Pen of Pens
May 17, 2016 4:07 PM   Subscribe

So, my remarkably wonderful employee has a birthday coming up and I want to get her a really beautiful pen. Can the hive mind help?

I like rollerballs best myself, but if someone could explain why fountain pens are a big deal I'd consider one of those. She is elegant and small and the pen needs to suit her -- I want something classy, not flashy, and slim. It has to be a joy to write with. I'd prefer a fine or medium point model.
posted by bearwife to Shopping (34 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Is this something she's interested in? Because a fountain pen is fun, but very messy. Like blue ink all over your fingers. Ink in your purse. Ink on your clothes. Smeary messes of papers, and bleeding through. Yeah, I love them, don't get me wrong, but I only use them on rag stationary and I use a blotter.

Also, I received MANY Cross pen/pencils from previous employers and I rolled my eyes and prayed someone was graduating so that I could re-gift them.

A Mont Blanc is the dernier cri of pens, but I'm not linking to it because it's a couple hundred dollars and it's a sin and a waste to spend that much on a pen.

I myself prefer a paper-mate gel pen. But I'm thinking that's not what you have in mind.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:20 PM on May 17, 2016

If you truly cherish this employee, spending $200 is in order and far out of the league of sinfulness - quite the reverse, imo. If you do choose to spend less, the Cross Townsend is small, classic, and a work of art, again imo.
posted by lometogo at 4:31 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Yes, she is interested. She will definitely use it. Messy is out, and that is one reason I dislike fountain pens myself. I'm fine with spending a lot as this will likely be both a farewell and birthday gift.
posted by bearwife at 4:33 PM on May 17, 2016

Good fountain pens aren't messy if you take proper care of them (never bring a pen full of ink on an airplane, half full is much better), but fountain pens are the manual transmissions of pens. If the recipient isn't into fountain pens, a gift of one probably won't be appreciated.
posted by b1tr0t at 4:35 PM on May 17, 2016 [8 favorites]

I really like Lamy pens. (Partly this is because they are very good quality and not too much money.)

I have a transparent one that is great.

But you wanted elegant. There are several nice looking options (but you should poke around yourself and see what speaks to you...)
The CP 1
Maybe the Joy

If you do this, you might also spring for a couple boxes of cartridges, and also a converter and bottle of ink. The Lamy brand ink is nice because it comes with a little roll of wipey thing integrated in the bottle which makes filling the pen easier. (I go through ink pretty fast, and in the states they don't sell big jars of schoolkid cartridges like they do in Europe.)

(Someone gave me a Mont Blanc fountain pen for either my Bat Mitzvah or graduation, and I like my Lamy pen better. For one thing, I think it writes better, and for another, the cap stays on.

I went through my entire graduate program in mathematics using about 6 cheap parker fountain pens, in different colors. It was great. Now I only have two, in black and blue, but maybe I should go back to the fistful of different pens. Honestly, the Parker pens are like $6/each and write like a champ, but the Lamy are nicer.)

Oh: I like fountain pens because they write smoothly and are fun to write with, with a reasonable nib you can actually see the line you write (I prefer bolder lines, but if you like very fine lines there's a nib for you, too), when they run out you can refill them easily, unlike fiber tip pens, the tip of the pen doesn't compress after you've written with them a while (I'm looking at you Staedler tripliners), you can fill them with awesome transparent one is nice because you can see the ink level...

When you're writing lots of pages by hand (for me, a stack of lecture notes for class), I think my hand gets less tired with the fountain pen than with felt-tip pens (or ugh, ballpoint). It's similar to, but I think better than, really good rollerballs. (I used to have some Univision Elite rollerballs I really liked.)

It's true that occasionally you might get ink on your hand with a fountain pen.
posted by leahwrenn at 5:10 PM on May 17, 2016 [4 favorites]

Check out JetPens for some unusual Japanese options. They have a truly impressive spread of writing supplies.

I'm a huge fan of the Zebra Sharbo, which is a very sleek-looking modular multi-pen. I have two, and they're my 'daily driver' pens.

Or if you want something that's impressively practical and will last a lifetime, check out designs from rOtring.
posted by BrandonW at 5:12 PM on May 17, 2016

I'd suggest taking a look on jetpens. They have tons of amazing pens.

If you want a really fancy ballpoint, go for a LAMY 2000. It's pricey as all hell but is absolutely beautiful and the brand has a loyal following for a reason.

Down the price scale but still very good are pretty much all pilot pens. I use almost entirely pilot products for my art and drafting and they really hold up. Very beautiful ink quality. The pilot capless ballpoints are very sleek looking and I've actually given one as a gift before. They're fancy but won't break the bank.

