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Five Best Fountain Pens Under $40

By Bull Garlington

For drawing, journaling or southpaws, luxury writing instruments needn’t be high-priced.

best fountain pens

The best fountain pen you can buy isn’t necessarily the most expensive. An expensive pen is an accessory — it’s meant to be seen. For everyday use, you want a workhorse. You want a pen you can drop on the floor. One that’s good for writing and drawing. A fountain pen that lasts.

Here are classy but affordable choices to suit your various needs.

Best Fountain Pen for Beginners

A Lamy AL-Star Fountain Pen is one of the most durable fountain pens on the market. They’re made from the same heel-piercing indestructible plastic as Legos. Their design is world-class, not fancy. They have a little window showing the ink level so you won’t run out of ink in the middle of a word. These pens were designed to teach German students excellent handwriting, which is why the barrel is shaped to force you to use the correct grip. The most compelling quality for starting your lifelong fountain pen obsession with a Lamy Safari is how durable they are. You can’t crack the barrel of this pen; you can’t even scratch it. The steel nib can take a lot of pressure and effort, even a little abuse. If you drop it on the floor point-first, it might survive — but if it bends don’t worry, they’re cheap to replace. Price: $37.60 – $39.20.

Best One for Drawing

best fountain pen for drawing Noodler's Konrad Flex

Noodler’s Konrad Flex is a gorgeous pen. It doesn’t get the same attention as other fountain pens, which is a shame because this pen is fantastic. It’s durable, well designed and comfortable. Noodler’s pens use a piston-filling method so you’ll need to have a bottle of ink on hand. But that’s easy since Noodler’s manufactures some of the best ink out there. What makes the Konrad Flex a good drawing instrument is all of the above, plus the cost — and the nib. It’s a heat-set No. 6 with a deep slit allowing the tines of the nib to flex widely. When you’re drawing, this flex lets you vary the width of your line just by applying a little pressure. Once you get used to it, it becomes second nature and you’ll find yourself using it to write more decorative script in your daily lettering. If you have a unique signature, this pen lets you give it even more style. Price: Around $26.

Best Fountain Pen for Journaling

Best Fountain Pens Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen

The Pilot Metropolitan is one of my all-time favorites for so many reasons, but three stand out. First, it’s a perfect torpedo. This is a common barrel shape for fountain pens that varies wildly from maker to maker. Pilot found the sweet spot between too small — as in, large hands can’t hold it without cramping — and too fat — as in, small hands can’t hold it without a harness and safety line. Second, it writes perfectly on any paper every time. The feel of the nib on the paper and the flow of the ink — not too fast, not too slow — means you never notice the experience of writing. This may sound counterintuitive, but just imagine if every time you used a pen you could feel it scratching, or it left a spotty line. The Pilot Metropolitan is an enduring, affordable postmodern classic. Price: Around $20.

Best for Everyday Carry

best fountain pens platinum preppy

The Platinum Preppy is the least expensive pen on this list. Jet Pens sells them for less than $6 as does Amazon. But the design, the writing experience and the overall value are right up there with any great pen. Platinum is one of the big three Japanese pen-makers (along with Pilot and Sailor) and offers plenty of writing instruments at the top-shelf price point. But they also offer these remarkably inexpensive pens and thank God. My everyday carry of choice, the pen that never leaves my side, is the Pilot Vanishing Point. But I’ve misplaced it two or three times and panicked each time. It’s just expensive enough that I probably wouldn’t replace it right away. The Preppy writes almost as well as my PVP but if I lose it, I don’t care. I have more. Because they’re cheap. Price: $6 to $10.

Best Fountain Pen for Lefties

best fountain pens Schneider ID L

Fountain pens for left-handed writers don’t exist, except yes, they do. Technically, a person who writes with their left hand can use any pen. Schneider recognized that many left-handed fountain pen users suffer from grip fatigue and stubborn nibs. The Schneider ID L version has a special rubber grip for left-handed users that won a design award. It also uses a ball-tipped nib that gives the Southpaw writer less drag than traditional nibs. Left-handed fountain pen users often have a problem with smudging. Using a fast-drying ink like Noodler’s Bernanke Blue will help. Price: Around $24.

But Wait, There’s More

Look at these cheap fountain pens!

Inexpensive, affordable fountain pens like the ones listed above are great. But secreted among the fountain pen fanatics is a secret cabal of pen addicts hiding their shameful secret:

They love really, really cheap pens. I’m talking about me. I love cheap fountain pens.

Cheap fountain pens are often surprisingly good, and even when they tear an ink-smeared rip across your journal and you hurl them in the trash, they cost less than five bucks, so it’s not like you lost real money. However, sometimes you end up with a cheap fountain pen that’s just as good — or better — than an expensive one.

I’m in a relationship with my Jinhao X450. You can get one for under $10. Mine is heavy, thick and well-balanced. It has an excellent nib and writes as smoothly as any other pen I own. In fact, I use the Jinhao more than I use my Pilot Vanishing Point. I spend more on the Diamine Oxblood ink I put into it than on the pen itself. It really is an incredible pen.

The Hongdian Black Forest pen I picked up in a closeout sale cost me less than two bucks. You can get it new on Amazon or Temu for under $7. It is an amazing pen with an iridium nib and heavy metal housing with a cross-hatch pattern machined into the body. It came with a converter, which I filled with Diamine Sepia ink. I use this pen every day. It’s a genuine workhorse.

The Platinum Preppys are popular among pen freaks for their remarkable .06mm nibs. The pens are under six bucks, almost indestructible and write wonderfully. Personally, they’re a bit light for me — but I love a very heavy pen. Preppys are universally adored, perfect for students, and cheap enough to keep a bunch on hand. (In fact, you can get a multi-color pack of seven.)

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BULL Garlington Bull Garlington

Analog Attorney columnist Bull Garlington is an award-winning author, columnist and public speaker. He is the author of the books “Fat in Paris,” “The Full English,” “Death by Children” and “The Beat Cop’s Guide.” He prefers South American literature, classic jazz, Partagas 1945s, a decent Laphroaig, and makes a mean chicken and andouille gumbo. Follow him @bull_garlington.

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