Inkstained Fingers

Scrawling Script of a Fountain Pen

I’ve had a few people ask me lately when I pulled out a fountain pen to write with instead of a “normal” pen why I used fountain pens and besides a general, “Because I just like them better than regular pens,” answer, I couldn’t really explain it more fully on the spot like that. So I figured I’d take a crack at it on my writing blog!

First off I’ll give you a little background on me and my fountain pens. As you probably know, I’m not old enough to have lived before ballpoint pens were invented, so fountain pens aren’t something I grew up with. As a writer always searching for the perfect writing utensil, I knew fountain pens existed and I had wanted to try one out for a long time, but I had no idea where to start looking for one. I also suspected a vintage pen like that would be incredibly expensive somewhere like Ebay (I hadn’t even considered at that point that people might still be making them!). So I finally decided to enlist my grandfather –a yard sale shopper extraordinaire—for some help.

As it turned out, he didn’t even have to look any further than a box of my great uncle’s things to find not one, not two, but three beautiful vintage fountain pens. Thus my collection began in November 2011 (right in the middle of NaNoWriMo) with a black Sheaffer Pen for Men, a green Sheaffer Admiral, and a red Esterbrook Double Jewel. All three are gorgeous pens, each one different in their style, how they write, and how much their appearance varies. And just like that, I was hooked.

InkstainsI began writing with them almost constantly, at first just when I was writing stories or working on a paper for English, but soon I was started using them to do math homework with. I was even carrying one around with me in my purse to write with! By that point however, I ran into a bit of a snag. As much as I loved my pens, it was a bit impractical to have to carry around multiple pens with me places when I knew one would likely run out of ink before I got home. I couldn’t safely carry a bottle of ink around with me everywhere either. Although I did indeed try a few times without incident, I was scared half to death every time that the bottle would shatter in my bag or that it would spill on something like the carpet in the library. As I tried to figure out a way to carry around a bottle of ink safely, I found this blog, Thirty Days and Nights of Inksanity.

It was here that I was introduced to a fascinating concept –fountain pens that weren’t vintage! It was as if a whole other door in the realm of fountain pens had been thrown open because, well, it had. Looking at all of the different pens and inks she used was so amazing that I knew I had found the answer to my problem. With a fountain pen that had a larger barrel I would have a pen that held much more ink per filling, making it capable of going longer periods between refills. A new fountain pen could solve my problem! So after a bit of research I ended up buying my first new fountain pen from the wonderful people at Goulet Pens –a Noodler’s Ahab Flex Pen. Though my first three pens had gotten me hooked, as soon as I got my hands on the Ahad there was no going back.

And the rest is history. I’ve been using fountain pens almost exclusively for over a year now, recently adding an Apple Green Lamy Safari and a stunning peacock quill pen my friend gave me for Christmas to make six pens all told. But none of that really explains why I don’t use the more mainstream ballpoint pens that have replaced fountain pens in recent years. Sorry about that –I tend to ramble on a bit when I get excited.

My answer isn’t really what you’d expect. I don’t feel more connected to those who came before me because I use fountain pens. I’m not rejecting technology or trying to swim against the crowd. My reason for using fountain pens is simply because they inspire me. When I write with fountain pens, the shape of the words becomes a work of art. The lines are more defined, smoother, when writing with one as compared to even a fine pointed ballpoint pen. Fountain pens have history to them that ballpoint pens cannot match. They aren’t built to be thrown away. They aren’t bought to be accidentally left somewhere and forgotten, only to be replaced the next day with an identical pen from Wal-Mart. They are built to last, to become a favorite companion. The nib wears down as you write with it, conforming to your style of writing, becoming uniquely yours. And as your handwriting becomes a work of art, it inspires you to make your words a work of art too.

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4 thoughts on “Inkstained Fingers

  1. Christine, this intrigues me. I’ve never written with a fountain pen before even though I’ve always admired them. What would I need to purchase if I wanted to give it a try? I know I would need the pen and the ink. Would I need other supplies too?

    • What “extra things” you might need to purchase would depend on the type of pen. For example, the Lamy Safari I mentioned is a cartridge pen, which means that it uses disposable cartridges to fill it (likening a cartridge to a refill for a ballpoint would be a good reference) so you would have to buy cartridges in order to have ink. HOWEVER, Lamy also sells a converter which is a cartridge that is capable of filling up with ink from any old ink bottle. So, for a cartridge pen I would recommend buying a converter as well (bottled ink is much less expensive).
      But for most other pens, such as the Noodler’s Ahab, which has a filling system inside the barrel, the only supplies you really need would be some old rags that you can stain so you can clean the pen where you get excess ink when filling –but you wouldn’t likely have to buy that. 😀 Does that help?

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