October 27, 2006

Tacticity: The Fountain-Pen -v- Ballpoint

Posted in FountainPens at 7:40 am by a11en

A post today regarding some of my thoughts about Fountain-pens and Ballpoints. When someone moves from a ball-point (which most of my generation have been using their whole life) to a fountain-pen, often their comments range from “smooth” to “better feel” to “more responsive”. Another item that short-term users of FP’s experience is that of paper-quality. As I mentioned before, I never realized how bad paper quality had become in this country until I picked up a fountain-pen. Besides the mere ink/paper combination issues, there is also a tactile issue with the FP nib points. A sharp fine (F or XF) fountain-pen nib is what many call “toothy” on rougher paper. I’ll come back to paper briefly towards the end of this discussion…

The Mechanics and Tribology Of A Nib

In specific, about the tactile feel of a fountain-pen: The nib is comprised of two tines which have a very small vein running between them. This vein in conjunction with the feed and collector is what gets the ink from the pen’s reservoir to the nib-point. Often (especially in the more expensive pens) the nib is made from a single sheet of 14k or other similar type of gold. Gold is quite soft, and coupled with the length- the tines become something reminiscent of a cantilever. Since these are semi-flexible cantilevers, we can expect a response from the nib which is softer and more responsive to paper topology. Now, FP users are probably screaming at me- I’m not describing what we call “semi-flex” or “flexible” nibs here. I’m merely pointing out that there is a flexibility difference between the ball-point and the fountain-pen nib.

As well as the cantilever like tines of a nib, we also have the difference between what I’ll call one-dimensional writing and two-dimensional writing. If you have a ball handy, snag one- anything will do a golf-ball, tennis-ball, a squash-ball, whatever… actually-not everything will do… a football, being non-spherical won’t work. Put your hand flat on the ball, and move forward, backward, etc… rolling the ball between table/floor and hand. Watch the contact point of the ball with the surface you’re rolling against. If you were to start the ball on a logo for instance, the logo moves when rolling, correct? As well, at any point in time, the ball is in contact with the surface at (for all practical purposes) a single point. This point moves- eventually coming back in contact with your hand as you roll past 360°. What you have just observed is how a ball rolls around on a surface. This is exactly how your ball-point rolls around as well! The ball is merely encased in a point which allows the ball to roll, and allows ink to coat the surface of the ball. [Those of you with finger-paints, coat the ball and then roll it around – preferably on a hard-wood mahogany floor… Just kidding!] A fountain-pen is seriously different than this. Imagine taking a tube- say a toilet paper tube or a straw, and cutting one end of it at an angle. This is a very crude approx. of a fountain-pen. Those of you who know your math will know that the end of this tube will be an ellipse- that is, non-circular. I’ll get to that in a second. Now, place that flat cut edge on the same surface as your ball… and drag it around. Left, right, up, down… anything rolling? nope- anything changing contact with the surface? nope! What you have there, my friend is a large area of contact that you are sliding across a surface. Did you notice how much harder it is to slide if you apply the same pressure you did on the ball as on the tube? [Especially easy to notice on a carpet…] The tube grabs and snags the surface sometimes, unless you use a smooth surface and a light touch! This is exactly like the difference between a ball-point and a fountain-pen. Crude, yes, but similar.

Now back to the ellipse of that cut-surface… it’s not exactly the same width as height, right? If you’re unsure of this, snag an ink-pad, or perhaps some ketchup, and dab it into the ink- and then on a piece of paper. You don’t have a circle, because we cut it at an angle. Now, when you drag, you’re dragging the length or the width across the page (or something in between). Since the length of these are different, depending on how you drag it, you get different widths of lines! Interesting, eh? Remember back to the ball… no matter how we rolled it, the contact area of the ball always stayed the same… with your little fake fountain-pen (tube) this is *not* the case! In the extreme cases- Calligraphic fountain-pens, this difference is very pronounced. That is why some lines in characters made with them appear as skinny lines, while others thick. [There’s another way of doing this, but I won’t discuss that here today.]

