Top 5 Workhorse Pens for Season 4

Sometimes, people just want a pen–one pen–that is high quality, writes like a champ, and will last a lifetime. They’re willing to pay a good sum of money for that pen, and they want it to be special (but not so special/unique that losing or having it stolen would be debilitating.)

These are some of my personal favorites in what I call the “Daily Writer” or “Workhorse” category. In the past, I have put a strict price limit on pens in this category. This year I didn’t, but still tried to keep it down to what I consider a reasonable level.

Honorable Mention: Delta Fusion 82

The Delta Fusion 82 is an interesting pen and a truly fantastic writer. But there are a couple of reasons that this pen is listed in the honorable mention section. There is, of course, a fair bit of marketing ooga-booga going on with the “fusion” nib, which I talk about in-depth in my review. The larger (potential) issue is financial trouble in which Delta is rumored to find itself. Stock levels have dipped significantly across the world, and there is a fair bit of scuttlebutt around the community about the possibility of closure of the Italian manufacturer. So, if you can find this pen, it really is a great daily writer. But finding it will become more and more difficult as time goes on.

#5: Diplomat Aero
(Down from #2)

When the US distributor for Diplomat Pens, Points of Distinction, offered a pen to me to review and give away, I was immediately drawn to the Aero, a Zeppelin-shaped pen feature a unique, modern design and a wonderful textured anodized finish. It’s a cool looking pen, made cooler by some of their other colors like brown and the recently-released bright orange. But for my money, Diplomat’s steel nibs are consistently some of the very best on the market. Rugged construction, the heft of metal without the slipperiness of a glossy finish, cool design, and a dreamy nib: that’s a great combination.

4. Edison Menlo ($350)
New this year

The Edison Menlo is the most expensive pen on this list. At $350, it will be considered over the price line for a “daily writer.” However, the pen’s shape, weight, size, fit in the hand, and nib combine to create a pen that is a real joy to use for longer-form writing. And as this is one of Edison’s signature line of pens, the price also includes your choice of hundreds of possible materials. My Menlo contains one of Edison’s Pump Fillers, a modern recreation of the Parker Vacumatic fillers which allows for a large ink capacity. Edison recently announced a different filling mechanism: the draw filler. This new filling system helps keep the ink capacity of a pump filler while doing away with the latex diaphragm, which is prone to failure. (Were I to get a new one of these, I’d get it with a draw filler.) Brian Gray has also studied with renown nibmeister, Richard Binder, and is now certified to offer “binderized” nibs for a really superb writing experience.

#3: Lamy 2000 ($156)
New this year

The Lamy 2000 (also know as the L2K) is one of the most recommended pens for people looking to step up from entry-level to workhorse, and with good reason. The design celebrated it’s 60th anniversary this year, and its midcentury modern look is so iconic it’s featured in the MOMA. It’s also a killer pen. The German manufacturer is going through some turbulence at the moment (questionable product decisions, a rumored realignment of it’s international distribution chain), but that doesn’t change the fact that they make high-quality pens. The L2K’s semi-hooded nib and slip-top cap make this an excellent note-taking pen. It has a generous ink capacity and ink window to keep track of remaining ink levels. And the brushed Makrolon finish feels spectacular in the hand and is very durable. At under $200, this is one of the best daily writers on the market.

#2: Platinum 3776
Up from #3

I’ve made no secret of the fact that I think Platinum’s pens are seriously underappreciated in the modern fountain pen community. Part of that stems, I think, from the fact that they’re a little on the boring side from a design perspective. Like many Japanese companies, Platinum subscribes to the understated ethos that is common in that part of the world for all but the highest-tier pens (which are decorated to perfection by incredible artisans). Where Diplomat makes some of the best steel nibs on the market, I believe that Platinum’s nibs are some of the best gold nibs on the market. Perfectly tuned and deadly consistent, they are great for those people who like a toothy, pencil-like experience, but they also polish to a beautiful, smooth, glossy writer. And if you’re a lover of very fine nibs, you’re not going to find many stock nibs finer than Platinum’s UEF nib. And due to Platinum’s Slip ‘n Seal mechanism, they claim their pens will write up to two years after being inked. They’re comfortable, solidly made, and will write every time. And depending on the source, they can be had for a very affordable price.

#1: Pilot Custom 823
New this year

These days, it’s pretty rare when a pen crosses my desk and completely knocks me off my feet. Usually, when I buy a pen, I feel like I have a pretty good idea ahead of time what I’m getting. The Pilot Custom 823 was one of those that knocked me flat on my backside the first time I put nib to paper. This pen is a darling among pen bloggers, and I finally understand why. The large 14k nib is really smooth, nicely wet (without being overly so), and mildly bouncy. The shape of the pen in the hand is spectacular. The vacuum filling system means the pen has a crazy ink capacity. And like pretty much every Pilot pen ever made, the attention to detail is top-notch. I switch pens and inks a LOT. This pen has been inked and in use almost non-stop since I bought it several months ago. Even my beloved Classic Pens LB5s can’t say as much.



  • john

    Thank you as always for a very informative video. I checked out the Platinum Century 3776 on ebay as you suggested and found some sellers that are not including the converter. Is this something that you have experienced in purchasing this item from ebay and other sellers.

