Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – March 18, 2018

Currently available pens

My fountain pen usage over the past week was down a little bit from the previous week, but still pretty good (for me). I did use the disposable pens more than my real fountain pens. My favorite (based on time used) has been the Itoya Blade, usually in the PaperSkater sheath.

A couple follow-up items for the disposable pen article, now that I’ve been using them.

  • While the pens don’t appear to be knock-offs, they all seem to use the same nib. Or they picked the same nib design on their own, which seems unlikely. All share the same shape and size, along with the circle engraved at the top of the slit. The only differences are that Itoya has their name engraved, and Pilot has their name and nib size engraved. I suspect Pilot makes the nibs for all three. Or, is this the one nib they don’t make themselves? Also unlikely.
  • Thornton’s also fit the PaperSkater, without the spacer.
  • The Thornton’s can be just a tad slow to write after spending a night nib-up un a pen stand. Not a big problem, but that first stroke often needs repeating.
  • Keith was the first to mention the Zebra disposable fountain pens that I missed.

How things have changed since I got into fountain pens. | The Ink Smudge

A New Hobby – Quest for Pie

My Workhorse Pens: Lamy 2000 — The Gentleman Stationer

Review: Visconti Homo Sapiens London Fog — Alt. Haven

Karas Pens Decograph Giveaway Winner

I picked the winner of the Karas Decograph giveaway. There were 81 comments and 30 entries using the contact form for a total of 111 entries.

The winning number was:

Winning number from
The winning number picked at

The winning comment is:

Pen Giveaway winning comment

If this is you, reply to my email within 72 hours. I heard back, so the pen is claimed.

Disposable Fountain Pens

A Pile of Disposable Fountain Pens

I’ve had disposable fountain pens around, on and off since I started using fountain pens regularly 20 or so years ago. Back then it was exclusively the offering from Pilot, I’m not sure if it was called the Varsity back then, but it was the only brand available in brick & mortar stores.) Back then I used them because they were an inexpensive option for a nice writing pen.

My later use case and my current reason for the search is that they provide a variety of ink colors without the pain and suffering of maintaining all those pens.

While a variety of colors close at hand is my primary reason, I do have other motivations. The disposable pens are great to have on hand if a non-fountain pen user wants to borrow a pen. If they bust the nib, it’s no significant loss. It’s also a great option to evangelize fountain pens as they are cheap enough to give away. It’s a sure bet that they write better than the cheap pens the recipient is using.

After finding that Pilot Varsity pens were no longer available in my local office supply stores, I went online. That led me down a rathole to five different disposable fountain pen brands. The five brands are listed below, I bought pens from the first three brands, but passed on the others.

Pilot Varsity (aka V Pen)

7-Pack of the Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens

This pen is the Varsity in the United States and the V Pen everywhere else. They have slightly different skins but are the same pen. The V Pen costs more in the U.S. because it comes from a different (non-US) source, not because it’s an improved version. I couldn’t find any fine nib version of the Varsity in my recent search, but the V Pen did have fine nibs available. I don’t know if my search was lacking, or if the fine nib version is no longer officially imported into the U.S.

Thornton’s Office Supply Novice

I don’t know anything about the Thornton’s Office Supply brand, but they sell various office supplies through many online retailers. Their disposable fountain pens are available with fine or medium nibs. Twelve colors are available. There’s a twelve-pack with one of each color. But, unlike the Pilot Varsity, there are also twelve-packs for many of the colors. The possessive is part of the brand name, which drives my grammar checker nuts.

Thornton's Office Supply Novice 12 pack

Itoya Blade

I always thought of Itoya as the U.S. distributor of Sailor. I also vaguely remember some expensive Itoya branded pens from a pen show (but my memory could be faulty). Their website is half-baked (looks good, until you start clicking links) but they (Itoya of America) are a subsidiary of the Japanese retailer Ito-ya Ltd.

So, I don’t know if their disposable fountain pens are new products, or just new to me. They only offer disposable pens with blue or black ink.

