It’s time for my own embarrassing moment of truth. Having sold them for 3 years, I myself had been intimidated by fountain pens until just a few short months ago. My handwriting typically looks like chicken scratch, and I have not practiced cursive since middle school.
The elusiveness of non-horrible handwriting haunted me. Since fountain pens became the focus of Truphae in late 2018, I knew that I would need to quickly become acquainted with how to use them properly.
This was a daunting task, but thanks to my lovely wife, it wound up to be so much easier than I could have ever imagined!
Unfortunately my wife can’t be there to talk you through it (or occasionally yell you through it, in my case), but hopefully I can give you the information that I personally needed in order to get started using fountain pens. The first step is to choose your fountain pen!
Choosing a Fountain Pen
If you’ve never used a fountain pen, the chances are that you don’t want to spend over $100 to get started. We’ve compiled a list of our top 10 starter fountain pens on a budget, in order from least to most expensive.
- Platinum Preppy – If you just want to dip your toe in the water without really getting your feet wet, or if you’re just a cheapskate like me, the Platinum Preppy is a great option. At just $5, this fountain pen comes with an installed cartridge, so it is ready to write from the get-go. You can also install a Platinum piston converter if you’d like to use ink from the bottle. Oddly enough, due to the incredible price of the pen, the piston converter will cost more than the pen itself!
- JINHAO X450 – If you’re looking for the best bang for your buck, look no further than JINHAO. The X450 is larger and much heavier than most fountain pens under $30, so you can get a real substantive feel when you write. It’s like writing with a cigar…made of metal…with ink in it. The X450 even comes with a pre-installed piston converter, so you can use bottled ink. You’ll probably never confuse this with a $500 pen, but you’d definitely think it was more than $10.
- Noodlers Nib Creaper – You’ve seen the fancy flex pens on social media, and if you’re like me, you’re pretty darn jealous of the calligraphy that some people are able to create with these pens. If you’re looking to test out your calligraphic skills, the Noodlers Nib Creaper is a great place to start! At under $20, you get a flex nib, and a huge variety of colors to choose from. I like the Pink Panther just because the name is awesome.
- Platinum Plaisir – If you are looking for a pen to only use for occasional writing, the Platinum Plaisir features a cap that prevents the nib from drying out for up to one year! With an aluminum body, the pen will feel cool to the touch, so it is great for a warm sunny day. But if you only write with your fountain pen once a year, we may need to have a talk…
Pilot Metropolitan – Yes, it is the same company that produces some of the most valuable maki-e pens in the world.
With some pens costing over $10,000, Pilot is renowned for creating some of the most exquisite writing instruments in the world. Thankfully for those of us of lesser means, Pilot has been producing high-quality Metropolitan fountain pens since 2012. These are available for under $25! The Metropolitan is my personal go-to for anyone that is just starting out.
You get the reliability of a time-tested manufacturer, so you can be sure that you have a fountain pen that will always be ready to go without easily drying out, or experiencing any other writing issues. They offer many different colors and nib sizes, so you can easily find the perfect pen for your personality and writing style without breaking the bank. They also come with a converter, so you can use any bottled ink! My favorite of the series is the white tiger; instead of being made with metal, it is made of a sort of lacquer, which feels super smooth to the touch. There also aren’t many white pens, so it makes a statement.
JINHAO Silver Dragon – If you like the thought of a fountain pen on a budget, such as the JINHAO X450, but are looking for something with just a little added flair, there’s an option for you too!
The JINHAO Silver Dragon features a three-dimensional dragon motif on the barrel. The red eyes of the dragon remind you that you are holding a really trendy pen. That guy in the office that’s always cooler than you is no longer cooler than you.
The three-dimensional body also allows for multiple gripping points, so it’s easy to handle when writing. The pen comes in the Double Dragon option as well, which features the same motif on both the cap and barrel.
LAMY Safari – Likely the best selling fountain pen in the world, the LAMY Safari is a true workhorse pen that you can use and abuse without having to worry about it wearing down. Made of high-quality ABS plastics, the Safari is available in a multitude of colors, as well as the full range of Fine, Medium and Broad nibs.
Not only that, but the nibs are easily swappable, so you can exchange from all different nib sizes if you choose. You can get these for under $30. Converters are sold separately, however, so for $6 you can have that or two scoops at Baskin Robbins – a choice that is astonishingly tough for me.
- Conklin Duragraph – It’s got the classic look – sharp features, an eye-catching pocket clip, and magnificent color themes, with the Ice Blue being my favorite. The Duragraph is available in Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, and “Omniflex”, you can choose the perfect nib for you – even if you want to be like Justin and bring Flexy back!
Monteverde Rodeo Drive – With its rounded top, the Rodeo Drive is a very cool design. If you are a car enthusiast like myself, you can appreciate the importance of smooth lines.
The curves in this pen are absolutely beautiful! My favorite color option is the Polaris, which has an iridescent color throughout, along with a blacked-out nib. They also just released a gorgeous Iridescent Purple option. This is available at just $68 on our website!
- Conklin All American – Okay, so you’re ready to try your first fountain pen, but the rest of these pens have been for peasants – bring on those pens in the higher price points! My personal preferred pen under $100 is the Conklin All American. It comes in a variety of colors, with Lapis Blue and Sunburst Orange being my two favorite picks. They come in the full range of nibs, from Extra Fine, Fine, Medium, and Omniflex. They’re quite thick, too!
Time to #BeInkredible
If you’re still having a hard time choosing, and are not sure what pens or inks you may like, we would recommend giving the Inkredible Box Inkmeister a try! Yes, that was a shameless plug, but hey – it’s my blog! You’ll receive a budget fountain pen and ink each month so that you can hone your skill, while also zeroing in on your preferences. These boxes are just $25 per month, and come with a special coupon code for 5% off any other item on the website. You’ll also be entered to win promotional pens each month as well!
If you have picked out the perfect pen for you, it’s time to fill it up with ink! For more information on all the different filling types, just refer to our blog: How to Fill a Fountain Pen. After your pen is filled, you’re ready to go write to your heart’s content – if you’re writing checks, my name is Cash. Now you, too, can #BeInkredible!