Common step-up pen super review–Pilot Vanishing Point, Platinum 3776, Lamy 2000

There isn’t much I can add about these pens–they have been reviewed thousands of times. They are pens that are common for second pens, or first pens with gold nibs, or step-up pens, or whatever. They’re recommended often because they’re solid pens.

There are other pens that could be in this review–Pilot Custom 74 comes to mind, maybe Pelikan m200. Some Faber-Castell pens might be in here, too. Maybe the cheaper Sailors. Probably a bunch of others. But I don’t have those and outside of the Custom 74, these pens are more commonly recommended. I seriously think that the Aurora Ipsilon and Pilot e95 are solid step-up pens, too, but they aren’t as commonly recommended either and I want to cover those separately.

First up, the Vanishing Point. These are great workhorse pens and with the capless design they deploy quickly for notes on the go. The pen’s body itself is more of a carrier that holds the nib unit, which is shared by all of the capless pens by Pilot. They fill via Pilot’s cartridges or converters. I have the Pilot CON-50 converters in mine because they are a bit older, but Pilot’s new CON-40 is a dumpster fire–they hold a tiny amount of ink, rattle because of the stupid agitators, and are basically impossible to fill completely. I’d refill Pilot cartridges for a higher ink capacity and no annoying, rattly balls if that was my only option, but I like the CON-50.

One more thing I could comment on: the fountain pen community has long said “Japanese pens are finer! Consider ordering a size up!” This advice is perhaps somewhat true, but it sucks. Nib sizes are not standardized a differ between manufactures. We should be telling people, however, that German pens–Lamy, Pelikan, or pens equipped with JoWo nibs–are a size up and people should order down. I know this advice would have saved me a lot trouble. If you want a fine, dear reader, and you are ordering a Pilot or Platinum, just order a fine. If you are really on the fence, find a brick and mortar store or a vendor or company with a nib exchange policy. Ink and paper selection can impact this quite a bit, too.

These Japanese nibs aren’t atom-splitting skinny–they’re actually fairly comparable to nib grades from other companies. Lamy, on the other hand, is generally thicker. Ink selection can impact this, too, but I’ve still found this to be mostly true.

The Platinum 3776 is the most “fountain pen-like” pen of this bunch. Classic design, twist-off cap, lovely 14K open nib with a heart-shaped breather hole. They fill with Platinum’s cartridge/converters–which is my favorite system of the big three Japanese manufacturers. These pens, while small and light, are meant to write and are a fantastic bargain.

They are toothy writers, though. Feedback, or tooth, is the audio-tactile sensation of “feeling” the nib on paper–it’s not scratchy. A pen can be a smooth writer and still be toothy or have feedback. Some compare it to writing with a pencil. My rule of thumb is that if the sensation seems diminished while writing with headphones on, it’s feedback. Scratch is unpleasant and damages paper.

I love some tooth, so I love the way Platinum pens write. Some people hate it. Everyone has to try it in person to figure it out.

The 3776 is a solid choice.

The Lamy 2000 is my favorite of the three–hooded nibs, smooth writers, no bullshit filling system, and basically indestructible. They’ve been in production since the 1960’s. They are classic. The snap cap makes it quick to get it to paper, but not as quick as the Vanishing Point.

The nibs on these pens are fat and wet, though. One has to consider this when deciding what nib size to get. My broad Lamy 2000 is borderline ridiculous and not especially practical for use on the standard crappy paper that one encounters in the wild–it’s like writing with Sharpie and it will bleed through mediocre paper. It’s still an awesome nib, just not that practical. I’ve found my Lamy 2000 with a fine nib to be more practical.

Speaking of which, all three of these pens have a ton of nib options:

Vanishing Point:

  • Extra Fine
  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Broad
  • 1.0 mm Stub


  • Ultra Extra Fine
  • Extra Fine
  • Fine
  • Soft Fine
  • Medium
  • Soft Medium
  • Broad
  • Coarse (basically a double broad)
  • Music


  • Extra Fine
  • Fine
  • Medium
  • Oblique Medium
  • Broad
  • Oblique Broad
  • Double Broad
  • Oblique Double Broad

There’s something for everyone with these pens, which make them even more fun as step-up pens.


