A Newbie’s Pen Nib Test Drive – Helping you decide which pen to buy

As you can imagine, around the NoteMaker office there are plenty of pens to choose from. What’s interesting, to a novice like myself, is the choice of pen my colleagues favour – the one that sits in front of them all day long and is their first pick when they need to add another note to their (also favourite) notebook. There are so many pens available – so many!

So I decided to try a range out – from LAMY Safari to Pilot Metropolitan to some Kaweco ranges – to help me, and you, decide which pen to buy.

NoteMaker pensFrom the superior quality of a fountain pen to the smooth rolling of a rollerball or the controlled and trusty ballpoint, my world of pens has expanded and now it’s time for me to find my own preference and give them a go!

LAMY Safari Fountain Pens

The LAMY Safari has been touted as the fountain for beginners, appealing to the student and young adult market. I can see why – the pen is comfortable with what feels like a ‘learner’s grip’ and I love its lightness. I can imagine myself back at school taking notes for hours… thankfully those days are behind me!


The range of colours available will appeal to a wide-reaching audience while limited colour editions are sure to keep wish lists growing and sets expanding. Smart move, LAMY!

It’s not unsurprising that expert fountain pen users return to the Safari range too. The appreciation for the excellent utilitarian design and easily interchangeable nibs is sure to please and keep aficionados returning.

The pen does come on its own and you will need to purchase a LAMY T10 Giant Ink Cartridge, which are relatively cheap at $6.95 for a set of 5. Why not try the Dark Lilac ink for a bold surprise and delight on the page.

Lamy Ink Dark Lilac NoteMaker


You can even use a LAMY Z24 Ink Converter, which allows you to use all the various and wonderful colours from the bottled inks. This converter suits the LAMY Safari, Al-Star, Nexx and Joy models, and costs $9.95.

I gave the Fine, Medium and Italic nib in 1.5mm a go on the gorgeous Life Stationery letter writing pad.

Life Writing Paper NoteMaker

I had a few fumbled attempts at changing the nib, but once you realise what it needs to feel like when it slots in, it’s quite simple. I do advise having a tissue handy to wipe away any ink residue, but as I came to realise, a little ink on the fingers and thumb is inevitable.

 Lamy Dark Lilac NoteMaker

Lamy Dark Lilac Fountain Pen NoteMaker

The fine nib felt a little scratchy at first, but once the ink started to flow, it felt a lot more comfortable and controlled. Initially I thought I would have to push down quite hard, but it wasn’t the case at all. Notice the squished up word after the first dash? It says ‘Fine’. For some reason I found it difficult to join the ‘i’ and ‘n’, but completely a blunder of my own!

I like that the “fineness” takes up less room on the page because of its lightness – perfect for cheat notes when you can only bring in one page of notes! But for everyday use, I do think my preference is a little bolder – moving onto the medium nib!

Ah, that’s more like it. The medium nib felt just like a biscuit in a cup of tea pulled out at just the right moment; c’mon you know what I’m talking about! It felt smooth, flexible and in proportion to the amount of weight I was placing on each character, crossed t’s and dotted i’s.

The boldness did make me think that the ink was wet so, two seconds after writing the word ‘LAMY’, I ran my thumb over in and nil – and it was dry! That was a nice surprise; I felt in control and at ease, not having to worry that the side of my hand would bleed any of my handwriting if I were to continue on and on and on…

Of course, because I’m spoilt for choice here at NoteMaker HQ, I borrowed a colleague’s 1.5mm italic nib. You can actually see my confidence grow with this one, as I get closer to the end of the sentence. Initially I felt awkward, putting far too much pressure and then hovering over a character for too long – case in point the ‘Y’ in LAMY. I decided to test the drying time and you’ll note the smudge after a couple of seconds.

