Pilot Prera Fountain Pen

Much of what I see online through blog posts, forums and social media forms my initial opinion on a pen, however sometimes I wonder why the reality differs to such a great degree upon having it in my hand. There are of course many times where my perception and the reality are entirely congruous, yet this was certainly not the case with the subject of this post — the Pilot Prera fountain pen.

prera_cap_nib

Maybe it was because I haven’t seen a lot of Prera reviews, or perhaps I simply wanted it to be a certain way. In the end, it was simply an erroneous assumption on my part.

What exactly am I talking about here? Well, although pen dimensions are readily available on just about any retail site you care to visit, I had not realised just how small the Prera line of fountain pens are.

The pen you see in this post was passed on to me by a kind reader downsizing his pen collection, after some email correspondence from myself which mentioned I was thinking of buying one. I was therefore lucky enough to add this pen to my collection at no cost. Had I proceeded down the path of purchasing one myself and gone through a more detailed research process, I would have likely ruled it out as a pen for me.

The reason? Well, as I have mentioned in other posts, I prefer to use the majority my fountain pens without the cap posted, and of course a smallish pen likely to render posting a necessity has some convincing to do if I’m going to buy it. To finish up this point and get on with some more details, suffice to say I love this pen, and use it often — posted. Go figure.

Look and Feel

As I’ve mentioned above, the Prera would be classed more so as a “pocket” pen, rather than a “mini” as such, and given its stature, I’d say this is an accurate description. As you’ll see from my post about the Pilot Custom Heritage 92, I do like a pen with blue, silver and transparency in it’s styling.

Given the size of the pen, it’s no surprise the cap and clip are proportionally short. The metal clip is only 40 mm long, which is equivalent in length to the white inner cap sealing the nib, visible through the transparent outer cap. Though not a major issue, it is a pity this prevents the nib being on show through the cap as well.

prera_under_nib

If you are someone who prefers clean simple lines on a pen, the overall appearance of the Prera may not suit entirely, and I think this is a combination both of design — and indirectly — its size. As you can see, the trim, accents and labelling create what is a fairly “busy” looking cap, and with its short stature, may seem a little cluttered for some. The body itself is somewhat less so, however with the cap posted of course you end up with the same look simply on the other end of the pen (a statement straight from the files of the bleeding obvious if ever there was one). I wouldn’t say this bothers me, however for some it might.

The overall aesthetics of the pen in relation to the distribution of accents at each end, metal bands along both cap and body, and transparent demonstrator barrel provide an interesting, yet not over the top look to the Prera. A great looking steel Pilot nib rounds out the pen, complementing the metal clip and banding nicely.

prera_v_sapporoI must admit I do find the sizing and proportions of the Prera to be a just little odd. I have it sitting next to a Sailor Pro Gear Slim (Sapporo) as I write this, and although the two are very similar in size, the truncated finial at the end of the Prera’s cap throws the proportions a little out of balance. With just a couple of mm more after the end of the clip ring similar the Sailor, the entire pen would look a little more — well…balanced.

That said, a good question to ask at this point is why should all pens look the same — a very valid one for of course they shouldn’t. If we all preferred the same style of pens what a boring world it would be.

Key Specifications

Courtesy Jet Pens

  • Manufacturer: Pilot
  • Model: Prera
  • Weight: 0.6 ounces (17 grams)
  • Body Material: Acrylic
  • Cap: Snap On
  • Clip: Metal
  • Diameter Grip: 10.6 mm
  • Diameter Max: 12.0 mm
  • Filling Mechanism: Converter, Cartridge – Proprietary Pilot
  • Grip: Plastic
  • Length Capped: 12.0 cm / 4.7 inches
  • Length Posted: 13.4 cm / 5.3 inches
  • Length Uncapped: 10.8 cm / 4.3 inches
  • Nib: Steel

Prices at time of writing:

  • JetPens $US38.00 ($AU52.00)
  • Cult Pens £33.29 ($AU70.00)
  • Engeika $US29.70 ($40.00)
  • similar prices to be found with eBay sellers

Writing performance

I made mention in a recent Wiser Web Wednesday post about the positive aspects of a nib that simply writes perfectly (in that case a review of the Pelikan P200 on the Pelikan’s Perch), and does so each and every time you pick it up. I’ve typically found Pilot nibs are generally part of this group.

