So there are some pens that are real cult classics in the fountain pen world, pens that most of us either own or are seriously considering owning. The Pilot Vanishing point/Capless is most definitely one of them. One of a limited number of truly practical retractable fountain pens I think the Pilot Vanishing Point offers something quite different. However, as with any pen with a lot of hype around it there is always the question of whether the pen lives up to its reputation. So does the Vanishing Point? Well read on.
The VP isn’t massively famous for its looks, they seem mostly to have been dictated by a need to fit the retracting mechanism in. Given all of that you might be forgiven for thinking that the VP is a ‘functional’ looking pen. Personally I’d say that would be being a little harsh, it’s not pretty in the same way an arco celluloid pen might be, but it has a certain look to it which I rather like. Plus given the range of colours, patterns and materials the VP comes in you’d be hard pressed not to find a single one you like. I mean there are wood versions, raden versions, umpteen different colours, there will be at least one finish that you like. Personally I like my yellow and silver trim version, although that’s not to say none of the others haven’t tempted me.
Something that never ceases to amaze me is that the Pilot Vanishing point first came out in 1964, as of writing that’s 55 years ago, two years older than the Lamy 2000. Unlike the 2000 the Vanishing Point has undergone some minor design changes, but the basic principle and function have been the same. So presumably this means Pilot are doing something right on this front. Clearly the biggest design feature on the Vanishing Point is the retractable nib, something that probably plays a big part in any decision to purchase a VP. Personally I think the retractable system is both a good idea and well implemented on the VP, it allows for a pen that can truly be use one handed, which is a surprisingly useful feature. The click mechanism is really quite satisfying and seems to seal well and work properly. I don’t think there can be too much denying that the retractable mechanism in the Vanishing Point is a real feat of design and engineering. That being said a considerably less intelligent design decision is the converter. I have nothing against converters in general, but Pilot seem to be incapable of manufacturing a working converter. The converter than used to be suggested for use with the VP was the Con-50, which was notoriously rubbish, this has been replaced by the Con-40, which is possibly even worse. I can never get mine even vaguely full and I have the odd problem with surface tension affecting the flow. This is maddening as making a functioning converter isn’t difficult, and having a rubbish one can really impact on your use of the pen. So, Pilot, if you’re reading please make a half decent converter. The clip on the VP is also a bit contentious, some people say it really gets in the way of their grip, I don’t know if I’d quite go that far, but I will say that for me the VP won’t win any awards for comfort, it’s fine for quick notes, but it’s not a pen I’d pick to sit down and write several pages with.
Crucially how does it write? Well I have the steel nib version, so this might be a little different to what most have, but hopefully it’ll still be interesting. The nib on my VP is a medium, and it’s very much a Japanese medium which is to say it’s really a fine by western standards. It wrote perfectly out of the box and I’ve never had a problem with it skipping or hard starting or anything like that. It’s a rigid nib with medium flow, so I wouldn’t say it’s exactly oozing character, but it’s very good for what the rest of the pen is suited to, taking a quick note on the go. I don’t know if this was an intentional choice by Pilot, but it certainly makes sense, whilst a juicy bouncy nib might have been the more fun choice for most of the things I use my VP for I have to admit it would just be annoying. So to surmise the Vanishing Point nib I’d say it’s a good fit with the pen, if not the most exciting nib out there.
So what are my closing thoughts on the Vanishing Point? Well it is a pen I like, it’s well designed, is a consistent writer and it looks quite nice too. Having said that this is a pen that is only ever going to be a quick note taker for me, the nib is a little bland, albeit with good reason and it’s not the most comfortable pen for me. These things combined with the positives make it the perfect note taking pen for me, but also mean it’s unlikely to be the pen I reach for when I’m doing some extended writing. So there you are, don’t think I don’t like the VP, it’s just that it works very well in it’s niche for me, and less well outside of it.