Fountain Pens: A Place to Start

[I've been looking for someone to write about fountain pens for a while, and I was pleased to see Danny Vinson slinging together some words on this very topic. Apparently, his lack of penmanship is offset by his appreciation for a fine writing utensil. Danny lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, so I can only assume his more emotional moments are spent by polishing his Esterbrooks to the tune of John Denver tunes. --DJ]

For years I wanted to write with a fountain pen. It always seemed to me like a more elegant way to get words onto paper, but I frankly didn't know where to start. Every time I checked out a pen shop, seeing prices in the hundreds of dollars (or more) kept me from doing much experimenting. I didn't think that the 'cheap' pens would be worth the money they cost, or write very well. So I played with dip-pens, the kind where you dip a steel nib into an ink bottle, write on paper until the line begins to thin, dip it in the ink again, and so forth. Fun, high potential for ink-stained fingers, though a little scratchy on the paper.

Esterbrook JThen I found my grandfather's 60-year-old Esterbrook fountain pen a year ago, and my perspective on writing longhand changed. When I went to get it checked out and cleaned at Watch & Pen in Richmond, since it had been pretty well gummed-up by an unnamed 10-year-old quite a few years ago (ahem), they were having a sale. So, a few days later when I picked up the Esterbrook, I had a nice shiny Libelle fountain pen to go along with it. Why the Libelle? The shop guy recommended it as a good pen for the money, the price certainly seemed reasonable compared to the other pens they had, and it felt good when I tried it out - much smoother than I expected.

Note that last thing: I tried it out, along with some others, and decided I liked how it wrote on paper. Not everyone is close to a pen store, but I highly recommend trying a couple of pens to see how they feel, if at all possible. A more expensive pen isn't always better suited to the way you write. The weight of a pen can also vary a good bit, depending on what it's made of; resin and acrylic pens are fairly light, and pens with brass or stainless bodies can be a bit heavier. A pen can be fairly small and slender, or much larger and relatively plump, so it's important to see what feels best to your hand. Remember -- unless you're buying it as an investment, it needs to be something you can use comfortably.

Fountain pens have some basic parts: the nib, or tip, which is how the ink gets to the paper; the reservoir, which can be a cartridge, converter, or bladder; and the barrel and cap of the pen, which comprise the pen's body. Nibs are made of metal, usually steel or gold, and are most often found in fine, medium, and broad widths (Japanese pens tend to be more fine in all three widths).

When writing with a fountain pen, it's not necessary to press hard onto the paper, like you would with a ball-point. All that's required is a light contact with the paper, and ink is drawn through the nib by capillary action. Pressing too hard can damage the nib! A fountain pen's nib wears very slightly with use, so that it begins to conform to the style of the person writing with it, a process that takes quite a long time (so, go ahead an let a friend write a letter with yours). When I use my grandfather's pen, I can tell by how it feels when I have my hand in roughly the same position he used fifty years ago, when this pen was what he used every day.


In my year or so of using fountain pens, I've discovered a few things that work for me. Your experience may not be the same as mine, but perhaps these things could suggest a good starting point for exploration. Please note that I have no affiliation with these companies, just an appreciation for their products. There are lifetimes of innovation, creativity, and passion out there in the world of pens, a world I'm just beginning to understand.


Fountain pens are not designed to be disposable; with care, a good pen can last beyond the lifetime of the original purchaser, and individual components can often be replaced or repaired as they break or wear out. A single fountain pen can be less expensive in the long run than ballpoints or rollerball pens, since the ink supply is effectively limitless. You don't need to buy a new pen for every ink color, or for every purpose, but once you begin to write with them it's hard to resist getting another every now and again. Something to remember: fountain pens let ink flow out, and air flow in, without being messy in nearly all circumstances, but they should be carried and stored point upward (and never carried in a pants pocket) - significant changes in air pressure, as in an aircraft flight, or ascending or descending a mountain, can cause ink to seep out into the cap.

Libelle Carbon Fiber Fountain Pen - a relatively new pen, and not the easiest to find. Good quality, and I like the way it feels. It's only available in a medium point, but it works well in most situations. I use this pen daily for almost everything. The barrel is made of stainless steel, I believe, as is the nib, and the outside is a dark carbon fiber mesh. Mine was just over US$40.

