Fountain pens have not always been seen as the most practical of items. However, in this article, I hope to be able to dispel some of these myths. Some of these myths I hope to debunk include leaking, too hard to use, too hard to maintain, and too delicate to use.
I would certainly be very interested to hear your feedback in terms of what pens you find easy to maintain. So, please do give me a comment in the section below.
Now, for most people out here, this will be teaching you to suck eggs almost, and for that, I do apologise. This article is intended to help those newer to the hobby and I will have another article published soon discussing filling mechanisms.
Too hard to use
Whilst I’m at work, I quite often hear students or staff saying “oh, I can’t use a fountain pen, it’s too fiddly, give me a proper pen” and whilst everyone is entitled to an opinion… they are simply wrong. Just kidding!! Well, not really haha. Let me explain why.
I feel that people who generally have a stigma toward fountain pens are those with bad memories of school. I certainly remember having leaky nibs and exploding cartridges! But in hindsight, putting your finger over the nib or fiddling with a cartridge will end up in inkplosions. Unfortunately, it’s those memories that counteract the positives of using a fountain pen.
Normally when you hand a pen over to someone who’s never used a fountain pen before (or those that had bad memories)they have the strangest of grips or a facial expression that evokes that of discomfort. It’s almost as though this object is alien in nature, and whilst in some cases that may be true, common sense seems to fall by the wayside. This is where Fountain pens with a triangular grip section come in really useful because there’s only one real way to hold that fountain pen. Take the Lamy Safari, for example, this is a pen I loan out a lot in work and immediately corrects hand positioning. So when a student or staff member starts writing with this pen, their initial impressions change quite dramatically. Usually a response of “oh, this is quite pleasant” rings out. Hand positioning and comfort is essentially the deal maker or breaker for a fine writing instrument.
Beyond the Lamy Safari, you may also find the Faber Castell grip a great pen to use. The cushioned grip section really eases longer writing sessions and I find this preferable to that of some of my pricier pens!
Oh and please don’t stroke the nib… it’s not a pet.
Right, let’s get this out of the bag! Yes, some pens do leak. However, these tend to be poorly constructed or just haven’t been QC’edproperly. But on another note, another major cause for leaking is down to user error, storage and pressure change.
Let’s explore user error. Quite often manufacturers will give you warnings about disassembling your pens. These instructions tend to be ignored by a lot of people! Take TWSBI for example, they explicitly instruct you NOT to disassemble the nib and feed. Yet, I see many instructional videos online showcasing and dispelling this as a myth. My experience of ignoring these instructions has led to broken feeds. You see, TWSBI feeds are very brittle and as such can break easily.
Simply put if a manufacturer asks you not to disassemble your fountain pen, please do not do so. They are not asking you for the sake of it!
However, commonly the major issue with leaking normally comes with pressure change, especially with changing seasons or certain modes of air transportation. How does this occur? Simply put, air intake into the converter or barrel causes an air pocket, as the air pressure changes, it can force ink out. How does one resolve this issue? Buying a pen with a shut-off valve would go a long way! A Pilot Custom 823, Visconti Homsapiens, Opus 88 or if your budget can stretch to it a Namiki Urushi number 50 will relieve you of this issue.
Lastly, one must consider that the pen has just been poorly constructed or the filling system isn’t installed properly! Believe it or not, I have seen and reviewed pens in the past where the feed just hasn’t fitted properly, or the converter sits loosely on the feed channel.
Generally speaking, if you buy from a major manufacturer, this isn’t usually too much of an issue, especially with Japanese or German makers!
What I wanted to address next is the expense. Simply put fountain pens scale from very affordable to oxygen-inducing stratospheres of height. I want to make this clear, you can get GREAT pens for not very much and you can do a lot to these pens to make them look like a million bucks *coughurushicough*. In all seriousness, I truly believe there are pens out there for all budgets and mindsets. Of course, are expensive pens worth it? Well, that’s down to you to decide.
When I first got into the hobby a few years back, I started with a Lamy 2k, but that’s because a colleague of mine at work had sung its praises for so long. However, you can start with anything! The platinum preppy is a great starter pen and one that delights most users. These pens cost 4 pounds in the UK and have the writing performance of pens that cost at least 100 pounds.
Decent maintenance of your fountain pen will prolong its life and ease of use. There are pens out there which are not easier to maintain than others and in this section, I will talk about some of those pens.
Filling systems are usually what challenge most people when it comes to pen cleaning. There will always be advantages and disadvantages to all filling types. So down below, I will list my opinions on the pros and cons of each system.
I’m sure there are a ton more myths to bust! I’d be curious to hear your suggestions. So please do feel free to reach out.