After I published my recent post, "Top 5 Fountain Pens for Beginners," I received the inevitable questions about TWSBI, and more specifically, the recently released "Eco" fountain pen. I don't have a TWSBI Eco in my collection, but at the recent D.C. Pen Show I had the opportunity to both handle and write with the pen. I was impressed. If TWSBI has resolved the quality control issues that have plagued them to date, then the Eco could place TWSBI in a position to be the "no-brainer" option for those looking to upgrade from a "beginner" fountain pen to something slightly more complex, such as a piston-filler.
Traditionally, the range of fountain pens priced between $30 and $75 has been tricky to navigate. At the top of that range ($75 or so), you are in a place where you can spend an extra $50 and get an iconic Lamy 2000 with a gold nib. Even at the bottom of that range, you may find yourself asking the question, "why do I need to spend an extra $10 or $20 when my Safari works just fine?" Both of these are valid concerns, and that's why there are only a couple brands that I will go on the record as recommending in this price range. As you might expect, TWSBI features prominently.
- TWSBI 580: The TWSBI 580 can be considered TWSBI's flagship pen. It's a large piston-filler, and the cap doesn't post. (Well, you can post a TWSBI, but it's not particularly comfortable.) The biggest upside to investing in a TWSBI, besides the reasonable $55 price tag, is the fact that the nibs are interchangeable. Even as a relatively experienced fountain pen user, I use my TWSBI regularly, fitted with either the stock 1.1mm stub nib or some custom nib units that I had ground at this year's D.C. Pen Show. Don't forget to check out the Aluminum versions; certain colors are being discontinued. Grab 'em while you can.
- TWSBI Eco: TWSBI recently released their new "Eco" model to much acclaim. The Eco (short for "economical") is priced right around $30 ($31.99 shipped via Amazon), so it could legitimately threaten to enter the "best first fountain pen" category, but I would still recommend it as a second or third purchase given my preference for recommending cartridge/converter pens to beginners. As the reviews come in, the Eco may displace the 580 as the number one pen on this list. And the cap posts!
- TWSBI Mini: For those who want a smaller pen, consider the TWSBI Mini, which also features interchangeable nib units. The Mini is still a piston-filler, so you're not looking at any price difference from the 580. While I sold my Mini a while back (to pay for my Aluminum 580), I'm tempted to buy another, because I love the form factor. It's a great pocket pen, with a cap that posts.
- Lamy Studio: I consider the Lamy Studio to be the best cartridge/converter pen falling into this price range. A sturdy, metal pen with a round metal section that comes in a variety of colors, the MSRP on the Studio is around $90, but PenChalet is currently selling them for $71 (or less with a coupon code). The standard pen features a steel nib, but you always have the option of upgrading to gold.
- Lamy AL-Star: If you are a fan of the Safari, but want something with a touch more heft, check out the Lamy AL-Star. Priced at $37, it's a modest upcharge from Lamy's entry-level pen but is made of aluminum and uses the same nibs as both the Safari and the Studio, so you can swap the nibs among your growing Lamy collection.
It goes without saying that these recommendations only represent my personal opinion. I'm always looking for new pens to try, so if you think there's a pen I haven't discussed here but should be looking at, give me a shout through the "Contact Me!" link or via Twitter.
DISCLAIMER: This post contains affiliate links, through which I may be compensated a small amount if you purchase a pen from any of the sites linked to in this article. While I'd greatly appreciate it if you use these links to purchase a pen you are interested in, you are, of course, under no obligation to do so. Many thanks!