The Penton F20 Demonstrator Will Bring You a Barrel Full of Sadness

I don’t often come across a pen with no redeeming qualities, but the Penton F20 is one such example. I certainly won’t begrudge you if you decide to stop reading this now instead of wasting your time on this horrible pen, but for those of you who like a good pen rant, I’m about to tell you all the ways this pen sucks.

I ordered my F20 with excitement after my favorable experience with the Penton F10 demonstrator. And once the slow boat from China brought the F20 to my mailbox, things seemed to be going well as I removed the plastic wrapper and found a decent-looking pen.

Is this a rip-off of another pen’s design? I have no idea. It’s vaguely Prera-esque, though larger in size and with a different clip and cap band.

Design particulars aside, the F20 is a clear plastic demonstrator, with a clear feed and a steel nib.

It’s comparable in size with the Lamy Safari.

L to R: Kaweco Sport, Penton F20, Lamy Safari/Vista
L to R: Kaweco Sport, Penton F20, Lamy Safari/Vista
L to R: Kaweco Sport, Penton F20, Lamy Safari/Vista

The cap is clear plastic with silver metal fittings and no cap liner. Removing the cap requires a couple of complete turns, which I find annoying as I like to be able to uncap a pen quickly. The finial has visible threads where it screws onto the cap body, and this is where the clip is secured to the pen.

Penton should have left the clip off entirely, as it’s the worst I’ve ever seen on a pen. It measures less than an inch long, which is odd enough, and it’s far too stiff to be usable. I broke a fingernail trying to lift the clip just to slide a piece of paper under it, and I ended up using a screwdriver to pry it open. Its only functional feature is as a roll-stop.

The cap band is unoffensive, though the “Penton” branding is stamped upside down.

The plastic used in the F20 is thin and flimsy, and I found dirt-like specks embedded in several places. They proved difficult to photograph clearly, but I can see them and they drive me crazy. There are also machining marks and scratches all over the barrel.

Compared to the build quality of the F10, the F20 is a huge disappointment.

There’s a blind cap at the end of the barrel that holds a slim, silver ring of trim in place. The blind cap is secured with screw threads, and there’s an o-ring inside that keeps the F20 eligible for eyedropper conversion.

The F20 comes with a converter, though most of the marketing photos show the pen being used as an eyedropper. The converter appears to be a standard international size. I’ve used several converters from Chinese manufacturers, and this one is the worst of the lot. It’s poorly made, the parts feel wobbly, and ink quickly began to leak behind its piston.

The section is round and slim. I’d say it’s comparable in size to the section on a Pilot Metropolitan. The section is reasonably long, and the screw threads for the cap are gentle, so those of you with unorthodox grips can also subject yourselves to this terrible pen if you’re feeling masochistic.

In the hand, the F20 feels insubstantial and cheap. I suppose you could say it’s balanced, but there’s hardly any plastic there to balance. Anyway, I didn’t spend much time thinking about how it felt to write with the F20 because I could hardly get it to write at all.

The F20 comes with a generic steel “iridium point” nib, and the one on my pen is a very hard starter. Out of the dozen Chinese pens I’ve purchased so far, the F20 is the first pen that didn’t write perfectly out of the box. When I could get it to write, it produced a line in that middle ground between a Japanese and Western fine.

I’m not afraid to try tuning a nib on a cheap pen, and I spent 30 minutes with some micromesh and two different well-behaved inks (Pilot Blue-Black and Iroshizuku Yu-yake) and still couldn’t get it to start consistently.

After that, I was done. I’m sure a more experienced nib tuner could get this pen working, but after dealing with the annoying clip, the scratched plastic, and the janky converter, I’m not willing to spend any more time on a $6 pen when I have so many other, more compelling pens in my collection.

With the F10, Penton showed it can make a good fountain pen, but the F20 is a failure in nearly every way. I suggest you give it a hard pass, and spend your six bucks elsewhere.

This Penton F20 was paid for with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.

9 thoughts on “The Penton F20 Demonstrator Will Bring You a Barrel Full of Sadness

  1. t (@098799) January 31, 2018 / 7:38 am

    Mine came with a delightfully wet, but fine and consistent nib, same as F19. I like those #5 nibs more than Jinhaos for sure. I’ve screwed out the finial and removed the clip right away which made the pen look quite unique and interesting. I have to say I find F19 and F20 to be close to the top of what chinese manufacturers have put out in recent years, although I’m not happy with the way the pens cap: they have a certain annoying tendency to cross-thread.


    • The Economical Penster January 31, 2018 / 7:43 am

      Glad to hear you’ve had fewer problems than I.

      The Wing Sung 618 and 698 are the gold standard for me.


  2. Frank Underwater February 4, 2018 / 10:25 pm

    Sad that they missed their standard this time. Maybe it is the time to eyedropper it and turn it into a portable ink well!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Economical Penster February 5, 2018 / 1:29 am

      Portable ink well: that’s a good idea! The barrel is pretty large and it would hold a ton of ink.

      I try to give manufacturers the benefit of the doubt when I review a pen. Of course I might have had some bad luck and ended up with the one pen in the batch with a bum nib, but it’s the flimsy plastic (along with the dirt-specks and scratches) that disappoints me the most. That’s a manufacturing issue that isn’t going to be limited to one pen in a batch.


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