Introduction to Fountain Pens

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Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:04 am

This thread is to discuss fountain pens for new users. If you think you might be interested in trying a fountain pen, ask some questions. If you have had a fountain pen for a while and there is something you wish you knew when you started, give your advice.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:09 am

I wrote this for school kids some time ago, since I was getting a lot of the same questions. It never actually made it past a rough draft:

Will a fountain pen make my writing prettier?
In short, no. Now, it is true that the lines themselves will be prettier. Fountain pens make crisper lines. They can use ink colors unavailable in common pens. Additionally, they can do something that no ballpoint can hope to do: they can show color variation in the same line, a property called "shading." However, they won't make chicken-scratch legible.

Are fountain pens easier to use than a ballpoint?
Yes and no. A properly tuned fountain pen glides across the page with no pressure, allowing you to write for long periods of time with almost no hand strain. That being said, there is a reason that ballpoints quickly replaced fountain pens in the marketplace. Fountain pens are fiddly, they have to be cleaned once a month, and it can sometimes even be difficult to make them write. If you want something that writes perfectly every time without any trouble whatsoever, a ballpoint is a better bet.

I have to clean it? How?
One word: Youtube. Brian Goulet's "Fountain Pen 101" playlist is a good place to start. It includes an answer to this question and many more.

What kind of ink do you use in a fountain pen?
It is possible to use a "cartridge" in most fountain pens. A cartridge is a tube thingie filled with ink that you just pop into the pen and start writing. Most people, however, use bottled ink. The pen nib it dunked into the bottle, and (usually) a knob is turned to suck ink up into the pen. Wipe off the nib and you are ready to go. Watch a YouTube video the first time you try to do it.

Won't a fountain pen leak all over me?
I have never had one leak on me. From what I understand, modern fountain pens don't have that problem, though leakage was a problem with pens in the early Twentieth Century. That being said, if you shake any fountain pen violently, it is possible to get a drip of ink to come out of the nib. So if you have your fountain pen in your pocket while riding a horse, it is possible for ink to get on the inside of the cap and then onto the part of the pen that you hold. Thus, if you have been engaging in boogie dancing or similar activity, you should be careful, lest you get ink on your fingers, or worse, on your clothes.

What is a good beginner ink?
Waterman Serenity Blue.

What is a good beginner pen?
It is easy to spend $2,000 and up (way, way up) on a fountain pen. The following are great pens that are from $4-$32: Pilot Metropolitan, Jinhao X750, and Lamy Safari. A fine-sized nib is usually best for beginners.

Other Stuff you need to know
You should use ink that is made for fountain pens. That is to say, it must say something about "for fountain pens" somewhere on the label. Don't use "calligraphy ink, "traditional pigmented ink," or "India ink." These inks are made for quills and dip pens and will clog a fountain pen almost instantly. You can't buy good fountain pen ink at Walmart or Hobby Lobby. The Goulet Pen Company, Vanness Pen Shop, Anderson Pens, and even Amazon are good places to get ink.

Two kinds of ink deserve special mention. Iron-gall inks have a number of super-cool properties, including the ability to write without bleedthrough on cheap paper. However, pens with iron-gall ink in them need to be cleaned every two weeks or so. Failure to do so will probably clog the pen, and the pen will be very difficult to clean. One more thing about iron-galls: Some people believe that iron-gall inks will destroy your pen, make your girlfriend leave you, and give you heartburn. Modern iron-gall inks made for fountain pens are perfectly safe. You can ignore the Ink Extremists.

Another kind of ink that can be problematic is "shimmering" ink. This fountain pen ink has sparklies in it. Before filling your pen, you need to shake the bottle. Before using it, you might want to shake it a bit side to side with the nib pointed towards the sky. Even so, the sparklies sometimes clog the feed. So, if it stops working, the first thing you need to do it clean the pen. Also, you need to clean a pen filled with shimmering ink every couple of weeks to help prevent clogging. A toothbrush can be used to get sparklies out of the feed. Not the same one you use to brush, however, unless you want sparkly teeth.

