Favorite 5: Modern Fountain Pens

Holy Cow! It’s been nearly three years since I update my Favorite 5 Modern Fountain Pens list. It’s time to update the list. There are really only two qualifications for a pen to be eligible for the list. First, it must have been manufactured since I was born (my definition of modern. Second, it must have been used since in the last year. Typically, rule #2 is that it must have been used since the list was last updated, but that was too long in this case. “Favorite” is totally subjective and does not equate to “best” or “best value.”

The first three pens on the list were easy choices. The last two were picked from numerous contenders.

1. Sheaffer Balance II Aspen (M/F)

Sheaffer Balance II Aspen (M) with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottleThe Aspen returns to the list and at the top. The only reason it dropped off was the “must have used” rule. Its fragility keeps it from being used more often. It’s siblings, the Jade Green and the Crimson Glow could also be on this list, but I decided to limit myself to just one. The Aspen is my personal favorite among the three. I recently did a long term review of the Balance IIs.

2. Shawn Newton Eastman (any Esterbrook nib)

Shawn Newton Eastman with Esterbrook #2314F nib and Montblanc Irish Green uncappedThe Eastman is a custom pen so it shouldn’t be a surprise that it made the list. It fits my hand perfectly and can use any of my Esterbrook nibs. I tend to pick bright inks because I like the look in the clear body. The pen is typically desk-bound. All that ink in the barrel tends to splatter ink in the cap when it’s bounced around. (Review)

3. Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen (M)

Sailor KOP with Callifolio TeodoraThis pen has been inked 14 times in 2 1/2 years, which is a lot for me. I shouldn’t even have this pen (and wouldn’t if I didn’t handle it at a pen show). The pen is too expensive, and the nib is wider than my personal preference. Yet, I wouldn’t touch the nib, and the pen is constantly inked up and used.

4. Edison Huron Grande (EF)

Edison Huron Grande with extra fine and Montblanc Bordeaux bottleAnother custom pen. It was actually my first custom pen. It’s huge which means it’s desk-bound. I recently re-arranged my desk to make it more analog friendly. This means that my two desk pens on this list are getting more use.

5. Kaweco Brass Sport (EF)

Kaweco Brass Sport on leatherIt took me a while to realize that this pen belonged on the list. When it went dry, I immediately inked it up. I sold off another metal Sport simply because I realized I’d never pick it over this pen. (Review). While I do love the look of this pen and it’s an excellent writer, it makes this list mainly because of its utility. It may not get used a lot, but it’s inked up far more than any other pen, and I would regret its loss.

Wrapping Up

Notably absent from this list are my Visconti Homo Sapien, Pelikan M805 Stresemann, and Montblanc Ultra Black LeGrand. All three are “favorites” and met the requirements for inclusion. Yet, I decided that in the final analysis they just didn’t quite make it. I am fickle so they may be on a future list. Maybe I’ve become bored with them? They certainly aren’t among the pens that will be sold off as I trim my accumulation.

Whenever I go through my pens for an article like this, I always stumble upon a pen where I shocked at how long it’s been unused. It was no different this time. The Pilot Custom 823 seemed to be an obvious choice for inclusion, but it was last used in 2017, so it didn’t qualify, I put it aside to be inked as soon as possible.

I’m also a little conflicted in that only two of these pens are currently available for retail purchase and, one of those has a hefty price tag (Nearly equal to the combined cost of the other four pens.). But this is an entirely subjective favorites list, so it reflects what my current pen tastes are. I’m also delighted with my current accumulation, which is reflected in an empty pen “want list” and the lack of any new pens in the last year and a half. (Except a couple TWSBI Go’s)

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Favorite 5: Modern Fountain Pens

It’s been six months since my Favorite 5 Modern Fountain Pens list was updated. I consider a modern pen to be one that was manufactured after I was born, it doesn’t mean they are currently manufactured. The other rule is that I have to have used to pen since I last updated the list, so since November 2015. These are my personal favorites which is completely subjective.

My “must have used” rule means the Sheaffer Balance Aspen was dropped from the list, which surprised me. And now I’m itching to ink it up again so expect it to return on the next update.

1. Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age EF with Pelikan Blue-Black bottleThis has been my favorite since I got it in December. That new pen glow has faded and I still love the pen. It’s one of the few pens I have that I pick up to use simply for the pleasure of using it, even if I don’t need to write anything. It hasn’t been constantly inked because I want to give other pens a chance. And I do miss it when it’s not inked. I’m still enjoying using a different ink each time I ink it up.

2. Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe extra fine with R&K Blau-Schwarz LEThis was number 5 on my list in November. I like it a little more each time I use it and now it has a solid hold on the number 2 spot. The extra fine nib is one of my thinnest nibs and I love it. The looks of the pen only enhance the experience.

3. Pilot Custom 823

Pilot Custom 823 fine nib with Pilot Blue-Black InkThis is far from my favorite looking pen but it’s a great writer and perfect for my hand and holds a what seems like a bottle of ink. Between the comfort, the nib, and the ink quantity it seems like I could write forever with it.

