Jiminy Clickit

This is a post about fountain pens that click. We’re all used to some ball pens, like Parker Jotters, having a button you push to click the writing point into place but there are not many fountain pens with this tactile fun. I happen to have two of them, one well known and the other not so.

Nibs peeking out. The Aurora on the left is a hooded nib which does not retract.

I’ll start with the famous Pilot/Namiki Capless/Vanishing Point. Wow, with that many different aliases it sounds like a fugitive pen. Anyway, with those monikers Pilot is trying to hammer into your head the fact that this pen has no cap and the nib retracts into the barrel. How does that work? It’s actually pretty simple.

There is a floating nib/feed/ink reservoir unit inside that pen which can travel fore and aft. A spring keeps it up in the retracted position where it rests when not in use. A push button on the back end gets…well…pushed driving the unit forward until it is locked in place by a ratchet mechanism. Another push and the lock is released allowing the pen to close up again. The important feature that keeps the ink from drying up is a small trap door at the point end which acts as a plug when the point is retracted. QED.

There have been numerous versions of the Vanishing Point (nee Capless) since it was introduced 1964. The currently produced models come in three variants that range in heft and size. The model I have is older and dates from the 80s. I like the faceted barrel, streamlined clip, and light weight of this Capless generation. The nib on it was reground into italic creating a very fun pen to write with. It’s easy to purchase these modified nibs of this type from folks like Richard Binder or Dannzeman.

Aurora 98 in box.

The other pen in this tale is not seen as often but certainly is almost as novel. The Aurora 98 replaced the famous model 88 in 1963 and was “period modern” with a more svelte design and a few gadgets. Think of it as the Italian Parker 51 with the additional pizazz its point of origin is known for.

One of the gadgets I referred to is why this pen fits into this post: the piston filling knob extends from and retracts into the barrel with a “click”. I can’t think of a very good reason for it operating in this manner unless people in the 60s had a tendency to accidently turn the pesky exposed knob at the end of some pens. Whatever Aurora’s thinking behind this the result is pen geek cool due to unnecessary complication.

The other peculiar contraption contained within this pen is known as “Riserva Magica” (magic reserve). When you are in the dread condition of having run out of ink with this pen you can, through use of a small supplied sparkly wand, squeeze a few more lines out. Yes, I am joking about the wand. Running the piston all the way down into the barrel (like prior to filling) pushes a few trapped drops of ink into the feed. Viola! You can write a bit more.

My 98 is almost NOS and is the attractive gold filled model. It writes a lot like a Parker 51 with a firm, fine nib. The hood has an odd flat bit over the nib’s centerline which I imagine was found to be pleasing by the designer. Other foibles include a slip on cap that really needs to travel a long way down before seating and tiny, tiny ink windows which make me squint when trying to appraise the remaining fluid.

So, that’s all the pens I have with clickability. Below are a couple comparison photos of them so you can see the chic click contrivances.

  1. March 4, 2010, 8:23 pm

    Great macro shot of the retracting nibs! I had no idea Aurora ever made a pen like that.

    1. TAO
      March 4, 2010, 8:46 pm

      Mona: I hope I didn’t get people confused too badly in my post. The Aurora does not have a retracting nib, just a retracting piston knob. The nib on it does look like it’s peeking out due to the hooded section.

  2. March 5, 2010, 4:00 am

    Oh, that clears things up – I think some of us (me included) have a tendency to associate clicky sounds in pens with retracting writing points. Damn you ballpoints!
    I have a 1999 VP in green and a 1964 one in black, but I still need to get a thick replacement spring for it to work again. As for the green VP, it’s one of my everyday writers (along with like 7 others lol).

  3. TAO
    March 5, 2010, 9:35 am

    John: I’ve re-captioned the first photo to make it more clear. Lamy now has a retractable nib pen called the Dialog 3. I’ve not used it but the mechanism is very interesting.

  4. March 5, 2010, 10:37 am

    Oh, I’ve heard about that. Very overpriced for what it was, according to a lot of FPN’ers who got one. Looks really cool though, and I love Lamy’s Bauhaus-inspired designs.

  5. ccorrada
    March 7, 2010, 9:40 am

    I have a Pilot Vanishing Pen and I absolutely love it. The Aurora is gorgeous but a bit pricey right now. I strongly recommend the Pilot!

  6. Kim
    March 7, 2010, 12:32 pm

    I feel like the Vanishing point is one of the two last (ha ha) pens that I really have to add to the collection. Of course, then Lamy came out with the Dialog 3 and I was like, “whoah”. (The other of the two is the Falcon.)

  7. TAO
    March 7, 2010, 12:41 pm

    Kim: I’m interested in getting my hands on that Lamy some day. I recommend if you can find an old Capless to get that. The VP Decimo is the next best in my opinion since it has a cleaner design and is a nicer size.