Eight Interesting Fountain Pens You Might Not Know About

That title is a bit click-bait, isn't it? Sorry about that. Don't worry, number seven won't blow your mind. Number four might a little, but it can't be helped. And we're not saying you definitely won't have heard of these pens, but unless you're an impressively well-read fountain pen geek, you probably won't know about all of these, at least. These pens are ones we think are relatively unknown, and they're all interesting in some way.

LOCLEN Electa fountain penLOCLEN Electa

A polished brass body (also available in chrome or black), and a knurled ring make this pen look unusual, but the filling mechanism and the way the nib is mounted set it apart from most.

Why is it Interesting?

If the filling system was just the standard cartridge/converter, this would still be an interesting and unusual pen. The brass body makes it stand out to start with, and the styling is somewhere between minimalist and steampunk, which really shouldn't be possible.

Then there's the nib mounting - instead of screwing in, as most nib sections do, it's a firm push-fit, held in place with rubber o-rings. The idea is that the nib is just slightly isolated from the metal your fingers are holding by those rubber rings, adding a little bit of 'suspension' to absorb any roughness from the paper.

Then we come to the filling system. It does use a converter. On the inside. But that knurled brass ring you can see and access through the cut-away sections in the barrel is attached to the top of the converter, so you can operate the converter inside without opening the pen, making it work just like a piston filler. Except if there's a problem with this piston mechanism after years of use, it's easy to replace.

Monami Olika fountain penMonami Olika

About as different as you can get to the Electa, the Olika is a cheap plastic pen, but money and metal aren't the only interesting things around.

Why is it Interesting?

Partly because it's so cheap. It's a refillable fountain pen, with a nice comfortable rubber grip, and it costs (at the time of writing) £3.50. That's an amazing price for a pen that's actually nice to use. The nibs are available in Fine and Extra-Fine, and they're properly tipped, no simple folded ends to save cost here.

Oh, and they're available in ten colours, and use standard ink cartridges, so you have hundreds of choices available!

Conklin Mark Twain fountain penConklin Mark Twain

A pen that's been around so long it was endorsed by Mark Twain.

Why is it Interesting?

It's a combination of the history and the filling system. Back when it was invented, Conklin's Crescent filling mechanism was Mark Twain's favourite - it saved needing to remember to carry an eyedropper to be able to refill your pen, and the crescent itself meant the pen wouldn't roll off your desk.

Today, the crescent filler is a real rarity. For those old enough to remember, it's similar to old lever-filler pens, but the sac inside is pushed down by a metal crescent the sticks out of the side of the pen. A ring underneath can be turned to lock the crescent in it's 'out' position, so it doesn't get pressed unintentionally and drop ink everywhere. You just turn the 'lock' ring, dip the pen in ink, and press and release the crescent.

Platinum #3776 The Prime fountain penPlatinum #3776 Century 'The Prime'

You've probably seen other Platinum #3776 Century pens, but The Prime is different.

Why is it Interesting?

Claiming a pen is more interesting purely because of a high price tag is perhaps a little tacky, but we allowed the Olika mainly for its low price tag, so we're going to allow this one for its high price tag. and it is high. Are you ready?

£10,000.

And this is from Platinum, who usually keep even their most beautiful special edition pens at quite realistic prices - yes, many of them aren't cheap, but for what they are, they're reasonable.

The Prime is made of platinum. Not plated with platinum. Made of platinum. It has a hand-crafted platinum nib.

100 of them have been made, and of those 100, the UK allocation is 1. Yes, one pen for the whole of the UK. And yes, you can buy it from us if you have £10,000 to spare, and you want to be the only person in the UK to own one.

Sailor Hi-Ace Neo fountain penSailor Hi-Ace Neo and Hi-Ace Neo Calligraphy

Sailor pens at bargain prices, with the option of italic nibs.

Why is it Interesting?

Well, mainly because it's a Sailor pen. And when you think of Sailor, and fountain pens, you usually think of the Pro Gear and 1911 ranges - beautiful pens, at prices to match. Reasonable prices for what they are, but out of reach for many, or at least not what many would want to use around the office or for school or college.

But the Hi-Ace Neo is a Sailor pen for under £10. It's good quality, looks nice, and uses Sailor's cartridges or a converter. And at under £15, the Calligraphy version has a choice of italic nibs.

Yes, they're simple and basic, but sometimes that's exactly what you need, and we think it's pretty interesting that Sailor quality can be had for such a low price.

Opus 88 Fantasia fountain penOpus 88 Fantasia

Strange styling, and a very unusual filling system for a modern pen.

Why is it Interesting?

At a glance - the styling. It's a simple tubular pen, but short. While most people would be able to write with it uncapped, posting the cap on the barrel will be needed for some, and more comfortable for most. But it screws securely onto the back. The colours are bright and unusual. The cap has that mottled pattern, and rings of different colours.

Then there's the filling system - what's often called a 'Japanese Eyedropper', though these pens aren't Japanese, they're from Taiwan. You fill the barrel with ink using an eyedropper, so there's no filling mechanism to get in the way and limit capacity. So why the piston-like thing in the middle? It's there to seal off the ink from reaching the feed. It makes the pen safer when travelling, as you can prevent much ink from getting to the feed, limiting how much can leak if things go wrong.

There's also a potential problem with eyedropper pens - when the ink level falls, and the pen isn't warm, and you start writing with it, the heat from your hand warms the air in the barrel, and can make it blob out too much ink. It doesn't happen in use too often, but if it does become a problem for you - maybe you come in from the cold and start writing in a warm room - you can just shut off the valve to prevent it.

Oh, and because the Fantasia only has a small knob to operate this shut-off valve, it could be difficult to grip, so the end of the cap acts like a screwdriver, to turn the valve. Again, you probably won't need it most of the time, but it's there if you do.

Tombow Zoom 101 fountain penTombow Zoom 101

Strong and super light-weight.

Why is it Interesting?

Many good fountain pens, especially in the West, are made to be a bit weighty - we often perceive heavier pens to be higher quality. In Japan, lighter pens are usually considered to be more of a sign of quality. For the Zoom 101, Tombow went all out for a light pen. The barrel and cap are made from carbon fibre, making them strong and very light. For the parts that need to be metal, they mainly used a very lightweight aluminium alloy.

There are quite a few pens with carbon fibre, but usually it's either decorative, or it's just a surface pattern to look like carbon fibre. But in the Zoom 101, it's all real.

Diplomat Aero fountain penDiplomat Aero

It looks like a dirigible, and any chance to use the word 'dirigible' is good.

Why is it Interesting?

In terms of functionality, it isn't all that interesting - it's a very good fountain pen, using cartridges or a converter, with a sturdy metal body, and practical clip.

But that metal body is beautiful. It's shaped like a long thin airship, wide at the middle, tapering gently to the ends. It's sculpted, with ridges running along the length.

The result really does resemble a dirigible, yet somehow, is still a beautiful pen, which we would never have thought could go together. Add a choice of anodised colours including lovely and unusual brown and orange finishes, and the 'Factory' raw aluminium finish, and the result is something quite special.

30 October 2019

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