My Quest for the Ideal Pocket Pen

The second fountain pen I ever bought was a pocket pen. I'd started off with a Jinhao 250, bought off of Amazon, naturally enough. I was fascinated with the idea of a fountain pen but ended up hating that one. Way too heavy. So for my second one, I went in the opposite direction. I bought a Monteverde Poquito - and in a brick and mortar store no less.

I still have the Poquito. Not that I ever use it. I never got it to write in the first place. It was an expensive (to me at the time) disaster that nearly took me away from this hobby entirely. Thanks to bloggers and Goulet Pens, I took another risk and ordered a Pilot Metropolitan. The rest, as they say, is history.

But my quest for a perfect fountain pen was far from over.

Even had the Poquito been able to write, it is an absurdly tiny pen with an odd pointy cap. I was so new to fountain pens that I didn't even realize that one was supposed to post pocket pens, so I tried to write with just the body. I assume this would have led to hand cramping had I ever been able to get the thing to write. I can no longer blame its deficiency on my lack of knowledge either. I've cleaned it repeatedly, including with Goulet pen flush; I've tried flossing the tines, smoothing the nib; I've put in cartridges from different brands. This thing is a dud. Given that pocket pens, in my opinion, should be as reliable as can be, this experience was completely disheartening. While I continued to enjoy fountain pens, I gave up on pocket ones for many years.

Later I learned about the Pilot Petit1. Not super pretty, but definitely super cheap. Furthermore, as a Pilot, it was pretty much guaranteed to be a reliable writer. And that they most certainly are! I wrote part of the draft of this review with one that had been sitting inked up and unused for months -- no hesitation, no skipping. It wrote perfectly.

So why didn't my quest end there? Unfortunately, I kept losing them. I lost the first one the first day I carried it. See, they're so lightweight that you don't notice if they're still in your pocket or not, and that clip breaks if you look at it the wrong way. (I have a bad habit of fiddling with clips and tend to end up breaking most of the ones on my gel pens.) I kept ordering more because, again, they're dirt cheap. But after losing quite a few of these, I gave up on them as daily carries. I finally decided to spring for something more expensive and hopefully a bit more permanent.

And so I bought a Kaweco Sport - a Mint Skyline, to be precise. I'm sure that a few of you are wondering why my quest didn't start and stop with the Sport. So many people love and adore this pen. Some even collect all the colors. They think it's cute. Well, I think it's ugly. I was also worried about Kaweco's QC problems, but mine has always written fine. I just didn't like it. At all. In fact, it got to the point where I resented it every time I looked at it. It just wasn't what I wanted. Using it for months still did not dissipate my distaste for it.

But if the Sport wasn't good enough for me, what were my alternatives? I mulled over this conundrum for months. There simply aren't many alternatives to the Sport, and certainly not many affordable ones.

The Liliput and Supra have been well received, but neither have clips. Clips are a must-have for me. They keep my pen attached to my pocket notebook so that it doesn't get lost when I'm not carrying them around. Of course, the Sport doesn't have a clip either, but at least with it you can add on a clip. While not the most attractive clip in the world, it did get the job done. However, it also threw off the balance of the lightweight, plastic Sport. With it on, the Sport became so backheavy that it was virtually unusable posted. At any rate, Kaweco's other options were also out of the running.

Despite its lack of clip, the Pocket 6 remained a strong contender. The prospect of being able to easily swab nibs is certainly very appealing. They also come in such amazing colors. But the price, while reasonable for the craftsmanship, was more than I felt comfortable paying for a pen that had a high likelihood of getting lost.

Finally, I decided to take a risk and order an Ensso XS minimalist pen. Like most other pocket pens, its base model doesn't come with a clip, and the add-on clip was no longer listed on their website. When I emailed ensso about it though, they offered to add one free of charge to my order. I really wanted the plain aluminum one, but they only had the black one in stock. It would be my first stealth pen.

Honestly, I've never really seen the appeal of stealth pens, and, frankly, the black coating on the pen is, in my opinion, its greatest weakness. The finish on both the blacked-out nib and the body have already started to chip. The nib coating coming off is at least partially my fault. When I first inked up the pen, it wrote okay for a few lines and then faltered out. The tines were really close together - I ought to have checked for this issue with a loupe before inking it up, but I was impatient. I whipped out my brass sheets, began to floss the tines, and immediately chipped away some of the black coating. I freaked out and ran to FPGeeks for advice before deciding that it wasn't really a big deal. When I write with the pen, I can't really see that part of the nib. I can, however, still see some of the other places where the finish came off. The clip was so hard to get on and fits so tightly that it pulled off some of the coating on the faceted edges. This also really annoyed me. Having carried it around for a good few weeks now, it's picked up even more dings. I am trying to think of it as the pen weathering and becoming distinctively mine. It is such a great pen that that mindset will probably win out in the end.

It is a great pen. The body and cap are faceted - twelve sides - which gives it a very cool look and a great feel in the hand. I love faceted pens; it's one of the main appeals of my TWSBI Classic. The pen is also very true to its name. Branding is minimal. Most of all, this pen is most certainly extra small. It is unbelievably tiny when capped and thus fits into even the most pitifully small women's pockets. It's a snap cap, which I really prefer. Pocket pens should be able to deploy as quickly as possible, and screw caps are an obstacle in that regard. I've never had the pen uncap in my pocket. It also posts very nicely and securely. When posted, it essentially doubles in size. The clip is not the strongest in the world, but it does do what I ask it to. And after a quick bit of work, the pen writes very well and very consistently. I've never since had it dry out. I've left it uncapped during hour-long meetings, only taking occasional notes, and it wrote without any problems the whole time.

So while the ensso still isn't perfect, it's close enough to perfect for me. My quest is now over.