OK, it’s not the C-word quite yet, but it’s creeping up fast, and it’s handy to have a few fountain pen options up your sleeve! Thanks to Nikki and John we have a handy set of ideas below, divided into products available at less than £25 (handy for family who want to know what to get for you) and products priced under £125 (in case the Elves leave you some pocket money to spend on yourself!), so read on and break out the wrapping paper…
Kaweco Sport A pen which looks like no other – and which no self-respecting fountain pen fan’s collection is complete without – and all for under £20. Available very widely, including at The Writing Desk, Cult Pens (including the special edition in metallic purple above), and Bureau Direct.
Lamy Safari Back to School Bundle While it’s perhaps a little cruel to remind the kids that the yuletide break will be over all too soon, this is a great-value job-lot including the ubiquitous Lamy Safari fountain pen, a box of five matching ink cartridges and an ink eradicator for £15.71 – £17.45 from The Writing Desk) – and yes, there’s Dark Lilac option.
Dex by Kingsley Smooth Fountain Pen An extraordinarily good fountain pen available at a bargain entry-level price in a wide range of colours – and our budget would stretch to a converter and a nice bottle of ink to go with one! A nice little introduction to the world of fountain pens. (£9.60 at Penwrite or £12 at The Pen Shop).
J.Herbin Glass Pen & Ink Set This set is great for anyone who would like to try a glass dip-pen! The glass pen comes with your choice of two J.Herbin inks. There’s no need to fiddle about with loading your pen with ink, you simply dip and write away! (£25 from Bureau Direct).
Diamine Shimmer Inks Diamine are many people’s favourite brand when it comes to inks, being both easy on the pocket and on the eye – but their Shimmer inks are something special. These delightful inks have gold or silver coloured particles suspended in the ink, leaving a wonderful shimmer on the paper when you write. A new batch of colours have recently been released, so look out for a review on them here soon! (from £8.95 at Bureau Direct, Cult Pens, The Writing Desk, Pure Pens).
Diamine Inks Don’t want the Shimmer? Then check out Diamine’s standard inks, available in pretty much any colour imaginable! It’s a bargain at £2.35 for 30ml bottles and £5.50 – £7 for 80ml bottles (from Bureau Direct, Cult Pens, The Writing Desk, Pure Pens or Diamine directly).
KWZ Ink Konrad Żurawski has been creating fountain pen inks since 2013. The inks are handmade in Poland, but despite being made on a small scale, there are already quite a number of colours to choose from. With excellent flow properties, they do a great job with flex nibs (and we hope to review a handful next year!), although be warned that the smell is not to absolutely everyone’s taste. (From £12.95 at Bureau Direct)
Ink Samples Not sure what ink to buy someone? Why not choose a handful of ink samples?! This handy service means you can get 2.5ml samples of ink to try (plenty to fill a pen) and they make great stocking fillers. There are so many brands and colours to choose from that it’s hard to go wrong, and both The Writing Desk and Pure Pens are on hand to help.
William Hannah binder + refills William Hannah paper seems to be universally admired by fountain pen users and is available in plain, lined, grid, dotted, to-do list, planner and weekly diary format – plus our budget will just about stretch to an A5 ‘archive set’ so there’s something to put it in! Available direct from William Hannah.
Pocket Notebooks Perfect for putting in a pocket (hence the name!) or for slotting into a traveller’s notebook. Buy a set of 3 or a subscription, there’s plenty to choose from! (From £8.95)
Rhodiarama Notebook (A5 – Dot Grid) Available in a range of colours, these notebooks are perfect for using as a bullet journal. The soft leatherette cover comes in a range of colours, it has a ribbon marker and a pocket at the back for keeping mementos in. The Rhodia 90gsm brushed vellum lined paper works great with fountain pens. (From £11.69 at Bureau Direct , The Writing Desk, or Pure Pens).
