It’s been over a year since my Favorite 5 Vintage Fountain Pens list changed. I revisited the list six months ago but decided there weren’t any changes. In the last six months I’ve been almost all modern. Because of this, picking a favorite 5 was a bit easier since by definition (at least my definition) a favorite pen should be one that is used. So I didn’t have to decide from among my entire vintage accumulation. A vintage pen is any pen manufactured before I was born. Here’s my current list.
1. Esterbrook J (any of them)
I moved the Esterbrook J to the top spot since it was easily the most used vintage pen these past six months. Maybe it’s a cheat since I used several barrels and many different nibs, but that’s what makes the Estie J a favorite. Now that I’ve run through all my nibs (although there are many I don’t have) maybe I can narrow it down to a favorite nib or two (or six) for the next update. No real review of the pen but the nibs are indexed here with links to their reviews.
2. Sheaffer Balance Lifetime Oversize c1935
This pen gets used so often because of it’s looks. The custom stub nib is a smooth writer. While the stub is far wider than my typical fine or extra fine preference my horizons are expanding and I’ve grown to love this nib. It was a coin toss between this and the Esterbrooks for the top slot. The Esterbrooks won on volume. I was surprised to see I haven’t reviewed this pen. At the very least I need to do a photo post.
3. Sheaffer PFM I
This is borderline vintage. Since most were sold before my birth I choose to believe mine were manufactured before I was born. This is the low end trim for the PFM line but it works well for me. The photo and the review are of my first PFM which was blue. I bought a second PFM I in green which is my color preference. Review
4. Sheaffer Balance Junior c1931 with custom stub nib
This ugly pen used to top my Fav 5 list. It’s still a smooth stub nib that I love, but I’ve used it less over the last six months. Review.
5. Parker Vacumatic Maxima (1942) Silver Pearl with Nickel Trim
This was second vintage pen (an Esterbrook $1 was my first) and it’s still a favorite. I love the vintage Vacumatic finishes and this one is in pretty good shape. I haven’t used it recently but since this article jogged my memory I’ll be inking it up.
The Parker Duofold Senior c1928 (Big Red) is a sentimental favorite but it was reluctantly dropped from the list in favor of the Sheaffer PFM I. Big Red leaks a bit around the nib which has kept me from using it. But I have to admit, sentiment aside I’d have to pick the PFM over Big Red even if it didn’t leak. The other four pens were on my first Fav 5 list although they’ve swapped positions around. What’s your favorite vintage pen?
It’s been over six months since my last Fav 5 modern fountain pen list so nows a good time for an update. I’ve been almost exclusively modern for the last six months so this is where I have the most change. For the record, my definition of modern is and pen that’s not vintage. In other words, any pen manufactured after I was born.
1. Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE
This one came out of nowhere and took the crown. The pen is beautiful and I just smile as I use it. While its medium nib wouldn’t be my normal choice my horizons are expanding. The nib and flow were tuned by Mike Masuyama so it writes as good as it looks. I’m glad I resisted the urge to have him grind it to an extra fine. Review
2. Lamy 2000
Another new addition to the list and another Mike Masuyama tuned nib. I love holding the pen and writing with it. The material has a unique look and feel. Myke voiced his opinion on this pen on a recent Pen Addict podcast and I couldn’t agree more. Every last detail of this pen contributes to a great experience. Review
3. Franklin-Christoph Model 66
My nib on a stick and the only fountain pen to be on this list since the beginning. This fountain pen just writes and it does it well. The simple design is so comfortable. There’s a new Ice version but for me this pen must be black. The Model 66, along with R&K Blau-Schwarz ink, gives the lie to the statement that inks can’t stay in a pen for a year. This pen has gone over a year with regular use, but no cleaning and has never failed to perform. Review
4. Pilot Custom 823
The Pilot Custom 823 drops from the top of the list but it’s just as good as it ever was. It’s been inked often but I just haven’t reached for it as much as the top 3 pens. Review
5. Pilot Vanishing Point Maplewood
This has all the benefits if the Vanishing Point but the wood barrel is so much more comfortable. Plus, it’s just a tad bigger. The interchangeable nib units are a nice bonus. Review
Trimming this list to five fountain pens wasn’t easy. I ended up picking the pens I’ve been reaching for lately. If they’re favorites they should be the pens I use most. Right? I feel I should pick honorable mentions but that would defeat the purpose of the list, so add your favorites to the comments.
I backed the Ink fountain pen from Karas Customs last December. Like other Kickstarter projects I’ve backed, the pen was late, but it’s here now. Here are my first impressions after using the pen for an hour or two. This is Karas Customs first fountain pen but their fourth Kickstarter pen and sixth KS project overall. I backed at the early bird level for the silver anodized aluminum fountain pen. The pen is available in a rollerball version but that was meaningless to me. It’s been awhile since I backed the project so I had forgotten what to expect. My first reaction was “Holy @$%@, that’s big!” The pen arrived in three parts: pen body (and cap), gripping section/nib and the converter. Each part was sealed in it’s own plastic pouch. Assembly and filling instructions were included along with a discount code for an second Ink. Even though it arrived in pieces (probably because a rollerball version was available and would have had a different section). Assembly was easy and no different than most fountain pens these days. The section just screws into the barrel. I decided to skip the pre-ink cleaning which is what I think most people will do. I immediately filled it with Montblanc Mystery Black. When I first started writing the pen felt strange. Not uncomfortable, just strange. I finally figured out the my hand didn’t like the difference between the gripping section width and the width of the barrel. I got used to it after about a page of writing and don’t notice it anymore. The threads are big and a little sharp, but the section is long enough so that my grip doesn’t rest directly on the threads. The fine nib is made by Schmidt. Flow is good. It’s not the smoothest steel nib I have but it is smooth. A look through a loupe shows that the tines are slightly misaligned. I haven’t experienced any skipping with the pen and I wouldn’t call the nib scratchy so the misalignment isn’t significant. The pen is big and heavy, although the pen body is not as heavy as it looks and it’s very comfortable to write with. I’ve only written a few pages so I can’t really speak to fatigue, but I don’t expect it to be a problem. The pen cap feels heavier than the body but this is an allusion created by having most of the weight in the clip. The pen body is 26 grams (with the converter and ink) and the cap is 16 grams. I don’t post my pens and this one is plenty long enough to use unposted. The cap does post but it doesn’t feel secure to me. Plus, the cap makes the pen very long and very top heavy. With much of that weight in the clip I also find it unbalanced. Speaking of the clip, I love the look of the clip but it’s solid aluminum with no spring to it. Because of this it won’t grip the material unless its thick enough. It’s secure in the shirt pocket I have today because the material is folded over and sewn at the top. It may be less secure in the typical dress shirt pocket. There’s also no give for really thick material but in my case it does fit in a Franklin-Christoph Penvelope case which is probably the thickest material I’ll encounter. Overall the Ink has a machined look to it which I like. It both looks and feels solidly built. The aluminum finish does collect fingerprints but they aren’t too distracting and I do have to look closely to see them. My early bird price was $60 and at that price the Karas Customs Ink fountain pen is a terrific value. At the regular pledge price of $70 it’s still an excellent value. Brass and copper sections do cost a bit more. They still aren’t up on the Karas Customs website so the final price is unknown, but I’d say anything under $100 is a good value. The fit and finish are great and the pen feels like it will last forever. Update: After storing the pen nib up overnight it didn’t start in the morning. I ended up having to prime the feed. Since this hasn’t been a problem with the ink in other pens I suspect there’s some manufacturing oil in the pen and a cleaning would have been better rather than jumping right in.