I started using a fountain pen at around the age of 20. It was a pen that took small international sized cartridges and came with about ten in different colors. I lost that pen in a car fire, but it wasn’t a great loss – I bought it because it included a grey cartridge and I had never seen a pen that could write in grey.
My next foray into fountain pens came nearly a decade later. I bought a Parker Vector and used with glee the washable blue ink that came in the package. I soon tired of that pen and ink and set out to find some more grey. I stumbled upon Pentrace and got sold on the idea of Private Reserve Grey Flannel ink. While I was there, I purchased a Parker 51 with a fine nib from the “green board” classified section. Sadly, that grey ink and that pen were not made for one another. The combination was just too dry and not nearly lubricated enough. I put both of them away and didn’t think of them again for several years.
The event that led me back to fountain pens, this time for good, came after I became an attorney. I’m a public defender, and for anyone unfamiliar with that corner of the legal system, I represent people accused of crimes who cannot afford to hire an attorney. We are issued the Skilcraft pens assembled by the blind. I always found the assembly of those pens to be top notch, but the materials sometimes betrayed the intrepid sightless workers. In particular, we got several boxes of black rollerballs that leaked.
One May afternoon in 2007, I finished seeing a client and stood up from my desk. He commented on the gigantic black spot on my nice tan pants. It was a horrid mess. I was livid. I had just purchased those pants with some of the small amount of money I had saved in my few months of work after law school, and they were really nice pants!
That evening, I dug out the Parker 51, the Parker Vector, and the bottle of Private Reserve Grey Flannel ink. I remembered how terrible the 51 and Grey Flannel were together, so I went out to purchase whatever I could locally the next day. I obtained a converter for the Vector and some cartridges to boot. I couldn’t find any bottled ink, so I waited patiently until I could visit a small jeweler nearby who sold Private Reserve. I wanted American Blue, but I came away from his store and its half dozen in-stock bottles of ink with Midnight Blues. It turned out to be the best ink I ever put in that Parker 51.
Within a week of those events, I was sold on the fountain pen and have not looked back. I still have a love for grey inks and really any ink that doesn’t look like it came out of a ballpoint or rollerball. Although my profession does not allow for use of the wildest inks around, I will unapologetically use grey, brown, green, or burgundy in addition to the usual blues, blacks, and blue-blacks. I own over 200 pens and 100 inks, and I confess without the ink variety I would likely grow bored with the pens. To me, our obsession is one driven by ink with really terrific pen and paper accessory options. If I had my choice of two hundred brands of pen but only black ink, I’d be writing with a ballpoint.
Reviews that have moved me:
- gama on Fountain Pen Network has provided an independent look at the Noodler’s/Goulet Pen Company exclusive Liberty’s Elysium. This ink has been so controversial that its proprietors are working on a reformulation. In a way, this is a pity because it is a beautiful ink with a nice set of properties as it is.
- carpedavid on our own FPGeeks Forum has reviewed J. Herbin Vert Olive, an ink I have never had the occasion to try but have always been intrigued by. The review makes it clear that it is simply too light in color to be used for business, but it appears to be a terrific ink to use for art or personal correspondence. I wonder how well it would pair with an off-white paper.
- Finally, Michael Matteson has taken a short look at a favorite ink of mine, Noodler’s Black Swan in English Roses. Although I have never gotten the ink to shine in the flex nib pen it is designed to get most effective use in, I find the color and the ink properties to be so pleasing that I use it in a variety of pens.
Lee Smallwood works as a public defender, calls Virginia his home, has iron gall running through his veins, and loves fountain pens. You can read his blog (if you dare) at:
The Inked Nib