The Sheaffer Dolphin Touchdown is a perfect example of the cheap pen sale gone gloriously, triumphantly right.
I bought this from someone on Fountain Pen Network a couple of years ago for $25, and it instantly became my favorite pen, not the least for being an absolute steal.
It has a steel medium-ish nib with a faux inlaid effect that reminds me of the Waterman Carene. It’s not a springy nib, nor is it a nail, but a good in-between workhorse. I’d call it forgiving—there’s something about the way the tipping material at the very end is shaped that almost gives this a ride like a rollerball pen. Similar shape and… I dunno what to call it, tread? The actual experience of moving over paper is like a Lamy Safari/Vista F. Very good for long writing sessions. And it looks like a finch beak to me, which I will count in the “plus” column.
This particular pen has a nice smooth ink flow, not juicy, but not dry either—maybe a 6.5/10, but the biggest shock to me is the fact that this pen has never given me a hard start.
And for a left-hander, that’s pretty surprising and then just flat-out delightful. We have to push our pens against paper grain, not drag them behind us, to form letters, and must be straight up connoisseurs if we want a decent writing experience. Prior disappointment breeds discernment.
So a good starter is already streets ahead of anything else out there, except maybe the juiciest, most perfect rollerball you could get your hands on, and even those can be dry and sticky and weird sometimes.
I like to fill mine with Pilot Iroshizuku Murasaki-shikibu, a nice rich mid-toned violet with a bit of a pinkish sheen to it at times. The Iroshizuku inks can be pricey, but are well-behaved. Plus I like purple.
The cap is just a pressure push-on, which is understandable given the price range. The pen body is plastic with unobtrusive embossing of the pen company. Apart from the faux metal inlay at the grip, it’s not an ostentatious pen by any means.
HOWEVER, this also has a unique filling system—another plus! I like a novel way to fill a pen; I get to rediscover it ever so often, and it’s like getting a new pen all over again. Cart/con systems are very useful, but can be a bit of a chore sometimes. If you want to reuse a cartridge, you’re stuck hunkered over the sink with a hypodermic syringe and pointed, intervention-y questions from anyone who finds the aftermath. Converters need to be cleaned and primed.
The Touchdown system is a plunger/vacuum filling mechanism. You unscrew the knob at the back of the pen and pull out the plunger, dip the nib up to the breathing hole, and push the end back in to fill with ink. Easy, and the nib’s shape helps reduce the amount of ink that needs to be wiped off.
The downside to this filling mechanism is, like many piston/vacuum/aerometric systems, that the pen is pretty well chained to one ink color or family, unless you want to do frequent deep cleans. I’m okay with that, though, honestly, because I have enough pens that I switch out and refill with fun new colors.
Here are a couple of writing samples on the Nanami Seven Seas Tomoe River Paper notebook. It gives my handwriting lines a nice “round” feel, sort of squidgy without sacrificing the nib width.
All told, I think this is the perfect pen for me. A great nib, a filling system that captures my *~imagination~* and is relatively neat and clean, and to clinch it all: I got it for very cheap. I’ve had some pens on the more expensive side over the years that aren’t as good as this one, which proves to me that cost doesn’t guarantee a great experience. Sometimes it is a good idea to take someone up on a random listing.