prera_writingIt is for this very reason (and the snap on cap), I have found the Prera to be a fantastic day to day office pen1. In a daily writer, I need something reliable (no false starts, skips, ink blobs or leaks), which I can keep capped (to ensure it remains reliable), yet is quick to pick up and use — which pretty well ensures my go-to’s will be caps of the non-threaded variety. As you can imagine, the domain of the Prera, Pilot Metropolitan, and Lamy 2000 (a joyful every day pen if ever there was one). The rotation here also includes an ever-changing roster of gel pens, rollerballs and my trusty P8126 filled Retro 51.

prera_nibI don’t really have a great deal more to say specifically about the medium, steel Pilot nib on this Prera, apart from the fact it is a beautiful writer and performs straight out of the blocks every time. As you’d expect, the medium nib is somewhat finer than those on my European pens, and although quite resistant to flex, there is just enough “give” to make it extremely comfortable to use over longer periods.

There is a very small step down to the section from the barrel, however the absence of threads given the snap-on design of the cap ensures a very smooth grip. Personally I feel the surety of the grip is enhanced by this step, as well as providing a feedback point to align your fingers and thumb. I cannot see this being an issue regardless of your preference or grip style.

Whether or not a pen will work for me posted, is of course about balance rather than overall weight, though a very heavy pen will take its toll over a longer writing session. I’d say I have a fairly broad range of pen weights I find comfortable, with only very, very light or overly heavy pens a problem.

The Prera is well weighted at 0.6oz (17 grams), and reasonably well-balanced when posted — a necessity given its size. A point to note here is a good proportion of the weight is distributed fairly high on the pen with the cap posted, given its metal clip, final, and rings. As a result, the centre of gravity seems a little high, so depending on your particular style of grip and pen alignment, is something to keep in mind. In its favour here though is the short overall length, which places most of the pen down in the hand of the user rather than out the top — the main reason I found the Prera quite a useable pen when posted.

A final note on the size and posting brings us back to the Sailor Sapporo I mentioned earlier — a far better balance for me when posted, despite weighing in at 19.7 grams. Ok — time to move on.

L to R: Pilot Custom Heritage 92; Prera; Sailor Sapporo; Pilot Metropolitan
L to R: Pilot Custom Heritage 92; Prera; Sailor Sapporo; Pilot Metropolitan

A couple of days ago I returned to the Pilot Metropolitan (M Nib) after the cartridge in the Prera ran out, and the change was probably a little telling.

Hands down I find the Metropolitan is a far better pen for me, fitting my preference for use without posting the cap, having a nib essentially the equal of the Prera’s, and of course the price. The Metropolitan can be picked up for less than half the cost of the Prera, and for me, is a better overall pen. So if you are looking for value for money without needing to compromise, I think the Metropolitan is definitely the way to go.

Closing thoughts

My advice if you are thinking about picking up a Prera? Know you will be buying a high quality fountain pen — just know it will be on the small side when comparing to many others in your collection, and if you are a strict non-poster, this pen most likely won’t be for you.

As I’ve mentioned above, for me, and I’d argue for many potential buyers, the Pilot Metropolitan is an equally good pen and offers much better value for money. The two pens could not be more different in size and appearance however, and it is your own particular preferences here that the real choice will be made.

Again just remember (note to self) — the Prera is on the small side.


 

  1. The paper? At my desk unusually enough are the standard A4 bulk buy Staples legal pads. Miraculously they hold all but the wettest, broadest nibs — and certainly all of the pens listed here. ↩︎

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Pilot Custom Heritage 92 Fountain Pen

IMG_0922This pen became an instant favourite the first time I laid eyes on it a few months ago, and has remained so since that day. Received from a kind gentleman who was downsizing his collection, I’m still very often reminding myself how lucky I am to have been given the opportunity to add a Blue Pilot Custom Heritage 92 (FM nib) to mine.

There is of course a rationale behind the Pilot Custom series numbering, succinctly explained in this Fountain Pen Network review of the Custom 748. Essentially, a model number (XXY) indicates the number of years (XX) since the foundation of Pilot in 1918, and the price in yen (Y) of the pen at release multiplied by 10,000 (i.e. 10,000Y). Not all models carry the three digit nomenclature, as is the case with the Custom Heritage 92 – released in 2010.

Look and Feel

To my eye and taste, this pen has just about the perfect marriage of form and function. I immediately notice the combination of colour, trim, and overall symmetry and proportion. It evokes an association of a deep blue ocean, a black rocky outcrop, and the shimmering line of the sun up the silver clip to the horizon.1

IMG_0923What a fantastic blue, and in combination with the black and silver is just about perfect. The transparent deep blue resin provides enough colour to support the contrasting silver and black at each end of the pen, yet still allows visualisation of the internals. The nib itself however is shrouded in an additional sheath to seal the nib when the cap is in place.

