Writing with a Fountain Pen

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This is the pleasure. This is why you own and write with a fountain pen.

I often receive e-mails with questions like, "how long is the break-in period" or "when I got home the pen did not write the same way it did in the store". For some, the nib is an issue of concern.

It is actually fairly durable. A drop to the floor can be fatal and excessive pressure down on the nib could bend of spread the nib points, however, generally just enjoy it.

Writing with a fountain pen is a combination of the pen (size), the nib (width and construction), the ink (flow) and the paper on which you write. The same pen can have a different writing experience with different ink, with a different nib or on different paper.

Your Pen

On the question of "breaking it in" I would say there is no break-in period for the pen. Pens can get smooth as your write with them, but that is more a case of the nib moving ever so slightly on the feed system because of the pressure you have created by writing.

Higher end pens are all tested in the factory. The testing is limited. It boils down to a couple of lines drawn with the nib to ensure that it is not scratchy. But in talking with employees in the factories, they say they can easily feel is something this not right.

Pens may write better after using them for a time because of better ink flow. Sometimes there are residue of liquids used for cleaning remaining in the pen mechanism.

I recommend filling a new pen a couple of times. The flushing of the ink in and out of the pen helps to clean out the feed system.

Never under estimate the value of a flush of plain water. Do this especially when you have left a pen unused for an extended period of time, or are changing colours or brands of ink.

The Nib

I put a high value on the experience of actually trying a pen in a store to know if it is right for me. No two nibs are exactly the same, mass produced or high end. I always make a point of asking to try more than one to see how I like the comparisons.

If a store will not allow you to dip the pen in ink and try it, then shop elsewhere.

The Paper

The paper experience. We often try a fountain pen in the store on the note pads sitting along the counter.

Those note pads are not made of the recycled cheaper paper found in offices.

I often bring some of my everyday office paper into the store and write with a pen on that paper to check performance.

Remember that for the paper found in offices, there are two sides to paper.

The reams of paper for printers or photocopiers have an arrow to indicate the side that should be used for printing. As you use your fountain pen the difference with each sides shows.

One side will bleed (the line of line is broader and bleeds to the sides) while writing on the " writing side" creates a sharper cleaner line.

The Rituals

There are rituals when writing with a fountain pen. Enjoy them!

Cap on, Cap Off

Keep the pen capped when not in use. This helps to prevent the ink that is sitting in the nib section from drying out.

The time varies by brand of ink.

Putting the Cap on the Pen

When placing the cap on the pen, hold the pen with the nib up, not down. It was many years ago when I always found ink in the cap of one of my pens. When I discussed the issue at my pen store, they saw how I was capping the pen. It is a small thing and not a big issue, but it can help to prevent ink from leaving the nib into the cap of the pen.

Rinse Regularly

Nothing is better for your pen then a regular rinse, or flush through, with just plain water. It helps to wash out any dry ink that may in the feeds.

Store Pens Nib Up

Where possible, store your pens that are inked with the nib up.

 

Holding the Pen

Holding a fountain pen is different than a ball-point. The ball of a ball-point pen is really designed for almost a vertical writing experience.

With a ball-point pen you can hold the pen vertically to the paper, or at a sharp angle and the round ball will flows across the paper.

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With a fountain pen, however, the degree of slant of the nib to the paper is important.

On the bottom side of the nib is a small "ball" of very hard material that slides across the paper.

Above: Grabbing the pen at the bottom can result in the pen nib being too vertical to the paper.

If you hold the pen at the bottom of the nib section, as pictured above, this tends to have the pen sit in a more vertical position in your hand. Being vertical, it does not maximize the area where the ball of the nib can flow across the paper.

Holding fountain pen

If the pen lays in your hand guided by your fingers, the pen typically sits at a better slant to the paper.

Above: Subtle difference, however, by letting the pen sit in your hand, the pen nib floats across the paper at the correct angle to the paper.

Often, if the pen is the wrong size for the hand fingers tend to go to the bottom and grab the pen.

Stalled Pen?

If a pen as dried, and does not write when the nib is first put to paper, don't press extra hard to get it going. One of two small strokes, with the same pressure that you use to writing with will help.

When you write, the nib lifts from the feed mechanism, this allows air in, it helps to release the vacuum and ink should flow.

Make the small strokes up and down rather than across the page. The nib, with no ink flowing, has more resistance on the paper. Sideway actions could result in a twisting the nib points.