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Year in Review – 2021 Pens

Posted in Fountain Pens, and Non-Fountain Pens

DISCLAIMER UPDATE (6/24/22): TWSBI and Narwhal have released a joint statement which I cover in my most recent TWSBIgate post. While not completely satisfied with TWSBI’s response to the situation, I no longer feel the need to dissuade people from purchasing their products.

DISCLAIMER (5/1/22): Since writing this post, TWSBI has been involved in some unsavory actions, and I am currently boycotting them. For more information, refer to the #twsbigate tag page.

Both last year and in 2019 I wrote about my biggest pen wins and regrets. It was fun to look back on my pens, so I decided to do the same thing this year. However, with my 2021 Top Pens post, I basically already did that. So, I decided to do something I’ve seen in the YouTube makeup world — surprise, surprise — and rank all of my pen purchases.

Note: Some of the pens have already been discussed in recent posts. If a description looks familiar, that’s likely why. Also, where possible, I linked to an Instagram photo from the pen maker or store they collaborated with. When that wasn’t possible, I linked to a good photo on Instagram (consider following those fine folks). And, when all else failed, I linked to my own photos on Instagram.

The Regrets

Honestly, I probably shouldn’t have bought these pens. I have a feeling they’ll find new homes next year.

  1. Montblanc Greta Garbo
    Well, this one. Honestly, I got it because it was there. It was part of a huge collection Bert (Bertram’s Inkwell) had purchased, and the price was really low. I thought I could polish up the body more than I actually could. And the pen really isn’t my style. If anything, it’s shown me that there is no reason for me to own a Montblanc. My TWSBIs are better. Yeah, I said what I said.
  2. Platinum Preppy Wa Reishigumo
    Yeah, I have no excuse. I had the full set of six in my cart, and I managed to talk myself out of buying the geometric pattern ones. But I didn’t quite manage to talk myself out of this one. “It’s got cute little clouds,” I told myself, “and it’s a cheap Preppy, you can get it.” Sometimes I give myself very bad advice.
  3. Platinum Preppy Wa Sakura Chirashi
    This one was second on my list, as I’m a bit of a sucker for sakura anything. But, honestly, at the time I questioned if I should get it, and I should have listened to myself. But, I barely kept from buying the whole set.
  4. Platinum Preppy Wa Ogi Chirashi
    This is the only Preppy Wa I really wanted, and it’s the only one currently in rotation. The fans are cute, but, at the end of the day, it’s still a Preppy.

The Good

I like all of these pens. They write well, and they’re pretty, but I can see the possibility of them going away at some point in the future, just not the near future.

  1. OPUS 88 Demo Red w/Nib
    This came as part of my first StyloSuite nib purchase. It’s a great pen. Easy to fill and clean. Flows well. If nothing else, it’s the perfect travel pen. It’s also, however, somewhat plain. As my pen collection continues to grow over the years, I don’t think this one will survive.
  2. Moonman X1 White
    I got this guy because it’s a Boheme knockoff. And it’s a decent Boheme knockoff. Honestly, a pretty cute pen. Unfortunately, cleaning it is a bit annoying, and I don’t like that my only filling option is a short cartridge. So, we’ll see how long it lasts.
  3. Sailor 1911S Royal Tangerine
    I got this to help fill the orange pen void in my “Less Expensive” pen rotation category. It’s a perfectly lovely orange Sailor. But it’s also a perfectly ordinary Sailor.
  4. Retro 51 Tornado Ombre Avocado
    Honestly, I bought this because I’m Mexican. No joke. My dad grew an avocado tree in the backyard of my childhood home, so I grew up eating the best avocados with my tacos, carne, and even just by themselves. I couldn’t not get this pen. But, realistically, it’s just an ombre pen with an avocado finial, so I could see the possibility of another Retro unseating it down the road.
  5. Sailor Pro Gear Blue Lagoon
    I love the Blue Lagoon. And I had several alerts set up to manage to snag one — this was before my Sailor bubble burst. But, I have WAY too many Sailor pens. And I’ve already told myself I have to get rid of a Sailor pen in order to get another. So, if one ever catches my eye, this one is on the chopping block.
  6. Tibaldi Bamboo Lipstick Red
    This is cute. REALLY cute. The tassel is adorable. But, as I’ve mentioned before, the section is pretty short, and the writing experience is just OK. We’ll see what happens.
  7. Visconti Mazzi Red Symphony
    Honestly, I bought this one because I was buying the Blue Symphony and felt I should have the set. It’s nice, but it’s not amazing, so it could go away later. For now, it will stay.
  8. Pilot Custom 743 Black
    I bought this because I wanted a pen with the FA nib. The problem is that the sample FA nibs are much softer than the new ones, since they’ve been used so much. I need to see if I can have someone make it more flexible.
  9. Franklin-Christoph Model 31 Lyra
    I really like this one; it’s a fun Slytherin pen. But, the cap doesn’t stay tightly closed. I think it’s a Model 31 problem, because my Cosmic Dust has the same issue.
  10. Gravitas Pens Rose Gold Aluminum Black Skull
    The ONLY reason this pen falls into the “Good” category is because there is a bit of the metal-on-metal sound that I detest when opening the pen. I don’t know if it will kill my love of the pen as time goes on.
    Gravitas Review »

