Time for a new buyer’s guide? Part one: pens under £50

My UKFP buyer’s guide page gets consistent traffic — clearly a lot of you out there are looking for recommendations as to which fountain pens are worth spending your money on.

It’s been a while since I wrote it, and I think it might be time for a new list. Let me know what you think of the below. If you like the format and approach, please leave a comment. I’ll eventually move the content over to the static page that you can find in the header nav bar.

So what’s my approach?

I think most people buy with a budget in mind. I’ve set seven budget categories based both on natural market divisions and big psychological barriers.

This post tackles the first of those budget levels.

Within each category I’ve called out just two recommendations, ideally focusing on different styles of pen (eg metal vs plastic). I know that everyone has unique preferences, and this is my way of trying to serve everyone!

I have used around 150 different pens, and I’m using that experience to drive my recommendations. I find it difficult to recommend a pen that I haven’t tried, and heaven knows there are a lot of pens out there. So if you wonder why I’ve left a pen out that seems a no-brainer to you, well, that’s probably the explanation.

I highly recommend checking out my collection and pen review index pages to get a sense of the pens I’ve tried out.

Under £50

This is perhaps the most competitive category, because 99% of pen buyers never spend more than this. 95% probably never spend more than £20 on a pen.

I’m concentrating here on pens that cost more than around £15. There are millions of budget pens out there from Jinhao and Kaco and Wing Sung, and many of them are good, but frankly if you’re intrigued by a pen that costs £5 delivered, just buy it. You don’t need me to validate you.

My assumption here is that you’re looking for your first, or second, “proper” pen. You want something that feels like a step up, that writes really well, but the emphasis is on versatility and reliability because this will probably be your daily user (not one of dozens of pens in a collection.

My two recommendations:

TWSBI Eco

I’ve had three Ecos and they’ve all been brilliant writers out of the box. They are easy to fully disassemble for a clean. The piston fill mechanism is robust, simple and holds a ton of ink. The demonstrator barrel means you never need to worry about running out of ink unexpectedly. The cap seals with an o-ring so it literally never dries out. With a hexagonal cap and decent clip the Eco won’t roll off a desk, and it’s both big enough for anyone and light enough for small hands. At £28 from a variety of retailers, I think the Eco is a steal.

Lamy Aion

(Read my review here)

I sold my Aion, but I recommend it wholeheartedly. Its brushed aluminium finish is extremely durable, but also smart and ready for business. I have found Lamy’s steel nibs very consistent. You can get Lamy cartridges anywhere. The slip cap is very firm and the long brushed section really comfortable for all kinds of grips. Definitely a step up from the ubiquitous Safari and Al Star.

Other options

Also worth looking at:

I’d avoid:

  • Kaweco Sport: It’s not about the size; it’s the sharp edges that bothered me. However, if you can stretch to a Kaweco AL Sport, do it.
  • PenBBS: I’ve ownly owned one PenBBS, but I found it fragile (both body and feed) and a poor writer.
  • Jinhao 992: They break. They really do.

Look out for the next price category in a couple of days!

11 thoughts on “Time for a new buyer’s guide? Part one: pens under £50

  1. This is an excellent idea, a useful and fun journey through the fountain pen market. Everyone’s journey, preferences and experiences will differ. It is quite startling that such a small percentage ever go beyond the entry level. But if you have seven price categories I may need Oxygen towards the end!
    Personally I am a fan of TWSBI. My other current favourite great value performers are the Faber-Castell Grip and Loom, and the Italix Captain’s Commission.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I would like to add an interesting outsider – ASA pens Mist is a lovely made in
    India pen turned from an acryl rod. $49 with Jowo nib.

    And from China, the Moonman M600s is nicely made, competent and pretty, around $25 or so.

    Like

  3. I love these kind of articles, bit like a top 2 plus honourable mentions in each price range. I also agree with your choices, the Eco was my first proper pen (Preppy before it) and it’s great, it’s now my wife’s first fountain pen.

    It was me who bought Anthony’s Aion and it’s a marvelous pen, it’s my work pen and it’s survived a few falls now and has a bit of “personalised character” but functions perfectly and the nib writes a lovely wet EF line. If it ever gets lost or breaks I’ll buy a replacement in a heartbeat.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Thanks Anthony, for this and other posts. Always a joy to read and very insightful. Let me add the Faber Castel Essentio to this list: excellent build and very good nib imho. No more TWSBI’s for me as both of mine (540 and mini) cracked and/or simply failed to produce ink flow.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I acquired my first Kaweco Perkeo after owning two Pelikan M800s, a Pelikan frankenpen with a beautiful gold flex nib, a Lamy 2000, a Lamy Imporium, and numerous Sailors and Pilots with gold nibs.

    I was stunned at the responsiveness of the Perkeo’s steel nib.

    The Perkeo’s not pretty, but it is, £ for £, the best writing pen that I own.

    Like

  6. I would be curious about your recommendation for this:
    I would like to experiment with different nibs, regrinds (I intend to use fpnibs – as they seem to be ok priced and I am not aware of anyone in Europe with good turnaround).

    My question is what pen would you recommend for this experimenting. I am thinking of:
    – Kaweco AL Sport and let few more nibs be prepared for me
    – TWSBI Eco
    – Lamy Z50 nibs

    Are any of them preferable to others or will I get a similar experience with all of these nibs, so I would be able to compare which type of grind suits me best (next logical step is to find some nib meister to reground pens I already have)?

    I am left-hand overwriter and would like to find something which supports line variation and looks nice with my handwriting.

    I intend to get the following:
    – small stub – I have bigger stubs which I enjoy but I am not able to use them comfortably in my notebooks as they write too bold.
    – oblique grind – just to see
    – cursive
    – maybe architect – as it seems that for lefthanders sometimes line variation by normal cursive is reversed

    Like

    • Those three are all small steel nibs that FPnibs sells relatively cheaply. The Kawecos will be easiest to swap because they screw in as units. The Lamy is the hardest to swap due to the shape. You have to stick some tape across the top of the nib to get purchase to pull it off. Other than that the experience will be much the same once they’ve been ground. I’ve had various stubs, italics and architects and they are fun to experiment with. I find that a F/M cursive italic makes my lefty overwriter writing look best. I have used obliques and have no problem with them, but they’re not a magic solution to writing angle for me. Good luck!

      Like

      • Thank you, this was helpful. I was leaning most to Lamy, so it is good to know that it is not so easy to swap those nibs. I will go with either Kaweco or another TWSBI to test those grinds.

        Liked by 1 person

      • So in the end I have placed order for several Kaweco nibs and Liliput in Fireblue – I know that it is too small for you, but I wanted real pocket pen for signing slips in post office or other types of quick writing where I do not want to pick up my pen roll and take pen from there.

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s