Pen Review: Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque

The Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque is currently for sale.

For the list of pens currently for sale, please visit here.

When it comes to the parts that construct a fountain pen, perhaps it’s common to expect a pen barrel as the main piece, a cap that prevents the ink from drying out, and of course, a nib. For fountain pen designs, often the refresh is focused on the decorations on the pen, or a colour scheme change. In comparison, it’s not very frequent that there is an innovation on the structure design. And it’s even more difficult to have one that actually works well. But the pen model to be reviewed today is a real example that such innovations are definitely possible and can be successful as well. The pen is the Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque.

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Basic Information:

Fountain Pen: Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque
Nib: 18K gold medium nib
Filling System: Pilot proprietary cartridge/converter
Production: Regular edition

1. Package (7/10):

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The Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque is presented in a simple package. The black cardboard box has a cutout on the top, and then covered by a transparent film. This conveniently shows the fountain pen, which is secured in the box. An ink cartridge and the Pilot CON-50 converter are included in the box. I always appreciate it when the converter is provided in the packaging, because then I don’t have to worry about finding a spare converter or buying a new one, in order to use bottled ink. It makes a great user experience. What’s also provided is a metal sleeve. It is to be installed to serve as a protective cover for cartridges. I don’t use cartridges so I don’t need to use this sleeve, but I appreciate that Pilot provides it in the box by default.

2. Pen Design (9/10):
This is where the Pilot Vanishing Point stands out. Unlike what’s usually to be expected from a fountain pen: a cap, a nib, and a barrel, the Pilot Vanishing Point doesn’t have a cap. The 18K gold nib is retractable and can be hidden in the pen body. On the back of the pen, a button is clickable to extend/retract the nib unit. On the other end, a spring loaded door is installed inside the pen body. When the nib is retracted back into the pen, the door is automatically closed, in order to prevent the nib from drying out. Once the click mechanism is triggered, the nib unit extends and pushes the door open, so then the pen can be used. For ballpoint pens, a click button may not be fancy at all. But for fountain pens, which usually require a pen cap to prevent the nib from drying out, the click mechanism and the retractable nib are features that are not commonly seen.

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Since the Pilot Vanishing Point doesn’t have a cap, the pen clip has to be relocated. It is placed at the grip section of the pen. In fact, the clip’s two sides are concave right at the grip section, so that the fingers can have a firm grip on the pen. The placement of the clip may look strange to many users, but it does serve its functional purpose well. When the pen is clipped, this configuration makes sure that the nib is still pointing upwards, therefore reducing the risk of ink leakage. Unfortunately, the design may not be suitable for some users. Depending on how anyone grips the pen, the presence of the clip may be uncomfortable. Personally, it doesn’t bother me too much. However, I wouldn’t complain either, if the pen doesn’t have a clip at all.
The length of the pen is very decent. Whether with the nib extended (so that the button is pushed in) or retracted, the length is similar to a capped Lamy 2000, longer than a Montblanc Meisterstück 149 that is uncapped and not posted, but shorter than many common small to medium sized fountain pens with posting, such as the Pelikan Souverän M400/M405 and the Pilot Metropolitan. Because of the metal body and lacquered barrel, the weight is on the heavier side for its size, but definitely comfortable in the hand.
Considering the streamlined shape, the metal trim, and the lacquered barrel, some may worry that the pen is too slippery to grip. Fortunately, that’s not the case here. The lacquered barrel and the metal plating are smooth, but not too slippery. In fact the “Blue Carbonesque” finish gives the pen a bit of texture, which also helps the fingers to hold the pen firmly.
Overall, the design of the Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque is modern. The silver coloured trims are clean and shiny, which match well with the blue barrel, but also offers great contrast with the “Carbonesque” pattern as well. It’s a regular edition pen, but I find this finish quite unique.

3. Filling System (7/10):
Proprietary cartridge/converter filling systems are not my favourite, because the user has to stick to the brand and continue purchasing the proprietary parts. However for the Pilot Vanishing Point, I consider it as an exception. The push button mechanism here actually pushes the end of the converter, or the end of the metal sleeve that protects the cartridge, in order to extend the nib unit. For this mechanism to work properly, here a Pilot CON-50 converter is provided. It is integrated into the whole mechanism. It is going to be extremely difficult to ensure that the push feature always functions properly, if the pen doesn’t use a proprietary converter, which has the exact dimensions that the pen designers would like to see.

