Pens Under a Tenner1 April 2015
Following on from last week’s article about not breaking the bank, I thought it would be interesting to look a range of pens and pencils that provide a great writing experience for not a lot of money.
All of these pens and pencils cost under a tenner in proper (British) money. If you use that strange US money then you’ll probably find that the price in the US is about the same in dollars as it is in pounds here, thanks to our VAT and generally higher cost of living.
I mentioned the OHTO Graphic Liner last week. This is a drawing pen but it uses a rollerball. It costs £1.50 and it is delightful.
The Uni Jetstream is a hybrid ballpoint, meaning it combines ink technology from the ballpoint and gel pen worlds. It dries quickly but doesn’t have the gloopiness of most ballpoints. The 0.7 version is much better than the 1.0 version and is the only ballpoint pen I use when I don’t have to. It costs £2.60 and the refills also fit into many machined pens.
When it comes to gel ink pens the world is your inky oyster. There’s a wide range of Pentel Energels and although you do get the occasional little gloop they are pretty great and hover around the £2 mark. Pilot are the masters of the gel pen and the Juice, for the princely sum of £1.60, gives a fantastic writing experience in a huge range of colours and a range of line widths. Again, the refills from these pens can be used in many machined pens. Both Energels and Juices can be found on the high street.
Schneider make some lovely rollerballs – I have a few that I’ve yet to review. Check out their Xtra
The Pilot Coleto is a multi-pen that uses Hi-Tec C technology and can be had for as little as £3.25. You need to buy four refills but even then the price comes in at (just) under £10. I have three of these and use them every day at work. They write beautifully but the refills are small and don’t last very long.
There are several great drawing pens to be had for little of your hard earned cash. The posh metal bodied Copic Multiliner SP costs £5.40 but is refillable and the tip can be replaced. A disposable and often forgotten version of the same pen (Copic Multiliner, sans-SP) costs about half as much. The Sakura Pigma Micron and the Staedtler 308 Pigment Liner both cost under £2.50 and are wonderful for both drawing and writing.
When it comes to mechanical pencils the venerable Pentel P200 costs about £6 and is great. I’ve got a review lined up for a few weeks’ time. It’s hard to find a less than glowing review of the Kuru Toga, unless you look here, and the basic version also costs about £6.
Finally, how about wooden pencils? Putting Caran d’Ache to one side for a moment (generally good advice, I’d say), even the highest quality wooden pencils are well under a tenner. There are so many that are worth trying it’s hard to know where to start but how about some Staedtlers or Faber-Castells if you’re in Europe or the Palomino sampler pack if you’re in the USA? (Mark wrote a fantastic review of the sampler pack.)
I’ve not mentioned fountain pens yet. They are a trickier bunch as quality control at this price point (and higher, to be honest) is a little hit and miss. The Platinum Preppy costs £3 and when you get a good one is a nice writer, though hideously ugly. The Pilot Petit is a fun little pen with a pretty good nib for about the same price and if you can just spend a little more, I can highly recommend the Pilot Kakuno, for £13, which will give you a very high quality nib.
There’s been a lot of talk about prices in this article but hopefully it shows that great pens can be had for not a lot of money. Of course that only works out if you buy one or two of them and not the whole lot. If you can manage that, you have a lot more willpower than me.
What are your favourite pens under a tenner?
I think the Pilot V-Pen is a nicer writer than the preppy, personally – its purple is also nicely reminiscent of Diamine Imperial Purple, to my eye at least.
I’m a big fan of the Schneider Base fountain pen (but it’s no longer £8, which puts it out of the under a tenner running, sadly). I’m not sure how available the stainless Parker Jotter FP is anymore, but I bought mine for £6, and while a bit thin in the body for my taste, it’s a really reliable, smooth writer.
People nipping across the channel will find Waterman Schoolpens in lots of French supermarkets for between 7 and 11 Euro. I think the plastic model is the Waterman “Kultur”, but there’s also an as yet unidentified “Plume Acier” (Steel Pen) which is a very shiny, chrome plated model. They dry out alarmingly quickly (having a hole behind the clip in the cap through which the ink evaporates) but they have rather nice smooth nibs.
Aside from fountain pens, the Pentel pocket brush (£7?) is a lot of fun.
I like Faber-Castell’s broadpen (a somewhat oxymoronic “broad tipped fineliner”). The tip is quite flexible, and gives a life to the line you draw that I like very much – a mere £1.44 at cult pens.
Also from Faber-Castell, their disposable Pitt caligraphy pens are fun – I need to practice with mine rather more, but I got the idea of using them for drawing from the Roz Wound Up blog; http://rozwoundup.typepad.com/roz_wound_up/2012/03/why-not-try-the-faber-castell-pitt-artists-calligraphy-pen.html . (£2.11)
Thanks for such a great contribution John! I do need to try the V-Pen, maybe with my next Cult Pens order… and a Schneider Base (which I hadn’t considered at all). The stainless steel Jotter is still around but slightly over a tenner these days. I have one, maybe I ought to try it again.
A couple of years ago, in France, I picked up what I think is a Waterman Kultur but is said ‘Translucent’ on the box. I wrote about it here and here. The nib is pretty good on it.
The other pens you’ve mentioned I’ve not tried – so I must.
It’s always great to get some new ideas for things to try – thank you so much!
Ah, sorry for missing the Kultur articles – I’m a fairly new reader here!
Another tip for French supermarkets is that the Auchan inks seem to be made by Waterman, which means good value blister packs of purple, turquoise and blue cartridges. I wish they offered the blue/black as well!
If you try the Broadpen, it comes in quite a nice dark grey (I bought that, and the black). Walnut brown is my favourite in the Pitt calligraphy pens.
Upping the budget slightly (again!) to £14 there are the Pelikanos – my daughter has one for school, and they’re excellent, smooth writing fountain pens.