The art of writing is something that can only be fully enjoyed with a fountain pen. However, less and less people are experiencing the pleasure of using one these days, with the ease and convenience of ballpoint and rollerball pens making them today's most popular choice.
Whether you would like to use one day-to-day or only for special occasions (such as writing a letter or signing important documents), this article will help you choose the fountain pen for you and care for it. It will hopefully, in turn, help people to rediscover the dying art of writing with a fountain pen.
Choose the right nib. This is perhaps the most important decision to make, as it is obviously the part of the pen in contact with the paper. It is critical to think about your style of handwriting, as this will determine the nib that is right for you.
Fountain pen nibs generally come in a range of widths, from extra fine, to fine, medium and broad. If your writing is quite tight, a fine or extra fine nib is for you. If your writing is wide and fast, or if you intend to use the pen as a signature pen, a broader nib would be best. Most people fall somewhere between these, in which case a medium nib is for you.
Most nibs are flat (or "italic") which creates a calligraphic effect, with a thick line on the downward stroke and a thin line on the horizontal stroke. Some pen brands, such as Waterman pens, also offer "oblique" nibs. These have a slight angle to them, and are ideal for people who write on an angle. Oblique nibs also tend to suit left-handed writers more than italic nibs.
Choose an ink system. Years ago, using a fountain pen required the user to continually dip the fountain pen nib into a bottle of ink to replenish the ink supply. However today's fountain pens offer far more convenience, with most pens offering the user a choice of either ink cartridges or a converter ink system.
Cartridges are quite a simple and popular choice. All that is generally required is to insert the cartridge into the pen's chamber and screw the casing back on. This will puncture the end of the cartridge and start the flow of ink to the nib.
Converter ink systems work in conjunction with a bottle of ink. After inserting the converter into the pen's chamber like a cartridge, the user dips the nib of the fountain pen into the ink bottle and "syringes" the ink from the bottle into the converter. Converter ink systems allow the writer the use bottled ink, which is generally of higher quality and flows more freely than cartridge ink.
Clean and care for your fountain pen. Like all fine writing instruments, cleaning and care is required to keep your fountain pen in top shape. The best way to clean your pen is to rinse (or "flush") the nib with water in the same way that you fill it with ink. Always be sure to use cold water, never hot water. If the nib is clogged, do not use alcohol but instead a very small amount of ammonia-based cleanser diluted in water.
With regards to frequency of cleaning, cleaning about once every few months is recommended, or each time you change the color of ink you are using.
Nick is a long-time pen enthusiast and purveyor based in Melbourne, Australia.