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A Guide to Fountain Pens (2020)

I remember my first experience with a fountain pen. It was through a secured glass casing in the department store’s small stationery section. After getting over my initial shock at the price of the pen, my first thoughts were: “Wow, that’s crazy! I guess i’m never getting a fountain pen ever.” 

The idea of buying a fountain pen can be intimidating to most because of its standing as a ‘luxury’ good but modern day fountain pens have evolved to fit every budget with more affordable models so that everyone can enjoy the quality writing a fountain pen provides. Some examples include Kaweco’s Perkeo and Pilot’s Kakuno.

Whilst fountain pens are much more of a status symbol now rather than a common writing tool as it had been in the past, it is nonetheless still a good writing instrument you can consider. 

 

Fountain pens have stood the test of time. Early prototypes of a pen that held ink in its reservoir were demanded by the Fatimid caliph Al-Mu’izz li-Din Allah who according to Qadi al-Nu’man al-Tamimi (d. 974) in his Kitab al-Majalis wa ‘l-musayarat, wanted a pen that would not stain his hands or clothes. 

Even renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci was not immune to the idea of such a pen. The Italian polymath’s journal contained drawings of a reservoir pen supported by both gravity and capillary action. 

In mid-19th century Europe, the first patents of a fountain pen were in progress albeit slowly due to a lack of understanding of air pressure when it came to pens. 

It wasn’t till 3 key ingredients: iridium-tipped gold nib, hard rubber and free-flowing ink were invented that fountain pens became a popular writing tool with notable brands at the time being Waterman, Parker, Vacumatic and Pelikan

MECHANICS OF A FOUNTAIN PEN

A fountain pen defers from the common ballpoint pen in several ways.

NIB

The signature feature of a fountain pen is its nib and it is through the nib that ink is transferred to the paper. Typically there are 4 types of sizes: extra fine, fine, medium and broad. 

FEED

Think of the feed as a bridge. Fins hidden inside the feed help regulate ink and with capillary action and the right ink viscosity, ink is channelled successfully to the nib.

INK RESERVOIR 

The ink reservoir is as its name says. It consists of the converter which allows the pen to draw ink from an ink bottle or a cartridge that you can remove and replace easily. 

For a full geek fest of the ins and outs of a fountain pen, check out A Guide to Fountain Pen Anatomy

USING A FOUNTAIN PEN

Fountain pens do come with a few rules so that your pen can last you for years to come!

1.  FEATHER’S TOUCH

A fountain pen’s nib is delicate. You want to ensure that you don’t press it too hard that the nib splays out. Write as you usually would and all will be good in the world of fountain pens.

2. ALWAYS CAP 

Most food goes stale after a while with no cover. Same thing with fountain pens. You’ll want to make sure that you recap your pens after you’re done using them to prevent the ink from drying out. 

3. JOURNALS & NOTEBOOKS

The paper you write on is just as important as the pen itself. In order to ensure the best writing experience (and no bleeding through paper), I strongly recommend using journals which contain fountain pen friendly paper. 

WHY SHOULD I USE A FOUNTAIN PEN?

You might be asking yourself: “Is a fountain pen really worth all the fuss and most importantly, the money?” While I really want to say yes, it truly depends on your preference. A fountain pen might not be everyone’s flavour but I recommend trying it at least once. To give you an idea, here are some reasons why a fountain pen edges out its ballpoint competitor.

1. ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY

Fountain pens are made to last and not throw. That’s why they make great gifts! The waste generated from disposing pens damage the ocean and its inhabitants which is as you imagine, bad for our planet.

A fountain pen can last you through the years due to its unique ability to draw ink and be refilled constantly. Save the Earth!

2. COMFORT

You often already put a lot of stress of your hands when you use your mouse for school or work. A ballpoint pen adds to that stress as you need to apply pressure in order for the ball to rotate and thus administer ink. 

A fountain pen allows you to write comfortably as the ink flows out on its own. 

3. INK VARIETY 

I hate writing and drawing in black ink so the different coloured inks available really excite me. Coloured inks just bring so much more life and vibrancy. 

A word of caution though! Non-fountain pen friendly inks are a big no-no as they might not flow well or contain binding agents that will ruin the feed. 

4. VERSATILITY 

Besides daily use, a fountain pen can also double up as a writing tool of many functions. 

The ability to manipulate the ink flow and thickness is another cool thing about the fountain pen. That means you can also use a fountain for calligraphy or to line your drawings.

MY THOUGHTS

I bought my very first fountain pen at the age of 23- I’m 24 this year. Like many, I never knew fountain pens could be affordable. My first was a rather basic Pilot Petit1 Mini Fountain Pen which I still use and adore.

Travel journaling is where my fountain pens really shine. I tend to write a lot when I do my journaling (how else to complement my 800 over photos?) and so a pen that felt comfortable was super important to me. I also love watching the ink glide smoothly over the paper’s surface. 

Buying a fountain isn’t quite as simple as getting a ballpoint pen; there’s lots to consider. Do you want a nib that’s fine? Medium? Bold? What brand should you go for? What ink should you buy? Do you want a fountain pen that utilises a converter or one that allows for cartridges?

It took me some time to get used to holding a fountain pen properly (45 degrees to the paper) as I tend to move my pen a lot when I write.

To add salt to the wound, my first time changing my fountain pen’s cartridge was a disaster. The ink was all over my hands and I was super annoyed. After many stained hands later,  I’m glad to say I’m much better for it now. Don’t stop practising! 

For those of you who are considering getting a fountain pen, I say don’t worry about the technicals! Writing is meant to allow you to translate what your mind and heart can’t say into words so enjoy it! Although, you might want to head over to the Cityluxe Workroom to get a feel on the fountain pens you’re eyeing just in case.

While you take your first steps into the world of fountain pens, I’m going to hunt for my next fountain pen! Hmm, TWSBI’s Eco Pen series is looking good. What do you think? 

Image Via Fountainpennetwork

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