April 24, 2017

Pens for Writers

Jeff D. Ellis

This is an introduction pens. Pens? Yes I know most everybody has used pens from an early age. What I want to talk about is mostly fountain pens. I will review a couple of expensive ballpoint pens as well. I will start with entry-level pens as well as some of the more pricy next level up options. Fountain pens can cost from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. After a point you are really paying for rare materials more than added abilities of the pen. I will also share some pens I have made in the past.

Fountain pens write different from ballpoint or even gel pens people normally use. Fountain pens don’t require downward pressure to use them and can be easier on the hand. Part of learning to use a fountain pen is not pressing down like you do with a ballpoint. You can change the pressure and on some fountain pens it will allow you to change how wide the pen writes. There are also special nibs (the tip the does the writing) that can make your writing more expressive. Another difference is fountain pens use a different angle to the paper. Ballpoint pens require a more upright way of holding them so that the ball is in contact with the paper. With fountain pens its more of a 45 degree angle. We will talk more about writing with pens and nib types in a future post.

One reason to use a fountain pen is no more throwing refills into the landfill. You can use bottles of ink to refill your pens. The extra advantage is you have a huge selection of inks to pick from including inks that shimmer in the light. Each choice has its own advantages and disadvantages. I will share information about that as well. Some people even mix their own colors from other inks.

Is a fountain pen right for you? It depends on your needs. If you don’t write much, you will be better with something else. Some pens will dry out just sitting around waiting for you to use them. There are fountain pens that claim to be able to last a year without drying out, but most pens can’t do that. So if you only use a pen for a quick note once or twice a month you are going to get frustrated with most fountain pens. If you take notes daily in classes or in meetings you are going to enjoy the pen much more. Fountain pens also require maintenance. Some inks need to be flushed out from time to time and when you want to change colors you will need to fully clean out the old ink before loading in the new ink.

If you don’t like pens with caps, your fountain pen options are very limited. There are only a few options that don’t have caps that you have to remove. They happen to be good pens, but there are no entry-level examples. You are talking at least $80 for that sort of pen. I happen to own a Pilot Vanishing Point pen which is a click to open fountain pen. I will review it as we move on to more expensive pen reviews.

Fountain pen ink in general takes more time to dry then what is in other pens. It can be easy to smudge, but some inks dry faster than others so that can be managed with good ink selection. Paper also has a big role in using a pen. Cheep paper will soak in ink and it can bleed to the other side. Cheep paper can also make your writing feather and make your line look heavier. Many users that have to use cheep paper will buy pens that write finer lines or drier. I will talk about some nice fountain pen friendly paper in future posts.

Using a fountain pen will mean getting ink on your fingers once in a while. It can be easy to avoid, but it happens to me.

So why again are we bothering with such old technology? Smooth effortless writing,  low pressure needed from your hand, access to hundreds of shades and styles of ink, can be more environmental, and a connection to a non-computer more analog time. Each person has their own reason for using these pens.