How Paper and Ink Plays a Role

Now, a few comments about ink and paper. We have already noticed that the tube sliding across a rough surface is harder to work with than a ball rolling across that same surface- hence, we know that a smoother paper is going to feel better with a fountain-pen than a rougher paper. But, there is also differences in the ink. In a fountain-pen, the ink needs to flow readily from the reservoir to the feed to the nib-point. It must be very very smooth and very liquid. In a ball-point, you want the ink to stick to the ball so that you can get it onto the ball, and roll it onto the paper. Something a bit like paint on a paint-roller. If the roller were as smooth as a ball-point’s steel ball, and the paint was as liquid as water- you’d never get anything on the wall, as it would all run down and off the roller. The same goes with the ball of a ball-point. If the ink is sticky, it’ll stick to the ball, and then to the paper. Remember, we’re not actually sliding anything onto the paper (like a paint-brush)- we’re rolling it on… so it must be sticky. [This is not the case with a roller-ball… which means I have some more thinking to do here.] This sticky thick ink is even more pronounced in the new gel-ink pens. Ever see the ink moving in the ink cartridges? Nope! It’s quite thick, and I suspect (without busting one) quite sticky. So, a fountain-pen’s ink is liquid like. Who cares? Well, the paper cares… if the paper was like glass, do you think the ink would get anywhere? It’d just sit on the surface (if it came out of the fountain-pen at all). To get a nice line, you need to have a slightly absorbent paper. Too absorbent, and the line thickens (draws more ink out of the nib than you want). As well, if the paper is made from rough fibers, without any refinement (try a newspaper), you’ll get lots of ink running along these fibers, making your writing look “fuzzy”… this is called “Feathering”. Since ink from a ball-point doesn’t really flow that much if at all, we don’t have to worry about ink-“flow” into the paper fibers, or along the paper-fibers… hence we can often write on surfaces that aren’t very absorbent, and also on paper that is very rough and very fibrous. Of course there are limits to everything, but this is the general gist of things. So, a fountain pen really wants a smooth paper, with mild absorbency. As well, the lubricity of the ink plays a roll in the tactile feel as mentioned above. Sliding across the page, there is a liquid layer of ink that buffers the nib-point from the topology of the paper… lower the viscosity, or add surfactants, and you have a slippery ink- which will lay a smoother line. Of course there are tradeoffs in formulations, which I can only speculate on…

So, we’ve seen over this post, how a fountain-pen provides more tactile feel on the page. As well, visually the ink will act differently on the page, giving more visual feed-back as to paper absorbence. Ink flow plays a major role as well. Finally, the contact-area of the nib to the page provides not only tactile feel (topology) but also line-width variation- all of which I like to call two-dimensional, or even three-dimensional writing. [Topology will provide a third dimension here.]

All of this above provides the user with a more expressive and tactile experience when using a fountain-pen. In this article, I also haven’t touched on pen-designs, the beauty of a gold-nib, variation in ink-color, type, and even scenting. All of these add to the aspect of using a fountain-pen to write. Visually, the color is immediately noticed as different than a ball-point. Many users of fountain-pens utilize various colors of ink, as well as often mix their own ink colors. This leads to another level of personalization and expressiveness to the simple art of writing – creating a much more complex and enjoyable experience for the writer.


  1. Wonderful sentiments, thanks.


  2. Ishmael said,

    An interesting article. I notice you didn’t mention what happens when left-handed people use a ball-point to write; in my experience, cheap ball points are more scratchy than fountain pens, because they are being pushed across the page. I am lucky in that I have been using a Mont Blanc fountain pen for a year now, and I wouldn’t go back to anything else, although your point about cheap paper used in combination with a fountain pen is entirely accurate. Which, incidentally, is another point. Cheap ball points are evidence yet again of a throw-away economy. My fountain pen, by contrast, should stay with me for life, becoming the source of everything I write. When I am a famous author, it will be worth millions more than a BIC.

  3. Clive said,

    I am interested in the environmental argument re fountain vs ballpoint. Does anyone know how that pans out in the end – one fountain pen manufacture + need for good paper = XX ballpoints’ manufacture + poor paper

    Any one know?

  4. a11en said,

    Hey Clive!

    This is an interesting question. My current study is in the area of environmental energy.

    I will definitely say a few things that are just opinions, and the reality may be much different.

    First, paper is a renewable resource. Yes, it is one of the major components in land-fills (by volume), but it is renewable, and biodegradable. These are both good things. So, paper milling and manufacturing, while it may use chemicals/techniques which may be bad, overall is a beneficial industry both for its product as well as it promotes tree-planting etc.

    Second, while plastics are not very biodegradable, they do compress quite well, and by volume do not make up the majority of our land-fills (Building/construction waste actually takes up the majority by volume).

    Now, for some of my impressions…
    – Ball point pens manufactured in bulk as they are, and very cheaply, provide quite a great tool for the majority of the world. Due to their low-cost, I cannot see them going anywhere anytime soon. We’ve come a long way from the days when we used a goose-quill.

    – Ball point ink can write on almost any surface. This in itself is beneficial. Most environmental friendly/hand-made paper-mills produce a product which is very poorly sized, very poorly textured (smoothed), and in general lack the high-quality product made by a majority of paper-mills. Now, this isn’t true of all of them, but for your dime-store- isn’t this cool looking enviro-friendly paper, it is true. A ball-point pen probably will work best on that type of paper. The more chunky it is, the more rough, the more fibers pull from it- the worse it will be with a FP.

    – A large paper-manufacturer who is conscious of the environmental concerns, can probably do quite a lot to produce an excellent paper for FP useage (proper paper) and still keep its quality high. My personal opinion is to use proper paper for writing, and then use the pulp from recycled content in other ways (cardboard manufacture etc.) Even burning it (the most efficient method of recovering the energy in chemical-bonds) is an appropriate option- as long as the majority of the energy and volume of the product is utilized, I feel we’re already doing better than we did if we were land-filling the product.

    Now, all that being said…
    – Fountainpens have the advantage that you can refill them. A good fountainpen when treated properly can last a life-time quite easily, and some have lasted multiple life-times. This is excellent. It means that a writing instrument need not be thrown away (into a landfill), and can be useful for many many years to come. I also accept vintage fountain-pens as an appropriate “re-use” of the product, as it is not in the waste-stream, but is being used for its original purpose.

    – Many of the inks we have these days are quite high-tech, and actually are archival-safe. Meaning that the words we write today with many of the available inks, if treated properly, will survive generations. This is important for our families as well as for the environment- as a very acidic ink (like the old registrar inks) will burn the paper and make the writing useless and impossible to read over time. Some inks even bond to the paper, rendering it significantly more permanent than ball-point pen ink (easily removed with Acetone).

    – Finally, a well made paper-stock, and well-produced fountain pen and ink, likely will lead to writing that is used appropriately and lasts- rather than weak paper which when wet turns into pulp (many recycled papers do this), or is relatively difficult to use or read the written word upon. (I’m reminded of the grey-ish papers that Mead used to put out.) A little bit of ink in a glass bottle (grind it back into sand, and you’ve put it back into the earth), goes a long-way. Add to this a fountain-pen which is good enough or cherished enough to be passed down through the years, and you have a very environmental friendly product, I feel.

    I’m not sure the reasons for the prevalence of horrible paper with poor paper sizing that can’t properly take ink these days. But, it’s my opinion that most of what is happening in the paper industry is focused on cost. So, if ball-point pens are what the majority of your users use, and they’re extremely forgiving- perhaps we can do away with sizing.. or perhaps we can lighten up the paper and use less paper pulp, etc. All in all leading to a poor product which can *only* be used with BP’s due to the horrible feathering and bleed-through of ink.

    Of course another option is to go back to parchment made from animal skins. However, I won’t promote that, necessarily. But, one has to admit that a good deal of parchment did degrade over time, and that it was a completely renewable resource, and a use for a part of an animal which may have been thrown out otherwise. [Although back then they did their best to use as much as possible would be my guess.]

