Issue#22 More retractables than just the Vanishing Point

Majohn A series, Endless Creator, Dianshi, Oaso

Issue 22 | 10 December 2023

Welcome to Issue 22 - the end of the year is rushing towards us!

We have been very busy trying to find that holy grail of all fountain pen users - an affordable everyday fountain-pen-friendly paper. The search is very promising and we are on the verge of a big breakthrough - but nothing more in this issue about that!

The term ‘Chinese pen’ has been tossed around way too carelessly in the world of fountain pens. Modern Chinese fountain pens are some of the best value for money devices, punching way above their weight. In absolute terms, they are some of the best manufactured, best performing fountain pens ever made.

Unfortunately, within the hobby, there are way too many people who delight in talking ill of ‘Chinese pens’ and those who use them and share their experiences. Most of these folks have usually not experienced any of the pens they are putting down. To such people, I say - buy one of the pens and use them. Go to a pen meet and ask your fountain pen friends to use one of their Chinese pens and experience the excellence for yourself. If you want suggestions - Het has a few excellent ones in this issue!

Karthik tells you what you can do with your dishwashing liquid to enhance (or not!) your fountain pen experience, and we have doodles from Nandini and Tarun. Tarun also has a way for you to buy his wonderful art - check out the details below his doodle.

My Experiments with Soap

Karthik Subramaniam

I have a couple of pens with interesting nibs that happen to be rough. I enjoy writing with these pens, but the roughness of the nibs can sometimes be an irritant. The usual solution would be to smoothen the nibs. These nibs, however, are not ones that I would trifle with - so smoothing is not really an option until I can wangle myself an appointment with a nibmeister who can fix up the nibs, or alternatively save up enough fun money to ship the nibs abroad for some expert nibmeister TLC.

A well-experienced fountain pen enthusiast happened to mention to me that all that might be needed was a little bit of dish soap. Trawling through the old messages of certain social media groups turned up the following nuggets of information.

Firstly, that dish soap added to ink, in the ratio of 1:60 -- preferably lesser -- would result in "wetter" ink that flowed better. One recommendation was to dip a needle in dish soap, and then dump the resulting small droplet that formed at the tip of the needle into a full bottle of ink.

Secondly, that adding a drop or two of glycerin into a full bottle of wet ink that flows too much and feathers a lot would reduce the "flowiness" of the ink, and also increase lubrication.

I added about 0.5 ml of dishwash liquid (Vim) to 30 ml of ink, and used this to ink up one of the pens with a recalcitrant nib mentioned above. The pen which was earlier suffering from hard starts, started gushing like a garden hose. I am yet to make up my mind between attempting to salvage the gushy ink by adding glycerin to the mix and preparing a fresh batch with the "needle pipette" technique.

My first experiment was not quite a resounding success, but neither was it an unmitigated disaster. More experiments are in the offing, and I shall report here with the results.

Karthik enjoys writing with pens, and tries to tinker with them as well. He has been dabbling with fountain pens for the past three years or so, having rediscovered the joys of FP a few decades after high school. Karthik can be contacted on Telegram @ksubfp.

2023: The Year of the Retractables

Het Shah | Instagram

This year, Pilot is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of the first retractable fountain pen - the Capless aka Vanishing Point. But this article isn’t about the 60th Anniversary SE Capless. Neither will it feature Platinum’s take on retractable, which, in my opinion, is not an appropriately-priced fountain pen. It’s neither here nor there.

I want to talk about the exciting retractables launched this year.

Majohn A1, A2, A3

Let me get this straight. A1, A2, and A3 are blatant knock-offs of Pilot’s design, so much so that even the nib units are swappable. I personally use four nomenclatures: Counterfeits, Knock-offs, Inspired, and Originals. Majohn’s have crossed the thin line between inspired and knock-offs and ended up being the latter. So how do I feel about it? Honestly, it’s a mixed feeling because they have done an excellent job of it. These are well-made fountain pens. All the nib units I have tried were decent writers with flow a bit on the drier side. Click functions flawlessly, and had no dry-out issues even after picking up after a while. They are definitely rip-offs, and buying them is up to you.

