Fountain pens can be a daunting prospect and requires some sort of research before buying in order to figure out what you are looking for and which fountain pen will work best for you.
In this post I will look at the pros and cons of some of the best beginner fountain pens on the market. For me a beginner fountain pen should have a low entry price, be easy to acquire, pleasant to use and perhaps also look a little bit nice. Beginner fountain pens are usually the gateway drug, the pens that open us up to the world of fountain pens and get us interested in taking that next step.
Option 1 - The Lamy Safari / AL Star
Lamy is a German brand of fountain pens. They have a European nib which generally means they are a little wider than their Japanese counterparts.
I have grouped these two fountain pens together as there are a few minor differences and the prices are not too dissimilar. One has a plastic barrel, the Safari, the other an aluminium barrel, the AL Star.
- Lots of different colour barrel options
- Swappable nibs that are easy and affordable to replace. These also come in a huge range of sizes from EF all the way through to a 1.9mm stub nib
- Left handed nib option available
- Full length fountain pen
- Easy to find both online and in stores
- A good sized cartridge convertor meaning bottled ink use is possible
- Moulded grip section (this may not be a con for everyone but it is a restriction hence it ends up on this side of the list)
The Lamy fountain pens have a great entry level price, the Safari costing less than £15 and the AL Star less than £25.
Option 2 - Kaweco Classic / Skyline Sport
The Kaweco Classic or Skyline Sport fountain pens are another German brand fountain pen. They are pocket fountain pens meaning they are quite a bit smaller than the other fountain pen options included in this post.
- Pocket size means this is a great fountain pen to use if you’re on the move
- A range of different barrel colour options
- Nib sizes range from EF all the way up to a B nib
- Posted this pen turns into an almost full length fountain pen
- Changing the nibs on the Classic and Skyline Kaweco fountain pens is a bit more complicated. For the Classic Sport range you can buy a new nib and grip section for most colours. For the Skyline range not everywhere stocks the replacement parts. Therefore if you want to try a different nib size you may need to buy a whole new pen.
- Cartridge convertor options on the Kaweco line are poor. Cartridges are the best route with the Kaweco range.
A Kaweco Classic or Skyline Sport will set you back around £20. You can easily get hold of these fountain pens from a number of different online retailers.
Option 3 - Pilot MR
The Pilot MR is a great entry level fountain pen. These fountain pens come with an aluminium barrel and as they are a Japanese brand of fountain pen, they have finer nibs. This is something to bear in mind when choosing your nib size. A fine Japanese nib will be finer than a fine German nib. On the MR I have found the M nibs are the easiest to come by, but with some digging you may be able to find a F nib.
- A great entry into the wonderful world of Pilot fountain pens
- Cartridge convertors are available with this pen which means that you can use cartridges or bottled ink
- Aluminium barrel
- Lots of different barrel options available, some simple and classic and some of the colours are a bit more fun
- Not a wide range of nib sizes available on this fountain pen
A Pilot MR costs less than £25. For this additional outlay you are getting some higher quality materials.
Option 4 - Pilot Kakuno
The Pilot Kakuno was, I believe, intended to be a fountain pen for a real beginner, i.e. children learning to use their first fountain pen.
- It’s fun
- It has a smiley or winking face on the nib
- F or M nib options available
- It can use a convertor as well as ink cartridges
- Very lightweight
- It’s plastic and could be prone to breaking
- Some of the nicer, prettier colour options are not available in Europe. I got my white barrel and yellow lid option when in the US.
For the Pilot Kakuno you will have to part with around £10 which is a fantastic price for a fountain pen.
Option 5 - TWSBI 580
This option is a bit more adventurous. It was the first fountain pen I bought around 4 years ago when I was getting back into stationery. I am including this in here as it’s a great fountain pen and not too pricey, but it is edging towards the next step fountain pen. There is now the TWSBI Eco fountain pen which is much more affordable, however I have not tried this pen out and wouldn’t be comfortable recommending it fully.
- A demonstrator fountain pen means you get to see all the inner workings which is really cool
- It’s a piston filled fountain pen which means bottled ink only, no cartridges here. With the piston filling mechanism you are getting a good amount of ink in the barrel
- Chrome detailing
- There is a mini version available too if you want that smaller fountain pen for on the move
- It could be a bit of a jump for a first fountain pen and some people may find the piston filling mechanism a bit daunting.
- A higher price in comparison to other fountain pens on this list
My TWSBI 580 cost £40, however the TWSBI Eco can be bought for less than £30.
This post has become quite lengthy but hopefully it is a useful reference. I wanted to give a fairly good overview of the entry level fountain pens in the market. I love using fountain pens and use a lot of those listed here on a daily basis.
If I were to recommend one fountain pen on this list it would be the Pilot MR. I love my MR and I think it is the best starting off point. There is no moulded grip section, it’s full size, it’s a lovely Japanese Pilot nib and it’s aluminium. You get a lot of pen for your money with this fountain pen.