Guide to the Pilot Vanishing Point Capless Fountain Pen

Now you see it, now you don't.

The Pilot Vanishing Point, also called the Capless, is the world's best-known retractable fountain pen. The nib appears and disappears with the simple click of the button on the back-end of the pen. There's no caps to be had here, just the convenience of a one-handed operation, mimicking the retraction mechanism of a ballpoint pen.

When was the Pilot Vanishing Point Invented?

Ballpoint pens became a commercial success back in the 1950's, marking the end of the golden age of fountain pens. People embraced the convenience of the Biro, the Parker Jotter and others over the self-filling fountain pens that had been the way of life for decades previous.

The Pilot Vanishing Point answered the call to provide an affordable, convenient writing instrument that would still have the ink flow and writing experience of a liquid ink fountain pen while taking the convenient functionality of it's retractable competitor.

The Capless was born in 1965 and has since evolved into the modern day Vanishing Point with many body & trim variations, nib options and limited editions.

Guide to the Pilot Vanishing Point Capless Fountain Pen

How does a Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen Work?

The part that makes this pen so unique is the complex mechanism behind the effortless click-action. Pressing the push button on the back-end of the pen opens a spring-loaded door at the business end of the pen, revealing the tip of a 18kt gold nib that patiently awaits to perform. Below is a cross section diagram of the Vanishing Point's mechanism, showing how the magic happens.

Clicking the push button again retracts the nib back into the body of the pen, closing the door to the front-end and stowing the nib away for writing at a later time. The door closes with an air tight seal so that the nib's ink supply does not dry out.

For some writers, holding a Vanishing Point can take some getting used to. The pen's clip is positioned to start at the tip area where fingers would grip the pen. The design of the pen anticipates that your fingers would hold the pen on either side of the clip, but if that is not your writing grip style, then you may be fighting with the VP's protruding clip.

Although the clip is essential to providing the additional convenience feature of this pocket-friendly pen, it is possible to remove the clip through some tinkering.

pilot vanishing point fountain pen mechanism diagram cross section

How to fill a Pilot Vanishing Point

Filling a Pilot Vanishing Point with ink is a unique experience, as the nib and converter unit must be completely removed from the body of the pen to be filled. If you would choose a cartridge, you can easily plug in a new cartridge and replace the metal cartridge cap (one cartridge & cartridge cap would come with your VP fountain pen to start).

To fill using bottled ink, the Pilot CON-40 converter should be firmly fitted into the nib unit to make sure the connection is secure. Like with any other cartridge converter, screw the turning knob clockwise to move the inner piston, forcing air out of the pen's feed mechanism. Submerge the entire gold nib into a bottle of ink and screw anti / counter clockwise to draw up the ink. You may have to repeat this process a few times to completely rid the pen of air and draw up as much ink as possible. Once you are finished filling most of the converter, wipe off any excess ink on the nib unit and insert back into the body of the Vanishing Point.

There is a notch on the barrel of the VP's body that aligns with the nib unit to make sure you are installing the unit in the proper orientation. It won't allow you to put it in any other way. One thing to make a note of is to make sure the pen's push-top clicker is set in the "retracted / closed" position before putting the body back together.

pilot vanishing point nibs macro

The Pilot Vanishing Point's nib is made from 18kt gold, offering a smooth and responsive writing experience. Since it is a Japanese style nib, the sizes run a step smaller than their European counterparts. For example, if your preferred nib size is the fine point on your Pelikan, you should aim for using a medium in a Pilot. This follows a similar pattern to when we were discussing the Sailor 1911 collection.

If you prefer a "wetter" writer, opt for the broad or the 1.0mm stub nib. Reading reviews and customer comments indicate that the fine and extra-fine nib sizes tend to be on the drier side to allow for the finer line. Also, the stub nib provides a flair of line variation to your everyday writing.

How many styles of Vanishing Point are there?

To pace with current design & color trends, Pilot continues to introduce new colors and designs of the Pilot Vanishing Point. The everyday, classic designs like black & gold are for the formal taste while more modern metallic finishes with black trims & nib are preferred by younger writers. With new styles appearing in the collection each year, there is a Vanishing Point fountain pen for every writer.

The Decimo is a slimmer version of the Vanishing Point that contains the same mechanism and nib with a narrower body design. The colors of the Pilot Decimo line are skewed towards feminine tastes, but they could certainly be for anyone who enjoys a thinner version of a Vanishing Point. The Decimo still uses the same 18kt gold replaceable nib unit outfitted in the standard Vanishing Point.

Guide to the Pilot Vanishing Point Capless Fountain Pen
Guide to the Pilot Vanishing Point Capless Fountain Pen

In 2020, Pilot introduced the luxury-level, upgraded Pilot Vanishing Point LS. The LS' writing experience centers around the tried-and-true 18kt gold nib that writes smoothly and reliably. The nib is accessible by either clicking the top button or twisting the section below the button to the right. The action is seamless and impressive, even if you already own a Vanishing Point fountain pen. Pilot accentuated the luxury of this design by adding a stylized middle ring, a slimmer clip, and tapered front end.

[July 2021 Update] Pilot has recalled all retailer inventory of the Vanishing Point LS due to concerns regarding the quality of the retraction mechanism. This collection is on hiatus pending further notice from Pilot, Japan.

Each year, Pilot introduces limited editions that have become a hit with collectors. The Vanishing Point limited edition design is numbered with the corresponding year - 2,021 pieces for the year 2021, for example. If you're thinking 2,000 pens is enough for Pilot's worldwide following, think again. Depending on the particular style of the finish, these pens usually don't last long in the market before pen enthusiasts snatch them up.

The Pilot 2021 Vanishing Point limited edition is called "Black Ice."

In the brisk, frosty air, steely blue meets opaque black in a stunning blend of colors. Black Ice is brought to life through the ombre barrel. Deep, glossy black accents punctuate the design with refinement and sophistication, making this a writing instrument of distinction. What will be next year's design? Comment below and let us know what color/design you would like to see in a Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen.