Sometimes I feel like in 2023, I'm at two ends of the spectrum where I love the newest things like iPads for notetaking and the Apple Watch (go Ultra!), but it does make me nostalgic for traditional things from 200 years ago. So here's a quick list of old-fashioned Everyday Carry (EDC), so here's a list of recent things.
Fountain Pens Overall
Ok two years ago, I bought a set of fountain pens and boy are they great. I used the PenAddicts list and I loved the Lamy 2000 is terrific, it's German and looks so modern and cool, and at the other end of the spectrum is the Sailer Pro Gear Slim which is a smaller version of the Sailor 1911. These have been great. We ended up giving as a graduation gift the Pilot Custom 823 which has great reports.
Looking at things 18 months later, inflation has definitely hit the business. As an example, in May of 2021, the LAMY 2000 was $200 and now its $225, the Sailor Pro Gear Slim was $185 and actually is $180 now and the Pilot Custom 823 was $288 and is now $336 so prices are higher (note that it comes with a gift box and ink as well) and it means being a little picky. You can find these with a little work slightly lower but watch out for disreputable suppliers. As an aside, while the LAMY 2000 works with fountain ink, the Sailor Pro Gear comes with cartridges and has a converter but no instructions on how to use it.
So looking now, I was wondering what a really high-end fountain pen might be like (I know window shopping). But if you look at Pen Addicts (he has a great podcast too). But at the very top end, besides the Pilot Custom 823 (as an aside, the first two digits are the year of creation and then the version number, so this is designed in 1982 with version 3).
The other ones that they were to consider are Pilot Custom 912 at $280 at Pen Chalet or JetPens (which has the Falcon Nib), Sailor Pro Gear Standard or 1911 Large (we already have the Sailor Pro Slim which is great), Pelikan Souveran M600n is $550 at Pen Chalet and the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande at $235 at Goldspot and $396 with a gold nib. These are all super premium models and all sound amazing.
Then of course there is the Pilot Custom 823 which many consider the holy grail. The Pilot Custom 912 is another great model particularly because it has many nib choices, the cool one is the FA nib which has wing cutouts that makes it flex more. The LAMY 2000 and the Sailor Pro Gear are great, but they do not flare out for that calligraphy look. YOu can get this for as little as $155 from Japan in the old days. The main thing is the barrel is just plastic which means it is functional but not beautiful. there are also some good Reddit comparisons of 823 and Sailor Pro Gear. And also with the C823 vs C912, the basic comment is that 823 is the workhorse, but the nib choices of the 912 are really nice the body itself is plane plastic so not much to look at.
European, Asian, or US Pens
Well, I have a German pen in the LAMY 2000, then the Sailor is Japanese, so where else can you get pens?
First, there is Italian. The Leonardo Momento is wonderful, but they are steel nibs which should be fine there is that the 14K gold nibs are supposed to have a little more flex but you can get an upgrade to 14K which probably doubles the price. The main thing about this is the beauty of the barrel so it is incredibly good-looking.
Then there's another German option. The Pelikan pricing seems to be mainly due to the amazing graphics and colors that the pen has. As an aside, the M800 series is heavier and bigger at $590 at Goldspot and Pen Chalet. This is really a beauty classic that feels like it should be in a museum or under glass than in my bag.
I also had two TWSBI pens from Taiwan, but they both broke at the barrel. Apparently, this is pretty common so hard to recommend them although they were starting $50 pens.
Finally when on the site, I couldn't resist looking at mechanical pencils too, so the Rotring 600 is such an iconic pencil, it's hard not to have one that is $31 at Jet Pens. So this is kind of a must-buy.
So in summary, the higher priced pens like the Pelikan and the Leonardo are about design (which is amazing) while the Pilot C823 is in that middle ground of nice design and great writing. Finally, the C91 is about all those nibs, particularly the Waverly or the Flair that give a more calligraphic look. Hard to decide if you have the desire.