The Best

These are all fantastic pens, and were incredibly hard to rank. As of now, I can’t imagine any non-catastrophic scenario where I’d let these pens go.

  1. River City Pen Company Arlington Mossanite & Custom Pour
    I spotted this one on Instagram and was amazed to see it at the Triangle Pen Show. It’s so pretty and sparkly. Its a bit chunkier than I typically go for, but not uncomfortably so.
  2. Retro 51 Tornado Palmer
    I kept trying to talk myself out of buying this one, but it’s art deco and a peacock. And now that I have it, I’m really happy that I succumbed to the desire to buy it.
  3. Retro 51 Tornado Cherry Blossom 2021
    This one is so much more suited to my preferences than the 2020 version. The colors are better, and there are more sakura blossoms.
  4. Divine Island Design Seashore Series Mermaid
    This is a really cool pen. The handful is of minor areas for improvement are the only reason this one doesn’t rank higher.
    View Seashore Review »
  5. The Chicago Pen Company Aristophanes Ruby-Throated Hummingbird
    This little pen is so cute, and the material is great. I love that it can fit a Kaweco converter so I’m not limited to a cartridge. The main reason this isn’t higher on the list is that I felt, to really personify the Hummingbird, there should have been more green and less white. I understand that getting exactly what you want out of a material is difficult, but it still affects the overall rating.
  6. Retro 51 Tornado Wings of the Monarch
    I somehow completely missed the rollerball version of this. I haven’t much enjoyed Retro 51 fountain pens in the past, but this one seems like an improvement. Monarch butterflies are important in Mexico, as their migration pattern cuts across the country.
  7. Mythic Pens Aeschylus Peacock Koi
    Between the meticulous attention to detail and the beauty of this material, I’m so happy I decided to pick this one up at the DC Pen Show.
    View Aeschylus Review »
  8. Visconti Mazzi Blue Symphony
    This one has a fantastic color scheme. And the mask is stunning! I love the details and 3D-quality to the painting on the pen as a whole.
  9. Pilot Custom 745 Pinstripe
    I got this one at Bertram’s Inkwell. Bert invited me to dip test it, and, well, the rest is history. It writes like my Rock Garden.
  10. Atelier Lusso Carina 15 Timascus
    I’m so happy Eric was willing to sell the artist’s proof so I could have one of these pens. The clip and cap band are beautiful, and the material is a lovely complement.
  11. Den’s Pens Baetylus Amethyst Polished
    The shape on this one is great. And the polish is top notch. The amount of pink that ended up in the material is the reason why it falls just below its sister pen.
    View Baetylus Review »
  12. Den’s Pens Baetylus Amethyst Matte
    I prefer the color on this one. It’s more what I was originally hoping for. And, funnily enough, I think the matte finish actually better embodies the “amethyst crystal” inspiration.
    View Baetylus Review »
  13. TWSBI Diamond Mini Clear
    I only bought this to take it on vacation. I wanted something that could get lost without breaking my heart. But, like all TWSBI 580 series pens, the writing experience is phenomenal.
  14. TWSBI Diamond 580ALR Navy Blue
    Look! Another TWSBI! I like the color of this one. It’s a really good blue. And, it writes beautifully like all TWSBI 580s.
  15. Pilot Custom 74 Orange
    This one just provides an amazing writing experience. Full stop.
    View Custom 74 Review »
  16. Loft Pens Glenwood Stacked Pride
    Rainbow pen. Honestly, I don’t think I even need to say anything else.
    View Stacked Pride Review »
  17. Delta Dolcevita Undersize
    I like small pens that I can use. They’re cute. And this one writes really well. Definitely a good purchase on my part. Again, from Bertram’s Inkwell. I bought quite a bit from him this year.
