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The Modern Guide to The Thing Before Preppy

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Fountain Pens? (r)


A Reader Question:
I am not a fountain pen investor or collector, but I enjoy using a fountain pen and reading about them. Do others here write primarily with a fountain pen or otherwise enjoy the world of fountain pens?  Do you have a daily worker you carry and use at all times, and a fancier one for special occasions? (I have a full set of Parker Frontier writing instruments for the former, a Parker Duofold Centennial fountain pen and mechanical pencil for the latter.)  What are your favorite sources for fountain pens and inks?

49 comments:

  1. The Pilot Varsity is disposable and inexpensive. The ink flow and quality are as good as one could ask. I mentioned this in an earlier post and found I wasn’t alone in my enthusiasm.

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    1. I’ve loved these since college. My elder son always uses mine so I’ve switched to the Metropolitan for everyday use and order boxes of the Varsity for him.

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    2. One in my shirt pocket right now —

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    3. Hear Hear on the Pilot Varsity. Rarely do I use my Gunboat Diplomat.

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    4. Platinum Preppy is a an alternative to the varsity. Disposable but can be used as a refillable. Unlike the varsity which comes in a medium nib, the preppy also has fine and extra fine nib options. I like these as I found the ink flow in the varsity heavy and it bleeds through standard paper pretty easily.

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  2. Fahrneys is my go to. https://www.fahrneyspens.com
    I use a cheap LAMY Safari as my daily writer and have a few old Parkers form the 50's that were my grandfathers for special occasion.

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  3. Another nod to the LAMY Safari. I'm not at all a fountain pen enthusiast, but I use one with an Extra Fine nib and it's just a really great, practical, affordable, and non-ostentatious pen with nice ergonomics. I would feel a little out of place using something like a Montblanc daily, but the LAMY works wonderfully when taking notes and has a casually cool industrious design. With regards to inks, I generally rotate among various dark blues, and occasionally mix it up with very dark forest greens. I can certainly see how some folks collect pens as a hobby. I probably would too if I used paper more frequently.

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  4. I, too, use LAMY for everyday: an aluminum version of the Safari (AL-star?). I've used it for about 10 years & it still makes me happy. I like Jet Pens for purchasing ink and other supplies. (website is just their name dot com)

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  5. Being left-handed and not especially, um, dexterous I've ended up covered with ink every time I've tried using a fountain pen. But these folks:

    https://www.jetpens.com

    are smart about things I am qualified to comment on, so I expect that what they have to say about fountain pens is smart too.

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    1. I was shopping for ink online recently and saw an ink billed as "the southpaw's in." It supposedly dries remarkably fast so your hand doesn't drag through wet ink.

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  6. I actually prefer pencils ( when a wet signature isn’t required) for years I have used John Steinbeck’s preferred pencil- Palomino Blackwings “ half the pressure, twice the speed”!

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  7. I got started using fountain pens back in high school, and amassed a small collection. These days, I tend to use either a Parker Sonnet or a gold nibbed pen from the former Soviet Union as my daily writers, and enjoy Waterman Blue and Levenger Cobalt Blue. Another interesting and inexpensive FP choice is the Hero 100. Stories abound as to this pen's origins in China, but they seem alot like having a modern-day Parker 51.

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  8. I use a Parker that belonged to my father that was refurbished by Fahrney's Pens. There is something so exquisite about a fine nib gliding across smooth paper.

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  9. I have Pelikan Demonstrator fountain pen that I use at work everyday.

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  10. I collect fountain pens but the one I use everyday is a green Sheaffer "No-Nonsense" fountain pen with a fine italic nib. I use the last model design, the one with the screw-on cap, without the rubber holding section. The pen writes beautifully. I use Waterman blue ink. I like blue ink over black because you can see more shade variations. I also like using a type of non-wood paper from CVS. I forget the name but it's made of some form agricultural by-product and the ink will not "feather". It is sold as copy paper. This pen also has a nice stiff nib. I know everyone likes to say they like to use a flexible nib and flexible nibs are the best, giving you variable line widths... but I find writing with a stiff nib far more satisfying. As for variable line widths, that's why I use an italic nib.