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The Pilot CON-50 converter fits firmly on the nib unit. There is an agitator inside the converter, which is supposed to help make sure the ink is carried to the feed, rather than staying at the back of the converter. While there isn’t much issue with the converter itself, combined with the nib unit, I find that it does have many areas for improvement. First, once the converter is installed onto the nib unit, it’s very difficult to check how much ink is left. There is only a very narrow section left, that is not covered by the nib unit. It helps if the ink level is running extremely low, but it doesn’t offer much information, when there is more left. Secondly, I find that the converter tends to stay too tight in the nib unit. When I try to remove the converter, often I have to pull it very hard. It can cause ink/water splash, if there is ink left inside, or if the pen was just flushed, but not yet fully dry.

4. Nib Performance (8/10):

This Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque is equipped with an 18K gold medium nib. The nib writes very well right out of the box and writes very smoothly.
Being an 18K gold nib, it has a lot of bounce, which makes writing much more enjoyable for me, compared to the usually more rigid 14K gold and stainless steel nibs. The nib doesn’t provide any line variation, but with the moderate to generous ink flow, it’s very suitable to be a daily writer. One thing that I find quite interesting is the placement of the tipping on the nib. For most of my pens, the tipping is placed with about the equal amount above and underneath the end of the nib, or with a bit more on the underside. However, the tipping of the Pilot Vanishing Point medium nib is heavier on the top side. When I first look at it, it seems a bit strange. But soon I find that it makes the writing very smooth at almost any angle, especially when the pen is held at a steeper angle. The ink flow is still normal and there is enough tipping material to make contact with the paper.

5. Pen Cleaning and Maintenance (9/10):

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Being a cartridge/converter fill fountain pen, the Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque is fairly easy to clean. However, I do find one small issue. The nib unit pushes the spring loaded door open, in order to extend the nib out. During this process, the nib feed makes contact with the door and therefore transfer some ink to it. Later when the pen is filled with a different ink colour, the old ink on the door may get transferred back to the nib and feed, so that the first few letters written down could have an interesting mixture of colours. Unfortunately, the whole mechanism here is not easily accessible to clean.
Otherwise, the pen is easy to maintain and take care for. The lacquered body is very scratch resistant and the metal trims are easy to wipe clean and polish.

Summary:

Packaging: 7/10
Pen Design: 9/10
Filling System: 7/10
Nib Performance: 8/10
Pen Cleaning and Maintenance: 9/10

Total: 40/50

The Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque is a great offering to the users who would like to enjoy the smoothness of a fountain pen, but prefer the convenience of a ballpoint. The great nib performance and excellent ink flow make it a good choice as a daily writer. The push button mechanism that extends/retracts the nib makes it super easy to use, especially for quick writing. Meanwhile the placement of the clip and the spring loaded door ensures that the risk of ink leakage or nib drying out is reduced to the minimum.
Among the collection of fountain pens that I have, the Pilot Vanishing Point Blue Carbonesque introduces good innovations on how fountain pens can be designed differently. The design may not be ideal for everyone, but it’s definitely a pen model that is worth checking out.

2016 Favourites – Part 1

Here it goes for another year. I had a wonderful year of 2016, when it comes to building a better collection of fountain pens and fountain pen inks.

In general, my preference for any pen or ink did not change much. Compared to 2015, I did not aggressively expand my collection by trying a variety of models from different brands. Instead, I was mainly focusing on adding the ones that mostly meet what I prefer already, and exploring whether the other new features are worth the investment.

2016 was also an amazing year for me to get more experiences from the pen shows. The Toronto pen show was as great as usual. But last summer, the DC Supershow was a brand new experience, and a really good one. Being one of the largest pen shows in the world, the DC Supershow opened the door to a whole new world for me. The scale of the pen show and the huge varieties of pens and inks really were outstanding. I had a great time there meeting people across the globe that share the same hobby. Pen shows give the unique environment that all the pen lovers can come together to talk about what the current trend is, express their opinions on certain pens or inks, and have the chance to try out a few pens from other people’s collections.

