4. Lamy Al-Star
Price: $34.95-$45 (Al-Star); $22-35 (Safari)
This is the first pen I purchased after a long hiatus from fountain pen. The appearance is simple, modern, and sleek. The nib, thankfully, does the appearance justice. The medium nib writes the very first time and ever since, and it works very well with people who have never used fountain pen before. The grip is shaped ergonomically, so it adds comfort to hold and provides a bit of guidance to those who have not used fountain pens. There is an ink window on the barrel, so one can see how much ink is left in the cartridge and converter. Here comes the bonus. Once you are used to the pen and ready to venture into other size of nibs, you may purchase other nibs by themselves and the swapping can be done with a piece of Scotch tape. To see how interchangeable nibs work, check out my thoughts here. The only downside of Al-Star is that it only takes Lamy cartridges, but the way to remedy this shortcoming is a converter. The versatility and the ease to use are ideal for both beginner and veteran alike. If you do not like the aluminum body, there is a plastic alternative, Safari, that come in rainbow range of colors.
5. Kaweco IceSport
If Pilot Petit1 looks a bit too fragile to you, but you are searching for a reliable yet compact fountain pen, Kaweco IceSport can be a viable candidate. Kaweco's body feels sturdier when compare to Petit1 or Preppy, so it is ideal to convert it to an eye drop. If you are similar to me, who is paranoid for possible ink spill, Kaweco takes international short cartridge. Do not judge this 4-inch pen (cap on; 5 1/8 inch cap posted) by its size, it writes just as substantial as a full-size pen. The screw-on cap acts as an extension of the pen; thus, even for people with larger hands, this pen will be comfortable to hold. Very similar to Lamy Al-Star and Safari, Kaweco does have other nib size units available for swapping. Instead of removing the nib, the nib unit consists of the nib and the grip. The ink economy on this pen is also impressive. An international short cartridge with a fine nib combination lasts for weeks for me.
6. Sailor Clear Candy
Japanese nibs are known to write finer than European ones. Sailor actually writes finer than average Japanese pens. For those who want to venture into extreme precision, Sailor would be a great pick. Price wise, Sailor pens are a tad more expensive than other Japanese pens, but to me, it is worth that little extra once you see the precision that a Sailor pen can deliver. Its body is made of sturdy plastic, more substantial than other fountain pens that have similar bodies. Clear Candy is a model that Sailor issued for celebrate its cenntennial. For its reasonable price, it is obtainable by everyone. It also comes in a whole range of pleasing colors. It writes smoothly for a fine nib. The reason why I said that is because fine nib, especially for those who have heavier touch, can feel like writing on sand paper. While writing with a finer nib, remember to keep the touch light. Personally I will not recommend this pen to an absolute beginner either, simply because how fine the nib writes and it might feel a bit dry and scratchy. The barrel of a Clear Candy is average size, suitable for both big and small hands. It writes right out of the box and I have not experienced any difficulty with it at all. One downside of this pen is that due to its fine nib, it occasionally picks up paper fiber as it writes. It can be avoided by using smooth paper, such as Clairefontaine and Rhodia. Clear Candy takes both Sailor cartridges (sorry, it is proprietary) and converter, but for an economical pen like Clear Candy, the converter costs about half of the price of the pen. Personally, I keep all my Sailor cartridge and fill them with a syringe.
Of course, great beginner fountain pens are not limited to the six I mention in my posts. Pen searching, very similar to soul searching, can take time and patience. It would be unjust to discredit any pen that does not write as one expects at the very beginning. It does take time for you and the pen to get used to each other. At time, ink and pen pairing can determine how a pen writes, so when a pen experiences inconsistent, try a more lubricated ink. Bottomline, have fun and explore!
Which other fountain pens would you recommend for beginners?