For my first fountain pen post, I’m going to review and tell the story about my first “real” fountain pen— The Pelikan M205. Prior to the Pelikan M205, the only fountain pens I had used were the Platinum Preppy and Pilot Petit1. They are great inexpensive fountain pens and a low-cost (less than $5) way to try a fountain pen and various nib sizes.
Don’t get me wrong, the Platinum Preppy and Pilot Petit1 are very real fountain pens, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. However, if you find yourself enjoying the fountain pen experience like I did, they will merely be gateway pens to much nicer and much more expensive pens. That was definitely the case for me. The Pelikan M205 was my first fountain pen purchase that I had to seriously think over and decide if I should spend the money it cost.
Before I bought any fountain pens, I was using gel ink pens, with the occasional ballpoint thrown in the mix. Those were the early days of my renewed interest in analog writing tools that started with the discovery of the The Pen Addict blog, and the subsequent accumulation of stationery blogs in my feed reader. Listening to the Pen Addict podcast soon followed— I looked forward to (and still do) Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley’s weekly show as much as the latest episode of Breaking Bad (now Walking Dead).
As much as I was reading and listening to Mr. Dowdy (“King of the Enablers”) and enjoying my low-cost fountain pens, it was inevitable I would take the plunge and get a “not inexpensive” fountain pen. The Preppy, Petit1, and the Pilot Varsity1 are ideal starting pens, and I recommend them for someone curious about fountain pens. Just be prepared for the potential path you’re headed down– you could end up having a blog about pens.
Fountain Pen Journey: Phase Two
The next step (or for some, the first step) in one’s fountain pen journey involves getting a better quality and better looking fountain pen that involves spending “real” money. There’s usually some research and thought put into this purchase— it’s (usually) not an impulsive “add to cart” decision when you’re perusing your favorite online pen retailer. I was very ready to finally move beyond low-priced fountain pens to something better.
Two fountain pens come up more than any others as recommendations as the first “proper” fountain pen to get: the Pilot Metropolitan and Lamy Safari. I’ve never used a Safari, but I have a Metropolitan, and I love it. It’s a fantastic fountain pen, and when you consider the price (about $15), it’s amazing. It’s an ideal first “real” fountain pen, and it’s the one I recommend for first time buyers. The Metropolitan is such a good value, I would even argue it’s worth bypassing cheaper alternatives to start with such a high-quality pen. It’s advice I heard and read myself, but I didn’t listen. My Pilot Metropolitan was my second fountain pen. I don’t recommend you do what I did.
A Sweet Deal
I tend to be a very indecisive person, particularly when it comes to spending a good chunk of money. I knew I was ready to up my fountain pen game, but I couldn’t decide between the Pilot Metropolitan and Lamy Safari. Then one day while I was listening to the Pen Addict podcast, Myke Hurley read an ad for Pen Chalet, and they were having a special deal on the Pelikan M205. It was 50% off the retail price of $195, and there was an additional 10% off when using the “penaddict” code at checkout. To top it off, US shipping was free.
A pen I had read numerous positive reviews about, and a brand I had only dreamed of owning, that normally retailed for almost $200 was available for. . . $87.75. I couldn’t get to the Pen Chalet website fast enough— and then I froze in indecision for a bit. Although it was much more than I expected to spend for my first fountain pen, I just couldn’t pass on it. It was the perfect opportunity to get an entry-level Pelikan in a style I loved. I ordered the black model with an extra fine (EF) nib, and I anxiously awaited for it to arrive.
While the Pen Chalet deal, and the potential of them selling out of the EF nib I wanted, gave me the internal green light to purchase the Pelikan M205, it wasn’t my only motivation. I really wanted a Pelikan. The reviews I had read and pictures I saw put a Pelikan at the top of my fountain pen wish list. To me, a Pelikan just seemed like the total package. They look great, they’re made by a company with a rich history, and their branding is perfect. There are steel-nibbed piston fillers for less money. . . but they’re not Pelikans. There’s just something special about them.
I always thought the discussion of packaging in pen reviews was extraneous. However, after buying my Pelikan, I get it. Even though I will put the box away and never look at it, I wanted the packaging to reflect the price I paid. I feel it did. The pen came in a very nice hinged box with some sort of silk-like interior. There’s a loop that securely holds the pen in place, and a small Pelikan pamphlet under the removable pen tray. It’s not fancy or overdone, and I would be very pleased if I had bought the pen to present to someone as a gift.
Appearance & Design
The Pelikan M205 is a beautiful pen. It may be boring to some, but it’s classic and understated design appealed to me. I opted for the black version, but it also comes in red, white, and taupe. The pairing of the glossy black plastic (resin) body and chrome trim and nib looks awesome. There’s a chrome ring at the top of the cap that has (what I call) the black logo button and clip attached. The end of the cap is adorned with a chrome ring that has the words “Pelikan” and “Germany” on opposing sides. There’s another chrome ring where the piston-filler knob meets the pen body. The only parts of the pen that aren’t black or chrome are the metallic silver Pelikan logo and translucent ink window that has a “smoked” appearance.