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  11. Kids in the European country where I live have to use fountain pens. On one hand maybe it's good that the schools care about handwriting (although there are other things I would find it more important to care about!) but I find that the ink makes a mess on hands, clothes, etc.

    --EM

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    1. That's what I had to do as a kid in Poland, we learned calligraphy too. I bless these days looking at my son's handwriting...
      Isabel

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  12. My late father's 1925 Sheaffer Lifetime.

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  13. Having typed everything on a computer for over forty years, I can barely write anymore. I can't recall the last time I sent a hand-written note to anyone. Using a fountain pen would be a waste for me.

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  14. I was given a set of Pelikan writing instruments from my parents for my college graduation ten years ago. Black enamel with gold bands, and a gold pinstripe pattern on the caps. The set included a fountain pen, rollerball, ballpoint, and mechanical pencil. I use the fountain pen and the ballpoint daily, and the other two less frequently. In my line of work, I find myself writing a lot of hand-written correspondence, and the fountain pen works beautifully for that. The strain on the hand is lessened significantly, and it just writes so much more beautifully than any other kind of pen. I prefer a dark green ink (also by Pelikan), deriving from the tradition of British Naval Officers (Executive Officers, especially), who traditionally kept their journals and made comments using green ink.

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  15. My two go-to fps are both Parker, one is a striped Duofold from 1946, the other a Vacumatic from early 1945. I even have them loaded with 1930s-era blue-black Quink. (Ebay, where else?)

    More about Vacs: http://www.richardspens.com/ref/profiles/vac.htm
    And the striped Duofolds: http://www.richardspens.com/ref/profiles/strduo.htm

    The one that everyone collects and loves (though not me) is the "51" — more here: http://www.richardspens.com/ref/profiles/51.htm

    The 51 is very advanced, even for today, but I just can't warm up to hooded nibs.

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  16. I use a Montblanc Meisterstuck for notes and similar. I don't write letters or journal but I do write thank you notes. I've got a few other classic fountain pens but I've always preferred the Meisterstuck line. Mine is the midsize one. The classic fat model is simply too bit. I also use a Meisterstuck ballpoint for the few checks I write at home or addressing envelopes.

    The other fountain pens sit in a little holder on a desk but I don't keep them inked.

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  17. Thanks to everyone for the comments and input. All are interesting and underscore some of the reasons fountain pens are so fascinating. I really enjoy the stories of heirloom and legacy pens, and hope my pens will be part of similar stores someday. People tend to be loyal to brands or systems, so I love hearing stories about people using Waterman inks in their Mont Blanc pens, for example, or different brands of ink for different colors, or even a different marque of nib than their pen body. I live in a remote area so shop primarily from Levenger, Fahrney's, and Colorado Pen. I enjoyed excellent service from Rick Horne at The Southern Scribe (http://www.thesouthernscribe.com) when I lived in the south. I bought my Parker Duofold fountain pen and mechanical pencil from Rick, and bought my wife's expertly refurbished vintage fountain pen there. And I've learned there is no shortage of enthusiast sites on the internet.

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  18. Not sure of the maker, But I have my dad's sterling pen with a small opal on the pocket clip. Not sure of the proper terminology, but it does have a bigger nib and doesn't make that scratching sound that finer point nibs do. Love it. Use it all the time.

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  19. In my youth (born 1970) fountain pens were mandatory in German primary schools.
    For me writing with them is more relaxing to the hand and wrist, and the result is much more legible and better looking, than with any other pen.
    I'm using 3 piston and 1 cartridge fountain pen for at least 90% of my writing, all priced moderately: Two Pelikan Classic M200 in green-marbled colour (one in university office and one in home office), both with Montblanc Mindnight Blue ink. One slightly smaller Pelikan Classic M150 in black, with Montblanc Blue Permanent ink (for hobby flight log and other documents - needs cleaning a few times per year to prevent clogging by the permanent ink). Finally one Kaweco Liliput in steel, with Kaweco cartridges in various colours (for pocket carriage, due to it's robustness and little 4.3" in leather case - the only drawback is the time needed for opening and closing).

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  20. I use a Montblanc Meisterst├╝ck 149 that was a gift from my father when I was admitted to the Bar. It's been in a stand on my desk for decades. I like Waterman Florida Blue ink and Crane paper.

