Self-introduction followed by - beginner's pen?

Hey there,

I'm new here, as the stats will show. I'm a graduate student. Tracking and using information is part of my day-to-day bit, and organization and writing are common themes. I'm really keen on my MacBook and a suite of applications (DevonThink, Pages '08, MarsEdit) for keeping info where it needs to be, but for day to day journaling nothing beats the analog option of paper and pen.

So far I've been happy with the large, hard bound moleskine lined book, but I've never really found a pen I enjoyed using. I mostly grab whatever's handy and nearby, but I think it might be time to give a fancy pen a try.

With a very limited budget in mind (again, graduate student) and an uncertainty if pens are really a sub-budget I want to set aside money for, what recommendations would you seasoned forum vets have for an exploratory, beginner's "new pen experience"?

Syndicate content

Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.

Try an inexpensive fountain pen

Try JetPens. You cannot go wrong.

Try the Platinum Preppy or the Pilot Petit1 or whatever trips your trigger
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

It depends on what we are talking about.

First, what category? Ballpoint? Gel? Rollerball? And, disposable or refillable? Also, do you tend to like a very broad or a very fine point?

I'll throw out a few of my current favorites - My favorite disposable rollerballs are the ubiquitous Pilot G2 and the Pentel Energel with the Energel getting my vote for a slight edge. I like broad points so I'm a .7 or .9 girl myself.

Ballpoints, for me the broader, the better, but it's hard to find one that doesn't smudge. Papermate is making a really high end nice one right now, but I don't have one in front of me to confirm the make/model.

I tend to like the Foray brand as well for consistent ink flow and general cheapness. Head to a Staples and pull a few off the Try Me bins.

For a refillable pen I love my Levenger True Writer with a roller ballpoint refill. best of all worlds. but it has to be the right True Writer. I don't like the heavy ones, I prefer the lighter ones so my hand doesn't tire. I've always liked Cross and Parkers as well and the nice thing about those is there is a HUGE price range but they all write fairly consistently since they all take the same refills. If you sign up on Cross's website you'll even get emailed discounts fairly regularly.

In the favorite, but no longer available commercially (so try ebay) catergory - I LOVE Sensa pens. Refills are easy too because they take Parkers (and probably others).

For a slightly glossy paper like the Moleskins, I think I'd lean toward a ballpoint.

Does that help or just add to the mess? I'm passionate about pens. But I guess we all have our addictions :)

Just to clarify, Foray pens

Just to clarify, Foray pens can actually be found only at Office Depot (they're one of the Office Depot private brand pens). The only reason I know that is because I work there. Most of them aren't bad for being cheap, private brand pens.

Since you like broad, ballpoint pens, you might like the Uniball Jetstream pen (the 1.0 point). They write really smooth and hold up really well with next to no smudging. You CAN get it to smudge if you get some blobs on the pen and immediately run your hand through it, but it's few and far between for the most part. That's my "cheap" (around $8 for 3 of them) weapon of choice and most people I've had try them have really liked them. And if you ever need a fine point pen, their fine point pens (they say they're a .7 but write more like a .5 I think) work really well too. The Jetstream is what replaced the Pentel R.S.V.P. for me.

Yes to Jetstream

I second the recommendation for the Uniball Jetstream. I use the 0.7 (which is all they sell around here) and it is MUCH finer point than most of the pens that are termed fine-point or micro-point. It writes very smoothly, with no skips. Another consideration for me is that the Jetstream is VERY lightweight. I have some wrist problems so I really value this.

Ditto on the Pilot Petit

It's a great little pen for $4.50 at It goes for $4.00 at The refills are also cheaper at jstationery. The service is equally good at both places.

I really like the spalding

I really like the spalding ones which Ive been using for 4 years

Proud owner of a Newton 2100


As eco-wise as fountain pens are, I can't get the hang of using them.

Also, the ink tends to bleed through on moleskines unless you've either got an older moleskine with the "less bleedy" paper or you're used to using a fountain pen.

If I were hunting for a nice but low cost pen, I'd look at a ball point, rollerball or fine gel pen that can be refilled. That way you don't have to buy a new pen again and lots of refills are quite cheap.

My current favourite is a gel pen from kikki.k. (The pen was only $4.95 and it was $4.95 for 4 refills)

I suggest you could got to a pen/stationery shop and see what you like and what feels good in your hand. If it's too pricey, then check Jet Pens for something that looks like it.

I've found staedtler and uniball pens reliable ... although they can look a bit boring.

Hero pens are extremely

Hero pens are extremely inexpensive, usually pretty consistent, and lay a fine line that works well for Moleskine notebooks.

A Hero 329 is what I have in mind. Can be found here: and elsewhere.

You'll need to get yourself some bottled ink, too. Waterman Florida Blue is easy to come by, so is Parker Blue (even in your local Staples/Office Depot sometimes) and does a great job. You can get into other inks later.


Beginner's Pens

Beginner fountain pens: Shaeffer Targa, if they are still made, and Lamy Safari. I'm still using the Targas I bought nearly 30 years ago. My Safari is 20 something.

Ballpoint: Pelikan Colani, IF you can find one. The Fisher 0 Gravity is a fine pen, but may be hard to find. It is fat and has a rubber, no slip finish. Then there is the Zebra F 701, which has a no-slip grip area, good balance and can be had at WalMart for around 5 bucks.

