Monday, July 28, 2014

Pilot Knight fountain pen review

My new friends at Pen Chalet sent me a very nice fountain pen to review: the Pilot Knight. Like the Metropolitan, this is a newer release from Pilot. Disclaimer: I received the pen free of charge but no other payment or incentive for this review, and all the opinions herein are my own.

For now, the Pilot Knight comes only in brushed silver finish with a medium nib. Pen Chalet has a pretty good deal on the Pilot Knight at the moment, 50% off list price, for only $24. If you use the coupon code PeninkCillin you can get an additional 10% off on your first order.

Packaging

The Pilot Knight comes in a large clamsheel-type case, with a vaguely leather-like texture. The case itself is inside a white card-stock box (not pictured).

Pilot Knight case

The clamshell case is larger than both the Metropolitan and the Vanishing Point I tested recently. In fact, it looks like there's space inside it for 3 pens. I don't understand why this is. It looks to me like a lot of wasted resources for such an inexpensive pen. However, my judgment might be warped by the half price sale. Perhaps this type of case would be more justified at the original $48 price.

Pilot Knight case

Underneath the tray insert Pilot includes a blue ink cartridge, an instruction manual, and a warranty card. Those are very similar to what's included with the Metropolitan and Vanishing Point so there was no point in photographing them again.

Body, construction, and dimensions

The Pilot Knight is a very handsome metal (likely brass) fountain pen, with brushed silver finish. Both the barrel and cap (as well as the clip) are metal, which gives it a hefty, solid weight.

It is, in fact, one of my heaviest pens (that I have weighed so far), heavier even than the metal-bodied Vanishing Point, and exactly 10 grams heavier than the Pilot Metropolitan. Here's a table comparing it with other pens I have weighed:

CappedUncapped
PenWeight (g)Weight (oz)Weight (g)Weight (oz)
Pilot Knight36.41.2821.60.76
Pilot Vanishing Point30.51.08--
Pilot Metropolitan26.40.9317.10.6
TWSBI Diamond 53025.70.91n/an/a
Lamy AL-Star21.80.77n/an/a
Noodler's Ahab18.80.66n/an/a
Pilot Prera16.10.56n/an/a

Lengthwise, the Knight is as follows:
Length capped: 13.5 cm / 5.25 in
Length un-capped: 11.5 cm / 4.5 in
Length posted: 14.5 cm / 5.75 in

Pilot Knight on case

While the weight might scare some folks off, it feels really good to me. It's well balanced but as is often the case, I prefer to use it unposted. With the cap posted I feel that it's too top heavy. I mean, the cap itself weighs almost 15 grams. The way I define "top heavy" is when I feel the pen starts to pivot upwards while resting between the thumb and index finger.

When posted, the cap is held on by friction. The fit is reasonably secure but I would still recommend pressing it hard from the get-go.

Pilot Knight posted

Shape-wise, the Knight resembles the Metropolitan in that it is roughly cigar-shaped (but a lot thinner) and tapers sharply at both ends. Here's where the resemblance ends.

Pilot Knight vs Metropolitan

At the barrel end, the Knight is cut off sharply, and if you look at the end of the butt, there's a round polished chrome insert. The Metropolitan, in comparison, is rounded smooth. I prefer the Knight's barrel end.

Pilot Knight vs Metropolitan barrel end

Moving down the barrel, where it meets the cap there's a thin polished chrome band. Nothing fancy but I think it's classier than the Metropolitan's wide band. But then again, the Metropolitan seems like a more casual pen.

Pilot Knight

One of the most striking features of the Pilot Knight is the cap, or rather the clip. It's spring-loaded and the action is very smooth. It clips nicely to a shirt pocket and holds on tightly. Being very smooth it won't snag or tear the fabric. The clip, as well as the finial, are polished chrome, like the rest of the trim.

Pilot Knight cap

The clip comes up, through, and over the finial, and hinges somewhere inside it. I'm not sure if this description makes sense but I hope the image above will assist you in visualizing it. When activated, you can see how the whole thing pivots. It's pretty cool.

Compared to the Metropolitan, there's a huge difference in the aesthetics of the cap and the clip. While the Metropolitan ends in a smooth rounded dome, with no finial to speak of, the Knight has a very nice asymmetrical conical finial, with the clip forming a point, almost like a spearhead. I guess that's where the "Knight" name comes from.

Pilot Knight vs Metropolitan caps

I neglected to take a photo of the filling system but if you want to see what a pump converter looks like, just check out the Pilot Metropolitan review because the Knight uses the exact same system. I talked about the downsides of this system in the other review so I won't repeat them here. Pilot also includes a blue ink cartridge but I installed the pump converter right away, and filled it with Noodler's Heart of Darkness. The Knight can also take a CON-50 converter and I really wish they had included one. The CON-50 is a far superior solution compared to the pump converter.