Pilot Knight - a close friend and frequent correspondent purchased a Knight a few months ago and absolutely loves it. Reasonable price, stainless steel nib, very good quality for the money, about US$35 or so. This is a great introductory pen.

Old pens - it's easy to find older pens that have been rehabilitated at dealers such as Pendemonium. You can also look for bargains at local antique stores. Many pen shops either service older pens, or have someone who does it for them. Esterbrook, Parker, Waterman, Pelikan, and many other pens can have long lives if taken care of, and are not terribly expensive to rehabilitate. For the price of a decent new pen, I have a connection to my grandfather that will last for decades more.

Namiki Falcon components

Splurge pen - Namiki Falcon. Yes, this rises into the ranks of 'expensive', barely, but has one of the best nibs on the market, regardless of price. It is semi-flexible, which means that it's possible to vary the line width as I write. It's also a humbling pen to use, since it does nothing to hide the many flaws in my penmanship. Recommended highly, but be patient with yourself as you and the pen get used to each other. They're a little over US$120 new, a good bit more at full retail. Also, Pelikan, Pilot (the same company as Namiki), and Sailor are companies that make fantastic pens for less than a couple hundred dollars.

Remember, cost is not always a good measure of quality, though it may indicate collectability. Beyond a certain point, the individual components aren't dramatically improved, but may represent a higher degree of craft in the finish or metalwork, or a limited production run of that particular model. Some pens are unique and take a great deal of time and specialized skill to make, and the higher price can often reflect the artistry and precision that goes into them. In the articles I've read, the Namiki Falcon is considered one of the best nibs on the market today, regardless of price, as is the Sailor 1911 model. Lamy, Pilot, Shaffer, and many others make great entry-level pens for less than US$20.


I use two types of paper most of the time. First, I seem to have at least one Moleskine in every bag I carry. The paper is lovely, smooth, and takes most inks very well. However, a very wet pen can be a problem, since it's a smooth and dense paper, and the ink won't dry immediately. Swisher Pens has some inks that are designed for just that purpose, though. Second, for notes, letters, and general correspondence, I've found that Crane's papers are simply great. They take ink well, without feathering, and dry in a reasonable amount of time. Not the most affordable stuff, but it's often the most appropriate.

There are a great many varieties of fine paper on the market now, bound in books, loose sheets, or bundled into notepads. Some paper notepads, such as the affordable Ampad Evidence Recycled, do very well with fountain pens, while some others don't. Greeting cards may or may not handle the line of a fountain pen well, depending on the humidity and the type of paper. Very rough, handmade, or glossy papers all can present difficulty with fountain pens, so be wary but willing to experiment.

Inky bits

One of the coolest aspects of a fountain pen, aside from the sheer pleasure in writing with one, is the mind-rending array of ink colors you can write with! Most larger manufacturers produce, or at least sell, inks with their own label, but there are far more colors and intensities out there for the adventurous. Some inks are designed to be completely permanent and unalterable, being highly resistant to all solvents or detergents once they've bonded to the paper, and are great choices for check-writing, legal documents, or anything that needs to be highly fraud-resistant.

Ink is stored inside a pen in a variety of ways, depending on when a pen was made. Cartridges, common for nearly all modern pens, are pre-filled ink tubes that are neat, easy to use, and available in a range of colors, usually available from the company that makes your pen. Some companies, like Private Reserve or J. Herbin, offer much more than just blue, black, or red. The convenient part is that you just snap a new one in place when the old one runs out, a handy thing when you're traveling and don't want to carry an ink bottle with you. Converters are similar in size to a cartridge, but are filled from an ink bottle by using either a plunger or squeeze-action mechanism to draw ink into the pen. Yes, you stick the nib into a bottle of ink, and draw ink into the converter after it's installed in the pen. Some older pens, like the Esterbrook I use, have a lever and a compressible rubber bladder to hold the ink (think about the squirty ink pens in old cartoons).

three pens up closeThe refilling process isn't inherently messy, though taking a pen apart for cleaning can be, since you're washing ink from the nib and other internal components. It's important to clean your pen regularly to prevent clogging the nib or ink feeding mechanism, as recommended by your pen's manufacturer. I've been known to have blue fingertips after changing ink colors, but that seems to have diminished with practice - just loaded a holiday red ink into one of my pens, and didn't smear a single drop!