Clairefontaine 1951 Vintage-style Pocket Exercise Books These lovely little pocket exercise books (90x140mm) are perfect stocking fillers. The Clairefontaine Satin-smooth 90gsm paper works well with fountain pens and small notebooks always come in handy when out and about. (From £1.25 at Bureau Direct or Cult Pens).
Nib + Ink: The New Art of Modern Calligraphy Book by Chiara Perano Modern calligraphy has taken off this year, so why not treat a loved one to this book to help them on their way to learning how to do it themselves?! Written by the founder of Lamplighter London studio, specialising in modern and decorative calligraphy and illustration. We’re aiming to review this book here on United Inkdom soon, too! (£9.09).
Mastering Copperplate Calligraphy Book by Elizabeth Winters An easy-to-follow, practical manual for those wanting to learn how to write in copperplate calligraphy. Who doesn’t want to write so beautifully?! (£9.99).
The Start Bay Compass A7 Notebook – a handmade leather notebook cover with two A7 notebook inserts (Rhodiarama A7 lined notebooks) and including an option free charm (all packages in an unbleached cotton bag). A great introduction to the world of traveller’s notebooks (£25).
The Pro Gear Slim is the most affordable introduction to Sailor’s much-admired gold nibs. They tend to be fairly firm, so not for flex fans, but they write smoothly with just a touch of spring. The price is only just below our price limit, but fortunately The Writing Desk offer free postage on them.
Pilot’s Capless/Vanishing Point is the original clickable fountain pen, and although a bit soulless it is also clever and really rather useful. Official UK prices tend to be too inflated to meet our budget challenge, but there are often plenty at much more sensible prices on Amazon or the current £/$ exchange rate may even warrant popping over to Goulet Pens
The LAMY 2000 is widely heralded as a design classic, and WHSmith have become wildly popular for offering these for £100 recently. Inevitably, they’ve just sold out at this time of year (although watch this space), but Amazon has some for just 30p over our limit so let’s sneak it in to the collection.
Edison Colliers are popular with fans of big pens, and although the UK prices are just above our limit, the currency conversion again makes a treat from Goulet Pens possible. Mind you, with the £25 customs fee and the £8 handling charge added on, you might prefer to stump up an extra £4 and buy one from The Writing Desk instead.
The Diplomat Aero is, of course, the fountain pen that looks like a Zeppelin, and very nice it is too. Official UK prices exceed our limit, but Amazon has a promising selection at more sensible levels.
Platinum’s 3776 is rightly famed as a brilliant gold-nibbed everyday writer, and although the more exotic tips like the ‘Music’ variant exceed our limit, the Bourgogne or Chartres finishes with the excellent Soft Fine nib are certainly accessible within our budget. Quality control can be a little variable, so this is one worth buying from a reputable dealer rather than talking your chances on Amazon – we’d recommend trying Cult Pens if you’d like the classic Fuji-topping stylus in your pocket.
The Tactile Turn Gist will be a subject of a meta-review here soon, but the signs so far are that it’s a future classic in the making, and a Kickstarter project that has gone mainstream for all the right reasons. Some of the finishes inevitably go well over our budget, but if you’re happy with a steel nib then both the poly-carbonate and, amazingly, all-copper versions are available within our price range from UK distributor Izods.
William Hannah notebooks are a properly British contribution to this collection, and absolutely the nicest thing you’ll ever write in. Yes, they’re not cheap, but they don’t feel cheap either – owners universally rate them as worth every penny. There are copious customisation options, and the budget here will even stretch to a fully bespoke notebook if you order one right away!
The TWSBI 580 AL probably needs no introduction – an affordable, reliable piston-filler which comes with the required tools to strip it down, service it and get it back on the road in next yourself. But now you can buy one from fpnibs.com, who will also sell you a #5 gold JoWo nib and fit it for you, too – making for a well-engineered, gold-nibbed pen of Pelikan quality but still within our budget. This is the combination used to produce the Too Many Purples project, if you’re curious. You’ll need to drop them an email after purchasing pen and nib to ask them to fit one to the other, but you’ll be glad you did… it’ll be like all your Christmases came at once.