My top 10 fountain pens for 2016:

  1. Montblanc Meisterstück Solitaire Tribute to the Mont Blanc Classique (18K, F)
  2. Montblanc Bohème Blanche (18K, F)
  3. Pelikan Souverän M805 Vibrant Blue (18K, F)
  4. Pelikan Souverän M1000 Black-Green (18K, F)
  5. Graf von Faber-Castell Intuition Platino Grenadilla (18K, F)
  6. Montblanc Meisterstück 149 (18K, M)
  7. Omas Ogiva Alba Violet (14K, F extra flessibile)
  8. Aurora Optima Mare (18K, M)
  9. Pelikan Souverän M400 Tortoiseshell-White (14K, F)
  10. Lamy 2000 Stainless Steel (14K, M)

From this list, you may be able to tell the certain characteristics of a pen that I enjoy. In general, I love piston filling fountain pens that have springy nibs. In addition, while it’s not absolutely necessary, I do appreciate it when the pen has a decent weight and size. Therefore you can see that these pens have most of the preferences matched. These are the pens that I pick up the most often. I find them not only outstanding when it comes to the writing performance, but also very appealing to the eyes. In most cases, they are quite easy to be cleaned and maintained as well.

Compared to the list from 2015, you may find that most of the pens from that list no longer show up here. It’s not that my preferences had changed significantly; it’s because during the last year, I acquired new pens that are often similar models, compared to what I had already owned, but quite improved in many areas.

The best example is the number one on the list, the Montblanc Meisterstück Solitaire Tribute to the Mont Blanc Classique. The resin version Classique Platinum Line was on the previous list, but this new one is better in almost all aspects. Perhaps the only thing I don’t like about this pen is that it accepts standard international ink cartridges only. But everything else is perfect. The 18K gold fine nib writes super smoothly without lacquered finish and the detailed engravings on the grip section make it a really beautiful pen. The extra weight from the metal construction lets the pen sit extremely comfortably in the hand.

The second place goes to the Montblanc Bohème Blanche. I love this pen pretty much for the same reason as the last one. The smooth and springy 18K gold fine nib, the beautiful white lacquered barrel and cap, and the decent weight all make this pen so wonderful. What’s also interesting is its retractable nib design. It’s not just simply a fountain pen, but also a piece of art.

The Pelikan Souverän M805 fountain pen gets the third place. For any particular pen model, I only allow one entry into the top 10. While I love all my Pelikan Souverän M800/M805 pens, the M805 Vibrant Blue is the favourite for this year. It’s hard to make a pen that will have an even prettier material. The balance between the transparency and the vibrancy is perfect.

Honourable Mentions:

These pens did not reach the top 10 of 2016. However, all of them are frequently included in my pen rotation, and each pen has very unique writing characteristics that I love.

My most favourite fountain pen releases in 2016:

  • Pelikan Souverän M805 Vibrant Blue
  • Pelikan Souverän M800 Grand Place
  • Lamy Safari Dark Lilac

My least favourite fountain pen releases in 2016:

  • Pelikan M120N Green-Black
  • Lamy Al-star Charged Green
  • Pelikan Classic M205 Blue-Marbled

This is going to be a very subjective topic, but the pens above are the ones that I consider as the best or the worst releases of 2016.

The Lamy Safari finally has a special edition in purple. The matte finish makes it even more attractive. I personally think the matte finish makes the Lamy Safari look much more refined and well made.

Both the Pelikan Souverän M805 Vibrant Blue and the M800 Grand Place were released earlier in 2016, with the Grand Place being only available in certain regions. I knew that I had to add them to my collection as soon as they were announced. Both pens do not carry the iconic design of the barrel with stripes. However, the special edition materials are very attractive. Being translucent means that I don’t have to guess how much ink is left in these piston fillers.

On the other hand, there are new release that I personally don’t enjoy too much. Interestingly, these pens also come from the same manufacturers, Lamy and Pelikan. Last year, the special edition for the Lamy Al-star was the Charged Green. It’s certainly a colour that is not commonly seen on pens and is quite special. However in my opinion it’s not an attractive colour. But perhaps for me the most disappointing releases are the Pelikan M120 Green-Black and the Pelikan Classic M205 Blue-Marbled.

