Help me find the fountain pen I want
August 14, 2017 2:15 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for a fountain pen. I have a Rotring 800+ mechanical pencil that I'm very happy with. I'd like to have got a fountain pen from Rotring, but they don't quite have what I'm after in current production, and discontinued models can be rather expensive.

I'm therefore looking for a pen that fits as many of these criteria as possible:

Relatively thin diameter barrel
Sub £100 - the more sub the better...
posted by Hadrian to Shopping (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Perhaps this is the subcultural equivalent of telling someone who's interested in good coffee to try Starbucks, but I've been quite happy with the Lamy Safari EF. I think the base price is $23USD for a plastic barrelled pen, plus another $7 for a refillable cartridge; the EF stands for Extra Fine, as in the nib. For a few dollars more, you can get one with a metal barrel. There are quite a few other models besides the Safari, though personally I might consider exploring pens with thinner nibs if I were comfortable buying a substantially more expensive fountain pen.
posted by tapir-whorf at 2:28 AM on August 14, 2017

Someone stole my Ambition pen a few years ago and I'm still lusting after a new one. Seems to fit all your criteria.
posted by third word on a random page at 2:42 AM on August 14, 2017

Is this your first fountain pen? If so, it can be really helpful to go to a brick&mortar store and try some out. You don't necessarily have to purchase anything. Sometimes I go in thinking I want one thing (e.g., heavy) and then find out the opposite.

Here are some brands/links off the top of my head, based on your criteria:
Heavy/Metal: Karas Kustoms, Tactile Turn, Pelikan M215 (price varies)
Thin barrel: Faber Castell, fountain pen network thread on skinny pens
Sub 100gbp: Pilot, Lamy

General tip: Go to the Fountain Pen Network site and pen blogs to check out user reviews and recommendations.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 2:46 AM on August 14, 2017

I'm going to second the recommendation to look at the Lamy line. They're really good-quality pens, especially for the price, and the only reason I don't use them more than I do is the weight.

You can also look at Parker - I don't know if it's available in the UK, but when I was younger I had one from their Vector line - one of the stainless steel ones, I think? - that fit all your criteria.

(Also, as someone who grew up with fountain pens and has beautiful handwriting learned on pens that cost less than a quid, I am deeply skeptical of the supposed superiority of pens above a certain price range. Pilot Metropolitans and Lamy Safaris are, IMO, fantastic writing tools if that's what you're after rather than a status symbol.)
posted by Tamanna at 2:52 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I love my Conklin Nighthawk copper pen, which is heavy and metal but not black (though it will turn dark brown like a penny) and has a medium-width barrel (if it helps, I had the Rotring metal fountain pen and, while I found it unsatisfactory as to nib, liked the weight). You can get it through Goulet Pens (
posted by Peach at 4:38 AM on August 14, 2017

Nthing Lamy Safari with extra-fine nib, even though even their aluminum ones may not meet your 'heavy' criteria. Of all the various inexpensive fountain pens I've owned I keep coming back to my Safaris; they're just solid and reliable. (For an extra $5 or so you can get a cartridge converter and use bottled ink.)

You might also be interested in the Hero 616, which is cheap clone of the much lauded Parker 51 of yore. I picked one up from eBay several years ago and for £4 it's a pretty good pen.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 4:42 AM on August 14, 2017

Assuming you're after the Rotring look: The Levenger L-Tech appears to fit your criteria. Ditto the Monteverde Tool Pen. Earlier versions of these might be available for less on eBay, as both companies (unlike Rotring) are still in the business of making mass market fountain pens.

The Kaweco Liliput might also meet your needs -- as might some of their other lines -- but the Liliput doesn't have quite the same look, and many Kawecos have considerably shorter capped lengths than the average pen, if that matters.
posted by gnomeloaf at 4:53 AM on August 14, 2017

Lamy is so inexpensive and high quality. I would say buy one and use it right now, and also continue the quest for fountain pen nirvana.
posted by oceanjesse at 4:55 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I agree with the Lamy suggestion but think you should go with the scala.

You should be able to find it under 100 if you hunt - I have seen them for about 75 in the stationery stores near here on sale. I don't care for it because it weighs a ton but if that's what you're into it is the pen for you.
posted by winna at 5:40 AM on August 14, 2017

I'll join the choir re: Lamy; they're good pens, and ISTR related to Rotring in some way. It's a shame the iconic Rotrings aren't available anymore.

The only thing is that the Lamy Safari pens, even in metal, are super lightweight compared to the old Rotrings. They're still great, though.

