Help with Fountain Pen (starter)

Hi all -

Been scouting this site for a couple of weeks now and find it extremely helpful, so thanks to all of you. Because of this my interest has been tweeked to try using a fountain pen. Could some of you give me some advice on a starter pen to see before I jump into buying something expensive but never used (somewhat the story of my life). Also, I travel every week and was curious if fountain pens have any problems on planes. Thanks ahead

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second question first, I

second question first, I have noticed several times that air travel can cause fountain pen to leak, the sligthy lower air pressure in cabin when airborn can cause this i think, I have owned several fountain pens and among the catridge filled modestly priced pens I dont reccomend any, it is more important is to choose one that suits your hand writing style, the pens line thickness must suit your hand writing to give your signature a professional look when you sign official papers, you must test this out before selecting a pen. I own several piston filled Pelikan pens which I can reccomend, but there are probably several other good ones

Empty the pen

After staining a few shirts, I developed the habit of emptying my fountain pen for air travel. I never did any work while travelling, so I never missed it.

Good luck

Fountain pens are great

Fountain pens are great things, but most of the more inexpensive fountain pens don't quite cut it. I've got a Lamy that cost something like $40 and is quite nice for the money. A very nice pen that can be had for about $80 and which really is about as good a pen as you'd ever need is the Namiki vanishing point. It's unique in that its point retracts and re-emerges like a ballpoint pen. It's got a high quality nib and a solid, weighty barrel. If you need something less costly than that, have a look around for the low-cost, rather funky looking fountain pens that Rotring made for a while. I don't think they make them anymore, but they can be found online and in pen stores.

As for airplanes... better pens seem to weather cabin pressure changes perfectly well. I've traveled with the Lamy and three different vanishing points on probably a hundred different occasions with never a problem. As a generalization, a well-made fountain pen is really a joy to write with and worth the money (up to a point, of course)--I think most of the complaints people have about fountain pens stem from bad experience with low-end student fountain pens that have bad nibs, get ink on your hands (this never happens with good pens), and occasionally leak.

Hope this helps.

I just bought a pack of

I just bought a pack of Pilot Varsity pens - just to see how I liked fountain pens before I considered possibly investing in one. The problem is I'm traveling in a week and have been searching for how keep it so they don't leak. I can't empty them because they're disposable and I can't fill them completely for the same reason. How do I travel with them? And, can they be put in checked bags?

traveling with varsity

They should be fine in your carry on. Should be OK in checked bags too. Maybe put them in a ziploc in the suitcase as a precaution. Don't think anybody'd enjoy inky clothes.

I flew last fall with a $1.00 fountain pen,almost full cartridge, and it didn't leak. I didn't open in flight, but when I did take the cap off it wasn't filled with ink or any residue.

I am a Lamy Safariholic!

I own about five Lamy Safaris and keep them with several levenger notebooks. I love them. I think mine are fine nibs. I have had them work for years!

"To fly, we must have resistance."

Fountain Pen

It would be best to start with a Namiki Vanishing point. The nibs run fine and do not smudge and they are capless. I bought my first fountain pen when I was twelve at my local grocer for a whopping five dollars. It was a horrible pen. Once I entered professional life I was reintroduced to some fabulous fountain pens and chose the Namiki. They are work very well for those who write left handed too. I have heard good things about the Lamy Fountain Pen, but I have never used one and cannot guide you further. They had a full review on

I haven't flown with my fountain pen. I'm not sure if it would be confiscated in the War on Moisture or not because the ink is water based, and frankly would not be willing to lose my favorite pen.

Good luck!

Anacora Imparo

A Pen for Europe...

Hi Valerie,

For your first pen try any Waterman or rotring; Pelikan Traditional; Lamy Safari or a new/old stock Sheaffer Targa. (Sadly the new owners, Bic, have discontinued the Targa :-( ) None have the elusive 'qualia' of the more expensive pens or the price tag. Look for one that feels 'right' and looks nice. No one is happy using an ugly pen however smooth the nib. ;)

Nib size - Small writing fine nib. Large writing broader nib. Simple. :) Ignore Italics, stubs and obliques until you are ready for your next pen....

