This year marks the 60th anniversary of the introduction of the Pilot Capless, also known as the Vanishing Point in the United States. This pen has a really interesting history, and the model went through quite a range of iterations over the years. This article is going to focus on a pair of the current models: The Vanishing Point and the Vanishing Point Decimo. These pens are superficially identical, and it can be difficult to tell which of these models you’re looking at in a picture if you can’t compare it to the other model for a sense of scale. So, what’s the deal with these two popular pens, and which should you be looking for? Read on for an in-depth comparison!
Pilot Decimo vs. Pilot Vanishing Point
What The Pilot Vanishing Point and Pilot Decimo Have in Common
The Vanishing Point and the Decimo share a number of the same features. Let’s talk about these first.
The Capless model has become popular over the last 60 years because it is unique and convenient. They’re one of the best everyday carry (edc) pens out there due to their metal construction and easy one-hand operation, making them a strong contender for the best budget edc pen for those who value both quality and convenience. If there is one drawback to using fountain pens it is that you have to remove a cap when you want to write and replace a cap when you’re not writing so that the nib doesn’t dry out.
The Capless line of pens solves both of these problems by giving the fountain pen the same sort of clicky mechanism that the ubiquitous ballpoints have. This part is called the “knock” and it’s the bit that you click with your thumb when you want to use that ballpoint in your shirt pocket. Both the standard Capless (that II will be calling the Vanishing Point or VP) and the Decimo have this mechanism, and it’s a satisfying click. There are also models with a twisting mechanism (called the Fermo) and with a hybrid twist and click mechanism (called the LS), but they’re different enough that I won’t be covering them here. Perhaps for another day and another blog post.
One oddity of these pens is that the orientation of the pen is the opposite of what most ballpoint users are used to. The knock is on the bottom, and the nib comes out of the top of the pen and not the bottom, as it would with a Parker Jotter or a similar pen.
This is because a fountain pen is really a controlled leak, and putting the nib point-down in your pocket is likely to lead to ink staining your shirt. Pilot addressed this issue by putting the knock on the bottom, and the nib at the top. Thus, the ink is very unlikely to bleed out of the pen while you’re carrying it around.
This reversal of the common formula does introduce the most contentious feature of the Capless line: You need to put your fingers around the clip. This will bother some folks, but it won’t bother others. If you use the traditional tripod grip, then the clip will generally settle between your fingers. That will give you a good grip on the pen and help you to index the tiny nib to the paper so that you avoid the issue that makes it feel like the Lamy 2000 or the Parker 51 have a “sweet” spot. Mostly that happens because it can be hard to see how your nib is touching the paper because those pens have a nib that is mostly hidden, which throws our perception off. The problem is that, for those who don’t use a tripod grip, the clip is in the way of where they would like to put their fingers.
Pilot hasn’t released a clipless Capless yet, but maybe they will someday.
The easiest nib-swapping in the game.
Another thing that these two models have in common is that they use the same nib units and converters. This is a great feature, as the same nib units and converters/cartridges will fit a huge number of Capless pens including the Fermo and the LS going back for many years. (They won’t quite fit some of the older Pilot Capless models, but they’ll fit all of the modern ones.) All one needs to do to swap from a broad nib to a stub is to unscrew the barrel, take out the nib unit/converter, and replace it with a new one. It doesn’t get easier. Pilot sells individual nib units for these pens in a variety of point sizes as well as gold, rhodium, and black finishes to match the trim of your pen. It is the only replacement fountain pen nib unit that Pilot regularly offers in their entire collection of fountain pens.
Next up, we’ll look at some of the things that differentiate the Vanishing Point from the Decimo, and this might help you to decide which one is right for you.
Comparing the Differences
The Pilot Vanishing Point
I am a big fan of the classic Vanishing Point. It was the first gold-nibbed pen that I owned, and it was an excellent choice. While the Decimo and the Vanishing Point have many similarities, there are some differences.
The Vanishing Point benefits over the Decimo
It’s a bigger pen.
The standard Vanishing Point is heavier (by about 10g), thicker (by about 1mm), and longer (by about 1mm) than the Decimo. This will appeal to those of us who have larger hands as well as to those who have something about their hands that makes it more difficult to hold on to thinner pens. At 11.8mm in diameter, the Vanishing Point is thicker than many other fountain pens.
Some will also like the extra weight of the pen.
This could be due to the perception that a heavier pen is a higher quality pen or because the extra weight will press the nib onto the paper a little harder and this means that you don’t need to press down at all. It’s not a lot of extra weight, but that 10g makes it ⅓ heavier than the Decimo, and it’s noticeable.
There are also more colors and patterns available in the standard Vanishing Point model than there are for the Decimo.
With a pen available in multiple metallic finishes, shimmers, patterns, textures, and color combinations (like the "Bamboo" design you see above), there is going to be something for everyone. There are even models available in raden and Maki-e finishes. My favorites are the guilloche designs that have come out in some of the yearly limited editions because they just feel so nice in the hand. It is very easy to start a collection of VPs without even meaning to.
The Drawbacks of the Vanishing Point
The Clip Position
That clip is going to be in some people’s way when they hold the pen. This is one of the only things that would make the VP anything other than an instant recommendation. It’s best if you can get your fingers on one before you buy it, but for those who use a standard tripod grip, you can be fairly certain the clip won’t be a dealbreaker.
The Size & Weight
I have large hands, so the standard VP fits me well. My wife, on the other hand, prefers the slimmer barrel and lighter weight of the Decimo. This is something that will be very personal to each user. I can also use the Decimo just fine (it’s not that small), but I think I prefer the larger model.