Endless Creator

Launched by an Indian company based in Chennai, who flaunt Made in Madras on their pen boxes. An excellent attempt at an original design retractable and at a price which is just perfect. The only pen in the list which has nib width options from EF to M and Fude. But alas, it’s only a good attempt, and has a long way to go for a refined product. The first versions had bad springs, and the gate gave up in about 20 days. I got a replacement after waiting for more than 6 months. The second version had no such manufacturing defects, and the springs were upgraded, and a slight change was made in the section thread design. It is still difficult for me to recommend the pen. Clicking doesn’t work flawlessly, the proportions of the pen are just okay. What it lacks, it makes up with the absolutely lovely nibs I got. Both EF and F were pleasantly good writers with good ink flow. Mostly didn’t have any nib dry-out issues in the upgraded version. Some may find the section a bit thicker, but still manageable. Overall, I would say that it’s still at an  experimental stage and has a lot of room for improvement.

Dianshi DS-784

Oh man, what a crazy pen this one is. It has a hatch mechanism which is inspired by the cuckoo clock. A superbly-built, smooth click with no sound at all. This falls in the original design category - the same as the Endless Creator and the Oasos to follow. The primary target audience being school students, this came with erasable inks. I got the blue/black ink, and it was quite good. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a special rubber to test the erasability. It’s a cartridge only pen, like the Oaso, and takes proprietary cartridges only. But the good thing is that the cartridges are well-built and can be refilled. Fun colours. Nib on mine was strictly okay-ish, but fortunately I had a spare nib which I swapped, and voila it’s now a great pen. Kanwrite has a replacement nib in Fine which they call No.51. Loved the pen though.

Oaso K016, K019

This, in my opinion, has set a milestone. It’s the first Capless, Retractable fountain pen that I know of in the sub-$10 category. And what an ingenious, simple design the pen has. It uses two thick rubber flap-like gates to prevent the nib from drying out. OOTB the pen had a generously wet flow, nib was really good, and the pen has never hard-started on me since the day I inked it. K019 is the upgraded model which comes with a side clicker and the special eraser on top. A great thing about the Oasos is that they take cartridges which are readily available here in India from Bril, Flair, etc.

A thought I would like to leave you with is this - a good retractable fountain pen is no longer limited to the Pilot Capless. Can any of these replace the Pilot? Certainly not, and they don’t even have to. If the Pilot Capless is analogous to the Lamy Imporium, then these are like the Safaris of retractable fountain pens. My personal recommendation would be the Oaso or the Dianshi. I am personally a little more inclined towards the Oaso, but Dianshi has a better mechanism. Both are really good candidates for your first capless fountain pen.

Het is a Senior Research Scholar, Department of Applied Mathematics and Scientific Computing, IIT Roorkee. Crazy FP head since 2017. Motto: "Want to try it all, that's the way of life!" Catch him on Telegram @het0314

FP Doodles

Nandini Ramchandran | Instagram

FP Doodles

Tarun Durga | Instagram

I often use art as a form of white noise - like music in a coffee shop. Most of these sketches happen on calls. It might seem like I'm distracted, but I'm not - the simple activity of drawing allows one to tunnel into the conversation, blocking out everything else in the environment. This sketch was made with a Kaweco Art Sport, a wish list pen. I love Kaweco Sports - they are super handy and almost boringly dependable. This one is anything but boring - the depth of colours and patterns is so pleasing.

Check out Tarun’s Art for Xmas offers - art printed and framed for INR 3000 (or a set of three for 7800). Makes for lovely walls and thoughtful gifts. Choose from the Architecture Series, the Greatest Hits and the Bendy People.

Everyday FPness

We’ve been having a lot of FP fun at Hyderabad. This week, we had India’s largest purveyor of limited edition fountain pens, Makoba, visiting us. A bunch of us fountain pen enthusiasts got together with them and had the chance to explore an amazing range of pens. This meeting definitely reset the idea of what pens we need to have on our buy lists for all of us!


While we got the chance to meet outside of our monthly meeting, we were also quite thrilled by a social media post that hinted at an upcoming fountain pen show in Hyderabad. This is something we have never had, and we’re all quite excited to see how it pans out.


Last week, I had an interesting conversation about how to prevent mold in your inks. Some manufacturers include antimicrobial elements in their inks, while others do not. An easily available antimicrobial you can add on your own to your inks is salicylic acid - easily available in most pharmacies as a white powder. This has to be added to your ink in the ratio of 2:1000 - 20 milligrams in 10 millilitres of ink. This will keep your ink mold-free. Of course, like with all things, know that things may not always work out perfectly - so definitely experiment with a smaller quantity of ink and see if it affects the other characteristics like colour properties, flow, bleeding, feathering and dry time. The inputs are from the super-knowledgeable Kikko, and any mistakes or omissions are my own.

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That’s all from me this week.

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