Pilot’s most famous fountain pen is without question the Vanishing Point (aka the Capless). This is the best selling and simply the best retractible nib fountain pen ever produced.
Many models have been introduced since the Vanishing Point’s inception in the early 1960s and the one I am reviewing today is a “Namiki” branded model with a faceted black plastic body and white metal trim. This body style was introduced in the 1970s stayed in production until the late 1990s. This particular Vanishing Point was made in 1997 right before the introduction of the current metal bodied Pilot Vanishing Point in 1998.
This older model (which I will refer to from now on as the “faceted VP”) is much more attractive with its elegantly integrated clip and slimmer faceted body. The current Vanishing Point has a much less harmonious design with bloated clumsy look to it.
The faceted VP is lighter and slimmer, weighing in at 18.5 grams and measuring just 11mm wide (clip not included). The current model weighs in at 31 grams. To my hand the faceted VP is much more comfortable to use.
The nib on this faceted VP is 14kt gold instead of 18kt gold on the current production model. The nib started life with a medium point and was ground into a butter line stub by Pendleton Brown.
This particular grind offers a great combination of usability and writing flair. I have done a number of custom grinds on medium nibs and this one my favorite so far. The nib is so smooth with just a hint of feedback…it’s luxurious.
The converter. These faceted VPs use a squeeze sac converter. It doesn’t hold enough ink so I always use cartridges with the metal cartridge cap.
The current model by comparison uses the Pilot Con-50 which is nicer to use and holds a slightly more reasonable amount of ink.
This is an awesome pen. You can find them used ranging from about $80 to $150.
Pilot’s Iroshizuku line of inks has become incredibly popular in the last couple of years thanks to its agreeable performance and excellent color palette. Despite Iroshizuku’s success Pilot still produces it’s original more affordable ink line that is simply branded as “Pilot” (or “Namiki …or “Pilot/Namiki”).
It is my understanding that these inks have a ph of over 7 making them basic and as such I would caution against putting them in a pen where ink makes direct contact with celluloid.
This line comes in bottle and cartridge formats. The cartridges only fit Pilot and Namiki pens. There are seven colors produced in the cartridge format. In bottle format I have only seen three colors: blue, black, and blue black.
Pilot Blue Black is a bit pale for my tastes but the upshot is some nice subtle shading. The ink provides some good lubrication, making it a great choice for dryer writing pens. I had no issues with bleeding or feathering. I also saw no nib creep (as is common for lubricating inks). I found that this ink was easy to clean out unlike Pilot Blue which has a tendency to stain.
Packs of 12 cartridges go for $7 and 60ml bottles go for $12. The affordable price makes Pilot Blue Black a great workhorse ink that would be appropriate for the office and general correspondence.
This is the first and only paper product I have tried from Pilot. The cover accurately states that this is “Super Quality Paper For Fountain Pen”.
The paper is considered “semi-B5” measuring 177 x 250 mm. Each page only has fifteen grey lines making for a rather wide 12mm rule. The paper is not lined on both sides.
The pad has 30 sheets and a one blotter sheet. The paper does not bleed or feather in my tests and is quite nice to write on. The paper is on the thinner side and it’s weight is not specified but I suspect that it is somewhere around 70-80 gsm.
The matching envelopes come in a pack of ten and open on the short side. They have a paper lining.The paper used in the pad and the envelopes is not watermarked. I purchased these in Japan for about $7 USD for the set and at that price they are great as every day stationery. I have seen this paper for sale in some stores in the USA at much higher price and for me, even though this paper is excellent, it doesn’t have enough character to justify a price much beyond $10 for the set.
As a general rule, I do not purchase ink while traveling. My reasoning is that if a $15 bottle of ink breaks in my luggage I would be out hundreds of dollars in ruined clothes. Yes, I broke my rule.
On my way out of Itoya in Tokyo (after buying some pens I didn’t need) I saw some well-packaged mini bottles of Iroshizuku in a lovely presentation box and that was that…I picked the three colors I wanted and here we are: The Pilot Iroshizuku Yama-Budo Fountain Pen Ink Review.
Yama-Budo in Japanese means “Crimson Glory Vine” and it is a pinkish burgundy color that I really like. Like all Iroshizuku inks, it performs beautifully, well-behaved with a good flow. This ink has really nice shading to it.
This ink isn’t really appropriate for a professional setting but it is a fun color that looks great in a demonstrator.
I am not sure I could go through a full-size 50ml bottle of this one but I feel confident that I will be able to make my way through 15ml.
There are a couple of cheap fountain pens on the market for around $3-$4 but in my experience there is only one good one and that is the Pilot Varsity (or V-Pen as it is know in other markets).
The Pilot Varsity is cheap disposable plastic-bodied fountain pen with a stainless steel nib. They come in seven colors and in only one nib grade: medium. [Edit: It has been brought to my attention that the Pilot “V-Pen” branded version is available with a fine nib (thank you Mark for the tip).]