If you do want to give a fountain pen above all else, get one of the cheaper LAMYs or a pilot metropolitan. They're the only fountain pens I haven't broken or made a mess of so far.
posted by InkDrinker at 5:14 PM on May 17, 2016

This is more "cool" than "beautiful" but maybe the Fisher Space Pen could be appropriate?
posted by ejs at 5:19 PM on May 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you know anyone who makes pens? My FIL makes them, and they are beautiful, and meaningful to have a handmade pen. Maybe check Etsy?
posted by instamatic at 5:29 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

Yea, modern fountain pens, I default to Lamy because I'm not as into the hobby and more expensive pens as some other folks, shouldn't have leaking issues. Even taking them on planes shouldn't be that much of a risk I think, although folks do still take precautions.

Be sure to include ink (Mont Blanc, Noodlers, whatever) and a nice pad of fountain pen friendly, not that a FP won't write on normal paper but certain nicer papers will play better with them and make the experience all the better, paper.

A budget, but very functional, gift would be a Lamy Safari and the above accessories. From there the sky is the limit. I'd pop over onto the fountain pen subreddit if I were you and wanted specific, and amazingly polite/thoughtful, recommendations.
posted by RolandOfEld at 5:30 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The appeal of fountain pens, for me, is the wide variety of interchangeable inks and nibs. I don't really find them easier to write with, but they're fun. If you think she'd like to try out different colors or experiment with calligraphy, fountain pens are your jam. Rollerballs, though, are more portable and lower maintenance, and it sounds like that might be more her style.

If you do go the fountain pen route, I love my Lamy AL-Star, which is similar to the Safari but with an aluminum body that feels a bit nicer to me. There are plenty of higher-end members of the Lamy family that would make better gifts if you're not on a budget.

You might also consider getting a pen with a slimmer body: a lot of pricey pens (both fountain and ballpoint/rollerball) are thicker and heavier than the typical disposable pen, and not everyone likes the heft. If there's a brick-and-mortar store nearby where you can hold a bunch of different pen models, go and see what feels best.

As far as fountain pen ink goes, Pilot makes quite a few nice inks in beautiful, gift-quality bottles. And it might be a little on the flashy side, but Emerald of Chivor is the coolest ink ever (if you go that route, include some Tomoe River paper to bring out the ink's coolness).
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:56 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

i used to really like waterman pens when i worked in a combined art/stationery store in college. solidly built, nicely balanced, and the ones i got (this was in the 90s, so long since discontinued) were beautiful. they still make rollerballs, along with fountain pens. possibly ball point, but i didn't delve too deeply.
posted by koroshiya at 6:04 PM on May 17, 2016

I"ll advocate for a Parker 51.

It's a vintage pen manufactured by Parker from the forties through the seventies, they're definitely classy and a little retro, and they don't leak on your hands. I have one, and it is a joy to write with. They're very easy to use and sleek looking.

You can buy them restored and working from Here's the sales page. I'd probably go with the one labeled MM28. It's a basic black, resotred, for $150.
MM39 is also great- a pen and pencil set for $165.

Get a little bottle of quick dry ink to go with it and you're all set.
posted by Adridne at 6:10 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Honestly if it needs to read "special" Lamy won't cut it, even though it's a fine fountain pen. I still say Mont Blanc Meisterst├╝ck, the classic. It can be engraved with her initials for an extra touch. The cap shouldn't come off - if it does Mont Blanc will replace it.
posted by Dragonness at 7:09 PM on May 17, 2016 [3 favorites]

This gun-blued Kaweco Lilliput is inherently unique due to the finishing process, and it's a smaller size pen.

The caveat with the Lilliput is it's not easily converted to eyedropper fill (ie using the body as a reservoir) unlike the larger but less nicely made Kaweco Sport. One is therefore stuck either using small cartridges or refilling cartridges.

If you do buy her a refillable fountain pen, a special ink is a nice companion.
posted by a halcyon day at 7:35 PM on May 17, 2016

Many nice ideas here. But I am serious about finding her a slim, elegant, classic pen, which to me rules out the Waterman (clunky square barrel) and the more modern pens many of you have suggested. I'm tempted by the Parker 51 but I don't think she'd be that thrilled by getting a vintage item. I do like the look of the Meisterstuck and am wondering if I should head for a brick and mortar pen store to check it out. Still on the fence about fountain pen versus my favorite, rollerball. (FYI, these are my own two favorite personal pens. Both write like a dream.)
posted by bearwife at 8:00 PM on May 17, 2016

I love fountain pens for many of the same reasons Metroid Baby does, and I do actually find them easier and more pleasant to write with. (I'm a lefty, so rollerballs smudge on me. But if I'm careful with nib and ink choices with my fountain pens, no smudge.) And if your employee has good handwriting -- or aspires to it -- a fountain pen can be a real treat.

Worth noting: Sailor, Lamy and Pilot fountain pens take proprietary cartridges which can be ordered online easily, but might be difficult to find locally. If your employee doesn't thrill to the idea of looking at Goulet Pens or JetPens for converters and inks, you might want to go with something like a Kaweco Liliput, a Monteverde Poquito, or maybe even a Levenger True Writer, all of which take 'standard' cartridges.

