First off, I want to thank Pen Chalet for giving me the opportunity to review the Platinum Balance fountain pen pictured in this post. It’s a pen that wasn’t previously on my radar, and I’m glad to give my honest perspective of it after using if for a few weeks.
The Platinum Balance is at a price point (around $50 retail) that is ideal for someone who’s had their first fountain pen for a little while1 and is ready to step up to something of higher quality, but not ready to spend high double, or even triple digits, for a writing instrument. If you love the look and style of the Platinum Balance, and you find a deal in your price comfort zone, I’ll go on record as saying it would make a good first fountain pen.
Platinum is a Japanese pen maker that has been in the pen business for almost a century. They make a wide range of pens— from the super-inexpensive Preppy (I’m a big fan!) to the super-pricey President (maybe one of these days). The Balance is an entry-level Platinum and is an excellent way to get into the brand at a reasonable price.
I was sent the Cool Blue version of the Platinum Balance with a medium nib. Before I actually held the pen in my hands, I had a feeling I wouldn’t think the Platinum Balance was going to be worth its price. I didn’t have it out of the package very long before I knew my suspicions were way off.
Unboxing The Platinum Balance (or The Section You Can Skip)
The Platinum Balance comes in a very simple package. It’s not going to win any packaging awards, but it’s completely appropriate for a pen in its price range.
The package is a plain plastic case with an outer cardboard sheath. Nestled with the pen in the box is a single Platinum ink cartridge (blue-black in my case), the Platinum information/cool Japanese writing booklet, and a Platinum converter with its unfortunate gold trim (more on this abomination later). The converter is in its own tiny box, and the pen and cartridge are in tiny plastic baggies.
I appreciate this kind of economical packaging. It’s about as streamlined and no-nonsense as it could be. . . It serves its purpose well and is the opposite of exorbitant. Don’t get me wrong though— if I ever get a “really Mark, you’re spending that much on a fountain pen” fountain pen, I’ll expect Pulp Fiction briefcase-quality packaging.
Appearance & Design
When I first saw the Cool Blue version of the Platinum Balance I have in photos online, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. It just seemed out of my conservative comfort zone. Well, consider my horizon broadened— the translucent blue looks fantastic.
The body, section, and cap are all the same translucent blue glossy acrylic. The feed is even translucent which is a nice touch, and looks different depending on the color of ink in the pen. The pen body has some inner facets that transition to some ridges at the end of the pen. These simple additions look great and enhance the character of the pen.
The shape of the Platinum Balance is wonderful. I’m a fan of the rounded ends. The silver trim is a perfect pairing with the translucent blue. “Platinum” is in a simple silver font next to “Japan” in raised small clear letters above the chrome ring at the end of the cap. The addition of a subtle inner line within the perimeter of the clip adds some depth to what would otherwise be a too-plain clip. This is a great-looking pen.
However, two poor design decisions detract from the overall look of this pen— the white inner sleeve in the “slip and seal” cap, and the hideous gold converter. The cap and converter get their own sections in this review, so read on for more about these. One can be “corrected”, and the one that can’t isn’t really so bad in the end. To be continued.
Fit & Finish
From the first moment I held the Platinum Balance, I was impressed with how it felt. To me, it just feels like a higher quality pen than its modest price would indicate. It’s a plastic (acrylic resin) pen, but it feels solid. Photos of this pen can’t really convey the tactile quality of this pen.
I couldn’t find a seam anywhere on this pen. It’s so well put together, and while any fountain pen is a sum of its parts, I discovered when I disassembled the pen that the parts themselves seem to be of excellent quality (I’ll get into disassembly later).
I took the photos for this post on a windy day, and the pen fell twice from a tabletop height to my artificial wood deck. It suffered no ill effects. The Platinum Balance is a sturdy pen.
The “Slip & Seal” Cap (or My Favorite Part)
The snap-on cap of the Platinum Balance definitely deserves special mention for a few reasons— even the one thing that’s not so good doesn’t change my opinion that it’s my favorite part of the pen.
Platinum uses something they call a “slip and seal” mechanism for their caps which keeps an airtight seal around the business end of the pen. They claim you can leave ink in a pen for a long time without any worry of ink drying. They even use a version of this mechanism for their screw-on caps. I think the “slip and seal” cap is a significant feature of the pen and adds true value. It places Platinum higher on my “brands to pay attention to” list. What’s nice with the translucent Platinum Balance is you can see the inner sleeve in the cap in action creating the airtight seal. I’m not one to go through the ink in a fountain pen too fast, so I really like this feature.
Another thing about the cap of the Platinum Balance is that it’s not of the screw-on type. I don’t hate screw-on caps by any stretch, but a snap-on cap makes the pen more conducive to how I use a fountain pen at work. I take lots of quick notes at work, so the couple of seconds less it takes to slip the cap on and off compared to unscrewing and screwing on a cap makes me more likely to use it— at least until I get a retractable fountain pen2.
It’s also worth pointing out how fantastic the cap sounds when it’s put on the pen. For some reason, I find the “snap” sound it makes very satisfying. To me, it’s another testament to the high build quality of the pen. It sounds so solid. I wonder if the cap fit and “snap” will change with use as the pen ages— I hope not. It’s a wonderful part of this pen.
As much as I love the snap-on cap, Platinum’s decision to make the inner sleeve/cap (that makes the seal) white was initially disappointing. Since the cap is translucent, the white inner cap is very evident. Honestly, it does subtract some points from the overall look of the pen. At first, it really bugged me, and I couldn’t wrap my head around Platinum’s decision. A clear material for this part of the pen seemed like such an obvious choice.
