Fountain Pens

My first use of a fountain pen (aside from the obligatory use of ‘cartridge pens’ back in primary school in the mid-70s) was around October 2015. At the time I was doing some journaling along with my Bible reading and recognised that my handwriting was pretty ordinary. I did some research1 and came across the idea that writing with a fountain pen can improve one’s handwriting because you generally slow down a little and take more care with the letters being formed.

My recollection of the cartridge pen experiment, being left-handed, was of smeared ink as my trailing hand moved through the newly-laid-down words. Fast forward 40 years and I thought my experience may be repeated so I bought a couple of cheap, disposable fountain pens (Pilot V Pens, known as Varsity Pens in the US). The experience was fine. My hand wasn’t too fast to get into the ink. The nib was fairly smooth on decent paper despite being pushed across the page rather than pulled along (as is the case with right-handers). And the V Pen blue ink was a lovely shade. I was sold.

I then did more research - this time looking at various websites and forums to decide on a first pen. Some of the conventional wisdom indicates that good beginner’s pens include the Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan. I opted for a Lamy Safari on the basis that they come with indentations in the grip to assist new fingers to learn how to hold the pen properly.

That first pen, purchased in October 2015, was the Safari with a medium nib, a converter and a bottle of Lamy Blue Black ink. Early in 2016 I added to my repertoire by purchasing a couple of extra nibs for the Lamy - a fine and extra fine. This was also a prelude into the world of fountain pen ink. The Lamy blue black was OK, but what if I wanted just blue, or just black? I opted for a bottle of J. Herbin Perle Noir and Eclat de Saphire. The Perle Noir having a dark purply edge, and the Eclat de Saphire being a crisp dark blue.

Five months after my first real pen purchase, I landed for a second pen - this time the Pilot Metropolitan Turquoise with a fine nib. The Metropolitans are enamelled metal and have a different feel to the Safaris. Both have proprietary cartridges.

By this stage I was reading in different forums and websites about fountain pens and came across a couple of new concepts - demonstrators2 and eye-droppers3. A normal ink cartridge or converter would usually hold around 0.6 to 1.0 ml of ink (enough for 6 to 10 A4 pages of writing for me), but an eyedropper can contain 2, 3 or more millilitres of ink.

In pursuit of this nirvana of carrying more ink and being able to see it in the barrel I bought a Kaweco Classic Sport Clear pen with EF nib.

That purchase (in May 2016) staved off the need for more pens for around 6 months when I sprung for a TWSBI Diamond 580AL with 1.1mm stub nib. The stub nib allows for more variation in letter shape/formation because strokes parallel to the orientation of the pen are relatively thick whereas strokes that run perpendicular are thinner. It’s something like a calligraphic effect of thick downstrokes and thin upstrokes, but the thickness is on the up and down and the thinness in the across strokes.

Some months later (February 2017) I bought a Kaweco Brass Sport with medium nib when they were on special at a local supplier. It’s around 40 grams compared to around 10 grams for the clear plastic classic. It feels solid and comfortable and the brass develops a nice patina over time (which can be polished away).

That brought the pen stable to five - Lamy Safari, Pilot Metropolitan, Kaweco Classic, TWSBI 580AL and Kaweco Brass.

Pens six and seven were attempts to have pens with some flex that allow variations in line width by adjusting the writing pressure. Six was a Noodlers Ahab bought for Christmas 2017 but it doesn’t get used because it simply doesn’t work properly - ink covers the feed on all sides so ink gets on fingers, pages, desks - anything any part of the feed comes in contact with. I love the idea of the Ahab - a large pen, relatively cheap, with flex nib options, but it doesn’t work.

Pen seven has been the most expensive pen to date and was the only purchase of 2018 - a Pilot Falcon with a 14ct gold nib that allows some flex.

Pen eight is a Retro 51 Tornado Lincoln which has an antique copper-like finish. It was the 2019 purchase. The body is full metal so has some heft like the Kaweco Brass but is a longer pen which accepts both short and long international standard cartridges.

My most recent purchase - February 2020 - was a Lamy Studio in Olive green with a ’lefthand’ nib4. It’s a smooth writer and also had a nice feel to it. The nib lays down a nice lot of ink but is perhaps a little too thick for my preference.

Each purchase has sought to incorporate new features or ideas into my penmanship - heft, italic nibs, eye droppers, demonstrators, flex nibs, different cartridge styles and sizes.

I’m intending to post some thoughts on the pluses and minuses of each pen, but that can wait.

  1. most likely a quick ‘Duck Duck Go’ search ↩︎

  2. pens that have clear bodies so you can see their innards ↩︎

  3. pens with a non-metallic body that can be filled with ink to dramatically increase the ink capacity of the pen ↩︎

  4. I think that means it is a little more rounded than others so the nib glides across the paper ↩︎