The Pilot Penmanship is, for a lack of a better term, an odd duck. Reviewing this pen has proved a challenge because in a lot of ways, I am not reviewing a pen, but rather, just a nib holder. The great thing about this pen is the silky smooth Japanese EF nib that comes as standard, all for a ridiculously low price point.
Fountain pen aficionados often talk about Japanese Extra Fine nibs and the unique quasi-needlepoint sensation (and resulting penmanship), but sadly for so many years, the low end of the Japanese market only offered fine nibs. Thanks to the Penmanship (and now, the new 78G) it gives people the opportunity to try a unique nib without the high cost, and no matter what other boons Pilot brings to the table with this pen, this reason alone makes it worth it.
The entire construction is transparent plastic (also comes with a black plastic option with red highlights). Included are some cartridges and not much else.
In a lot of ways this is a dip pen (aesthetically), but with a filling mechanism and a feed. I wouldn’t say the design is boring, in fact it’s pretty unique, but it does lack the traditional “fountain pen” look if you know what I mean. A lot of people expect fountain pens to look and handle a certain way based on the premium notion of such a writing implement, and then you have a pen like the Pilot Penmanship that breaks all convention and is geared almost exclusively towards performance. Aesthetics are a secondary concern here.
As a side note; still rocking the J. Herbin Stormy Grey in this pen. Still works perfectly with no skipping although the feed does look heavily saturated with gold flakes. I did previously assume that this would cause extreme issues with flow, but I remain proven wrong. We shall see the damage once I take it apart for cleaning, but clearly J. Herbin conjured up some magic and didn’t simply stick some gold in a pot of ink – I’m guessing there’s some kind of lubricant.
Anyway, back to the pen. The general trend of performance over aesthetic considerations continue with the lil’ stubby pen cap. It’s threaded (nicely), but features no clip and exists solely to protect the nib. One thing to note; the cap has two little wings on the side to stop the pen rolling around – weird looking but it works.
A closer look at the feed – it’s made of a cool transparent plastic with a channel width you would expect taking into account how fine the extra-fine nib is. Works amazingly well. I have never had it skip, no flow issues (ever) and it starts immediately. For a pen with a nib this fine and at this price point – it’s super impressive.
It’s also very pretty, the pen being a demonstrator – it’s fitting that the feed is transparent too!
The nib itself is interesting. It features wing clips to attach itself to the feed. Zero options for adjustments and sadly, the only way to Frankenstein this nib onto other pens (without keeping the feed) is to clip the wings off. Which incidentally is what I did. My Twsbi Eco has one of these and it works perfectly.
The other notable feature of the Pilot Penmanship is the ergo grip. Basically, it’s a Lamy Safari ergonomic cut out, which forces you to grip the pen in a certain way. I imagine that’s why its called the Pilot Penmanship.
Practically speaking, it’s solid insofar as comfort goes. Obviously the grip section is a smidgen on the anemic side and the balance is non-negotiable due to the all plastic construction + lack of a proper cap to post (although the cap can be posted). I didn’t find my penmanship improved significantly, however it does lend itself to precision. Messy handwriting will be somewhat neater as a consequence.
Some people love ergo features, others hate them. At the end of the day this is utterly subjective. As for myself, I used to hate the idea of them but I accepted them after playing with a Lamy Safari. No one wants to be told that they are holding a pen wrong, but then again – pens like this exist in the marketplace for a reason.
The tipping is ridiculously acute, only my Platinum #3776 with its UEF nib is finer. This does mean that it loves to catch on garbage-tier paper and consequently I would advise sticking to the better stuff. Other than that, the tipping is beautifully finished with a very smooth and even polish.
Objectively, this will never feel like you are writing on glass, but that’s due to the line width it cranks out. I have a F and M Pilot (Vanishing Points) and they are superb. Not as much feedback as the Platinum and not as “skating on glass”-like with the Sailors, but I would say something in between.
Which leads me to the writing sample. Now, as usual I am using a macro so it’s hard to gauge (visually) how fine this is, but by Western equivalents it would be an Extra-Extra-Fine. Once again though, very smooth with zero skipping or flow issues. It’s all very impressive and taking into account the entry level price, it makes pens that squeak or skip out of the box inexcusable.
When you buy this pen (as an aficionado), it’s because of the sexy, sexy nib. It’s glorious and there frankly is no alternative at this price point outside of the new 78G, as I mentioned before.
As far as its performance as a pen goes, the Penmanship works perfectly, but it’s almost like a Bic in nature. It’s so unsubstantial and plastic-y that if it didn’t have such a great nib, I would hesitate to purchase it – even at its low price point.
I have bought maybe a dozen of these pens. I use them to test new inks (I always convert mine to eyedroppers) and to give out to friends as an introduction to fountain pens and cursive penmanship. With that said, I don’t love this pen. Its lack of presence and clip just rubs me the wrong way, and I tend to treat them almost like disposables. I pragmatically acknowledge that this is a silly way to grade a pen, but at the end of the day, I don’t want my blog to be all about performance or the advertising glib.
Pens are personal, they evoke certain emotions when you use them and the Pilot Penmanship fails in this regard. It excels at its primary function of scribbling, but leaves me feeling cold.
Make of that what you will. In any case, I reckon everyone should have one – if for nothing else, to test out an EF Japanese nib.