I promised you pen reviews, and I’m damn well going to follow up on that promise! And what better way than with the very pen I use to write most of the material you’ve been reading on this blog for the past… six months? Maybe more. I don’t remember. Anyway, I’m no professional. I’m just a dude who likes to write with pens and wants to share that joy with the rest of the world. Any reviews I post are strictly my own opinion, and I’m not working off any kind of special rubric or anything. If you want something more formalized and knowledgeable I can direct you to a number of pen/ink/stationery review sites that would be far better. But if you want the honest opinion of an amateur pen addict, you’ve come to the right place.
The Platinum Preppy is a fairly unassuming entry level fountain pen. By which I mean it’s ideal for people interested in seeing what a fountain pen is like, but not committed enough yet to drop more money on one than they might a regular pen. You can get a Preppy for $3 on JetPens, which is basically the go-to stationery website, or for more than that on Amazon (which is what I did because I’m not very intelligent and didn’t think to check if it was cheaper on JetPens). They’re cheap, they’re made of plastic, they have stainless steel nibs (for comparison, higher end fountain pens might have gold, gold-plated, or iridium nibs, for instance; steel is the cheapest around). They’re also cartridge fillers, which is common especially with budget fountain pens, because it’s easy to just put a cartridge in rather than go through the process of bottle filling — and you can also carry extra cartridges with you, if you want, whereas most people aren’t going to be carrying a bottle of ink around. So basically, this is about as low-end as you can go without becoming a disposable like the Pilot Varsity.
Let me note now that this isn’t a bad thing. It’s important that we have cheap but quality instruments to ease people into the world of fountain pens. If “low-end” meant the Pilot Metropolitan, which is a $15+ entry level fountain pen, then a lot of people would never take the dive and try a fountain. Yes, the Metro is worth that much for sure, but someone who’s never used a fountain pen wouldn’t think so. It’s entry level when it comes to the wider world of collecting — and that’s the unanimous decision of the fountain pen using community, mind you, you start with a Metro or a Lamy Safari — but it’s not very friendly, cost-wise, toward people who’ve never even touched a fountain pen.
But we’re not even here to talk about the base version of the Preppy. You needed to know that stuff so you know what kind of pen this is, but I’m not reviewing a simple cartridge filler. This goes beyond that.
You see, the Preppy isn’t popular just because it’s a solid, cheap starting pen. That’s certainly true and certainly one of the reasons it’s popular. But for more advanced writers, and in particular for fans of ink who tend towards longer writing sessions, there’s a more interesting reason to get a Preppy. The Preppy is perfectly designed for conversion into an eyedropper.
If you don’t know what that means, you’re either: a) not a fountain pen person, b) not yet well-versed in the fountain pen world, or c) weren’t paying attention to my last post on writing instruments where I linked to a post that talked about eyedropper pens. That post uses a Preppy for this process, as does this one on JetPens, which is the one I followed when I made mine (though it’s the same process, just more detailed). Basically, you’re directly filling the barrel of your pen with ink; this gives you the maximum amount of time between refills, so you can write more without filling up as often. The Preppy has two basic properties that make it idea for this conversion, aside from its low cost: the are no openings in the barrel for ink to leak out of, and it’s clear, so you can see the ink reserve and also how pretty it looks all filled with colorful ink. The conversion is a very simple process, and even including the cost of ink on top of the pen, silicone grease, and o-rings, it’s very cost effective, and comes out cheaper than a lot of mid-range fountain pens — it should be under $30 if you don’t get super expensive materials or really high-end ink.
For those of you too lazy to click a link I’ll give a quick run-down of the steps (I happened to have my old, non-eyedropper Preppy handy and empty for this little demonstration), but if you want to do it yourself, you’ll have a better time with one of those links up there. But basically, you need to know a couple of basic things about fountain pen anatomy — namely what a “section” and “barrel” are. The former is the part with the grip, nib, and feed; the latter is the rest of the body of the pen.
You’re going to want to put an o-ring on the section, down past the threads. I didn’t put the o-ring on it, because I’m not converting this one, but I did snap a shot to show you roughly where the o-ring should end up.
The, in an optional but recommended step (for leak protection, you see), you rub silicone grease over those threads. Ink leaks aren’t incredibly likely under normal circumstances, but there’s no reason to chance it. I didn’t do this step because, again, I’m not converting this particular pen and so have no reason to waste materials and get everything all greasy. Lastly, you have to fill the barrel with your ink of choice. The highest you should go is the bottom of the threads on the barrel as marked by my thumbnail here:
I personally use syringes designed for filling computer ink cartridges when I’m filling an eyedropper or hand filling an empty cartridge to reuse it with new ink. But you can fill an eyedropper pen with an actual eyedropper or some other suction tool that works with liquid. Whatever works for you.
Despite the fact that this is a cheap pen, and I do own the arguably higher-quality Pilot Metropolitan, my Preppy is my go-to fountain pen these days. I’m not even sure if there’s ink in my Metro, to be entirely honest. It’s not that I don’t like my Metro anymore; quite the opposite, in fact, and I’m planning on reviewing that one as well. But I don’t know what it is about the Preppy that’s been drawing me so much more strongly than anything else these days. Maybe it’s because I converted it to an eyedropper, so it feels more special than just an out-of-the-box pen. Maybe it’s because I keep it loaded with purple ink, which is just fantastic to write with. Maybe it’s because it has such a massive ink capacity compared to any cartridge or converter filler, period.
The Preppy is not without it’s problems, mind you. It’s not the most ergonomic pen — it’s basically just a straight plastic cylinder. So during longer writing sessions it can start to cause some discomfort. There does seem to be a very particular sweet spot on the nib, and some days I just can’t get it and spend a lot of time writing with an inconsistent and lighter-than-usual line. At those times the writing doesn’t feel very smooth, as if I’m trying to write with a dry nib. But most of time I don’t have any trouble, and I chalk a lot of it up to the position I’m sitting in when I’m trying to write. I don’t think I’ve ever had any hard starts or really any trouble with the pen not writing immediately after uncapping it. As long as it’s not a case of being in a poor position, the line is dark, wet, and consistent. It’s a medium nib, so unless I’m using paper that causes a lot of feathering (where the ink spreads into the page and makes a much thicker line that “feathers” out into the paper), I don’t have issues of writing being hard to read because of lines blending together. Any illegibility is due to my own incompetence when it comes to my handwriting. I made sure to write extra carefully for the writing sample below, so that you could all read it and get a feel for how the pen writes.
I don’t think that the sample there really does the color of the ink justice, but there are plenty of ink reviews that do a better job of showing off the colors than I could ever do with my limited equipment and lack of knowledge/skill in that area. But you can get a feel for how the pen writes at least.
Ultimately, the Preppy isn’t going to be anyone’s grail pen, but at least for the time being, it’s topping my (admittedly short) list of favorite fountain pens. It provides a cheap and pleasant writing experience, and the fact that it’s perfect for conversion to an eyedropper means it makes for a great, cheap DIY project that’s both useful and can provide a lot of joy, as well as greatly enhancing the utility of the pen. A Preppy is not a purchase you’re likely to regret, whether you want it for an eyedropper or cartridge filler. If you’re looking to get into fountain pens, it’s a perfect, cheap place to start, and it’s certainly a better, more financially sound, and more eco-friendly option than something disposable like the Pilot Varsity, or the fountain pen BiC briefly put on the market as its competition.
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