Sunday, January 12, 2014

Beating the Idle Fountain Pen Blues: The Pilot Petit1

The tiny green Pilot Petit1 Mini shown next to a Lamy Safari.
Anyone who uses a fountain pen knows that if you leave it idle for too long, it will clog and need to be flushed. If you own numerous pens, most fountain pen maintenance advice recommends using only a few at a time and rotating the collection so that each will get used frequently enough to keep it flowing well. I generally heed this advice, keeping three or four sketching pens in my bag at a time (plus a few more at home for writing).

The one exception has been an ongoing dilemma for me. When I go on fitness walks around Green Lake a few times a week, I take only my ultra-minimalist sketch kit housed in a Travelon Convertible Travel Wallet (you can see it on my Current Favorite Materials page). I generally don’t sketch on these walks, but every now and then I’ll spot a heron or some other wildlife, so I always carry sketch gear with me, just in case. The kit includes nothing more than a Lamy fountain pen filled with water-soluble ink, a waterbrush, a dark gray Kuretake Zig Clean Color brush marker and a handmade sketchbooklet.

Posted, the Petit1 is still shorter and lighter than the Safari.
A couple months ago I had the frustrating experience of wanting to sketch a heron, but because the Lamy Vista I carry in the bag rarely gets used, it was all clogged and barely useable. I know it needs to be in the regular rotation to keep it flowing, but since I rarely use it, I don’t remember to rotate it.

Fast-forward to yesterday, when I was going through some fountain pens that I’ve stopped using for various reasons. One was a Pilot Petit1 Mini, which is ridiculously inexpensive ($3.80 at and comes in lots of novelty colors. Reading many favorable reviews about it, I bought one on a whim, unable to imagine how good (or bad) a pen this cheap could possibly be. As it turns out, the nib is surprisingly fine and smooth, and I enjoy using it. I thought that once I used up the bright apple green ink it came with, I’d fill it with sketching ink and take it out sometime. But before using up the green ink, I forgot all about it.

I bought the pen about a year ago, and I hadn’t touched it in probably 10 months. I figured it was all clogged up and hardly worth flushing – but shock of shocks, it started writing smoothly from the first stroke! I’m not kidding – it was as fresh as the day I first popped the cartridge in. It has the added benefit of being very small and light (see photos).

Immediately dumping out the remaining apple green ink, I syringe-filled the cartridge with Private Reserve Velvet Black ink and put the pen in my ultra-minimalist bag. I may not see the heron again for several weeks or months; will the Pilot Petit1 be ready? Stay tuned.

Updated 1/20/14: To learn about another pen that I've discovered has a long idle time, see my review of the Pilot Metropolitan and an idleness update on it.

Updated 2/7/14: I didn’t have need for my Pilot Petit1 today, but the results of the idleness test I was running with my Lamy Vista vs. Pilot Metropolitan filled with Platinum Carbon reminded me that I hadn’t used the Petit1 since I filled it with water-soluble Private Reserve Velvet Black ink on Jan. 12. I just tested it – and it wrote like a charm! No skipping, blobbing or clogging after being idle for 24 days. I wonder how it would do if filled with Platinum Carbon and left idle for 14 days. . . ? Stay tuned!

Updated 2/22/14: Even waterproof Platinum Carbon ink, which is hard on most fountain pens when left idle for any length of time, didn't cow the tiny but mighty Pilot Petit1! See the full results of my test in which I pit the Petit1 against the Platinum Preppy, another cheap but surprisingly good fountain pen.

Updated 6/21/14: Four months after my Platinum Carbon test, I’m declaring the Petit1 to be my all-time idle pen champ!


  1. I guess I'm lucky that I only have 2 fountain pens so they get used fairly regularly and don't clog. That's such a cute small pen...and a great price.

  2. I've noticed this with different pens. My really old and cheap Schaeffer "No Nonsense" pens always start, no matter how long they've sat. I wonder if it has something to do with the ink as I always used the cartridge made for it.

    Brian Goulet has recommended good cleaning of pens using Carbon Black because it is a pigmented ink. It's more likely to clog. But it's waterproof, so that's not what you're using.

    Listening to Brian's most recent Q&A, he addressed a question about the problem of ink drying out. I typed this out as he answered that question:
    Some pens just dry out more than others. Ink may be a factor. Usually worse in winter due to lower humidity with indoor heat. Store in plastic bag, store in different positions. Small piece of wet sponge inside cap but small enough so the sponge doesn't touch the nib.


    1. Thanks for passing along the info, Kate.. It'll be interesting to see how my little Petit1 behaves after it has been idle for a while, filled with Velvet Black. If it clogs, then that would probably be good evidence that it's the ink, not the pen, that's the critical factor, at least in this case. I'll report back later!

  3. This is one of the reasons why I'm such a fan of Pilot fountain pens. I use the Preppy, Plumix and Prera models and all of them start up even when idle for long periods of time. I seldom need to tune their nibs like I used to with chinese fountain pens. I have not tried the Petit1 as yet. Your review has intrigued me. I might have to pick one up to see how it performs. :)

    1. I'm a big fan of Pilots, too! The Petit1s are so inexpensive, you can put one in every bag or pocket. ;-)


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