When buyers shop for a new pen, they usually want a balance of style, usability, and durability. Copper and brass pens perfectly blend these traits to create beautiful items that feel substantial in the hand, last a lifetime, and write with ease and grace. Of course, with so many pens on the market, it can be difficult to know what to shop for.
Pen manufacturers have used copper and brass metals to manufacture ballpoint and fountain pens for hundreds of years. Thanks to their charming color, strength, and malleability, these two metals make wonderful pens that feel warm and comfortable in the hand. And, as long as you are willing to care for your pen, it will maintain its natural shine for decades to come.
In this ultimate guide, we will familiarize you with everything you’ll need to know to make a smart investment in a copper or brass pen. We’ll discuss some of the properties of copper and brass, explain how to maintain the shine and condition of your pen, and introduce five quality pieces that work well in any pen collection.
Table of Contents
The Beauty of a Brass or Copper Pen
Copper is a reddish-brown metal that’s been used by humans since the Chalcolithic period. This metal is found all over the world, but the highest-quality copper comes from mines in Australia, Chile, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Russia, and the United States. It is valued for its malleability, conductivity, and iconic color, making it one of the most expensive non-precious metals.
Brass, in contrast, is an alloy of copper and zinc. The proportion of zinc can range from 20% to 45%, but the most common ratio is 34% zinc to 66% copper. This metal has a long history, dating back to the Bronze Age, and has been used to create everything from musical instruments to coins. Like copper, brass is valued for its beauty, strength, and resistance to corrosion.
Comparing the two metals, brass is stronger and more durable than copper. It is also more resistant to tarnishing, making it a better choice for everyday carry pens. That said, some people prefer the softer color and vintage appeal of copper.
If you plan on using your pen regularly, we recommend choosing a brass model. But, if you are looking for a pen to add to your collection, a copper model will age gracefully and develop a rich patina over time. Both pens will need some cleaning but the addition of zinc in brass helps it to withstand oxidation and age more slowly than copper.
Unique Properties of Brass and Copper
As we’ve discussed, both brass and copper have a few key properties that make them ideal for pen manufacturing. But these metals also have a few quirks that you should be aware of before making a purchase.
For starters, both metals are highly conductive, meaning that they’ll absorb the heat of your body, creating a pleasantly warm writing experience. However, this conductivity can also cause the ink in your pen to dry out faster than usual. As a result, we recommend storing your copper or brass pen in a cool, dry place when not in use.
Another interesting fact about copper is that it has inherent antimicrobial properties, meaning that it naturally repels bacteria and other microbes. This makes it a great choice for people who are concerned about cleanliness, as well as those with allergies or sensitivities.
Finally, it is worth noting that both metals carry some weight, helping to create a pen that not only looks stylish and old-worldly but also feels substantial and valuable in hand. If you prefer a lighter pen, you may want to look for a model made from another material.
Understanding Patina and How to Care for Your Pen
As we’ve mentioned, one of the defining characteristics of copper and brass metals is their ability to develop a patina over time. This natural aging process is caused by exposure to oxygen, moisture, and other elements, and results in a darkening of the metal’s surface.
Patina can add character and uniqueness to a pen, helping it to stand out from the crowd. However, some people prefer the look of a shiny, new pen. If this is the case, you’ll need to regularly polish your pen to maintain its original luster. Fortunately, polishing a brass or copper pen is a fairly simple process.
All you’ll need is a soft cloth, some water, and a mild detergent or metal polish. First, wet your cloth with warm water and add a small amount of detergent. Gently rub the cloth over the surface of your pen, taking care to avoid the ink reservoir.
Rinse your pen with clean water and dry it off with a soft, dry towel. If your pen is particularly dirty or tarnished, you may need to use a metal polish. We recommend using a dedicated brass or copper polish, as these products are specifically designed to clean and protect these metals.
The Top 5 Brass and Copper Pens for Your Collection
Now that you have an idea of what makes brass and copper pens so unique, let’s take a moment to explore five incredible pens that would work well in your collection. Whether you are looking for something for everyday use or want a showpiece, we have something for everyone.
1. Tactile Turn Bolt Action Ballpoint Pen
- Solid hand-machined copper barrel
- Titanium moving parts
- Fluid bolt action side click
- Backed by a lifetime guarantee
- Comes in a left-handed option
Tactile Turn is a leading pen manufacturer owned and operated by Will Hodges, who is an avid pen collector. The brand is known for its precision machining, simple luxury, and innovative designs. Additionally, of their pens are made in the USA (Texas) and backed with a lifetime guarantee.
The Tactile Turn Bolt Action ballpoint pen is arguably the only pen you’ll ever need. Its sleek and stated design resembles an elongated bullet cast in 100% copper, paired with a titanium clip and a small sliding bolt action. The action moves in a single fluid motion to push the tip of the pen out or retract it back.
This pen oozes expertise with its smooth writing experience, solid one-piece barrel, and finely balanced weight. It comes in standard (5.6”), short (5.1”), and mini (4.4”) sizes, offering the perfect length for any writer. Additionally, there is a slim version of this pen, which may feel more comfortable in smaller hands.
I opted for the standard pen, and you can see below how it compares to the two short Tactile Turn pens I own. I will say it feels very hefty in the hand, but I really like the feel of it.
