When I did my profile of the Bic Disposable Fountain Pen, I was continuously comparing it to another disposable fountain pen, the Pilot Varsity. Looking back on that post (a whole week-and-a-half later), it seemed to beg the question: where’s the Varsity pen profile? A fair question. This pen actually has a fair number of fans out there, from aficionados of writing instruments and office supplies to Browncoats.
As I noted previously, the Varsity was one of the first fountain pens I tried back in college (many years ago), and helped spawn my love of fountain pens.
A disposable fountain pen has many functions. They are good if you simply don’t want a more expensive pen, or at least want to take something that would be less painful to lose. Among pen collectors, it is something we may recommend to someone getting into pens. One might even give casually to an interested friend, for no occasion other than to sate their curiosity (“first dose is free”). For both applications, you want a pen that writes well, though perhaps not as well as other pens. In the case of introducing someone to fountain pens, it needs to provide a positive impression of what it’s like to write with a good pen. The Varsity does well for both applications.
I’ve always thought Pilot made great nibs, either for their pens, for their Namiki line, or when they are supplying nibs to other manufacturers. The nib on the Varsity shows this prowess exists up and down their line. It is a stamped steel nib, but with a shape that harkens back to the hey day of fountain pens. While not as smooth as some fountain pens in my collection, it is far from scratchy, and can produce an even line with little pressure. I’d put it towards the middle of my pens (though perhaps pushed down within that “middle” category).
The pen is comfortable in the hand for longer passages–no death grip required. The ink does well, with minimal feathering on most pads (even many of those in the office supply cabinet). What’s more, the Varsity’s ink comes in a wide array of color choices, including blue, black, turquoise, red, pink, and purple*. It clearly is a disposable fountain pen made by folks who make fountain pens.
As I mentioned, this pen is meant to be disposable–at some point, the ink-view window will show no more ink, and you’ll have to get a new one. Several folks have hacked ways to refill the Varsity, either by removing the nib and feed, using a syringe, or, for the adventurous, working from the back (with a drill). I’ve never tried it, though I may. There are reports of people custom grinding the nib–an extreme act for a disposable pen. The fact that people are willing to go to this trouble speaks to the quality of the pen.
The Pilot Varsity is a good fountain pen that happens to be disposable. It is a great way to start to use them, or have one where the situation might not otherwise permit. They are inexpensive enough to stash one in places where you may find yourself wanting a pen. It is definitely worth trying if you’ve ever been curious about fountain pens.
*I’m close to deciding that the purple ink is my favorite color for purple ink. I’ll have to see if I can find it in a bottle (or at least one that matches).