Once in a while, I come across a fountain pen which writes so smoothly and well, that I almost want to put all my others away. If it happens to be inexpensive, so much the better. Such discoveries are partly what make the hobby so enjoyable and addictive.
Last August, I met up in London with a pen friend now living in Australia. We went for a coffee and got talking about pens. He showed me one that he was carrying, which he called his “melon pen.” It was an Online College. I was immediately struck by how smoothly it wrote and what an attractive line it produced. When I remarked upon this, he kindly said that I could keep it as he could easily pick up another, having bought it for a few euros from a German department store or pharmacy.
Online is a German pen brand, established in 1991. Whilst this does not seem long ago to me, it pre-dated internet shopping. However they do now sell online (see website http://www.online-pen.de), as well as in shops.
To put this pen in context, the website shows various categories of pens. Under “Young Line” we see that the College is one of six different models geared towards children and the young at heart. Clicking on the College, you are taken to a large number of different patterns with brightly coloured graphics and with various nib options too. This particular model, to give it its full title, is the “Online Best Writer College 0.8mm Pineapple” and currently sells for 9.99 euros.
The extraordinary thing about this, is that there are so many nib options at this price point, from Medium, Fine, Extra Fine, Left handed to calligraphy nibs of 0.8mm, 1.4mm and 1.8mm.
This is a plastic pen, with a snap cap that can be posted. It has a steel nib. The grip section is soft touch and ergonomic, that is, rubberised and tapering but with two flattened facets for finger placement. There is a clear plastic ink window from which you can see if your cartridge is running low, when held up to the light. The barrel unscrews on plastic threads but with a distinct click at the end when tightened back on again.
The cap and barrel are pink with a pattern of a pineapple and slices of watermelon and some yellow shapes. The clip is plastic and quite flexible but not very tight and secure.
The nib and writing performance.
This particular one has the 0.8mm stub nib, imprinted with the words Online, Germany and 0.8. As I have said, it is very smooth. It is hard to tell whether it has a small amount of tipping material or is just very well polished but the effect is delightful and belies its low price. Personally I find this tip size very useful, being somewhat finer than the more common 1.1mm stub size from other brands. It is very flattering to one’s handwriting, whilst still being forgiving and without sharp edges to dig into the paper.
The nib and feed are friction fit. I have tried transplanting this nib into a TWSBI Eco, which partly worked but was not entirely successful as the nib did not fit snuggly against the Eco’s feed and so eventually I returned it to its own pink melon and pineapple body.
This is a cartridge pen, which takes standard international cartridges. When I received it, it was inked with an Online branded cartridge. The interesting thing is that these are “combination cartridges”, that are double ended: one end is the standard international fit (for this pen) whilst the other end has the Lamy fitting, thus enabling people to use their Online ink cartridges to fit in their Online or Lamy pens.
Size and weight.
Being all plastic, this is a very lightweight pen. Inked, it weighs around 12g in all, of which 4g is the cap, and so only around 8g if used un-posted.
Capped, the pen measures around 139mm, and uncapped, a respectable 126mm. It is designed to be posted (the cap fitting over a recess in the barrel) but then measures a whopping 172mm, although still very comfortable and light. I prefer to use it posted and to grip high up, over the ink window.
Likes and dislikes.
For its modest price, this is a great buy and the smooth 0.8mm stub nib punches well above its weight. The pen is comfortable to use posted or unposted although very light. The cartridge filling system is very convenient although presumably, a converter could be used for bottle filling. The website states “The design contains fun and joy and lots of vitamins!”
As for dislikes, it is lightweight and plasticky, but that is the point. I would have preferred a more boring plain colour or pattern, but that is a reflection on me and not the pen, which is obviously meant for young people. The fruit is refreshing and distinctive. There is no risk of me mistaking this for another pen. If melons and pineapples do not work for you, there are dozens of other designs to chose from.
It is good to know that such a pleasant writing experience can be enjoyed for such little cost. It would be fun to visit a shop selling these in Germany and to rummage through the many patterns and nib options. I have not found them for sale in the UK either in shops or my usual online stores and so you may need to order your Online direct. But if you do not mind the lightweight plastic body and the lively design, you will be rewarded with a surprisingly good writing performance.