One initial observation I had is that it wasn’t as big as I was expecting. I really didn’t have much of a frame of reference, but I just had this image of a bigger pen. Now that I have a few more fountain pens in my collection, I can say the Pelikan M205 actually is a relatively small fountain pen. After using it for a long time now, I realize I had nothing to worry about. The size and length of the pen is no issue at all. For me the pen is comfortable to use posted (14.9 cm) or unposted (12.1 cm).
Another thing I noticed were two plastic seams on opposite sides of the grip section. In my opinion, for a pen that retails at almost $200, there should be a higher standard of quality. They aren’t very visible, but they can be felt while holding the pen. It’s certainly not a deal breaker, but I was a little disappointed.
As silly as it sounds, the Pelikan logo on the end of the cap was a contributing factor to being attracted to the M205. I love the Pelikan logo. It’s not a status thing— I’m just a huge fan of (what I think is) well designed and effective branding. The logo consists of a parent and child pelican (my interpretation) in the water looking at each other, and to me it’s beautiful. It enhances the pen in my eyes. It’s definitely my favorite pen company logo. In my opinion, if a logo can look fantastic, and get an emotional response, they’re doing something very right. I do worry a little the logo may rub off after years of use, but I’m hopeful it will stay put.
The Pelican’s Beak
The clip of the Pelikan M205 demonstrates another cool design signature. The chrome clip is in the shape of a pelican’s beak. It looks fantastic. It’s subtle enough that if you handed the pen to someone who didn’t know the brand’s features, I don’t think they would notice it right away (if at all).
The clip is not only great looking, but it’s very functional. It’s not to tight or too loose and has clipped to everything I’ve tried with no issues. Most importantly, it slides in and out of my Nock Co. Lookout Three-Pen Holster and clips to the case with ease. Pelikan did a brilliant job designing the end of the clip. It has a smooth rounded “bulb” at the end, and it’s turned up at a subtle angle that enables it to slide over stuff with minimal friction.
A Window With A View
Another feature of the Pelikan M205 is the translucent ink window just beyond the threads in the body of the pen. It looks awesome, and being a piston filler, is a necessity. Whereas fountain pens that use cartridges and converters2 can simply be unscrewed to check the ink status, it’s not possible with a piston filler. I think Pelikan created the perfect solution. The ink window is smoke colored, so it doesn’t detract from the classic aesthetic of the pen at all. I think they enhanced the look of the pen while adding a required feature.
Filling & Cleaning
Filling a Pelikan M205 via the piston mechanism is a breeze. However, I admit to watching a YouTube video to make sure I didn’t ruin my brand new pen. I realize now I was being very overcautious, but I was super paranoid since I had never spent that kind of money on a pen.
Inking up the pen is very simple— turn the piston knob counterclockwise to push the internal piston in, dip the nib in a bottle of ink, and then turn the piston knob clockwise to pull the piston back and ink into the pen. I recommend pulling a little ink in and expelling it, and then filling the pen all the way. This will help remove any potential air bubbles. That’s just my technique— it’s certainly not essential. It’s also recommended to expel a couple of drops of ink. Just turn the knob counterclockwise until you see a couple of drops come out. Then turn the knob clockwise and secure it in its tightened position.
Using an ink sample is a little trickier. If you can’t fit the nib in enough to fill it the usual way, the best method I’ve found is to turn the piston knob clockwise so the plunger is all the way pulled back, unscrew the nib unit (which is as easy as it sounds— don’t be scared), and use a syringe to inject the ink directly into the reservoir. It’s a little work, but worth it to try a new ink without buying an entire bottle.
Cleaning a Pelikan M205 is super easy. I was apprehensive about cleaning the pen properly when it came time to refill it with a different ink, but there was nothing to fear. After numerous cleanings, I highly recommend removing the nib unit. It unscrews from the pen with ease. To make it even easier, I recommend using some sort of gripping material (a small piece of rubber like this is great) to make this task easier. Removing the nib unit isn’t a requirement for a good cleaning, but if you don’t, you’ll be doing lots of piston knob turning to fill and empty it with water to completely flush out the ink. With the nib unit removed, there’s easy access to the ink reservoir, and the nib unit itself can be cleaned better. Here’s a video demonstrating another cleaning/flushing technique.
