Early thoughts on the Online Campus Fluffy Cats fountain pen.

Well, I made it to 7 January 2022 before buying any pens this year. So much for resolve. To be fair, I did say in my last post “I always start the year with good intentions to buy less pens…”, not no pens.

So, what made me cave in so easily? Allow me to introduce the Online Campus, a school pen from Germany, in the “Fluffy Cat” design.

Online Campus Fluffy Cats fountain pen.

I was first aware of these a couple of years ago. A visiting pen friend showed me his Online College that he was carrying and, when I commented on how nice it was to write with, and how flattering it was to my rather awkward lefty-overwriter hand writing, he said I could keep it and gave it to me on the spot. It had an 0.8mm stub nib and a pink design featuring melons and pineapples. He told me of his other Online “Fluffy Cats” pen, which he claimed to be one of his favourite pens. Coming from someone who had spent years acquiring pens such as Pelikans, Pilots, Lamys and Montblancs of much greater cost, this carried some weight.

I had not seen a Fluffy Cats version for sale, until idly scrolling through Amazon’s offerings last weekend when, to my surprise, I found an Online Campus in a Fluffy Cats version, with a Medium nib, for £14.99. Also I had not tried an Online Campus, but enjoyed the College and the Bachelor, both of which were fitted with the 0.8mm stub nib. I was keen to try the standard Medium nib which I had heard is also very good.

I ordered two, to make the delivery more worthwhile and for the option of having a second one to use in a different location, or with a different ink, or to give away.

Unboxing.

They arrived within 24 hours, in a brown cardboard envelope, with the two pens loose inside. There was no other packaging at all. There was no paperwork but the pens each had a sticker on the cap, with the address of Online Schreibgerate, a bar code and a symbol to indicate that the nib was a Medium. They each came with one Online long blue cartridge, (with a standard international cartridge fitting at one end and a cheeky Lamy fit at the other!) but no converter this time.

Fluffy Cats

First impressions were favourable. The body of the pen features ten rows of cute, cartoon cats, with various colours and expressions which remind me of the extended family of five feral cats that inhabit our garden, and which we feed every day.

I also noticed that the Campus pen feels slightly bigger and heavier than the College, that the pocket clip is stainless steel instead of plastic and that the body of the pen has a “soft touch”, slightly rubbery feel.

The two ends of the pen are plastic but painted silver to look like metal.

The flush cap snaps on and off firmly with a pop and a click. It is very light and is designed to post where it remains completely flush with the barrel. This makes for a very ample length without upsetting balance.

With cap posted

As most of my currently inked pens are filled with blue or blue black inks, I decided to try the Campus with a cartridge of Kaweco ruby red. It pops in to the section nicely with room for a second cartridge in the barrel, if you use the short variety. The section also features the clear plastic ink window which lets you see the cartridge and ink inside.

Inked with Kaweco ruby red plus a spare.

Size and weight.

Closed, the Campus measures 141mm; uncapped it is 123mm and posted it is a very lengthy 173mm. The barrel is about 13mm at its widest, and the grip section tapers from 11mm down to 9mm nearest the nib.

The complete pen, uninked, weighs 13g or just 8g uncapped and about 5g for the cap alone. This total weight compares with the Online College at 10g.

Nib and writing performance.

The stainless steel nib, with iridium tip, is a Medium. The selling description stated it to be “right handed” although the tipping looks symmetrical to me, as far as I can tell. I do not know if there is a left handed version or how it would differ. The nib has a slight springiness to it and is not a nail. You can get a little line variation from it if you push it a bit. But the main message is that it writes perfectly. Straight out of the box (except that there was no box). There is no nib work required and the pen is ready for use right away, (which may come as a surprise to people used to buying faulty pens at forty times this price!). I was delighted with the smoothness and the degree of ink flow, even for this lefty-overwriter who needs nibs a little wetter sometimes.

Stainless steel medium nib, iridium tip.

I do not yet know whether this Fluffy Cat version is a reissue of a previously popular design. I thought that they had been discontinued. I could not find a Fluffy Cat version in a brief check of the company’s web site today (Online-pen.com). It may be that they are still made after all, or have been reintroduced or it may be that Amazon had some new old stock. Whichever it is, I am glad to have it and now find myself looking forward to getting home to write with my Fluffy Cats.

The real thing. (Photo: Ling Arzeian)

Postscript:

Here is a size comparison photo, of the Online Bachelor, College and Campus pens:

Online Bachelor (top), Online College (middle) and Online Campus (bottom).

A look at the Online College fountain pen.

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 College cartridge pen, with melon and pineapple design.

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.

Description.

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.

More melon than pineapple.

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 Online 0.8mm stub nib.

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.

Writing sample from 0.8mm stub nib. With Kaweco blue cartridge and Concord 100gsm A4 premium writing paper notebook.

Filling system.

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.

Online cartridge (empty) with standard international fitting on the left and Lamy fitting on the right.

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!”

With standard international cartridge fitted.

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.

Conclusion.

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.

The nib is recessed in a clear plastic collar.