A long, long time ago in a world far far away; in a time when the internet was known as ARPANet and the ideas that one day turned in to the iPhone were just starting to be discussed, junior schools handed out fountain pens to those leaving to go to high school.
This was meant to be the significant transition when a pupil moved from being a child writing with a pencil to a young adult using a fountain pen. The fountain pen chosen to grace this moment in our lives, when it came to my turn, was a Platignum and a more horrible fountain pen you would have had trouble finding.
To give you an idea of how bad they were you could, quite literally, cut paper with the nib; needless to say, the majority of these pens ended up in the nearest bin and we all went to the nearest store that sold stationery and bought a Stypen. And whilst they were not great (the plastic frequently cracked) the nib was, at least, halfway decent; roughly on a par with modern disposable fountain pens. But what impressed us most was being able to load a cartridge and keep a spare in the barrel, it was a simpler time and we were easily impressed.
Now this got me thinking; with the school summer break just around the corner the retail world is about to go ‘Back To School’ nuts. And whilst no one is going to be handing out fountain pens anymore I wondered what the easily available options are that wouldn’t cost a significant amount of pennies?
So, with that in mind I decided to look at a couple of pens that might make their way on to your shopping list even if it’s only as an impulse buy.
My criteria was simple; inexpensive (under £10.00GBP) and practical for everyday use. And being inexpensive makes it an easy decision to pick one up and try it out, especially if it’s a first fountain pen.
So, the pens I chose were the Faber-Castell School Fountain Pen and the Platinum Prefounte fountain pen; £7.99GBP and £8.99GBP respectively.
Faber-Castell School Fountain Pen
The Faber-Castell comes from a distinguished heritage and was an impulse buy in a Waterstone’s bookstore.
It is a basic plastic moulding; the snap cap has a small button type finial on top with an inner cap to stop the nib drying out. It also has a simple metal clip carrying the Faber-Castell branding that flexes well and will easily allow it to clip to the average softcover notebook.
The section is rubber coated black plastic and this has what appeasers to be a push in nib/feed and this then screws into the barrel which is long enough to hold a spare cartridge (international short size).
In use the pen is very light and comfortable but the nib proved to be scratchy and somewhere between a Fine and an Extra Fine, definitely not the Medium it says it is.
Having tested this pen out it is not a pen I would recommend; to me it seems like a cheap generic pen that Faber-Castell have had packaged just to have a presence in that part of the market. If you really want a Faber-Castell don’t waste your money on this pen buy a Faber-Castell Grip instead; it starts around £15.00GBP but it’s a pen that’s worth your pennies.
The Prefounte is a step up from the Preppy and it’s a very nice step up and the one I’m looking at today is a Medium nib Graphite Blue version currently retailing at Cult Pens for £8.99GBP.
Like the F-C, above, it too is a snap cap with a metal clip but this one has a cap built in two parts; there is the main body of the cap and then top quarter which holds the clip and the ‘slip & seal’ inner cap that stops the pen drying out.
Platinum claim that their ‘slip & seal’ caps stop pens from drying out for around a year; I tested this with one of their 3776 fountain pens and after 14 months I took the cap off and started writing and it worked.
The section is clear plastic so you can see the whole feed and the barrel, like the cap, is Graphite Blue.
When tested this pen worked flawlessly it was smooth to write with and delivered the medium line as promised (or 0.5mm as Platinum describe it) and you can feel the build quality.
Cartridges Or Ink & Converters
Cartridges are convenient to carry with you and allow you to reload your pen in seconds, but we live in an age where plastic waste is considered problematic at best, and it is something we aim to minimise. So, are cartridges the best answer? Particularly as there is the ‘International’ size but many companies, like Platinum, still produce unique cartridges.
Cartridges are also costly when compared with bottled ink; Platinum cartridges are sold in packs of two and each cartridge holds approximately 1.2ml for £1.55GBP per pack. Whilst a converter holds roughly the same amount of ink, an 80ml bottle of Diamine ink will cost you £6.25GBP and give you approximately 66 refills at about £0.01GBP each. So, as you can see, in the long run, it is cheaper and more eco-friendly to invest in a converter and a bottle of ink.
But having said all that carrying a cartridge as a backup for one of these pens is still a good idea.
Of the two low cost pens I chose the Platinum is, without a doubt, the better of the two in every sense and the one I would recommend. And if this is a first fountain pen then it’s a good pen to start with and if it works out then it could be worth looking at a piston filler such as the TWSBI Eco and if it doesn’t work out then I would recommend the Pilot G2 gel ink rollerball.
Disclaimer: All of the pens were purchased with my own funds at retail price. The opinions expressed in this review are my own; and I am not connected with either the retailers or manufacturers in any way.