Paper can be a problem. Long ago, when fountain pens were used by everyone, any paper you could buy was perfectly fine for use with a fountain pen. After ballpoints became popular, paper manufacturers figured out that they could sell cheaper paper at the same price they had been charging for good paper, since ballpoints will write on most anything. Today, no mom is going to spend a whole dollar on notebook paper for her kid if she can spend fifty cents instead. Most paper today is as cheap and as bad as it possibly could be.

This is a problem, since fountain pens don't write well on cheap paper. Fountain pen ink is thinner than the "paste ink" used in a ballpoint, so it can bleed through to the other side. If the paper is particularly bad, even the side you are writing on can have problems. The ink can "feather," which means it can spread out away from the line, making the words you write fuzzy.

Part of the problem can be solved by buying nicer paper. Rhodia, Clairfontaine, Midori, and others make paper that works superbly with a fountain pen. The very best paper I have found is Tomoe River Paper. Go for the thicker "68 gsm" version if you can. For inexpensive college note-taking and doodles and such, Hewlett-Packard Premium Choice LaserJet paper works quite well. Good paper and notebooks can be found at the places that sell ink, which I mentioned previously.

Nice paper is not always an option. Our principal, for example, is not going to spend the extra money to use Clairfontaine paper in the copy machine so I can make tests that are fountain-pen friendly. Everyone needs at least one pen that will work reasonably well on horrible paper. There are two things you can do. First, go with a fine or extra-fine nib. Less ink on the paper means less bleed to the other side. Second, you can choose inks that are less prone to bleed. Waterman Serenity Blue is one of the best. Here are a few others: Diamine Red Dragon (blood red), Noodler's Walnut (dark brown), Noodler's Heart of Darkness (black), Noodler's Fifty-Fourth Massachusetts (dark blue), Diamine Imperial Purple (Pink. Just kidding.), Noodler's Lexington Grey, Noodler's Navajo Turquoise, Iroshizuku Yu-Yake (orange), Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku (green), Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses (magenta), and Diamine Midnight (dark blue).
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by UncleBob » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:17 am

Dear coco,

Is it true that using a fountain pen lowers the likelihood that one will have procreation opportunities? I'm asking for a friend.

Thanks! Love the show!

Signed,
Totally for a friend in Texas
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by JimVH » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:23 am

Never ever loan your fountain to anyone, especially those inexperienced with them. Not even just to dot an i.

Never, ever, ever.

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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:26 am

UncleBob wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:17 am
Dear coco,

Is it true that using a fountain pen lowers the likelihood that one will have procreation opportunities? I'm asking for a friend.

Thanks! Love the show!

Signed,
Totally for a friend in Texas
Dear Friendly,

This is a myth. The real cause of the lack of procreative opportunities is not the fountain pen itself, but the pocket protector.

Image

You might want to see a dentist and stylist as well.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:31 am

From another thread:
gaining_age wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:15 am
I've found that Staples renewable resource paper (made from sugarcane) is very good for fountain pens (journals/pads). Sustainable growth...

http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum ... notebooks/
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by sweetandsour » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:37 am

Thanks; except for your "early twentieth century" remark. When I was in grade school in the early 60s, (1960s), many of us guys were using various fountain pens, and generally had ink stains all over us, our shirt pockets, and paper. Albeit they were cheapo pens I'm sure. I remember using plastic cartridges, but also at least one that had a small lever that when pulled up, with the nib in the ink jar, ink would be sucked up into the pen.
Anyway, I presume this thread is in response to my question in the other fountain pen thread, so thanks again. I plan on doing some shopping.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:40 am

sweetandsour wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:37 am
Thanks; except for your "early twentieth century" remark. When I was in grade school in the early 60s, (1960s), many of us guys were using various fountain pens, and generally had ink stains all over us, our shirt pockets, and paper. Albeit they were cheapo pens I'm sure. I remember using plastic cartridges, but also at least one that had a small lever that when pulled up, with the nib in the ink jar, ink would be sucked up into the pen.
Anyway, I presume this thread is in response to my question in the other fountain pen thread, so thanks again. I plan on doing some shopping.
At the risk of muddling things, here is S&S's question from the other thread:
sweetandsour wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:40 am
The only fountain pen I have is a Parker, which uses plastic cartridge inserts (for lack of whatever the proper terminology is). I don't know what nib is on it but I certainly don't think its a fine.

