The Namiki/Pilot Vanishing Point retractable fountain pen

I used to carry a Parker 51. I'll never let that pen go, but like many fountain pens it was too risky to take on a plane. Pressurized cabins seem the perfect environment to cause a leak. I've tried and tried but many a jacket or shirt pocket bear the stains of my forgetfulness.

Several years ago, I found the Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen. It is a well-balanced and well-sealing writing instrument that has never let me down. A truly modern take on a the classic fountain design.

The Vanishing Point has a retractable nib, like clicking a Bic. Uniquely, for a fountain pen, when the pen is closed it is closed! The ink and nib are surrounded in a sealed chamber. This has resulted in several hundred thousand miles flown without a single leak.

But how does it write? I like a fine nib and the Pilot comes with a beautifully flexible 18 carat gold one -- it is super fine. The pen is really well balanced and feels solid in my hand. It is heavy but in the best way. Writing is a joy! I find Pilot's cartridge ink to be fast drying and the black is dark enough for me (I'm a long time Quink fan but we can discuss ink all day...)

It is perfect for writing in a Boing Boing moleskine!

The Pilot Vanishing Point retractable fountain pen


  1. How quickly does the ink dry?  Lefties who learned the hook method of writing can’t use normal fountain pens without smearing the ink everywhere.

      1.  If one’s looking for a fast-drying non-smearing ink, I personally use Noodler’s Bad Blue Heron in my journals and such. It works well enough even in wet pens.

        1. I love Noodler’s. Fair warning their “bullet proof” permanent inks will smear on you. They’ve got this weird combo of soaking into the paper and drying on the surface that will probably cause lefties a bit of an issue.

          1.  Indeed that is true– however, the Bad series has all of the bulletproof qualities without the smearing, which is why I recommend it over the vanilla bulletproof solutions.

    1. Noodler’s actually makes special fast-drying ink varieties–HILARIOUSLY named Bernanke Black and Bernanke Blue. Because, you know, how fast he printed money, he would have needed to sign things… 
      The fountain pen community skews a little right. And bald. And unsubtle. 

  2. That is gorgeous, especially the blue one. Though the first few including the all black one made my heart thump no really they are beautiful and I have not even used fountain pens in a long time. Thank you very much I’d like to get one, one day. A present to myself? Is that allowed? Actually I was thinking thought of it as a present to my brother first.

    I know you don’t have all day but I am wondering a comment on the Quink amazon page says it can wash off so not good for serious writing (!) how important is this? The “almost gel-like” and “skating across the page” descriptions, and how one man has not had a cramp in 50 years well coming from someone who gets near carpal tunnel if he ever has to work all night (no spring chicken any longer I guess) that sounded sensuous — no, Sane! Yup I would like to try these. Though maybe the noodling permanent is better? deep black or blue or if they have one like a dark sienna type conte stick might even be acceptable at least for some drawings, it was okay for Tiepolo right?

    1. I have found that Quink washes off if you get it on your hands or clothes and IMMEDIATELY wash. If you leave it, its there forever. I have never noticed any of my journals fading. It is a very smooth flowing and writing ink. Noodler’s is another super popular ink, very versatile and will dry on many, many surfaces. IMHO you can’t go too far wrong, except with Mont Blanc — I find it fades.

    2. Fountain pen inks can usually be washed out of paper. So you wouldn’t want to fill out a check or sign legal documents with them (that said ballpoint inks can usually be scrapped off). So you want to find a permanent ink of some sort. Many of them will be labeled as safe for checks. Noodler’s “bullet proof” inks work well for this. After they’ve dried if you get them wet they just sort of faintly smear a bit and remain legible. 

  3. I’m sorry, but you will only take away my 1946 Parker 51 from my cold dead hands! However, if I ever need a replacement, the namiki indeed looks like a great option.

    Also, have you tried Lamy ink? 

  4. That sounds superb, but *damn*! At $140, that’s about three times what I’m prepared to spend on a pen. At least one without an embedded homing device.

    1.  Amen.  If I could justify buying a $140 pen, this seems like the one (especially the extra-fine nib).  Alas, I have better things to spend that much on.  I really like fountain pens.  Today, I am using a Pilot Varsity, the $4 disposable fountain pen.  Not great, but better than a ball-point.

  5. I have a couple of these (the matte black one is awesome) and I would recommend Noodler’s brand inks for permanence, variety, and economy. The fine nib is very fine but you can always order one custom ground from folks like Richard Binder. The other of mine has a crisp fine italic nib that is pretty sweet. This is the most usable fountain pen I’ve found for everyday office tasks as you can open and close it all with one hand. The clip can be divisive if you have a nonstandard way of holding the pen. A choice instrument.  /gush

    1.  Just a clarification on Mr. Binder – he’s still custom grinding nibs on pens that are ordered from him (which include the Vanishing Point), but he is no longer accepting outside pens for nib or repair work.

  6. I use one of the older resin-bodied Vanishing Points, which is probably 60% lighter than the metal ones. I bought a second one when they were discontinued just in case I broke the first one. It’s one of the two best fountain pens I own.

  7. The Vanishing Point is a fine pen (Namiki/Pilot makes great pens generally, at every price point). But specifically for air travel, the Pilot Custom 823 is a better choice. With a twist of the top of the pen, you can seal off ink flow when traveling. It also has a charming and effective way to load ink (it’s a vacuum loader). And: it has great nibs, too. 

