|Mightier than the sword, mightier than the biro|
A pair of Pelikan piston-filling fountain pens
I would understand your sarcasm if I was talking about ballpoint pens, sharpies and 2B pencils, but I will be gushing about fountain pens.
(Note: I have no affiliation with any products or manufacturers mentioned.)
Why fountain pens?Fountain pens are fantastic writing instruments. Writing becomes a pleasure that is anticipated rather than a chore to be avoided.
In the past I had tried various ballpoint pens, gel pens, mechanical pencils and rollerballs and all of them left me cold. I had lots to write but found the physical process tedious, tiring and, at times, terrifying.
|A nest of Pelikan m200 pens, with a cuckoo m205|
in the middle
Herculean efforts are not needed when using a good fountain pen. The pen sings to you and you heed her call. You want her. She wants you to hold her, to cradle her gently. Together, you skate gracefully across the pages leaving a sweet inky trail as a testament to your love.
Apart from the uholy love affair, there are practical considerations. Fountain pens are better for the environment than disposable pens. Countless billions of biros wind up in land fill every year. Precious energy and nasty plastics are consumed to manufacture their replacements.
Fountain pens are quite economical. There is a slight outlay to purchase the pen, and a bottle of ink, but a bottle will last a very long time.
There is also a vibrant online community who are crackerjack nut-cases for fountain pens. Despite their unhealthy obsession with pens and inks, these kind and diligent folk are a treasure trove of information about every pen and ink ever produced. By tapping into their expertise, you can save a lot of money by honing your purchasing decisions against their experiences.
Why not?Fountain pens aren't as easy as disposable pens. That's not to say that they are difficult. Not at all!
When a biro is finished, it is discarded and a new one is usually at hand to replace it. Biros are clean and easy to use and they take no special care or ongoing maintenance. You can be rough a reckless with a biro because they are sturdy. And you won't be concerned if you break it because it cost a few dollars at most. You can buy a large box of them for a fistful of Francs.
|Samples of different inks|
Fountain pens need to be nursed a little. If you drop a fountain pen on its nib, it may be irreparably damaged. I have a pen made in "Western Germany" that has been retired due to a damaged nib. I loved that I could write with a pen made in a country that no longer exists.
Occasionally you will need to flush your pen to remove any old ink from the feed. It is a simple procedure but not one that is required of biros. Flushing is also a good idea before changing to a different ink or storing a pen away if is going unused for a period.
Fountain pens are also considered a luxury item. You can always find one at any price bracket your wallet aspires to. As such, there is an outlay cost, according to your economic station. Nicer pens are targets for office thieves. There are many tales of woe where a fountain pen owner has had a pen go missing from their cubicle.
|An army of inks invaded my drawer.|
A lot of modern pens will take an ink cartridge. These can be practical but they will end up in landfill and they limit your choice of ink to a particular manufacturer. Fortunately, most pens come with a converter that allows bottled inks to be used in them.
The world of ink is intriguing and turns the fountain pen user into an amateur alchemist. Different inks have different properties: some are water poof, some are bleach proof, some are washable. Different inks behave differently: some feather on the page, some bleed through, some creep over the nib and drive pedants spare. Others are well behaved, flow freely and glide across the page.
Some inks are stunning. It is a true joy when you find a beautiful ink that is well behaved (no bleeding/feathering/creeping), has some degree of water fastness and won't fade years after striking the page.
|Noodler's Ottoman Azure ink on |
cheap supermarket paper
When I said that using bottled ink is more economical in the long term, it was kind of a lie. As you can see, Sleepy Dad doesn't have just one bottle of ink. I am grasping weakly to an ink buying moratorium until such time as I finish a few of the existing bottles.
Getting StartedTaking the plunge with fountain pens can be quite daunting.
|Cheap Chinese fountain pens...not worth |
If you just want a good writing pen, look elsewhere. I have a stack of Chinese cheapies and I'd trade them all for a single entry-level pen from a reputable supplier.
A good starting point is a Lamy Safari. The pens are well made and easy to use. they are robust and are highly configurable. You can use cartridges or converters in them and the nibs are easily changeable in case you decide to try a different nib width.
The retail price for a Safari is a bit much, in my opinion, but they can be had, new, from eBay retailers for less than $25, delivered, including the converter. A $9 bottle of Parker Quink ink from your newsagent will have you writing in no time. This is a bargain for an honest, reliable and fun pen. $25 may seem like a lot for a pen, but it really isn't. The real expense comes later when you delve deeper into the world of fountain pens. You just need to know when to stop, and then actually stop.
|Blue Lamy Safari and a partially disassembled Lamy|
Vista, with extra nibs,converter and cartridge.
The next step up will require a small cash outlay but a smart shopper will be able to find pens for less than 40% of the RRP. The types of pens in the next price bracket have better design, materials and construction. They may make use of precious metals for decoration or performance (e.g. a 14k or 18k gold nib).
I have a particular fondness for Pelikan piston-filling pens. These pens don't take cartridges and don't need a converter because they have an in-built piston that sucks bottled ink directly into the barrel through the nib. Not only is this clean and convenient, it means I can go longer between refills because the capacity of the piston filler is much greater than a cartridge.
The Pelikan nibs and feeds are also a delight. The writing experience is truly a pleasure whenever I pick up a Pelikan m200 or m205 (pictured wayyy above). Of course, if you are well endowed (financially) you may want to fly higher with a Pelikan m400, m800 or m1000 pen.
|The Lamy 2000, a design classic?|
But Sleepy Dad doesn't sip the Lamy 2000 aesthetic Kool-aid. Sure, it's a nice pen to look at, but it doesn't set my world on fire. What does set my world on fire is writing with this instrument. I find it hard to fault in the performance department.
|The true beauty of a Lamy 2000 is its performance.|
And this, in a nutshell, is one of my greatest joys with fountain pens. Two pens can beguile and enchant for reasons that are diametrically opposed, but you wouldn't want either of them to change. If I were to make an unholy mutant of a Pelikan m200 and Lamy 2000 pen, the result would be inferior to the two constituent pens.
Get into it!As you can see, I believe the archaic fountain pen is far superior to the ubiquitous ballpoint pen. Not all technological advances are for the best, and with respects to writing instruments, I am thoroughly convinced that the old way is better than the new.
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