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Worth spending more than a tenner?

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Wow! In the USA, the Metro is fairly inexpensive, $19.

Ah, that would explain the frequent recommendations online. While it's not that cheap here, other pens are, so no huge loss :thumbup1:
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
The last two fountain pens arrived today.

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The Helix Oxford is a darker blue than I expected, and almost looks black in today's overcast light. I also expected the Sheaffer VFM to be a brushed metal type finish, but it's a silver coloured coating. A coating which according to reviews I've seen, is far from durable. None of that is of any detriment to me.

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They both post well, and the caps are streamlined enough not to feel ridiculous. Although the cap on the Helix Oxford has a bit of heft to it, and does make the pen slightly tail heavy. Not to the extent of being problematic or uncomfortable though.

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The section transitions are nicely stepped, making them both very comfortable to hold. As is typical of these cheaper pens, them both wrote very dry out of the box, particularly the Sheaffer. A bit of slight nib flexing cured that though, and both now have a very respectable flow, although I'll probably do a little bit of abrasive refining too, just to give them the right feel for me, and make them a little more forgiving in terms of presentation angle.

Both feel perfectly utilitarian, and I won't be frightened of throwing real life at them. I'm sure the Sheaffer will acquire battle scars the quickest, but I don't expect structural or performance problems from either pen. Both these pens will be secondary to the Ohto Tasche and Baoer 388 anyway, offering me an alternate pen for blue spectrum, and red/brown spectrum international cartridges, respectively.

The only unknown at this stage, is whether these pens can be dismantled (nib/feed/section) for cleaning and maintenance. Only using Diamine water based inks though, and nothing permanent, or shimmering, I shouldn't face many problems. I probably need to pick up one of those bulb syringe doofers at some point, which I haven't needed before, as I can easily extract the nib and feed on my other users.

Considering I picked up both these, a stainless ballpoint, two bottles of ink, and four ballpoint refills, for £35 delivered, I'm very happy indeed!

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However, being an impatient arse, I do now find myself in the ridiculous situation of having seven different pens inked up, instead of my usual three. 🤣 So for the next few weeks, I'll probably be writing just for the heck of it, just to keep the inks flowing, and trying to get pens in play down to a more sensible number.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
So just to round this out, here's where I ended up, after skulking back to the shallow end of the pool. :p

Two choices of pen for blue spectrum carts.

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Two choices of pen for red spectrum carts

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And three choices (plus the Slimfold) for bottled ink. Two of which take Parker cartridges too.

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A very humble array, distinctly lacking in "soul" (whatever that means) or artistry, but which suit me well enough. The odd duck in there is the Slimfold, which I'd only use for the odd note of for highlighting, but the others are comfortable enough to knock out several pages of writing, should I choose to. Also, I would be very confident that six of them could survive a rapid unplanned trip to the floor, in the event of missed pockets or other dropsies. Some already have. :oops:

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I'm genuinely glad I strayed up into the £30s, but probably wouldn't again. There's too many pens out there that with less than ten pounds, and less than ten minutes tweakage, can give me everything I want and need from a pen. Having said that, I fully appreciate that others would feel distinctly unfulfilled with my choices.

Thank goodness this is Badger and Blade, where we can all feel so much happier with our differences, than in the elitist baiting and hating sites elsewhere on the net. 🍻
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
I revisited the Parker Slimfold and Wing Sung 3008 today, to look at why one threaded section might work for me, and one doesn't. The difference is in the section length.

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The Slimfold has a mere 15mm from thread to nib, whereas the 3008 has a more generous 23mm. As such, I can avoid the threads on the cheap demonstrator almost entirely, and more importantly, this happens intuitively. With the Slimfold, gripping on the threads seems to be the intuitive distance from nib tip, at which to hold the pen. It is however possible to grip the pen further down the section, almost on the nib, which makes the pen feel too vertical in hand.