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  21. I use a KAWECO brass fountain pen mostly. Gets better every day. Also, Lamy, TWSBI, a second KAWECO (Sport), Esterbrook Copper SJ, and a Brause 29 Index Finger dip nib.

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  22. When I was in the sixth grade, my parents dropped me into the French section of an international school in Geneva and said, "sink of swim." Part of learning to "swim" was learning how to use a fountain pen, because ballpoints were forbidden, and indeed considered childish. It became the natural way to write long before we returned home to North America, and ballpoint pen ink has always looked ugly to me, even more than forty years later. I'll use commercial rollerballs to make notes, but letters and cards are always written with a fountain pen. My vintage Waterman Rhapsody Red Ripple is my pride and joy. It's almost as beautiful to look at as it is to write with.

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  23. I enjoy writing with fountain pens every day - they are my pens of choice at work, when I'm not using the computer. Most used are: Lamy Safaris with various ink colors; Kaweco Sport; and vintage Esterbrooks, all SJ. I also have a Pelikan M200,a Montblanc Meisterstuck and a vintage Parker Vacuumatic. They make writing random notes more fun. For new pens, I shop at Goulet Pens.

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  24. I have a small collection of vintage fountain pens; mostly Sheaffer lever fill, aa few Watermans' and an Easterbrook. My go to pen is a vintage Sheaffer Jade Green Lifetime, oversize with a medium nib. Fits well in the hand, and writes a very smooth line with almost no effort. I take notes for several committees and I find that I can write with this pen for hours without fatigue or discomfort. I use Pelikan or Waterman Black ink. Mount Blanc makes good ink but one pays a premium for their brand.

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  25. I use a Cross Pen. Black ink and fine. My job is going into different locations so I am not at a desk all day. I keep my pen in my pant pocket. That rules out a fountain pen. I inherited some pens. This post makes me wonder about them.

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  26. I use TWSBIs and Lamys for daily use. Have an inexpensive Sailor to try out next Writing is smooth and light which is easy on the hands. . I like that the twisbi has a large ink reservoir. Plus, there are so many fun inks out there. Why limit yourself to ballpoint black, blue, and red. They are fun and a bit distinctive. Most people that use a fountain pen value writing. I carry a few varsity’s or preppy’s with me to penable people who ask about my pen.

    My pens are not vintage or “ivy” level but I love how my thoughts flow. And I think they convey an adapted sense of tradition and values with strong roots.

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  27. The smaller Pelikans, mainly the M400, served me well for my entire career and are still used daily. I have had Parkers, Watermans, Lamys, Sheaffers, and Montblancs, including the gigantic Meisterstuck. The little Pelikan outperforms them all for me. Plus the green striped barrel and black cap are just classic. I always use either Waterman or Pelikan blue black ink.

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    1. I prefer the larger ones but agree Pelikan is the best. I also very much like the Aurora Optima series

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  28. I have about 10 different Lamy Safari (fountain and ballpoint) pens scattered between and amongst my home, tote bag, and the office. I keep a simple Montegrappa in my purse.

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  29. I tried them in the late '80s when they sort of became fashionable, and I enjoyed the light weight, but it was too easy to make a mess. Fun fact: At that time, I was in a master's degree program in management at a rather prestigious small college, and one of my professors, a former executive with one of the big three broadcast networks, said the workplace of the future would be not only high-tech but "high-touch," with people using fountain pens to write memos on fine paper. Such a gift for prophecy might explain why the college is now on the brink of closure because of longstanding bad management.

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  30. For inexpensive pens, hard to beat Lamy, the Pilot Metropolitan, and Faber Castell steel nib pens. More upscale, consider the Pelikan Souveran pens, Stipula, and Aurora. Montblanc is fine too, just overpriced in my opinion.

    Fahrney's is local for me, so that is where I often look at pens. Their ink selection is just ok; the Goulet Pen Company (Richmond, VA) has an excellent selection of fountain pen ink - Waterman and Aurora are my staples, but I also like some inks from Noodler's, Diamine, Iroshizuku/Pilot.