Plane travel - always carry your pen completely full or empty otherwise there is a chance it may leak. As for security, I have just returned from Europe with four fountain pens and a mobile (Cellular) phone in my briefcase and no one mistook them for WMD. However I have heard anecdotal evidence of America's new Hill Billy Security confiscating anything shiny... As for ink, I carried one bottle in my check in luggage. I used to carry my ink in my briefcase, however as I am not using it on the plane why make life more difficult for everyone.

I'm partial to Waterman

I'm partial to Waterman pens, personally. I've tried many brands, and they are among the best. I'd only ever buy a Montblanc or a Waterman, and I've never seen a Montblanc under $100 US.

Waterman has some pens around $35 if you look hard enough... my favorite, actually, is not one of their more expensive models. It's an Ici Et La that I found online for $47.

Goose Quill for me :)

The problem is carrying the ink so that it will not spill.

All I need to find is someone who works with labrotory glass -- I have a design in mind.

If the Glass Slipper Fits...

At home I use an old Sheaffer bottle; at uni I used to use a Marmite jar... Until that is, I discovered the Montblanc glass ink slipper. It is cheap, stable and fits into my already over filled briefcase. It even comes ready filled, although the ink is nothing to write home about... :P

Hmmm, a 'mad scientist' inkwell, that would make a great stocking filler for my ex-partner...

Travelling Inkwell

How about this?
Visconti Travelling Inkwell ("new style")

[link by ygor]

Nice, but...

A bit pricey and it is designed for the more expensive fountain pens.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

It's indeed pricey, but it

It's indeed pricey, but it works with any pen that is equipped with its own filling system or with a converter.

And it's beautiful. *sigh*

It is Beautiful!

And I would like to buy a fountain pen just so that I could buy the inkwell!

Ygor Scottish diyer says buy a miniature of whisky for a few quid (make it a nice malt though), drink it (of course), or let someone else drink it if you haven't discovered the joy of whisky or alcohol in general... Wash it out and put your ink in it. Must be less than 100ml I'd have thought.

Great idea isn't it but I bet the daft security nutters would be very suspicious of it and decide it was a WMD....

Lamy - Good

I purchased a Lamy Safari recently, and I am quite pleased with it. Though stylish looking, it is a pen for writing, not for prestige. It cost $25, an inexpensive introduction to fountain pens. It uses cartridges, which makes refilling easier, but you must use cartridges that fit well or it leaks a little. I purchased a Lamy adapter that allows me to refill the Safari from an ink bottle, and I prefer this because it was a little inconvenient purchasing Lamy refill cartridges.

I think that slightly more expensive fountain pens give a better writing experience, so if you try the Lamy and don't like it, I wouldn't rule out fountain pens completely. As expensive as many fountain pens are, buying something inexpensive like a Lamy was a good move for me. I will upgrade eventually, but for now I am quite happy with my Safari.

Good luck!

Esterbrook "J" w/9554 nib (Go to Ebay...You KNOW You want to!)

Someone will be smart enough to "bring back" Esterbrook Pens someday (Think "Bills Khakis" if you know that story)
Very hard to describe what it is about a Esterbrook, more European than other American pens..really.
Its best feature is it's easy interchangability of Nibs.
What really GETS ME is Wow! We used to build things of this high of a quality in America? (Iridum pen-tips in 1948?)
Google "Esterbrook Fountain Pen"..I recomend the Model J
Glen George
P.S. I don't think that a "Model J" in top condition, should cost more than $30.00 TOPS!

second positive review for Lamy safari

I also have one & love it. However, I have never gotten a really "good" or expensive pen. My past purchases in the fountain pen category consisted of fun & stylish but not all that nice pens that were featured near checkout or in similar locations. I'm a sucker. But the Lamy Safari has been wonderful for me. I use the ink cartridges and typically write on the Circa paper or refills I DIY from Staples 28lb paper.


Big Names aren't always a smart choice

Do not judge the fountain pen by the name of it. Pelican, a very well known "cheap" brand has some of the best fountain pens ever, more than 1500 US$ retail price.