I had not owned any demonstrator pens prior to coming into ownership of this Custom Heritage 92. For those unfamiliar with the term, a demonstrator pen being one which is partially or mostly transparent, allowing the internals and of course the ink to be seen through the barrel. A way of demonstrating the pen and its features to potential buyers. Personally I quite like them, and this particular model, given its blue colour, lies somewhere in the middle of the transparency spectrum — a transition of sorts.

As I have touched on above, the overall symmetry of the pen is very appealing to me, formed by the black at each end along with thin silver bands, and the added effect of the thick central band on the cap — again silver, with the Pilot Japan and Custom Heritage 92 inscription. The silver metal clip also adds to the appearance and overall balance.

When uncapped, the gorgeous 14k gold (no. 5) nib is evident, silver in colour, again perfectly aligning with the colour scheme, as does the section, with the black feed and silver ring showing at the cap threads, which inconspicuously merge into the blue resin of the barrel.

As expected with the construction materials, the pen is quite light (see specifications below), in line with those of similar construction, which incidentally, is perfectly balanced for the size of my hand and grip type with the cap not posted. A larger hand may find the pen a little short, however would likely find using the pen posted more comfortable, which to me feels a little top-heavy.2

Specifications

Much of the following courtesy of Goulet Pens:

  • Body Colour: Blue – demonstrator
  • Body & Grip Material: Resin
  • Cap Type: Screw-cap
  • Filling Mechanism: Piston
  • Nib Material: 14k Gold (silver in colour)
  • Nib Size: Fine/Medium
  • Trim: Silver
  • Diameter – Body: 11.7mm
  • Diameter – Cap (without clip): 14.1mm
  • Diameter – Grip: 9.75mm
  • Length – Body: 122mm
  • Length – Cap: 64mm
  • Length – Nib: 19mm
  • Length – Overall (Closed): 136mm
  • Length – Overall (Posted): 151mm
  • Weight – Overall: 20g (Body = 12g)
IMG_0920
Size comparison with Pelikan M600

As seen from the specifications above, this particular pen is a piston filling pen for bottled ink, and does not accommodate ink cartridges. Incidentally, the filling mechanism performs flawlessly. The 14k gold nib of this particular pen is a fine/medium (FM), and as you will hear further on below, is simply fantastic.

As I mentioned, I was fortunate enough to come into ownership of the pen through the generosity of another fountain pen user, and do not therefore have my specific purchase details, however some prices (current at time of writing):

  • Engeika $US122.00 ($AU156.00) + shipping
  • Goulet Pens $US220.00 ($AU283.00) + shipping
  • Jet Pens $US133.00 ($AU171.00) + shipping
  • Cult Pens £124.00 ($AU253.00) + shipping
  • Various eBay sellers $AU110 — $AU150.00) + shipping

Performance and use

In a word — superb.

Every expectation I had about the performance of this pen was met the moment the nib hit paper. I’ve always been fond of Pilot nibs, and this one is no different. The 14k nib starts immediately, and glides flawlessly until lifted. I can tolerate a false start or occasional skip in a lot of pens, however these characteristics will tend to limit them to certain situations or specific paper types to be enjoyable.

The Custom Heritage 92, while not suiting every possible paper type (as no fountain pen does), will suit pretty well every situation — that is, from extended longhand writing sessions to short and intermittent note taking (courtesy of no false starts). It’s an absolute gem — no doubt about it. I always find it somewhat exhilarating when a pen I adore the look of, exceeds all expectations upon hitting the page.

IMG_0921The FM nib has a just a little flex to be noticeable, however not to really influence the resulting line width very much without exerting more force than you’d probably prefer. In any event, that isn’t what this pen is for. As far as the line width is concerned, again I’d say this sits squarely in my fountain pen sweet spot. It is a touch finer than both the F nib on my Pelikan M600 and the Lamy EF I currently have inked. It is fine enough to allow my everyday writing to sit in the “somewhat legible” range on a standard Rhodia No. 16 Pad, however also carries enough ink to smoothly handle paper with a little more tooth, for example a Baron Fig Confidant.

