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