For just $10, you can also engrave your name, initials, or a short message into the clip, or you can request a Titanium Damascus bolt for an additional $20.
2. Machine Era Original Brass Ballpoint Pen
- Minimalist brass design that fits the hand
- Screw on cap that easily posts
- Uses Pilot G2 ink refills
- Ages into a rich golden brown color
Up next, we have the Machine Era Original Brass ballpoint pen. This sleek yet minimalist pen is constructed from fine materials that feel comfortably weighty as your hand glides across the paper yet perfectly balanced for an easy writing experience.
Its solid brass body is designed to gently patina over time into a beautiful golden brown and, thanks to its simple threaded cap, there are no moving parts that could break down over time. Best of all, it uses Pilot G2 ink cartridges, which are widely available and easy to replace. So, whenever your pen runs out, simply remove the dud and refill it to start writing again.
The Machine Era Original Brass is an ideal everyday pen and, thanks to its tight cap, you could even walk around with it in your pocket. Make this a personal favorite for jotting down notes, taking up sketching, or simply placing it in your briefcase for when you next need a professional writing utensil. And, at a price of only $38, this pen is well within anyone’s budget.
3. Kaweco Liliput Copper Fountain Pens
- The metallic body made from high-quality materials gives this first-class fountain pen a special feel and elegance.
- With 9.7 cm when closed, only 8.7 cm in open and 12.5 cm with screw-on cap, the Kaweco LILIPUT is one of the smallest...
- The precious raw materials such as copper and brass develop a natural, individual patina over time through use and thus...
- The production is carried out by hand and with individual controls in the pencil town of Nuremberg.
- First-class quality functionality and best service have always been at the forefront of our mind.
- Small and handy design that fits into any pocket
- Balanced with a postable screw-on cap
- Comes with an additional copper-plated steel nib
- Retro stylings
If you are looking for a pen with some vintage flair, you’ll love the Kaweco Liliput fountain pen. This stunning piece is inspired by Kaweco’s original octagonal pocket pen from 1935 and, like the original, it is small enough to fit in your shirt pocket.
The Liliput is constructed from solid raw copper that will develop a beautiful patina over time. It has a screw-on cap that can be posted on the back of the pen for a comfortable and well-balanced writing experience. When not in use, the pen can be stored in the included leather sleeve, which will protect it from scratches and dings.
This pen uses Kaweco’s standard international short cartridges, which are widely available, or you can use the Kaweco converter to fill it with your favorite bottled ink. If you are looking for a gift that’s sure to impress, the Liliput comes in a beautiful gift box that includes accessories such as a copper-plated steel nib, one ink cartridge, and a leather sleeve.
4. Retro 51 Lincoln Tornado Rollerball
- Antique copper finish
- Smooth flowing rollerball ink
- Can be coverted to a ballpoint with Easy Flow refill
- Brushed brass made to look like an antique pen
- Knurled metal click
- Affordable yet eye-catching
- Safe to place in a pocket
The next pen on our list is the Retro 51 Vintage Lincoln Tornado rollerball. This pen is a modern take on a classic design and, like all Retro 51 pens, it is sure to turn heads. The Vintage Lincoln is constructed from solid brass that’s been finished with an antique patina, giving it a unique look that will only become more beautiful over time.
This pen has an old-school profile with a wide barrel that tapers towards the grip and a knurled metal click that produces a pleasant sound whenever you are ready to do business. It uses a capless rollerball tip that’s refillable with any standard international size and, like all Retro 51 pens, it comes with a one-year warranty.
Although the Vintage Lincoln looks like a humble piece, its antique stylings are sure to spark conversation. It is also an affordable option compared to pricier fountain pens, coming in at $33.60. The pen does not come with added accessories but it does arrive in a fun and quirky case that harkens back to the 1950s.
5. Kara Kustoms Decograph Signature Edition
- Limited edition
- Handcrafted to the highest degree of excellence
- Customizable with steel, titanium, or 14K gold nibs
- Comes with a converter and additional cartridges
Last but not least, we promised a showpiece and, with the Kara Kustoms Decograph Signature Edition, we didn’t disappoint. This stunning solid copper fountain pen is limited to only 30 pieces and each is handmade in the United States. Buyers can choose from a full range of steel nib sizes (extra fine, fine, medium, broad, extra broad) or opt for titanium in EF, F, M, and B sizes.
The Decograph is a modern take on the classic lever-filler fountain pen and it is outfitted with a solid aluminum clip that’s both light and durable. All of the parts are handled with care during manufacturing and Kara Kustoms guarantees start-to-finish white glove service. Additionally, for a higher price, buyers can purchase 14k gold nibs if they so choose.
The Decograph comes with a beautifully crafted black leather sleeve for storage, a standard international converter for refilling, and two black international cartridges. If you are looking for a gift that’s sure to impress, the Decograph is an excellent choice. The pen itself is a work of art and, at a starting price of $240, it is priced accordingly.
We hope this ultimate guide and our reviews have helped to narrow your search for the perfect copper or brass pen. We know just how difficult it can be to find the perfect balance of style, durability, and usability but, with our help, you can be sure to find a pen that will look great, write like a dream, and last a lifetime.