Going on a diet (recalibrating to smaller, cheaper pens)

My pen hobby has, at risk of generalising, broadly trended towards larger and more expensive pens (I covered this in ‘boiling a frog‘).

I started with “normal” pens like the Pelikan M205, Lamy Al Star, Platinum 3776, Sailor Pro Gear, Kaweco Sport and Pilot 91, and have escalated to rare and costly giants like the Oldwin Art Deco, Conway Stewart Winston and Wahl-Eversharp Decoband.

I realised a while ago that, beyond a certain point, bigger is not always better. I love my Montblanc 149 and Conid Kingsize, but I’m actually just as comfortable with second-tier pens like the Desiderata Soubriquet, Onoto Magna and Montblanc 146. I don’t have the hands of a giant, and I started to accept that the really big pens like the Decoband actually just tire me out, just as much as skinny pens do.

Given this realisation, I’m gradually adjusting my perspective so that when I’m browsing, I don’t automatically gravitate to the biggest pen as being the best one for me.

This came out in my recent trip to Japan most starkly, where I didn’t even bother to look at the enormous Namiki Emperor, and instead went down a notch to its smaller brother, the Yukari Royale / Urushi 20. Sure, it’s not as flashy, and the nib is smaller, but it’s very very comfortable.

Now I’m trying to do the same with price. Over the last year or so I’ve pushed the boundaries of what I’m comfortable spending on a pen. I naturally equate “more expensive” with “better”, and I’ve rather lost interest in “cheaper” pens — anything under a couple of hundred quid I dismiss out of hand, on the grounds that it will probably feel cheap and get left in the drawer in favour of “better” pens.

That trend is of course harmful to my finances, but it’s also often unjust. Expensive pens are for sure more opulently packaged, more exclusive, use more exotic materials, and may have a higher standard of finishing. But if I’m pursuing beautiful pens that write wonderfully and offer me a new experience, there’s no intrinsic reason why that has to be at a premium price.

Case in point: I recently got an Opus 88 Demonstrator, which is big, solid, interesting, and a great fun writer, but also under a hundred quid. It joins the Karas Reentry and Faber-Castell e-Motion as less-expensive recent acquisitions that bring me great joy.

So in my browsing I’m consciously testing the water of gradually lower price points, looking at Sailor 1911s and the like for the first time in ages.

I certainly don’t want to use this trend towards cheaper pen as a reason to buy more pens for the same overall amount. As you’ll know from my regular sales, my goal is not to have a large collection of pens, and I know I shouldn’t be ordering new pens at all, really.

That said, most recently I’ve ordered a Pilot 823 FA (yes, my third attempt!) and Parker Duofold Centennial. These are both gold-nibbed and on the larger size of their manufacturers’ ranges, but by my standards they’re what I would consider to be smaller pens, and cheaper.

A step in the right direction? I hope so.


8 thoughts on “Going on a diet (recalibrating to smaller, cheaper pens)

  1. Thank you for sharing these thoughts. I was glad to read of this new direction, as though hearing that a friend is kicking a destructive addiction! I follow your pen journey with interest, in part to compare with my own. Despite having bought upwards of 200 pens I have never (yet!) spent more than £450 on a pen although I have been tempted by a few. I am fortunate to be able to find joy in more modestly priced pens, my most recent being the humble Sheaffer Prelude! Looking at my pen cup now, of the 20 or so currently inked, there are many under £100 including the Faber-Castell Grip which writes wonderfully, and cost just £15. If the writing performance is the criterion, you do not need to spend a lot.


  2. I can certainly appreciate your attempt to scale back in size, cost, and maybe exclusivity. Maybe your new direction could be finding those hidden gems we read about? Watching you go through your “Solomon experience” was a lot of fun. 😉


  3. I’m a great fan of Kaweco and love their Sport models for their dependability and size when posted vs closed. I’ll admit the plastics are a bit “thin” but the nibs are good. Similarly the cheaper Pelikan pens. Of the other cheaper pens I’ve always found Lamy to be a bit of a mixed bag.
    As a kid my first fountain pen was a Shaeffer No Nonsense pen. All my schoolmates had Parker 25 pens and I remember being so jealous of the metal finish. Trying to get cartridges for the Shaeffer was a pain too. It was 1979….no Amazon or suchlike.
    I eventually got a new pen ( a Platignum??? ) which took the small international cartridges that were available at most newsagents.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Interesting read. I may be finding myself in a journey similar to yours.

    For the longest time, I had the Pelikan M1000 high on my list. But when they released the M805 Stressemann, I picked it up because it’s such a classy look. I enjoy it so much that I’m not even thinking of a 1000 anymore. Maybe that will be my approach to Montblanc as well. I might end up being OK with a 146 instead of gunning for a 149.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I quite enjoy reading about your changing priorities in your pen collection. I suppose the reasons why people collect things are as varied as the things they collect, and it is interesting how your own goals and priorities are going through a period of reflection and perhaps realignment. I wonder if you think the looming uncertainties of Brexit have been contributing a sobering influence on your rationale for indulging some of the more exuberant quests of this hobby? And even if so, the questioning is still quite worthwhile.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Quick post: more for sale | UK fountain pens

  7. Pingback: Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – June 12, 2019 | Fountain Pen Quest

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