Here's a side-by-side shot of the Knight compared to the Metropolitan.

Pilot Knight vs Metropolitan

Notice that, while both pens have a glossy plastic section, the Knight's is shorter in length. The Metropolitan's section is also flared at the nib end, which might prevent fingers from slipping, while the Knight lacks the flare. However, despite being slippery, I haven't run into slip issues with either pen. I guess their weight (especially the Knight's) helps to keep it steady.

Finally, a shot of both Metropolitans (F and M) along with the Knight (M).

Pilot Knight vs Metropolitan

I think it's fair to say the Knight wins hands down in the looks department.

The nib

Not much to say here beyond what was already said in the Metropolitan review, because the Knight uses the exact same nib and feed as other Pilot pens, including the Prera. As such, I would expect it to write perfectly.

Pilot Knight uncapped

But does it write?

Despite all the praise I heaped upon the Pilot Knight so far, I was a bit disappointed to find out that it didn't write quite the same as the Metropolitan, even though both pens have identical feeds and medium nibs. The following sample should give you an idea of the differences.

Pilot Knight writing sample

So what's wrong? Well, if you haven't read the Metropolitan review, I'll just tell you that the medium nib (and the fine one in a smaller measure) impressed me hugely. I declared that medium nib to be the smoothest, with the best flow I've ever tested. The Knight's nib is neither as smooth, nor flows as well. It even had some skipping issues at first, until I used it some more, which perhaps helped to saturate the feed with more ink, and that in turn made it write without skipping. Still, the Knight's line remained thinner and lighter than the Metropolitan's.

My disappointment notwithstanding, the Knight wrote acceptably after "breaking it in", though it never equaled the Metropolitan. One possible explanation for this behavior is that the feed could have been covered in residual manufacturing oils, which can prevent proper flow. I didn't wash the pen before first use so it's a good an explanation as any. On the other hand I didn't wash the Metropolitan either.

Another, more likely explanation is that there will always be variation between these mass produced nibs. To be fair, the Metropolitan's nib is better even than the Prera's, and the latter is a $60 pen. So it boils down to luck of the draw.

The nib bears more testing, of course. I have given the system its first wash and we'll see how it performs afterwards. In the meantime, I did what anyone would do: I swapped the nibs and feeds between the Metropolitan and the Knight. The end result is a gorgeous pen which writes like a dream.

Final words

The Pilot Knight is a really impressive metal-bodied fountain pen with a modern design and clean, sharp looks. I'm sure it can impress in any boardroom or high-end office. For the $24 Pen Chalet is charging, it's frankly hard to beat. At the full price of $48, it becomes harder to recommend, chiefly because of the filling system. I feel that around the $50 mark, a fountain pen should have at least a twist converter. Yeah, I guess we've all been spoiled by pens such as the TWSBI, not to mention $2 Chinese pens which come standard with a converter.

As for the nib issue, I wouldn't sweat it too much. If I'm right about the manufacturing oils, this is a non-issue. Even if not, this isn't a problem specific to the Knight but rather a legacy to mass-produced nibs. As such, some of these nibs will perform outstanding, while others less so.

Personally I think the extra $9 over the Metropolitan is worth it for the superior looks and heavier body. If you are past the stage of a starter pen and would like something more distinguished, as long as you like a silver finish and a medium nib, you can't go wrong with the Pilot Knight.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Ink samples (5x) GIVEAWAY

This past week I reached my first 300 followers, after 170 days on Twitter. I am both happy and humbled by this, since I had no idea what might come out of my Twitter presence. I used to be a social media luddite until recently, but things changed when I realized that instead of viewing social media as another time-wasting internet fad, it's much more lucrative to see it as a tool.

Though I'm not on Facebook (which I don't see as relevant for my blog, especially since I'm not a business), I've come to see Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest as very powerful tools that can expand one's audience, fans, and connections for a particular subject. In my case, the subject includes inks, fountain pens, calligraphy and handwriting, and stationery in general.

I try not to tweet about subjects that are not relevant to the above. On the other hand, I'm more lenient on Instagram, where I've been known to post pictures of things that I cook for myself or other stuff that I might find interesting. Still, the majority of my focus is on the bread and butter of this blog.

To celebrate my 300-follower milestone, I decided to give away 5 ink samples from my ink collection of 15 inks, to one lucky participant. I'm grateful and humbled by all the attention and support I've been getting since this blog launched, and this is my small way of thanking you, my readers. Unfortunately I can't give more than 1 prize at this point, but hopefully there will be other milestones down the road which I can celebrate with more giveaways.

Also unfortunately, this giveaway will be valid only for US residents (including Alaska and Hawaii), because otherwise the shipping would be prohibitive.