  18. Tamenuri Studio Kawari-Nuri and Nashiji Nuri
    I love the red and gold. It’s a fabulous color scheme. It’s a Gryffindor pen. Now I have to find Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff.
    View Tamenuri Studio Review »
  19. Iron Feather Creative Scrollwork Inlaid Feather
    I have no idea how Brian did this one, but wow, it’s really cool. The “layers” of resin and rollstop are freaking amazing!
  20. Iron Feather Creative Standard Art Deco Nibs
    I mean, nibs on a fountain pen! Talk about meta. The pattern is great, the styling is wonderful. Plus, I just love Iron Feather Creative.
    View Art Deco Nibs Review »
  21. Mr. Cypress Skull and Crystals
    I love the theme. The work is impressive, and the detail on the skull gives me something to stare at every time I use it.
    View Skull and Crystals Review »
  22. Mr. Cypress Día de Muertos
    I love having such an awesome nod to my heritage, my culture, my roots. This pen makes me smile every time I pick it up.
    View Día De Muertos Review »
  23. Namiki Yukari Rock Garden
    Oooh, we’re to the Top 5! The Rock Garden is my best writer. Yes, it even beats out my beloved TWSBI 580s, it’s such a fantastic experience. I still don’t know precisely what it is about this pen that calls to me so much, but I love it.
    View Rock Garden Review »
  24. ARTUS Four Elements Fire
    Fire is beautiful, no question. However, in comparison to my other three ARTUS pens, it’s more one-dimensional. It’s beautifully painted, and has stunning detail, but it doesn’t give you a full gamut of flames. To have made it higher on this list, it would have had to have brought to life everything from embers to a raging inferno. Instead, it’s really just merrily dancing flames. I love it, but I can admit I love the other ARTUS pens better.
    View Fire Review »
  25. ARTUS Four Elements Air
    Air edges out Fire for its subtle artistry. At first glace, the Air is just a swirly pen. But, as you really look at it, you get to appreciate the layers, the inlays, the perfect gradients, and unexpected color usage. It manages to bring to mind air currents, clouds, light wind, and full on gales, all at once.
    View Air Review »
  26. ARTUS Four Elements Earth
    Earth only just lost out to Water. It’s an absolutely stunning pen. The detail in the flowers and vines are simply spectacular. The “mushroom”-like shaping at the end of the barrel flow beautifully into the raden work, which, in turn, flows beautifully into the floral band.
    View Earth Review »
  27. ARTUS Four Elements Water
    While it is, of course, gorgeous — I love how you get everything from small puddles, to the deep sea, to water’s edge — Water tops my list for one main reason: The raden reminds me of the book The Rainbow Fish. I loved that book as a kid, and the associated nostalgia manages to edge out Earth for the top spot.
    View Water Review »

The Ones from the “In Between”

I hadn’t received these pens when I ranked pens last year, but they don’t really fall in this year, because they were bought in 2020. I feel it’s worth mentioning them, though. They’re listed in order of preference.

  1. Woodshed Pen Company Standard Nordic Snow
    This is the pen I purchased as part of Mike Allen’s Kickstarter campaign. It’s stunning. I love the various color shifts in the shimmer. Jim got the black one, and it’s like the night sky.
  2. Sailor Pro Gear Piccadilly Night
    There was nothing wrong with this one, it was just too similar to my Bungubox exclusive Magnolia. I sold it in August.
  3. Genesis Pen Norsemen Sleipnir
    Another pretty pen, but it was WAY too chonky for me. I sold it immediately. I would have returned it, but I figured a return to Hong Kong would be a pain in the butt.

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