Fountain Pen Question

Over on Facebook, Gentle Reader Richard Hopkins asks:

Well, that is a question with a many-layered response.

Are they better? For me, yes. For Rita, yes. For other folks? Well, maybe, maybe not.

They are more fiddly than a biro or a gel-pen. The ink is a little more smeary than that from a ball-point, and it takes longer to dry.

Where fountain pens shine over ball-points or gel-pens is if you hand-write a lot. Writing with a fountain pen takes very little pressure, and if you’re filling a page or more — or if you’re writing one or two lines on multiple pages — the so-called “writer’s cramp” will take much longer to get you with a fountain pen.

Also, a fountain pen is much, much more expressive than any other pen. The design of the nib means that the width of your letters will vary according to emotion throughout your writing.

Done right, a fountain pen is much less expensive in the long run than a rollerball, gel-ink, or even a cheap ball-point biro.

As I mentioned above, though, a fountain pen is also much more fiddly than any other writing instrument.

It all comes down to personal taste and needs, as to whether a fountain pen is actually that much better than a bog-standard Bic Clic Stic.

What would I recommend to get started?

Pilot’s Varsity disposable fountain pen. Hands down. These are damned decent little pens. Write with it until it’s empty, then bin it, and grab another one. You can find them on Amazon, but quite honestly Rita and I find them at University book stores — often in a tub at the register — for a lot cheaper.

If you use a Pilot Varsity for a while, and find yourself bitten by the fountain pen bug, the next thing you should do is wander over to Lamy, and pick up a Safari, or an Al-Star. The only difference between the two is that the Safari is plastic and the Al-Star is aluminum. Go ahead and throw a Z28 converter into the shopping cart while you’re at it.

Yes, fountain pen snobs look down on the little Lamys. They shouldn’t. For daily use, these little pens are fantastic work-horses, and with the converter the wide, wide world of bottled fountain pen inks has now opened up for you.

I hope that helps, Richard.


Beyond The Jungles Of Y'rd
That's better

13 thoughts on “Fountain Pen Question”

  1. can be hazardous to your 401K. It is a good place for beginners to start before they jump into the deep end. My handwriting has improved using a fountain pen because it has forced me to slow down and write larger than I would with a gel pen. Part of the fun is searching for that perfect pen and ink combination and it doesn’t have to be that spendy.

  2. I used to use a fountain pen. Used one a lot in high school, more just because it was interesting and different. I haven’t used one now in decades. Jurrel still uses them, I know he’s got a really nice one.

    There are certain things you can DO with fountain pens that you can’t do with other pens. Blue/Black ink is one of them. The ink starts out as Blue, but over time it turns Black. This means that if you signed something, an expert can look at the signature and tell (within reason) how long ago you signed it. I think it takes a year for it to go fully black. Which means it can cut down on folks trying to forge you. Especially if you always use that ink to sign.

    You also can’t do fancy flourishes with a ballpoint.

  3. I use one from time to time. Have three in my bag at present with different nibs for different uses.


  4. For years I used Rotring 600 fountain pens. They had a nice heft, and were dallied enough that I knew if I stepped on one, I wouldn’t have an inky mess to clean up. Then we moved. Again. And I still don’t know where they ended up.


    On top of not being able to find the old ones, I discovered that Rotring had stopped making the 600 series fountain.


    One added benefit I found to fountain pens; people don’t ‘borrow’ them.

  5. BTDT. Space pen now. Has never leaked, smeared or other. Don’t have to wax over envelopes addressed with it. Color me practical. The point on writer’s cramp is spot on, so maybe a basic fountain at the desk.

  6. I second the Lamy Safari recommendation for a great quality to price point option for those looking to check out fountain pens. I think I picked one up based on a recommendation from Marko Kloos (but I could be mixing that up).

    Do I need 3 different bottles of ink on my desk?
    No, but some of them look and sound so cool!
    Current favorites (both from Noodler’s) are Bulletproof 54th Massachusetts (a blue-black) and General of the Armies (a green that turns blue over time).

  7. Thanks. I was curious and this gives me a place to start. Ordering a six pack of the disposable ones and going from there. If I get one of the more expensive ones it’ll probably be the Al-Star because metal generally means more durable. And more durable is a good thing for me.

  8. One word of caution: if you’re left-handed you are opening yourself to a world of disappointment, because writing left to right with an ink pen involves pushing the nib into the upward strokes, with a concomitant tendency to dig into the paper. Additionally, your hand/wrist is tracking over the newly deposited ink (unless you contort your hand up and over the line of text).
    As a leftie I learned cursive with ink pens and persisted for decades (dip pens at school and then fountain pens in the hopes of a better outcome) before grudgingly taking up the standard Biro. I sighed with relief with the introduction of gel pens.

  9. I am just a beginner in this myself, and I saw a recommendation for the Plaisir Platinum as it was better behaved than some (slightly) more expensive pens. I have two now, and like them. I suspect I will eventually try something a bit fancier or get an adapter or see about alternate ink cartridges. But for me, for now, it’s a solid start.

  10. This called to mind your flagrantly fraudulating post, and the pen you use to do so. I’ve reread it a few times over the years.
    Thank you


  11. Parker Vector have two and the quink is good
    much better pocket safe than the ones I had in college
    and as noted folks don’t tend to borrow them

  12. In my youth, I liked writing with Sheaffers like my Dad’s and Esterbrooks like my Mom’s, but ink handling was nettling.
    Much later, my agency got Varsity disposables and I have kept them around ever since with no notion of upgrading.
    I have the usual assortment of ball, roller, and felt tip pens but prefer the Pentel EnerGel.

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