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

The Metro and the Kid: Pilot’s sub-$15 Wonder Duo

kakuno_smile

Fifteen dollars may not stretch as far as it once did, but it can get you a workhorse fountain pen that you’ll want to use every day, thanks to Pilot Corporation and its Metropolitan and Kakuno pens.

Many reviews have already been written about both these pens, so I’m not going to reinvent the wheel by reviewing them here. Instead, I’m going to discuss some features of interest in each pen, and point out some differences that might help you choose between them.

Pilot Metropolitan

The Pilot Metropolitan has an MSRP of $18.75 USD, but it’s easily found for less than $15. It’s a refillable pen that includes a Pilot-proprietary ink cartridge and a CON-20 squeeze-style converter that’ll allow you to use bottled ink right from the start.

The Metropolitan’s brass barrel adds some heft to a pen that’s not particularly imposing out of the box. It has plain, but classy, styling that would be suitable in a professional environment. The weight of the pen in the hand, plus its impeccable build quality, makes the Metropolitan feel like a far more expensive pen than it actually is.

But how does it write? Excellently, thanks to its fantastic nib. (It actually uses the same nib as the Kakuno, which makes choosing between these two pens mostly a matter of personal preference.) My Metropolitan wrote as smooth as silk from its first inking. The nib is stainless steel, with little to no flex, so don’t expect miracles in terms of being able to vary your line widths. If this is your first Pilot fountain pen, be aware that Japanese nibs tend to run thinner than their European and American counterparts. A Pilot fine nib creates a line approximating a 0.5mm gel pen, and a medium nib is close to 0.7mm.

The Metropolitan’s section (i.e. gripping area) is smooth, round plastic. It’s sized comfortably for smaller hands, but may not be large enough for folks with bigger fingers or those who prefer their grip higher up on a pen. The cap of the pen can be posted (i.e. slipped onto the end of the barrel) when writing.

Three Good Reviews of the Pilot Metropolitan:

Pilot Kakuno

The Pilot Kakuno has an MSRP of $13.50 USD, and that’s the price point you’ll usually find them offered at. It’s a refillable pen that comes with a Pilot-proprietary ink cartridge, but it does not include a converter. You’ll need to purchase a Pilot-compatible converter separately to use bottled ink.

The Kakuno is a plastic pen with a hexagonal shaped barrel. Due to its plastic construction, it feels light and less substantial in the hand. The flat sides of the Kakuno will keep it from rolling off a table, which is helpful because the cap does not have a clip. (Instead, the cap has a small nub to further prevent accidental roll-offs.) Pilot designed this pen for the children’s market, and the available colors and styling reflect “fun” more than “professional” — there’s even a smiley face on the nib.

As mentioned previously, the Kakuno’s nib is the same as the one found in the Metro, so both pens offer a similarly excellent writing experience.

The Kakuno’s section is plastic, and it’s molded into a somewhat triangular shape intended to guide you into a proper grip. Despite being designed with children in mind, the section is fatter than the one on the Metropolitan, and those with larger hands may find it more comfortable. The Kakuno’s cap can be securely posted on to the end of the barrel.

Three Good Reviews of the Pilot Kakuno:

In Summary

Choose the Metropolitan if…

  • you prefer a round grip section
  • you need a more professional looking pen
  • you prefer a pen that feels heavier in the hand
  • you’d like to use bottled ink immediately without buying a separate converter

Choose the Kakuno if…

  • you prefer a shaped grip section
  • you like fun, bright colors
  • you prefer a lighter pen
  • you don’t mind if the cap doesn’t have a clip