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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've always liked the idea of a fountain pen, particularly because I think that they're 1) classy, and 2) they'd probably make for some great grading pens for all my students' papers. I am not, however, totally into the idea of dropping upwards of $50 for a pen.

What fountain pens can you recommend that would fall into a $30 or less category? Or is that absolutely unrealistic?
 

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For $30, you're looking at the really cheap stuff. Pilot makes some really cheap disposable (in the true sense of the word) fountain pens for that money, I believe. Or you could buy a calligraphy fountain pen set for that kind of money, which comes with cartridges.

Fountain pens last a very very long time. How will you be using this pen? How frequently?

Buying a fountain pen. Even a cheap one, is like buying a car. You need to ask yourself a lot of questions first.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I'd be using it on the daily, most likely. Most extensively when I have papers to grade. I'm constantly jotting notes to myself so I'd like to step up from the hodgepodge of mismatched garbage pens that I have in my bag at the moment.

I saw the pilot disposables (varsity is the line, i think) and was considering starting with that. Is there a difference in a calligraphy fountain pen?
 

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Calligraphy pens are sold in sets. You get a number of nib-units, the pen-barrel & cap, and a range of cartridges.

Cheap Pilot fountain pens should be a good buy for you, though. I've heard a lot of good things about them. Fountain pens are ideal for heavy-use, daily writing. That's why I collect them.
 

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The Pilot Varsity is about the best for cheap thrills. I would advise you to refrain from visiting a nice pen store though. Once you have written with a nice pen you will rationalize any and all reasons why you NEED one lol. I went from Pilot Varsity's to "cheap" $100ish pens like the Pilot M90 and Waterman Perspective (which I had stubbed by Mr Masuyama, customizing your nib on your expensive pen is just another subset of crazy rationalizations you will make) I would say the sweet spot for price and quality is about the $100-200 range. However the pen I use the most and just makes my hand happy is the Visconti Homo Sapien which is in a higher league of just plain crazy. Be sure to step up your paper game while you're at it. I have tried quite a few papers and prefer the Rhodia line. I use everything from small pocket pads to the legal size and everything in-between.

Once you've sorted out your pen then it's on to ink choices.... LOL the madness never ends.

I have five pens inked up and I use all five every day to color code data sets on the notes I take while on the job. Plus I have their matching ballpoint counterparts. Plus a fisher space pen, for when Im working in the rain.

A calligraphy pen is going to have a slanted nib for varying the line width while you write. A stub nib is similar but it is straight instead of slanted.

I would head over to the fountain pen network to check out used offerings in your price range.
 

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Given your criteria, and besides the pens others have mentioned, the Lamy Safari might be a good starter pen. Many users on the FP network swear by it,and my experience with it both on the field and in the office has been great. It can run on cartridges or your own ink via an optional piston converter.

Just be forewarned: I know of no other entry-level FP that has proven to be more of a "gateway" pen to finer (and inevitably more expensive) FPs down the line. My trusty Safari has since been replaced by a succession of pens, the latest being a Mont Blanc 146.
 

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I bought my wife a Visconti, great pens! However get a Lamy thats what I use. I use a Al-Star which is the metal variant of the very popular safari. If you want something a little prettier looking get it in the Studio. I have not used convertors yet (for bottle ink) just cartridges which are very easy to switch colors and ink. I really have not aspirations to step up to anything else unless its a homo sapiens or a MB way later down the road.
 

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The biggest selection of inexpensive fountain pens I've found is at JetPens.com - Japanese Pens and Stationery (no affiliation). Under $30, there are a few widely-loved designs ranging from the Platinum "Preppy" (~$3) to the Lamy Safari (~$26). There are also a few well-regarded "pocket" pens like the Kaweco Sport and Ohto Tasche, both around $20.

Since the experience of trying out different inks is a large part of the appeal of fountain pens, I'd recommend getting a pen that takes cartridges/converters over a disposable like the Varsity.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Thanks for all the input, guys!

I took a trip to the local staples with hopes of picking up a pilot varsity to try it out, but they didn't have any. I picked up a Sheaffer calligraphy pen instead. Fine nib. It's definitely nice to see such rich characters pop from the ink as you write. My next question is: do they make pens with an extra fine nib or something similar? The sheaffer is a .7 and while that's not too big, i think i'd be looking more towards a .5 if at all possible. I think I remember seeing that pilot varsity had an extra fine...
 

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Unfortunately the nib sizes are less scientific and more subjective to interpretation depending on manufacturer and country of origin. For a truly fine nib stick with a japanese extra fine or fine. The Italian fine is more like a Japanese medium.
 

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Photo's right. "Extra Fine" varies by region. I've written with Mediums that write like fines. I've written like Fines that look like Mediums. It's widely accepted that Japanese pens have the finest of fine nibs.
 

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I've always liked the idea of a fountain pen, particularly because I think that they're 1) classy, and 2) they'd probably make for some great grading pens for all my students' papers. I am not, however, totally into the idea of dropping upwards of $50 for a pen.

What fountain pens can you recommend that would fall into a $30 or less category? Or is that absolutely unrealistic?
For 30 dollars you're looking at MOST of the entry level pens. The Pilot Knight is a pretty soild pen. I personally own a charcoal Lamy Safari, and it WAS my go to pen before I lost it somewhere (it's in my room SOMEWHERE). the Platinum Preppy series is pretty good as well. I also have an Ohto Tasche, which was super slick, and hte nib wrote extremely well, and I think that was under 30 bucks as well. To be completely honest though, the cost of a fountain pen isn't just the pen itself, but you have to take into account the consumables as well such as inks + converters and/or cartridges.
 

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try a Lamy AL-Star... bought with the converter may costs you around $40, Aluminum body available in nice colors, a wide variety of nibs to choose, you can buy nibs separately, since it's super easy to change the nibs this is a nice feature, you can get Italic, broad, extrafine, medium, etc in 1 pen... it's always ready to write and never fails.

good luck!
 

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For me the
-lamy safari/all-star is an excellent pen. plus the nibs are ~ $12-15. I have a fine,medium, board, 1.1 stub, and a 1.5 stub. all for under $90.

-The Twisbi 540 is also an excellent pen. the nibs are ~$25. but what stands out for me is the excellent after sale service the provides

I can recommend two:

- Lamy Safari/All-Star ($30-$40 range- depending on model/finish)
- TWSBI 530/540 FP models ($50 range- really well made for the money!)

You can see a review of the TWSBI pens on some pen forums! ;-)

Regards,
Frank
 
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I can second the TWSBI 540, and it writes like a dream, but it does not fit into the sub $30 or even $60 category. No one has mentioned the Rotring Initial...on Amazon, they are just a few dollars more than $30. It was my first FP, and I consider its writing quality highly under-rated. I also own a Visconti H-S as a point of reference.
Good luck, but like watches, I'll bet you cant have just one.
Chris
 

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I wanted to try out a fountain pen as well and got a Bulow X750 off of Amazon, as it was more in line with my budget of $15. It hasn't sold me on the fountain pen though. It is kinda "runny" (but that could be the ink I use), and if not used every day the ink stops flowing. But it does look cool.
 
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