Do you fancy delving into the rabbit hole that is Fountain Pens? Perhaps you’d like to gift one to a friend or loved one? If you’ve never owned a fountain pen or know absolutely nothing about them, have a read. There is a LOT to consider when thinking about Fountain Pens and if they will be right for you or your loved one.
Where do I start?
Well that’s definitely a question – and a half! It is a minefield!
Perhaps the first thing to consider is how the recipient of the pen writes. Do they have large handwriting or is it teeny tiny, or somewhere in between? Are they right or left handed? Are they an underwriter or an overwriter? How often will they want to use a fountain pen? Special occasions? Or everyday writing?
All of these things will definitely factor into WHICH type of Fountain pen you should consider. “What do you mean WHICH type of Fountain Pen?!” I hear you cry!
Yes, there are MANY different ‘types’ of fountain pen. Plus many types of Nib and ways of filling the ink and materials and weights and how the pens look. Not to mention PRICE.
I could write a dissertation about Fountain Pens. That’s how much information is involved. I could also talk about Fountain pens all day long. So I have created an accompanying YouTube video which ended up being nearly 2 and a half hours long, so we broke it down into Bitesize parts to watch at your leisure.
Quick run down...
Writing Style and Nibs
If you have large handwriting, you are probably going to want a Medium nib.
If you have teeny tiny handwriting, you will probably get on best with an Extra Fine nib.
If your handwriting is somewhere in between, you might get on with a Fine nib.
There are other nibs, but if this is a first fountain pen or a gift, these three nibs are probably the best options.
How do I know what nib it has?
Nearly all nibs will have it engraved somewhere on the nib or near the nib. It will say M, F or EF.
You might have to look really closely or even with a magnifying glass. I managed to show this with a Macro Lens on the camera.
Please bear in mind that not all Fine nibs from different brands will write the same width line, and the same goes for the same nibs from the same brand as exampled in my accompanying video.
What about ink filling?
There are at least four systems for filling ink:
1. Ink Cartridge
2. Ink Converter
Some pens can take an Ink Cartridge AND Ink Converter, whereas other pens will solely be Piston or Eyedropper.
Most pen listings will detail this in the specification section or in the description. You might even be able to tell from the pictures.
Option 1 is a simple single use plastic cartridge that you pop into the pen. Options 2-4 involve transferring Bottled Ink into the Fountain Pen using either twisting action or a physical eyedropping tool.
If you are conscious of single use plastic, you may want to consider a Fountain pen that uses options 2-4 instead of single use cartridges.
What INK should I get?
Inks come in a variety of brands and sizes. If this is your first time, I’d recommend ordering some “samples” which you can get in around the 5ml to 10ml bottle size. Ink bottles can go up to around 85-100ml! So once you find one (or more) that you love, you can upgrade to the bigger bottles.
I personally use Inks by Diamine, J. Herbin and Ferris Wheel Press but there are many other brands and lots of the UK Pen companies can provide you with samples so that you can see what suits you.
Note: the Ferris Wheel Press inks are drier than the other two brands and some pens might not get on with them. That comes from testing the theory. I have had no problems with Diamine or J.Herbin inks in any of my pens.
If you haven’t got a clue where to even start with Inks, may I recommend you visit Mountain of Ink, a blog dedicated to all the fantastic brands and colours that are out there!
How do I know what material to choose for my Fountain Pen?
Fountain Pens can be made of nearly anything! Woods, Metals, Acrylics, Plastics, Resin, or a combination of several materials.
As a general rule, fully Plastic pens will be the lightest option and full Metal pens will be the heaviest option. Although my heaviest pen is part Brass and part Acrylic. It weights a bit more than my solid Brass pen which is not a full size pen.
If you are used to only using lightweight plastic ballpoint or gel pens, you might want to consider starting with a full plastic bodied fountain pen. Suggestions include:
Please bear in mind that the Lamy is a full length fountain pen and the Kaweco sport is a much shorter pen.
If you are used to using heavier ballpoint and gel pens, that are made of metals, you might want to jump in with a slightly heavier pen, such as:
What size pen should I get?
This is going to be dependant upon preference. I have very small hands and so prefer shorter pens and narrower pens.
Some people LOVE chunky Fountain pens.
Have a look at the pens you already own and see if you exclusively have a certain size and thickness of pens. If you do, it’s a good start to working out which Fountain Pen is going to be right for you.
