fountain pen

The Fountain of Eternal Ink: Choosing a Great Fountain Pen

Knowledge Base

If the pen is mightier than the sword, then the fountain pen is made of either the sharpest Hattori Hanzo steel or the most diligent and revered blacksmith. It is the luxury sedan class of pens, and they allow you to express your handwriting to the fullest and are incredibly comfortable and pleasurable to use.

Are they expensive? They can be. Despite their advantages, high-quality fountain pens can be found cheaply. Here are the important things to look for when upgrading your hand writing experience on a budget.

The Nib

Nib Material

You should carefully consider the nib material as it shows if the fountain pen is durable or not. You can choose from the following materials.

  • Solid Gold – good for those who love taste and luxury, it also gives you a consistent writing experience. The downside is that solid gold nibs are very expensive and out of reach for most customers. Since our main focus was on budget fountain pens, we don’t recommend fountain pens with solid gold nibs.
  • Iridium tip – iridium is highly resistant to corrosion, which makes it more durable. It can also be gold plated for those who love luxury fountain pens.
  • Stainless Steel – the advantage of using a stainless steel nib is that it is inexpensive and sturdy. That’s why it is recommended for beginners since it doesn’t break easily.

Width of the Nib

There are three nib styles out there, fine, medium and broad nibs. The width of the nib determines the thickness of your writing.

  • Fine nib – it gives you smooth and thin handwriting, making it best for precision drawing.
  • Medium nib – for those who work on calligraphic inscriptions, this nib style is the best. You can use it for various writing styles and fonts.
  • Broad nib – it gives you a thicker writing style, fountain pens with this nib style are generally inexpensive.

Replacement Nib

Some fountain pens allow you to replace the nib independently, while others don’t. You have the option of replacing the whole front end, or the nib only.

  • Nib only – most LAMY fountain pens allow you to replace the nib end independently. After replacement, you must flush the nib beforehand before writing to prevent incidences of page bleeding.
  • Whole end – the only advantage of replacing the whole front end, is that you can keep multiple nibs’ at your disposal. Whether broad, medium and fine nib styles.

The Cut

You can either choose an oblique, italic or standard cut that matches your writing style and font.

  • Oblique – if you prefer holding your fountain pen from below the line, then this cut is for you. Left-handed people have the option of using the reverse oblique to prevent smudging.
  • Italic– found mostly in calligraphic writing, it creates thin lines to denote variation.
  • Standard – this cut denotes the general variation in font and writing style. It’s good for beginners.

The Grip

There are two factors that influence the grip, shape, and material used in the construction.

  • Shape – some fountain pens are ridged for you to grasp them well whilst writing. It helps prevent hand fatigue during the writing sessions.
  • Material – some people prefer metal, while others prefer plastic. it all comes down to personal preference. If your hands are sweaty, go for the metallic fountain pens, as the plastic ones become very slippery.

The Refilling Process

You can either choose from a cartridge or a converter. How exactly do they work?

  • Converter – we highly recommend a converter during the refill process, as it takes only a few seconds.
  • Cartridge – though they are expensive, they are portable and convenient. They can fit in any pen case during your travels.
  • Reservoir – they are rare, but they come in handy for large capacity refills, giving you a longer writing session. Maintenance and replacements can be costly.

The Barrel

Any material can be used in barrel design and construction. Below are the most popular. They are instrumental in determining the overall weight of the fountain pen, which determines the shape and size of your writing.

  • Plastic – barrels made of plastic are inexpensive and lightweight. Most fountain pens in this category are made of ABS plastic.
  • Metal – barrels made out of metal are generally heavier and perfect for making engravings. The most popular metals are brass and stainless steel. There are also a few aluminum fountain pens in the market.
  • Resin – some fountain pens are made of resins like acrylic. They do have a glossy matte but are very brittle when dropped. One advantage of resin barrels is that they offer limitless color pattern variation.
  • Wood – Often made out of bamboo, and the pen looks classy. These fountain pens are eco-friendly.

Barrel Width

We think there is a general rule, as the barrel gets thicker, the pen becomes more expensive. Most fountain pens have a maximum measurement of 9-11mm. Barrel measurement determines the grip; choose wisely depending on the size of your hands.

The Cap

The caps offer a variation in terms of design shapes. Some fountain pens come with a detachable clip for a more streamlined look. The cap’s closure can either be a screw or a click-on. So, what’s the difference?

  • Click-on – though they are convenient, some customers have raised concerns that they are prone to leaking.
  • Screw – the screw-type has one major advantage; it helps prevent leakages and page bleeding during the writing process.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why Purchase a Fountain Pen?

There are many reasons why you should purchase a fountain pen. One, it’s fun, when using a fountain pen, the ink flows well and your hands are barely in contact with the paper. Everything is smooth and seamless. Two, you get good handwriting. If you choose the best nib style, your handwriting improves during the writing process.

The weight and barrel width of the fountain pen plays a major role in balancing the pen and preventing hand fatigue. Three, there are no indents on the writing surface. Fountain pens eliminate instances of indents below the writing surface, a problem that exists only with ballpoint pens.

Why the Disparity in the Prices?

The nib is responsible for the price disparity. Most cheap fountain pens come with stainless steel nibs while pricier brands have either gold or platinum plated nibs. For beginners, we recommend the steel nib as it is cheaper since most of you are on a tight budget.

Secondly, they are strong, to prevent accidental damages since most of you are getting used to writing. Golden nibs are malleable when compared with steel nibs, giving you a softer smooth writing experience. That’s why the price is through the roof, and most people can’t afford them.

Luckily, there are gold-plated nibs which are cheap and some can be found in our review section above. Some brands come with engravings that feature pricey and elegant gems like a ruby. These features push up the price of the fountain pen in the market. We always advise readers to start small before buying pricier fountain pens. There are good pens in the $30/$50 price range.

What is an Ink Converter?

Ink converters and ink cartidges both serve the same purpose in the refilling process; the only difference is that the converter can be used again and again while the cartridge cannot be re-used.

My Fountain Pen is Prone to Skipping, Why?

Fountain pens require cleaning occasionally, sediments build-up after prolonged use. Just like arteries build-up cholesterol after some time. You need to clean the nib before refilling if the pen was stored for some time.

Cleaning the nib improves the writing quality in addition to the ink flow. Most manufacturers recommend using water mixed with ammonia, in a ratio of 10:1. If you use your fountain pen frequently, it is recommended to clean it once a month. If you follow this routine, the problem of skipping lines during writing will be long gone.

How Do I Store my Fountain Pen?

When not in use, fountain pens should be stored in a pen mug or desk while facing up. Since fountain pens are affected by gravity, if they are empty, consider storing them in pen cases or pockets.

Some Recommendations for Fountain Pens

The JinHao Dragon Phoenix Fountain Pen. The dragon metal engravings, with spruced feathers and eyes made of ruby are great. This fountain pen features gold plated nibs and its heavy; it almost feels like a weapon in your hand. The weight gives it a back-heavy balance which results in the good writing experience. The engravings are ridged and rough to provide maximum grip for those with sweaty hands. All these qualities for approximately $45 are great value for your investment.

If the price is too high for you, you may consider the Moonman Fountain Pen, which goes for around $22. This pen is great for beginners as it comes with stainless steel nibs for added strength, and it comes with a large capacity ink reservoir for longer sessions of writing.

Signing Off

A great writer needs a great pen. If it’s for your diary, letters or manuscript, the pleasure of writing beautifully will never go away. Think about picking up a cheap fountain pen and see if you enjoy the experience.