01 June 2011


Pen review of the Pilot Vpen disposable fountain pen.

One of the points to argue in favor of fountain pens is re-usability. Fountain pens, some say, are cheaper than ball pens in the long run because you can refill them. Additionally, this practice generates less waste than the use of the ubiquitous disposable ball pen.

Then, how do we deal with disposable fountain pens? Are they worth the noble name of fountain pen?

I know of only two brands of those: the English-American Berol Fontaine, although the pen is made in Japan, and the very well-known Pilot Vpen or Varsity. None of them is truly attractive and most of us, stylophiles, would not pay much attention to them. But the Pilot Vpen performs so well that is hard to ignore.

Pilot Vpen and Berol Fontaine, side by side.

1. Appearance and design. (5.0/10)
The Pilot Vpen looks cheap indeed. Save for the obvious nib, the whole pen is made in some slightly flexible plastic—including the clip. However, it is a functional and reliable tool.

2. Construction and quality. (9.0/10)
Despite the looks, it does not break. The cap fits perfectly –capped and posted— after months of careless use. Inexpensive but well made.

3. Weight and dimensions. (9.5/10)
This is a medium sized and very light pen. It is also well balance posted or unposted. It feels comfortable in the hand. Just right for long writing periods.

Diameter: 12 mm.
Length capped: 132 mm.
Length uncapped: 115 mm.
Length posted: 150 mm.
Total weight: 10.2 g (full).
Weight uncapped: 7.0 g (full).
Ink deposit: 1.7 ml.

4. Nib and writing performance. (8.0/10)
Pilot Vpens come with two possible points: F and M. Both are wet, smooth and reliable. The steel nib is the same as the one implemented on the already reviewed Pilot Petit 1, albeit the latter is only available in F. Needless to say, this is a rigid nib.

A Vpen disassembled together with a Pilot Petit 1 nib and feed (the green one).

5. Filling system and maintenance. (7.0/10)
This is probably the key point of this pen. The ink deposit is sealed and, in principle, cannot be refilled. Therefore, the idea of maintenance is very simple—dispose when empty.

The trick to re-use this pen is simple: extract the nib and feed set by pulling them out of the section; clean all the parts; pour some new ink inside the body; reattach the nib and feed; and, voilà, the pen is ready for the action.

So, this pen could be seen as an uncomfortable-to-fill eyedropper, but a refillable pen nonetheless.

Pilot markets this pen in this colors at the time of writing this chronicle: black, blue and red. In the past, however, some other colors were available—in front of me I have a light blue/turquoise one with an F nib. And after emptying the pen, it is up to you to choose the ink color!

6. Cost and value. (7.5/10)
This is an inexpensive pen –JPY 200 in Japan, and less than € 3.00 in Spain. In exchange, the pen works well for a long time, and does not break. But for the same price you can get several fully refillable pens—the Platinum Preppy and Riviere, the Zande-Phondex copy of the Sheaffer’s No Nonsense, the Sailor Ink Pen… The cartridge only Pilot Petit 1 is JPY 300.

Then, is the Vpen a cheap or an expensive pen? Hard to say. Its handling and performance are, in my opinion, better than any of those pens, and that is a basic point in a cheap pen like this. On the other hand, the hack to refill, even if easy and straight-forward, is far from being user-friendly.

7. Conclusion. (46.0/60=76.5/100)
Unappealing but very reliable pen. Nominally disposable but easy to refill.

My thanks to Fountain Pen Network member Sailor Kenshin.

(Pilot Vpen, M nib – Pilot Black)

Bruno Taut
May 31st, 2011
[labels: Pilot, Berol, soluciones técnicas]


Peninkcillin said...

These are great pens but a bit expensive if they weren't hackable. Luckily they can be refilled with a little work.

I don't know where you guys manage to find the F nibs. Everywhere I look I see only M. M is a bit too thick for this pen.

Bruno Taut said...

Thanks for your comment.

I bought my Vpens in Tokyo and F nibs were more common than those with M.

Remember, though, that Pilot Petit 1 and Vpens share the nibs. Now I am using a particularly smooth F nib formerly in a Petit 1 in a Vpen.



Paco Moreno de Barreda said...

I will also like to know where in Spain or Internet can I find the F nib, I only see M ones

Bruno Taut said...

Gracias por el comentario, Paco Moreno.

Desgraciadamente no tengo información sobre si el punto M está disponible en España. En la Red yo buscaría en tiendas estadounidenses, pero tampoco tengo datos fiables al respecto. Estas plumas son bratas y se encuentran en la tienda de la esquina...



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