For a good every day writing pen, on good paper, and with various inks, and under $100, what is your recommendation(s)?


I didn't know FPs were still in use in U.S. schools in the 60's. Interesting. Giving little boys a pen with easily accessible ink seems problematic. Bob and I would have been blue from head to toe.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:54 am

JimVH wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:23 am
Never ever loan your fountain to anyone, especially those inexperienced with them. Not even just to dot an i.

Never, ever, ever.
I presume that Jim is recalling the horror of a sprung nib. Over-flexing the two tines of a nib can result in the tines being bent out of shape. It is possible to fix this yourself. However, if you have a really nice pen with a really nice nib, you might want to have a real nibmeister fix it for you.

I recommend keeping a $4 Jinhao on hand for loaning to others.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by Gabriel » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:58 am

Great thread idea, Coco. Unfortunately it caused me to spend way too much time on Amazon this morning adding things to my wish list...

I like that Pilot. I'm starting to do a lot more handwriting for my job and currently use the Pilot V5 pens. I do like them, but fountain pens are always fascinating.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 10:03 am

Gabriel wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:58 am
Great thread idea, Coco. Unfortunately it caused me to spend way too much time on Amazon this morning adding things to my wish list...

I like that Pilot. I'm starting to do a lot more handwriting for my job and currently use the Pilot V5 pens. I do like them, but fountain pens are always fascinating.
Pilot has impressive manufacturing tolerances, even in their cheaper pens. Of course, I'm something of a Japanophile, so I'm biased.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by Pepik » Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:22 pm

Pentel Tradio "Fountain" pens! Not what you'd expect, but zero clogging, and same effect with a slightly different "nub-feel": https://www.amazon.com/Fountain-plastic ... untain+pen

For $9 or less, not bad! Using 'em at work now.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by durangopipe » Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:39 pm

1) Is there a nub made for left-handed writers that doesn’t “clog” with paper fibers, or is it just necessary to use a certain kind of paper?

2) Similarly, any tips for how to keep from smearing fresh ink if you write left-handed, or other advice for left handers who are considering giving the fountain pen another chance (besides writing in Hebrew)?

So far, the only writing instrument I’ve used that even begins to “glide” is a graphite pencil. Ball point pens get crudded up just like nibs, and they all smear except for very hard pencils.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by Gabriel » Mon Apr 02, 2018 3:41 pm

Pepik wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:22 pm
Pentel Tradio "Fountain" pens! Not what you'd expect, but zero clogging, and same effect with a slightly different "nub-feel": https://www.amazon.com/Fountain-plastic ... untain+pen

For $9 or less, not bad! Using 'em at work now.

seller on Amazon that is completely unfamiliar with American English wrote:Fountain Pen of a plastic, Pentel Tradio Pulaman Black Body Black Ink & Pen Refill Cartridge Value Set


-The noted article which a pro's writer loves
-Pen touch pliant like he is surprised
-so wonderful that it becomes impossible to use other pens once it uses -- writing -- a feeling
-The profitable set with which the cartridge for exclusive use was united
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by Del » Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:44 pm

sweetandsour wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:37 am
Thanks; except for your "early twentieth century" remark. When I was in grade school in the early 60s, (1960s), many of us guys were using various fountain pens, and generally had ink stains all over us, our shirt pockets, and paper. Albeit they were cheapo pens I'm sure. I remember using plastic cartridges, but also at least one that had a small lever that when pulled up, with the nib in the ink jar, ink would be sucked up into the pen.
Anyway, I presume this thread is in response to my question in the other fountain pen thread, so thanks again. I plan on doing some shopping.
I remember those plastic cartridge fountain pens!