The problem with most cheap fountain pens is a lack of quality control (and at $4 what do you expect?). Most of them work very poorly; the Platinum Preppy and Sailor Clear Candy immediately come to mind.
I have been using Varsity fountain pens for years now and I have only had one bad one. I have had closer to a 50% success rate with the Preppy.
The Varsity’s laser cut stainless steel nib is very smooth and quite springy. You can also write just as easily with the nib upside down. The medium point is on the finer side and should be agreeable to most users.
The ink is not waterproof and to my knowledge there is no way to refill a Varsity. Because of the rollerball-style feed you don’t have to worry (as much) about leaks or spills. These pens are as airplane friendly as your standard issue rollerball.
The body has a translucent grip section allowing you to see the feed and the body has a small ink view window.
The Varsity I photographed is the old pinstriped livery but everything else is the same on the current model.
The Varsity looks and feels inexpensive and as long as I can remember they have always been quite ugly. The new design is hideous as are the V-Pen branded models but they work well and that’s what counts.
If you want a cheap worry free fountain pen it’s hard to beat the Pilot Varsity.
The Pilot Frixion Ball 4 Wood is one of the many pens I picked up on my trip to Japan that I have yet to review.
The Frixion Ball 4 Wood is a multi-pen that features four erasable gel ball points, a wood grip and an attractive brown and black body.
This is one of the best looking multi-pens I have used and it has a very high quality feel, weighing in at 26.7 grams. It is a well built pen with a satin brown plastic body that is completely free of seams. The section is made of wood and metal and is what gives the pen its nice weight.
It is fair to say I love everything about this pen except for the way it writes. The erasable Frixion ink looks nasty. The colors are washed out and the lines aren’t particularly clean. It is a smooth writer especially for a 0.5mm pen but it’s not a winner for me.
The price is also prohibitive at 3,000 YEN (just under $30USD); that is three time the price of the Uni Pure Malt which while not as nicely made offers a better writing experience with Uni Jetstream ink.
I am quite smitten with the body so I am going to try and see what other refills will work in the Frixion Ball 4 Wood.
In the last few years a lot of interesting pens have come to the market via Kickstarter and one of the most appealing pens launched is the Render K by Karas Kustoms. I am a bit late to the game on this one but nonetheless it remains a simple and beautiful pen that is worthy of your attention.
The Render K is an American-made pen crafted out of solid aluminum. The original (Kickstarter launched) Render K utilizes Parker-style refills that provides customers with an enormous range of refill options. The Render K G2 is designed to take the ultra popular Pilot G2 refill. Without modification I have been able to use Montblanc rollerball and fineliner refills in the the Render K G2.
The pen is sold without a refill because the manufacturer want’s you to choose the refill that suits you best. The pen comes with a piece of plastic tubing that is designed to be cut to accommodate other refills that maybe a bit too short for the Render K G2 unmodified.
The Render K’s metal body and knurling on the top of the cap reminds me of the Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln Copper fountain pen I reviewed earlier this year. The Render K’s minimalistic design is very attractive; there is no ugly branding or unnecessary fluff to clutter the design…it’s pure function.
Capped the pen measures just over 5″ long and weighs 34.4 grams with a Pilot G2 refill installed.
On many pens I find the clip to be a weak point; I have bent dozens of them by clipping them to my pants pocket or notebook. The stiff stainless steel clip on the Render K is ultra strong and because it is secured by two exposed screws it can be easily replaced if you happen to damage it.
I have been using the Render K for a couple of days now and it’s a strangely satisfying pen. Screwing the cap onto the body reminds me of screwing a nut on to a bolt; the feel is very similar and I love it.
I am also quite fond of how tight the cap fits on to the body when fully screwed on…it’s lovely.
The standard aluminum Render K G2 sells for $45 and comes in various colors. The Render K G2 is also made in solid brass for $65 and solid copper for $95. Overall I am impressed by this pen, it’s enjoyable to use and built to last. It’s not cheap but for a high quality piece of American craftsmanship, it’s not hard to justify the price.
Please note: this pen was provided to me at no charge by Karas Kustoms for purposes of review.
Here are some great reviews of the Render K (original and G2):
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)
On specifications alone the Platinum 3776 fountain pen is a winner; it’s affordably priced and it features a full-sized body and solid gold nib…what’s not to love?
There are a lot of Japanese Montblanc look-alikes but the Platinum 3776 takes the cake with its mountain theme. The streamlined design and gold furniture are all very similar to a Montblanc Meisterstück. If you look at the nib of a Montblanc Meisterstück you will see the number “4810”; this number represents the height (in meters) of Mont Blanc in the Graian Alps. What do you suppose “3776” refers to? It’s the height (in meters) of Mount Fuji.
The nib features a mountain design with “#3776” right in the middle.
When you put the Montblanc similarities aside the 3776 is a pretty plain looking fountain pen.