    Thanks again looking forward to your opinion on this matter

    • Robert Dašek

      FYI, none of my three 3776s came with a converter. It doesn’t appear that most retailers offer these pens with a converter anymore.

    • David

      All of my 3776 Century pens came with a Platinum converter and a cartridge in the box. I bought all my 3776C pens (I have several) from Engeika in Japan (Google it). Unfortunately however, it seems Taizo San at Engeika carries relatively stock these days. Long ago, my first 3776C fountain pen came from Engeika not only with a converter and cartridge, but also with a small plastic adapter piece that would allow you to use a standard International cartridge in the pen instead of a proprietary Platinum refill. Alas, it seems those little plastic converters have disappeared now. It is not uncommon for dubious fountain pen resellers to remove the converters from the boxes as they come from the factory and force their buyers to purchase them separately at a hefty mark-up. However, without more evidence I can’t say if this generally the case these days with the Platinum 3776C pens or not.

  • I recently got a 3776 and I wanted to first say it is great, and second share something I hope others find useful. It works great for editing and markup. Get it with UEF Nib and you can write in between lines. Plus the slip and seal mechanism makes sure it doesn’t dry out despite getting much less use than your everyday writers.

    I also had a fairly minor question I thought someone might be able to help with. I currently have a Pilot CH 92 which I love in just about every way but one, it is too narrow for me. Would you say the 823 would be a good replacement or would you suggest something else?

    • Robert Dašek

      From my experience, the 823 grip is about a millimeter thicker than the 92 grip. Not a huge difference, but can be significant in terms of comfort.

      • Thanks, that is actually quite helpful.

  • Hannah Malcolm

    Thank you for your videos and blog. Pilot Custom 823 has become my grail pen, thanks to your review, and I’m really hoping that I can afford it by the time I begin the writing of my dissertation. I’m really looking forward to Season Five!

    Slightly random question, how do you choose the inks for your writing samples in the pen reviews? I’ve been going through old Goulet Q&As, and he really emphasizes finding the perfect pen-ink combo, but most reviewers I follow don’t seem to think that this is all that vital.

    Thanks again!

  • Robert Dašek

    Your end of season video posts are my favorite and I look forward to watching them months in advance. I find them so extremely useful, more so than reviews of individual pens, because they have the element of comparison in them after you’ve had a chance to use the pens for a while. In so saying, I’m not trying to diminish the usefulness of single pen reviews at all, they definitely have their place and purpose.

    I find all your work to be high quality and very enjoyable. Thank you so much!

  • David

    You said w.r.t. the Pilot Custom Heritage (CH) 823: “I switch pens and inks a LOT.”

    Well there’s a better Pilot CH pen than the CH 823 for ease of cleaning when switching inks – the CH 743. In-fact I think the CH 743 is better than the CH 823 for a lot of reasons, especially if the pen is your daily workhorse:

    1. The CH 743 is essentially the same pen as the CH 823 in size and shape. But instead of being a fiddly complex vacuum filler, the CH 743 is an easy to clean and maintain C/C filler.

    2. Unlike the CH 823, there’s NO filler knob that needs to be unscrewed on the CH 743 just to keep the pen writing.

    3. There are MANY nib types available for the CH 743 that Pilot does NOT normally offer on the CH 823; which is crazy because both pens use the same Pilot #15 size nib. In-fact the nibs are interchangeable. If you like some flex try an FA nib in your CH 743. Like pointy-fine nibs that are smooth? Try the PO nib. At last count I saw fourteen (14) different nib options for the CH 743, while the CH 823 normally comes with only three (F, M, & B).

    4. The CH 743 has a robust opaque black resin cap and barrel. The clear CH 823 has a reputation for cracking, especially during disassembly and reassembly, which is needed periodically for cleaning the vacuum filler (especially if you change inks).

    5. The CH 743 is usually a little less expensive than the CH 823. The CH 743 goes for around $190-$210 USD when purchased Japan-direct online (something you must do because for some inexplicable reason, Pilot will not allow the CH 743 to normally be sold elsewhere). The CH 823 goes for around $210-$220 online Japan-direct. Remember, always buy high-end Pilot pens direct from Japan, they are hugely over-priced otherwise.

    Conclusion: The CH 823 is a great “show-off” demonstrator fountain pen; vac-filler and all. But as a real hard working and dependable daily-user, I think the CH 743 beats the CH 823 hand-down. I know – I own both pen models.

  • Elvis Mystérieux

    I like your recent “Top 5” videos. This one pleasantly surprised me because I actually have a couple of them, and I like them all.
    The Pilot 823 is especially nice to use and the nib is particularly nice.
    The Lamy 2000 is just such a cool pen and a nice writer. If I didn’t know its history I would still have purchased one and loved it.
    The Edison Menlo is gorgeous and is pleasant to use, but there are, at least for me, disqualifying aspects: my gasket has failed, the pen was delivered with a defective nib, and it was made usable grudgingly. Not what I expected for a “custom” pen of this price.

  • Peter Hermina

    I wish someone reviews the Pilot 845 and gives the respect it deserves