Before I got interested in fountain pens, I was almost exclusively a micro-tip gel ink pen user. My pens of choice were a 0.38 mm Uni-Ball Signo RT1 and Signo DX (UM–151), as well as the 0.4 mm Zebra Sarasa and Pilot Hi-Tec C in 0.3 mm and 0.4 mm sizes. I liked a fine point. I knew when I ordered the Pelikan M205 with an EF nib that a German EF nib wasn’t as fine as a Japanese EF nib. I was worried that it might not be as fine as I’d prefer. I liked the look of the pen and wanted a Pelikan so much though— I took a chance and ordered it anyway.
My gut feeling about the line thickness produced by the German EF nib ended up being correct. Despite the pen being a great writer, the line it produced was just too thick for me at that very early point in my fountain pen journey. I still prefer a finer line, but I’m now way more open minded about trying nibs beyond the Japanese EF and F sizes.
So, I had this beautiful pen that made a line that was just too bold for me. I used it for awhile, hoping I would get used to it and learn to love it, or at least live with it. That didn’t happen. In the end, I was pretty dissatisfied. I cleaned it, put it back in the box, and stashed it away. I really liked the look and feel of the pen though, so I found myself going through the cycle of getting it out, inking it up, using it for a few days, cleaning it, and putting it away again not happy with the writing results.
I figured I had two options: do nothing and chalk it up as an expensive lesson in my fountain pen education, or spend some more money and send my pen to a nib specialist (a nibmeister) to get ground down to a finer point. I went back and forth for some time, but I ultimately decided to send it off to a nibmeister. I rationalized that I got such a good deal on the pen, it was worth investing a little more into it.
The Magic of Mike Masuyama
Deciding on a nibmeister was an easy choice. I had heard Brad Dowdy talk about and praise Mike Masuyama on the Pen Addict podcast enough times that I knew if I ever needed nib work, he was going to be the one I would try. I also read many positive testimonials from his satisfied customers. If all that wasn’t enough, I read this post on the Pen Addict blog about Mr. Dowdy’s friend (and enabler) Thomas Hall getting his Pelikan ground to a Japanese EF (0.2 mm) by Mr. Masuyama. That’s exactly what I wanted.
I went to Mike Masuyama’s site (Mike-It-Work), followed his instructions to the letter, packed my pen like it may go through a hurricane, and sent it off. Mr. Masuyama was kind enough to email me to let me know he received it safe and sound, and to inform me it would be around a ten-week turnaround time. He’s a busy guy, so be prepared for the waiting period. Trust me though— it’s well worth the expense and wait. I requested the nib to be ground down to a Japanese EF size (0.2 mm), and about ten weeks and $40 (not including shipping) later, I inked up my Pelikan M205 with its Masuyama-adjusted nib ready to start writing. For the first time in a long time, I felt like a kid on Christmas morning.
The Writing Experience
My initial reaction was that I went from one extreme to another— too broad for my tastes to finer than I anticipated. The thing is, I had never used a Japanese EF nib before (or a German EF either), so I was asking for something I thought I wanted, but had never actually tried. This fountain pen story has a happy ending though.
As I wrote with the pen more and more, my initial reaction completely subsided. I love writing with this pen. It produces a super-fine line. I had to get used to writing with much less pressure, which had the positive side effect of much less hand fatigue from long writing sessions. Considering I really didn’t know what the heck I was doing, I ended up with a pen that is now one of my favorite writers, and learned a bunch about fountain pens, and my own preferences, in the process.
My Pelikan M205 has been one of my daily carry pens for quite some time. I’ve used it on all sorts of paper types— from cheap legal pads and Post-It notes to more expensive Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper. One great thing I’ve noticed about the super-fine nib is that it works very well on even the cheapest paper, which is typically what I use for my day job.
To see a PDF of the writing sample, click here.
I love my Pelikan M205, and it will always hold a special place in my heart. It was my first “expensive” fountain pen, as well as my first pen to get custom nib work from Mike Masuyama. His incredible talent saved the pen for me. His grind down of the nib made this a pen, that otherwise would have stayed in its box on a shelf, into a pen I use all the time.
I have to give a big thanks to Pen Chalet. Considering the retail price of this pen is $195, being able to get it for $87.75 and free shipping was incredible. I’m not sure how they do it over there at Pen Chalet, but they offer great deals on really good stuff all the time. My experience with them was fantastic, and I’ve since ordered from them again.
As much as I love this pen, I would never pay full retail price for it. For that price point, I think there are better pens out there. Fortunately, it seems there are numerous places to buy a Pelikan M205 for quite a bit less than the retail price.
So, in the end, I do recommend this pen, but with a little hesitation. Of course it would be best to try one in person, but for most of us that just isn’t an option. If you like the looks of the pen, don’t mind using only bottled ink, kind of know what to expect with German nib sizes, understand it’s a relatively smaller pen, and can find a good deal, then I think it’s a no-brainer to get one and cross “to someday get a Pelikan” off your fountain pen wish list.