If you've never used a fountain pen or are just starting out on your fountain pen adventure, you might be daunted by how many options there are and how to even use a fountain pen.
Well, lets start by finding the right pen. Don't worry to much about nib size or any of the other options such as cartridge or bottled ink at the moment. We'll concentrate on choosing a solid starter pen. Below are our top 5 beginners fountain pens. We have concentrated on inexpensive fountain pens as the best entry level fountain pens because, if you're not 100% committed yet, there's no point shelling out too much money. (you can always do that later)
We have made Lamy our number 1 option. You can choose the plastic barrelled Lamy Safari fountain pen, or for a little bit more and a few more colour options, the Lamy Al-star with the Aluminium barrel. The metal barrel gives it a more luxury feel for very little extra, with some nice metallic finishes.
In the £20-£30 range, it won't break the bank, but you can be certain of the craftsmanship. As the Largest German pen manufacturer, they pride themselves on Quality control. Every nib is tested before the pen leaves the factory. Although it is an unusual design, it is actually very comfortable to write with, not too wide so you should not feel too much hand fatigue.
Lamy nibs write smooth out of the box, you shouldn't get any of the initial 'scratchy' period you sometimes get with new pens before they are bedded in to your style. The Safari and the Al-Star both come with a convenient ink viewing window so you can see how much ink is left in your cartridge and the ink colour.
Speaking of cartridges, Lamy have a proprietary ink cartridge which is larger than most other pens so should last a good while. You do need to use these with Lamy Fountain pens but they come in more unusual colours than most other brands, (like neon yellow), and they regularly release limited edition colours so you'll have lots of choice.
Platinum are known for their exquisite nib quality making this not only a good beginner fountain pen but also a great lifelong writing instrument. Their offering includes pens that are in the luxury category, with a four figure price tag. However the most amazing thing about Platinum is that they are able to offer the Platinum Preppy in the £5 range. For less than the cost of a pint of beer, you can choose from multiple colours, lots of ink varieties, and a couple of nib sizes.
We like the fine in this pen because it is so versatile. Unlike lots of other fine nib fountain pens, you get good ink flow from this fine nib right from the off. It flows effortlessly and with it being a fine nib, you can use it to sketch and draw. The pen is a nice size, the weight is good, and as for writing, you'll be hard pushed find a nicer writer at this price. Oh, and they almost never dry out - their innovative spring loaded seal in the cap prevents this happening.
The main disadvantages are that it doesn't come with any packaging (what do you expect when it is this cheap), and the branding and the barcodes are printed on the side. It does cheapen the feel a bit but it doesn't take away from the writing experience too much. I guess it is a personal preference, but if you feel this is a deal breaker, you could always step up to the bigger brother, the Platinum Plaisir. It is slightly more chunky and has a metal barrel, but the price is chunkier aswell, at 3 times the price of a Preppy.
3. Pilot MR Fountain Pen
Third on the list is the Pilot Metropolitan Fountain Pen. This pen is on nearly everybody's beginners list. Another inexpensive fountain pen, this time from Pilot, one of the largest fountain pen manufacturers in the world, and steeped in history, (check out their Vanishing Point Fountain pen innovation from 1963 - they feature in our Fountain Pen History blog)
A slightly more expensive price range, at £30, this could be a deal breaker for a starter pen, but the pen itself is fantastic. It is a good size, a comfortable shape, comes in nice colours, and the nib once again is perfect, it has a nice balance, writes smoothly and can be relied upon not to clog or dry out.
Check out this comprehensive review from Shelby over at littlecoffeefox.com.
Note: Unfortunately the Pilot MR has been discontinued in the UK, so we have added a bonus pen to the list at the bottom as a substitute. If you still want the MR, you can find it in international markets easily enough.
While this choice may not be the most popular among fountain pen enthusiasts, we certainly can't discount the Parker Jotter Fountain pen. While the ballpoint takes centre stage as the most sold, most popular and most widely recognised ballpoint in the world, the fountain pen is often overlooked. However, for a little over £10, you get the choice of a range of coloured pens in high sheen plastic with a metal cap. The choice of a metal barrel version is also available which gives a better balance in the hand due to the added weight.
While the Parker Jotter Original lacks a luxury finish and can sometimes feel a little lightweight, it makes up for it with Parker's lifetime warranty. Any nib issues or pen issues, they will sort it right away. Not that there are ever many issues. Parker have a long history of manufacturing fountain pen nibs and although they only come as standard in a fine or medium width, they both write well enough. They don't compete with the Lamy nibs or the Platinum nibs but they hold their own against other fountain pens in the same price range. I would always advise the medium with parker as they are a lot smoother. And the pen comes in a Parker gift box aswell. Fantastic for a £10 pen and if you're struggling to choose your first fountain pen, these are a great starter fountain pen.
We have added the Sheaffer VFM fountain pen to the list because they are easy to get hold of being a popular brand, and come in at around £20 or so. While it is more expensive than the Parker Jotter Fountain pen, it does have a full metal barrel and is offered in a few nice colours, and available as Fine or medium and comes in a nice gift box.
The pen has a lovely balance to it with a nice weight thanks to its metal barrel. Get the ink flowing and the nib writes smooth and consistent, great as a starter pen. From our experience, the fine can sometimes give a little bit more ink so as to feel a bit more like a medium. It shouldn't cause any problems though. This pen takes standard international ink cartridges rather than Sheaffer ink cartridges. Maybe this is to keep the price low for beginners. So aswell as the pen being stocked in many stores, the inks are too and you should find a good selection of ink colours from many international brands that are compatible.
Unfortunately this pen is a bit slim near the top to fit a converter so bottled inks are out, but this shouldn't prove a problem if you are purchasing as your first fountain pen anyway.
Bonus - The Pilot V-Pen
The Pilot V-Pen Fountain pen makes the list purely on price. It is a sub £5 fountain pen, you can actually pick a pack of 3 up on Amazon for less than £8, so effectively a sub £3 pen.
The V-pen is an inexpensive disposable fountain pen with a fairly large ink capacity so should last a long while. Does it write well? It writes ok - better than expected for a disposable fountain pen. The pen comes in medium as standard. Unlike some other disposable fountain pens, it comes with a rounded tip, making it very forgiving for beginners trying to find their writing angle (also great for us lefties).
The positives are the price. This is perfect if you are on a tight budget and just want to see if fountain pens are for you. A great little beginner pen. Don't expect too much from it and you won't be disappointed.
It also comes in a variety of colours so you can buy a multi pack with a range of colours to suit your mood. Great for marking papers if your a teacher - you'll have the green and red pens on hand.
Another plus is it writes first time, every time. No stop starting. Just pick it up and go. No need to mess around with inks and refills. You can throw it in your bag and there will be no leaks. Would you buy another? Maybe not, but by the time you have finished with it, you'll either hate fountain pens or you'll be hooked and want to upgrade immediately.
There you have it, our top 5 beginners fountain pens, and a bonus one for good measure. There are many more, like the Jinhao 450, a Chinese fountain pen with a gold plated nib for under a tenner which didn't make the cut this time. My personal choice is the Lamy Safari Fountain Pen. The nibs are great quality and can be switched quickly when you need to. But its the unusual design and the large cap that when posted while writing gives the pen a lovely balance and makes writing effortless.
Let us know what your preferences and suggestions are for beginner fountain pens and we'll update or list. Need any help just let us know.