We’ve all been there. We’ve held an item, a gadget, a widget, a tool, in our hands and it has just felt right, perfect for the task, comfortable and comforting. It may be cheap, it may be expensive. It may be bespoke, it may be off the shelf, there are no hard and fast rules, and like all emotive mysteries, it’s hard to explain just why it works so well for one person, yet may not for another.
Fountain pens fall under the same emotive reactions as any other implement and here I describe a number of pens in my collection which fall under this category, and try to see if I can explain just why these are go-to pens for myself. I challenge readers to look at their own collections for their ‘just right’ pens.
These are pens I’ve had for a few years and are rarely swapped out of my daily carry, and if they are, reappear shortly there after.
Pilot Custom 823
On paper this pen has a generic shape, uninspiring colours, demonstrator barrel, mismatched materials, an unusual filling system, and can be hard to clean (any disassembling of the pen voids the warranty and over tightening on re-assembling is known to crack the barrel). Added to which Pilot only sell the 823 in Japan and the USA, having little confidence of it’s success in Europe (except a short period when it was sold for a silly price) additionally, it costs a third more than it’s cartridge/converter sister the 743. Nothing to shout about, except these rarely hang about when put up for sale second hand and those are few enough.
For me, first time in the hand, I just knew it was right. I understood why others would rave about the pen. Why I’m still not sure, but it is a combination of the sweet nib, the balance of the pen, the shape of the grip and the length. Having bought one second hand, I went and put my name down on the reservation list for a second, this time buying directly from Japan with the limited available factory fitted FA nib.
Onoto Magna Classic
I bought a Magna Classic with a gold nib half price in a sale, along with an additional discount, from a certain Dutch reseller. I thought at the time what I was paying was about right for the pen. Let us be honest, £390 for a cartridge converter pen made from acrylic and with a steel nib can seem like a lot of money, even with sterling silver fittings. This one would have been £529 full price. Added to this I like larger pens where as this is short for a modern day fountain pen, as well as light (though you can get an additional balanced weight added). Additionally I prefer softer nibs. The unusual size #7 used on most Onoto pens are on the stiffer side, both steel and gold. Yet this feels to me like the perfect letter writing implement and since then I have bought two more, the latter with another gold nib.
I find it very had to put my finger on why the Onoto Magna Classic is just such a perfect pen for me. I’m not alone, I’ve met and spoken to others who are in the same boat, having tried one at a pen show and fallen for its charms. While it can not be denied the cost of the pen is on the high side, it must be remembered these are truly hand made with the silver and metal work being done by hand by artisans. I would say part of the allure is they have kept the the looks and size close to the original pens in their latter days, but I’m not sure that has much to do with it for me. Certainly this is a pen James Bond would use if he needed to write his memoirs.
These are pens which at present I love to just grab, but time will tell if they do join the ‘just right’ club.
Leonardo Officina Italiana Momento Zero
Putting aside questions of QC with the nibs (which still seems to be cropping up) the Momento Zero has been pretty popular since it’s launch and has now been joined by the Furore, sharing the same grip and nib, but with a cigar shaped barrel and cap. The reasons being a nice buttery smooth nib, an interesting selection of acrylics, and a decent price point. Arguably it is a nicer pen to use than the Momento Zero Celluloids with their gold nibs and piston filling mechanisms.
For me it’s a mix of the nib, the balance, and also a comfort factor. I’m not sure if it’s also down to the unusual geometric shape to the grip. I’ve only had the pen for a few months now, but it already feels like an old friend.
It was a brave move from Scrittura Bolognese to use a high end pen for the launch of their mainstream models. The Feel is a large, curvaceous, faceted (12 sides) piston filler with a choice of gold nibs any OMAS fan would instantly recognise. Some have complained that it is made from hand turned resin rather than celluloid, but it has picked up many fans, including yours truly, and now the original two plain colours have been joined by a couple of interesting limited editions.
There is something tactile about faceted pens, added to which this one is comfortable to use and has amazing nib. The unusual curves also help, making holding the pen a pleasurable experience. Time will tell whether this will continue, but after 6 months I’ve felt no inclination whatsoever to remove it from my daily carry collection.
Some will note my trusty Lamy Imporium is not on the list. While I really enjoy using it, for me it is my ‘serious, I need black ink’ pen. Additionally, for those who know me and my apparent obsession with the brand, no Franklin Christoph pens are mentioned though swapping a medium or medium SIG nib in to my model 19 or 40 (both of which have broad SIG nibs) could bring them back in to my daily carry and then maybe more in to my heart.
So what are your ‘go to’, ‘just feel right’ pens ?