They were a novelty, like mechanical pencils. Boys couldn't stop fiddling with them... thus the ink stains.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:59 pm

durangopipe wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:39 pm
1) Is there a nub made for left-handed writers that doesn’t “clog” with paper fibers, or is it just necessary to use a certain kind of paper?

2) Similarly, any tips for how to keep from smearing fresh ink if you write left-handed, or other advice for left handers who are considering giving the fountain pen another chance (besides writing in Hebrew)?

So far, the only writing instrument I’ve used that even begins to “glide” is a graphite pencil. Ball point pens get crudded up just like nibs, and they all smear except for very hard pencils.
1) Go with a normal fine nib and avoid stubs or italics. If the nib feels overly scratchy, the problem is most likely not your left-handedness, but the tines of the nib being misaligned. It is also possible that the nib tip itself is simply too rough. The following video may be helpful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WKo9nx8UdA&t=5s

2) A number of manufacturers make fast drying inks for lefties. Private Reserve's Tanzanite and Noodler's Bernanke inks both come to mind. Fast drying inks tend to feather more than other inks.

That being said, a number of inks are not advertised as fast drying but are, in fact, rather fast drying.

Hopefully, a leftie will be able to say more.
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by durangopipe » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:18 pm

coco wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:59 pm
durangopipe wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:39 pm
1) Is there a nub made for left-handed writers that doesn’t “clog” with paper fibers, or is it just necessary to use a certain kind of paper?

2) Similarly, any tips for how to keep from smearing fresh ink if you write left-handed, or other advice for left handers who are considering giving the fountain pen another chance (besides writing in Hebrew)?

So far, the only writing instrument I’ve used that even begins to “glide” is a graphite pencil. Ball point pens get crudded up just like nibs, and they all smear except for very hard pencils.
1) Go with a normal fine nib and avoid stubs or italics. If the nib feels overly scratchy, the problem is most likely not your left-handedness, but the tines of the nib being misaligned.

2) A number of manufacturers make fast drying inks for lefties. Private Reserve's Tanzanite and Noodler's Bernanke inks both come to mind. Fast drying inks tend to feather more than other inks.

That being said, a number of inks are not advertised as fast drying but are, in fact, rather fast drying.

Hopefully, a leftie will be able to say more.
That’s more and better information than I’ve ever received before, Coco.

I’d pretty much given up on ever being able to use a fountain pen. Now, I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to give it another try.

Thanks! :thumbsup:
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by coco » Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:23 pm

durangopipe wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 8:18 pm
coco wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 7:59 pm
durangopipe wrote:
Mon Apr 02, 2018 2:39 pm
1) Is there a nub made for left-handed writers that doesn’t “clog” with paper fibers, or is it just necessary to use a certain kind of paper?

2) Similarly, any tips for how to keep from smearing fresh ink if you write left-handed, or other advice for left handers who are considering giving the fountain pen another chance (besides writing in Hebrew)?

So far, the only writing instrument I’ve used that even begins to “glide” is a graphite pencil. Ball point pens get crudded up just like nibs, and they all smear except for very hard pencils.
1) Go with a normal fine nib and avoid stubs or italics. If the nib feels overly scratchy, the problem is most likely not your left-handedness, but the tines of the nib being misaligned.

2) A number of manufacturers make fast drying inks for lefties. Private Reserve's Tanzanite and Noodler's Bernanke inks both come to mind. Fast drying inks tend to feather more than other inks.

That being said, a number of inks are not advertised as fast drying but are, in fact, rather fast drying.

Hopefully, a leftie will be able to say more.
That’s more and better information than I’ve ever received before, Coco.

I’d pretty much given up on ever being able to use a fountain pen. Now, I’m thinking it might be worthwhile to give it another try.

Thanks! :thumbsup:
I edited my post a half-dozen times. :oops:
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by durangopipe » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:54 pm

Just ordered this Pilot Metropolitan:

Image

Thanks for the inspiration, Coco!
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Re: Introduction to Fountain Pens

Post by tuttle » Tue Apr 03, 2018 7:30 am

Can I use a fountain pen on CPS?
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