Review: Pilot Penmanship Fountain Pen

This review is by Kalina Wilson, who can also be found at

Piloe Penmanship - cap postedIt's not easy to find a budget fountain pen with a very fine nib, so I was eager to receive the Pilot Penmanship despite some inconsistent reviews.  Besides, it's a cute pen, and comes in transparent as well!

Pilot Penmanship line sensitivity

I was worried there would be no flex to the nib, but there's a little - enough to make me happy.   The demo above shows the effect of pressing harder towards the middle of the line.  On a toothy paper a feather light touch is possible.

The nib is acceptably smooth on the paper, not buttery but not bad (see addendum, however). The line is very fine - comparable to the Pilot Hi-Tec-C .4!

Pilot Penmanship comparison

NaNoDrawMo 12

The ink included with the pen is not waterproof, which limited its usefulness for me.  Some folks report using this pen as an eyedropper, lining the threads with silicone and filling the body with ink.  I was very nervous to do this - I travel with these pens and would not be able to relax with that much ink in my handbag! - so ordered the converter cartridge.

The cartridge is nothing special.  It only wants to get about 70% full and doesn't feel as sturdy and well-made as the Lamy converter. Ah well, it does the job.  After filling the cartridge with Noodler's Bulletproof, this pen became a really great, useful option that I often use when out sketching.

I am now enjoying this pen a lot. However, be aware that the pen might not behave optimally when you first receive it!

My Pilot Penmanship Adventure

Upon receiving the pen, I washed the tip and attached the disposable ink cartridge. Immediately it was apparent that the nib was exceedingly scratchy against paper - really unpleasant. Oh no!  Based on online reviews, it seems like maybe this pen is a gamble - that some people receive a perfect nib, and others don't.  Was I one of the unfortunates?

But wait.  When I tried to use it anyway, it became apparent that something worse was wrong.  The ink wasn't flowing.  The darkest it would get was a middle gray.  I covered several pages with scribble and it didn't improve.

Next steps.  I took out the cartridge and re-attached it.  No go.  Washed it again.  No go.

Since it was scratchy AND not flowing, maybe the tines were misaligned? Following advice online, I inserted a straight razor between the two tines to help straighten them out and ensure they weren't pressed together.  No go - the problems remained.

Then I remembered that my old Rotring calligraphy pens came with an "Arkansas Stone" and "buffering leather" intended to help adjust the nibs.  Well I don't know anything about adjusting nibs but you can't ruin something that's already broke, right?

Pilot Penmanship - sharpening
I carefully slid the pen across the stone several times held at the angle with which I draw, then across the buffering leather at the same angle.  It seemed to make the nib write more smoothly, but STILL the ink wasn't flowing! 

I took the cartridge out again, this time poking around at the plastic.  

Voila - it worked.  All this labor, and it turned out to be a problem with the cartridge.  I've never heard of this happening, so maybe it's a one-in-a-million glitch.  However, there are a fair number of reports of scratchy nibs on the Pilot Penmanship.  They are obviously inconsistent.  I feel lucky that my novice efforts with the sharpening tools improved the nib instead of destroying it.

So this pen is a gamble, and there's no way to know what the chances are.  One thing for sure - your chances are better if you're willing to mess with the nib.  In reward for my labor I got a great pen that is already in active use, and I'm excited to start using it with different ink colors.

More drawings sketched with the Pilot Penmanship...

NaNoDrawMo 4      NaNoDrawMo 7      NaNoDrawMo 11

Posted on November 15, 2010 and filed under Fountain Pens, Geminica, Pen Reviews, Pilot.