A disposable fountain pen?

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The Pilot Varsity is a strange animal indeed: a so-called disposable fountain pen with a stainless steel nib that sells for a couple of bucks, which is just about what you’d pay for a decent rollerball. I came across it by chance when a pen aficionado I know (who restores vintage nibs in his spare time) gave one to me to play with; they were, he explained, a sort of guilty pleasure.

For that amount of money, you might not expect very much, but I was pleasantly surprised”to a point.

The nib is sturdy, and the ink is dark and saturated. You can’t rotate it like you can a real fountain pen to control the thickness of the line, but once you’ve got it centered, the flow is pretty steady. Here it is on a Clairefontaine “Basics” notebook:


On other notebooks, however, it didn’t perform as consistently. On a spiral bound Calligraphy pad that Karen gave me last year (90-gram Clairefontaine paper without the “velin velout” satin finish), it splattered and bled as I wrote:


In the end, I’m not sure it’s much more than a novelty item, but even so, it’s a pretty cheap thrill…

10 thoughts on “A disposable fountain pen?

  1. Come join our Facebook group for everyone who likes the Pilot Varsity fountain pen. Keep in mind that although it’s sold as a “disposable” pen, you can take it apart and fill it with your favorite bottle ink. Several YouTube videos show how it’s done. Given that their so cheap at $3, you can also try grinding the nib into a stub or italic point. I’ve been using a Varsity for many years, and find that it always writes; even after sitting a drawer for a year. My fancy Pelikan M-200 won’t write if I leave it for only a week. The Varsity performs well on quality paper. That means: no Moleskine notebooks. I use Rhodia notebooks. Anyway, come on over and join the group. We’ve got about 150 members from all over the planet.

    Pilot Varsity Fountain Pens

  2. I tried the Varsity several years ago and didn’t like it. Based on these comments, though, I’ll have to revisit. It sounds like they have improved greatly.

    So many pens, so little time.


  3. I love the Pilot Varsity fountain pens. Sure, they’re not as elegant or as good as more expensive fountain pens. How could they be, when they cost only $2 or so? But for a very small price, you have a very good-quality fountain pen that works well, without having to pay a lot of money and without worrying about losing it. And it costs only $2, so if you misplace it or lose it, it’s not like you lost an expensive $50 [or more] pen.

    I’ve used these pens for years and I highly recommend them.

  4. I adore the Pilot Varsities! I refill mine regularly now, and with the option to put in any ink you like, and have a ginormous ink supply, I think they’re a fantastic bargain. I give them away regularly in an effort to hook others on fountain pens, but I also use them myself regularly, too.

  5. I have no issues using these on Rhodia pads! I use them every day at work on Rhodia pads. I have even eyedroppered new ink of my choice into them. I like that you can get the nice thin line with the back of the nib when necessary.

  6. The Varsity uses premium Namiki inks.
    IMHO, even high surface-tension inks like Aurora Black, or Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black, would feather on some of the papers used. My standard test paper is an Ampad Gold Fibre pad.

  7. Good to know that the ink is a bit sub-par.
    I’ve been thinking about trying these, but I can’t stand feathery bleedy ink. I have some International Long Cartridges with some reeeally cheap black in in them. I hate using the ink in them, but I usually drain it out and dry it overnight, or just use up the ink as fast as I can and refill it with Noodler’s Bulletproof Black, my standby.

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