As for the starter kit, it really depends on how your friend writes. Fountain pens do not work as ballpens, stylos and gravity pens. They do require some care, and they usually come in three or four different points. It is mostly the precision of the handwriting the one which will make you choose one or the other. If your friend has tiny-winy "accountant" style handwriting -that´s the way it is called-, a harder and slimmer point would be suitable.

You have to choose as well which kind of ink supply you want, and be careful with this, as long as some fountain pens do not admit cartridges.

I think that your friend will be fine with a Sheaffer point or a Parker Duofold.

I've got a Lamy Safari and

I've got a Lamy Safari and like it, but right now, my pen of choice is a Pelikan Pelikano Jr. So I'm seconding this vote for Pelikan

Yeah it's a $11 "kids" fountain pen with a very broad, very stiff nib. I love it.

Because the nib is so broad, if you hold the pen at a slight angle, you get line weight variation. I find it's ergonomic grip a touch better suited to my hands than Lamy's.

And it positively glides over all the paper I've tried it on. Really, I'm about to bust out a sheet of my Rhodia paper and write a big, gushy love letter to the folks at Pelikan.

"In some situations you need to ask yourself 'WWRD?' What would Riggins do in a situation?"
Landry Clarke -- Friday Night Lights

The cheapest is sometimes the best

I have lots of Pelikan pens, some as cheap as 10 Euros bought from stationery stores in France, others as expensive as $300, and I think my favourite are the cheaper ones. Their steel nibs are consistently reliable.

My recommendation for a starter-Lamy Safari

I have four Lamy Safaris --one for each notebook and I love them! They always write and are so comfortable in my hand. You can even get a converter for them so that you can use bottled ink. I believe they are under $30.00. I am not sure about the other question. I have not had a problem flying with mine but someone else may know more about that. The pressure change is supposed to make them leak.Welcome to the fun world of FPs!

"To fly, we must have resistance."

Lamy Safari anything like the Lamy Vista?

I've been considering buying the Lamy Vista and have heard it is a Safari, but it is clear instead of colored. Any idea if this is true? I'm not too picky on my fountain pens. I love the Pilot Varsity pens, but I want something with a fine point and something refillable. I'm also really liking the idea of a see-thru pen and it also must be inexpensive. The Lamy Vista seems like the best option from what I've seen.


Vista Lamy

I have a Lamy Vista and love it. I have the extra fine point. It is defiantly see threw made with clear plastic. The only problem I have is that the converter looks ugly in there, so I only use cartridges. It is probably my most used fountain pen because the cap snaps off easily for quick notes and it doesn't seem to dry out if I leave the cap off for a bit. I defiantly recommend it.

My Blog


The Vista is the clear version of the Safari, yes. They're alike in all other ways. I love mine.

[ blog | photos ]

Lamy Demonstrator Model is clear

Dear Kenny, One of my Lamy Safaris is clear. I think they call it the demonstrator model.

"To fly, we must have resistance."


The Vista looks just like the Safari to me. sells the Vista for $22.

I am a notebook junkie.

I swear that reading this

I swear that reading this thread and seeing Vista-Safari reads almost like a geek version of which is better: Apple Safari or Windows Vista. :)


glad you said it

I'm so glad you said this. While posting my question, I was thinking the whole time "I can't BELIEVE I actually want something called Vista!" My house is currently Windows-free except for the kind that you open to let in a breeze.

Since you brought up the geeky side of this discussion (as if fountain pens aren't!) - anyone tried running the Apple Safari beta on Windows Vista?


not me

Not me. I haven't even seen a working copy of Vista yet. Every time I go to CompUSA or OfficeMax, their versions are borked and frozen.

