Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: Let’s Do the Twist

Sometimes I think I’d like to just pick up a pencil and be done with the topic of fountain pens. What’s a more convenient, lightweight, and eco-friendly writing instrument than a pencil? Not a mechanical pencil, but a plain wooden one with a graphite center:

pencil. or, did you know that?
pencil. or, did you know that?

Alas, pencils are too thin, and cause my hand to seize up after several minutes of writing. The same is true of thinner, smaller fountain pens.

Slim pens are good for my short note taking moments. Fountain pens such as the Pilot Decimo, Pilot MYU, and Platinum Kanazawa-Haku fall into that category.

Well,  I meandering when intending to write about the Pilot Fermo, a sibling of the Vanishing Point and Decimo fountain pens.

If you’re wondering, the Fermo is nothing like a pencil.

The Pilot Fermo

The Fermo has two important selling points: it uses Pilot’s famous capless nib, and the nib is retractable. Instead of using a click button like its siblings, the Fermo uses a twist knob to reveal the nib.

Fermo twist-knob, Decimo click-button
Fermo twist-knob, Decimo click-button

A heavy fountain pen, the Fermo weighs in at 35 grams inked up. By contrast, a Vanishing Point weighs approximately 33 grams inked, and a Decimo weighs a mere 21 grams.

The heaviest of the capless triad, the Fermo’s slim profile is similar to the Pilot Decimo, not the Vanishing Point. Those of us preferring the slim Decimo may find the Fermo an interesting companion.

Top: Pilot Sesenta LE (Decimo) Bottom: Pilot Fermo
Top: Pilot Sesenta LE (Decimo)
Bottom: Pilot Fermo

‘Tis true. I’ve found the Fermo quite appealing.

I’ve a confession, however. The only reason I bought a Fermo was because I found one at a super cheap price. Low price and curiosity often take the pen, ay?

The weight of the Fermo puts it into my note-taking pen category. I’ve four basic note-taking pens already, so how did one more enter the hoard? What’s made such a heavy pen acceptable for someone so predominately anti-heavy-pen? To repeat:

  • a decent Decimo-like profile;
  • a capless nib unit – possibly my most favorite nib;
  • a twist knob.

That last element’s the most important. Had the Fermo a push button or a removable cap, the pen would not have been worth much of my curiosity.

knob of the Pilot Fermo has ridges
knob of the Pilot Fermo has ridges

There are places I go where I need to take a note as quietly and unnoticed as possible. The Decimo doesn’t work in those situations because the click is audible. While the Pilot MYU’s pull cap works okay in quiet situations, there’s always the danger of dropping the cap. There’s nothing more stressful to me, than having your pen cap roll away down a theatre aisle, or under someone else’s seat. The Fermo’s a great option for nerdy writers needing a quiet note-taking experience.

Left to right: Pilot Decimo, Pilot Fermo, Platinum Hanakawa-Haku
Left to right: click, twist, or pull? Pilot Decimo, Pilot Fermo, Platinum Hanakawa-Haku

The Fermo is quiet. There’s nothing to uncap, or to click. You merely turn the knob at the end of the barrel. And so, in a darkened theatre, or other places where quiet’s needed, the Fermo’s an anxiety free fountain pen.

☮ → Be sure to twist the knob until you can’t turn it any further in order to lock the nib in its retractable position.

☮ → Also note: When you twist the knob to return the nib back inside the pen, don’t let go before the knob stops turning. Otherwise, the twist spring will indeed make some noise.

Knowing that the pen will spend more time in my pocket than in my hand, the Fermo’s weight seems unimportant. Although, sometimes a lighter pen is required, due to pocket or other carry issues. When the Fermo is not convenient, the Pilot MYU is always handy.

The body of the Fermo is made of brass, and covered by lacquer. The twist-knob is made of plastic; a somewhat jarring contrast, at first, to the brass body. While my pen is dark blue, the Fermo also comes in black, dark green, or silver. All with rhodium trim. (My pen is actually darker than how it appears in most of the photos accompanying this post.)

