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Tuesday, 26 May 2015

In Praise of Fountain Pens

In Praise of Fountain Pens

In this increasingly digital world, it is still nice to put pen to paper, even it is only to write my shopping list!
In an increasingly throwaway society, it is even more pleasing to write your shopping list, or a letter, or your Christmas cards, with something that has been around for a few decades. With the right care, it could well be around for a few decades more.
Enter the vintage fountain pen. I always loved using a fountain pen as a lad and ever since I have always owned anything between one and several. Even my scrawl looks beautiful when written with such an instrument.
With an occasional service (a strip down, a clean and perhaps a new ink sac) these pens will last for years and should never end up in landfill.
I am not one of those pen snobs who has to track down a Mont Blanc and show off to the world about it (not that I could afford one anyway).
I'm talking about the pens those of us of a certain age grew up with... the Platignums, the Parkers, the Conway Stewarts. An everyday pen between 10 and 50 years old is serviceable and easy to maintain and continues to provide a pleasant writing experience. So much more enjoyable than a throwaway biro!
If you fancy revisiting the fountain pen, or are looking for an unusual gift, keep an eye on my "Desk Drawer" store, at ebid. net (link below). 

I usually have a range of serviced fountain pens between 10 and 50 years old, and from £5 up to about £30. Like all used items, they are not always blemish free but I always test them before sale to ensure they are fit for the purpose they were made for all those years ago. I also stock related items, like mechanical pencils, ink wells and ink blotters.

Happy writing!





  1. I love fountain pens but find the thought of buying one online almost impossible - how do you know if that particular nib will suit your own handwriting style? Whenever I've bought without trying first I've found the nibs to be scratchy and the ink hasn't flowed. Do you have any tips?

  2. Hi Stephanie, thanks for your comment.
    I agree, there are many pitfalls to buying a used fountain pen on line. However, many sellers, (myself included) will offer a degree of "servicing" prior to sale. This involves dismantling the pen for a deep clean and "tuning" the nib, to ensure the tines of the nib are properly aligned, improve ink flow and eliminate scratchiness.
    That's not the whole story though! Fountain pens are strange in that a pen that may feel as smooth as silk to one user, yet the very same pen can feel scratchy in the hand of another. The pen can then be further tuned to "mould" the nib to your own hand.
    I use a sanding product called micromesh, with a fine grit rating to do this, but you can achieve a similar effect yourself:
    If your nib feels scratchy, doodle for a few minutes on some coarse brown paper, cushioned underneath by a newspaper. This courser paper will finely smooth any rough edges on the nib. Keep testing on "normal" paper until the pen writes to your taste.

  3. Regarding nib types, that's a difficult one to answer. A British or American medium nib will usually be broader than a German medium nib. I have quite small writing, but am perfectly happy with a Parker medium nib. The nib type/thickness should be specified by a seller and they should provide a photograph of a handwriting sample. Although the handwriting may not match your own style, it will provide you with some more information.

  4. Nice article. I agree - there is nothing like a good ink pen for improving your writing. I use a Conway Stewart with purple ink - lovely!