    Recycling and re-use is a fantastic thing… but in my opinion, the majority of papers I’ve seen that were made from a significant portion of post-consumer waste are quite horrible. I wouldn’t want to use a BP let alone an FP on them.

    To me, to some degree, paper becomes removed from the equation when we look at the renewable nature, as well as the benefit to the environment to have significant number of trees grown each year. I have a sneaky suspicion most paper houses which offer high-post-consumer content paper are merely doing so due to customer demand and not due to the economics of the process, or even the environmental friendly nature of the process. Considering that bleaching agents would need to be employed in the post-consumer content as well as in the pre-consumer content, it’s my feeling that a proper paper-product should be virgin for paper-manufacture. Use of the post-consumer waste is most likely better-suited to down-stream, something in the lines of card-board, or particle-board filler etc., etc.

    Now, I’ve spouted off a lot of stuff here- but please know it’s just some ideas- I have nothing to back up my statements here. This is just my feeling. I tend to try to keep a level head in regards to environmental causes, and this tends to sometimes create tension among myself and my coworkers. I think the consumer will decide on product based on how it works for him/her… and only a niche marketplace will concern itself with post-consumer content. So, ultimately, it’s about a good product. A prime example of this is the BP- writes on almost anything, cheap as snot, and easily available at all times. Now, if people saw how easily I could remove a signature etc., from a check with some acetone, they might decide they need different ink. 😉 [Although most checks these days have security measures to prevent this, of course.] [Disclaimer- I’ve never actually tried it- but have seen it happen in the chemistry lab with my lab-notes on accident.]

    So, take that for what you will. 😉 Any and all comments always welcome, Clive. It’s great to have you stop by! Remember- you don’t have to agree with me at all, I’m just glad that you came by and read a bit of my ramblings. 🙂

    I hope you have a fantastic week!

    ps- if you do dig further on this issue, I’d love to hear what you find! Feel free to post a link to your blog, or come back and let me know in the comments- anything goes. Good luck on your search!

    [I for one am smitten by my FP- and I have half vintage/half modern. Those vintage pens are still going quite strong- and they’re wonderful to use. They definitely aren’t in the land-fill, and won’t be for a very very long time. 🙂 ]

  5. Andrew Miller said,

    Around 3 years ago, I became frustrated by cheap ball-point pens not working and throwing away about a dozen a year.
    So I started to use 2 Waterman fountain pens (one for the desk, one in my bag). A bottle of ink lasts for about 5 years and is recyclable.
    There are few surfaces I can’t write on and the pens look great!
    I also bought a couple of vintage mechanical watches around the same time and they’re still ticking, keeping good time and have no batteries to expire and throw out.

  6. a11en said,

    Hi Andrew! Thanks for dropping by and telling me about your experience! I do have to admit the pasty ink and skipping etc., at times has infuriated me about ball-points. I’m glad to hear that they frustrated someone enough to look into a nicer fountain pen! I’m not completely sure why I moved to a fountain-pen. I think it started in the same way as a few motivations have begun in my life… a sort of “the new is not necessarily better” concept. Technology has certainly advanced, but aside from that, human ingenuity and interest in working things hasn’t. Often the older items are stronger, better built, and work just as well (sometimes even better). Some of this is just our incessant interest in expediency and cutting costs.

    It surprised me when I tried a Fountain-Pen after so many years (had one as a kid here and there), was the ease with which it wrote! Touch the tip to the page, ink flows. Couldn’t be easier. No pressure is required. I often wonder if the frequent death-grip on a pen is due to our need to push down and roll a ball-point.

    Wonderful to hear you have some great mechanical watches also! Luckily, that’s a bug that hasn’t bit me yet… but likely will in the future. 😉

    Stop in anytime, Andrew! Thanks for sharing your experience!

