The Fountain Pens of Paradise

I bought myself an early birthday present: a fountain pen. I’ve been wanting a fountain pen for some time, but I didn’t know much about them. I wanted it mainly for my journal writing. I’ve been using a Pilot G-2 0.7 pen for my journal since late 2017. I mentioned to someone a while back how my cursive writing never looks as nice as other examples I see online. “Are you using a fountain pen?” they asked. I guess I thought a fountain pen would make my handwriting look nicer.

I did what anyone would do in this situation: research. And by research, I mean I called my friend Ken who collects fountain pens, and whose bullet journal looks like a work of art. He asked me a bunch of questions and then gave me a detailed list of what to look for, what matters, what makes a good pen, along with some recommendations.

For my first fountain pen (I say my first because fountain pens are like books, and multiply rapidly, I am told) I bought a Pilot Custom 74 (black smoke in color) with a fine nib. I got the gold nib because I was told it wrote more smoothly than the steel one. I ordered the pen from Goulet Pens and had it in my hands just a few days after I’d ordered it.

My new fountain pen

Being a novice at all of this, I ordered it with box of a dozen Pilot Namiki black in cartridges. When I told this to my friend Ken, he suggested I order a bottle of ink next time and fill the pen myself. It will last longer than way, he said, and it is a better experience. I also learned that I needed to clean the pen.

My first attempt at inserting the ink cartridge resulted in a splash of ink of my desk, and my pants. (“When using a fountain pen for the first time, squeeze the inserted cartridge firmly to get the ink flowing down to the nib” the instructions said. I guess we have different definitions of “firmly.”)

When I tried writing, I assumed you held the pen so that the open part of the nib faced upward, but that didn’t work. Turning it around worked, and my-oh-my was that some smooth writing.

The pen arrived on Thursday, and so far, I’ve written about 2-1/2 pages in my journal using it. I’m getting used to it, and I like the feel of it. But I do have a confession to make:

So far, it has not altered my handwriting in the least.

I’m not looking for handwriting that is quite as uniform as, say John Quincy Adams was in some of his diary entries. But something a little better than how mine currently looks. In truth, my handwriting varies by day, and by how fast or slowly I write. I try to slow myself down, and when I do that, I like how my handwriting looks, but it’s hard to keep going at the pace with my mind racing ahead.

In any case, I’ve now joined the insufferable ranks who incessantly praise the virtues of the fountain pen above all other pens. I have yet to clean my fountain pen, so those virtues may be limited. But I am enjoying the experience thus far.

8 comments

  1. Let me congratulate you on that decision, and welcome to the world of good fountain pens. I’ve had my journey started a couple of years back and, in particular, to write my morning pages with them. The first one was the classical entry item with a Lamy Safari as I’ve known them from my school times. But the prediction is correct; my pens started to multiply rather quickly. Most of the time on me for daily writing and in my notebook is a Waterman Hémisphère. It was the second I bought, and it excelled my writing enormously. It is fascinating what a difference a price point can make.
    For my desk, I prefer a rather heavy fountain pen by a Taiwanese design studio called yStudio. They created a very unique-looking pen out of brass in a heavy stand. At first, coming from a lightweight that the Waterman Hémisphère is, it was rather unpleasant to write with the yStudio. But I got used to it, and it even slowed the writing process more down and forced a rounder handwriting which does look even cleaner. I can’t even write fast with it, but I did discover that is not at all a bad thing for journaling.
    Tombow makes good pens as well. And of course, at some point, I had to get the infamous Lamy 2000, but to be honest, I wouldn’t recommend it. The way the nib is tucked into the casing makes it harder for me to write with it because you have to hold it relatively straight, and I tend to write more with an angle. And for the price you have to pay for a Lamy 2000, it’s not worth it, I would argue. But still, the Lamy 2000 looks pretty slick.

    And regarding ink, I can highly recommend Iroshizuku ink by Pilot. One of the best for a very smooth writing experience. I have a couple of bottles with various colors. And, of course, Montblanc. Although I probably will never have that kind of money to buy one of their pens, their ink is one of the best. The yStudio on my desk is constantly running with Montblanc ink. Currently, it is the color “Swan Illusion,” and soon, I will be switching to “Heritage Spider.” The names are already gorgeous, and they look terrific as well.

    It really can be an expensive hobby, but it is worth it. And I never reached the point where I could keep up with my thoughts while writing with a fountain pen, which is a good thing. It forced me to slow down my mind, which is the most significant advantage in writing with ink. Have a fun time with your new pen, and I would love to see more posts about new ones down the road.

  2. Ken approves of Jamie’s post! The point he and Sebastian both make about a fp forcing one to slow down is on point (pun intended) and IMO one of a fp’s most cherished characteristics. There is no delete button, which requires a more thoughtful approach to what one chooses to send into posterity. And I dare say that the cleaning experience is to be enjoyed in much the same way. Write on, Jamie!

  3. Sebastian, thanks for this great information, especially the ink recommendation. I also use Tombow pens, although not fountain pens. I use their MONO drawingpen for writing in a Leuchtturm1917 notebook where I keep the list of books I’ve read. And I do foresee some additional posts on this subject in the future.

  4. Ken, I’m still struggling with the slowing down part. I’m fighting decades of muscle memory there, and I feel like I am reminding myself to slow down at the end of every sentence that I write.

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