The Tesco Cartridge Fountain Pen
I was at the local supermarket and I spotted this fountain pen among all the writing materials for school. Priced at £2 I thought it might provide and hour’s entertainment while having coffee with my daughter if nothing else while the weekly grocery shopping was being done. Loading the cartridge was not the easiest thing and we put the cartridge on the table and pushed the nib unit rather harder than I would have liked to seat the cartridge correctly. There is just room to put a spare cartridge in the barrel but it does stick in it when the nib unit is removed but this is easily solved by pushing a paper clip through the hole in the end of the barrel to push it out. It was hardly surprising to find that the nib was a bit scratchy, not to the point of digging holes in the paper but really quite rough. Having nothing better to do we persevered with it and after half a page of the shorthand pad I noticed it was getting a lot smoother. It gradually ran in and after several pages started to write rather well. We found that the pen got better by the day. It is reasonably flexible with thick and thin lines and is now super smooth. Perhaps it is ‘run in’ now or maybe wearing out, we will see. Not bad for £2 but could it really cut muster as a school pen? When I was at school there were a lot of cheap pens from Italy, Hong Kong and the Japanese pens marked Empire Made. They tended to be really terrible pens, scratchy nibs and leaking ink everywhere. The cheapest reliable and popular pens of the 1950’s were the British made pens by Queensway, Osmiroid and Platignum. Survival rates for fountain pens at school were not good and they usually had short lives. Just for fun we decided to put it through its paces for a few weeks and see if it could really cut the mustard as a school pen
The pen always started to write straight away whether it had been carried around upright in a school blazer pocket or left laying down overnight or for a couple of days over the weekend. The ink flow was always just right, never too wet and always kept up when writing fast. It was carried by our junior tester in a pen box inside a school satchel for a week and at no time did the pen leak. There were a few pin head size droplets visible through the transparent cap at the end of the week but otherwise you would not have known any ink had escaped. A lot of other quite expensive pens fare far worse than this.
Classroom Drop Test.
Survival rates for school pens are often quite low. Some not surviving the first time they get knocked off the desk. The Tesco pen is very light and did rather well often tending to bounce when knocked off a school desk. When posted it fell only slightly cap first. Without a cap it landed more times on its side than the nib and at no time hit the floor directly onto end of its nib. Like it or hate it, this pen is a survivor and should cope with the usual classroom prangs.
Okay, now it is rather unlikely that a pen is ever going to be dropped into the school swimming pool but if it did you can rest assured that it will float. Unlike cameras taken on a school trip and dropped into a river like my daughter managed and oh, how we did laugh when we found it was not insured or the mobile phone accidentally flushed down the toilet, the Tesco pen should survive all this. It does actually float level and although there is a small hole in the end of the barrel we found water did not enter the pen and it showed quite good sea-keeping properties. Ideal then, for taking down to the yacht at the weekend. That way you can give a free pen to anyone who sees it floating by!
Overall this pen performed very well, producing a fine to medium line with a nice smooth writing action. At the supermarket the only other pen aimed at the school pen market was a Parker Vector for £10. At this price you can have five of the Chinese pens. In spite of this the Tesco pen is a miserable failure as a school pen and falls at the first hurdle. It simply has no street cred at school and would be an embarrassment to use in the classroom. It doesn’t matter how good it is, at the end of the day it is just a cheap Chinese pen and doomed to get lost or suffer some other misfortune on day one. Did my daughter actually use the pen at school, no way! Most of the time its a ball point pen and on rare occasions when a fountain pen is used it is my 1961 Platignum Regal with a gold nib, now that has pen has what the Tesco pen can never have, it’s called class. It’s chalk and cheese really.