Here's a list of 15 inks that you can pick from. Notice that next to each ink there's a quantity in milliliters. This signifies the maximum amount that I will give out from each ink. Some inks I have more of, others less, hence the disparity.

You can check out my reviews for each ink by following the links.
  1. De Atramentis Black Green (3 ml)
  2. Diamine Green Black (2 ml)
  3. Diamine Orange (3 ml)
  4. J Herbin 1670 Bleu Ocean (3 ml)
  5. J Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite (2 ml)
  6. J Herbin Vert Olive (2 ml)
  7. Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki (2 ml)
  8. Monteverde Brown (2 ml)
  9. Noodler's Heart of Darkness (3 ml)
  10. Noodler's Gruene Cactus Eel (3 ml)
  11. Noodler's Navajo Turquoise (3 ml)
  12. Noodler's Nikita (5 ml)
  13. Noodler's Polar Brown (2 ml)
  14. Waterman Florida Blue (3 ml)
  15. Waterman Havana Brown (2 ml)

How to participate

I chose to use Google Forms to collect your information. I've been suggested ROFLcopter or some such but I don't really trust these 3rd party services and Google Docs is already integrated with Blogger, not to mention incredibly easy to work with, so in the end it was a no-brainer.

Head on to the giveaway form and please fill in the required fields.

I will need a name/nickname/screen name, so I can announce the winner by it. It doesn't have to be your real name, just something that you will recognize when I make the announcement. I will also need a valid email address so I can ask for your mailing address if you win. Not least, you will need to pick 5 inks (no more, no less).

Submissions are open until Saturday, August 9th, 12:00 AM CST. I will most likely announce a winner on Sunday, August 10th.

How to increase your chances to win

There are 2 additional ways in which you can increase your chances to win.
  1. Follow me (@peninkcillin) on Instagram and post a relevant picture with the tag #picgiveaway1. The picture should be related to the subject of this blog (ink / fountain pen / handwriting / stationery).
  2. Follow me (@peninkcillin) on Twitter and re-tweet the giveaway tweet (which will contain the tag #picgiveaway1).

Rules for participating/winning

  • The giveaway is US-only, really sorry about this :(
  • You can pick no more, nor less, than 5 inks.
  • The giveaway won't cost you a thing - I will ship the 5 samples for free.
  • Winners will be drawn at random from the list compiled from the giveaway form  + Instagram + Twitter participants. Submitting entries on Instagram and/or Twitter will increase your chances to win. I will use a popular online random number generator to pick the winner.
  • The draw will take place 2 weeks after the giveaway is announced.
  • You will be disqualified if: your data is incomplete, OR the email address is invalid, OR you are outside the US, OR you re-tweet or post on Instagram without following me, OR you re-tweet the wrong thing, OR the Instagram picture is not according to the guidelines listed above.
  • If I contact you and you don't respond to my request for a mailing address within a week of the drawing, you will be disqualified and another drawing will be held.
  • Once I obtain your mailing address I will ship the 5 samples you picked within 5 business days.
  • I will ship via USPS Domestic Flat Rate so theoretically you should be OK if you are inside the US.

Final words

If you win and write/draw something cool with the inks I sent you, and post it online, feel free to let me know so I can tweet it or otherwise broadcast it.

Good luck and may the ink gods be on your side!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Diamine Syrah ink review

The next ink from my ink sample survey, which got equal votes to Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrun, is Diamine Syrah. This ink is perfect for today's review because it is similar to the subject of a recent controversy: the change in formula for Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses (aka BSAR). As a result, I reviewed both inks in parallel. You will notice a comparison to Noodler's ink (original formula) in one of my samples but the actual review for that ink will be posted some time next week.

I reviewed Diamine Syrah in my Kaweco Sport Classic with broad nib and eyedropper conversion.

Diamine Syrah shading

Bottle and pricing
Diamine inks typically come in 80 ml / 2.7 oz bottles, selling for $12.95, or $0.16 per milliliter. Very affordable. I only had a sample of Diamine Syrah at my disposal, hence the lack of bottle pictures.

One thing that I'd like to mention here is that this ink stained my sample vial such that it didn't wash off with just water like most inks. Not a big deal, obviously, but worth keeping in mind.

Color and saturation
Diamine Syrah is a beautiful burgundy ink, of a deep and dark shade, very reminiscent of a good vintage wine. I couldn't get it to look so good if I poured actual wine in my Kaweco. Too bad it doesn't have the fragrance and bouquet of wine.

It is a very saturated ink and you will notice that it is a darker shade of burgundy than Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses (original formula). In reality, it depends how you sample the inks. On cheap photocopy paper, Noodler's BSAR appears lighter, almost pinkish, but on Clairefontaine 100g sketch paper it is much darker, which makes it very similar to Diamine Syrah. In actual use, BSAR is lighter on paper. This will be revealed in my review of Noodler's BSAR.