However, the nib performs well when gripped there, which is a surprise. Maybe that's how the previous owner/s used it. Unfortunately though, my hand need to be tipped forward to get the nib to the page, possibly putting a strain of the wrist over time. Still not a solution, but a better understanding of what to look for on other pens, and again, OK for brief notes or highlighting. Just not for all day use or long writing sessions.

It's no surprise that I like a long section on a pen though, and both the Parker 45 Flighter and Ohto Tasche are excellent pens for me, for that very reason. Lots of room to grip however feels right, no matter where I am on the page, or whether writing or sketching. The only negative thing about the 45, being that the cap does not feel as secure as on my other pens.

My other snap cap pens don't offer as much freedom of grip, but due to nib size or section length, I'm still intuitively gripping on the section, and the softened transition from section to barrel, doesn't have that intrusive sharp corner as found on the Vector for example. In my hands, they're just a good fit.

So while the safest option for me, is to avoid any pens with a screw on cap, some pens may actually be OK if the section is long enough. With this in mind, I went back and looked at a few of the classic pens. Platinum 3776, Pelikan M series, Kaweco Sport, etc. Nearly all of them sport short sections before the threads. A couple of Pilot pens and TWSBIs looked like they may have longer sections, but even those that look like they may be OK, were still way more than I'd want to pay for a lump of plastic.

I approached this little exploration, wondering if more money would buy me a "better" pen. That's what the internet would have me believe. Yet it seems that in the majority of cases, more money would actually buy me a worse pen (for me). Less comfortable, less durable, and in a lot of cases, verging on unusable, ergonomically (leaving me with flashbacks of trying those horrible pens in that local pen shop 20+ years ago). So not only do I feel more content that I'm not missing out on anything by not spending more, I genuinely feel that the cheap pens are probably far better pens for me, than many of the classic and luxury pens at over 10x their price.

I don't know if I'm just lucky in my preferences, or if the designers and manufacturers of the newer mass produced pens had similar gripes about the classic designs, and wanted to improve on the ergonomics, as well as address affordability. It would explain why the newer low cost designs work so well for me.

It also doesn't mean that I feel this way about all pens outside of my price range. This is not just a case of sour grapes. If I suddenly found myself with more disposable income, I may very well feel myself drawn towards a Waterman Carene for example... sleek shape, long section, brass construction... yeah, I think I could be tempted with one of those.

Maybe I should start buying lottery tickets again :biggrin1:
 
Very informative and well written as well as thought out. I am now going to check on Cult pens. Like you, I have been on a spending spree, and found that some inexpensive pens (Platinum and Lamy) have become my work favorites while my Metropolitan is still the main one of three at home.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Very informative and well written as well as thought out. I am now going to check on Cult pens. Like you, I have been on a spending spree, and found that some inexpensive pens (Platinum and Lamy) have become my work favorites while my Metropolitan is still the main one of three at home.

Thanks. I've given these cheap pens far more thought than most people would, that's for sure :biggrin1:

Cult Pens are a good supplier. I've used them for most of my paper and inks, and a few pens and pencils. They always add a little pack of sweeties of some description, and will sometimes throw something else in free on larger orders.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Having worked my way back down to just having three pens inked (one on which, I've had for a few years), I've been able to spend more time with these two newer ones.

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The £7 Helix Oxford is great! Reassuringly hefty, but not heavy to the point of being cumbersome. With Diamine Midnight cartridges, the flow is excellent,the nib is smooth, and ergonomics are great for extended use. At this stage, I'd say that this is a better pen than the Parker IM Premium, which should have cost 10x what this did. (I haven't spent a huge amount of time with the IM yet though). It writes perfectly well with the cap posted, but feels much better balanced when not posted.

The Sheaffer VFM is OK. The ergonomics are good enough, but the flow of ink isn't up to par with some of my other pens. That may have something to do with the Diamine Antique Copper cartridge though, and I need to try it with a few other ink cartridges before I consider any feed tweaks. I have pulled the nib and feed, and given both a good clean, so I can be sure it's not factory gunk that's spoiling things. if I don't get this up the the same standards as the others, I might even consider replace it with another Helix Oxford, but in silver.