The pens I write about on these pages have usually been in use for some time before they appear here. Of course, overall impressions are formed far more quickly, however I prefer to see how my overall use patterns are either sustained or change over time, with different paper, notebooks and use cases. The Custom Heritage 92 is a pen which has been consistently picked up and used since I came into ownership of it. It is a pen I enjoy having in my collection, yes, however it is also a pen which compels me to use it — again and again.

Conclusion

IMG_0924It is fairly safe to say the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 is one of, if not the favourite pen I currently have in my collection, and I highly doubt it will ever be pushed too far from the top.

As I write with the Custom Heritage 92, I find my eye drawn from the nib towards the barrel as it sits in my hand, and often admire the way the colour transitions from black and silver into the vibrant blue resin, before disappearing into the darkness as it enters my hand.

Although more striking in appearance than many of my other pens, I wouldn’t describe the Custom Heritage 92 as flashy. The performance however, is unsurpassed, and with the quality of the nib and overall workmanship being what they are, even full retail price I believe is reasonable, let alone the great value for money you might find from shopping around.

If you are after a magnificent looking pen which performs well beyond its price range, the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 would be well worth placing on your list of those to consider. There are pens which draw your eye, and those which draw your hand — the Pilot Custom Heritage 92 to me at least, is highly adept at both.

  1. There is clearly much I could write about my thoughts on pens and the associations I have very clear in my mind, however perhaps that is for its own post.
  2. I always find that statement interesting when I write it. If you generally use pens without posting the cap, I cannot see how you would not find posted pens “top heavy” — regardless of the overall pen balance. Anyway, I guess it is worth stating as part of the opinion, though is likely to appear in just about every post I write on full size fountain pens.

Two of a Kind: Pilot Metropolitan and Tombow Object Fountain Pens

IMG_3427
Silver Zigzag Pilot Metropolitan (L), and red Tombow Object (R)

With a Pilot Metropolitan having been in my collection for almost 12 months now, upon recently receiving a Tombow Object, I was struck by how similar these two pens actually are.

My original Metropolitan had a fine nib, which met its demise after about 11 months of use, when a very small part of the nib tip popped off while writing. Although I then had an instant stub nib, it was a little jagged for writing! The Metropolitan you see here came with a medium nib.

Both of these particular pens were received from the very kind gentleman I wrote about in a previous post.

Look and Feel

FullSizeRender 14The similarities in these pens were immediately apparent in relation to appearance; to some degree the design, and how both felt in the hand while writing — I see am not alone in thinking this.

When capped, both are of a very similar length and shape, tapering towards both ends. The Tombow remains a little larger in diameter at the end of the body and cap, whereas the Metropolitan continues to a slightly finer taper.

The Metropolitan is noticeably the heavier of the two, however both are quite well-balanced when putting pen to paper. Both have sturdy, well-functioning clips, with the Metropolitan sporting a feature band of decorative patterning around the centre of the barrel. This particular one being the Silver Zigzag model. A nice touch, however probably adds no more aesthetic value to my eye.

Both pens have a metallic, brushed aluminium looking finish on the entire exterior (with the exception of the zigzag addition to the Metropolitan) — a type of finish I do like, and particularly suits some of the more colourful options available in the Tombow Object series.

IMG_3433
Differences can be seen in overall nib length; step at the junction of section and barrel of the Metropolitan; and the Tombow’s matte finish on the section.

You could say the similarities end once the snap on/off caps are removed and the grip sections are exposed. The Metropolitan’s shiny gloss plastic (resin?) grip section is immediately apparent, whereas the Tombow sports a more subdued matte finish.

Both have visible and palpable lines running the length of the grip section from the manufacturing process, and although virtually unnoticeable, are not evident on more expensive pens. Certainly not an issue and I only mention it as I analyse the grip sections a little more closely for comparison. The taper, length and step of the grip section is the biggest difference I find in these pens, and I will elaborate further in Writing Performance below.

Overall, I like the look of both for sturdy, everyday use pens, and given the similarity, if I like one, it goes without saying I like the other. On appearance alone, I really couldn’t pick a favourite between the two.

