Pride or Prejudice: A review of the Pilot Vpen (Varsity) pen

We very much live in an instant, throwaway age… In fact after the first decade or so of the 21st century it can be realistically argued that more can be learned about us from what we throw away than from what we prize. So what about throwaway pens? We’re all used to them, the  mind numbing boredom associated with the contents of many of our workplace stationery cupboards. Many of us have embraced the fountain pen precisely because we wish to shun this decidedly wide road for more discerning, narrower way.

But then we are presented with certain pens that seek to bridge the gap, throwaway fountain pens no less. I have to be honest and say I was predisposed to scorn this genre and bought a Pilot Vpen (aka Varsity in the US and other places) ready to proudly consign it forever to the waste bin. Or so I thought before I began to review it. Note: I bought the Vpen with ‘erasable’ ink, I havent tested this claim as yet.

Description: To my eye this pen won’t win any beauty competitions but I guess it’s not really meant to. It is the epitome of a plastic pen. The white plastic cap and barrel are contrasted with the coloured base cap and finial. The section forms a sealed whole with the barrel with the ink already loaded straight into the barrel, complete with a viewer window so you can see how much ink remains, which is handy. The pen is boldly labelled and has the look of many other throwaway pens. The design isn’t ugly, indeed there is the option of a nice silver coloured barrel but it doesn’t shout classy fountain pen either

On Test: I have picked up many a fountain pen and found the experience a let down. Nail hard and scratchy was all I expected of this pen. The truth is that  I couldn’t have been more wrong. The medium, intentionally rounded, nib was smooth, remarkably smooth and the ink flowed across the page like newborn stream trying to find its way to the sea. The nib doesn’t allow any line variation, but again that’s not its purpose. It is designed to be  what it is, a smooth introduction.

The pen felt somewhat insubstantial to be sure, lacking any real sense of gravity but it was usable. I preferred the pen unposted as the cap made the balance shift slightly to the rear. The lightness of the pen meant it had the tendency to run away with itself a little and the temptation to write fast is difficult to temper with such a pen. But once adjusted to the sensibility of the pen everything was well. In fact I found the Vpen coming out of my pocket more than I envisaged especially to pass around for others to use and comment on.

Summary: First the good. A surprisingly pleasurable writing experience was had throughout the review. This wasn’t expected but it was welcomed as at the end of the day for me its all about the writing experience. The fact that you can have as much pleasure writing with the Vpen as you can with many a much more expensive pen shows the scope and variety of this hobby to the full.

Now the bad, this is truly fountain pen lite. The avowed move away from “messy cartridges and blotting paper” may be a way to encourage some into using other more permanent instances but the Vpen will always be a way station on the journey to somewhere else. If you’re in the market for one of these, you might be wanting something to introduce a young person to fountain pens and not even want to stretch to something like a Kakuno with the accompanying cartridges, then I’m happy to say that I think you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was, but I’ll warrant that it won’t be long before you’ll move on to something else. Though in a sense the Vpen for me has already found a niche in my EDC. I’ll be happy to lend this one out, confident that it will surprise the borrower sufficiently.

(BTW happy new year!)



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14 thoughts on “Pride or Prejudice: A review of the Pilot Vpen (Varsity) pen

  1. It’s a good lend-to-a-friend fountain pen. I keep a few of these on hand for when my students want to try out one of my pens, because I’m never afraid that they’ll hurt the VPen. You can refill the VPen as well — wrap the nib in a soft cloth, use a pair of small pliers to pull the nib unit straight out, fill with an eyedropper, and stick the nib back in until it snaps -— and it’s no longer a throwaway pen (especially if you have a lot of bottled ink already).

  2. I got one of these in pink, and I was pleasantly surprised by it I wouldn’t want to carry it around a lot, for fear of it exploding over everything, but it’s nice to know it’s there. Even if ‘there’ is now a vague, nebulous term that could be anywhere.

  3. I haven’t tried a V Pen yet. I might have to pick one up. I have, however, used the Pilot Petit fountain pen which looks like it has the same nib. I really liked that. The advantage of the Petit is that it’s smaller, but also has replaceable cartridges in a variety of colours.

    1. Thanks for the info Adam, not seen the Petit but I’m certainly going to have a couple of these type of pen handy to loan out to friends .

  4. I was given one of these a little while ago – they are surprising, I think, and I’m pleased to hear from your commenter above that they’re refillable.

    I have the purple version, a very nice ink colour that reminds me of Diamine’s Imperial Purple (probably the ink I’ll refill it with, when the time comes). I’ve also found that the pen is incredibly reliable – I’ve left mine for weeks at a time, and it writes uncomplainingly, without skipping or hard starts as soon as I go back to it.

    For the commenter worrying about them exploding, mine has travelled to and from work with me each day in my bike bag for, I think, at least two years. Whilst I hate to tempt fate, it remains unexploded to date 🙂

  5. I have the US version, the Varsity, and if I compared it to my five or six other fountain pens, it wouldn’t even come close. That being said though, someone gave me one with blue ink, and while the nib tends to run more medium, if you want to write fast, this is the pen. I would agree that the lightness of it makes it feel like it couldn’t do anything but at $2-3 a pen, it’s worth it to carry around to a job site or something where you are worried about your good pen. I like that you can refill it, and I had looked that up a while ago. So all around I would agree completely with your review. It’s a rather surprising little pen.

  6. I bought a load of these at a car boot sale for 50p each, and they have really been fun to use. No, they are not as much fun as a really good Waterman gold nib, but they are reliable, wet, easy writing pens. The fact all of mine have purple ink is just a bit more fun! It’s amazing that Pilot can manage to make decent quality for this price, but the clip, for instance, is actually quite robust, and the end ‘tassies’ give the pen a satisfyingly finished feeling.

    And they are refillable, given a bit of ingenuity. Though I have plans, eventually, to just reuse the nib and feed in a custom pen.

  7. After reading this review I finally managed to pick one up. A medium in black. I have to say I wasn’t all that impressed. I found the ink wasn’t all that well behaved, and would bleed and feather more than I’d like. I probably need to try out the, harder to find, fine nib version in a different colour. Maybe less ink will result in a better experience.

    I’d stick to my Pilot petit as it is a finer nib, it’s easily refillable, and it’s smaller while posting to a usable length.

    I’ve also picked up a Platinum Preppy (fine nib) which I’ve used for a couple of days, and I think it’d be good to compare the two. In my opinion the Preppy is better as it’s more solidly built, and it takes cartridges (can also be converted to eyedropper for the adventurous).

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