Love fountain pens but are tired of delicate models? Try out this heavy-duty stainless steel fountain pen from Bastion!
I have a secret. While I’m the Senior Editor of a wristwatch site, there’s something I love more than watches — fountain pens!
Ever since I was in 5th grade, I’ve been passionate (and at times obsessed) about penmanship and finding the best pen for me.
Over the years, I’ve found myself gravitating to vintage fountain pens, with my favorites being from the 1920s-40s.
Why do I prefer vintage pens?
In my opinion, so many modern pens are status symbols first and writing implements second. Back in the day fountain pens were a primary communication tool, and so they were built with heavy use in mind.
Additionally, my handwriting borrows heavily from Spencerian and business writing methods of the turn of the 20th century. I believe that using pens made during the period when my writing style was predominant enhances my penmanship.
My favorite pen is one I inherited. It was made in the 1920s. 100 years later, it still writes like a dream.
While I’ve dabbled with modern pens, I’m a certified vintage pen snob.
Until I got a stainless steel fountain pen from Bastion, that is.
Here’s why this pen has me rethinking everything.
Don’t have time to read the whole review? Here’s the nitty-gritty:
- Very sturdy construction
- Nib has some spring to it
- Converter filler included
- Cap screws shut
- Smooth nib (tip)
- Sleek design
- Very accessible price
- Cap doesn’t post
- Very heavy compared to pens I’m accustomed to
Overall, Bastion’s stainless steel fountain pen is an excellent pen that I’d recommend to new users and fountain pen aficionados alike.
Bastion Fountain Pen Specs
Let’s start things off by looking at the Bastion Fountain Pen’s features. Here’s what you need to know:
The first thing I noticed about this pen was that it’s heavy. I’ve never written with a pen with as much heft as this one.
The weight is also distributed a bit differently than my other pens. Even without posting the cap (i.e., attaching the cap to the pen when writing. More on that in a moment), this pen feels somewhat top-heavy.
What I mean is that the pen feels lighter near the nib (i.e., tip) and heavier towards the back. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it makes for a different writing experience.
While other fountain pens might be easy to forget about when stored in your pocket, you’ll know exactly where this sucker is. Again, this isn’t an automatically negative trait; it’s just something to be aware of as you consider making a purchase.
I still haven’t quite decided on the virtues of heavy-weight pens, but at this point, I appreciate the novel experience of writing with one.
The Bastion fountain pen has a rounded stainless steel nib. A “nib” is simply the tip or metal writing part of a fountain pen. The nib is arguably the most important part of the pen as it’s what is doing the writing.
This nib reads “MOONMAN SUPER QUALITY F.” The “F” indicates that this is a fine point nib. It also features some decorative engraving.
Bastion’s site states that this is a #5 nib. This means that the diameter of the housing for the feed (the ink-carrying part situated directly underneath the nib) and the nib is 5mm.
While the best nibs are made from 14k gold, I’d expect a stainless steel nib at this price point.
I was surprised to discover that this nib has some spring to it. I definitely wouldn’t call it a flexible nib, but it’s no nail, either.
A flexible nib means that a pen can write with line variation. In other words, a skilled writer can vary the thickness of strokes while writing. Fun fact: a very flexible nib is called a “wet noodle” by those in the know.
A “nail”, on the other hand, refers to a nib without any flex at all.
Like the one on this Bastion pen, a springy nib means that the pen has a little “give” while writing, but not enough to create noticeable line variation.
Personally, I prefer flexy nibs, but this Bastion nib is growing on me.
The last thing I’ll mention about this nib is that I’ve noticed some very minimal nib creep. “Nib creep” is when you see ink on the pen tip. This is a purely cosmetic thing and doesn’t affect the pen’s performance in any way. Personally, I don’t care about nib creep one way or another, but I know that some people do.
As I mentioned before, a pen’s feed is what delivers ink to the tip via small grooves or channels. (For more info on fountain pen anatomy, check out this article).
The feed on this pen appears to be plastic, which is to be expected. I mention the feed because it is the main factor as to whether a pen writes more “dry” or “wet.” For me, this pen writes dry (which I’ll explain in more detail).
This Bastion pen comes with a converter, but it also takes cartridges.
Cartridges are small plastic tubes prefilled with ink that you can simply pop into a pen and dispose of after use.