Diamine Syrah vs Sailor Jentle Grenade

At the same time, I compared Diamine Syrah with the only other burgundy ink I tested: Sailor Jentle Grenade. I'll have to admit that Sailor's ink is even more beautiful, with really wild shading and even some golden sheen. There's slightly more red in Sailor's ink, but apart from that, the two inks are fairly similar, more so than Syrah vs BSAR.

For good measure I also threw in a sample of Waterman Havana Brown (see at the bottom of the article) because it's a brown ink with some red in it but it actually doesn't help this review much.

Shading
Diamine Syrah has some very nice ink variation, otherwise known as shading. It is not as good as Sailor Jentle Grenade though. I can actually see Grenade's sheen with the naked eye in the handwriting, never mind the color swab. Still, Syrah has some of the better shading inks I've tested.

For the ink variation to "shine", a broad(er) nib is indicated.

Diamine Syrah shading

Feathering
None.

Bleedthrough
As usual, such a dark, saturated ink will most certainly ghost on cheap paper and even bleed if the line is wet enough. It doesn't do any of that on Clairefontaine 90g though.

Flow, lubrication, and smoothness
Diamine Syrah flows well in the Kaweco Sport, despite the broad nib. Paradoxically, it also feels a bit dry on cheap, absorbent paper. Having used it for the past week at work taking notes on scrap photocopy paper, flow is not always consistent. Sometimes it skips and sometimes the line is too thin. This could also be a result of my style of writing, which can often be rushed. If I press harder on the nib and take my time, it seems to flow much better.

On Clairefontaine 90g it glides smoothly, without any of the above issues.

I can't even be sure if this is an ink issue, or a paper issue, or a fountain pen issue. Basically Diamine Syrah is on the wet side but shows dry tendencies under certain conditions which are hard to pinpoint. Either way, it is not a serious problem.

Drying time
Drying times are long on Clairefontaine 90g with the broad nib (a little over 30 seconds), but that's entirely expected. Cheap paper absorbs it quickly and renders it dry in under 10 seconds.

Smearing when dry
None, with the mention that you will have to give it a very long period of time on good, shiny paper, before you can touch it without smearing. A lot of dark, saturated inks behave this way.

Water resistance
This is by no means a water resistant ink but it seems to not be a total pushover like other inks, either. 30 seconds under running water washed some of it off but the text and diagrams appear recoverable.

Conclusion
Diamine Syrah is a really cool looking burgundy ink with excellent shading and amazing looks. In typical Diamine fashion, it is generally a well-behaved ink and inexpensive to boot. If you enjoy your red wine, you'll very likely enjoy Diamine Syrah. Give it a try, you won't regret it!

Following are the two writing samples on photocopy, and Clairefontaine 90g paper, respectively.

Diamine Syrah on photocopy

Diamine Syrah on Clairefontaine

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen review

Thanks to Goulet Pens who sent me these pens for review, I can present you with two Pilot Metropolitan fountain pens, one plain silver with medium nib, the other plain black with fine nib. Disclaimer: I received the pens free of charge but no other payment or incentive for this review, and all the opinions herein are my own.

There are several different patterns available for the trim piece around the mid-section of these pens, as well as gold and purple finishes, but I opted for the plain versions because I wasn't sure I would like the patterns. Looking more carefully at the photos on Goulet Pens I believe that some of them, such as the silver dots, are quite interesting.

The Pilot Metropolitan must be a new model because I can't remember hearing about it a year ago. It certainly wasn't available when I got into fountain pens, around 2010-11, because instead of the much more expensive Pilot Prera, I might have looked into one of these instead. As it stands, the Pilot Metropolitan is a very affordable entry-level fountain pen which the Goulets sell for a modest $15. Let's dig in and find out what you get for 3 Lincolns.

Packaging
The Pilot Metropolitan comes in a simple but neat exterior cardboard sleeve. Inside is the inner display case which is made of some sort of thin metal or tin, with a plastic window through which the pen and a blue ink cartridge can be seen.

Pilot Metropolitan external box

Pilot Metropolitan internal box

This is quite a lot of decent quality packaging for a $15 pen. I actually prefer it to that of the Pilot Vanishing Point. This case looks sturdier and the metal is superior to the VP's fake-leather-covered-cardboard.

Here's what the case looks with the lid open. Pilot also includes a blue ink cartridge to get you started.

Pilot Metropolitan internal box open

Body, construction, and dimensions
The Pilot Metropolitan is a sleek, metal-bodied fountain pen, with a slim cigar-shaped body. It tapers to a rounded point at both ends and there's no finial to speak of.