I am left-handed - can I use a fountain pen?
However you need to first establish if how you currently write is going to be compatible with a fountain pen.
Are you an Overwriter?
Do you hold your pen ABOVE the line you are about to write? If so, you are going to have issues regarding ink smudging.
That doesn’t mean that you CAN’T use a Fountain Pen, it just means you are going to have to change the way you write in order to use a Fountain Pen without smudging absolutely everything your write.
My top tip here, is to turn your paper 45-90 degrees to your body and write sideways. Ensure that the pen is parallel to the paper. This will not only make it easier to see what you are writing, but will be more comfortable as you train to be an underwriter.
Are you an Underwriter?
If you are already an underwriter you’re all set! You shouldn’t experience much smudging of ink as you’ll already be used to writing under the line and being able to see everything you write. Do bear in mind that fountain pen ink does take longer to dry than ballpoint and even some gel pens so if you accidentally move your hand across the ink, it might smudge!
If you write with the paper straight in front of you, consider turning it 45-90 degrees and writing sideways. Ensure your pen is parallel to the paper. You may find it more comfortable!
Can you tell me what Fountain pens to buy?
The world of Fountain Pens is a very personal experience to each user. Certainly we can provide recommendations based upon our own experiences but what write beautifully for me, might not work right for you.
Some people go in search of the “one” fountain pen that will satisfy their every need. Some people (myself included) like to collect fountain pens and use them all for different colours of ink, or occasions. Some people JUST collect Fountain Pens and display them because they find them beautiful.
It IS a rabbit hole and you can fall down it very fast. My advice to you, is work out what you NEED from a Fountain pen and then try some cheap ones first. If you end up finding you want more, then start to try out different ones or ones that you find aesthetically pleasing.
There is an air of prestige surrounding certain brands of Fountain Pen and some people feel they HAVE to have them because they are prestigious. That isn’t strictly true. If you feel like you want a certain pen because everyone recommends it and they say “everyone” should have one, bear in mind that Fountain Pen may be prestigious but it might also write horribly for you and you end up spending fortunes on something you don’t particularly find interesting or appealing.
So no, I won’t tell you what pens to buy, I will tell you what pens I own and love and that I recommend for someone who is a left handed underwriter, who has tiny handwriting and only buys pens that spark my interest and find aesthetically appealing.
The Pens I own...
1.Lamy AL-Star (Ink Converter) 1x Lime Green and 1x Grape – Medium Nib
2. Moonman T1 (Piston) 1x Brass and Acrylic and 1x Silver Aluminium and Acrylic – Fine to Medium Nib
3. Moonman C1 (Eyedropper) in Clear Acrylic – Fine to Medium Nib
4. Moonman Wancai (Eyedropper) 1x Pink Marble Acrylic and 1 x Green Marble Acrylic – Fine Nib
5. Hongdian Forest (Ink Converter) Full Metal Body: 1x Green, 1x Cream, 1 x Pink and 1x Purple – EF to Fine Nib
6. Jinhao 51a (Ink Converter) Combination of Wood, Plastic and Metal: 1x Peach, 1x Maple and 1x Ebony – Extra Fine Nib
7. TWSBI Diamond Mini (Piston) White Plastic, Clear Acrylic and Rose Gold metal – Extra Fine Nib
8. TWSBI ECO (Piston) White Plastic, Clear Acrylic and Rose Gold metal – Fine Nib
9. Kaweco Sport (Ink Cartridge) 2x Plastic in Mint and Grey and 1x Full Brass – Medium Nib
10. Viking Products (Ink Cartridge/Converter) Wood Body with Metal and Plastic accents – Medium Nib
11. I also have a Jinhao Celluloid in Cream Resin with Medium Nib which I bought specifically to use with a certain ink but I don’t love the pen. It is a bit too chunky for my liking and will probably be gifted to someone else.
I’ve linked to where I purchased these pens from, but definitely do some research to see if they are cheaper elsewhere if you are interested.
The Inks that I use...
I have questions....
I’d be surprised if you didn’t! I am in no way an expert but decided that after watching lots of videos and reading blogs about Fountain Pens, a lot of this information is missed out and should be readily available.
If you have questions, please comment below or pop me a message and I will do my best to answer them. If I can’t, I’ll direct you to someone that can!