Specifications

Specifications below courtesy Jet Pens:

Pilot Metropolitan

  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Weight: 3.7 ounces (105 grams)
  • Grip diameter: 9.8 mm (max diameter 13.3 mm)
  • Length Capped: 13.8 cm
  • Length Posted: 15.3 cm
  • Length Uncapped: 12.5 cm
  • Nib: steel
  • Fill: international standard cartridge/converter
  • Price: Approximately $AU18.00 (Jet Pens US + shipping)
  • My pen: Silver Zigzag model; M nib

Tombow Object

  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Weight: 3.0 ounces (85 grams)
  • Grip diameter: 9.3 mm (max diameter 13.0 mm)
  • Length Capped: 13.8 cm
  • Length Posted: 15.6 cm
  • Length Uncapped: 12.2 cm
  • Nib: steel
  • Fill: international standard cartridge/converter
  • Price: Approximately $AU48.00 (Cult Pens UK + shipping)
  • My pen: Red model; F nib

As you’ll note from the lists above, it is certainly not hard to see why these pens are very, very similar in look and feel — the most obvious difference being of course the weight.

For overall balance, I honestly could not pick one over the other despite this obvious difference, however if you were someone who posted their pens — for me at least — this would make things a little top-heavy with the Metropolitan.

You’ll also notice both are sold as cartridge/converter fillers. Not being overly adept with the included squeeze mechanism converter included with the Metropolitan, I swapped in the CON-50 converter which I’ve always found easy to use and very reliable. I have only used a standard international cartridge in the Tombow.

Writing Performance

When putting pen to paper, it is again quite amazing just how similar these pens are, even more so with the medium nib of the Metropolitan and fine of the Tombow.

IMG_3428
Despite the Metropolitan’s M nib and Tombow’s F – the line characteristics were very similar.

From what I recall, this would certainly not have been the case with the fine nib of my previous Metropolitan. At times I found the fine nib a little scratchy on certain paper types, and overall it was probably too fine for my writing style. The medium nib on this model is a far better fit for me.

The line widths, nib feel and smoothness are very, very close. Both lay down ink very well, with the only real difference in feel the marginally stiffer nib on the Tombow. Even with slightly more flex to the Metropolitan, both pens showed minimal (and pretty even) line variation with changes in pressure. There is no doubt these are really great nibs — both of them.

I keep harping about the similarities in these pens, so we should probably have a look at some of the differences as well.

My standard grip as shown with the Metropolitan.
My standard grip as shown with the Metropolitan.

That grip section. Here is where the suitability of each pen might vary widely depending upon your particular writing grip and style. I believe I would call mine a fairly standard pen hold, and with that, the Metropolitan suits my hand better than the Tombow.

With the Metropolitan, there is a significant step down from the barrel to the section, which in itself may be a problem for some, however suits my grip perfectly. As my middle finger hooks around the step, it provides a perfect platform to balance the pen, with my index finger and thumb able to rest lightly on the top and side. I’ve found this facilitates a lighter grip nicely — particularly in someone who is making a conscious effort to be a little less heavy handed (remember that broken Metropolitan F nib I was talking about?).

With the Tombow, at that same point in the grip section, although there was no step, the continuous taper towards the nib and smooth plastic finish left me wanting a little more control most times I wrote with it. This was most evident early in the mornings when both hand and pen barrel/section were cool, and I found my fingers sliding around a little on section. Not a deal breaker, however I certainly had less control, and was forced to grip a little more tightly, something I am consciously making an efforts not to do.

IMG_3437IMG_3436

Of course I then began thinking how the Tombow would make a perfect summer pen, when the Queensland humidity would ensure the grip section became nice and tacky — and just like that my pens started to become seasonal. What has become of me?

Overall, I’d say these pens are quite similar (again!) in writing performance, particularly from the perspective of the nib. My preference simply comes down to the shape of the section on the Metropolitan being more suited to my particular grip.

Use case

The most obvious answer here of course, is anywhere you would use a fountain pen, although there are a couple of other points I’d like to add. Although I have differing nib widths for both pens (a reminder: M on the Metropolitan; F on the Tombow), as you can see from the accompanying writing samples, both are on what you’d call the finer side of line widths.

IMG_3424
In a Baron Fig Confidant Journal.

This allows these pens to function very well on paper where a broader, wetter nib might bleed and feather its way out of favour. A case in point being the Baron Fig Confidant notebook. Otherwise, my usual Rhodia pads have seen the most of both these pens for both meeting and general notes I have made at my desk in the office, a task for which I have found both pens well suited, given their understated look.

That said, it has been nothing to carry either one in my pocket or shirt placket for use in a coffee shop note taking or planning session either. True, I notice the Metropolitan’s extra weight in doing so, however I wouldn’t say enough for me to avoid doing so. Both have again performed well, whether it be a few quick words written between sips, or a few pages written when ideas are flowing a little more freely.

Either of these pens can be anything you need them to be.

Conclusion

Put simply these are both great pens.