Although... now that I'm contracting again... I COULD always see if Windows Server would run Apple Safari. :)


I've used Lamy for a while

I've used Lamy for a while and found it to be a very nice pen, I also use Pilot disposable fountain pens and I like them to. I had a Cross pen that I wasn't overjoyed with, a Waterman at the time was much nicer to use, and I am currently drooling over a Caran D'Ache Leman fountain pen (I have to go and try one out in a local shop to see if it is as good as it looks), I have the ball pen and it's wonderful, worth all the pennies I spent :-)

Update: I just tried the Caran D'Ache Leman fountain pen and it is wonderful - it just glides across the paper, now to try and justify £220.00 and maybe the pencil as well .................. :-)

Slight issues with the Safari

While we're amongst Safari lovers, I need to ask:

My Safari writes really well but it has a bit of a "sweat" problem. It seems to sweat ink in the cap, even when stored upside up. When I post the cap to write, I end up with an inky pen body, thus an inked-up hand. It's not like it's gushing, but it's somewhat annoying (especially on a yellow pen).

I've used then pen with many different types of inks but never noticed any one that worked better, so the pen doesn't get much use. What do all of you guys put in that pen? Does it behave flawlessly?

Lamys are lambs

Like I said in an earlier post, I have four Lamy Safaris and they all behave like dripping, or anything like that. I use converters with Noodler Ink and a couple of them are loaded with Lamy catridges. I wonder if that particular pen is a lemon? I feel that way about my Vanishing Point. It feels too scratchy for me....maybe the nib is too fine for my writing. I just never use it much because of that and am thinking of selling it.

"To fly, we must have resistance."

have experienced that sweat

I don't know why. Can't explain it. It happened 'bout a year ago and it happened twice in a row (with a cleaning/soaking & new cartridge in between episodes). Then it never has happened again.

So I am absolutely no help, but have had it happen.



Another very inexpensive and quite good FP is the Parker Vector. It has a plastic body, but a stainless grip. The nib comes in fine and medium and the fine is very very nice. It is a very good workhorse and I've had those as my "student" and then my "marking" FPs forever. They have become a bit more difficult to find, as Parker is phasing them out, at least in North America. I do recommend them if you can find them.

Vector too/two

I just recently bought one of these, and I'm quite happy with it. I would like to have a pen that feels more solid, but it writes smoothly, and even the Quink writes ok in it. :-)



It's surprising how good they are for 7-ish buck pens.

I wish....

.... you hadn't mentioned the price! i paid significantly more than that here in Krakow! (around $15) (and yes, that is the going rate here in town. I looked in a few places)


O^O !!!!!



In a Chinatown near you.

Parker used to make a "flighter" (all stainless steel) version of the Vector. It's now really hard to find, but I've seen stockpiles of it in a Chinatown shop in Vancouver last year. If you can find one with a nib that works well, you'll have a wonderful pen. I found that the plastic of the Vector cap sometimes cracked, making it difficult to keep the cap posted.

The even-cheaper version of a FP by Parker (can't remember the name) has usually scratchy nibs. But the Vectors are great!!

Could it be the "Jotter"? I

Could it be the "Jotter"? I picked one up in Paris for about 5€ (8 bucks) and it has a stainless case and cap, but a plastic grip. Feels kinda cheap but it writes pretty well, really well for the price.


is the Lamy - good looks and a beautiful writer. After that, it's a personal choice. I don't think you can go wrong with Parker. I have many different models from the cheapies up to the Centennial Duofolds and I love every one of them, except for the Sonnet, taht is, as the nib seems very soft and easily distorts for me.The Parker 51 (check out ebay) is probably the best pen ever in my opinion. I love the Namiki for its ease of use - no cap to lose. My current daily usage pens are from Sigma in the UK. They are as good looking as the new Conway Stewarts and write beautifully. Check out their website as they are very reasonable for such quality. As for ink, I love Private Reserve. Good luck with your pen hunting.


Sonnets are good, but the nibs are VERY flexible so if you are a heavy writer, if you tend to press hard on your writing instruments, that FP is not for you. If you can controle the pressure you use on your pens, than it will glide and glide and glide.

Pressure Control -- tough !!

I do calligraphy for a hobby. Learning to do Spencerian / Copperplate / Roundhand lettering took me a year of practicing 'cause it is all about pressure control.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Tough but beautiful...

It is tough getting good at calligraphy but isn't it worth it!