  7. rudra prasanna panda said,

    Yes i also use fountain pen. i think it is more convenient than ballpoint pen.it is not so expensive.somebody bought a bottole of ink it will give more time support than ink pen.no pressure is required to run this on a paper.

    sometimes it will not run in rough paper. so always need smooth paper.

  8. a11en said,

    Hello, Rudra! Welcome!

    I agree with all of your thoughts on the fountain pen. Bottles of ink, while they appear expensive at first, take a very long time to empty. I suspect that ink from a bottle is actually cheaper than ink in ball-point pens.

    I also agree with you on paper. Having a fountain pen has showed me that a lot of modern paper is not as good as older paper in taking ink. There is a lot of wonderful smooth paper though. If you are looking for some smooth paper, in the US, the following is quite good (I don’t know if you can get these where you are located): BlackNRed, Apica (Japanese- many Japanese papers work quite well), Miquelrius (Spanish), Clairfontaine (French)… there are surely more, but these are quite good. Also, you may want to try a heavier stock laser-printer paper. The HP 32# (32 pound) laser printer paper is quite smooth and a bit like Clairfontaine paper, but is different. Also, the 28# (pound) inkjet printer paper is quite good as well.

    I wish you good writing, and many years of fun with your fountain pens!

    My best,

  9. astrodude said,

    Hey all you fountain guys,

    Personally I am a ballpoint/gel user. Currently I alternate between a Parker SS GT Jotter, which is the most reliable pen on Earth, and a 14ct gold Cross Century I with black gel cartridge. I’m a uni student, so fountains are not so practical for us, as we are constantly scribbling random things on all kinds of paper, usually frantically, so ballpoints and the like are definitely more practical for us and durable. Plus, exam book paper is the most absorbent paper you’ll ever write on, Its like writing on a sponge. You fountain guys would start crying! I’m currently waiting on a Lamy Agenda that I bought off eBay to get here, which is also a ballpoint. I actually have a Parker 45 fountain in my cupboard, but i’ve never used it. I just don’t think it would be practical for a student. I guess I just think that in today’s world of thermal paper receipts, printer paper and the like, a ballpoint is much more versatile. However, don’t get me wrong, I still think fountains are very cool. Just not so practical.

  10. Conrad said,

    I have only recently returned to Fountain Pens after a very long and regrettable stay with the Ball Point Pen. Where I grew up it was the norm for students from the 6th grade on to use fountain pens, and I switched to ball point after the 8th grade. As a result of my ill advised tryst I have discovered that my penmanship had degraded terribly and only in the last month or so has it returned to a semblance of its former aesthetic appeal.

    I too am a university student like astrodude and personally I find that with a little bit of practice and discernment as to which notes to take, I more than keep up with the class in note taking. Besides, my Professors have commented that my exams are easier to read (despite my horribly broken Italian)

    I learnt to write with a cheap Hero 606 (long lost now and probably in a landfill somewhere). When I was reintroduced to my first love I purchased a Parker Frontier for my school use and a Parker 45 for my correspondences. (Yes, I am one of the few who still hand writes letters) I have my eye on a Cross Century II, but I can’t justify another pen to myself just yet. I absolutely love using my pens. There is something about using a FP that gives a certain charm to writing, even if all your writing is some word to look up later. Even the recipients of my letters have commented (via email, despite my best efforts) that there is an indescribable charm to opening and reading a personal letter (as opposed to junk mail and bills) One of my correspondents has actually taken to writing me back, although she insists on typing and printing her letters (baby steps).

    I’ve seen the Mont Blancs and yes they certainly are exquisite pens. I simply do not have $500.00 to spend on one. I must for now content myself with the Parkers, Watermans, Crosses, and Pelikans. Wait a minute… those are pretty damn good pens in their own right. I have also been able to examine some of the Chinese manufactured pens and I must say that they can rival some of the European and American lines in quality. I might well find myself owning one sometime down the line.

