Monday, November 12, 2012

Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pen

The Pilot Varsity is (thanks to a terrific giveaway at Pentorium) a recent addition to my growing collection of "disposable" fountain pens.  These are inexpensive fountain pens, usually around three dollars or so, that are generally not intended to be refilled (although many can be refilled, with a bit of work).  Their "disposable" nature kind of defeats part of the purpose of a fountain pen, in my opinion, but they are still great affordable and non-intimidating ways for beginners to get started with fountain pens.  I've reviewed a couple of these fountain pens already: the Platinum Preppy and the Pilot Petit1.  So how well does the Pilot Varsity compare to these?


To begin with, the Pilot Varsity sports a striped barrel with a vaguely retro-ish feel, and a black cap that is clearly marked on the end with the ink colour.  The pen has a small window on one side that allows you to judge the ink supply.  (And it looks like the barrel is only about half filled with ink when the pen is new.)  I don't have anything to complain of with the design of this pen.  It's fairly basic, but sufficient for the price.  One thing that I do like: the plastic body feels quite sturdy.  One of the major complaints that some have about the comparable Platinum Preppy is that it cracks easily; I doubt this would be an issue with the Varsity.


If you are familiar with the Pilot Petit1, then the nib of the Pilot Varsity is very similar to the nib of the Petit1, except that the Petit1's nib is marked with an F, and the Varsity's nib is marked with an M.  Since, as I mentioned in my review of that pen, the supposedly fine nib of the Petit1 is really not very fine, I was unsurprised to discover that this medium nib is quite bold - at least for my small handwriting.  If you have large handwriting, or just like bold pens, the Varsity could be a great choice, but it is definitely not ideal for me.  The ink flows out very well, almost even too well - seriously, this thing feels like it is just oozing ink.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but because it is laying down so much ink, it is probably going to bleed through or show through most papers.  There was a bit of bleed through in spots on the Rhodia paper I used for this review, but on the cheaper notebook paper I wrote my draft review on, the other side of the paper was rendered unusable by the amount of bleedthrough.  Feathering, however, was actually fairly minimal.


One thing I do love about this particular version of the Varsity is the red ink.  I don't use red ink very often, but when I do, I like an intensely saturated shade and this ink is certainly that.  It is a deep yet bright shade of red (it turned out slightly lighter on the Rhodia paper than on my draft notebook paper) that definitely stands out on the page.  The ink does not have much shading to it, but it looks great nonetheless.

As a final note, I should add that although the Varsity is marketed as a "disposable" fountain pen, it can actually be refilled.  I don't love this pen quite enough to want to that with mine, but if you do, a quick search on the Internet should lead you to a number of articles and videos.

Overall, the Pilot Varsity is not a bad introductory fountain pen, but it's not for everyone.  If you have small handwriting and prefer fine-tipped pens, you'll probably want to skip the Varsity.  Personally, I find myself with no strong feelings towards it, either positive or negative, probably because of that very issue.  It's a perfectly decent pen, but it simply does not suit my handwriting.  If you think you'd love a bolder, broader nib, give the Pilot Varsity a try, but if you don't, I'd suggest the fine-nibbed Platinum Preppy instead.

Related reviews: Peninkcillin, No Pen Intended, Good Pens, OfficeSupplyGeek, Pen and Design, The Daily Acquisition, Life Imitates Doodles, On Fountain Pens, Simplicity Embellished, Pentorium

Tips for refilling this "disposable" fountain pen: Peninkcillin, Good Pens

14 comments:

  1. Thhank you for great review Heather,

    Actually, I like those low cost fountain pens. They are very useful for shy people who doesn't know how to start fountain pen. However, the body design is so far away from fountain pen aesthetic so I am always reluctant to buy or advice them.

    Sincerely,

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    1. Thanks, Zeynep! These kinds of pens certainly are great to get started with. I think that they represent a middle ground between the more highly priced "real" fountain pens and mainstream pens such as ballpoints and gel pens. They have the aesthetics of the more familiar pens, but still allow a beginner to get used to the experience of writing with a fountain pen.

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    2. Actually, instead of those pen, I recommend Chinese pens like Hero, because they are really fountain pens :)

      Ah by the way, you may disassemble your Varsity and fill it with another fountain pen ink like an eye dropper pen.

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  2. I've given the Varsity to friends of mine who are curious about fountain pens. It at least gives them a feel for it without a major investment. The Preppy does write nicer to me, though.

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    1. I prefer the Preppy as well, Catherine. It is just better for my handwriting, but both are good beginner pens.

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  3. Ahh excellent! I have been wondering if these are refillable. Must google that and see if I can figure it out! Love your pics :) I personally prefer the Varsity over the Preppy, except I like that the Preppy can be made into an ED!

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    1. Thanks, Azizah! I didn't look into it much, but it doesn't sound too complicated to refill it. As I said, I'm not really interested in doing it myself, but I'll look forward to hearing about your experiments if you give it a try!

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  4. Did you know Bic makes disposable fountain pens? I just found out today - an attorney where I work got them from Staples. They write nicely, a finer nip than the Varsity, don't know how well they write in the long run. Something new every day!

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    1. Thanks, Catherine! I did know that Bic makes disposable fountain pens, but I haven't tried one yet. A finer tip sounds good so maybe I should check one out one day.

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  5. Thanks, Heather. The Varsity is a great value pen, but it tends to "race" in my hands, maybe because it's very light and the nib seems almost friction-less.

    write to me often-I agree-the Hero 330, a Parker 51 knockoff, can be a nice pen. I got mine from His Nibs in Allentown, Pennsylvania, who promises a thorough quality check before shipping.

    Catherine, I also knew about the Bic fountain pen, but thought it was a Europe and UK only product. Thanks for the heads-up.

    I'm not an expert, but my personal feeling is there are a clutch of low-priced (say, USD $9 or less) FPs, and medium-priced (say, USD $9-$30) FPs that ought to offer most people excellent value. Jack/Ohio

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    1. I think I noticed a bit of that "racy" effect as well, perhaps simply because the ink flowed so smoothly I felt like I had to write faster to keep up with it. And then when I write faster, my handwriting gets messier...

      I think it's great that there is such a diversity in prices for fountain pens. I can't afford higher-priced pens, so I am happy that I am still able to experience fountain pens without spending too much. Even the $30 that I spent on my Lamy Safari earlier this year felt like a lot for me, but that is a pen that I will be using for years to come.

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  6. Picked up my 2-pack of Bic fountain pens at Staples yesterday. USD $4.99 plus tax for two fountain pens. They work fine. Tip of the hat to Catherine and Heather. Jack/Ohio

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  7. When I discovered Varsity fountain pensI was impressed with its design and how vivid are their inks. But I liked it better when the pen was white, not black and grey as it is now.

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    1. That's interesting. I didn't know that the barrel used to be a different colour. I tried to find some pictures of it on Google but was unsuccessful The vivid ink colour is one of my favourite things about the Varsity as well.

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