The Chartres Blue body is translucent but not clear enough for this pen to truly be considered a demonstrator. I quite like the Chartres Blue body because it allows you to see the innovative “Slip & Seal” cap mechanism that prevents the pen from drying out. Supposedly you can leave this pen inked for 24 months without problem…I don’t want to test that, so I will take Platinum’s word for it.
The 14kt gold nib is large and shapely; it’s a much more agreeable size than similarly priced Pilot Custom 74.
While the 3776 has a well proportioned, modest and understated design, it isn’t going to win any style awards. At the end of the day this pen has a boring unoriginal appearance.
The build quality of the 3776 isn’t bad. There are seams in the plastic but everything fits together as it should and the use of the “Slip & Seal” mechanism shows that Platinum isn’t just pushing out cheap Montblanc lookalikes.
The gold plated trim matches the color of the solid 14kt nib.
I compared the 3776 to the similarly priced Pilot Custom 74 and to my eye the engraving and the overall fit and finish of the gold furniture is better on the Pilot BUT the gold trim on the Pilot is much more yellow than its 14kt gold nib…so you kind of have to pick your poison: mismatched nib and trim or cheaper looking engraving?
Size & Weight
The 3776 measures 5.5” capped and 4.7” uncapped. The pen weighs a comfortable 24.3 grams. It is an agreeable size that most people will find comfortable. The pen posts well and has a good balance posted or unposted.
The fine nib on the 3776 is a phenomenal performer and in my opinion it is the reason to buy this pen. Being Japanese the fine point is an extra or extra extra fine by western standards but despite this the nib is smooth and a real pleasure to use. I haven’t noticed a single skip or hard start since I began using this pen four months ago.
The nib is pretty stiff so you wont be seeing much in the way of line variation.
This is the same nib that is used on $500+ Nakayas. In the sub $100 range I don’t believe you can find a better performer.
The Platinum uses a proprietary cartridge converter filling system but for $1 you can buy an adaptor that will allow you to use international cartridges.
In Japan, the 3776 is sold without converter but in the US it is sold with the same Platinum converter you get with a Nakaya and I have to say its one of the nicest converters out there.
I bought my 3776 new in Japan for about $80, which is an awesome deal for a pen with a phenomenal 14kt gold nib. The US street price is about $175 ($220 retail). I am not sure why it is so much more money in the US but you can buy a new one on eBay from Japanese sellers for $90 (I haven’t tried this but it’s what I would do if I were to buy one again).
This is a sleeper pen, boring looks but with a monster performer under the cap.
I have been in Tokyo for a few days now and it is amazing. This is pen lovers paradise. There are so many pen shops, it is truly unbelievable. The first day I stopped by Itoya’s two stores in Ginza. One is dedicated to fountain pens and art supplies and the other is dedicated to stationery and office pens. Both stores are 5 stories each and the selection is just incredible.
I was a bit overwhelmed my first day so I did not buy a ton but I did find the Midori World Meister’s note Vol. 2 that I was not able to source in the USA.
Down the street from Itoya is Euro-Box, a tiny shop that specializes in vintage European fountain pens. The stores owner Eizo Fujii speaks English quite well and let me dip any pen that caught my eye. He had an amazing selection of vintage Montblancs and Pelikans. I looked a few of the Soenneckens he had but I couldn’t stay for long because it was incredibly hot humid in the store. I am going to try and go back before I leave Japan because he had some very nice Montblanc 146s from the 1950’s that I would like to take a closer look at.
The store is located on the 4th floor of this dilapidated building in a posh part of town next to the high end furniture store, IDC Otsuka (if you love modern European furniture like I do, IDC is a must see; they have a beautiful selection of de Sede, Rolf Benz, and Poltrona Frau).
I also stopped by Pilot Pen Station a few blocks from Euro-Box. Pilot Pen Station is Pilot’s HQ in Tokyo. It features a small fountain pen history museum and cafe. It’s not a brilliant museum but admission is free so there is nothing I can complain about.
That’s all I have for now. I have been to a few more shops since my first day and spent plenty of money but I am hoping to escape Japan with a few dollars left in my bank account, so far it isn’t looking good.
Much like the Pilot Precise, the Pilot Razor Point is a classic. The Razor Point is a simple felt tipped pen that (to my knowledge) has remained unchanged for at least a decade now. The completely opaque metallic blue plastic body and the thin metal clip are clues that this pen was designed quite a while ago. I personally find the design refreshing as I am so used to loudly colored pens with horrible branding and translucent bodies.
The Razor Point has an extra fine felt tip that writes with a smooth wet line and manages to stay true to its specified 0.5mm width.
There are a couple downsides to the Razor Point that its modern peers do not share. First off, the ink in the Razor Point tends to bleed more than other porous tip pens like the Copic Multiliner or the Staedtler Triplus Fineliner. Second, the tip is not particularly durable; in my experience the tip gets worn out before the pen runs out of ink.
While there are better felt tip pens out there, the Razor Point is really quite likeable and I think worth a try if you are curious about it.
Here are some great reviews of the Pilot Razor Point:
(I have no affiliation with the sites linked below)