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View Full Version : Zebra V-301 FP Fountain Pen Review



heath
November 8th, 2013, 10:09 PM
I have this same review with more images on my blog here: http://penpaperinkletter.com/zebra-v-301-fp-fountain-pen-review/

This is the Zebra V-301 fountain pen. It gets most of its attention from the fact that it is the sole fountain pen available at Walgreens, a US chain drugstore. It is stainless steel and comes in either black or blue from the manufacturer but I donít know that I have ever heard of anyone finding the blue one in the wild.

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It is cartridge only and comes with two decent sized cartridges. However, there are no cartridges available separately at the locations I have checked so I can only assume that Zebra doesnít intend for most users to hold onto this pen for long. A hint towards my view on the pen here, I donít know that the pen would last much longer than 2 cartridges.

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It is a snap cap which is actually one of the shortest caps I have ever seen on a fountain pen. It is postable and the clip is decent. I must say that every time I cap this pen I am afraid I am going to snap the plastic section of the pen from the metal body as it seems to bend slightly even with the slight pressure I am giving it to get the cap to snap. The Black ink that comes in the cartridges with this pen are not super black and lean towards a dark grey.

Iíve seen a decent amount of discussion on this pen from different sources and I have to say I havenít agreed with a lot of it. Most people hail it as an amazing value at under $5. Some do indeed say it isnít worth trying but most simply say that is because it isnít as good as some other sub $5 fountain pens like the Platinum Preppy. In my opinion this pen has no redeeming value outside of the fact that it is the only fountain pen available at the particular drug store that carries it locally. That being said, Iíd pick at least a handful of other pens ahead of it. I do try to be unbiased in my reviews in that what I say is my honest opinion of a product without influence from outside opinions or sponsorships and I believe I am not leaving that desire here. I will say that I hate to say that this pen is worthless. I donít want the one pen that so many non-fp people may try first on a whim isnít going to give them anything to like. I admit that obviously that is not true for some. But, in the end I would not recommend this pen to anyone

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For the same money I would easily recommend the Platinum Preppy over this pen. For less money I would recommend several Chinese fountain pens.

I hope I have been fair but please let me know if you have experience with this pen and would affirm or disagree. The only caveat I will give on this review is that I have only had. I just donít see how it could be getting any good reviews with the weakness of the plastic section so there is a chance that others have better build quality. That being said, if thatís the case then I would add poor product quality control to the review.

-Heath
@WeThePPIL

mhguda
November 9th, 2013, 06:35 AM
I have one of these, bought after reading about it on one of the FP fora, and I found that with the cartridge, it wasn't giving me good flow. I was able to stick in a Parker slide converter, with a little effort. The converter is slightly too long for the barrel, and I've had to fiddle around to make the pen stick together, using scotch tape to make sure the converter stays in place. The barrel fits over it very tightly, and the result is a slightly longer pen. But the flow! From the moment I put in the converter, all my flow problems were solved. I just picked it up, it's sat for months in a drawer with a little ink in it, and it wrote immediately and well. My verdict therefore is different from yours: after the adjustment I did, this pen is a great writer...

Mike Hungerford
November 9th, 2013, 07:41 AM
Heath, I think you've made your case nicely.

It's not a wonderful pen, by any means, and the ink in those cartridges is atrocious. My first V-301 improved a great deal after a good flush and a refill with Waterman blue-black ink, and the nib and feed can be disassembled easily enough for thorough cleaning, but that soft plastic (polyethylene?) section feels like it's going to break or collapse much of the time.

The nib tends to snag on the edge of the inner cap, and I managed to destroy that first pen's flimsy steel nib that way. The steel is also thin enough that it's quite easy to spring the nib.

The second one has been better, simply by *not* using the supplied ink, and being careful when capping the pen. It's still going strong after about two years, starts and writes every time, and is acceptably smooth. I just have to remember to treat it as what it is: a very-cheaply-made pen.

pencils+pens
November 9th, 2013, 09:45 AM
I have a blue and a black V-301 as well as a blue R-301. The latter is a roller ball that uses the same fountain pen cartridges. I also have two yellow H-301 highlighters which use highlighter ink in the same cartridges.