Pilot Fermo in blue with rhodium trim
Pilot Fermo in blue with rhodium trim

It’s a Trap

Like the VP and Decimo, the Fermo has a trap door. When you twist the knob on the Fermo, or click the button on a VP or Decimo, the nib is pushed against the door, opening it. When the nib is retracted back into the barrel, the door closes so that ink in the nib doesn’t dry out. (A nib with dried ink, of course, will make your pen hard starting; you may be unable to write when you desperately need the pen to record your thoughts.)

The nib unit for the Fermo is the same model used for the VP and the Decimo. That interchangeability works fairly well with the 18K Rhodium nibs. But there can be variances among nib units. You can read about incompatibility issues on the more-than-great Crónicas Estilográficas blog.

Pilot Fermo doorway
Pilot Fermo doorway
Fermo nib
Fermo’s nib
Doorways: Fermo on left; Decimo/Sesenta on right
Doorways: Fermo on left; Decimo/Sesenta on right

The Fermo and its siblings are not the only fountain pens with retracting nibs. Visconti, Stipula, Lamy, Montblanc are among the few other companies with offerings. A lot of pen folks are hoping TWSBI will release their click fountain pen some day. However, none of these competitors have the sublime Pilot Capless 18K nib unit. The nib is the best part of the Fermo, the VP, and the Decimo. The twist and the click make the pen more fun and convenient.

Same Rules Apply: Fermo, VP or Decimo

To ink the Fermo, you have to use a CON-20 or CON-50 converter, or the proprietary Pilot/Namiki cartridges. (No, no, no the CON-70 won’t fit the Fermo either. Hey, there’s always someone who asks, so there you go!) When you use a cartridge, be sure to use the steel cap included with your purchase. (These can be bought separately if yours is mysteriously missing.) The steel cap prevents undue pressure on the plastic cartridge. You don’t want the cartridge to crack and  leak, do you?

top of cartridge cap
top of cartridge cap
cartridge cap and cartridge, right?
cartridge cap and cartridge, right?
cart cap in place. ya puts the cartridge in first, and then the cap over the cartridge
cartridge cap in place. ya puts the cartridge in first, and then the cap over the cartridge

The CON-50 continues to be my personal converter choice for the Fermo as well as the Decimo. I’m continuing to experiment with refilling the ink cartridge, and tend to carry a couple of carts while traveling. I’ve mixed results with the refilling the carts, and am not ready to pronounce, “yay or nay” on that filling method yet.

Fermo and Sesenta in pieces
In pieces: Fermo using cartridge and Sesenta using CON-50

For moi, an average Pilot or Platinum fine nib will give me  2,000 words on 1ml of ink. Do with that information what you will. If I had to use one of these Capless pens as a core writing pen, well, yes, I’d have to refill it at least once, twice or three times during the course of a writing day. That’s why I use these Capless pens for the notes, and eyedropper pens for the work. But I do know folks who use the fine and extra fine nibs for all day writing. Perhaps they carry a few cartridges or an ink container around, ay?

You gotta know your pen, and how you use it.

The Basics (YMMV)

Weight – inked with converter or cartridge

  • Fermo 35 grams
  • Decimo 21 grams
  • Vanishing Point 32 grams

Length

  • Fermo – 141 mm
  • Decimo – 140 mm (just a wee bit shorter)
  • Vanishing Point – 141 mm

Ink Capacity for Fermo, Decimo, and Vanishing Point

  • CON-50 – .6ml – newer version with metal agitator
  • CON-20 – .8ml
  • Cartridge – .9ml

Need more information? Spend endless, satisfying hours reading the Crónicas Estilográficas blog for all kinds of great information about Pilot and other Japanese pens. Or, take a look at Carmen Rivera’s Vanishing Point history. Also, read friend trhall’s post on Penucopia about his clicky pen.

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