To begin with, I am by no means an expert on fountain pens. But I did just recently spend a lot of words helping a friend through getting started with them, so I figured other people might benefit as well.
Why fountain pens?
The first thing you might ask is why go back in time like that? Aren’t we trying to make everything electronic? And it’s a fair question, and I have several reasons for why fountain pens.
- Writing something by hand when you’re used to typing helps your brain retain things better, and I’ve also found that the act of writing by hand helps me think about my work in different ways. It’s also a lot easier to do brain dumps by hand. At least for me.
- Jotting down a few notes with possibly a small diagram to help me think is just so much faster and easier using a pen and paper compared to anything I’ve found that’s electronic.
- Like many people my age, I’ve had issues with RSI and the writing experience using a fountain pen is just so much nicer and less stressfull for my hand.
- Fountain pens are just really pretty.
What else do I need to know?
Fountain pens come in multiple nib widths. Extra fine to Stub in various millimeter widths. Japanese fountain pens (Pilot, Pelikan, etc) tend toward thinner nibs than European and American manufacturers. Which you prefer tends to be, predictably, be very personal. For everyday writing, I tend to prefer either Extra Fine or Fine european models. The Japanese nibs tend to be too fine for me in the finer thicknesses.
The other important thing, to start with at least, is the filling mechanism. That is, how the ink is put into the pen. There are three options; cartridge, converter, and piston. Cartridge is where you get a small pre-filled cartridge of that you just slot into place to use and then toss when it runs out. Converter is a similar thing except much more easily refillable. Piston is where basically the entire pen is the inkwell. As you can imagine, these are different pens entirely. With cartridges, you’re limited to the colors and inks that come in cartridges, which shuts out some really lovely ones. But there’s still a lot of variety to be had in cartridges, just make sure to get ones that go with your pen.
So what now?
In Clarion, one of my classmates (Ghislaine) and I had a hoard of fountain pens. Especially during the first week, we all did a lot of hand writing. One by one, our classmates started shaking their hands and wirsts despite the mobility exercises we were doing every day. And one by one, Ghis or I, whoever was sitting closest, simply, and quietly, pushed a fountain pen in their direction. I’m pretty sure we got to everyone as well as most of our instructors over the six weeks we were there. I’m even more sure that we converted at least a few of our class members to the fountain pen way of life. If you don’t happen to have a pusher in your life, you may have to just jump in and buy your first fountain pen. The good thing is that you can find starter fountain pens for 20-30€ (roughly the same in US $).
The Lamy Safari is a great starter pen, that has both cartridges and converters. It comes in so many colors and you can pretty easily change the nibs so that if you change your mind or want a different nib.
The Pilot Metropolitan is one of the most common starter pens because it’s really cheap, and it comes in a variety of pretty colors.
Kaweco Sport is the only hugely popular starter pen that I’ve never owned, but I do have a Kaweco Lilliput that is delightful, so I would assume the Sport to be likewise.
And thus we come to TWSBI Eco. You will soon note, that TWSBI is my favorite brand of fountain pen. And the Eco is definitely a great option.
I love, love, LOVE the TWSBI Diamond 580. I have bought this pen so many times. With probably every nib possible. This is the pen I use most. All the time, in fact. Right now, I have two of them inked with different colors.
The TWSBI 700R Iris is just such a pretty pen that it deserves a special mention even though in many ways, it is very similar to the 580.
My Retro 1951 Tornado is just such a satisfying pen. It has a metal barrel and a great grip. It has this great industrial feel to it while being sleek and lovely.
My Pelikan Classic 205 (different color, same pen) is easily the lightest pen I own. I don’t use it a lot because it is a Japanese EF nib, but when I need absolutely tiny writing, this is the one that I turn to.
Largely, that’s it. There’s so much that you can learn and enjoy about fountain pens and there is no amount of nerdery that it cannot sustain, but these are the very basics.
Lastly, my friends, I just want to wish you a happy journey into the world of fountain pens. It will change your life.