Pilot Metropolitan silver

The silver version comes with a brushed metal finish, while the wide trim band around the middle is polished aluminum. The middle band can also be one of several patterns, such as dots, python, zig-zag and so on.

Regardless of color and finish, all Metropolitan pens sport a polished chrome clip which seems to be tension-loaded. It's very plain and I can't say I like it but it serves its purpose.

Moving on, uncapping the pen reveals the glossy black plastic section and the nib.

Pilot Metropolitan silver uncapped

The cap is of the slip-on type and snaps close with a solid click. You can post the cap but it doesn't feel very secure unless you press it down hard. I prefer to use the Metropolitan un-posted because the balance feels better for me. Posted, it's a little top heavy.

Pilot Metropolitan posted

Seeing the nib, immediately hinted that this would be a good writer. Why? Because at first sight the nib looked very similar to the Prera's. And the Prera is a very good writer. So are the nibs identical? I will reveal that shortly.

Unscrewing the barrel from the section reveals the filling mechanism. It's a squeeze converter.

Pilot Metropolitan silver disassembled

Now, I have some reservations regarding squeeze converters. They're rather imprecise when filling, you can't see the contents, ink capacity is low and, well, basically they're not the most elegant filling system out there. But considering the price of this pen, I'm actually glad that they even included a converter. Other manufacturers won't even dream of going beyond the courtesy lone cartridge for price points below $40-50. So I see this as a big plus.

Pilot Metropolitan silver and black disassembled

Here are the two pens I reviewed, next to each other. The black has a fine nib, while the silver sports a medium.

Pilot Metropolitan silver and black

The black pen has a similar brushed finish, but the black band is glossier than the silver.

Dimensions for the Pilot Metropolitan are as follows:

Length capped: 13.7 cm / 5.4 in
Length un-capped: 13 cm / 5 in
Length posted: 15.5 cm / 6 in
Weight (capped, with converter): 26.4 g / 0.93 oz
Weight (un-capped, with converter): 17.1 g / 0.6 oz

Here are the two Metropolitans compared to the Prera. They are longer but slimmer. I prefer the Prera's shape though, but that's a more premium pen.

Capped Pilot Metropolitan black and silver vs Prera

In operation, the Metropolitan is well balanced without posting the cap. While I would prefer a slightly thicker body, it is by no means uncomfortable. The glossy section is a bit slippery but the fingers won't slide too low because they are stopped by the flared end.

The nib
As mentioned, as soon as I saw the Metropolitan's nib, I knew it would be good, because it looked very similar to the Prera's. So I took both pens apart (the medium-nibbed Metropolitan and the medium Prera) and here's what I saw.

Pilot Metropolitan vs Prera nib and feed

As I suspected, both nib and feed are identical. The only difference is in the pattern which appears on the nib. The Metropolitan has a small dashed design, while the Prera lacks this, instead featuring the words "Super Quality". Well, I'm happy to report that both nibs are "super quality".

Here's the underside of the two feeds. Again, they are identical, except for the fact that the Metropolitan's is a lighter color.

Pilot Metropolitan vs Prera nib and feed

Next is a series of photos comparing the fine nib from the black Metropolitan with the medium nib from the silver Metropolitan, and the medium nib from the Prera.

Pilot Metropolitan silver and black nibs

Pilot Metropolitan silver and black nibs close-up

Pilot Metropolitan nib vs Prera

Pilot Metropolitan black vs Prera

Pilot Metropolitan silver vs Prera

You can tell just by looking at these photos how much thinner the fine nib is compared to the medium.

But do they write?
Expectations can be low for inexpensive pens and high for expensive ones. My expectations for the Metropolitan were pretty high to start with but I'm happy to say that they were exceeded. I loaded both pens with Noodler's Heart of Darkness and also used a Jinhao X750 with a broad nib for comparison, filled with the same ink.

The medium nib in particular impressed me in no small measure. It writes better than the Prera. I suspect I was lucky to get a particularly good sample. This is without doubt the smoothest medium nib I have used. It writes like a dream, creamy smooth on any type of paper. It's so smooth, and the flow so satisfying that it resembles a Pilot V5 Rollerball. Scratch that, it's even smoother than the V5.

The medium nib's flow is well on the wet side with Noodler's HOD, but be rest assured that it doesn't gush. Since I like wet-flowing nibs, it is very enjoyable to use.

The fine nib has a different character. It is very smooth and the flow is consistent. It starts right away and never skips. Yet, due to the nature of the nib, it is not quite as smooth or as wet as the medium. Don't get me wrong, if the medium gets a 10/10 for smoothness, I'd give the fine a 8.5-9/10. Same for wetness.