A converter pops into the same small nipple as cartridges but allows us to fill our pen with bottled ink. Using a converter means you’ll spend less on ink, allowing you to choose from a wide variety of inks.
Here’s a brief guide on how to fill a fountain pen with a converter.
First, unscrew the barrel of the pen and simply pop in the converter.
Then, you want to use the screw mechanism on top of the converter to move the tiny internal plunger to the bottom of the converter (as far down towards the pen tip as you can).
Next, carefully open up your ink bottle.
Gently dip the tip of your pen into the ink, completely covering the nib.
Now, use your dominant hand to turn the small knob until the pen is completely full of ink.
Screw on the barrel.
Then, make sure to wipe any excess ink off of your nib, feed, and barrel. I use a dry tissue or toilet paper square, followed by a damp one.
Finally, close your ink bottle.
The first few times you fill a fountain pen, it can be a little intimidating. After a while, you’ll be so comfortable that you can do it “safely” while wearing a white shirt.
It takes a few weeks or months, but with experience, you can estimate how long a fill will last. How long your ink reservoir lasts depends on the pen, how much you write, and your individual writing style.
Cap and Clip
Like the rest of the pen, the Bastion’s cap is substantial. Not only is it longer than caps from my vintage pens, but it’s also heavy.
Like I said, you can’t post this cap. Posting a cap traditionally adds length to the pen when writing and optimizes the weight balance. Being long and heavy makes sense that this cap isn’t “postable” as it would make the instrument unwieldy.
While quickly becoming accustomed to this non-posting pen, I hate thinking about what to do with the cap while writing. This is especially true when I’m writing daily in my pocket notebook.
I find it impressive that when shut, it’s practically imperceptible where the cap ends and the barrel begins. It’s a very sleek pen.
I also noticed that the cap doesn’t have any “breather holes” like my vintage pens do. Some fountain pens have tiny holes in the cap to help deal with changes in air pressure when a cap is closed.
I have a theory that with such a tight-fitting screw-on cap and without holes in the cap, this pen is very unlikely to leak into your pocket. While I’ve carried a fountain pen with me for probably thousands of days, I’ve only had a pen leak a handful of times. However, when one leaks, it can be a real disaster, especially when using permanent iron gall Salix ink like I do.
The cap has a tight clip attached to the cap with two small screws. Next to the discreet black clip is a tiny white “Bastion” logo. While I’m not normally a fan of visible logos, this one is well-executed enough to get a “pass.”
Bastion offers their fountain pen with four different finishes — stainless steel, stainless steel black, aluminum silver, and titanium.
I ordered the stainless steel black.
If you’re apprehensive of the weight of this pen, I’d opt for the aluminum model. While a bit heavier than aluminum, titanium would also be lighter than stainless. Since these three metals have different weights, I assume the Bastion pens’ weights would reflect that depending on the material, but I could be wrong.
Bastion Fountain Pen: How Well Does It Write?
Acclimating to a new fountain pen is like getting a new dog.
With a dog, you ask yourself: Does he bite? What are his favorite treats? Does he like you to throw the ball a certain way?
Similarly, a new fountain pen can “prefer” one type of paper over another, work best with a particular type of ink, and write best with the nib in a certain position.
In short, a fountain pen has a personality of its own.
While my favorite vintage pens are lightweight, moody, and expressive, this Bastion pen is no-nonsense, sturdy, and reliable.
Although dependable, the pen feels somewhat sterile. I’d expect this — it simply doesn’t have the 100-year life that my vintage Moore pen has. Also, my Moore has an untipped nib, not a rounded nib like the Bastion. An untipped, flexible nib is simply more expressive.
Also, I’m used to pens that write “wet,” but this pen writes “dry.” That simply means that the ink doesn’t flow as freely on the page. Neither “wet” nor “dry” is better than another — it’s just a different writing experience.
All of that said, I still love writing with my Bastion fountain pen. I feel that its reliability helps me to be more consistent in my letter forms and spacing.
While such a weighty pen might not be for everyone, I think that at $60, this pen provides incredible value.
After carefully testing out the Bastion fountain pen, I can emphatically recommend it to people looking to try fountain pens for the first time and to experienced penmen looking for an off-beat new addition to their collection.
What kind of pen do you prefer? I sincerely would like to know. Please share in the comment section below!