    Fountain pens are a kind of fantasy land that most people know nothing about. There is wonderful technology, great art, and clever functionality all over the place. Yeah, spendy – but amazing stuff. 

  8. Regarding price:  oh, please.  These will last you a lifetime so $140 is not that big a stretch.  Plus, you deserve it!  I have 3 myself.  One in silver, one in gold and black and one in stealth black.  These are my favorites out of all my pens.  Beautiful nib and just as easy as peasy to fill.  But real pen nuts know Noodler’s Ink is the only way to go!

    1. It will certainly last a lifetime, on the floor of the train, in the pocket of an old forgotten coat, on the counter at the bank, or in the forgotten bag under my recently-emptied seat at the airport gate.

      Now, if they had an unlimited replacement policy, then it would actually last a lifetime in my hands, which would be quite nice. In the real world, though… $140 is still a lot for me to pay for a pen. Sadly.

    2. You must be an incredibly neat and organized person. You are, however, somewhat confused about the proper use of the second-person pronoun

  9. With regards to the Parker 51, the ‘Aerometric’ squeeze filling system was specifically designed to resist leaking at altitude, and I’ve found that a properly serviced one is safe on planes. The earlier filling system, with a plunger, is not plane-safe, however.

  10. Be sure to try this in person before buying.  Because there is no cap, the clip is at top of the pen, on the nib side.  If you write with your index finger on top of the pen, as I do, the Vanishing Point is highly uncomfortable.

  11. The leaking thing is a non-issue. I have about a dozen different fountain pens, and I’ve never had one leak on a plane. Regarding the price, $140 is very inexpensive for a good fountain pen.

    1. My fountain pens were all about €10.  At that price, I have four (two at work, two at home).  They write nicely, they’re plastic (I don’t like heavy pens anyway), and they write nicely.  They’re marketed to schoolchildren, and there were about 40 barrel designs, but I got plain black or dark green. 

      They are not, however, status symbols.

  12. My wife gave me an all-black one with resin body in 1999. Tragically, I lost it in 2011. The ease in writing (I keep extensive engineering notes), lack of cramping, complete absence of blotting, skipping or other defects were just tremendous. By all means my favorite pen ever.

    They’re available for closer to US$110 if you check around. For something that can last decades, it’s a worthy investment (a few pennies a day…). If I can find a local vendor to see what the redesigned newer ones are like, I’ll finally replace it.

  13. I have two of these and they’re among my favorites. Some things to note:

    1) As others have mentioned, the clip can be a nuisance for certain grip styles. I’m left-handed and rest my forefinger on top of the clip. It’s not ideal, but it’s not terribly uncomfortable, either, and I can write for long stretches without discomfort. It’s an issue to be aware of, though.

    2) I’ve not seen this mentioned, and perhaps it’s obvious, but the nib+converter unit is separate. Removed from the pen, it looks like a fancy version of a roller-ball refill cartridge. You can buy these separately, so after the initial investment, you could buy different size nibs to use in the same pen. Still expensive, but cheaper than buying multiple pens to get multiple sizes.

  14. Myself, I run a Lamy Al-Star. Much lower-end, much stiffer nib than most fountain pens (the Europeans consider it and the plastic Safari to be “student pens”, and they’re designed to handle student abuse).

    I run Noodler’s Squeteague through mine. Not one of the bulletproof inks, but it’s pretty tenacious. Although, having read through the Noodler’s blog, I think I’ll pass on buying any further Noodler’s inks for political reasons (I figure one bottle probably pays for somewhere between a month and a year of his hosting, depending on traffic).

  15. I dabbled with fountain pens years ago, and for a long time but learned rather quickly that I’m too ham-fisted for them, and I ruin nibs rather quickly, so I stuck to the cheaper stuff.  Eventually I gave up as after a few weeks a nice fine tip would become a medium and then get uneven, then get scrapy.

    1. I urge you to try them again. The kind of behavior you’ve experienced isn’t in any way representative of fountain pens as a whole. In fact, what you’re describing falls under most manufacturer’s warranty policies. No properly tipped nib should fail in ten years, let alone ten weeks.

  16. No way I’d spend that much money on something I’ll just leave lying around in the next restaurant or let a student walk off with.

  17. One awesome feature the wasn’t mentioned.  You can replace the nib assembly extremely easily, in fact you take it out every time you fill it.  I’ve got three of them and love them all.  They write really well and are very easy to handle and reliable.  I prefer the cartridges to filling from an ink bottle.  I’ve found they do bleed through the paper in Moleskines but YMMV.  Being able to click them open with one hand and write a note just seals the deal.  If you blanche at the cost you’re not a pen nut.  If you like pens you don’t care.  :-)

  18. They are fabulous pens. For the informing of readers of comments, there is also a slimmer body available (using the same internal components) called the Décimo. I have one of each, as well as fine, medium and broad nib units – they’re interchangeable.

    The squeeze ink unit is generally the better one to go for IME – the screw piston really doesn’t hold a lot of ink. (This is all relative of course. When I say “doesn’t hold a lot of ink”, I mean you probably couldn’t write a whole chapter.)

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