You’re on the Mont Blanc website pining for a fountain pen. They’re so classy. So stylish and personal. Still, when your significant other finds out you paid $670 for a pen, there’s a fair chance they’ll snatch it out of your hands and stick it up your nose. So you click away from the site and get back to work.
Then you have to sign an important document. You grab a pen and it’s a dull blue horror that writes like a rock and is made from the same hideous plastic as a bus bench. That’s it, you decide: It’s time to step up your game and get a fountain pen! And thus begins an obsession, a rabbit-hole excursion into the endlessly fascinating and expensive world of fine writing instruments. It’s not that different from taking up golf. You start small, but pretty soon you’ve spent a big chunk of your kids’ college fund on custom clubs. Or, in the case of pens, a Meisterstück Solitaire Skeleton 149 and you’re somewhere in Mexico, hiding from your spouse.
I get it. I have four fountains pens now and they’re just … not enough. They could be fancier. More vintage. Better. I’m not talking Aurora Diamente ($1.47 million) better, but, maybe a custom nib? I’m obsessed with all things desktop, and fountain pens are my inky jam. And I’m here to help.
If you’re about to take the plunge into fountainpensmanship, then here’s your starter kit. You’re welcome.
Your Beginner Fountain Pen
There are maybe 50,000 articles about which fountain pen is best for beginners and let’s just assume they’re all right. That said, you can’t go wrong with the Pilot Metropolitan. It’s cheap, beautifully designed by one of the world’s best fountain pen companies, and a breeze to use. Although it was introduced in 2008, the Metropolitan is based on pen designs of the 1940s. It has a classically minimal design and torpedo shape, and just enough heft to make you feel you’re using a finely crafted tool.
The Metropolitan comes with a refillable cartridge if you’re into inkwelling. But I think it’s better to pick up a nice box of Pilot Namiki ink at your local stationer. It’s cheap and it lasts. The Metropolitan’s refillable charger is hard to master. It’s a vacuum filler that you squeeze to fill. It took many tries and a variety of splotchy ink stains to finally get the hang of it. But once you get going, this pen is a true wonder of simple reliability. It works and works and works. It uses an economy of ink, yet it leaves a gorgeous line on the page. It fits into your hand nicely. The pen is balanced perfectly, and I think I’ve said enough here.
Alternate: Lamy Safari. Generations of Germans are in love with it.
Your Intermediary Pen
So you’re on your way to becoming an established fountain pen user and your Pilot, while serviceable, needs an upgrade. You’ve set aside a little budget. You want a pen that’s perfect for everyday carry, perfect for meetings, and throws a killer signature. But you want craftsmanship. You want heft. You want luxury. You want the Pilot Vanishing Point in matte black.
This pen has a cult following for a reason: It is ninja-level good. The name comes from its retractable nib. Like a typical ballpoint, you click a tab with your thumb and the nib pops out, inked, ready to go. Hit that tab again and the nib slides back inside, with a little trap door closing behind it so the nib never dries out. The nib is blackened 18k gold. The pen is satiny black with black highlights. Black on black on black. It’s pure rock ‘n’ roll.
Alternate: Esterbrook Phaeton 300R in midnight black.
Your Statement Pen
After you’ve been using the Vanishing Point for a few years, you might find yourself jonesing for an even upgradier upgrade. This is when you wander into deep-pocket penmanship. It’s time for a pen that makes a statement. A midlife crisis pen. A red Corvette pen. It’s time for you to think about the deeper qualities of a great fountain pen: its history, its lore, its place in the pentheon of writing instruments. About the impact it will make on other pen freaks when you whip it out. You should be looking for a pen you can pass on to your grandchildren.
Mont Blanc is the go-to here. They have craftsmanship, and they maintain a solid top-tier reputation in the fountain pen universe. Everyone knows them; everyone recognizes that logo emblazoned on the cap. But there are other pens just as nice with heavy lore. Visconti’s Medici Rose with a gold nib is a worthy piece of work. Also, the Pelikan M815 metal striped pen is luxurious and handsome with a 1930s swagger.
Alternate: You might consider a vintage piece like the Waterman Commando, a solid, serviceable pen from the early 1940s. Its style is classic and its design is durable (hence the name).
Do you have a go-to fountain pen? What’s your pen obsession? Share it in the comments.