Daiso’s Little $1.50 Marvel

Yesterday, I posted about a $1.50 pen that had some problems with cracking plastic. Today, I figured I’d balance things out with some thoughts on a different $1.50 pen that’s given me two years of enjoyment: Daiso’s house-branded pen.

My first fountain pen wasn’t a Pilot Metropolitan, or a Lamy Safari, or a Parker Duofold that I found tucked in the back of grandma’s knickknack drawer. My first fountain pen entered my life at Daiso.

If you’re unfamiliar with Daiso, it’s the Japanese version of a dollar store, except everything’s $1.50 (blame the exchange rate for the Yen.) Most of the items in the store are Daiso’s house brand, like this fountain pen I found in the stationery section and purchased on a lark. I’d been a diehard Pilot G2 user for years but was curious about fountain pens and figured this one was worth a try.

I’ve never been able to determine the official name of this pen. Since it cost me the princely sum of $1.50 (and ignoring the few pennies for sales tax), I’ve dubbed it the “Daiso Buck Fifty”.

First, some facts. The Daiso Buck Fifty is a cartridge converter pen with a steel nib. It comes with one short cartridge filled with a blue ink of unknown origin. Unfortunately, I don’t have a sample of that ink as it’s long been used up. I also don’t know what other cartridges fit this pen. Waterman short and long international cartridges are said to fit, but I haven’t personally confirmed it. I’ve been refilling the original cartridge via syringe and it’s still going strong after two years.

The Daiso Buck Fifty is a small pen. It’s a few millimeters shorter than a Pilot Metropolitan when capped and uncapped.

(L to R) Lamy Vista, Daiso Buck Fifty, Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Diamond Mini
(L to R) Lamy Vista, Daiso Buck Fifty, Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Diamond Mini

The Daiso’s section is 1mm smaller in diameter than the Metropolitan’s. Like the Metro, the Daiso is heavier than it looks due to its metal barrel, weighing in at 17g without a full cartridge of ink.

The Daiso Buck Fifty’s design is clean and unpretentious. It only comes in one color: white pearlescent metallic. The finish has remained intact despite two years of use. The white is complemented by silver furniture on the cap and barrel.

The cap is a snap-on style that clicks to the barrel securely but doesn’t take an excessive amount of effort to remove. While the cap can technically post, it’s not secure and will slip off the end of the barrel. The clip is firm but springy. It inspires confidence that it’ll remain attached to whatever it’s clipped to.

Uncapping the pen reveals a section made of black plastic with silver trim. I have small hands, and I find the section comfortable to hold for writing sessions up to a few pages in length. I’d prefer a wider section for longer writing sessions, however.

The step-up from the section to the barrel is gradual, unlike the harsher steps on the Pilot Metro.

The nib is a generic iridium point made of steel. I’d call it a Western medium, but the line produced varies with the ink in the pen, and I’ve seen it range from fine to broad. This pen wrote smoothly fresh out of the wrapper with no tuning required.



When I first got this pen, it was a slightly dry writer. After I learned more about pens, I adjusted the tines to lay down a juicy line with most inks. After two years together, I know this pen inside and out, and I now use it as my primary ink testing pen.

The Daiso $1.50 Pen, aka “The Buck Fifty”

This pen is an excellent performer at a minuscule price. It’s a smooth writer. No flex, of course, but that’s not the point of this workhorse.

It’s remarkable that a pen this good can cost so little.

Tomoe River paper, De Atramentis Red Roses

I’m fortunate that the Daiso Buck Fifty was my first fountain pen, as a lesser one might have put me off fountain pens entirely. It’s an excellent pen for its price. The only downside is that it’s not the easiest pen to find. Goulet Pens sells them in a 2-pack, but at a significant markup. (Boo!)

If you ever find yourself in a Daiso, keep an eye out for these pens and pick up a few or several if you see them. Hand them out to friends and create some more fountain pen addicts. Go on, the first hit’s only a buck fifty…

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

Read more about this pen:

Maybe the Jinhao 992 Ain’t All It’s Cracked up to Be

I was ready to sing the praises of my latest ridiculously-cheap pen acquisition, the Jinhao 992 (aka the 922, aka the Spiral, aka the drunken sailor), when I glanced at my pen and spotted a curious glint at the end of the barrel…

Those would be cracks. I’ve kept this pen on my desk for the week I’ve had it, and it’s never been dropped or mishandled while in my possession. Though I can’t say for certain the cracks were there when the pen arrived, I can count three cracks today when there were only two yesterday. That’s not good.

