Michael A. Shelley's

Fountain Pen Reviews

Miscellaneous Modern Pens

Dani Phantas (1997)

nib: steel, two-tone plated (medium)

Fill System: cartridge (international)

Cap: threaded

approx (size) capped

One of the first pens I bought, pretty much on impulse. Besides, everyone needs a snake pen of some kind. The nib is a generic steel medium, which writes just like every other generic steel medium nib out there.

This is a very heavy pen, and I rarely use it. The nib looks a bit small for the size of the barrel, but that's just my opinion. Otherwise it's well made, but not my style.

Lamy 2000 (still in production)

Nib: 14k Gold, Platinum (Rhodium?)-plated (medium)

Fill System: Piston

Cap: pull-off

approx 139mm (5-1/2") capped

The design of this pen has been unchanged since about 1968; I think it still looks pretty neat. The body is Makrolon, which is a fiber-reinforced carbon, or something, that has a slight woodgrain texture. The end twists to operate the piston, but you have to look pretty closely to see where it joins the barrel. The nib is somewhat flexible for a modern pen; I like it, but wish the ink flow were a bit heavier. Not that it's skimpy; I just don't like to use much pressure when I write. There are translucent windows to view the ink supply, but it's pretty hard to see through them.

Some people complain about the metal protrusions irritating their fingers while they write; I find it helps me to position the pen. This is a pretty wide pen, which I like. Very understated, very industrial-Bauhaus (like all of Lamy's pens), and only about $100.

Lamy Safari (still in production)

nib: steel (medium)

Fill System: Cartridge / Converter (piston converter)

Cap: pull-off

approx 138mm (5-7/16") capped

In my opinion, this is one of the best modern low-cost ($30 retail) pens available. Some don't like the sculptured section, but I find it very comfortable. The steel nib on mine is very smooth, and almost always starts writing immediately. The piston converter snaps into place to prevent leaks, there is a window to check ink level, and it's made out of nearly indestructible ABS plastic. Medium weight, fairly large. I like it better than the Waterman Phileas, which is also in this price range.

Platinum Celluloid (recently discontinued?)

nib: 18k gold (broad)

Fill System: Cartridge / Converter (screw piston)

Cap: threaded

approx (?) capped

I tried one of the celluloid pens in about 1998, and liked it, but wasn't ready to spend $250 on it. Then the price started coming down, and when I saw it on sale for $99, I couldn't pass it up. By that time all that was available was the tortoise finish with a broad nib. Not my first choice, but close enough.

Japanese nibs tend to run finer than Western nibs, so the broad on this pen is about like a medium-broad on a Sheaffer. In fact, using it is a lot like a Sheaffer -- wet, smooth, and seems to be pretty reliable. The nib doesn't have any flex to speak of, but feels softer than a Sheaffer nib. Quite nice, really.

The cap is a little heavy, but the pen balances fairly well when posted. Except for the cap, it's a fairly lightweight pen. I find it a bit too short without posting the cap. The section is made of the same material as the barrel, which is nice. (On many similar pens the section will be black, which may not look good on a colored pen.)

The only possible problems I've noticed so far are that the cartridge rattles a bit in the barrel (I think using the converter may solve this,) and the seam in the celluloid is visible, but can't be felt, on the barrel and cap. (This bothers some people, but not me.) I've heard a rumor that the celluloid will stain with ink if you aren't careful, but I have no information about that.

Platinum Maki-E 12000 (no longer in production)

nib: 18k gold (medium)

Fill System: Cartridge / Converter (screw piston)

Cap: pull-off

approx 140mm (5-1/2") capped

Okay, it's not what Maki-e snobs would call real Maki-e, which uses powdered gold, hand-applied lacquer, abalone chips, and whatnot. This one is silk-screened, possibly using acrylic paint, but those Maki-e guys have to practice on something, right? More traditional Maki-e pens can be quite expensive. This one is the Mount Fuji design. I'm not wild about the clip, but that's personal preference. (Namiki and Sailor have Maki-e pens that are very similar in shape. Sailor also has some screen-printed ones, but with steel nibs.)

