If you’re new to the Pen World you’ve probably already struggled to figure out what finial, barrel or piston knob means. And to be honest, before stepping into this fascinating world I also had a hard time trying to understand each and every pen component. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not rocket science, but some of these terms you’ve never heard before. So, let’s find out the anatomy of a fountain pen!
Mostly attached to the pen body, the cap is the part of the fountain pen that covers the nib and prevents the pen from bending in case it falls off a surface. Some manufacturers, such as Platinum, have also developed their caps to prevent ink from drying out in the pen. (see Platinum Slip & Seal mechanism). At the top of the cap there is the finial – most of the time adorned with the manufacturer’s logo.
Then comes the clip, which is attached to the cap and has both a functional and aesthetic role. While you can use the clip to place the pen in your shirt/jacket pocket, this metal part also prevents the pen from rolling off the desk. Placed near the bottom of the pen cap, the centerband is oftentimes decorated with the manufacturer’s name and embellishes the overall appearance of the pen.
The barrel & section
The barrel is the part of the pen that houses the ink reservoir. Sometimes people refer to it as the body of the pen, not really true because the body is just a part of the barrel. Moving on to the pen section. This part is where the nib is fitted, then attached to the barrel. The grip, basically the front of the section, is designed to ensure comfortable handling while writing.
The nib & feed
The nib – or what I like to call ‘the heart of the fountain pen’ is the component that creates all the magic when it comes to writing. The tip of the nib is made of some sort of hard metal that is welded to the nib, then it gets polished and adjusted accordingly. The slit is a very thin cut that starts at the breather hole and goes down to the tip carrying the ink from the feed to the tip. The breather hole or the vent hole is basically a hole in the nib that provides the space for air to flow back into the pen to replace the ink consumed during writing. In addition to its functional purpose, there are some heart-shaped breather holes that add a nice touch to the nib’s design.
Then comes the body of the nib which is usually imprinted with a fine engraving symbolising the brand, the nib size or other motifs, to mention Montblanc’s Limited Edition that have perhaps the most beautiful and detailed nib engravings. Last but not least the feed, which is a piece of plastic or ebonite in some cases (however pretty rare and usually on more expensive fountain pens) that is attached on the back of the nib and ensures the ink flow from the reservoir to the nib.
The filling system
When it comes to the filling mechanism of a pen, things are pretty simple. There’s the cartridge, which I suppose doesn’t need any introduction, the converter and the piston filling system. The converter is a cylindrical device that allows the user to fill a fountain pen with bottled ink, instead of ink cartridges, which is more fun given the wide variety of ink colours on the market.
Unlike the converter which is removable, the piston filling system is an integrated mechanism that utilises a piston plunger. To fill the tank, the user has to operate the piston knob placed at the end of the barrel. Some systems can be operated by twisting, others by push/pull.
As some of you may have noticed, I haven’t delved into too much detail, covering just some of the most important parts of a fountain pen. There are other tiny components that I didn’t mention because I didn’t want to turn this article into something very scientific.
I hope the information has helped you better understand a fountain pen and if you have found it interesting and useful, you may consider sharing it with your friends.