A Beginner’s Guide to Fountain Pens – Robb Report

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The fountain pen has a bad reputation. Often seen as more finicky than its ballpoint cousin and too valuable for everyday use, the fountain pen isn’t the first writing instrument that comes to most people’s minds. And most people, I’m afraid to say, are wrong.

A fountain pen – although a bit anachronistic and, yes, requiring a bit of effort – offers an unparalleled writing experience that any discerning note-taker can appreciate. The main issue with adopting a fountain pen as your primary writing tool is knowing where to start. Between pens, inks, cartridges and converters, just learning the basics can be daunting.

But that’s what this guide is for: breaking down the essentials to know when buying your first fountain pen, with some recommendations to get you started.

Why use a fountain pen?

I’m not knocking other writing utensils here, but if you want feel as you write, nothing compares to a fountain pen. Due to fountain pen engineering, these instruments provide ideal ink flow for long writing without tiring the hand.

People also like fountain pens because of the variations in nib sizes (the nib is where the ink is dispensed, various options provide different line thicknesses). With most other pen styles, one is limited to a few size options, handcuffing you to a 0.7 millimeter ballpoint until you throw it away. With a fountain pen, most manufacturers offer nib sizes ranging from extra-fine to broad, which means the pen works for the way you write, not the other way around.

Pilot

The nibs, as well as the ink, can also be changed during the life of the pen itself. This customization is a selling point for many fountain pen users who invest in a specific pen but want the ability to mix and match depending on use. Manufacturers make tips to buy separately so you can change them, while the reservoir can easily be refilled with another color of ink. So even if you bought your fountain pen with a fine nib and black ink, a few months later you can use the same pen with a broad nib and purple ink. This interchangeability gives writers plenty of room to play around and make their purchase feel Like new again and again.

Fountain pen users also appreciate the mechanics of the pen itself and the tactility of its maintenance. For some, half the fun of owning a car sometimes happens under the hood. It’s no different with a fountain pen. Unscrewing the nib, putting a syringe in the inkwell, rinsing the ink supply with water, polishing the clip – it’s a meditative practice that makes one feel connected to the object in relation to the Bic random you slipped from the doctor’s office.

How much do they cost?

Like cars, the price of fountain pens varies widely by make, model, and mileage. A beginner’s pen can cost well under $100, while the majority of quality fountain pens are between $100 and $200. That being said, there are collectors out there who shell out upwards of $30,000 for a pen if it’s a limited edition or if there’s an artisan quality to the production process. Don’t worry, none of the starter pens we recommend are in this stratosphere.

Amazon

For anyone with even a passing interest in fountain pens, chances are the Metropolitan has fallen on your radar. It’s a first-time ubiquitous pen and for good reason: the heavy metal body feels more substantial than its sub-$20 price tag. Available in a range of colors and standard nib sizes, this will give you the feel of a fountain pen without too much investment.

Buy now on Amazon: $18.75

lamy

The Safari came on the market in the 80s and has been growing in popularity ever since. With candy-colored pens and nibs for any user, including left-handers, the Safari is a fun pen that’s a step up from the Metropolitan for learning the basics. And if you’re looking for something more like a rollerblade, this is your pick.

Buy now on Lamy: $37

Amazon

Diminutive or downright cute, the Kaweco Sport appears in most stationery stores and bookstores for its popularity with the curious and collectors. The Sport model is about half the size of a regular pen, which is ideal for everyday use – just throw it in your bag and go.

Buy now on Amazon: $25

Populated Parkers Mad Men and revived public interest in the Jotter. It’s obvious why: Taking styling cues from mid-century design, this thin metal pen would fit nicely in an advertising executive’s jacket pocket (right next to a flask and a wad of cash, of course).

Buy now on Amazon: $15

Amazon

This is my go-to pen and has been for months now. The 1911 Profit Junior is based on the standard 1911 model, which is priced around $200. It’s only $25 and it’s hard to tell the difference between the two when put head-to-head. These pens are usually exclusive to Japan, so finding it at an American retailer, and at a price that isn’t inflated, is a nice surprise and the perfect entry for fountain pens.

Buy now on Amazon: $25

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