LAMY italic nib 1.5mm NoteMaker

I would like to add an italic nib to my starting collection and to continue practicing, because I can see myself really start to enjo it once I get the right handle on it. It wouldn’t be an everyday writing pen for me, but it would be perfect for greeting cards or writing a thoughtful little note.

I’ve learnt that fountain pens are quite heavy and bleed-through could be an issue, but voila – no bleed-through here!

Lamy Fountain Pens NoteMaker

Of course, don’t forget I’m using high quality (but still affordable) writing paper from Life Stationery, so paper choice does need to be taken into consideration when choosing to write with a fountain pen. A great excuse to experiment with quality paper!

What I do also love about the LAMY Safari is the high-quality stainless steel nibs that are so easily +interchangeable. So, depending on the task at hand or even my mood, I can choose my writing style while still using a pen that’s all about function with some really good looks thrown in!

Kaweco Brass Sport Fountain Pens

The first thing to say about this Kaweco Brass Sport fountain pen is: first-class. The exceptional brass is heavyweight (44g!) and is Kaweco’s heaviest pen. I had to seek a bit of help from our in-house pen specialist with this one, expecting the nib to come off the same way as the LAMY Safari, but boy am I glad I found him.

Kaweco Brass Sport NoteMaker

The cap and barrel are manufactured in two complex processes to create this stunning piece of German engineering.

Kaweco Brass Sport NoteMaker

The first thing to do is pierce the D1 sized ink cartridge by turning it upside down – you’ll know it’s open when you hear the click. Then pop it back into the pen with the ink facing upward. Screw the barrel back on and change the nib accordingly by twisting it from the bottom of the nib. Give it a little shake to get the ink to flow through.

I’ve given the extra fine, medium and double broad a go.

Kaweco Brass NoteMaker

It might not look as though there is much difference between the extra fine and the medium on paper, but you can certainly feel the difference when writing. I found the extra fine a little bit scratchy, but this is because my “usual” way of writing is quite angular and italic. I keep finding myself twisting my wrist and realising in doing so I’m taking the full nib away from the paper, which contributes to that scratchy reaction.

The medium nib seems to be my preference so far, I feel comfortable with its boldness and the way it feels on the paper. Just out of curiosity, I took off the lid to see how it would hold, but I’m definitely not a fan. The pen sits at 10cm uncapped but gains .6 cm when capped, honestly it does make a significant difference to the sturdiness of the pen.

The double broad nib was a surprise – I could see myself pulling out this nib if I were to sign a professional certificate or document. It felt smooth and authoritative.

This fountain pen contains no lead in the formula of the brass, so the pen will age more like copper than regular brass. Slight colour variations occur naturally, and over time, the colour will deepen as the brass oxidises, creating a natural patina. Genius.

Kaweco Brass Sport NoteMaker

Kaweco Skyline Fountain Pens

Just for a bit of fun I picked up a colleague’s Kaweco Skyline fountain pen in HOT PINK.

Kaweco Skyline NoteMaker

Seriously, what a colour! It’s hot. I love the octagonal design, the twist-and-click mechanism and Kaweco’s slogan – ‘small in the pocket, large in the hand’, which is spot-on. Closed, the pen is just 10.5cm long and when open it’s 13.3cm, perfect for travel and in the handbag or pocket, as they say.

It’s simple, lightweight yet beautiful with clean lines and minimal adornments. The pen generally does not come with the clip, but you’ll be pleased to know our NoteMaker colleagues assemble this for you prior to sending it out, thanks team!

Personally, I think it looks much better with the clip, just giving it a bit of added embellishment while also being practical – if you do like to clip it loud and proud.

If you like to change it up we do have two different Kaweco slide-on clips available to purchase separately.

Kaweco Clip NoteMakerKaweco clip NoteMaker

The Skyline features the Kaweco logo in chrome-coloured metal on the end of the cap, which is a nice touch. The polished stainless steel nibs are made by Bock of Heidelberg and the pen can be refilled with standard international ink cartridges, such as those made by J. Herbin and Kaweco.