After using the Balance for some time though, I finally figured out why Platinum went with a solid color for the inner cap. Little droplets of ink start to (very) slowly accumulate on the inner wall of the internal cap. Considering the “slip and seal” mechanics, a non-transparent material is a good choice since this feature may be an important reason someone buys this pen, and it may be awhile between cleanings and ink refills. This pen has the potential to be capped for a long time. So, I’m fine with the white inner cap. It’s a “lesser of evils” situation, and to me, more preferable than seeing ink droplets through a clear inner cap. A light blue material would look awesome, but I get the poor logistics of making a different colored inner cap for all the transparent Platinum Balance options (the others are clear and rose).
Cartridge or Converter?
There are two easy options for filling a Platinum Balance with ink: using a proprietary Platinum ink cartridge or the included Platinum converter.
I opted to bypass the cartridge and go straight for the converter and fill it with one of my favorite black inks, Sailor Kiwa-Guro (Nano Black). It worked very well, and I got a good fill without any issues. The converter inserts into the feed without hassle (just like a cartridge) and has a secure fit.
Both filling methods for the Platinum Balance are very straightfoward and non-intimidating. Filling the pen via the converter was a simple process, and I think even a brand new fountain pen user would have success.
The only problem with the Platinum converter is the color. . .
Saving The Ugly Converter
It was nice of Platinum to include a converter with the Balance. It’s a piece of cake to use, and it seems like it will last for lot and lots of refills.
. . . But it’s gold.
In my opinion, a gold converter used with a translucent pen that has silver trim looks bad. Very bad. It seems that Platinum doesn’t offer another converter, so gold is it.
Update: I was informed by Ron at Pen Chalet that Platinum makes a black converter. That would look much (much!) better. Platinum people, if you’re reading this. . . please consider including the black converter with this pen.
Update #2: Ok, so I really should’ve investigated further. . . It looks like Platinum does offer a silver-trimmed converter. Special thanks to Jon Bemis for his comment with this wonderful news and product link. 🙂
There is a way to fix this fountain pen crime though, and it seems easy enough. Keep in mind that I’ve yet to try this, but if I hold on to this pen, I will without a doubt take corrective action. After a little digging on the internet, I discovered that the gold plating on the converter is ultra thin and easily rubs right off with something only slightly abrasive (like Micromesh) to reveal a nice silver surface underneath. Doing this process can only result in a much better looking pen.
The Disassembly & Super Cleanse
Another awesome feature of the Platinum Balance is that it can be completely disassembled. There’s just a few simple steps:
- Unscrew the body from the section threads.
- Remove the cartridge or converter (empty the converter first).
- Unscrew the metal threaded piece from the section.
- There’s a little metal ring that’s part of the metal threaded assembly- Don’t lose it!
- Push the nib and feed through the section piece.
- The nib can then be removed from the feed.
Taking apart a Platinum Balance is very easy and allows for a thorough cleaning. This is especially important for a translucent Platinum Balance since the section and feed are in constant contact with ink. Getting access to these translucent parts for cleaning is crucial to maintaining the wonderful aesthetic of this pen.
Writing & Doodling (With My First Japanese Medium Nib)
My Platinum Balance came with a medium nib, and wow, it’s smooth. It’s the smoothest nib I’ve ever used. Using this pen with with Rhodia or Clairefontaine paper is the “writing on glass” experience I had only read about before this pen came into my life.
I really should disclose my frame of reference. This is only the second Japanese medium nib I’ve ever used (a Pilot Metropolitan was my first). I prefer a fine line, and I entered the fountain pen world as a micro-tip gel-ink pen user (0.3 mm to 0.4 mm), so my fountain pen purchases (besides the Metropolitan) have all been of the fine and extra fine variety. I even had a German EF nib ground down to a Japanese EF size (0.2 mm) to suit my preference.
However, I found myself enjoying the medium nib in the Platinum Balance. It provides a satisfying writing experience, and I probably would like it even more if my primary writing style were cursive (I’m still not there yet folks). As I tested the pen with various writing exercises, I found myself drawing and doodling as much as putting words on the page. It feels right in my hand whether it’s posted or unposted.
For the Platinum Balance to be an “everyday writer” for me, I would definitely need the fine nib, and I like it so much, and it’s such a great value, it’s a contender for a future purchase. It’s not just the width of the nib, but to me the nib is relatively wetter than I’m used to, and it seems to have a tiny bit of flex. I tend to write small, so with my normal handwriting, my notes were a bit of a mess. However, when I slowed down and wrote larger, I was pleased with the result.
As a side note, I see why my ink preferences have never ventured beyond blacks and blue-blacks. . . I’ve never been able to really see the ink with my usual tiny-tipped nibs.
For a (slightly) better representation of the writing sample, here is a PDF of the scanned document.
Even though the medium nib isn’t really for me as a writer, it’s just a personal preference. I loved drawing with this pen. . . It was a blast using something other than my usual pens and pencils.
If you’re a fan of broader nibs, I think the Platinum Balance is worth considering. I was impressed with the pen’s quality, and it looks stellar. It seems like a more expensive pen than it is.
Besides the cool blue translucent color and overall build quality, my absolute favorite single thing about the Platinum Balance is the “slip and seal” snap-on cap. I love this feature, and in my opinion, this gives the Platinum Balance an edge in its price category.
Pen Chalet, who provided the Platinum Balance for this review, has several versions of the pen for $42.40 (as of this post date), which is 20% off the retail price of $53.00. Using a coupon code (such as “penaddict”) can reduce the price another 10%, bringing it down to $38.16. In my opinion, that’s a great value.
Disclaimer: I think I’ve been transparent in the post, but just to be clear, I received this pen for no cost from Pen Chalet in exchange for my honest opinions about it and a link back to their site. The result of those opinions is this (lengthy) post.