    As a side note, I still carry a BP everywhere I go. Only because I almost wept when my first Frontier was destroyed by someone who asked to borrow my pen and failed to tell me that they had no idea how to use a fountain pen. It is a reality that BP’s will always be with us, most people simply will not put the time into learning to use a FP or are simply incapable of appreciating a fine writing experience. So all my fellow FP enthusiasts, be warned, carry a BP, it may spare you some tears.

  11. Stuart said,

    I have a Parker 51 FP (mid 1950s or thereabouts) which is still going strong and belonged to my father. I also have a modern Duofold FP which I purchased myself.

    I have always used FPs; at school (many years ago!) we had a master who claimed to have “Birosis” – a disease, he said, which made him completely unable to read anything written in ballpoint so, if your work was in BP, you got no marks!

    I used to work in an office and ws bought a gold-plated Parker Jotter for my birthday after an office whip-round. Fortunately, it was stolen 18 months later and I could go back to writing with FPs.

    I agree there are all sorts of problems with modern papers but given the correct materials writing with a FP is a genuinely sensual experience. What’s more, there is a dimensionality to the writing which comes not just from the shape of the nib but also from the pressure applied and so forth.

    I understand why people use BPs but the FP is, for me, the better option all-around.

  12. charles said,

    For some reason I can write ‘properly’ (thumb at level of first joint of index finger, pen resting on knuckle of index finger) with a fountain pen much more easily than I can with a ballpoint. But maybe that’s because most ballpoints are thin-barrelled. I really don’t like rollerballs.

    I just started my fountain pen trek with a disposable Pilot Varsity, but I have no idea where I’ll go from there (any advice is appreciated).

  13. Chris said,

    I love my fountain pens (i only have two) and i cannot use any other writing instrument to write with.

    I started to write with fountain pens about a year ago when i purchased a cheap Parker I.M. (in deep black) for about £10 which i have been using daily ever since.

    However recently i have had the desire to obtain a new fountain pen, and as i had been using my fountain pen more and more decided to get a slightly more expensive model.

    So yesterday i found myself in a shop purchasing a beautiful red Waterman Hemisphere fountain pen for £45. I use bottled ink so i also got a converter for it. I am very pleased with it and it writes very well.

  14. Hazel Wi;lliams said,

    I have just bought my first waterman fountain pen a black GT and paid $115 for it. I am just using it now with a cartrage and find that when I take it of the paper it misses part of the first letter. I have to press to get the ink flowing. Is it because it is new or am I doing something wron?

    • a11en said,


      First, I’m not an expert, so take this with a bit of skepticism, but here are some ideas for you..

      As I mention above, paper can play a very very big role, almost equally as important is ink. Sometimes an ink will just not play nice with paper. But there are other factors that can also frustrate getting ink onto paper. For instance, there can be a poorly made nib (probably not the case here), or improper wear on the nib can cause problems (probably also not the case here). The reason I mention these last two, is there’s a situation called “baby bottom” where if you can think of a baby’s bottom sitting on a table or floor, between the cheeks so to speak there’s a void… that portion of the bottom may not be touching the table… if it isn’t, and that’s where ink comes from (horrible analogy, but that’s the term they use in the pen world), then if it can’t touch the paper, the paper can’t wick the ink to the page.

      Another possibility, is that new from the factory, the pen may not “like” the ink, and may not wick the ink into the nib. That sometimes happens.

      So, there are a lot of possibilities here. Possible solutions are as follows:
      1) if you bought from a pen store, go back and ask them about it- mention it doesn’t seem to be flowing well, they’ll probably ask to try it out and see if they experience the same… every once in a while there’s a dud, but waterman is a good company, so I kinda doubt it’s that, but it might be.

      2) Try different papers! Lots of different paper- specifically from as many different companies as you can find. The old notebook papers etc., from mead will be horrible, but nicer paper like Rhodia, Clairfontaine, Crane etc., should flow very nicely with smooth writing.

