Review: Custom ground italic Pilot Varsity

Did you read that title and say “What? Who grinds disposable pens?” Good, that was the point. I myself had never considered messing with the Pilot Varsity but if you think about it, what better pen to practice on? They’re only a couple bucks a piece and if you ruin one, who cares?

But this isn’t about me trying my hand at grinding, this is a plug for the work of Dan Smith. You may know him as @mr_maxim on twitter or by his website, dannzeman.com. He’s been doing pen repair for a while and when he offered me a custom ground Varsity to try, I jumped at it.

Why would I be excited about such a lowly pen? If you’ve never used a Varsity, you’re missing out. It’s the poster child for how great fountain pens can be without costing a fortune. I absolutely love the blue ink color and when I opened the package from Dan and saw that he had ground a blue one, I was elated. I’d keep blathering on about it, but I already sat down and did a mini-review with my chicken scratch. Click the below picture to see a much larger version.

Medium nib ground to italic.

As you can see, the line variation is just about perfect. In fact, I think it has inspired me to get something a bit more expensive ground in the same fashion. As noted in the written part, I’m sending him a Vacumatic to repair after the holidays so I’ll have more info on Dan’s work very soon.

As a disclaimer, I never checked with Dan to see if he sold these. I know he gifts them to some of his customers, but don’t be offended if he won’t sell you one. I’m just giving him props for a job well done, I don’t want to put words in his mouth. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Review: Custom ground italic Pilot Varsity

  1. Neat!

    I’ve heard of people drilling a small hole in the back end of a Varsity, refilling it, and plugging it with a small nylon screw and some silicone grease. I’m not sure I’m brave enough to try it and keep it in my pocket. I might also look to see if the section can be removed/refilled/replaced (again, silicone grease is your friend).

  2. Thanks for the review. You flatter me! I haven’t sold the Varsities before, as you stated I usually include them as gifts to people who use my restoration services, but if someone really wanted one I’m sure we could work something out.

    @Charles, I find an easier way to refill the Varsities is by using pliers to pull the nib and feed out of the section. Rinse the pen out, fill with your favorite color, and put the feed and nib back in. It usually snaps into place when you’ve got back in properly. I’ve done it a couple of times and the hardest part is getting the feed and nib out; it takes some force.

  3. i tried drilling a hole at the back and plugging it before. it was really messy. the moment the screw is unplugged, ink will start to drip out at the front. while filling the pen with ink, ink would drip out the front as well.

    for many years, instead of using a screw, i plugged the hole with silicon caulk and used a syringe/needle to inject ink into the ink reservoir. after many times, the silicon plug was not air tight and the pen leaked.

    then i used the method of pulling out the feed but after a few times of refilling, i damaged the feed.

    one day i really thought about the puzzle and came out with this method using a syringe to create a vacuum:

    hth