Best Beginner Fountain Pen

The best beginner fountain pen has many of the features of more expensive pens at a price that doesn’t have you reaching for a Bic Crystal. So which one should you choose?

If you’re n a hurry and want the short answer, jump to my review of the best cheap beginner fountain pen. Want more info on WHY and HOW I chose the best beginner pen for you? Continue on…

Back when I was 16 years old, working for $4.25 per hour at the local burger joint, I stayed motivated by dreaming about what my car would look like as I rode the bus back and forth to work. I had to use a transfer, which meant I had to sit at another bus stop for up to an hour waiting for a second bus to finish the trip.

I watched all of the cars driving by and thought about how lucky they were to own their own transportation and started a mental list of all of the features my first car would have. The list got longer and longer until I had effectively priced myself out of my dream.

When I handed my hard-earned hundreds over to my dad (he was the mechanic in our family, so he chose my first car) I was excited about what he would bring home. Then it arrived: a 1977 Datsun B210, a functional, yet disappointingly bland, mode of transport.

Value vs. Price

We can treat our first fountain pen purchase the same way. We do some light reading and dream of having a masterpiece of a pen that will turn heads and engender respect everywhere we use it. We cram never-ending lists of wants into our heads with a price point that just can’t support them.

Then, overwhelmed with the reality of fine fountain pen pricing, we just settle for a cheap pen and are disappointed with our functional, yet boring purchase when it arrives.

As I discovered with my next car purchase, a sporty yet cost-effective Ford Festiva (yes, I know… but at the time it was exciting) a beginner fountain pen doesn’t have to be bland to fit within your budget.

The real problem of choosing a beginner fountain pen is that you’re overwhelmed with choices and focusing on the features that matter is challenging because you don’t know what matters yet.

Time for reality-check.

So Many Choices To Narrow Down To ONE

Two pens jump to the forefront of my mind when considering purchasing a beginner fountain pen.

I thought about recommending both of them because each is an interesting and lower-cost example of the market. As I considered finding space in this article to run through the infinite choices in casings, nibs, feeds, and the overwhelming collection of shapes, sizes, filling mechanisms and materials (thermoplastic, metal, cellulose, ebonite) I felt my blood pressure rising like the mercury in a thermometer gushing forward toward the bulb, then the unthinkable happened, my brain leaked out of my left ear.


There it is on the floor and my dog is coming over quickly to mop up the mess with his morning kibble.

Okay, so my brain didn’t leak out of my head, but it felt like it was going to as I thought about cramming all of this information into one article to justify my choice for you.

So I got out my trusty Waterman Hemisphere and outlined the most basic terms and conditions the perfect beginner fountain pen must meet.

Both pens I had in mind would satisfy a need for a sporty, yet functional beginner fountain pen. But knowing most people don’t want to spend $50 on their first purchase, here’s what I wrote… it would need to be:

  • Less-than $35 US, or around there
  • Appealing, not just functional
  • Fitted with a decent nib (the metal part that touches the paper and creates most of your writing experience)
  • Cartridge refillable (many purists hate this, but most beginners won’t refill with an ink bottle just yet)
  • Capable of gliding across the paper like Yuna Kim of South Korea floated across the ice as she grabbed the gold medal figure skating in the 2010 Olympics

Best Beginner Fountain Pens… Quick Links To Reviews

posted lamy al star

Lamy AL Star

Cheap, works well, aluminum body, good first choice

capless lamy safari

Lamy Safari

Similar to Al Star but almost indestructible ABS plastic

Sheaffer VFM

For those who prefer metal and want a thinner pen, similar to pencil-width

Lilliput Island and Fountain Pens…

It felt great to narrow the infinite choices down to a more manageable number. Of course you can’t have all of the features of a Mont Blanc Jonathan Swift in a beginner fountain pen without the $985 tying you down like the ropes used to bind Gulliver on Lilliput island.

The big picture is you want a beginner fountain pen with as many features as you can afford at a simple, yet elegant price point. Of course, I hate disappointing you, but you’re going to have to sacrifice rhodium-plated 18K gold nibs until later in your collection!

So, all of these things considered, the right choice for the best beginner fountain pen would have to be a Sheaffer VFM*. I like that it has a similar width to a pencil or ballpoint pen so it won’t feel over-sized or as awkward for first time fountain pen users, children, or people with smaller hands.

*I used to recommend the Safari as my first choice, until watching my 10-year-old’s first fountain pen experience with it. The Safari was much bigger than the #2 pencils he’s used to and the VFM is much more manageable and comfortable as well as being metal rather than plastic.

Does a Cheap Fountain Pen Work Long-Term?

Sure there are disposable fountain pens available at the drug store for $5, but are you willing to sacrifice the feeling of using a proper fountain pen and what it does for your writing? I bought a cheap fountain pen for $8, which skipped on almost every line I wrote. I had to retrace my letters over and over again (even after cleaning, adjusting the tines and reassembling it!) which became so frustrating I tossed it. I don’t want you to have that experience with a beginner fountain pen.

A VFM has many of the features of more expensive fountain pens but at a price of around $20 US, you’re getting quality and a fountain pen experience.   They come in fun colors and don’t forget to pick up a few cartridges while you’re at it to have extra ink on hand; you will use it… who can resist writing with a fountain pen? The Sheaffer VFM is a great introduction to the world of fountain pens, so go forward, get your VFM (that link takes you to my review of the pen) and write beautifully!