The Sheaffer VFM is a strange bird. It’s the only fountain pen in the Sheaffer line that doesn’t take Sheaffer’s proprietary cartridges. It uses standard short international cartridges, and only short international cartridges. It’s too narrow for a standard converter or a long cartridge. (It might take the small Kaweco or Monteverde converters but I haven’t tried them.) Sheaffer says VFM means “Vibrant, Fun and Modern.”
The VFM is Sheaffer’s entry level fountain pen, selling for about $17 these days. I bought mine when they were a buck cheaper.
Why I Got It
I already had an order going and I decided to add a cheap modern Sheaffer to see what they were like. I’d grown to love vintage Sheaffers but I like modern Sheaffers less. My youngest Sheaffer was 10 years old. I actually got this before the Sheaffer 300 I have already reviewed.
I picked the Maximum Orange finish, expecting to get a nice bright pen.
What I Got
As I mentioned, a strange pen that takes only short international cartridges. There’s no room to carry a spare cartridge either. The pen arrived in a box with two cartridges, one black and one blue. The barrel is too narrow for Sheaffers proprietary cartridges. Usually short cartridge only pens are pocket pens and too short for anything longer. This barrel is long enough for a cartridge or converter but quickly tapers and is too narrow for anything longer.
The pen is already on the thin side, even at its widest point, to begin with so it doesn’t take much to make it too thin. The metal barrel makes this unsuitable for use as an eyedropper filler.
The orange color was more subdued than I expected, especially since it was called “Maximum Orange”. In my opinion it doesn’t live up to either “V” for vibrant or “Maximum”. It also looks like it has some texture that would help in gripping, but it doesn’t. It’s not a slippery fountain pen per se, but if your hands sweat in the summer it will be slippery.
The nib is a medium stainless steel nib that has a plain design. “Sheaffer” is engraved into the nib along with an “M” for medium, but it’s a plain engraving that lacks the stylized “S” seen in other Sheaffer nibs. The Sheaffer website lists a fine nib option but I’ve only seen mediums for sale. When I bought mine the medium was the only option, otherwise I’d have picked the fine nib.
Sheaffer is also engraved around the cap band, three times as a matter of fact. So there’s no doubt who made the pen. The trim and nib are all silver which is my preferred trim color. Sheaffer says the trim is nickel plate.
While I threw out the box before I took any pictures it was a pretty nice box, although simple. It wasn’t a blister pack and would have been suitable for wrapping as a gift.
The pen is a slip cap design and the cap does hold securely when the pen is capped. It has a simple chrome that does have the trademark Sheaffer white dot but no other designs or the split clip seen in other recent Sheaffers.
The VFM has a metal body so it does have feel like a solid pen. It’s a simple design which appeals to me although I don’t like the orange finish.
- Length Capped: 5.4255″ (137.81 mm)
- Length Uncapped: 4.7545″ (120.76 mm)
- Length Posted: 6.0240″ (153 mm)
- Section Length: 0.9065″ (23.02 mm)
- Section Diameter (near nib): 0.2970″ (7.54 mm)
- Section Diameter (below barrel): 0.3705″ (9.40 mm)
- Section Diameter (mid-section): 0.3380″ (8.58 mm)
- Cap Diameter: 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
- Barrel Diameter (widest near cap): 0.4570″ (11.61 mm)
- Weight (with ink cartridge): 20 g
- Weight (body only – with ink cartridge): 20 g
Writing With The Pen
This is the type of pen which probably wouldn’t be cleaned first by most users since it’s an entry level pen. So, while I did have the pen for over a year before inking it up, I popped in a cartridge without flushing it out. The Sheaffer supplied cartridges had been separated from the pen so I picked a Diamine Prussian Blue cartridge as the first ink for this pen. The ink took about 5 minutes to reach the tip of the nib, using just gravity and capillary action.
I don’t typically post my pens so take this for what it’s worth. When I first posted the cap I thought it was secure, thanks to friction. But I did write with it a bit when posted and it’s really not all that secure. It doesn’t wobble when writing but if the cap is bumped, even lightly, it does come loose. Some ink from inside the cap transferred to the barrel when posted. The pen remains well balanced when posted.
The pen is just barely long enough for me to use it unposted which is my preference and how I used this pen.
The Sheaffer VFM is thin and light which means it’s not a pen I can write with for any length of time. I tend to grip pens like this much too tightly and get fatigued or even cramps after writing about 10 minutes. This isn’t really a criticism of the design, the pen is what it is and would be perfectly suited for others. It was expected, and one reason it took me so long to ink up the pen.
I did have a couple of skips with the pen but not enough to be annoying. It was usually after a minute or two pause right after writing quickly. It’s not the smoothest steel nib but I didn’t expect it to be. It’s comparable to my Pilot Metropolitan although the Metropolitan may have a very slight edge. But they’re both inexpensive pens and the difference was so minor that a different two pens could have their positions reversed due to manufacturing differences.
I prefer extra fine nibs, especially thinner Japanese extra fines, but I didn’t find this nib too wide for me. Unfortunately the nib is a size I prefer for longer writing sessions, when I don’t need to write small, but the pen is a size I can’t use for long writing sessions. So it’s taking awhile to run through the cartridge of ink and I’ve yet to write it dry. I ended up pulling the cartridge early so I could include cleaning the pen in this review. I decided not to put it back.
Diamine Prussian Blue, in a cartridge, is the only ink I’ve used in this pen. Performance was good and it was easy to clean from the pen. See the next session about cleaning.
Cleaning the Pen
The pen does not come with a converter so flushing the pen could be difficult if this is your first pen. Although if this is your only fountain pen you may not be putting it on the shelf very often. So cleaning the nib under the faucet may be enough. If you have a bulb syringe or a international converter from another pen then it is easy to clean.
I used a bulb syringe and the feed was ink free with just a couple flushes.
I have more positive feelings about this pen than negative even though this pen isn’t for me (too thin and light) but if you like this size pen then that’s not a problem. The Pilot Metropolitan is usually considered the gold standard for entry level fountain pens and unless you like the look of the Sheaffer VFM more than the Metropolitan I can’t come up with a reason the pick the VFM over the Pilot. The Pilot uses a proprietary filling system but will take a converter. (The European version, called the MR, takes short international cartridges, making this moot.)
This is my second modern (meaning currently available new) Sheaffer and both performed well out of the box. I don’t think of Sheaffer as being to deliver a consistently good nib for their pens but my experience, although limited, is making me reconsider. Still, I can’t bring myself to recommend Sheaffer over Pilot as a first fountain pen.
I’m not convinced that cartridge only is a big negative in an entry level fountain pen but unfortunately for Sheaffer, this may be their entry level pen, but it’s priced to compete with more versatile fountain pens and those manufacturers have even less expensive offerings with very nice nibs but the same limited versatility. Most pens at the VFM price point seem to be converter capable, except for the ones designed as compact pocket pens. The Sheaffer VFM is long enough for a converter, just not wide enough.
The Sheaffer VFM is not a keeper for me. It’s not a bad pen, but just not for me.