The Pelikan Classic M205 Blue-Marbled is a new regular edition introduced last year. In 2016, Pelikan also released two other M205 pens, the Demonstrator Transparent Blue and the Aquamarine. Since there are already two special edition releases, I feel that having this many M205s releases within such a short period of time is a bit strange. And considering this one is only a regular edition pen and is available at any time, it does not offer enough features or specialities to make it more attractive than the other two. The pen itself is quite beautiful and I do like it. It’s only that I think the timing of the release is not right.

In addition to the M205 releases, Pelikan also introduced a special edition M120N Green-Black, which is almost the same size as the M200/M205 model. This pen has more of a vintage look and carries a nib with unique engravings. However, it looks and feels just like a M200 fountain pen, but with a price tag that is significantly higher. I think this pen shouldn’t be put with such a high price, even if it’s a special edition that is likely more attractive to the collectors than to the average users.

What are your favourite fountain pens for the year 2016? In the next post, I will share my favourite inks of the year and what I hope to get this year.

 

2015 Favourites – Part 1

This is my second year coming back to use fountain pens and starting my small collection of pens and inks. It’s a year that I was able to better understand what I truly love for this hobby.

I had very limited knowledge about fountain pens before I decided to come back to the hobby. I had no idea about the huge varieties of filling systems, pen materials, nib materials, and so on. And I guess these are just the basics of any fountain pen design. At the very beginning, almost any kind of design combinations look attractive to me. As the result, I was adding pens that differ vastly into my collection. As I become more knowledgeable about fountain pens, I was able to slowly figure out what particular design directions work the best for me. Therefore I am now having a better focus on what to collect. Also as different pen companies have different designs and how their pens also do not perform in the same way, this makes my collection of pens and inks lean towards certain brands. But before talking about all those details, I think now would be a good time to start listing what my favourites are. Here are my top 10 fountain pens:

  1. Pelikan Souverän M400 Tortoiseshell-White (14K Gold, F)
  2. Pelikan Souverän M805 Stressmann (18K Gold, EF)
  3. Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla (18K Gold, M)
  4. Pelikan Souverän M600 Pink (14K Gold, F)
  5. Delta Dolcevita Oversize (14K Gold, F)
  6. Pelikan Souverän M620 Chicago (18K Gold, F)
  7. Lamy 2000 (14K Gold, F)
  8. Waterman Carène Ombres et Lumières (18K Gold, F)
  9. Pilot Vanishing Point Twilight (18K Gold, M)
  10. Montblanc Meisterstück Classique Platinum Line (14K Gold, F)

By now you can probably see that I really love Pelikan and this brand is certainly the most favourite. My preference for the filling system is the piston filling mechanism, and I think Pelikan does the best job in this area. The pistons are always smooth and the barrels hold a lot of ink. While many other pen companies also offer piston filling pen options, Pelikan makes the basic pen maintenance super convenient by designing the nib units to be easily removable and swappable.

Each other pen has its own advantage. The Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Grenadilla has a very smooth and springy 18K gold nib. Its trip to the nib meister turned it from an average medium nib to a wet nib that writes a bit similar to an architect’s point. The pen looks classic and sits balanced in the hand. It is just so fun to use. All the other pens in the list are also good writers and the ones from Delta, Waterman and Pilot are particularly beautiful pens. Being a smooth and reliable writer, my Lamy 2000 is rarely out of rotation. Last but not least, the Montblanc Meisterstück Classique has always been one of my favourites, since it is my first fountain pen. And of course it writes equally as well as the others, if not even better.

These pens are the ones that I love the most and use the most often. There are some honourable mentions that I want to list below. While they could not make it to the top 10, these pens are either very interesting to use, or offering great values for the money:

As for inks, below is my top 5:

  1. Montblanc Lavender Purple
  2. Sailor Jentle Souten
  3. Sailor Jentle Tokiwa-Matsu
  4. Pelikan Edelstein Mandarin
  5. Montblanc Toffee Brown

I love cool colour inks in general, except for the Pelikan Edelstein Mandarin. These inks all flow well, easy for pen maintenance and offer excellent performances on many types of paper. The best part is, they all have a decent amount of shading combining with most paper types and pens.

Once again there are some honourable mentions in each colour range. Please feel free to check out this page.

That’s it for my top 10 fountain pens and top 5 inks for 2015. In the next blog I will continue to talk about other things that made this hobby wonderful, in my opinion.

Thank you for reading!