Given your criteria and assuming the Pilot cartridge/converter isn't an obstacle, the Pilot Vanishing Point Decimo might work really well. I think Vanishing Point pens have less of a writing technique learning curve than other fountain pens. The Decimo is a smaller, lighter version of the regular VP. Pilot and other Asian nibs usually write finer than their European/US counterparts.

In case it's useful...believe it or not, Reddit's pen communities (fountain pens and pens in general) are very friendly and knowledgeable.
posted by gnomeloaf at 8:05 PM on May 17, 2016

That Vanishing Point is beautiful in shape. But I do not like any of the colors. I think I want gold, silver, or black.
posted by bearwife at 8:27 PM on May 17, 2016

How about Faber Castell's Ambition series? I have this one from JetPens and it's great.
posted by dhruva at 8:33 PM on May 17, 2016

The Parker Sonnet is my very favorite pen. It fits many of the criteria you listed - it is slim and classic - and I can personally attest that it writes like a dream. It was the very first fountain pen I owned and through all the years and all the pens *mumblemumblelotsofpensmumblemumble* it is the model I return to again and again. You can buy it as a rollerball or as a fountain pen (with a few nib choices; I'm partial to the medium 18k gold nib, but that's up to you).
posted by minervous at 8:45 PM on May 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

The Montblanc Meisterstuck and Parker Sonnet and Cross Townsend lead the pack for me so far.
posted by bearwife at 9:58 PM on May 17, 2016

I received an engraved Faber Castell Ambition as a gift years ago (it was stolen last year, I am still heartbroken). A pen with a metal cap or body, engraved with her initials, would make a lovely gift.
posted by third word on a random page at 3:03 AM on May 18, 2016

From those three, I vote for the Meisterstuck. Montblanc probably has the most luxury cachet, and it's not unearned. Definitely get to a physical store where you can try out the different sizes; my mom had a couple Meisterstucks that were rather beefy.
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:05 AM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

tl;dr, this place seems to have some nice pens. They have a slim line and their multi-functional pens look interesting too.
posted by mirileh at 4:06 AM on May 18, 2016

Some ideas Pilot E95, Faber-Castell Ambition, Monteverde Impressa, Montegrappa Fortuna, Monteverde Invincia b/c I love fountain pens! You'll have to be careful about looking at the weight metrics though. I've handled some pens that were unexpectedly HEAVY.
posted by ellerhodes at 6:53 AM on May 18, 2016

If color is the only thing you didn't find appealing about the VP Decimo, there are a few more options here.
posted by jenny76 at 7:11 AM on May 18, 2016

If you're interested in something other than a fountain pen, I can recommend CW&T's Pen Type A or Pen Type B. They aren't cheap, and photos of the pens don't really do them justice, but they're machined within an inch of their lives and when they say things like "The ultra-high machining tolerances between the pen and sleeve create a piston-like effect. The pen falls slowly into its sleeve and makes a nice popping sound when you pull it out quickly" they aren't kidding. Designed to work with great and easily replaceable Pilot Hi Tec C cartridges.
posted by lousywiththespirit at 7:50 AM on May 18, 2016

Adding the Pilot E95, maybe the Monteverde Invincia in black, to the list. I love the Decimo but still don't see anything in black, gold or silver. The CW&T is gorgeous but not classic enough.

I can tell I need to go to a pen store and check out the ones on the list. Yes, I'll be getting some extras like engraving and refills/ink. If there are more suggestions, please keep them coming!
posted by bearwife at 9:42 AM on May 18, 2016

I should add I love the Ambition too but again, not classic enough. It is more sleek and modern.
posted by bearwife at 9:43 AM on May 18, 2016

*How* good has her work been? The Yard-O-Led blocks of silver are as elegant as their name isn't. (Pencils, various pens, some quite slim.)

My Vanishing Point has been tidy while tossed around in a bag for years.
posted by clew at 3:13 PM on May 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Ooh, those Yard-O-Led's are gorgeous. Her work has indeed been that good but I probably will not spring for one of those. I think.
posted by bearwife at 4:50 PM on May 18, 2016

Well, maybe this one. Or this one. Really, really beautiful.

Still stuck on figuring out roller ball versus fountain pen, too.
posted by bearwife at 5:00 PM on May 18, 2016

So, this is the pen I settled on. I am intrigued by the fountain pen suggestions, but it just doesn't seem like her style, and I don't want to make the gift into a forced learning experience about a writing implement she hasn't ever used. Although she is young, she is not very mechanical or gadget-oriented, and I think a rollerball is going to be most appreciated.

I also think this pen is stunning and classic, and I love its slim profile. I'm going to enjoy playing her the veddy veddy British marketing video from Yard-o-Led.

You are the best, all, and I appreciated all the answers. I am certainly going to be checking out many of these pens for myself sometime in the near future.
posted by bearwife at 11:26 AM on May 19, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'll second Monteverde. I like their Prima collection.
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 2:16 PM on May 19, 2016

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