The fine nib's strength lies in its precision. It lays a very thin and sharp line, which I'm sure would be perfect for Japanese or Chinese characters. If you like F/EF nibs, this is the nib for you. Myself, I prefer a thicker nib, that's why I favor the medium, but the fine is just as good, depending how you lean.

Both nibs require very little pressure to write.

Here's the writing sample on Clairefontaine 90g, showing a comparison between the Pilot Metropolitan M and F, as well as the Jinhao X750 B, followed by a couple more glamour shots.

Writing sample for Pilot Metropolitan

Pilot Metropolitan silver and black with writing sample

Pilot Metropolitan silver and black with writing sample

Notice how much tighter the spiral designs are with the F. Both pens pair incredibly well with Noodler's Heart of Darkness.

Final words
The Pilot Metropolitan is an inexpensive but definitely not cheap fountain pen. $15 gets you a stylish metal body with good balance and decent ergonomics, and even a squeeze converter which is pretty rare at this price point. But more importantly, this entry-level fountain pen comes with an incredible nib which puts more expensive pens to shame.

I can't recommend the Metropolitan strongly enough but it's up to you to decide which nib size you prefer. While both are amazing, my own bias makes me lean towards the medium. Whichever way you go, there's only a big heap of win, so if my review convinced you, head on to Goulet Pens and take a look.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen review

In an unprecedented turn of events, a few weeks ago I was swayed by a sale that Amazon was having on Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pens, and decided to buy one. I had noticed the Vanishing Point and lusted for it for a long time but never dared spend so much money on a fountain pen. As a reminder, my most expensive pen up to the point was the TWSBI Diamond 530 for which I paid about $45 at the time.

I bought my Pilot VP in Gun Metal Gray, with a Broad nib, for $125. Unfortunately, the sale on Amazon is over but they still have decent prices (starting at $129.95 as of this writing) on certain combinations for these pens so if my review sways you to buy one, you can do me a kindness by following the affiliate link on Amazon to the Pilot Vanishing Point. It won't cost you any extra but I will get a few pennies from the sale.

Some may dislike the Gun Metal Gray combo but the reason I bought it in this configuration is because it's probably the safest one you can get. I would have preferred the Matte Black but I heard many stories that the finish likes to come off after a while. Gun Metal Gray is unassuming and pretty stealthy so it won't attract much attention if I decide to take it out in public. And my goodness how these pens are made just for taking out in public!

As for the nib, I tend to prefer broad nibs because of the usual reasons: I like to go through inks as quickly as possible so I can change them frequently, and broad nibs usually bring out the characteristics of the ink more, which is useful for my ink reviews.

So was the Pilot Vanishing Point worth all the expense? We shall find out together but the outlook is good.

Pilot VP elegance

What is the Pilot Vanishing Point?
For the few of you who still don't know what these pens are, and why they are special, let me give you a quick primer. Essentially they are fountain pens which behave like a click-button ballpoint pen. They don't have a cap. Instead, the nib hides inside the pen's body when not in use, and is extended by means of a click button, in a similar manner to that cheap Bic that costs a dime a dozen.

But what's the advantage of these fountain pens? Doesn't the nib dry out? Well, the biggest advantage (to me at least) is that you can pick up this pen and start writing in one swift movement, without having to go through the motions of removing the cap, storing or posting it, then re-capping when you're done writing. If you are in the habit of taking frequent short notes, this can be a lifesaver. There are no caps to lose and the pen's balance doesn't change in use because there are no removable parts. As for the nib, the ink won't dry because Pilot uses a clever mechanism whereupon a tiny internal door seals the opening when the nib is retracted.

Another side effect of this pen's design is that it can mess with people's brains, especially those who haven't encountered something like it before. But this can also be a curse, because I can almost see the clueless coworker who grabs one of these off your desk without permission, clicks the tip open and then starts jabbing at a page without even realizing that he's holding the nib upside down. I shudder to think.

Who is the Pilot Vanishing Point for?
The Pilot VP is for the discerning, modern fountain pen user. Well, not really. While to me the design and function looks modern, this type of pen has been produced in a slightly different guise for many years (see the Namiki Vanishing Point). There are even several different modern pens with a "vanishing point" or "capless" design, such as Pilot's own Fermo (roughly double the price of the VP) and even one that Lamy produced until recently (can't recall the name, sorry).

It's safe to say that if you are functioning in a dynamic environment, where you need to take notes at a moment's notice, and you like a more upscale fountain pen, this might be the instrument for you.

Packaging
For the money, I'm a bit underwhelmed by the packaging but on the other hand I'd prefer if it were even more basic, with the difference in cost rolled into the price of the pen. In truth, unless the pen costs hundreds or thousands of dollars, you most likely won't want to display it proudly anyway.

First, there's a sliding external cardboard box, which is elegant but simple. I really like the modern embossed design on it.

