What Makes A Good Fountain Pen?

Whether a fountain pen is good or not depends on a variety of factors. Some of them are objective, such as the availability of nibs in different sizes, while others are subjective, such as how it feels in your hand. The materials from which the pen is made and the pen’s design are also factors that contribute to its value.

Factors that make a fountain pen good are reliability, availability of ink, heft in the user’s hand, a range of nib sizes, the quality of the materials used to make it, smooth ink flow, and nib smoothness. A good pen is well balanced, easy to use and maintain, and suits the user’s handwriting style.

Everyone’s hands are a different size, shape, and strength, even though they follow the same basic structure. Also, everyone’s way of writing is unique to them. This means that some individuals will be more comfortable using one kind of pen, while others will prefer a different one. When you go shopping for a fountain pen, you should ideally find a retailer that allows you to test a few out before buying, as there’s no substitute for experiencing it yourself.

Some Questions To Ask Yourself When Trying Out A Fountain Pen

Using a fountain pen is all about your personal style and preferences, so sometimes a good pen for one person may not be good for another. If you are lucky enough to try out a few fountain pens before purchase, you should ask yourself the questions below. Even if you can’t find a shop that allows you to try a pen out first, you can still examine it closely for defects and ask the assistant, based on your handwriting style, which size nib is best and test how the pen feels in your hand.

Did the nib feel scratchy or smooth on the paper? If a nib feels too scratchy on the paper, it is not necessarily a fault in the nib but may be down to how you apply it when you write. A scratchy nib digs too deeply into the paper as you write. This is undesirable because the nib removes paper fibers from the writing surface, and they could clog it up. It also damages the paper and could cause feathering of the written lines. If the nib tines are misaligned or bent, this can also cause scratchiness, so you should inspect them closely.

Scratchiness can also be because one tine is shorter than the other or because the tip of the nib is defective. This can usually only be seen under a magnifying glass. Both are problems that have to be dealt with by the manufacturer, so avoid buying this pen. Instead, wait for the shop to order a replacement or choose a different pen.

What feedback do you get from the pen?  This is not the same as scratchiness. Feedback is the feeling you get when running the nib across the texture of the paper. Some paper surfaces are more textured than others, and some nibs are finer than others. Generally speaking, the finer the nib or, the more textured the paper, the greater the feedback. The nib must run smoothly across the surface and not catch on it or leave scratch marks.

What is your mood as you are testing the pen? The mood you are in when writing with a fountain pen can affect the smoothness of your script. If you are angry or irritated or woke up on the wrong side of the bed, the writing experience will be rougher than if you are calm and serene. Or it could just mean that the nib doesn’t suit your writing style. It’s a good idea to use a test pattern such as a string of “S” shapes drawn continuously across the page. You can also write out the alphabet to see how the pen forms each letter.

Is the nib too broad or too fine? For small handwriting, fine nibs work better because the spaces within and between the characters are tiny. Broad nibs may make small writing look cramped and illegible and suit big, bold handwriting better. Don’t write the pen off just because the nib is too broad or too fine for you. You could ask to try the same pen with a different nib. The more reputable pen manufacturers supply pens with varying nib sizes, but you can also buy just the nib from them in various sizes.

How balanced does the pen feel in your hand? Most fountain pens are made with a cap section to cover the nib when not in use. When using the pen, writers often put this cap on the back of the barrel to avoid losing it. This is called posting. Some pens, when posted, can feel uncomfortably long or heavy in the user’s hand and may hinder ease of use. Other pens, when posted, look and feel just fine. You should try using the pen posted and unposted to assess how it balances in your hand.

People with small hands should buy lighter, shorter pens while those with large hands should buy heavier, fatter, longer pens. If you are happy to use a pen unposted and it feels comfortable in your hand, you should consider buying it. If posting the pen makes it too long and heavy and you want to use a posted pen, choose a smaller, shorter pen that posts well.

How do you fill the pen with ink? If you are an eco-warrior and do everything you can to save the environment, you may not want to use plastic ink cartridges. Some pens only use these, so steer clear of them. However, many fountain pens these days can use either cartridges or a converter, so if you like a pen, ask if there is a converter available for it. Some manufacturers include a converter with the pen, but it is more common for them to be sold separately.

A converter screws or pushes into the same place as a cartridge does, but it has a mechanism for sucking ink from a bottle into the pen. A converter is a multiple-use item, whereas a plastic ink cartridge is single use only. It’s best to buy a converter at the same time as you buy the pen itself to ensure that you can begin using it immediately.

Check on the availability of cartridges for your pen too. Unscrupulous merchants may sell attractive pens but not the cartridges for them, so you at least need to be sure that you can buy cartridges elsewhere. Many pens use international standard cartridges that are readily available, but others use only proprietary ones supplied only by the pen’s manufacturer.

Some fountain pens have built-in ink fillers and don’t need cartridges or a converter. This is especially true of older models. However, modern pens like the LAMY 2000, Pelikan Souveran and Classic ranges, TWSBI ECO and TWSBI Diamond also have built-in filler systems. These are always the safest bet if you are worried about cartridge availability as they can use a wide variety of inks sold in bottles.