The Fisher writes anywhere, anytime, in any position. The Zebra requires a bit less effort to use. Between arthritis and carpal tunnel, I'm sensitive to the amount of effort required.

The old reliable Parker Jotter is also a fine pen, but the refills are not as easy to find as they should be.

I have a mixed opinion of gel pens. They are great when they work, but they seem to clog or jam or whatever and give up at the half way point.

And that is my two cents worth. Please keep us posted!

It is better to dare great things and fail than to dwell in the eternal twilight of mediocrity -- Theodore Roosevelt.

A World of Pens under $100

Go visit the Fountain Pen Network, but warning... you can go broke. To see if you like a fountain I'd suggest a Hero, 329, 616, 110 (very nice nib), 200A even nicer. A Pilot 78G is a great writer. And the Sheaffer Snorkel or Parker "51" can both be found as a good "daily writer" for $40-75. These can be 50-60 years old and will write well for another 60 years.
Do some searches here and you'll find more suggestions.
Heck even the Preppy or Petit pens at $3-4 are great writers.

Platinum Preppy

Would be my suggestion too. Refillable fountain pen for only $3-4. Uses Platinum cartridges, so you can change the color, or I think it will use the Platinum converter for bottled ink. If you use carts, save and reuse them. Refill with your favorite bottled ink and seal with a piece of tape. They have a little metal ball inside which seals them when they are new and after they're used, help to break the surface tension in the cart and keep the ink flowing.

The Preppy has an extra-fine nib which is good for journaling and planners, and may be compatible with the Moleskine. Moleskine paper can be variable, so one should test.

Various vendors sell these - and come to mind.

"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

New Preppy 0.5 fountain pen

I just bought the medium nib (0.5mm) Preppy from and I love it. The only Preppy they sold previously had the 0.3 fine nib, which was more like an extra-fine. The 0.5 is much more to my liking and is even smoother than the other Preppy. I used it for a week taking notes at a training session, and it was great.

So, for those seeking a little wider, and even smoother, line, try the Preppy 0.5. Still only $3 at


"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

Fisher Space Pen


If you like ball points, you can't go wrong with a Fisher Space Pen. The refills are like a Parker ball point, and they are pressurized so you can write upside down, sideways, etc. They even write on glass and through grease. The reason I like them is because the ink is very smooth. Get a "military pen" like the Cap-o-Matic in all metal, or better, splurge on the Original Astronaut Space Pen. They have a unique button-release on the side next to the clip, so that when you put the pen back in the shoulder pen-holder on your uniform, it automatically retracts the tip. Pretty spiffy Nasa design. :) Stay away from the "Bullet Pen." Those are cheesy and annoying.

So, the next step up for a really cool ball point would be to get a Parker Sonnet Cisele in Sterling silver, and put a Fisher space pen refill in it. That's a classy pen. The silver has a groovy checkerboard pattern on it. Very nice.

I used to work for the Colorado Pen Company long ago, and we'd have customers come in to compare their 1945 Parker 75 Cisele with the new ones! It was cool to see them side by side. Haven't changed much!

So, in order of expense:

chrome or mat-black Cap-O-Matic Space Pen $10
Original Astronaut Space Pen $50
Parker Cisele $160 (for the regular size, not the thin one)

my personal preference

has always been rollerballs and gel pens. I love the Levenger rollerballs - I usually buy them on ebay.


It doesn't get much better than a Cross pen for me. If you want a nicer one, but can't spend a whole lot, you can get a Cross pen for around $20.00 if you look. My Dad gave me one for Christmas several years ago and told me to write my best-seller with it. :^)

If you can't spend quite that much, but still want a refillable ballpoint that has good weight to it, I suggest the Pentel Client if you can find one - I can't always write with my Cross pen (the classic Cross pens are really skinny, and I have all kinds of joint troubles in my hands), so when I can't I always reach for my client. They're nice and heavy and have a comfort grip. I love mine.

For Gel Pens

I have a fondness for the Uniball Signo RT UM-138 Gel Ink Pen. It is an ultra fine point with an 0.38 tip. I prefer the color blue/black. Not blue, not black. Next in line is the Pilot G-2 Extra fine point in blue. Its tip is .05 After that is the Pilot G-2 fine point in blue. Its point is .07.

As you can see I use fine point pens. You can write a lot more information in a given space with better legibility.

I have only found the Uniball Signo at Jet Pens. The extra fine point Pilot G-2 is very difficult to find. It shows up in stores from time to time. It too is available at Jet Pens.


I am but a simple caveman.

Hmm, interesting. I got a

Hmm, interesting. I got a couple of old gel pens, one a Pilot G2 07, and it is very nice, but I find I now prefer fountain pens.
I got 3 extra fine Pilot roller ball pens, which I got on the recommendation of a salesman, who said he prefers them to fountain pens. But I am finding, after some experimenting, that extra fine fountain pens, with the right ink, can write finer, with less smudge, and with a smoother feel.

Not sure which I prefer more, the Platinum Preppy, or the Lamy Safary, they are both about equally smooth, both good fine writers. The Hero 329 is one of the best extra fine pens I have seen, but it is not so smooth, so I use the others more, though they are a bit less fine. But on card stock, extra fine seems to be a necessity.

Just a few thoughts.