Anthony, of UK Fountain Pens, recently published a thought-exercise: The three-pen collection for £1,000. This led me down a long and winding (but fun) path last Sunday. When I thought I was done I had instead created something closer to an update to my Perfect Penvelope post from 2017. I jettisoned the three pen limit early on in the process, and the number of pens grew. Eventually I turned that winding path into a circle, got back to beginning, and kept the three pen constraint.
The three pen constraint was interesting, and made things harder. I also made the budget an even $1,000 rather than converting the £1,000 to $1,382.94 (Sunday’s exchange rate per Google). I might have made different choices with the higher cap. There would have been room for a Sailor King of Pen. But with the lower limit the other two pens would have to have been cheap Chinese pen bought on eBay, so the KOP wasn’t an option. (One less thing to think about.) To be honest, it probably still wouldn’t have made the list.
I have no complaints about Anthony’s choices. The Lamy 2000 is not a pen for me, but I can’t argue against it’s inclusion. For my choices, all dollar amounts are regular retail prices, rounded up to the next $10 increment, to make math easy. I limited my choices to pens available as new from authorized US retailers, not eBay, Amazon or other grey-market resellers.
Here are my choices…
My first choice is the most expensive of the three. A Kanilea Kona Cherry, with an extra-fine nib. The fountain pen is $400. I’d go with the Classic profile and silver for the medallion and nib. I’m well under budget and lack a gold nib among my three pens. I could splurge and go with a gold nib, while remaining under the cap. I have this pen now, with a steel nib, and it’s perfect. So I don’t see the point of a gold nib.
Alternatives: None that I considered. I’d probably pick a different acrylic if the Kona Cherry went away.
My second choice is the Esterbrook OS Estie with a Journaler nib ($240). The Oversize Estie is comfortable in my hand and I enjoy the Journaler nib. There’s a nice selection of acrylics, and a growing number of custom nibs for the OS Estie. Even with a custom acrylic, and custom nib the Estie Oversize tops out at $360, although the higher price versions don’t appeal to me. This does exclude the announced, but as yet unavailable Accutron Limited Edition, which is a collaboration with the watch company, and costs $600. It’s not just the price that keeps me from including that pen, so my budget cap is safe.
Alternatives: None. Availability, and finding a nice design, shouldn’t be problems.
My third choice is the workhorse of the bunch, and only $80, the Lamy Aion with an extra-fine nib. It’s an all-metal pen that’s built like a tank (although the cap on some models may spin a little too freely). Any Aion will qualify, but I love, love, love the Dark Green model. The nib is a contender as the best extra-fine nib that I have.
Alternatives: The Dark Green is limited in a sense, it’s a 2021 Special Edition. They’ll make them for a while (maybe stopped already) and once they sell through the channel they’ll be unavailable. Earlier Special Editions took about 2 years to become scarce. I really like the Dark Green. If the Dark Green was unavailable I’d consider other finishes.
The total cost of my three pens is $720. I do luck out a bit. I don’t like the more expensive Estie models very much so, I don’t feel compelled to spend more.
While I like extra-fine nibs, I’m not pleased with having two out of the three being extra-fines. The Lamy Aion is locked in because it’s my workhorse pen. I’d consider getting a fine nib for the Kanilea, then getting a custom left-oblique grind. I’d still be under the cap. But that would only be if I was starting from scratch with these three pens. Since I use the Kanilea at my desk, with proper posture (mostly), it’s well suited to the oblique grind, which is my favorite custom grind. I do like variety in my nibs.
In the beginning, the Pilot Custom 823 seemed to be a solid choice as one of the three I’d be picking. It’s a great writer that I can use forever without my hand getting tired. But, I absolutely hate the aesthetics. I don’t like gold trim and I don’t like colored demonstrators. While there is a clear version in Japan, it still has gold trim. Then I realized the Lamy Aion is another thin-nibbed pen that’s a great writer and I can use forever without my hand getting fatigued. In this case, I love, love, love the aesthetics.
A wooden Pilot Vanishing Point (aka Capless) was also on my list for a long time. It’s practical, and nib swaps are simple. But they’re no longer available here in the United States. I could easily order one from a European retailer, and it would cost less than the Kanilea. There’s no U.S. Customs charges and European pen retailers have very reasonable shipping rates to the U.S., unless Covid changed that. Although, with the Vanishing Point, I would cheat and add additional nib units & custom grinds, while technically respecting the three pen limit. I figure the budget would allow an additional two nibs/grinds. It would be a tempting change if there weren’t artificial constraints. The practical side of my brain would want the Vanishing Point, the rest of me would want the Kanilea.
I really like the look of many Visconti and Leonardo fountain pens. But I found that I eventually get bored with their designs and wanted to move on. None of their pens were seriously considered for the collection.
At one point my list had two Pilot fountain pens (Custom 823 and wooden Vanishing Point). Both were eventually cut from the list. I do like Pilot nibs.
If I had converted the £1,000 to US Dollars (about $1,380) I might have made different choices. For one, there would be room to consider a Sailor King of Pen. Consider, but not necessarily pick. I refuse to spend more time thinking about this, but my gut tells me that the KOP wouldn’t replace one of the others, even if the budget allowed.
What are your three fountain pens for $1,000 (or £1,000)? Be careful, it could be said I wasted far too much time on that simple question.