Does the pen write wetly? Some pen nibs deposit more ink on the paper than others. These are said to write wetly. If you have small delicate handwriting, a wet writing pen may not suit you. Generally speaking, medium and broad nibs write wetter than fine and extra-fine ones, but this can also vary between different pen brands. Fine nibs usually do not deposit as much ink on the paper and are generally easier to write with for those with a cramped writing style.

Do you want the pen to last a lifetime? If you want a high-quality pen that you will use for the next twenty or thirty years or more, it’s best to choose a reputable brand that has been around for a long time. Although they cost more, these pens are made to strict quality standards using better materials, and the manufacturers sell replacement nibs, spare parts and offer repair services. Some examples of reputable brands are Montblanc, Lamy, Pilot, Visconti, Cross, Namiki, DuPont, Parker, and Waterman.

All fountain pens need to be maintained, which means regular flushing with water and not allowing ink to dry in them. You should also ensure that you use only ink suitable for fountain pens. Calligraphy ink is not recommended, and neither is India ink. Inks meant for dip pens should not be used in a fountain pen as pigmented and particle-based inks can clog up the delicate feed system and ruin it. You should never clean the pen with rubbing alcohol or acetone.

You should also use your pen with a light touch because it needs much less pressure than a ballpoint to write well. If you press too hard with a fountain pen, the ink might not flow properly, and you could even damage the nib. Gold nibs, in particular, don’t do well with too much pressure, and the tines may splay out, making the pen unusable. Many fountain pen newbies blame the pen for not working correctly when it is actually the user who is at fault.

The Factors That Make A Fountain Pen Good

  • Smooth flow of ink across the paper
  • A durable nib that comes in different sizes
  • The reliability and capacity of the filling system
  • Heft, i.e., the weight distribution and balance in the hand
  • A comfortable width
  • The size of the reservoir, converter, or cartridge
  • A well-designed feed system that does not drip
  • The pen can write on standard quality paper without bleeding or feathering
  • No ink leakages
  • Replacement parts are available
  • A well-fitting cap that can be tightly posted.
  • Quality and durability of the materials it’s made of

Whether A Fountain Pen Is Good Depends On You

The quality of the materials a pen is made of makes a difference as to how long it lasts, but this doesn’t mean that only the most expensive fountain pens are good. Some are very reasonably priced and well-made and will last a long time if you look after them. Pen nibs made of stainless steel can take more pressure than those made of gold. Barrels can be made of sturdy plastics, brass, steel, aluminum, polycarbonate, or more delicate acrylics.

A pen with a complicated filling system may not last as long as one that uses cartridges because there is more than can go wrong mechanically. Most fountain pens are relatively simple items without many moving parts, so they can last much longer than a cheap ballpoint or rollerball because they are refillable. Most of them are precisely engineered, well designed, and reasonably robust.

The Pilot Metropolitan is inexpensive and beginner-friendly but is a favorite because it combines affordability and quality. It is also sold with a converter if you don’t want to use proprietary pilot ink cartridges. Another example of a highly regarded but affordable pen is the Lamy Safari which has a contoured grip that helps the writer hold the pen correctly. It is made from tough, lightweight ABS plastic, the same material used for Lego, and various nib-sizes are available.

The slightly more expensive TWSBI ECO holds a large quantity of ink in its built-in piston filler system and has a clear barrel that displays the color of the ink and how much is left. It is easy to clean and comes with a little wrench and some silicon grease to maintain it properly. It is a very accessible pen for most people.

If you use converters, buy several of them – they are usually relatively cheap. They will prolong the life of your pen if the manufacturer stops making proprietary cartridges for some reason. Except for disposable fountain pens, which are the most affordable of all, even low-end fountain pens can last for ages.

The wide range of fountain pens on the market today offers something for every user, whether it’s a student who just wants a pen for notetaking to the influential, high-flying executive who wants to make a statement when he signs a contract. The high-end pens are about far more than just writing as they are used as status symbols or to reflect the user’s personal style and culture. What makes a fountain pen good depends on your reasons for buying it.

Some aficionados collect fountain pens like other people collect works of art. For them, the rarity and investment value of the pen make it good. Is it only one of a very few, how old is it, what is its provenance, and did a famous person use it? Others just enjoy the writing experience they offer. Handwriting enthusiasts who take pride in their beautiful script usually prefer fountain pens because they provide more control over how the characters are formed.

A fountain pen can bring out the pleasure of writing in a way that few other pens can.

If you need to write for long periods, a light pen is better than a heavier one. A heavier pen will tire your hand out quicker. The size and strength of your hands determine which size fountain pen is best for you. Larger, stronger hands can hold fatter, heavier pens, and these people may like some extra heft in a pen.

Conclusion

What makes a fountain pen good involved numerous factors, some of which depend on the user’s preferences and purposes. However, some objectively verifiable features are the pen’s design, the materials it’s made from, and the filler system it uses. The price of the pen alone does not determine whether it is good.

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