According to this thread on FPN, I’m not the only one seeing cracking issues with their 992s, including some reports of catastrophic failures that involved caps and barrels snapping in half. This is some early-TWSBI-level crackery.

So I feel confident in saying that the Jinhao 992 is a pen you should avoid.

It’s a damn shame, since the pen is an otherwise wonderful writer with a nice, smooth nib. I guess paying $1.50 for a fountain pen (including shipping! including a converter!) really is too good to be true.

Snap Judgments: Penton F10 Demonstrator

As much as I’ve been flirting with vintage Sheaffers lately, I still have my eye on cheap pens. I came across this thread on FPN a while back about a cheap demonstrator pen called the “Penton F10” that cost $3 including shipping. At that price, I had to give it a try.

These pens can be purchased via this eBay listing. I handed over my six dollars, sent the seller a message with my color and nib size choices, and two weeks later a package containing two pens showed up.

Both pens ended up performing the same, so for the sake of expediency I’m only going to focus on one of them: a clear pen with a fine nib.

The Penton F10 is a slim pen made of clear plastic. Measurement-wise, it’s almost a dead ringer for the Pilot Metropolitan; the capped length, uncapped length, and section diameter are the same between the two pens.

The cap secures by snapping onto the pen’s body, and it can be posted by slipping it on the end of the barrel, which is shaped for that purpose. The Penton F10 doesn’t have the prettiest cap and finial, and the clip is utilitarian looking stamped metal, but it’s sturdy and has the right amount of spring to keep it securely in place when you clip it to something.

A piston-style cartridge converter is included, but the pen can also be converted to an eyedropper using an included o-ring. In fact, most of the promo photos in the eBay listing show the pen being used that way. I haven’t yet tried it as an eyedropper but I’m sure it’ll happen eventually.

The nib is described as a “0.5mm fine” and I found that to be accurate. So, it’s more of a Western-style fine. It wrote smoothly out of the box without any tuning required.

Visually, the design of the nib looks very similar to the Lamy Safari. And the nib writes like a Safari too, with a bit of feedback on Tomoe River paper and little to no flex.

The pen is very light. For me, it’s most comfortable when unposted, and I didn’t feel fatigued after writing several pages with it.

It’s risky buying a pen from an unknown manufacturer, but this one is a pleasant surprise. In fact, the only flaw I can find with it is a tiny bit of molding sprue left on the section, but even that is on an edge where it won’t bother your fingers, and I was able to remove it easily with a razor blade. The cartridge converter doesn’t hold much ink, but the pen is intended to be an eyedropper anyway.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned this pen’s country of origin yet. Care to guess where it’s from?

If you said China, you’d be right. I’ve heard Chinese pens can be hit-or-miss, but this one is a hit. It’ll probably be my new ink testing pen because I like how the cap and barrel are completely clear — it really shows off the color loaded inside.

This pen performs surprisingly well for its price: a mere $3, including shipping. The nib is smooth and required no tuning out of the box. There is a hint of feedback reminiscent of another nib that’s similar to this one in design and appearance — the Lamy Safari. A cartridge converter is included, but the pen also comes with an o-ring for eyedropper conversion.

An excellent value pen!

Pelikan Edelstein Mandarin on Tomoe River paper

Sheaffer Balance Petite

I acquired this Sheaffer Balance Petite several weeks ago. The combination of the humpbacked ball clip and the marine green celluloid dates this pen to 1930.

This pen was the result of a happy accident of bad eBay auction photos and poor reading comprehension on my part. Somehow I neglected the part of the listing where it said that the pen measured 4 1/16″ long. Or maybe I did see that part, but the fact that a 4-inch-long pen is really, really tiny escaped my comprehension. Anyway, the auction didn’t have many nibbles so I threw some dollars at it and won it for $28.

But imagine my surprise when I opened the package and found this little cutie!

I mean, just look at it.