As for the other three recent additions...

I really like how the Parker 45 Flighter writes. Good flow, very smooth, huge freedom of grip. It feels very well balanced too. I don't like the cap retention though. It's fine for use at home, but I would never trust the cap enough to leave home with it, or even to pocket carry it around the house. Bonus points for being slim enough, and short nibbed enough, to get right into the bottom of a nearly empty bottle, and still get a good drink

I don't feel I've spent enough time with the Parker IM yet, to make an in-depth review. So far, it seems like a good enough writer. Ergonomics, flow, and nib smoothness all feel OK. The only hesitation I have with this pen, is that it looks a little "showy", but is anodised aluminium. I'm therefore torn between using it a lot, and letting that anodising wear, or use it infrequently, to avoid that wear. I need to spend a bit more time with it to make that call.

I've written enough about the Parker Slimfold. It was a very lesson for me in what not to buy, but remains good enough for occasional use as note maker, highlighter, and ink tester.

If I was to list all five of this year's acquisitions in order of merit, it would be...

1) Helix Oxford (£7)
2) Parker IM Premium (£20, but should have been £70)
3) Parker 45 Flighter (£30-ish)
4) Sheaffer VFM (£11)
5) Parker Slimfold (£36-ish)

My £10 Ohto Tasche, £2 Baoer 388, and £5 Wing Sung 3008, all belong up there with the top two on that list. However, everything that I bought new, has had some simple nib refinements done. As such, no pens are really being assessed on their nibs as received from the factory. Neither would I judge a pocket knife or kitchen knife on the edge as received out of the box. I'd want to assess it with my own edge on. I haven't modified any feeds.

I might update further, after spending more time with the IM Premium and 45 Flighter.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
More new arrivals today.

I've previously shown this Helix Oxford fountain pen, which quickly became one of my favourites.

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Well today, I received the matching ballpoint pen. Very comfortable in hand, reassuringly hefty, and very smooth twist action.

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I also received something else. Anyone who went to school in the UK is probably familiar with tins like these.

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However, this one doesn't come with the usual squares, protractor, and compass.

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Instead, it comes with a full set of fountain pen, ballpoint, and rollerball. The same model pens as the blue ones, but in a silver finish. This will replace the Schaeffer VFM if I can't get it writing as well as my other pens.

Four excellent pens, for the princely sum of £21 total. Along with my Parker IM Premium Geometric fountain pen and ballpoint, this gives me three matched pen sets. I wasn't planning on getting these quite so soon, but I was buying some gifts, and decided to throw these in on the order now, while I already had free shipping.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Great pens enjoy
I’m curious what nib adjustments are you doing?

Thanks Rhody :)

With nibs, it's mainly just buffing out any scratchiness, and making sure it's suited to the angle at which I hold pens. Not all pens are received set at the appropriate angle. I also tweak to make sure the flow of ink is how I like it. So, nothing too complicated or uncommon.

The Scheaffer is slightly different, in that it's the feed that seems to be letting the side down. It starts writing drier after a line or two, depending on how fast I'm writing. It might be the ink though, rather than the feed. I'm currently using Antique Copper in that pen, and will switch to Diamine Chocolate Brown, which I know flows well in other pens, before deciding to adjust the feed.

If I do decide to adjust the feed, that's not a complicated matter either. I just very lightly score down the feed channel with a craft knife, until the feed can keep up with the nib.
 

Rhody

I'm a Lumberjack.
Thanks Rhody :)

With nibs, it's mainly just buffing out any scratchiness, and making sure it's suited to the angle at which I hold pens. Not all pens are received set at the appropriate angle. I also tweak to make sure the flow of ink is how I like it. So, nothing too complicated or uncommon.

The Scheaffer is slightly different, in that it's the feed that seems to be letting the side down. It starts writing drier after a line or two, depending on how fast I'm writing. It might be the ink though, rather than the feed. I'm currently using Antique Copper in that pen, and will switch to Diamine Chocolate Brown, which I know flows well in other pens, before deciding to adjust the feed.

If I do decide to adjust the feed, that's not a complicated matter either. I just very lightly score down the feed channel with a craft knife, until the feed can keep up with the nib.
Who does the nib modification?
I tried using a grocery bag with a nib to work out that scratchy feeling but it didn’t seem to work.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Who does the nib modification?
I tried using a grocery bag with a nib to work out that scratchy feeling but it didn’t seem to work.

Me! :biggrin1:

I use cheapo nail buffers off eBay. They are long enough to rest the heel of the hand on, to set the correct writing angle.

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They come with seven different abrasive levels on them. I use the finest abrasive grade for the final polish, and slightly coarser grades for baby bottom correction, angle setting, and knocking off any sharp corners.

Almost all pens get a bit of refinement time with these when I first get them. Vintage pens might write excellently because the nibs have already been well smoothed out, having written thousands of miles of line to bed in, but after 90 seconds on these buffers, I get cheapo modern pens writing just as well.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Four excellent pens, for the princely sum of £21 total.

Slight correction:

One of these excellent pens comes with a less than excellent rollerball insert. Uneven lines, skipping, and even an occasional crunching sound. I'll probably replace that at some point. The ballpoint inserts write very well though, as of course do the fountain pens.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Wow cool. I’d never attempt it. I’d ruin it for sure.

Nah! It's only as difficult as writing ;)

Rest the heel of your hand lightly on one end, draw a few infinity symbols, figure eights, and vertical lines. Start on the finest (step seven), and if that doesn't fix It, use steps six and seven. If that still doesn't fix It, steps five, six and seven, etc. If still unsure, buy a ultra cheaply sub £3 pen off eBay, and learn with that. By the time you've fixed that pen, you'd have the confidence to fix any of your pens that aren't as smooth as you'd like. The buffers cost about £1 each, so for under a fiver, you have the tools, and something to practice with :)
 

Rhody

I'm a Lumberjack.
Nah! It's only as difficult as writing ;)

Rest the heel of your hand lightly on one end, draw a few infinity symbols, figure eights, and vertical lines. Start on the finest (step seven), and if that doesn't fix It, use steps six and seven. If that still doesn't fix It, steps five, six and seven, etc. If still unsure, buy a ultra cheaply sub £3 pen off eBay, and learn with that. By the time you've fixed that pen, you'd have the confidence to fix any of your pens that aren't as smooth as you'd like. The buffers cost about £1 each, so for under a fiver, you have the tools, and something to practice with :)
Thanks for the encouragement it sounds fun and satisfying too. It’s probably more of a learning curve and lack of time deal for me but something I should try. As you say on a cheap pen too. I have several around.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
I really wasn't happy with the way the Sheaffer VFM was performing, and started the refining process all over again.

I ditched the Antique Copper cartridge, pulled the nib and feed, and gave everything a good clean. I then put in a Diamond Chocolate Brown cartridge, as that's an ink I'm very familiar with in another pen, and would give me a good appreciation of what tweaks were needed.

On first use, flow was poor. I flex splayed the times a little more, and refined the nib to remove the resultant scratchiness. Better. Much better. The feed was struggling to keep up though, so I pulled the feed again, and chased down the feed channel with a craft knife. Eventually I got it working on a par with the also home tweaked Baoer 388.

Maybe I should start listing pen costs in terms of currency and time? In this case, probably £11 + 15 minutes. :biggrin1: Chocolate

I then decided to bring the new silver Helix Oxford up to the same standard. I stripped and cleaned it first, to ensure no factory oils etc, and again fitted a Chocolate Brown cartridge. Perfect! Right from first use! I think this is my first new pen which hasn't needed any nib refinement whatsoever. Great flow, very smooth writing. Very impressive for £7 (and no minutes).