      3) Different ink. Sometimes the ink is the culprit. It could be one specific ink, or it could be a slew of the same manufacturer, or it could be a pen and ink combination that would be a problem. This will generally be a “wetting” issue, where the ink won’t like to be touching the pen as I mentioned above, and hence a new ink may solve that and make the problem disappear. [see 4 for a more permanent solution to this- the pen may need washing]

      4) sometimes people have had success with a very mild 409 & Water wash of the pen (look it up to make sure I’m correct on this)- you basically use a spare old cartridge or converter to suck up 409 & water (very dilute) and push it through the nib to clean the nib and section out. This takes a lot of time, as it will have the tendency to store water and 409 solution for quite a while (pen will need drying, and your lines initially will be quite weak with ink until you get past the water).

      So, since it’s a new pen, and you mention in another comment of yours that you could go back to the store, you might want to try that. See if they see a problem as well… most good pen places will allow you to dip the nib to experience writing with the nib and pen, instead of filling the pen with ink. This may be an ok test, but in your case, it might have had so much ink, there wouldn’t have been a problem until you got it home and got a cartridge on it. [There could be an air-bubble trapped, perhaps- that migth cause ink flow problems also… but I’m not sure on that one.]

      Ultimately, if you’re new to fountain pens, and want better expert advice, sign up for the free forum at “Fountain Pen Network” (.com I believe) There are some amazing people there, many many expert pen gurus who fix pens, and have had many years of experience. They’re extremely kind to new comers as well. So, this is perhaps a perfect newbie question for the pen-repair forums! 🙂

      In the end, Hazel, I hope that your new pen gets working properly. If the store is mean to you, please don’t worry, get on Fountain Pen Network and there’ll be guys/gals out there who can help you out. But, you might want to start with the store. You may have that one dud out there, and it’d be much less hassle to change it out if the pen guys agree with you that there’s a problem.

      I hope this helps a bit, and thanks for dropping in!! 🙂 I hope you get it sorted out, as a fountain pen, when it works well, can be a very beautiful thing to experience writing with.

      Best of luck!

  15. Hazel Wi;lliams said,

    I find it is not writing well,it may be the cartridge that came with it is faulty. Do you think I should take it back to the store and let them try to write with it. Has there been a problem with this pen?

  16. Hazel Wi;lliams said,

    Thank you Allen for the advice. I feel the pen is getting better,think it may have been the way I was holding it. I am not new to fountain pens have been using them for years but not the cartridge type just the plain refill kind. I bought about eight fountain pens when I was in Kenya fifteen years ago, the old fashioned school type, and they cost me about 60cents each. I am still using those pens and they have never leaked. I bought the Waterman because I am going away and a cartridge pen is much better to take with me bottle ink would be no good.
    I found that holding this Waterman pen in a more upright position helped. I am inclined to hold a pen at an angle.
    Thanks once again Allen I will study your points and will take it back to the store if I have any more problem.

  17. jane manby said,

    I returned to my fountain pen recently there are 1560,000,000 biros thrown away each year in the UK alone, based on the average usage of 26 pens per person per year. That figure does not take into account the extras that are lost broken etc.
    As a child we all got Parker fountain pens from school as we left to move on to secondary school and I still have mine though i don’t use it because I can no longer buy replacement nibs for it.
    There are one or two issues I have, firstly, at one time every street corner shop stocked ink, now even the large stationers don’t and I have to buy online I also find it hard to to buy in large bottles to save on cost of packaging.
    I bought my Shaffer on eBay and it has a dual ink system either ink or cartridge, it also came with a refillable cartridge but the syringe to fill it was missing. It writes beautifully. The second issue was with the nib which needed replacing, off I went to buy some, no way. I had to send it away at a cost that was more than the pen to buy. you cannot buy nibs anywhere. The shop assistent behaved like it was a really techniqual job. Anyone of my age would have done it as a matter of course at school from the odd one or twoo spare nibs lurking in the bottom of youe pencil case. Inky fingers yes but rocket science no.

  18. a11en said,


    Thanks for dropping in! I completely know what you’re going through (except for learning with Parkers- wish I had!)

    Everyone who loves FP’s now has experienced the same (as well as the absolutely horrendous state of paper in the US).

