When I think of "innovative" and unique pen designs, one that always comes to mind is the Pilot Vanishing Point. What makes it so interesting is the fact that it is a truly retractable fountain pen. While there are a few others on the market nowadays, the Vanishing Point was the first to really pioneer this technology which is approaching 50 years ago or more (which is crazy).
I've reviewed a couple of Vanishing Points here on the blog, the "standard" version as well as the fancier (and more expensive) Fermo, but the specimen today is a model called the Decimo. I've been meaning to take a look at the Decimo for years, and I finally got my hands on one since the folks at Pen Chalet were kind enough to send one over for me to check out. Special thanks to them!
At a glance, one might not be able to distinguish the Decimo from that standard Vanishing Point; same overall shape, same knock mechanism, same clip placement, same sort of "aquatic" look (maybe that is just me), same placement of the trim rings... you get the idea.
The difference though is in it's overall size and "girth" as the Decimo is meant to be a slightly thinner model for a somewhat more compact and less bulky writing experience. But, in overall length the two models are pretty much identical.
For me personally the standard Vanishing Point isn't overly large as my hands are pretty big, but for someone with smaller hands and fingers I could see it being enormous. The Decimo fills that need pretty well I think as it does feel smaller.
All that being said, the difference in my opinion isn't THAT big. To me it would be like saying a 20 oz soda is too large, but an 18 oz is better. But, I think it is all based on perspective and how it fits in your hand so for many people it would be a vast improvement.
If you are somewhat new to Vanishing Point pens, how they work is by pressing and clicking the knock mechanism as you would on a retractable ballpoint or gel type pen, which extends the extremely small nib through a perfectly shaped opening at the tip. Internally, there are springs and levers that open a small trap door that allows the nib to come out unharmed. It seriously is just so cool!
I mentioned that the nib is tiny... on a normal fountain pen the nib would look completely ridiculous, but due to the fact that it has a sort of "hooded" effect being encased in the pen's barrel it doesn't look too odd.
One benefit of having the nib so small is the overall cost savings it employs. The Vanishing Point models come standard with a 18k gold nib and, for their price point, is a pretty good value I think. Pilot and Platinum are two brands that seem to make getting a good quality pen with a gold nib affordable.
The nib itself really is more of a "nib unit" since it comes complete with the appropriate metal housing built in that allows the pen's inner workings to function. This is a bit different than most pens where the nib and feed are more of an independent feature that aren't quite so integral to the mechanics of the barrel.
The Decimo, standard Vanishing Point, and Fermo all take the same nib units, so they are interchangeable if you have varying nib sizes amongst these pens.
For this model I opted for a medium nib which is a really good size for me personally. It gives a generous line, but isn't too wide and is comparable to a European fine nib size you'd get on something like a Lamy or Pelikan. In my experience the Vanishing Point nibs have some give (not "flex" per se), which makes for somewhat softer writing. But, with the nib being so small you shouldn't overdo it with pressure.
Included with the pen is the newer CON-40 converter as well as a Pilot/Namiki blue cartridge (with included chrome cap). Rather than inking from a bottle this time I opted to just pop in the cartridge as I enjoy the Pilot blue ink.
One common complaint by some people about the Vanishing Point pens is the clip. Since the pen is retractable that means there is no cap to remove which puts the clip smack dab in the middle of the grip section. For me this is not an issue due to how I hold pens; the clip actually nestles nicely between my thumb and index finger and doesn't impede my comfort. If someone has more of a "unique" grip, it could be a problem.
The only real downside I see to the Decimo is the lack of color options. From time to time Pilot releases varying editions of their models, but the Decimo's current lineup only provides about a half a dozen colors and all with a rhodium trim. Compare this to the standard Vanishing Point which has probably 20+ variations (at least) with a mix of rhodium, black, or gold trims. I'm partial to the matte black standard version and wish there were more options to choose from.
I went with probably the most boring combo of all (I'm boring I guess) with the gloss black and rhodium, but it fits my style and I like it.
Even with the color limitations I think the Decimo is a great option if someone wants the convenience and "cool" factor of the Vanishing Point, but would fare better with a slimmer model. And, the retail price is $10 cheaper... bonus.
Special thanks again to Pen Chalet for sending it for review!