Diving into all things Pilot
Pilot is kind of an amazing company founded in 1918 by Ryosuke Namiki as the Namiki Manufacturing company (hence the name of their high-end line the Namiki), it names its pens dated from the birth of the company, so a Pilot Custom 743 means it was designed in the 74th year since founding and it cost 30,000 Yen when it was launched. Got to love engineers and people being logical. They, of course, make some great mass-market pens like the FriXion and Hi-Tec-C which I love, but their high-end line is called the Custom (meaning they are cigarette-shaped) or Custom Heritage (so they have flat tops and bottoms).
They also make inks and I have the Iroshizuku ink which I have to say is kind of amazing. And their array of pens is completely daunting with many comparisons on Reddit that are hard to keep track of.
So to dig deep, the C823 is the easy choice, but it does have a custom converter and in the US, you can't get the cool FA nib which makes feathering nice. Pre-pandemic, it listed for $288 or so in the US but now is more like $336 with inflation, so that's quite a bump. It has all the trimmings including a larger #15 nib and in Japan, you can get an FA. The main long-term issue is how will the custom ink converter hold up and be supported although it does hold a massive amount of ink and has no problem with flow. An 823 FA is ideal if you are not worried about the long long long term (like the 22nd century 🙂
For instance, the Pilot Custom 912 does have an FA Nib #10, so it is a shorter nib and has a nice flex to it. A good compromise is the C742, but The main issue is that the ink feed in the small C742 or C743 and C912 has a hard time keeping up with the flow, so the C823 is better. It does have a CON-72 converter which is the largest size. Note that with an FA nib, it is not going to be something you will want to use for daily writing, it is a lot of flow. A nice "budget" choice is the C74 which is half the price typically and the C743 and C742 are only in Japan which is a nice cache.
As an aside note that the 743 and 823s are all #15 nibs and the FA is a legendary nib and this is mainly for writing cards and things. The C743 with the Falcon nib is probably the nicest if you can stand the flow issue as Pencil Case agrees. AT PenSachi, the 743 and 823 are identical in price, so only the ink flow is the issue as they have identical nibs (although the 823 looks prettier). The big difference is the weight balance as the 743 is lighter than the 843 with FA.
Conclusion: C743 FA with Wider channel, C823 FA, C743 or C823
OK so when you though the whole thing, I'd love to try the Falcon or FA nib but it is hard to get. So the backup is the C823 or the C743 Medium if you want a standard CON-70 and want to change inks alot.
Where to buy Pilot Pens
Well, there are some very reputable suppliers here in the US like JetPens, Pen Chalet and Goldspot as well are very reputable. Goldspot has some amazing choices including the C912 with the FA nib, C823, and the Leonard Mometo Zero Grande. JetPens also is reputable with a great selection including some specialty things like the Rotring 600 Drafting Pencil and a Sailor Converter since my Sailor didn't come with one. Pen Chalet seems to have some very good prices for the US of course.
The main issue is that Pilot has very different prices in different countries. So if you are willing to take a chance, you can actually go to a Japanese seller and typically get a lower price. The tradeoff is that if there is a problem it's a big problem and the US subsidiary may not repair it. Still, the differences are pretty significant which is why you find lots of sellers on Amazon (the new eBay).
For example, Pensachi has a full English website with hard-to-find models that they will ship overseas, so YMMV. And it's hard to tell with things like Trustpilot whether they are reputable, but folks on r/fountainpens have had some good experiences (and some bad). In Europe, the prices are really high, but even in the US it can be 30-50% different and then there are impossible to get models like the Pilot Custom 743 that only appears in Japan. Sigh, I need to go to Tokyo! The 823 FA is really hard to get and is $375 but sold out at Pensachi, the C912 with FA nib is $175 but also sold out but the C743 with FA nib is available for $265 if you are willing to try it on eBay or Amazon.
A quick note if your fountain pen goes dry
I just had this happen and basically, it's a mess, but you dip it into the water and try to get the dried ink out. And then you try to flush it through. And then use a paintbrush to scrub the nib.