Pilot VP external box

Underneath is the actual box in which the Pilot Vanishing Point rests. This is a display-type snap-case with a faux leather finish. It's probably made out of cardboard.

Pilot VP internal case

You might notice some dust on the window. This pen must have been kept in storage for a long time because that's how I received it and the dust was nigh impossible to wipe off, perhaps due to the window being plastic.

Once you snap the case open, the beautiful Vanishing Point is revealed in its soft bed. Well, it was already revealed but you get the point.

Pilot VP in box

You'll notice the tag which says "Pilot Capless Broad Japan". The words "Vanishing Point" do appear on the UPC tag on the external box, as well as in the instruction manual, but not on this tag.

If you lift the insert by the silk ribbon you'll find more goodies hidden underneath. These include an instruction manual, a warranty card, but more importantly the CON-50 piston converter, a spare blue ink cartridge, and a blind cap for the cartridge. The Vanishing Point has a 3-year warranty and I'm actually going to mail in the warranty card, not because I'm afraid of anything going wrong but because it feels right to do so.

Pilot VP box contents

In the above photo I have already loaded the included ink cartridge. I could have gone with any of the inks in my collection but I thought it might be fitting to test it for the first time with Pilot/Namiki's own ink.

So the packaging is okay but not amazing. As a side-note, I really liked the neat box my Lamy AL-Star came in. Very simple and functional. Here are some beautiful pictures of the Lamy Safari's packaging on FPGeeks' website.

Body, construction, and dimensions
This gorgeous silver torpedo is rather thick, especially around the midsection, and then tapers at both ends. It really looks like a torpedo. Here it is compared to some of my other pens (TWSBI Diamond 530, Lamy AL-Star, Noodler's Ahab, Pilot Prera):

Pilot VP length

The length is 5.5 inches (14cm), and that's about the same as a capped Lamy Safari/AL-Star or Noodler's Ahab. Maximum thickness is about 0.5 inch (1.27cm), comparable to a TWSBI 530/540/580 or a Noodler's Ahab.

Here are the weights compared for the pens in the above image:

Pilot Vanishing Point (with cartridge and blind cap) - 30.5g - 1.08oz
TWSBI 530 (no ink) - 25.7g - 0.91oz
Lamy AL-Star (with converter) - 21.8g - 0.77oz
Noodler's Ahab (no ink) - 18.8g - 0.66oz
Pilot Prera (with converter) - 16.1g - 0.56oz

As you can see, it is weightier than all of these pens, and you can feel it. You are really holding a large chunk of metal. In fairness, the other pens aren't metal, except for the Lamy which is aluminum, but the VP is made of a denser metal.

The Pilot Vanishing Point may not appeal to everybody due to the peculiarity that it has the clip at the nib end, as opposed to the butt end where most pens have it. But that, of course, is because it lacks a cap. Still, don't ballpoint pens have the clip at the plunger end? Yes, but the VP is a fountain pen and positioning the clip like that ensures the pen will sit with the nib upright when clipped to a shirt pocket. That way there's no risk of ink leaking into your shirt.

Pilot VP

The position of the clip may render the pen uncomfortable for some, but don't knock it until you try it. I took a calculated risk when buying this pen and it paid off. The clip position doesn't intrude at all, in fact it helps me hold the pen with the nib pointed in the right direction. I can basically grab it from the table, click it open and start writing without glancing at the tip to see if it is aligned properly.

The clip is spring-loaded, with medium stiffness. I haven't actually clipped it to a shirt pocket because it's still sitting on my home office desk.

Balance is damn near perfect, with the weight centered around the lower half, where you're holding it, which prevents it from being top-heavy.

Pilot VP in hand

The barrel is made of two sections, one containing the plunger, the other containing the nib end and the clip. While the body is metal, the Gun Metal Gray finish is not the bare metal. It is glossy and resembles some sort of lacquer. The black trimmings are painted matte, with the exception of the two gloss black rings which join the sections.

Pilot VP

One of the cool things about the Pilot VP is the nib unit itself. It is like a miniature self-contained fountain pen (without the cap) which resides inside a larger pen, like a set of Russian dolls.

Pilot VP nib unit with converter

If you wish, you can simply grab the nib unit and start using it like a fountain pen. It's just that you might find it rather thin. The big advantage is that you can dip the nib (which is longer than the average nib) into an ink bottle and avoid getting the rest of the pen (section, barrel, etc) dirty. The nib unit fits inside the pen body one way only, constrained by the notch shown below. This ensures it is aligned properly with the exit hole.

Pilot VP cartridge loaded

Operation
The Pilot Vanishing Point is operated via the plunger, like any ballpoint pen. Notice how long the plunger is. That's most likely because the nib needs to extend farther than a ballpoint tip.