As soon as I put pen to paper I knew I was onto a new obsession – my first thought: smooth! The pen glistened over the page quicker than I knew what word I was about to write next, but I still felt as though I was in control. It simply flowed and I could not get over the colour appearing on the page.

Kaweco Skyline NoteMaker

I did my usual rub of the ink a few seconds after writing and it did smudge slightly, but that’s completely fine, the ink lends itself to being bold, prominent and polished, and if a few extra seconds of drying time is needed, I think it’s completely worth the patience.

The Kaweco Skyline is quite an affordable pen at $44.95 and from what I hear around NoteMaker HQ, it’s quite a respected range from Kaweco’s collection.

Kaweco Skyline NoteMaker

Kaweco Elite Fountain Pen

On a first glance, the Kaweco Elite is elegant, but also stylish and screams quality. A colleague had the Elite on their desk, but unfortunately, NoteMaker don’t stock this range. It’s certainly one to keep an eye out on. We do have a similar design in the Kaweco Elegance, which is absolutely gorgeous.

Kaweco Elegance NoteMaker

The pen is quite heavy at 38g and sits at 13.8cm capped. It’s well balanced, which makes for a comfortable writing position. The twist-mechanism also feels very secure and graceful.

One thing that stood out for me when I began to write with this pen was the heaviness. I do like to put the cap on the end of a pen when I write, but this lengthened the Elite to 18.4cm! I felt like I was losing a bit of control over my writing and decided to give it another go with the cap off.

Kaweco Elegance

You’ll have to ignore my error in scribing ‘Elegance’! My writing may not look too much different to the eye, but there was definitely a difference in the feel. Uncapped the pen decreases to 13.1cm and I was able to write in a much more controlled fashion. I really enjoy the sturdiness of this pen and the octagonal style on gloss feels sleek and professional.

The Elite requires a standard international ink cartridge and it does sit in a different class to the other fountain pens I’ve tried today, but it’s certainly worth the investment if you’re looking for a beautifully crafted and elegant fountain pen. Or, if you’re feeling generous enough, it would make a perfect gift for a friend.

Kaweco Elegance NoteMaker

The Kaweco range is certainly class with genius German engineering. It’s great to test them out and see what works best for you.

Kaweco pens NoteMaker

And, is there any bleed-through?

Kaweco pens NoteMaker

Nope! What a great range of pens to buy.

Pilot Pen Metropolitan Ballpoint Pen

Back to where I feel the most comfortable: ballpoints! We recently brought in a bit of retro pop to brighten our desks, officially known as the Pilot Metropolitan.

This pen certainly makes a great first impression. It has a classic style with a twist in its action and design, but it’s the colours in this range and the retro pattern that make it really stand out.

The ballpoint comes in four disco era provoking colours: violet, aqua, gold and red.

Pilot Metropolitan NoteMaker

I gave the Aqua ballpoint a go:

Pilot Metropolitan NoteMaker I cannot fault this pen; it’s sturdy and smooth to write with, as well as being quite comfortable in the hand. The matte finish feels professional and expensive, and at $29.95 you’ll feel as though it’s a steal! A great excuse to collect all four designs.

It’s a perfect pen for everyday use. It also comes in a gorgeous black gift box, so would make a great present, if you think you can let it go!

Pilot Metropolitan NoteMaker

The Metropolitan range is also available in gel/rollerball and fountain pen.

Pilot Metropolitan NoteMakerOverall, my first experience writing with a fountain pen and testing out the trusty ballpoint from Pilot has been great! I’m definitely driven toward the medium nib and absolutely loved the Kaweco Skyline (in hot pink!) as well as the Lamy Safari, which felt right at home when writing. I don’t think my testing days are over – I’m too spoilt for choice here! – but I’ll be certainly adding a few new pens to my collection. Stay tuned!

You may like to read this review by another team member on the Platinum Preppy Fountain Pen.

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