Itoya Blade 2 Pack

Bic Disposable Fountain Pen

These appear to be primarily sold in the U.K. and are expensive from U.S. online retailers. I’ve seen these with blue or black ink. Office Supply Geek reviewed these pens back in 2014.

Malarkey Disposable Fountain Pen

I’ve only seen these on eBay and Amazon. The ink color isn’t mentioned but my first guess would be black and my second would be blue. They have a great name and a low price. Unlike the other four brands, these come with a cartridge (which they call an inkwell). There’s a fountain pen network review here.

Quick Look at the Pens

As I mentioned, I purchased disposable pens for the first three brands. The Bic was too expensive here in the U.S. and didn’t provide anything the others didn’t offer. The Malarkey, while different and cheap, didn’t appeal to me and I already had the other pens.

None of the disposable brands I bought appear to be knock-offs or rebranded versions of the same pen. The Thornton’s and Bic could be siblings (but not twins), although I’ve only seen pictures of the Bic.

Pilot Varsity

A tried and true disposable fountain pen that I’ve used for over 20 years. It’s been a consistently good performer and a great value. My experience is they are durable and survive well when bouncing around in a briefcase or computer bag. The seal is good, and they don’t evaporate ink, surviving months in a desk drawer and then immediately writing when needed. The nibs are consistent, as is the ink flow.

There’s a translucent stripe down the barrel so you can check the ink level.

Despite my praise, of the disposable brands, these are my least favorite to use. It’s the smallest and lightest of the pens and therefore the least comfortable for me after using it a bit. Purely a subjective option, your mileage may vary.

The specs on the Pilot Varsity are:

  • Length Posted: 149.25 mm
  • Length Unposted: 115.50 mm
  • The gripping section is 21.4 mm long and has a girth that tapers from 10.25 mm to 9.95 mm
  • The barrel has a girth of 10.8 mm

Thornton’s Office Supply Novice

While they are different, the Novice has the same design aesthetic as the Varsities. Plastic, with finials the color of the ink. With the Novice the clip also matches the ink color. There’s no way to monitor the ink level.

I haven’t used the Novice enough to comment on durability. All twelve pens in my set have consistently good nibs and put down a consistent, fine line. A Thornton’s 12-pack costs slightly less than a varsity 7-pack ($11.16 vs. $12.98).

The Specs on the Novice are:

  • Length Posted: 154 mm
  • Length Unposted: 122.60 mm
  • The gripping section is 27.39 mm long and has a girth that tapers from 10.88 mm to 10.28 mm
  • The barrel has a girth of 11.84 mm

Itoya Blade

The Anderson Pens podcast often costs me money. This time it was when they mentioned the Itoya Blade disposable fountain pen. (Actually, a companion product that I’ll get to in a moment.)

The Blade is available with only black or blue ink. The two pack has one of each for $8; single pens cost $4.50. A fine nib is the only available option, which is fine with me. (Sorry!)

While the Blade is plastic, it has a more business-like appearance with a lot of metallic looking silver and chrome. The cap is clear.

There’s a viewing window to check the ink level, although it doesn’t extend all the way to the feed. There’s an inner cap that provides a tight seal over the nib to prevent evaporation. Because of this tight inner cap, it takes more force to cap and uncap the pen than the other disposables. I have noticed some ink splatter inside the inner cap.

I’ve had the Blade even less time than the Novice so I can’t speak to durability, but it seems well built, and I expect it to last, and not let the ink evaporate.

The Blade has a companion product called the PaperSkater Galaxy. It’s an aluminum pen sheath that holds an Itoya Blade or Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pen. The Varsity uses an adapter/spacer that is included. It includes a Blade fountain pen (black ink). It gives the pen a bit more weight and girth, which I like. It also gives the pen a classy look. I do have trouble wrapping my head around buying (for $34) an aluminum sleeve to wrap around a disposable pen. But I was intrigued enough to buy one. Well, actually two. I may do a fuller review (although there’s probably not much to say) after I have used it for awhile.