If I had to pick a negative point about this pen, it would be that when capped, the fountain pen and roller ball in that set, are identical. All too easy to pull the wrong pen out of the pen drawer. Aside from that, I really can't fault it.

Next time I use an Antique Copper cartridge, I should be able to see how it should have looked first time around.
 
Your continued "optimization" of your pens illustrates the point that presuming you are starting from a reasonable baseline i.e. the VFM, one can spend some combination of time, talent and treasure to make a given fountain pen work better. Some folks do not want to spend any time, some folks do not to literally get their hands dirty, some folks do not have the "talent" for tuning and/or disassembly etc. Some folks embrace it all.

The intersection of quality/value/performance is a fine place to be in many endeavors, certainly fountain pens is one such place.

Finally, one reason while fountain pens have such an allure for ME ( and others, I suspect) is the unique and often evolving interplay between a particularly pen, ink, paper and writer during a given writing session and the subtle changes that sometimes occur in performance between each session.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Some folks do not want to spend any time, some folks do not to literally get their hands dirty, some folks do not have the "talent" for tuning and/or disassembly etc. Some folks embrace it all.

Indeed. I personally have more disposable time, than disposable funds. Finding 15 minutes to get a cheap pen running superbly, is significantly easier for me, than finding the additional funds necessary to avoid that 15 minute investment.

Do remember also, that one of these pens needed no tweaks at all, and a couple of others needed only a few seconds of adjustment for fantastic writing properties to be unlocked.

The intersection of quality/value/performance is a fine place to be in many endeavors, certainly fountain pens is one such place.

... and different people will have different perspectives of where those intersections occur. Many will deem that it occurs at a significantly higher price point than I do. We all perceive such values differently.

As just one example, some might consider a "proper" pen (and yes, sadly, that phrase does get used online) should have a screw on cap, whereas I see a threaded section as a potential deal breaker, and have handled several luxury pens which I could not abide for that very reason. They were utterly intolerable for me to hold.

Likewise, plastics and resins, gold nibs, flex, different fill mechanisms, all elicit different emotional responses in different people. My attitudes do differ somewhat from prevailing perspectives, and I do recognise that.

Finally, one reason while fountain pens have such an allure for ME ( and others, I suspect) is the unique and often evolving interplay between a particularly pen, ink, paper and writer during a given writing session and the subtle changes that sometimes occur in performance between each session.

Absolutely! I think that's why I prefer a medium nib to a fine nib. A fine nib doesn't "express" those variations as clearly. However, I find that I still need to tweak my pens, to be happy with the base or datum condition, that they subsequently vary from, according to ink, paper, speed of writing, etc.

I would also say that I do not feel in any way talented in my pen tuning skills. In fact I would say that less skill is needed for the adjustments that I have been doing, than in getting a decent working edge on a pocket knife, or in using said knife to sharpen a traditional pencil. Maybe the defining factor is confidence, and I have maybe a little more confidence than others, as my penchant for budget pens, means I have less to lose. That's purely speculation on my part though.
 

AimlessWanderer

Remember to forget me!
Another pen related acquisition arrived today. A gold nib unit for my Parker 45 Flighter.

I haven't fitted it yet, as the existing steel nib is a wonderfully smooth writer. However, I wanted to have that option in the drawer, in case I wanted to try an iron gall ink at any point. It also gives me some insurance, in case I drop the Flighter and cause any damage to the steel nib.

Everything else is continuing to function wonderfully since the recent tweaks. Some nibs can develop a bit of a "memory" due to the stresses of flex splaying the tines, causing them to close up again and need splaying again shortly after, but this doesn't appear to be the case so far.

I think all the pens have now been tuned with similar inks, with the possible exception of the Parker IM Premium. I think i used Diamine Teal on that one, which does flow a little differently, so I may need to retune that one again later.
 
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