The beginning of the fountain pen adventure

I now have fountain pens. Two of them. I wasn’t expecting this. I do like pens, and I’ll buy fancy ones—well, the inexpensive end of fancy, anyway—but my main interest is ballpoint pens. Fine point, no blopping, and if it’s comfortable in the hand, we’re good. And I’ll get the occasional rollerball, because, let’s be honest, black ballpoint ink is more like gray compared to a black rollerball, and rollerballs can have finer points. But that’s about as wildly exciting as I get.

I have owned a fountain pen before. It was back when I was in high school, and I bought it because the barrel was bright yellow, my favorite color. I remember it had cartridges, and that sometimes it leaked, and the leaking was enough for me to eventually get rid of it. And then years of increasingly better ballpoints followed, and I forgot about it. It certainly hadn’t been enough of a wonderful writing experience for me to want to pursue it.

Fountain pen lying on a page of writing

Someone else’s pen.

I did not set out to get the first of my two “modern” fountain pens. Last year, I ordered a ballpoint pen from a vendor, and when I opened the package, there were two pens inside. The fountain pen was a freebie, complete with a sampler-sized vial of green ink and a little device that I now know is called a converter, but with no instructions. I left it warily alone for months before curiosity got the better of me and I tried filling it.

(I should perhaps reassure everyone at this point that no permanent damage was done. The ink wore off my fingers in a few days and I didn’t get any on my clothes. No lasting damage. Also, after my first attempt to fill the pen failed, I came to my senses, went online, and found instructions.)

The writing experience was interesting. Look, I know ballpoint pens aren’t universally loved. They’re readily available and long-lasting, but a lot of people don’t like the amount of effort it takes to push them across the paper. But since they’re what I’ve written with for most of my adult life, they’re my standard for “normal.” And to me, rollerballs aren’t that different from ballpoints, although many of mine have points so fine that they feel scratchy when I write in cursive, and I save them for printing. This first fountain pen came with a fine nib, and was a bit on the scratchy side itself, but not unbearably. But the pen itself isn’t all that comfortable to hold. It has a triangular grip and it’s plastic, without a lot of weight to it. So I decided to buy another one. All in the spirit of experimentation, you understand.

I really like holding Pen #2. It’s metal, it weighs more, the grip is round. But the nib is wider than that of the freebie, and it’s annoying. Despite that reputation ballpoint pens have for requiring a lot of pressure to write with, I must be a light writer. I’m apparently not pressing the pen firmly enough to the paper, and Pen #2 is unforgiving of light writing—it just skips. My writing with this pen looks hideous. When it’s not skipping, the pen is putting out so much ink that only my heaviest paper stands a chance of keeping it from bleeding through, and even then it’s ghosting. Yes, I’ve started the search for a finer nib that will fit this pen, which means I’m going to be learning about fountain pens, and that wasn’t on the agenda for this year. Buuuut…I have purple ink. When I bought the second fountain pen, I bought purple ink cartridges to go with it. I love the colors that are available. I’m thinking to buy more green ink and refill the freebie pen. This is going to be what keeps me playing with fountain pens: all the pretty ink.


photo credit: insEyedout Studio via photopin (license)

6 thoughts on “The beginning of the fountain pen adventure

  1. Laurie

    Ah. I haven’t tried *writing* with nib pens yet, even calligraphy. But I’ve been drawing with them for years so have a pretty good feel for how to handle the different nibs. Of course, I’ve been away from it now for so long I’m probably rusty. But the nibs are not rusty! Also, since I’ve only been drawing with them, the paper has not been an issue; none of my drawing papers are as thin as notebook paper often is. I see ghosting even in the blank books I use for knitting journals, and so I wouldn’t try nib pens in them.

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    1. Silvernfire Post author

      I’m writing on the heaviest paper I’ve got (90 and 100 gsm), and I’m writing drafts of things (like the draft of this post!), not stuff to keep permanently, so the ghosting is only an annoyance at this point. But I might want to journal with a fountain pen someday, so I’m trying to solve this problem. I suspect finding a finer nib, either for Pen #2 or in another pen altogether, will make a difference.

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    1. Silvernfire Post author

      Ooh, from the photos on the Internet, it looks like it would be comfortable to hold, though. And, well, purple ink! But the disposable bit would be hard to get around. I’ve heard good things about the Pilot Metropolitan, which is less than $20, but can be refilled; I’m thinking of trying it next. Yes, there’ll going to be a “next.”

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  2. Geekette Palette

    I used to collect fountain pens, and had refillable cartridges and bottles of inks called “moonlight” or “rosedust”… I bought a dip pen a couple years ago, loved it, should use it more !

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    1. Silvernfire Post author

      Those inks sound lovely. Okay, my purple ink is called “Regal,” but that’s all I have so far. I’m not really ready for those refillable converters yet—I make too much of a mess!

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