The Tools of the Trade
The Art of the Fountain Pen
In the age of computers, to most people, fountain pens belong to history as obsolete writing utensils. Ballpoint pens have replaced fountain pens as the more widely used instrument, but the disposable, easily broken ballpoint cannot imitate the high quality of a fountain pen. Though it requires more maintenance to keep a fountain pen in working condition, the fountain pen more than deserves the extra work. However, most find the true beauty of the fountain pen in the way it transforms everyday handwriting into something elegant and beautiful. Long lasting and hardy, the extra effort put into the upkeep of a fountain pen delivers an elegance and style to handwriting that other writing utensils cannot match.
Fountain pen’s superior quality provides years of use. “Many years ago before ballpoint pens people would purchase and use the same fountain pen their entire life or at least for many years” (Fountain Pens). While today we might go through more than ten ballpoint pens a year, depending on the quality of the ballpoint we use, fountain pens do not outlive their usefulness until the pen itself breaks. Not made with the thought of disposability in mind, they continue to last today, as shown by the number of vintage fountain pens still bought and sold the world over.
Of all of the detractors to the fountain pen, only the higher upkeep merits mention. Predictably, as with anything used over the space of at least several years, fountain pens necessitate more time and effort to maintain. Nibs.com recommends a thorough cleaning which includes flushing the pen out with water and leaving the nib feed to soak overnight every time you change ink colors or once a month. Adding inconvenience to the maintenance of the pen, fountain pens require refilling the pen with ink every few pages. Fountain pens demand more effort to keep them in working order, but the time and effort necessary provides a high quality instrument.
More than simple instruments, fountain pens express personality. Graham Green once said, “My two fingers on a typewriter have never connected with my brain. My hand on a pen does. A fountain pen, of course. Ballpoint pens are only good for filling out forms on a plane.” Ink from a fountain pen flows effortlessly onto the page, making the distinction between two different individual’s handwriting all the more evident. Because of the simplicity of changing the ink, the color can reflect mood and whim instead of the plain black of most ballpoint pens. Fountain pens transform handwriting to practically an art form –an expression of each individual’s personality.
Enthusiasts can debate the pros and cons of fountain pens until they turn blue in the face, but truthfully no one can measure the worth of a fountain pen in substantial terms. Used for a lifetime and then some, the allure of a vintage fountain pen lies in its ability to endure. After feeling the pen glide across the page, the ease of writing makes it hard to go back to using comparatively simple ballpoint pens. They lend weight and personality to the simple, everyday act of putting words onto a page.
Click Clack Goes the Typewriter
Most people would regard typewriters as obsolete and unnecessary in our culture today because of the invention of computers, but many people still regard typewriters as unique. When said aloud, the word ‘typewriter’ immediately calls up the sound of loudly clacking keys, the ding as the type guide gets to the end of the page, and the sliding sound as the lever brings it back to the beginning. Despite their flaws –loud, unwieldy, hard to type on, and even harder to edit—typewriters have a magical quality about them that makes them so special. Computers just cannot mimic the feeling of watching the pages pile up, each typewritten page added to the stack already written. Simply for writing, typewriters have character, will never go obsolete, and they transform even the simplest of essays into something more.
Typewriters have one function and one function only –to write. Computers do so many things today that they can make it hard to focus on writing. With all of the games, the internet, music, and many different fonts and formats accessible on a computer, simply writing on a computer without getting distracted can prove difficult. Hardy machines, typewriters have proved themselves incredibly more reliable than the average computer; they will not die or delete data in the middle of a project as computers sometimes do. They allow you to focus on simply writing without all of the distractions that the computer, while entertaining, holds.
Other machines do not have character that typewriters have. Strangely endearing, the loud click clack of the keys as the type bar types the letters onto the page sets the mood for writing. As the carriage return lever moves on to the next line, it makes a ding that computers cannot replicate. Unlike computers, no two typewriters type exactly the same –each machine has its own little quirks that make it special. Because computers write so precisely, writing sometimes loses its charm. Typewriters have a presence that computers cannot compete with.
Each different model of typewriter has a different specialty. Where computers become obsolete after a few newer models come out, different typewriters hold appeal for different reasons. As antiques, they represent a bit of an age gone by that remains to whisper stories of the past. Small typewriters, noiseless typewriters, desk typewriters, manual typewriters, electric typewriters…the list goes on and on. With so many different types of typewriters, each useful for a different reason, typewriters will never become obsolete.
Writing on a typewriter transforms the act of writing itself. Typewriters make the words come alive –the power put into pressing the keys transfers itself onto the page in an intangible way. Words somehow become more powerful, more poignant, as a direct result of the act of typing the words on a typewriter. Scrolling down a computer screen cannot duplicate the magical experience of seeing the fruit of our labor gathered up in a tangible pile as we type up more and more. Typing on a typewriter makes the act of writing special in a way typing on a keyboard never can.
Beautiful old machines, typewriters represent so much more than just a writing utensil. Gems of a time gone by, they carry a little bit of history with them. Though they do nothing more than write, each one has their own quirks, each model has its own appeal, transforming even the simplest story into pure magic. Typewriters have lasted 200 years and, unlike computers, they will continue to last. They bring a spark to writing that makes putting up with all of the quirks of the machine worth it.