The Tools & Toys Guide to Fountain Pens

Fountain pens are no longer an old man’s game. Whether you are a complete novice or an ink-stained guru, here are our favorite fountain pens for each type of user.

Starters: The Lamy Safari

Lamy Safari Fountain Pen

Though there are easy-to-find disposable fountain pens available in the $3-$10 range, the Lamy Safari (fine nib or extra-fine nib) is the best fountain pen for starters.

The molded ABS plastic Safari was originally created for German students and is now a benchmark for utilitarian design. The nibs are silky smooth, the barrel and clip can take a beating, and it is easily refillable with cartridges, but can also use an ink converter for bottled inks. If you’re at all interested in dipping your toe into the world of fountain pens, don’t waste your money on the ultra-cheap disposables — they’re likely to leave a bad taste in your mouth for how nice a decent fountain pen actually is.

(Don’t forget: Ink cartridges for the Safari.)

Intermediates: The TWSBI 580

TWSBI 580 Fountain Pen

The Twizz-what? Yes, the TWSBI (pronounced like frisbee) is a relative newcomer to the market. This Taiwanese manufacturer with US roots has been gathering fans quickly by combining top-tier features with exceptional pricing. The 580 is their latest fountain pen, which offers a piston ink-filling system favored by many who prefer to use bottled fountain pen ink.

Bonus nerd factor: TWSBI provides a wrench and silicone grease with instructions on how to disassemble the pen completely with each purchase.

(Don’t forget: Bottled ink for the TWSBI.)

Experts: The Pilot Vanishing Point

Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen

It’s fitting that the expert-level fountain pen might also be the easiest to use out of the entire bunch. The Pilot Vanishing Point has an interesting feature set though, starting with a retractable nib (yes, retractable). This is one of the few retractable-nib fountain pens on the market and it is extremely well done.

When engaged, an 18K gold rhodium-plated nib appears through the trap door, which also serves to keep the nib protected when retracted. The Japanese nib is much finer than its German counterparts as well, meaning a Fine nib on the Vanishing Point will write a finer line than the Extra Fine nib of the Lamy Safari.

(Don’t forget: Ink cartridges for the Vanishing Point.)

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This article was written by Brad Dowdy. Brad has been scouring the globe for the best pens and paper since 2007 on his blog, The Pen Addict. You can also find him tweeting regularly @dowdyism.

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