The Pilot Metropolitan is widely recognised as one of the best value for money pens out there. That very statement ”value for money” typically infers compromise, yet I certainly do not necessarily see that to be the case here — for either pen.

For the respective price points, the materials are of course not high-end, however I think for both cases here, that simply adds to the satisfaction when using these pens. You have a great pen in either case and have spent only a modest sum for the privilege.

If I had to pick, it would be the Metropolitan. Largely based on the better suitability of the grip for my particular style, and the lower price point really hammering home the value for money aspect.

That being said, I would (and will) be happy to continue using both on a regular basis.


Pilot Petit1 Fountain Pen

The Pilot Petit1 made my JetPens shopping cart late last year in the form of a bundle of eight in different colours (the order also included a ten-pack of the 0.5 mm Zebra Sarasa Clip) to be included in Christmas gifts for friends. Thankfully, I kept a couple, and as I’ve found with most Pilot nibs, for the price, the Petit1 certainly punches well above its weight.

So much to love about pen and paper when it comes to gift giving.
So much to love about pen and paper when it comes to gift giving.

Look and Feel

The Petit1 is a compact or almost “half-sized” pen, and requires posting to achieve a regular length for writing. Like a Kaweco Sport, once posted, I find these types of pens no less comfortable for writing than those of standard size.

With the Kaweco Ice Sport
With the Kaweco Ice Sport

For those who may be more familiar with the Kaweco Sport range, this is indeed a good comparison, as the two pens are identical in size, and with the exception of the clip on the Kaweco (assuming you are someone who uses the clip), the plastic construction is very similar in both as well. Though admittedly the Petit1 does not feel as robust as the Kaweco, which given the price, is to be expected.

A full list of specifications for the Petit1 can be found on the JetPens site, however in summary:

  • plastic body, cap and clip
  • metal (presumably steel) nib
  • length capped 10.6 cm; uncapped 9.4 cm; posted 13 cm
  • cartridge fill type
  • variable body and ink colours
  • refill cartridges available
  • eyedropper convertible

Once the sticker is removed (which explains the method of cartridge insertion for anyone unfamiliar with this), the remainder of the body is fairly clear, save for the Petit1 and Pilot branding in the centre of the body. This provides a nice view of the ink from the cartridge down through the feed.

In the wild - a great EDC pen.
In the wild – a great EDC pen.

The clip is moulded plastic arising for the tip of the cap, and although has a little spring to it, I fear is a prime candidate for snapping off. With a pen of this size, a clipless body may find it’s way to the bottom of a pocket, making extraction a little more fiddly than you might otherwise like. Conversely, it is precisely pens like this which I often throw in the bottom of my pocket rather than clip, so in my mind this really doesn’t detract from the pen itself. I suspect if you prefer parts not snapped off your pens it may be an issue.

There is an absence of any taper to the grip section with a significant step down from the body itself, however the plastic construction inherently provides a certain softness to the feel in this particular part of the pen, and I found the step not sharp enough to bother.

The nib construction is described on JetPens as metal, and I can only assume is therefore steel (however this does leave the door open to it being some kind of cheaper alloy, though I’ve no reason to suspect this is the case). Pilot branding and nib size are the only embellishment on an otherwise minimalist looking nib. For the price, this is a fantastic nib.

Writing Performance

What is there to say here really? The nib is as good as any Pilot nib in this price segment of the market (read fantastic), I have used of late, and perhaps even a little better than the fine nib on my Pilot Metropolitan1, which is not quite as smooth on paper with a little more tooth, such as the Baron Fig Confidant notebook.

IMG_3824

Having just completed a 31 day journaling challenge to kick off the year, I found myself picking up the Petit1 on quite a number of occasions during January. It is indeed a joy to write with. Feedback from one of the Christmas gift recipients also indicated a preference for writing with the Petit1 over the Lamy Safari they already owned – another big rap for the nib.

As expected, there is minimal flex in the steel nib, and on smoother paper such as a Rhodia No. 16 pad, is as smooth as any fine steel nib I’ve used. Regardless of storage (often on its side in my pocket), the Petit1 started immediately every time, with a full flow of ink, and no skips.

The Petit1 is a cartridge filler, and refills in any of the eight available colours are just $US1.90 for a pack of three. I plan to add a few to my next (and probably each) Jet Pens order for some time to come. One thing to note — the Petit1 only takes the proprietary Petit1 cartridge refills — standard short cartridges do not fit. Something to bear in mind, though with the colours available (and those of you with syringes for refilling out there), I don’t see this as a problem.

