Fountain pens may seem downright intimidating and mysterious at first, but I assure you they are so much more fun than you think. Yes, they are different from regular ball pens or gel pens, but that's what makes fountain pens so unique and special. I’m quite sure you’ll love it. How do you even ignore such a classy creation? Not to mention the smooth writing and arrays of inks you can try out. Don't worry if you personally don't know a fountain pen addict, you always have the internet to guide you through. You may be wondering are hard to use? No, they are not hard to use, but there are quite a few things that you have to know if you're looking forward to fountain pens.
This article intends to help out all those fresher and guide them through the journey. If you’re one of those, this one is for you. Let’s start off by introducing you to the basics.
The showstopper. The part which makes every fountain pen so very special and unique. Few of the things needed to be considered when you choose a nib would be:
Nib type includes round-tipped or stub nib. Round nibs are what people usually use for writing, sketching, or drawing. They give sharp and uniform lines. Italic or stub nib on the other hand have a flat point. You get line variation depending on the way you hold the pen. Downstroke gives you thicker lines and horizontal stokes give thin lines. These are usually used for calligraphy and require practice.
Nib sizes include: Extra fine(EF), Fine(F), Medium(M) and Broad(chisel-edged). Medium to broad size produces bold lines and supplies plenty of ink, giving you a smooth writing experience. However, if you're not using good quality paper it may bleed through. Finer nibs are easier to handle, just make sure you don't put a lot of pressure, which may cause it to dig into the paper. Keep in mind Japanese nib typically tend to be finer than European or German fines.
Coming to flexibility, flex nibs or soft nibs produce line variation depending on the amount of pressure applied. The tines spread open and allow more ink flow when you apply pressure. Tines are the part that’s separated by a slit that goes from the tip of the nib to the tiny hole that you see on the nib called the breather hole. Flex nibs add style to your writing also are more fun to write with. Then there are firm nibs such as those of Lamy or Pilot Kakuno, they produce no line variation regardless of pressure. Some nibs may produce a bit of line variation, but if it is not designed to flex, applying pressure may damage it.
Nib material does not have much impact on the way it writes. Nibs are usually made of stainless steel or gold. Gold nibs are mostly made of 14k or 18k gold. Gold nibs do not necessarily provide a better writing experience, what determines the smoothness of the nib, is the nib making.
A cartridge is a disposable ink reservoir for fountain pens. A small plastic capsule containing ink. You push the cartridge inside the feed to supply your fountain pen with ink. Cartridges have their top enclosed by a small ball that you push through during insertion.
It’s the most convenient and mess-free method to refill. You can carry cartridges anywhere, in case you run out of ink. But cartridges are usually costlier refill methods compared to others also don’t hold much ink. Although instead of throwing it away you can reuse it by filling it using a syringe. But with cartridges, you don't get many ink choices to choose from.
Converters fit in much like cartridges only they have a small piston that draws in ink from the ink bottle, through the nib, and feed to the converter where ink is stored. The converter comes in different sizes, with different ink storage. You can choose to fill your fountain pen with a range of bottle inks available. This method can be a little messy if aren't being careful. Although, most fountain pen addicts actually like the act of refilling fountain pens.
One of the early invention for ink reservoir that dates over 100 years. This method is not suitable for all pens though. The barrel of the pen is filled with ink using a medical eyedropper or syringe in some cases. This gives your pen a large ink capacity. But an eyedropper pen is usually prone to leaking so has to be used with caution.
Now that you're done with some of the basics, it’s time for you to get started. Choosing your very first fountain pen in midst of so many different kinds and colors can be quite confusing. Surely you're not intending to jump into something super expensive without any prior experience, but also don’t buy something that’s really cheap, cause there is a high chance of you coming across a faulty pen or low made resulting in a bad writing experience; which will simply ruin any likelihood of you continuing into the hobby. Buy a pen that’s decent, cost-efficient, has good reviews, and recommended by experts.
Some of the starters that are much recommended by almost every one of pen society would be, Lamy Safari, Lamy Al-Star, Pilot Kakuno, or Pilot Metropolitan. Lamy Safari and Pilot Kakuno is plastic made and on the lighter side. On the other hand, Lamy Al-Star and Pilot Metropolitan are metal build and on the heavier side. All of them great options for beginners and come in a range of different colors and looks. If you have a bigger and bolder writing style choose a medium nib. I prefer a fine because I have small handwriting, also it allows more control. So choose what suits your liking and start writing.
You bought your pen, inked it, and of course, can't wait to put it on paper and find out what is so magical about it that people get addicted to it! Well, odds are you won’t feel anything right away. Hold the pen. Write. Let your hands adapt to it. It’s way different from gel or ball pens so give yourself time. Write a little every day and you'll soon see fountain pen magic seep through.
Get good papers
Yes, papers. You don’t have to give it a second thought in the case of other pens but when using a fountain pen, it needs much consideration. If you don't use good enough papers, you’ll probably miss out on most of the fountain pen experience. You'll find the difference soon when you start writing. Write on your regular notebook or any paper that you can lay your hands on. And then write on a good fountain pen-friendly paper(Rhodia notepads are highly recommended). See the difference? When I first tried out fountain pen, I never knew paper mattered so much. My writing would bleed through and feather or create blobs of ink as I write. So I decided to try it on my science notebook, cause those papers felt good, and viola! Using good quality papers made all the difference. Good paper does not necessarily mean premium stuff, it just should create a good enough canvas for your fountain pen to gracefully do its magic.
Play around with Ink
Dipping the converter in the small glass bottle of ink, drawing it up, seeing it glide and paint the plain white paper, having ink smudges on your fingers. All of these things are strangely very satisfying and one of the best parts of this hobby. So if haven't bought an ink bottle yet, make sure you do. Different brands have their own formula and texture. Besides, you get to try out different ink of various colors, it's not only fun but true pleasure to experience different colors glide on paper. A feeling you'll never achieve with a cartridge. It does not get messy unless you are not paying attention. Be careful and you'll get the hang of it after refilling your pen a few times.
To prevent any damage and keep your pen(s) running perfectly, you'll need to clean it from time to time. To clean your pen, twist open the grip section and remove the cartridge or converter that's attached. If they've still got ink in them, stick a piece of tape of opening and put it aside to prevent it from drying. Now hold the grip section under tap water for a few seconds. Next, soak it in a cup of water until the water remains clean for about an hour. Remove and let it dry completely before use.
You'll also need to clean it if you change ink, as any trace of previous ink may interfere with the ink you will be filling. For this, the most recommended method is flushing the pen. For which you'll have to remove the converter and clean it thoroughly with water. Soak if needed. Hold the nib section under tap water for basic cleaning. Attach the converter and dip the nib in a cup of water and put water in and out of the pen using the converter until you see no traces of ink. Dry and use.
Check out different pens. Maybe start from cheaper ones and then moving on to fancier ones. Try out different nibs, see how it feels to write with those. Connect with hobbies over the internet, discuss, and take suggestions. The more you buy the more you experience, every experience is different and comes with new bunch of excitement and discoveries. It's an addiction I warn you!
A lot to take in? Well, things start flowing once you get started. Make sure you give some quality time to your pen(worth all the time). Those who did, more than not people got hooked. Fountain pens don’t just look good but also creates an emotional bond with their writer. Gives time for the writer to feel every word as he writes. You probably won't don’t feel all of that from the very beginning, but will soon go from liking it, to loving it. And if you still don't find yourself to be one of those, and think fountain pens are not for you, then that’s alright. There is probably another hobby waiting for you around the corner. There is no regret in experiencing all different kinds of hobbies after all.
Author: Mahiya Mannan