothness of the nib, and the quality of the line it put on the paper. The Pilot Varsity nailed each of these three criteria in a way that I honestly didnt expect. I was amazed by the smooth writing and solid lines put down by such an inexpensive fountain pen, I had incorrectly assumed that the only quality fountain pen experience would have to come from a more expensive model.
As you can see from the above writing sample, the Pilot Varsity puts down a very bold and vibrant line, you really dont see any white spots where the nib has skipped or scratched at the paper. It is also surprising to see that this $3.00 fountain pen wrote so well in such a basic and non-fountain pen specific notebook. The Mead paper is usually fine for your basic ballpoint, rollerball, gel, or pencil, but I did not expect such great results for a fountain pen. My gut instinct was that there would be a significant amount of feathering or bleed through on this paper with a fountain pen. For the most part, you probably wouldnt want to write on the other side of the paper because the bleed through is noticeable, but I have definitely seen worse. As for the feathering that I had expected, there is virtually none.
The one thing that is both a plus and a minus for the Pilot Varsity as a beginner fountain pen is that it does not have a cartridge or a converter for the ink. It is designed as a non-refillable system, although our friend Seth over at the Good Pens Blog, did a very nice walk through of how to refill one of these if you want to. If you are just looking for a really quick way to find out if you like how a fountain pen writes, then this pen is for you, however if you want to find out how easy/hard it is to refill, then with this pen you wont be able to get the true experience there.
The one thing I dont like about this pen is the ink itself. Although it does write very nicely, I would STRONGLY suggest that you DO NOT use this pen for any check or legal documents, as the ink comes off very easily. A simple running of water over the paper removed close to 80% of the ink, so I cant imagine how easy it must be for a seasoned criminal to wash a check or document filled out with this pen. If you just want a fountain pen to do some basic writing with, head on over to Amazon.com where you can pick up a variety of individual or packages of the Pilot Varsity Fountain Pen.
The next two beginner fountain pens that I review will be slightly more expensive and have a little more flexibility in options that will help the beginner get started with fountain pen use.