I haven't had a problem with any of them, except for the fact that the cap swivels when posted. One secret that I learned from another forum is to insert a cartridge and then cap the pen and let it stand nib down for a while. I haven't had a flow issue and I have used that method on all of the cartridge based Zebra 301 series pens.

I like the pens enough that I carry them as my EDC backup in my briefcase along with a blue G-301 (gel) and blue F-301 (ballpoint) and black M-301 (mechanical pencil). If that got lost or damaged it isn't a severe loss.

Cartridge availability is also an issue but I plan of refilling the cartridges from bottles. I would only need to buy new cartridges when the existing ones get too loose to refill.

The 301s aren't the best pens I own by far but they more than hold their own against my cheapest pens which include Hero 330, Hero 336, Sheaffer Cartridge Pens ('60s and '70s) and Guanleming 2001. I find the 301s to be more comfortable to use than my Parker Vectors. I never got used to the sharp edge of the Vector. It isn't until I get up to my Sheaffer No Nonsense pens (original screw caps) that I have a better pen.

I wish Zebra either made the pens capable of using a standard converter or made a converter available. I also like the blue ink in the cartridges.

cwent2
November 9th, 2013, 11:41 AM
I have had good luck using this pen as a knock about and have changed the cartridge from what came with it - I use an ink syringe to fill the cartridge.

I have no issues with this pen for what it is, a very inexpensive pen that performs what I need it to do - even after sitting in a drawer for weeks without being used.

diogenesNY
November 24th, 2013, 11:40 AM
After reading the review, I did see one of these for about $3 someplace. With few illusions, I parted with my three bucks figuring that this could at least be a fun hack project.

FWIW, I love Zebra's Sarasa Gel pens. Haven't really used their 301 Gel yet. Not a huge ballpoint fan. The whole 301 series is an example of inexpensive but nice industrial design.

Now, first thing I did was give the nib a good soak in dilute ammonia to get rid of any potential manufacturing smeg. I have learned that this is a very wise habit when fishing pens from the shallow end of the pool.

Having heard about the ink, I decided to toss the included (non-international standard) cartridges to the back of my desk drawer, and see if I could finesse something else.

The included cartridges seem to be a proprietary design, and not international standard. Sometimes with a little effort, pleading and muscle you can get not strictly compatible cartridges to mate with uncooperative pens. I had a half full 10-pak of Private Reserve Tanzanite in Int-Std, but alas, the intake stem on the zebra is well too thick to accommodate this format, even with a little poking and a lot of yelling.

So that is where things remain. Anyone have a suggestion for a cart format with a slightly wider aperture that might be made to connect?

diogenesNY

cwent2
November 24th, 2013, 11:48 AM
Anyone have a suggestion for a cart format

use an ink syringe to remove ink from the provided cartridge and refill using clean syringe with ink of your choice

mhguda
November 24th, 2013, 09:10 PM
Try a Parker cartridge. Or a Parker slide converter. Mine works fine with the cheap Parker slide converter, although the one problem you will have it that the barrel is a bit too short. But the whole is a pretty tight fit, so I'm using it like that, and it writes like a dream. Sometimes I let it sit for months unused, pick it up and it still writes immediately.

Sailor Kenshin
November 25th, 2013, 06:39 AM
Once you get it started, that is. I am now using the black one, and it needed multiple dips in whatever ink I had, in order to get the ink flow going. I read somewhere that this is due to its unusual feed.

diogenesNY
November 29th, 2013, 10:49 PM
I really want to like this pen. I really do. Unfortunately, it seems so far that the effort as yet invested is well more than any inexpensive pen is worth.

I finally found a narrow tipped pipette, and filled a cleaned cart with diamine Oxblood. Plugged it into a thoroughly cleaned body. Waited. Warmed in hands, etc.

At best, it starts, stops, starts, stops, skids dry.... I will just have patience and let it sit a while and try again. Will report.

diogenesNY

Sailor Kenshin
November 30th, 2013, 08:38 AM
Try dipping in any available ink, then writing whatever for a page or so. Good luck a d let us know if it works!

79spitfire
November 30th, 2013, 01:11 PM
It can take a day or so for the ink to fully saturate the wick feed, so try again later