Whether you’ve been buying fountain pens for years or you are new to the fountain pen world, this is a one-stop guide for finding the best fountain pen for your needs. This guide is built with the belief that there is not a single pen that can claim the title of “Best Fountain Pen.” Instead, there are many pens which could be considered the best, but it depends on what you want from a fountain pen. We will lay out all that you should consider when deciding on a fountain pen.
Ever since its invention in 1827, the fountain pen has remained immensely popular. Now there are thousands of fountain pen manufacturers out there. Each year more and more models are being produced. The abundance of choices can make it harder to know which pen is the best fit for you. But we promise there is a perfect fountain pen for you out there and we will help you find it!
Before we lay out the particulars of finding the right pen, let’s talk about why you would even want a fountain pen in the first place.
Why Buy A Fountain Pen
Many people are turning to fountain pens today because of digital overload. People find it relaxing and therapeutic to write with pen and paper. Instead of screens and notifications, they find peace and quiet. The process of writing can be enhanced with a nicer pen. Fountain pens write smooth and require less pressure to write which can be easier on the hands.
Fountain pens allow for more customization for your writing tool. You can interchange the nibs to allow for different thickness of lines, or for varying levels of smoothness. All of these work together to create a unique writing experience.
Purchasing a fountain pen will bring pride of ownership. Spending more than you would spend on other pens will make you want to take care of it. Instead of losing your pens often because they are of no value to you, you will keep a better eye on your fountain pen. Plus these pens were built to last. Many pens, like the Parker 51, have been known to work well even 50 years after they are manufactured.
Whatever you are writing will naturally feel more important with a fountain pen. Fountain pens have been around for almost 200 years. Many famous writers have used them, including Mark Twain and Ernest Hemingway. Anne Frank used a fountain pen to write in her diary and said that her fountain pen was one of her most prized possessions. Presidents of the United States sign bills into laws with fountain pens.
Now that we’ve reviewed the reasons for buying a pen, let’s consider what questions we must answer in order to know what fountain pen is the best fit for you. Pondering the following questions can help you narrow down what pen is best. Be thoughtful while answering these questions.
What will you be using the pen for?
This might be the most important question to ask when looking to buy a fountain pen. Different pen styles have different functionality and performance. Don’t disappoint yourself by purchasing a fountain pen that is better suited for a purpose other than your own.
Are you a journaler? Do you have long writing sessions? If so, you may want to spend more time finding a pen that is comfortable in your hands. Fountain pens will write smoother than other pens, so they already will make writing more comfortable, but some provide more comfort than others. You may want to find someone you know who has a fountain pen so you can get a feel for what style is most comfortable. If you don’t know anyone who has a fountain pen try going to a local pen store. If neither of these options will work for you we suggest you purchase one or two cheap fountain pens with varying grips so you can get a feel for what fit works best.
Are you a student? Will you be taking a lot of notes? You might want to look for a pen that has a large ink capacity so that you are not constantly refilling your pen. Also, there are many different colored inks, which means you would probably want to buy a fountain pen converter to allow you more options than a standard black or blue ink cartridge.
Are you a business professional looking to add some style to your writing instrument? If so, consider looking at a brand like Pelikan. Pelikan pens can be found in offices all over the world.
Are you an artist? Just google “Fountain Pen Art” and you can see the amazing art that can be made with a fountain pen. If you are looking to create art with your fountain pen, then look for pens and nibs that are very wet.
Are you interested in calligraphy? Calligraphy is more than just good penmanship it is the art of writing. Fountain pens are a go-to source to begin doing calligraphy. You will want a fountain pen with a nib that is very responsive (a flexible nib). Another item to consider getting is an oblique pen holder (like this one). This tool can take your calligraphy to the next level. It isn’t a fountain pen, but rather it holds your favorite nib at an angle so you can do writing at a slant easier.
How much are you willing to spend on a pen?
Later in this guide, we will explain what factors affect the price of a pen. But make sure you know how much you can reasonably afford.
The Price of a Fountain Pen
Now that we’ve talked about why you would want to buy a pen let’s talk about what differentiates one fountain pen from another. In your journey to find the perfect fountain pen, you will quickly realize that fountain pens can vary dramatically in price. A beginning fountain pen, like the Lamy Safari, can start between $15-20, but a Maki-e fountain pen from the Namiki company could start at $1,000 and quickly balloon to $10,000. So what could possibly make a fountain pen worth over $1,000 or even $10,000? Well, it boils down to quality and craftsmanship, and a little brand recognition thrown in the mix.
The quality of the materials is one of the biggest factors for price. First and foremost is the quality of the nib. If you don’t know much about a fountain pen nib check out this article about them. The nib directly influences the writing of a fountain pen as it is the contact from pen to paper. Nibs can be made out of many materials. Cheaper nibs are usually made out of steel, while the pricier nibs are made out of precious metals like gold or platinum. The higher priced nibs will give a smoother stroke when writing with your fountain pen.
In the last decade, many of the big name brand pen companies have sent a lot of their lower-end models to be made in China. But if the pen is made in Germany, Japan, or the United States you would expect to pay more for the pen. However, don’t worry too much about a pen being manufactured in China, they still produce quality pens.