Pilot Capless pens are admittedly a little odd-looking compared to most other pens. They’re upside down and the knock is skinny, compared to the barrel. I like the look, but it’s not a classic torpedo-shaped pen, and that might put some folks off.
Overall, this is a great pen. It comes in hundreds of different colors and designs. The click-pen nature of it makes it great for taking notes and using the pen one-handed. You can’t lose the cap on a capless pen, and the clip makes an excellent roll-stop.
The Pilot Vanishing Point Decimo
This was a pen that I avoided for years. I thought it would be “too small” or “too light” or something like that. It wasn’t until my wife wanted a Decimo that I gave it a serious look. It turns out that the Decimo is a perfectly usable pen. It’s lighter weight feels nice, and the thinner barrel is still 10.7mm. That’s right where I like my section diameters in other pens. After trying a Decimo, I decided it was silly to resist this pen for so long.
The Decimo benefits over the Vanishing Point
It’s lighter and slimmer
The Decimo will be a more friendly pen to some people’s hands. It weighs 3% less (10g) than the standard model, and it’s about 1.1mm slimmer than the standard’s 11.8mm. That’s certainly enough to notice in your hands, and some will greatly prefer it.
The nib looks a little better
There’s something about the proportions of barrel diameter and nib size that are more pleasing with the Decimo. The Vanishing Point nibs are very slim, and the slimmer barrel of the Decimo looks more proportional to my eye. I don’t think that it makes any difference in how I write with the pen. It is just a matter of aesthetics.
The Drawbacks of the Decimo
Not only does it have the same issues with the clip that I mentioned earlier, but they have changed the clip design on the Decimo to be a straight clip as opposed to the hourglass design of the Vanishing Point clip. That pinch made a very natural place to put my fingers, and I could tell exactly where my fingers were on the VP without looking. The straight sides on the Decimo clip don’t allow for that, and it’s just a touch less convenient.
For some reason, there just aren’t that many colors and patterns available for the Decimo. We would have more of them if they came in a wider array of colors and finishes in the US. One can find more variety in the Japanese market, but even there the standard VP offers far more aesthetic variety.
Just like the Vanishing Point, this is an excellent pen. The nibs are great, the performance is great, and it’s a pen that everyone should consider.
Some Final Details
These nib units offer an excellent writing experience, and they don’t feel like every other nib out there. They’re smooth and decently wet writers across the board. The mediums are a bit broader than you’d expect from a Japanese pen, falling somewhere around a Western medium-broad. The fine nibs are a bit finer than you’d expect, too. The stub is more like an italic nib, enabling you to make very sharp lines, so it’s less forgiving than most other stub nibs you’ll encounter. As long as you know what to expect from those nibs, you will almost certainly find one that you’ll love for years to come.
Feel in the Hand
This is the contentious part of the Vanishing Point line. With the right grip, the Capless pens are excellent for work, writing notes, and art projects.
Pilot releases quite a few special editions of this pen every year. There are the yearly special editions in the fall as well as lots of store editions and some that are only available in some country or other. The chase for the serious collector is never-ending, so it’s best to know that going in if you know you have a collector’s personality.
About the Converter
The converter is easily the least appealing thing about the Vanishing Point. The Pilot CON-40 is the only current Pilot converter that can be used with the VP, and it is not ideal. The ink capacity is small, it’s difficult to clean out, and the little metal agitator balls can sometimes be heard rattling around when you use the pen.
All in all, it’s better to just use the proprietary cartridges in the VP. Pilot inks are excellent, the cartridges are easy to refill with a blunt syringe, and they hold more ink. Just be sure to put the little metal cap over the cartridge before you put it in the pen or else the plastic of the cartridge might be damaged by the knock. That metal piece is included in the package, so don’t lose it.
Comparing The Prices
Price is probably not going to be the deciding factor for you between the VP and the Decimo. Decimos usually start at about $160 and the larger VP starts at about $168. There are more expensive versions of each model, but they start in about the same place. This price is excellent for the pen you get. The construction of these pens is excellent, and the gold nibs are well worth it. The individual nibs range from $75-85 depending on the finish and style, which is a lower price than comparable gold nibs from companies like JoWo and Bock.
Which Should You Purchase?
Either! Both! Use what I’ve said about the weights, diameters, and clips to help guide your decision, but there’s no wrong answer here. Both are excellent pens that will serve you well for decades to come.
FAQ: Answering your questions
How do you swap a Pilot Vanishing Point Fountain Pen Nib?
The Pilot Vanishing Point has one of the easiest, swappable fountain pen nibs on the market. That's because you have to take out the nib just to refill the fountain pen. The nib unit is all one piece.
Before you begin, make sure the nib is retracted to alleviate tension in the spring. To remove the nib, unscrew the bottom half of the Vanishing Point from the top half. Then, pull out the Vanishing Point nib unit from the pen. Simply insert the replacement Vanishing Point nib, making sure the notch in the nib unit lines up with the cutout of the inner barrel threads. Re-assemble the barrel and you're good to go!
How do I fully fill a Vanishing Point Con-40 converter?
Is there another converter that you can use with the Pilot Vanishing Point?
How do the Pilot Vanishing Point Nibs Sizes Compare?
EF, F, M, B or 1.0mm Stub. Here are the line widths of each nib size we measured.
EF - 0.25mm
F - 0.40mm
M - 0.55mm
B - 0.60mm
1.0mm Stub - 0.82mm downstroke, 0.4mm cross stroke
To test the nib sizes, we wrote on Rhodia 80gsm dot grid paper with Pilot Iroshizuku Kon Peki. We measured the lines using a loupe and digital calipers.