When I was a teenager (a while ago) I was given some nib pens that were my grandfathers. He died in the late 50s or early 60s I think so they must be pretty old now. He was a grocer and used them to write signs in the shop.

Anyway the pleasure I've had from them has been great. Learning to do something that looks so good with such old equipment is a joy. Everyone find an old fashioned nib pen and try it. As Ygor says if you get the pressure wrong or the inking it's a hell of a mess, but if you get it right whatever you write looks good

Another reason I am thankful to the group

because of this group, I have re-discovered my fountain pens -- and a bunch of new ones from Japan. The best part about fountain pens is that you do not have to jam them into the paper to write. A nice, light touch does the trick. I am moving away from other types of pen.

The other discovery I made was the refillable rollerball like these at Pendemonium: Kaweco Sport Ink Roller Pen, Pelikan Roller, J. Herbin Stylo-Roller. I have the Kaweco Roller and the Herbin Stylo. I need to get the Pelikan for completeness. These pans are neat because you can write with a light touch, like a fountain pen, but it will work on duplicate forms (as in carbon paper)
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

There is another refillable rollerball

Made or marketed with the Yafa name. I got one at my local Office Depot or Staples, don't remember which. It uses those tiny international FP cartridges. I don't know if mine is representative of this brand, but I had problems with it skipping. I put it in my pen cup where it sat for months and now I can't get the thing started again, after refilling a cart.

Try cleaning it out

It is probably full of dried ink. Soak it in clean water or something.
"I think the surest sign that there is intelligent life out there in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us." (Calvin and Hobbes/Bill Waterson)

Safari. Safari. Safari.

Cheap. Stylish. Very comfortable to write with. Reliable. Converters available (ecological) and if you don't like the nib you can order a different width!

What's not to love?

I started out with one Safari to test out the whole fountain pen thing, and wound up with four!

One white, with Noodler's Lexington Gray ink, one black with black ink, one blue with blue ink and a clear Vista, with (currently) turquoise ink. (Color coding is my friend.)

I'm an artist and I teach and I'm always on the move from one work place to the other. The Safari pens just make me happy (even in meetings) and are the perfect complement to my Circa notebooks.

I get mine from SwisherPens, and as noted, I use converters and wonderful Noodler's ink, also from Swisher. I'm glad that I'm not throwing away cartridges or pens.

The irony is, losing a Safari would be no big deal financially (a major reason for me to use them) and yet I haven't lost one yet.

Love My Safaris

I've got three, a medium, a fine and an extra-fine. One always has some sort of business-acceptable ink, and the other two usually have an ink that I'm sampling before buying. Great writers, tough and stylish in that efficient German way.

I do have a converter - and use it - but I also refill cartridges with a syringe, which works great too.

One tip, the broader nibs give more of that shaded look you get from many fountain pen inks.

what about a pilot knight?

what about a pilot knight?

I need help with my fountain pen.

I need help with my fountain pen.

I bought a Lamy fountain pen and I was happy with a Lamy ink provided with the pen.
Then I had to refill the ink, I bought a Noodle's ink and a Lamy converter.
After that the lines from the new ink isn't as sharp as before.
It seems like my paper adsorb the ink too much.

What's happen?

Do I refill the ink in the wrong way, my paper is low quality, or it's because of the Noodle's ink itself?????

Which ink? I use Noodler's

Which ink? I use Noodler's blue on my Lamy Safari xf without problem, though I prefer the Lamy ink itself now.

I am a rather new FP user, but I am finding so far that pens seem to perform best with their own ink brand. Either that or recent cold temperatures make Noodler's ink to misfire.

Edit: thanks to a tip from a member here, I use a 10 cent syringe from the local pharmacy, rendering converters unnecessary.

Every ink is different

I'm no expert, but I've found every ink to be different. Even different colors of the same brand can react differently. The inks also act different with different pens on different papers. Overall though, I think feathering (which may be what is happening to lose it's sharpness) is due mostly to the ink and the paper. Try it on some different types of paper and see what happens. And let us know.

BTW, I love Lamy pens.