On the higher end of the spectrum, many expensive fountain pens incorporate more delicate artwork into the creation of the pen. One popular method is the ancient Japanese tradition of applying Maki-e. Maki-e is a decorative Japanese lacquer that is commonly found on expensive fountain pens. The more expensive Maki-e fountain pens are handcrafted. This is a laborious and time-intensive practice. They feature designs and images which treat the fountain pen as a canvas. Many Maki-e artists spend at least a decade as a novice under a master craftsman.
It also matters when your fountain pen is manufactured.
To be perfectly honest the brand matters when it comes to the price of a fountain pen. Some brands have built up the image of their products and are able to command a higher price for them. Brands such as Montblanc, Cross, Namiki, Sailor, Parker, Pelikan, Visconti, and Pilot all fit in this category. They still provide high-quality fountain pens, but they are also have been building the brand image for years and that will play in the price.
We’ve talked about the questions to consider and what goes into the price of a fountain pen. Now let’s go to some recommendations.
The following pens have cemented themselves as the classics. Every true fountain pen collector should have at least one of the following in their collection. These pens make a great first purchase because they have withstood the ultimate test; time. Year after year fountain pen aficionados have consistently chosen these fountains pens to be better than their peers.
Parker 51– The Parker 51 is a true vintage pen. The pen was introduced in 1941 by the George S Parker Company. When this pen was first introduced it was considered high tech and ultra modern. It set the bar for what a fountain pen could be. It has an almost perfectly manufactured filling system that still works in 2019. Not many vintage pens can claim to have a filling system that would still work flawlessly almost 80 years later. The Parker 51 was discontinued in 1972, but can still be found on eBay and in pen shops around the world. It is estimated that Parker produced 20-50 million Parker 51s during its 30-year run. As you learn more about fountain pens you will see the Parker 51 everywhere. It is one of the most talked about fountain pens in history.
Cross Townsend – The Cross Townsend has been a popular model with United States’ presidents. From President Ronald Reagan through President Barack Obama all signed bills into law with special models of the Cross Townsend. If it’s good enough for the leader of the free world it must be a great pen. Cross fountain pens are underrated in general.
Montblanc 146 – Montblanc is a German manufacturer of fine pens. The Montblanc 146 is the classic cigar-shaped fountain pen. If you decide to go with the Montblanc 145 we suggest getting a new nib. It can take your Montblanc to the next level.
Sailor 1911 – The Sailor 1911 is another cigar-shaped pen, but this time from the Japanese pen maker Sailor. The company has been around for over 100 years and is known for creating iconic pens from high-quality materials. Created in 1981, the Sailor 1911 is known for having a flexible nib and a comfortable grip.
The following pens are great for everyday use and can carry the workload of even the most industrious writer. While these pens are a little pricier than other beginner fountain pens they perform so well that we still recommend them.
Lamy 2000 – This pen screams Bauhaus design. This fountain pen was originally designed in the 1960s by the famed Germany company Lamy. Even though the design is almost 60 years old it still looks modern and sleek. The pen is piston filled which means this will be an easier pen to maintain. It also has a large ink capacity.
Pilot Namiki Vanishing Point– This has a modern sleek design. The base model starts around $150. The vanishing point is piston-filled, which means this will be an easier pen to maintain. A unique feature of the vanishing point is it has a “click feature” instead of a cap – no more missing caps! One downside of this pen is that the ink capacity runs on the small side, which means you will be refilling it more often. Also. the clip placement on the Pilot Namiki Vanishing point is very unique and will feel different in your hands.
Pelikan 200 – Usually around $125 on Amazon. The Pelikan 200 is smaller than most fountain pens. So you might not like the grip.
Great Cheap Fountain Pens
Pilot Metropolitan – Coming in around $25 this pen is a popular choice for a first fountain pen. The Metropolitan comes in many different colors and styles so you have can choose the one that speaks to you. The Metropolitan writes smooth and the quality is great for the price but some people do complain that the Metropolitan isn’t the most comfortable pen.
Lamy Safari – Another great starter pen. This fountain pen can usually be found for around $30. The Safari is noticeably lighter than some of the other pens in this guide which adds to the comfort and smoothness of writing with this fountain pen. The Lamy does have a larger clip than most fountains pens but this shouldn’t bug most people. Some people complain that the look of the Safari isn’t the most beautiful. Unfortunately it has a proprietary cartridge filling system so it doesn’t come with a converter. You can still buy a converter but it will cost a few dollars more.
Where to Buy Pens
Goulet Pens – Started in 2009. This website has become a staple for all pen enthusiasts. They carry fountain pens, ink, and paper. They also have a great collection of pen review videos.
Amazon – Amazon has a wide selection of fountain pens and ink. If you have Amazon Prime this may be your best option if you want your pen and supplies quickly.
Ebay – Ebay is a great resource for finding great fountain pens cheaper. They have used (as well as new) pens. Plus, they have a great collection of vintage and antique pens. Of all the options listed this may be the riskiest, but still a great option.
Brick and Mortar – Depending on where you live there may be a dedicated fountain pen specialty store near you. This may be a great option if you are wary of buying an expensive fountain pen online. Lamy – the famous German pen maker – has two U.S store locations in New York City and San Francisco. Barnes and Noble is another option. They tend to have a good collection of fountain pens in their stores.
Learn More about Fountain Pens
If you’re new to fountain pens, you might want to check out our guide on How to Write with a Fountain Pen. We also explain how to chose the right ink. Let us know in the comments if you have other questions about fountain pens or have a favorite!