Thursday, December 9, 2010

Pilot Varsity "Disposable" Fountain Pen

What was it that first got you into fountain pens? For me it was the Pilot Varsity. The Varsity is roughly $3.00 (U.S.), and it is actually available at most office supply stories, which is more than I can say for many of the interesting offerings out there. This pen sports a medium nib made of steel, and the ink that in it is Pilot blue. While the image above might not express how dark this ink really is, it is definitely one of the darker blues out there. The ink feathers a bit in my Doane notepad, but part of this is because of the medium nib, and it puts out a lot of ink. Doane is also fairly porous, so I typically don't use it for fountain pens unless I am using a fine or extra-fine nib.

The most exciting part of this pen, for me, is the fact that the nib/feed section can be removed to allow for replacing the ink. I have several ink samples that I wanted to try, and being able to use this pen as an eyedropper allowed me to play with the inks before deciding if I wanted to buy them. In addition, I have this beautiful ink called Noodler's Baystate Concord Grape and, though I love it, the ink is notorious for staining pens, as it did with my Lamy Safari converter. I highly recommend the ink for eyedroppers, dip pens, and pens that you do not care about, but don't ever put it in a clear demonstrator, unless you are looking to stain the pen on purpose.

While there are now other options out there for super cheap fountain pens, I think this one is good to have around to test more finicky inks, inks that you might have samples of, or for testing how the shading of an ink, which comes out more in a wet, medium nib than it will in a fine nib.

The bottom line is that these pens are surprisingly long-lasting disposable  eyedropper pens, and they will allow you to bring a fountain pen out-and-about without worrying too much if it is lost or damaged. If you are not ready to jump into the $10-25 price point, then this is a solid option if you want to see what fountain pens are all about.

Feel free to comment on your thoughts about this pen or whatever other fountain pens you first tried.

For more information about using this pen as an eyedropper, check out Seth, of Good Pens, tutorial on refilling the Pilot Varsity.

Paper: Doane 8.25" x 11.75" notepad
Pen: Pilot Varsity - available at JetPens or an office supply store near you.


  1. The Pilot Varsity actually turned me off to fountain pens for several years. Not because there's anything wrong with the pen (I own several now, but because I tend to write very small (or used to, anyway), which I found impossible with these pens unless I turned the nib upside down.

    On the other hand, you seem to have done some pretty fine lettering in that sample!

  2. I certainly agree with you on the nib size - it is too big for my preferences, too. For signatures or leaving a quick note, it is a perfect fit, but I go with the extra fine in most cases. I might try my hand at grinding it to an italic, which I have never tried before, but at least I will not have to worry about the investment if it doesn't turn out well.

  3. Here's another method to refill the pen without pulling the pen apart.