Last week TonyB published an article about why he doesn’t use a fountain pen. He makes some credible points, but some need a little clarification. Overall, I think Tony over-generalizes the characteristics of fountain pens. I’m guessing this comes mostly from his experiences with them, which is unfortunate, because using a fountain pen should feel like riding a unicorn through a field of cupcakes during a rainstorm of scotch while eating bacon.
Tony’s first point is that fountain pens are distracting:
When you use a fountain pen, it’s all about the pen. You have to always be conscious of how you’re holding the pen, how it’s moving, how the ink is flowing. If you let the fountain pen get out of the correct position, it won’t work. You’re forced to focus on the act of writing itself, rather than on the writing.
In all my years of using fountain pens I’ve never had to put more thought into using one than I did with a ballpoint, roller ball, or pencil. A properly working fountain pen should not be as touchy as what Tony describes above. Maybe the pen needs tuned or maybe an exchange is order, but either way, it should work at various angles and even during a slight amount of rotation without interrupting flow.
Tony’s next point is that fountain pens are too much work:
Fountain pens have to be cleaned carefully after use, stored just so to prevent damage or leaking, filled before use.
If fountain pens were that high maintenance even I wouldn’t use them. I suppose if you know you’re not going to use a pen for months then, yes, it would be best to clean it and store it empty. In general, most fountain pens can sit for weeks, even months, without use and still work when you need it. I’ve stored fountain pens nib up, nib down, laying horizontal, in pen cups, desk drawers, and in pen wraps that get thrown (literally) into my backpack without damage.
Tony’s final point is that fountain pens are too expensive.
I know that there are good fountain pens to be had for under US$50. But, let’s be honest, most of you are spending hundreds of dollars on fountain pens. Maybe I’m just cheap because the idea of parting with that kind of cash for a pen makes me cringe.
I actually agree wholeheartedly with Tony here. I don’t know a single person who’s managed to buy only one Lamy Safari, or TWSBI, or any other fountain pen and leave it at that. Honestly, I can’t imagine owning just one fountain pen. Fountain pen manufacturers seems to be trending more and more towards the luxury/jewelry market, producing more special/limited editions and charging disproportionate amounts for them.
Hopefully, Tony won’t write off fountain pens completely and will actually buy that Vanishing Point he’s after. If there’s only one fountain pen I could recommend, the VP would be on the short list.
Now, lets talk about why I use fountain pens.
1. Fountain pens are a reflection of their owner.
I’ve always liked my possessions to be personal and unique. Fountain pens offer so much more personalization than any other writing instrument. The number of materials, colors, and sizes fountain pens come in is staggering. Then there’s the theme pens that honor people, events, or locations around the world.
Add to that custom made pens, the possibility of nib grinds, flexible nibs, and bottled inks in every color you can imagine, and the fountain pen starts to become more like a fingerprint that uniquely identifies you.
2. Fountain pens bring people together.
I’ll be the first to admit it: I’m not very personable. But, I can’t count the number of times someone has started a conversation with me because they saw me using a fountain pen. Mostly, these were acquaintances who noticed the fountain pen and were surprised they were still being made. It’s a perfect opportunity to introduce people to the madness hobby. Fountain pens will get you attention whether you were looking for it or not.
Then there’s the community around fountain pens. I don’t think I’ve met a friendlier group of people than fountain pen users. There are multiple message boards devoted to fountain pens and there’s at least one pen show every month around the country. The first time I went to one was for the pens. Now, I go for the people.
3. Fountain pens offer the ultimate writing experience.
Sure, a fountain pen can be used in daily tasks to make memos and take notes on the worst of papers (a Vanishing Point for convenience, filled with Noodler’s X-Feather for versatility would make a great workhorse), its time to shine is when it’s properly set up.
Like a Ferrari or McLaren, vehicles that are able to get you from point A to B, you can’t fully appreciate them until you get them on a track, filled with race fuel, and taught how to drive them. There’s not much to learn about using a fountain pen, just make sure the nib’s touching the paper and feed is face down. For the best experience, I prefer to fill my pens with Waterman Florida Blue, then I’ll grab a sheet of Tomoe River paper or a pad of Rhodia. With this setup you’ll be in for a writing experience unmatched by any liquid or gel roller found on this planet.
I want to thank Tony for sharing his reasons why he doesn’t use fountain pens. Hopefully, with my opposing view point, it’ll cause you to think about why you use fountain pens or even get you to try one for the first time. Whatever your experience with them is, please share your reasons for using (or not using) fountain pens. Ultimately, use whatever you need to use to keep writing.