There’s a discussion going on in one of the pen boards on the subject of, “which is the best pen?” In a way it’s a silly subject because there is no best pen. There’s a multitude of really good pens and it depends on what you want from a pen. In another way, though, it opens up an interesting discussion where unexpected pens are brought forward.
For myself, most of the pens I would consider as best come from the earlier decades. Heading my list, I think, would be an Onoto, one of the slender ones from the teens or twenties. Splended flexible nibs, the best filling mechanism and black hard rubber. What more could one ask for? Another possible is the Waterman 52 in red ripple with a flexible nib. Any one of a number of 1920s Swans would be a winner as well. Superb nibs and style in spades. I often think that no subsequent pen has been better than those 1920s Swans. They, too, would be a contender for the best pen. I have to admit that there are one or two modern pens that are in with a shout as well. My Vanishing Point is so convenient, has a great nib and has a style all of its own. I have a Platinum 3776 in burgundy. It’s a nice pen to look at and it has a superb soft fine nib. It’s not at all flexible – not a requirement for me for everyday note-taking and blog-writing – but the softness makes it very comfortable to write with.
Is that it? Are those all my contenders for the best pen? Well, no. I used to have an early Sheaffer Flat Top in black hard rubber. The nib was an absolute nail as many Sheaffers are, but it was a delight to write with. I wish I still had it. I also had a Conklin Crescent filler – one of the real ones – not those recent copies – and it was a superflex. That was my pen for correspondence for a while. It enhanced my writing enormously.
Looking back over my list there are obvious gaps, large pen manufacturers that don’t appear. There are no Parkers, for instance. I’ve had many Parkers that I’ve enjoyed, both English and American, but none of them have had that mixture of characteristics which would qualify them as best. Perhaps if I got my hands on one of those open-nib Parker 17s it might qualify. I had one some time ago, but it sold quickly and I didn’t have time to really enjoy it as much as I would have liked. No Conway Stewarts feature, either. They include many beautiful pens and an immense variety of styles and nibs. I have quite a few in my “collection” but none of them inspire me in day-to-day use. The pre-war 286 comes close, but Conway Stewart nibs don’t really compete with some of those I have chosen.
Wahl Eversharps, Mentmores, Croxleys, Summits and many others are all great pens that fall short of best for me for one reason or another but may work well for you. I would like to hear which pens you consider best. Surprise me.