Itoya PaperSkater Galaxy Pen (Itoya Blade disposable in a aluminum sleeve

Size Comparisons (Click on photos for full size):

Writing Samples  (Click on photos for full size):


All three of the disposable fountain pen brands that I tried are good values. The Bic is too expensive in the U.S., and the Malarkey doesn’t appeal to me.

The Pilot Varsity (V Pen) is the disposable gold standard. Maybe earned more because of availability, but it doesn’t lack performance or value. Despite this, it’s my least favorite of the three pens due to it’s smaller size. Entirely subjective so you may prefer it. I recall one or too poor performing Varsities over the years but, at this price level, I think it’s forgivable.

The Itoya Blade and Thorton’s Novice are about the same size. I like the look of the blade much better, and the feel a little better. But the Blade only has two ink colors, and only the Novice fills my many colors requirement. Plus fine nib Novices are cheaper than fine nib V Pens here in the U.S.

In closing, these disposable fountain pens write better out of the box than some “real” fountain pens that I’ve owned.

Notebook and Paper Declutter Recipients

I picked the recipients of my paper decluttering boxes. The emails have gone out, so if you left one of these comments check your email and reply with your shipping address within 48 hours.

Declutter 1 recipient
Declutter 1 recipient
Declutter 2 recipient
Declutter 2 recipient
Declutter 3 recipient
Declutter 3 recipient

Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – March 11, 2018

One pen in and 3 pens out.

A lot of fountain pen changes this past week.

My Visconti Homo Sapien ran out of Montblanc Psychedelic Purple. I decided not to refill it so that other pens get their chance.

Also, the Kaweco Brass Sport ran out of ink as the week ended. I decided not to re-ink it. I realized that I use my pocket pen more if it has black ink. I don’t have any more black short international cartridges; if I did have one, then I’d probably just pop in another one. As it is, I will clean it out and use my Kaweco AL Sport with a Diamine Cult Pens Deep Dark Brown cartridge in its place.

If finally got around to cleaning the Lamy 2000, which is why it’s in the picture.

The Sailor Pro gear KOP is running low on Athena Sepia and should go empty soon. The Montblanc has a large capacity and is still going strong. I averaged two A5 pages per day in my Seven Seas Writer and wrote at least that many pages using my Doane Paper Writing tablet during the week. That’s in addition to the usual work notes, checklists and doodles.

I’ve been cleaning out a dozen years of accumulation around my apartment as I’ll be moving later this year. I finally uncovered my boxes of notebooks and can no longer ignore them or my pens.

So I have a few low-cost boxes of paper products available and a fountain pen giveaway. If you missed them, the paper is at:

Box 1 and Box 2 and Box 3.

The Karas Pen Decograph giveaway is here. Entries close at noon (eastern US time) on March 16th.

I’ll also be selling off some pens. I’ve started with a few groups of inexpensive pens. These pens are listed here.

PSA – Stolen Fountain Pens: help-stefano — Visconti Dave // A lot of pens were stolen from a pen shop in Rome. Many limited editions which would be easy to identify. A preponderance of Vistonti, but some other brands in there too.

The Parker Harlequin | Goodwriterspens’s Blog – I love the look of this pen.

Visconti Divina Proporzione | Fountain Pen Review // My two Visconti fountain pens have been great, but it’s stories like these that give me pause about the brand.

Inside The Manufacture: Montblanc’s Pen Factory And Museum In Hamburg – Hodinkee via @peneconomics on Twitter

There are more pen show reports…

2018 LA Pen Show Report: Franz – Hand Over That Pen

So what happens now? Another pen show, another haul. | Fountain pen blog // Pen shows aren’t U.S. only.

I always like seeing what people actually use:

What I Carry – The Ink Smudge and Pairing it down even further. – The Ink Smudge

The allure of expense and inconvenience (or how I fell for the Montblanc 1912) | UK fountain pens