Kaweco Sport

The Kaweco Sport is another pen that there isn’t really anything else that I can say that hasn’t already been said. It is a ubiquitous beginner-level pen and sort-of the quintessential modern pocket pen. There is already a lot of information about it floating around. My red Ice Sport was my second pen, so for the sake of staying in chronological order, here we go.

There are dozens of finishes for this pen–demonstrators, plastic or metal, gold trim or not, whatever one could want. Typically, the pen comes with a steel nib in sizes ranging from extra fine to double broad, but one can find all the nib sizes in 14k gold–in plain gold, rhodium-plated, and two-tone finishes–and stub/calligraphy nibs from 1.1mm to 2.3mm and a double nib that makes two lines at once. Several different types of removable clips, two types of converters, and the option to convert the pen into an eyedropper make the Sport a very customizable pen, although it’s all extra because the pen only comes with a blue cartridge.


I wear a large size glove and I can write with the Sport for a long time, but it’s not my favorite thing to do. The pens really were meant for quick notes, and for that they work well. I have a thing for matching sets, so I eventually got an Ice Sport ballpoint to go with my fountain pen, and it works as it should. The Kaweco double pen pouch makes a compact package for on-the-go writing activities, and the plastic pens are sturdy enough to handle whatever is thrown at them. My red Sport has been camping, kayaking, and hiking and has never had a problem except it likes to burp ink if I use the squeeze converter or convert the pen to eyedropper fill, so I don’t do that.

Open and Closed. A spring from a cheap clicky ballpoint can be used to prevent the cartridge from getting dislodged.

As far as the writing experience goes, Kaweco has a reputation for questionable nib QC. All my Sports wrote too dry out of the box, which is an easy enough fix but annoying, especially for beginner-tier pens, but they wrote. Frankly, I blame Bock–the OEM nib manufacturer for Kaweco and a bunch of other brands. I’ve had many pens with Bock nibs in them and none of them were good out of the box. Some of them simply didn’t write without extensive work on my part or professional nibmeister modification. I would advise potential buyers to proceed with caution in that regard.

Inks: Iroshizuku Fuyu-Gaki on top, Pelikan Blue Black on bottom. The double broad is slightly stubby and very smooth.

I do, however, like my Kaweco Sports. They are cool, durable, compact, and very customizable pens.sports

Lamy Safari, Charcoal Finish. My first pen.

What can I realistically say about the Lamy Safari that hasn’t already been said ten thousand times?

Not much, really.

Mine is in the Charcoal finish, even. It’s almost cliché at this point.


When I started my fountain pen journey, beginner-level fountain pens weren’t as widespread as they are now. The Pilot Metropolitan didn’t exist or wasn’t available in the United States. The Pilot Varsity, the Platinum Preppy, and the Lamy Safari were the pens I saw most frequently recommended, and I liked the Safari’s aesthetic, so I chose it. That’s not to say there weren’t other pens I could have chosen, but I was a newbie and I didn’t really know what I was looking for, so I picked it out based on looks and a handful of forum recommendations.

I didn’t buy it for myself, though. It was a Valentine’s gift from my then girlfriend, now wife, in 2012, which makes it extra special to me–there are many Safaris like it, but this one is mine. I also occasionally and ever so gently remind her that she facilitated my madness.

I don’t use it as much as I used to, but I’ve put it through its paces. Despite its light weight, it is robust and has held-up very well over the years. I’ve never had any problems with its performance–it writes every time I put it to page. Not much else to be said about that, really. If you are looking for one pen to use for a long, long time, consider this a candidate. The easily swappable nibs make it a versatile platform to try different nib grades or replace a damaged nib, too–an often over-looked quality in beginner’s pens.


The Safari posts well, but I think it feels weird and too long or unbalanced when posted, so I don’t do that. I’m not a huge fan of the triangular grip, honestly, but I make do. If you don’t think that the grip will bother you, it probably won’t, and the section is long enough that you can adjust your grip a bit up or down to figure out what works best.

As of today, Lamy still doesn’t include a converter with the Safari. C’mon, guys.

Surely the Lamy Safari has hooked countless people on fountain pens over its long career. Even with an ever-growing catalogue of newbie-friendly pens, I still think the Safari is worth a look. If you are considering it, please think about ordering it through a reputable seller as there are many convincing looking but crumby quality counterfeits out there.