I'm just glad you posted this, because now I remember how much I love my Rotring 600, and so I think it's gonna go back into the rotation today.
posted by uberchet at 7:14 AM on August 14, 2017

I had the Levenger L-Tech and while it was heavy enough, it was not well made.
posted by Peach at 7:25 AM on August 14, 2017

I have one of those Rotring fountain pens. The nib got damaged years ago. I have not found any other fountain pen that is a complete substitute for the look and feel of my Rotring. I have switched to using a Kaweco Sport in aluminum, which is a joy to write with. They also make one in brass, which should give you a similar weight to the Rotring. It is US$87 through Jetpens.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:55 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 for Pilot Metropolitan/ MR/88G/ Cocoon (all the same pen, just different names depending on region).

Excellent writer, comes with its own converter already, copper barrel=heavier than Lamy Safari or Vista, very comfortable for my child-sized small hand (i.e. thin-ish). Can be had for $15-- including the converter.
posted by atetrachordofthree at 7:58 AM on August 14, 2017

Kaweco also has the "Special" model which is black, thin, milled out of solid metal like the Rotring, has an octagonal body, and is under $100. However it is aluminum, so it won't be heavy like the Rotring. The Sport that I linked above is chunkier than the Rotring.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:16 AM on August 14, 2017

In addition to the other fine suggestions, you might check out the Lamy Studio. It's metal, it comes in black, it's thin and it's much heavier than the aluminum Safari suggested earlier. It's also more expensive than the Safari, but still within your budget.
posted by brentajones at 9:13 AM on August 14, 2017

I can't stand Lamy pens, so I am going to go against the tide with this one. I own around a dozen (mostly very expensive) fountain pens, and rotate through them in a six-pen holder I keep in my briefcase. One of the least expensive pens I own, but which still gets significant use in the rotation, is the Italix Churchman's Prescriptor.

This is a relatively slender, heavy black metal pen with a black piano lacquer exterior. This pen is available in a staggering array of nib options, including round nibs from extra fine to broad, stubs (he calls these "cursive") from fine to extra broad and true crisp italics from fine to extra broad. There are even any number of oblique nib options for lefties and those who habitually rotate their pens. I currently have mine fitted with an extra broad italic nib and loaded with vintage West German Montblanc blue-black iron gall ink. All the nibs are adjusted and ground to order by the owner, and my extra broad stub is probably the smoothest nib I own. (Additional nibs/feeds or even whole nib/feed/section units can be purchased for absurdly low prices.)
posted by slkinsey at 9:47 AM on August 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

Argh. I meant to write "Parson's Essential." The Churchman's Prescriptor is a different Italix pen model.
posted by slkinsey at 10:20 AM on August 14, 2017

Pilot's Metropolitan is a metal-barreled pen with replaceable nibs and adapters — it has a good weight, and I like the fine (steel) nib. It's about $15, and the only hangup is that unless you use the siphon, it only uses Pilot cartridges (though apparently it can be converted to use others). The comment that I think I ran across on JetPens that describes it well is "the $15 pen that writes like a $50 pen." You can get nicer pens, but it's a pretty great value.
posted by klangklangston at 4:23 PM on August 14, 2017

If there's a pen show near you, you can sometimes find refurbed Rotrings for decent money.
posted by scruss at 8:08 PM on August 14, 2017

I know just the Rotring you speak of, and they are very expensive unicorns!

I know Goulet Pens isn't UK based, but they have a fairly robust faceted search tool:
here are the results for my interpretation of your query!

People are reccomending you pens that IMO are quite light. When you say you want heavy, I'm assuming a 27g minimum. That throws the Metropolitin and Safari right out the window.

A few possibilities that stick out to me are
- Karas Kustoms Ink (heavier but thicker) or Fountain-K (thinner and lighter, and cheaper)
- Faber Castell E-Motion in Pure Black (a bit over budget and probably too chunky)
- Lamy Studio (perhaps not industrial or heavy enough vs. the Rotring?)
- Monteverde Invicta Stealth Black (maybe the goldilocks of this group?)
- The metal Kawecos, as others have mentioned
- Lamy CP-1
- And, finally, the discontinued Lamy Persona. May or may not be cheaper on Ebay than the rotring you're after, but likely over budget.

Good luck!
posted by sazerac at 8:26 AM on August 15, 2017

Briefly chiming in as a pen nerd to say that I think you'll be disappointed (relative to price) with any modern parker or cross.
posted by sazerac at 8:28 AM on August 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

You're looking for the Sheaffer 100. Comes with a converter. Heavy but comfortable, with a slim barrel. Cap posts easily. Comes in F or M nib width (those are western sizes). I've owned one for several years, and it's been zero issue. Nib unit is replaceable, get a bulb syringe for cleaning.

SBRE Brown's comprehensive review
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:55 PM on August 17, 2017

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