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  31. I keep a handful of fountain pens in my work bag so I have a variety of nibs and inks to match the paper, occasion, etc... The mix changes, but today I have a black XF Pilot Metropolitan with black ink, a brass F Kaweco Sport with green ink, a M Lamy 2000 with ox blood ink, and a M Pelikan M1005 inked up with black-blue document ink (I had an appointment with my attorney yesterday that required much signing and initialing).

    I love vintage pens, but truth be told, I find that for the daily grind modern pens like the Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan are super reliable, convenient, draw less attention and I don't worry about breaking or losing them as much as my Parkers, Conway Stewarts, etc.

    In terms of the sourcing of inks, pens, etc... I highly recommend Goulet Pens. While I generally prefer to do business locally and not via the internet, no one here carries fountain pen ink and Goulet, while an online business, is a mom and pop small business that values their customers, employees and community. They have a great selection of inks and samples, are very responsive if you have questions, and they also have a YouTube channel where they provide tips, reviews and general fountain pen content. They are worth checking out.

    Going back 5 years, I mostly used rollerball pens. Then, I inherited a fountain pen and decided to try it out. Here we are...about 45 pens (and counting) later...

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  32. i first met the girl who was to be my wife shortly before graduating college. She and I spent an evening together talking about common interests while I was packing my things to move out. A week or so later I returned from my new apartment and job to pay my share of the phone bill my roommates and I had generated during the previous month. There was an envelope waiting for me on the top of a bookcase. The note inside was written in a beautiful, flowing, calligraphic hand each line straight across the page, clearly from a fountain pen. It was from the girl saying how much she enjoyed meeting me, that she wished we'd met earlier, that I would have been a 'great catch' and wished me luck. Just then she walked into the room. She was embarrassed to see me reading the letter but I really appreciated the note. She wrote so well and clearly knew her own mind. I asked her out. We've been together since, fifty years this coming January.

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    1. Never underestimate the power of coincidence! It controls destinies of people...and nations!

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  33. I tend to use Parker jotters for everyday writing. My wife recently gifted me a Parker Duofold Centennial Fountain pen for our anniversary. It’s perfect for writing correspondence and thank you notes, but I leave it at home.
    It seems I’m a sucker for Royal Warrants
    -JM, VA

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    1. Just so you know, Parker makes a Jotter fountain pen... It's available from Staples in Canada (where I got mine), and perhaps in the US, too. It's all stainless steel so it resembles and goes best with the Flighter versions of the Jotter.

      But it writes nicely.

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  34. Thanks to SWNE and the reader for such a fun question. I received a Montblanc Meisterstuck fountain pen for college graduation many years ago. I have used it daily since then, but only at home. I used ball points (Montblanc and otherwise) in my briefcase and for travel.

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  35. Lamy safari since age10.

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  36. Very intriguing post. Thank you. Please, when in Venice visit Gianni Basso on Calle del Fumo in Cannaregio. Years ago Gianni moved very old presses from an Armenian monastery on one of the islands in the Lagoon to Venice proper. Gianni and his son Stefano make custom designed and printed notecards, envelopes, business cards, invitations, what have you. We have known him for over 25 years. A more engaging Venetian you will never meet. Choose graphic and color. He will print for you personalized cards on top quality stock using the ages old presses. The shop is a walk through Gianni’s printing career, displaying samples of work done over the years for his many international renowned clients and those who are “just folks.” Order something and on subsequent visits you may see a sample of your card displayed alongside that of a household name. Grazie.

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  37. I also like the TWSBI fountain pens - they have a full range from inexpensive to moderate. I use the Vac700R, a piston demonstrator that has a large ink capacity, which is useful with the stub (italic) nib. It screws tight for air travel, and I have never had it leak. Normal ink is Pelikan turquoise.

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  38. In addition to the TWSBI, as a retired engineer I still retain the ability field strip a Pentel 0.5 mm mechanical pencil in the middle of an exam.

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  39. I'll second the recommendation above for Jetpens.com. They are a great source for pens, especially relatively inexpensive ones for those who want to try them out without sinking lots of money. And they have excellent advice essays.

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  40. I do have a bit of a collection, but seem to go to my Lamy on a daily basis. Simple, and it works!

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