4. Pilot Vanishing Point (Cherry Bamboo) with Left Oblique Nib

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo with medium left oblique nib and Pilot Blue ink (cartridge, not the bottle shown)This is the only pen on my list that doesn’t have a factory nib. It’s a factory medium that’s been ground to a left oblique. It sits on the paper perfectly when the pen is in my hand. Because it does require proper (or at least consistent) form to use it I don’t often use it for notes or as a daily carry if I’m mobile. But it does get used for longer writing sessions.

I like the wooden Vanishing Points much more than the metal ones and find them much more comfortable to hold and use. The Cherry Bamboo finish (that’s not actually bamboo) is my favorite.

5. Pelikan M805 Stresemann

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann extra fine nib with Montblanc Bordeaux writing sampleThe number 5 slot was hard to pick as there are several pens I could put here. I picked the Pelikan M805 Stresemann because of all the pens not currently inked up this is the one I miss the most.

The nib does bother me a bit, which I’ve mentioned. I’m getting more used to it so it bothers me less and less each time I use it. It in fact may have helped the pen make the list since it’s not just another extra fine nib, it does provide a different writing experience.

Wrapping Up

I also started using a Lamy Safari again. While I wouldn’t trade it for one of the top 5, I really do enjoy using the pen. It once held the spot as the most recommended pen for new fountain pen users, although has a lot of competition these days. But it’s still my favorite budget pen. While the grip may bother some I find it very comfortable.

There were a lot or runners up (or contenders for the number 5 spot). The Franklin-Christoph Model 66 and Edison Huron Grande are past list members, but I haven’t been in the mood for large desk pens recently. The Franklin-Christoph Model 02 with a stub nib and Model 02 with a needlepoint nib were also contenders but I want to ink the M805 more than either of these.

Favorite 5: Inks

It’s been nearly a year since I last updated my Favorite 5 Inks list making it time for an update. The first two are slam dunk picks for the list and will probably be there until I run out. Neither is made anymore. The other three are new to the list. This newness, and the shiny glow that goes with it, helped get them on the list.

1. Montblanc Bordeaux

Edison Huron Grande with extra fine and Montblanc Bordeaux bottleMy perennial number one ink and it will be until I eventually run out. There’s no point in having the ink unless I use it, so even though supplies are limited it’s always in a pen. Ink Notes

2. Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz LE

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe extra fine with R&K Blau-Schwarz LEA blue-black ink that’s another perennial favorite. This was the first blue-black ink I truly liked, rather than tolerated. It made me more open to trying other blue-black inks, although none can compare. This one was a limited edition and I was smart enough (that’s my claim at least) to buy two bottles. Like the Bordeaux the supply is limited but there’s no point having it if I don’t use it and it’s nearly always in a pen. Ink Notes

3. Athena Sepia

Franklin-Christoph Model 20 Vintage Green with a broad stub nib and Athena Sepia Ink bottleThis replaces Montblanc Toffee Brown on my Fav 5 list. It’s a nice dark brown ink with just a touch of line variation in most nibs. Athena is a store brand for Maruzen so while it’s not technically a limited edition it is hard to find.

4. Pilot Blue-Black

Pilot Custom 823 fine nib with Pilot Blue-Black InkFinally, an ink that’s easy to get and relatively inexpensive. This is my choice as an everyday workhorse ink.

5. Sheaffer Peacock Blue

Sheaffer Balance II (Crimson Glow) with Sheaffer Peacock Blue bottleI don’t like turquoise inks, except when I do. This is the rare exception and a turquoise I like. It flows great and has nice line variation with even my preferred thin nibs. It’s not made anymore so it’s another with a limited lifetime although I’ll give the current Sheaffer Turquoise a try when it does run out.

Favorite 5: Modern Fountain Pens

It’s been over 6 months so it’s time for me to update my Favorite 5 lists, starting with my Favorite 5 Modern Fountain Pens. The rules are the same as when I lasted updated the favorite 5 modern pens list in May. First, the fountain pen has to have been used since the last list update. Second, to be a modern fountain pen it has to have been manufactured after I was born. So in my accumulation that puts the Sheaffer PFM I’s in the transition period and I classify those as vintage since they were probably manufactured before I was born. One of them could have been used to sign my birth certificate, none of the ones listed here could have.

I dropped two pens from May’s list. None of my KarasKustoms Inks have been used since May, so they’re off the list. This surprised me but it was undeniable. The Pelikan M805 Stresemann also left the list and this was a tough decision as it’s been continuously inked since I got it. My recent ink notes cover the reasons why. In short –  I just can’t get past the width of the nib. I go back and forth about getting it ground to either a truer extra fine or even a left oblique. I’m now leaning towards getting it ground and if I did it would probably return to the list.