The nib is very smooth, and since it's a Japanese pen, the medium writes more like a western fine nib. No flex at all, but very good ink flow, so only a light touch is needed to use this pen. The feed is translucent, which is kind of neat. A medium-sized and medium-weight pen (with the converter -- it's lighter with cartridges.) I don't feel too confident about the durability of the barrel threads, and am a bit concerned about posting the cap (which rubs on some of the paint.) But Scott Woodside, who is the U.S. distributor for Platinum, says to use the heck out of it. Other than the paint, it's durable enough for a daily user, and provides a Maki-e look without the cost. Really a very nice pen.

Visconti Pericle (recently discontinued)

Nib: Steel, two-tone plated (medium)

Fill System: Cartridge (international) / Converter (screw piston)

Cap: pull-off

approx 147mm (5-3/4") capped

I'm getting to like this pen the more I use it. It's fairly large, but not terribly expensive (I think I paid about $70 for this one.) The acrylic body is nice, if not spectacular. My bluish-purple Pericle has a hint of transparency, which gives it a nice depth. The nib is smooth enough, and very firm, making it good for carbons or credit card receipts. Ink flow is good with both cartridges and the piston converter. I have to coax it to start only occasionally.

This pen is too back-heavy for me with the cap posted, but the body is long enough to write without posting the cap, even with my largish hands. The pen is fairly light (except for the cap) and not at all tiring to use. The Greek helmet clip is unusual, being inflexible but hinged at the top. It holds well, but mine sticks a bit and I fear the spring may be going bad.

I've heard that some people have had various problems with Visconti pens. I haven't. The cap is very hard to remove on mine. This pen has been replaced by the Pericle 2001, which looks similar.

Waterman Phileas (1997)

nib: steel, two-tone plated (fine)

Fill System: cartridge (Waterman) / Converter (screw piston)

Cap: snap

approx (size) capped

The Phileas is one of the more popular and better entry-level pens available. I have the fine nib on mine, as the medium that originally came on it was closer to a broad. It's very firm, has good ink flow, and is a bit scratchy at times. (The medium was very smooth.)

I really like the styling and size of this pen, but find I don't use it because the oil on my skin makes it hard for me to hold it securely.

It's a medium to heavy weight, due to a brass insert in the barrel. Waterman makes a similar model in solid colors without the insert, if you find the Phileas too heavy.

Wing Sung 233

Nib: Steel, two-tone plated (fine/extra-fine)

Fill System: Aerometric

Cap: pull-off

Length: approx 140mm (5-1/2") capped

Weight: approx 0.5 oz.

What do you get when you cross a Sheaffer Snorkel, a Parker 51, and a MontBlanc 22? A Wing Sung 233. The obvious question then becomes "Why would anyone want to do that?" Well, the Triumph nib and feed is (in my opinion) one of the best-performing combinations ever made, the aerometric filling system is basically indestructible, and an ink view window is something I always like to see.

Overall, the pen looks like an inexpensive copy of a Snorkel Clipper or similar model. The cap is the lightest I've ever seen, the plastic barrel doesn't seem too durable, the threads are plastic, and the nib looks like it's made from heavy tinfoil. Given the low material quality, the actual manufacturing seems to have been done quite well -- all this is noticeable only on a fairly close inspection. Best of all, it was only US$9.00. Like most budget pens, it writes pretty well. The two-tone but otherwise ordinary-looking nib puts down a smooth, fine line with medium ink flow. It hesitates after being stored nib-up for a while, but has performed well otherwise. (I think it just needs to be rinsed out a bit more.)

Anyhow, for those Sheaffer fans that don't care for Hero pens (also from China), here's some competition. Heck, at nine bucks each, give them away as party favors.

Norman Haase has fancier styles available on his website.

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Last updated 02 November 2004