Image courtesy JetPens
Image courtesy JetPens

It appears the Petit1 is also convertible to an eyedropper pen, however I’ve not done this myself — perhaps for another day. Should you wish to undertake such an endeavour, JetPens has a tutorial for you on exactly how to do it. Also, as you can see in the image above, the Petit1 is part of a series from Pilot, which also includes sign and brush pens.

Conclusion

For the price of $US3.80 (or a bundle of 8 for $US30.00) on JetPens, there is no better value for money fountain pen out there for the writing experience you get with this nib. Whether or not the shape and size suit you might be another matter, however I wouldn’t consider it a waste of money to find out.

Really, the way this pen performs, I would have no hesitation in recommending it as an entry into fountain pens for someone who has not tried them (my fear of course is in recommending something too cheap which sours the entire experience). In fact, given the price, a pen such as the Petit1 is perhaps more likely to be tried if someone is not prepared to spend $US30.00 on a Lamy Safari or even the $US14.50 for a Pilot Metropolitan.

I have not personally used the Platinum Preppy (currently $US3.00 on JetPens), however find it hard to believe the writing experience would be better than what this Petit1 achieves.

Overall, a great little pen with a big writing experience, and one I will continue to throw in my pocket for some time to come.

  1. Incidentally, the nib gods did not look favourably on a recent slightly heavy-handed upstroke while using my Pilot Metropolitan. The tip of the nib “popped”, a filament of metal came off and I had a somewhat uneven instant stub nib. I’d thought about simply grinding it smooth, however perhaps will simply swap in another nib. A cautionary tale for those who might also apply a little downward pressure!

A Pilot G-2 Experience

G2_FullThe Pilot G–2, one of the most widely available and affordable gel ink pens on the market, which, according to the Pilot USA site, is America’s “best selling gel ink pen”. It would be reasonable to therefore assume the G–2 is quite a good pen. Many would no doubt say it is, and I do not necessarily disagree, however would suggest things are not quite as simple as that, with affordability and availability playing a big part here.

My issue with this assumption is best explained in terms of other markets, for example, is the best-selling album necessarily the best album? The best-selling app necessarily the best app? More often than not the answer is no. Best selling – the sales numbers don’t lie (though it can depend on when, what and how you measure them). Best – a whole other argument, where subjectivity, personal preference, opinion and emotion often rule the day. And rightly so, we are the consumer putting our hard-earned down for a product. Personally I’ll only keep doing that for something I really enjoy using.

Background

I first wrote about my impressions of the G–2 some time ago, in a post comparing it with the uni ball Signo 207 and Jetstream. At that time, the comparison involved 0.7mm models, and I had always planned on testing out the finer end of the G–2 spectrum at some point in the future.

A month or so ago I found myself standing in an Officeworks store wondering what my answer might be if asked: What is the best pen I can buy here, right now? Would I suggest a Pentel Energel, uni ball Jetstream or 207, a Pilot G–2 or something else? To be honest, I never really answered the question (though it would most likely not have been the G–2), however gave further thought to which tip size I might then suggest. Unsurprisingly, the G–2 was available in four sizes, not so any other pen in the store (in fact no others had more than two sizes available). What was I saying about affordability and availability above?

For the price, the G–2 is undoubtedly a reasonably good pen. One of my favourites? No. In spite of this, upon arriving home from the store, I filled one side of my Nock Co Sassafras with the 0.7mm (blue), 0.5mm (black) and 0.38mm (blue) G–2 models. Having previously used the 0.7mm, there was no need to include the 1.0mm in this comparison, having ruled out using anything broader then the 0.7mm. The next two weeks would then determine which size G–2 I preferred, and whether this would sway my previous opinion on the G–2 in general.

Look and Feel

Looking back on that original post, I had written the G–2 was “not the best looking pen out there”. I’d have to say that view still stands. Look, I am under no illusion that a sub $5.00 pen will necessarily end up as an icon of design, however some models at this end of market definitely look better than others to my eye.

IMG_4386
L to R: Jetstream, Signo 207, Pilot G-2

When viewed alongside a Jetstream or Signo 207, aesthetically, the G–2 probably ends up last in line. When placed alongside a Pentel Energel? The contest is much closer, however I still find the G–2 in last place. What is it in particular? I would say the majority of my dislike is both the clip and knock at the top end of the pen. The combination of a clip which reminds me of dripping candle wax, and the long, tapering knock on the end of the pen are just not to my liking. Compare that with the sleek lines of both the Jetstream and 207 in the image at right. The remainder of the pen I have no major aesthetic issues with.