This is a strictly personal list, I’m not claiming these are the best modern fountain pens, but they are my favorite. On to the pens…

1. Sheaffer Balance Aspen SE

Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE medium nib with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottleThe Sheaffer Balance Aspen enters its second year as my favorite fountain pen. It’s gorgeous and has a terrific nib. (I did have to have a problematic feed fixed by Mike Masuyama and the nib was tuned at the same time.) Even though it’s officially a medium nib, it’s a very thin medium. Review

2. Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo (Left Oblique nib)

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo with medium left oblique nib and Pilot Blue ink (cartridge, not the bottle shown)This is a new addition to my accumulation and debuts as my second favorite modern fountain pen. While the red bamboo isn’t really bamboo (and not called bamboo in some markets) I can get past that because the pen is gorgeous and feels comfortable in my hand. I enjoy the warm feel of the wooden Vanishing Points over the cold metal versions. The left oblique nib is perfectly suited to the grip of the Vanishing Point, at least for me.

The pen has that new pen glow and the nib benefits from being uncommon in my collection (except for some Easterbrook nibs). This helped it make the list but it’s still a solid choice. This Just In article

3. Pilot Custom 823

Pilot Custom 823 not postedThe Pilot Custom 823 dropped a spot but it is a solid member of my Fav 5 list. I like the classic cigar shape which is comfortable in my hand. The rest of the design is just “meh” for me and I am getting tired of it. Even though I like brown I’m not a fan of colored demonstrators or gold trim, which pretty much describes this pen. Yet, when I use the pen I forget all that and just enjoy it. The fine nib is a Japanese (read: thin) fine with some spring to it, making it a soft touch. This provides a nearly perfect writing experience. Review

4. Edison Huron Grande

Edison Huron Grande Extra Fine Nib and R&K Blau-Schwarz LE inkThis is my only custom pen. It’s huge and hold about 5 ml of ink. It’s big and bright with a extra fine nib. It’s too big to be a regular carry, but it’s usually at my desk filled with one of my favorite inks. This Just In article

5. Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe extra fine with R&K Blau-Schwarz LEAnother new fountain pen that made the list. The Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe joined my accumulation back in July. It’s heavier than my first Pro Gear which is a plus in my book. The thin line of the extra fine nib limits the inks I can use since with my aging eyes the ink has to be dark enough for me to see. Even so, I would not change the nib.

The new pen glow helped this pen make the list. I have to admit its hold on the #5 slot is tenuous and it may be replaced by one of the runners up.

Wrapping Up

There were a couple fountain pens that were close runner ups. The Franklin-Christoph Model 20 was a strong contender, especially the one with the stub nib. The Regency Stripe beat it out because while all these are unlinked, I’m most anxious to ink up the Regency Stripe.

I have two more Sheaffer Balance IIs, either of which could have made the list. They are the same as the Aspen except for the acrylic. They all share the thin medium nib that I like.

Every time I compile this list I wonder why I have 150 fountain pens in my accumulation. If I can pick 5 I should be able to get down to a dozen or so. Nah!

Favorite 5: Inks

It’s been over a year and a half since I last listed my Favorite 5 inks, so it’s time for an update. This was much harder than picking favorite pens, which is one reason I kept putting it off. Three of the inks from October 2013 remain on the list.

I also ended up with four Montblanc inks on this list. I would have said it’s my favorite brand overall, if I was forced to pick just one, but going into this I wouldn’t have expected it to dominate the list and I looked for inks to replace one or two of them. But I kept the list as-is since I do think these inks give me a nice spread across the spectrum of ink colors I like to use the most.

1. Montblanc Bordeaux

Photo of a bottle of Montblanc Bordeaux ink

Montblanc Bordeaux Ink

Easily my number 1 ink. This is always in one of my inked pens, at least since I decided to stop hoarding it and actually use it. I did pick up another bottle from eBay to replace one I recently finished. So now I’m back up to four bottles (minus one pen fill). Montblanc Bordeaux ink notes.

2. Rohrer and Klingner Blau-Schwarz

Photo of a Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz bottle

I’m not a fan of blue or even blue-black inks, yet this blue-black is a favorite and even moved up the list a couple of slots. Unfortunately it’s a limited edition ink. This ink is a regular in at least one of my pens. Ink Notes

3. Montblanc Permanent Grey

Sheaffer Balance Aspen LE medium nib with Montblanc Permanent Grey ink bottle

A new addition to my list but I’ve grown to really like this ink despite its potential for boredom. It’s a regular in my favorite modern fountain pen which has a nib that brings out the best in this ink. Despite its relatively high cost I bought a second bottle to have on hand. No review yet.

4. Montblanc Toffee Brown

Bottle of Montblanc Toffee Brown Fountain Pen InkI like brown inks and this is my current favorite. I don’t have much to add other than my Edison Menlo is my favorite choice for this ink, although mainly because it’s color coordinated. Montblanc Toffee Brown Ink Notes

5. Montblanc Irish Green

Photo of an open Montblanc Irish Green bottle

Whenever I want a true green ink I keep reaching for this bright green. Ink Notes

Wrapping Up

I obviously have a preference for Montblanc inks, despite not having any of their pens. It just turned out this way. It helps that I trust their ink for my vintage or hard to clean pens since Montblanc intends them for use it their own expensive pens.

The last two inks, Toffee Brown and Irish Green are the most likely to vanish from this list since they aren’t inks I always have inked up. But the first three inks on the list are always in a pen and were easy choices as favorites.

What are your favorite inks?