    There are some saving graces out there. There are some wonderful experts on all things fountain-pen.

    Pendemonium (www.pendemonium.com) is running a bit low on pen stocks, but they have a ton of extra parts and carry a good batch of inks (and converters etc.)

    There are others I hear being talked about well… Swisher Pens, The Fountain Pen Hospital, Richard Binder (nib artisan).

    Some of those early Sheaffers were really complex… the snorkels etc., are insane to fix. Nibs, are a different story, but sometimes are difficult… for instance, the Pelikan nibs that come in the screw-out nib-units. I had one jam up into the nib-unit recently, and the experts require a special tool for it, so I’m also forced to send it away.

    Other pens (like the Parker) require removing the hood, and having a bit of resin on hand to reseal the hood after it’s off. Not complex, but you might need a few general tools to get some of these things done.

    To be honest, for the fountain-pen enthusiast, these little snafus become part of the joy of having their pen. Especially if they resurrected an old beauty. Even inks (check out Noodler’s) are getting very interesting and searching for just that shade, or perhaps an invisible one for journaling, takes on the air of a hobby of love, instead of a labor of frustration.

    Here’s wishing you enjoyment and ease in coming back to the ink-hood! 🙂 Please drop back in if you need help finding anyone who is good. Do check out the Fountain Pen Network, a wonderful resource (with some excellent people and opportunities for repairs or sales of your pens etc.)

    Drop in anytime!

    ps- I quickly stopped trying to find FP materials or parts locally when I realized how wonderful and varied the supplies were online in the right places (and for excellent prices) – for good paper check out Exaclair papers (Rhodia, Clairfontaine, etc.)

  19. Rosie Jones said,

    I am studying anthropology at university, and doing a project on pens.
    The project aims to uncover the affect pen design has on our way of writing, or even our way of thinking as we write, the way we structure sentaces/paragraphs etc. Aslo, how pen design has been influenced by larger issues such as national economics, mass literacy, etc.
    If anyone has any points on this, or any useful websites or sources I could check out, please let me know! Reading your comments above I can see that writing for FP users is a very tactile experience, and the bodily experience of writing enhances the meaning of the text – and so the implement used is of importance to the power of the written message. Have i got that right?


  20. Matthew said,

    If you want to try using a fountain without spending a fortune try the Pilot Varsity, this pen is disposable and a pack of three is about $5.00us, it is a great starter pen. Not only is the quality of the paper important, but how you right as well. The best description I’ve heard about writing with a fountain pen is to think of writing on a ribbon of ink. Because you don’t use any pressure to write it is much easier on the hand than a ball point.

    I notice when people think of a ballpoint they think of the disposable ones. I’ve used the same Zebra fine tip for ages when it runs dry I just put in a new refill. As a truck driver I need the fine point for my log book and the ballpoint for signing Bills of Lading at shippers since often they are printed on carbonless paper. Until I can afford a good fountain pen I am using the Varsity. I reserve the fountain pen for my personal writing, such as my journal and short stories. I find since making the switch I have fallen in love with writing all over again.

  21. shibin said,

    Use Fountain Pen..
    Save Environment..

  22. Wishkah 39 said,

    Before retirement, at work I wrote all day. Handwriting makes prose less fluffy and vague. Years ago I had thumb joint degeneration and using a biro was painful. I had a 1920s pen I got from a junk shop for less than a dollar – no cap. I got a new ink sac and a cap from a repair shop and used it for about a decade. No pressing – just touch the Iridium-tipped nib on the paper and the line comes out. I started buying old pens in second-hand stores. Ink sacs are like tires on a car. Get new ink sac and glue it on with shellac after removing remains of old one with ammonia. It takes forever to wear out an Iridium nib. Lever fillers with ink sacs will last a long time, just change the sac every 5-10 years as they get stiff and break from oxidization. If you find an ink bottle in a junk shop with the ink dried out, get it and put water in and use the ink.

    Fountain pens are ideal for anyone with hand problems. Nothing takes less effort.

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