Lets face it though, the simple aesthetics of a pen are so subjective, and a few photographs in a review are probably the last thing that should sway your own opinion.

How the pen feels in my hand? Another matter entirely. I absolutely love the G–2’s very slight taper at the rubber grip section. Having a quick look at some of the other pens on my desk here right at this moment, all of which I love using – a nice taper on the section is present in all. Although only a few millimetres of taper is enough, pens without one I find pretty uncomfortable and generally struggle where the size of the barrel and section are uniform through to the taper at the very tip.

Performance and Use

How does the G–2 perform when writing? The answer to that question lies, I believe, in your particular style of writing. It is here the variation in tip size has the potential to make all the difference to your writing experience. I find the broader tips more forgiving, whereas those on the finer end not so. My writing style is one where the pen is approximately 45º to the page (fountain pen or otherwise – this is standard for me). I have often found such a position not suited to finer tip pens, particularly when reasonably speedy writing is required. At times my slightly heavy handedness does me no favours, however again, that’s me, and my pens need to perform within that set of conditions.

G-2_Compare

Needless to say, I have at times challenged myself to use a finer tip pen, with the aim of somehow(?!) encouraging my brain to note down relevant points only, however mostly end up simply scratching out the same amount of text anyway, resulting in a less than enjoyable writing experience.

The main issue I had here was the amount of feedback from the paper with the 0.38mm, ranging from fairly minimal (Rhodia No. 16 Pad), to a moderate degree (office copy paper, Field Notes Shelterwood) to an annoyingly high degree (office supply spiral bound notebooks).

 

Completed_ETPStaples pic

Whilst my use of copy paper and office supply note books may be seen as heresy, I am sure I am not alone in using these types of items, for without going into great detail, there are certain office based workflows that simply require them in my current role. A story for another day perhaps.

G-2_TripointTo that end, I don’t believe the 0.38mm G–2 is necessarily inferior to the 0.5mm, however the fit with my writing style is not as good. If I am entirely honest though, at times the 0.38mm was my preference, for example when taking a few quick notes in my Field Notes (Shelterwood at the time) or on a tear off shopping list. It just wasn’t as good for slightly longer form writing.

As you would expect, the line production and inkflow of all three sizes performed flawlessly. There were no skips or false starts, and the ink produces a nice, vivid line, however given the fineness of its output, the blue 0.38mm occasionally seemed to fade a little “into” certain shades or even sizes of paper (for example when taking notes in an A4 sized office supply notebook).

Though also blue, the 0.7mm laid down far more ink, yielding a much more vivid line which stood out on the page. The 0.5mm is perhaps where the science of my comparison falls down a little, having only the black in this size, however I found no issues with the ink output and line production.

Conclusion

Medal ceremony. Unofficially brought to you by Nock Co.
Medal ceremony. Unofficially brought to you by Nock Co.

So, was there a sweet spot for me across the range of G–2’s? I’d probably say the 0.5mm overall. Though I didn’t reach for it quite as much as the 0.38mm. I think I shot myself in the foot a little by having the 0.5mm in black, as for some reason I have been enjoying using blue ink a little more recently. Were I to have a 0.5mm blue at my disposal, I’m sure this would have been the one to see the most use.

A photo I posted on Instagram recently with the three G–2’s in my Nock Co Sassafras, drew a few comments and suggestions recommending the Pentel Energel 0.5mm and the uni ball Signo 207. Funnily enough, both are two pens I do prefer over the G–2 (“taperless” sections aside).

I can understand why the G–2 is such a popular pen, however, always in the back of my mind is the fact that there are pens of equal cost and specs out there that are better. Some of these I have tried (Signo 207 and Energel), some I have not (Zebra Sarasa). I suspect affordability, availability and market awareness are the main reasons for the popularity of the G–2, however I cannot discount the fact that people do really like them.

To sign off, this past couple of weeks was an experiment in tip size as much as a G–2 “experience”, and probably brought me to the conclusion 0.5mm (or perhaps 0.4mm) is as fine as I’d probably go. For my writing style, anything beyond a couple of bullet points in a list became hard work with the 0.38mm G–2. Perhaps a similar sized pen with a smoother inkflow may sway me to go finer, and if anyone has any suggestions along these lines I will certainly give them a try.

What happens with the G–2’s? Retired. Probably for good I’d say.