Adorable! (From L to R: Lamy Vista, Sheaffer Balance Sovereign, Sheaffer Balance Petite, Pilot Elite, Pilot Metropolitan)

It makes my Pilot Elite pocket pen look big and that’s saying something.

The Lifetime nib is almost comically oversized compared to the rest of the pen. The visible part of it measures 3/4″ long.

The feed is of a style I’ve never seen before. It’s completely smooth and gives the pen an Art Deco look that’s pretty cool.

Overall, the pen is in good shape. It has very little wear, the trim is perfect, and the sac has been replaced recently. There’s some discoloration of the celluloid, but that’s very common in pens of this era. Thankfully, the discoloration doesn’t look as bad in the marine green pattern as it does in the lighter shaded jade celluloid. The imprint is clear and has an old-school patent number, another point for dating this pen to 1930.

For the curious, the patent covers the design of the rounded-end Sheaffer Balance.

The nib on this pen puts down the finest line of any pen I own. I’d call it an extra fine. It’s even finer than my Pilot Metro F.

In practical use, this elderly pen is quite cantankerous. It’s quick to leak ink if it’s not capped with the nib pointed up, or if it’s flicked or jostled too much. The extra fine point of the nib doesn’t lend itself to smooth writing, and the pen itself is so small that it’s not suitable for lengthy writing sessions even in my hands. Still, it’s an interesting pen with unique features that I’m happy to have in my collection.

Snap Judgments: TWSBI ECO

Bob at My Pen Needs Ink graciously loaned me his TWSBI ECO so I could try it out. The ECO is an entry-level demonstrator type pen, and since “ECO” ostensibly stands for “economical,” it’s perfectly aligned with my interests!

Aesthetics are in the eye of the beholder, but I think the white ECO looks very classy.

The cap has silver metal accents. TWSBI branding is etched into the cap ring, but I don’t find it obnoxious. At least they chose a nice, clean font.

The cap is hexagonally shaped, which I found useful as I don’t usually post my pens. It takes slightly more than one full turn to unscrew the cap. The clip is not springloaded, and it’s too stiff for easy use. I needed two hands to clip it to anything.

Perhaps my favorite thing about this pen is how the white cap and piston knob make inks inside the barrel pop with color. It’s a cool effect, especially with an ink like Iroshizuku Kon-Peki.

The red TWSBI logo on the end of the cap reminds me of a traditional signature seal.

I have smaller hands, and the unposted ECO is almost the perfect length for me. It’s a lighter pen in terms of weight, and I had no trouble writing for long periods with it.

The ECO was balanced in my hand when unposted, but posting the cap threw the weight distribution off in an unpleasant manner. Again, I have small hands so your experience may vary.

This pen has a steel nib that was smooth but offered some feedback. I’m used to Pilot’s silky-smooth nibs so the feedback was a nice change of pace. Since this was a loaner pen, I did not try to test the flex of the nib, but in regular writing it seemed on the stiffer side.

The flow was very good. This nib is more broad than I prefer given my handwriting, but it laid down a nice line and was enjoyable to write with.

I did not experience any hard starts or skips during my time with this pen.

Shaped sections are a point of contention, and the ECO’s section has a slight triangular shape, not as extreme as a LAMY Safari or a Pilot Kakuno, but there just the same. I use a traditional tripod grasp and I found the shape of the section to be unoffensive. The section’s diameter is on par with the Pilot Metropolitan and smaller than the Pilot Kakuno.

Certain TWSBI pens have a reputation for having issues with cracking, but this pen did not have any cracks that I could see. I believe this particular pen is a little over a year old at the time of this writing.

A fairly smooth writer with just the right amount of feedback. The broad nib is a little too wide for my liking. It lays down a nice wet line when using Iroshizuku Kon-Peki. The section has a bit of shape to it but I found it comfortable. This pen is really sharp looking by itself, but it’s a stunner filled with a beautiful ink like Kon-Peki. I thought I’d want an all-clear demonstrator, but the white cap and piston knob look great and compliment whatever ink is in the barrel. The TWSBI ECO is a lot of pen for the price, and I’m definitely adding one to my “to buy” list.

Many thanks to Bob for letting me borrow this pen!

Three Good Reviews of the TWSBI ECO: