Quick, what magazine just wrote a feature about the old-fashioned fountain pen? Victoria magazine? The Paris Review? Writer’s Digest? You might be surprised to hear it was Wired Magazine!
Fountain pens are making a comeback. Why? I believe it is because it is satisfying to see the strong, smooth line of a fountain pen on paper, easier to write with after some practice, and elegant. There is something lasting and romantic about fountain pens. We have so many “virtual” experiences today, that I believe that we are craving the real, honest experiences of life- hence the current obsession with hygge (see my previous post HERE). Also, fountain pens make less waste- you may only ever throw away empty cartridges, and possibly not even that if you use a converter). However, many people are intimidated by them. The most common things I hear from people when they see me writing with a fountain pen, after, “you have such nice handwriting for someone who is left handed” is:
- Aren’t fountain pens messy?
- Aren’t fountain pens hard to use?
- Where do you even find fountain pens any more?
- Aren’t fountain pens expensive?
I’ll answer these questions, and try to point beginners towards a few good pens and companies to choose from. Fountain pens are available a lot of places, including Amazon, but my favorite place is www.gouletpens.com. This is an independent, family owned website, staffed by people who really know pens. Each order is custom wrapped with a little note and a piece of candy. The owners are extremely knowledgeable and their videos are really helpful.
- Fountain pens CAN be a little messier than a regular ball point pen. Filling them takes a little practice (though not a lot), but you can minimize this using cartridges, or getting good at filling converters (like an empty, refillable cartridge) from a bottle. You also have to rinse a pen if you’re refilling it with a different color, since different inks can have chemical reactions and gum up your pen. I find that a bulb, like you use for babies’ ears, is good for this. However, the trade off is an amazing variety of colors not available in your regular gel-pen or roller ball. You can find any color under the sun of ink, as well as scented inks (I sometimes use violet scented ink, which is supremely soothing as the scent subtly rises off the paper as I write), inks with gorgeous gold and silver flecks, etc.
- Fountain pens are not particularly hard to use. You need to keep the pen at an angle to the paper, but this takes a minimum of practice. Your handwriting will look nicer with a fountain pen because you take your time. You do need to not press too hard or you can get the dreaded “railroading” (two thin parallel lines, since the nib spreads when you press too hard). However, I think this is a benefit, because you can write for a longer time without getting fatigued since fountain pens require a minimum of pressure.
- Fountain pens can be as little as a few dollars, and as much as thousands of dollars.
Here are some starter pens that I really like.
- Pilot Metropolitan ($15, find it HERE): This pen comes in a ton of colors and patterns; in fine, medium point (called “nibs”) and is a reliable, smooth writing pen. I often carry this one with me. It does require pilot brand cartridges, or you can buy converter and use whatever fountain pen ink (never india ink) that you want.
- Lamy Safari ($29, find it here): This one is a classic of design, comes in a ton of colors, and has limited edition colors every year. It also requires their own brand of cartridges (some companies make pens that use a standard size, which is nice, but not Lamy), but again, you can skip this by getting a converter. It has a uniquely shaped grip that some people love and some people don’t. These are very reliable as well. I have left one in my bag for a month, and it didn’t dry out.
- Jinhao 159 ($12, find it here): This pen is truly a starter pen. It’s extremely inexpensive, comes in a few colors, and has a satisfying heft to the pen. The nib (the part you write with that touches the paper) is not my favorite. However, you can make a GREAT pen, by replacing the nib, which is really easy. I didn’t need a video- I just unscrewed the nib, and slipped the new nib in, and screwed it back together, but here’s a video if you’re interested. I bought a new nib for $15 from Goulet pens here, and it’s one of my favorite pens to write with now. I have pens that are ten times the cost that don’t write as nicely. I think it’s reasonable to try out a Jinhao, and if you like it, but would like it EVEN more if it wrote more smoothly, consider changing the nib.
Does anyone else use a fountain pen? What is your favorite?
- I didn’t receive any compensation for this post- Goulet pens just happens to be my favorite online pen resource.