As you press the plunger, a small gate - acting as an internal cap which seals the nib - retracts, just as the nib pushes past it. Here's how the process looks.

Pilot VP in action

This mechanism is incredibly smooth, unobtrusive and efficient. My pen hasn't dried one bit since I got it a few weeks ago, despite not getting a lot of use.

The plunger rattles a little when active but it's barely noticeable.

A closer look at the nib
The nib in the Pilot Vanishing Point is much narrower, but also longer, than a regular nib. Mine is a Broad and apparently it is 18k gold, whatever that means. It's probably gold plated because I doubt it's solid gold at this price. Someone correct me if I'm wrong.

Pilot VP nib unit

Pilot VP nib

Here's how the nib and the feed look when extended.

Pilot VP nib and feed

I can understand people who dislike the appearance. If you give it too much thought it does look like an ugly little thing. I prefer too see it as a very fancy ballpoint/rollerball tip instead.

Here it is compared to the broad nibs in the TWSBI Diamond 530 and Kaweco Sport Classic.

Pilot VP, TWSBI 530, Kaweco Sport nibs

And again compared only to the TWSBI 530.

Pilot VP vs TWSBI 530

Notice that the size of the tipping for all three nibs is pretty much identical. And so is the line they produce, though each pen has its unique personality.

One thing worth mentioning is that the nib never dried up on me when exposed, not even during several prolonged photo sessions. I've never quite encountered this in other nibs. I don't know if there's a special trick that Pilot employs or it's just happenstance.

But does it write?
It writes, and well it does. This is one of the smoothest broad nibs I've used, even slightly more so than the TWSBI 530's, which is a superlative nib in itself.

Pilot VP writing sample

On paper it glides like a hot knife through butter (pardon the oft-used metaphor). Any paper. The sample above is Clairefontaine 90g, but cheap copy paper doesn't phase this nib at all. On both papers it almost feels like there's an air cushion between the surface and the nib.

To be honest, I was expecting this Japanese broad nib to be more like a European medium. I was wrong. The line is just as wide as the TWSBI's and Kaweco's German nibs. The VP nib is, however, slightly smoother than the TWSBI and a lot more than the Kaweco. It turns out that Japanese broad nibs aren't very different from other broads after all.

You might be curious about the springiness of this nib and I can tell you that it likes to flex a little. It's obviously not a flex nib but it is far from a stiff nail. In fact, the springiness allows it to imbue some extra line variation if a little pressure is applied. Check out this poor quality Instagram shot that I took while typing this paragraph.


Flow can always be a deal-breaker but this is certainly not the case here. The unit supplies the nib with plenty of ink, in a very controlled manner. I've never encountered a hard start or any skipping whatsoever. When I click it, it's ready to go. I feel supremely confident that it won't spit ink but at the same time it will lay a nice, fat, wet line, just the way I like it. On the other hand, cheap paper does not a great partner make, as it likes to suck in all that extra ink like a sponge.

While I like the nib and would buy it all over again if I had the chance, I'm already thinking about potentially acquiring a medium nib unit to complement this one. I like broad nibs because they go through inks quickly and show off the ink shading nicely, but for journaling or more official note-taking, a thinner nib might be more appropriate. Besides, it might be fun to keep different inks in each nib unit and swap them when the need arises, though I would have to figure out how to store and keep them from drying.

A quick word about Pilot's ink
While I'm usually quick to dismiss the ink cartridges that are sometimes included with fountain pens, I have to admit that Pilot/Namiki's blue ink is quite excellent. Not only is it a pleasant, saturated blue, but it actually features some very decent shading, which allows the broad nib in the VP to shine even more. Here are two close-ups of the writing sample.

Pilot VP writing sample 3

Pilot VP writing sample 2

Of course, you would expect such an ink to work perfectly with the pen it accompanies, and perhaps that's partly why the pen writes so smoothly. On second thoughts, that might also be a reason why it doesn't dry out when the nib is exposed for such a long time. Either way, I'm very pleased with the blue Pilot ink cartridge. In the end, I still can't wait to finish it so I can try other inks in this pen.

Final words
The Pilot Vanishing Point is my most expensive fountain pen to date, and though it took some courage to buy it, I am very glad I did. I don't regret the choice of the broad nib either. The Vanishing Point is so different than any other pen I own, but its design makes it more practical and durable than all the others. It is stealthy, yet recognizable. The build and mechanism are tuned with Japanese precision. The nib, oh boy is it smooth! And it flows so well that it makes me forget all the hard starts and skipping issues I had with lesser pens.

In short, I feel that this freshly kindled love for the Pilot Vanishing Point will burn bright for many years. But aren't there any negatives, you might ask? None whatsoever. But then love is blind and I'm just a little biased.

Pilot VP elegance