*Important Note* Not all inks are good for fountain pens, and may clog them or even cause damage. India inks, metallic inks, and other specialty colors can create a great deal of grief, and could possibly necessitate an expensive repair. Please be sure whether the ink you choose is designed for use in fountain pens.

My favorite inks, so far, are:
Noodler's Ink - I don't fully understand what magic Nathan Tardif and company put into their inks, but they make any pen that I've tried with them write a notch or two better. They're smooth, have great colors and a neutral pH, and just seem to flow better than the others I've tried. Noodler's makes inks that lubricate internal pen mechanisms for older pens, that are freeze-resistant to a level I never want to experience, or that are highly fraud-resistant. There are more colors than you can find in any crayon box, with better names as well. A small company, based in New England.

Private Reserve - I found that their inks, the few I've tried, have a great color intensity that only improves with age. Also neutral pH, for longevity. They make pre-loaded cartridges in many of their colors, and also sell an ink-mixing kit for getting your own bottled ink hue just right! Another small company, from Indiana.

Writing with a fountain pen is a different experience than using a ballpoint, gel, or anything else I've tried. There's a smoothness to the process when pen, ink, and paper all match well, and a sense of joy, at least for me, when a page of carefully-written words hold a beauty beyond the intention of the language. I've found that using a fountain pen has helped me write more clearly, closer to what I intended to say, than typing up an e-mail or a document in a word processor, perhaps by slowing everything down a bit. Digital words are relatively cheap, after all, whereas a pen on paper forces a certain craft, a refinement, of what's being committed to the page, one letter at a time.

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better pens deserve better penmanship

Better pens deserve better penmanship!
Check out the Handwriting Repair web-site, below.

Kate Gladstone - the Handwriting Repairwoman -

Ink and Paper

I love Noodler's! The colors are so scrumptious, deep and rich. Beautiful going onto the page, too. Some have lovely shading...

Two of my favorite papers are Clairefontaine and Levenger's Circa. Both take fountain pen ink very well, and the nib gliding across the ultra-smooth Clairefontaine is just heavenly.

And when (notice that's not 'if'!) you're in the mood to try a new pen, a good everyday one is the Lamy either Safari or Al-Star (same design, just different materials). My personal favorite is my Bexley Sheherazade. Gorgeous and a dream to write with. lol This is such an addiction.

Thanks for the article.

Another pen suggestion

You may also want to try the Lamy 2000 when you're looking for new pens. List price is US$149, but you can beat that in various places. It's a classic, and there's good reason for it.

Do you procrastinate?

Nice article! I love

Nice article!

I love fountain pens, though I'm afraid I end up treating them more as desk ornaments than writing pens.

Coincidentally, I picked up a used pen really, really cheap at a craft fair/'antique' show I went to last weekend. It caught my eye because it's pretty flashy: the barrel is marbled/mottled in an orangish-red (with tiny whirls of nearly black for contrast.) The cap is gold colored, with black plastic end pieces on both barrel and cap, and gold rings at both ends of the red barrel. The nib looked okay so far as I could see, though it was all clogged and clotted with dried up ink. The dealer was full of stories about how it was her father's favorite pen and very valuable (uh-huh) and how it was a great bargain at $50... Yeah, for a 'no-name' pen with no idea if the guts were in any sort of working condition. Right.

I'd been mainly haggling with her over a couple of other little items I wanted as stocking stuffers, and we were at an impasse $4 apart. I offered to meet her price IF she threw in the pen, and the deal was done. :) It no doubt helped that it was almost closing time.

So today I've spent a little time cleaning up my $4 pen, and it's even prettier than I thought, now I've soaked and wiped away grime and dried ink. The pen is pretty hefty, clearly must have a brass core, so maybe it's not a total piece of junk. I found markings on the pen clip and puzzled over them until it suddenly fell into place: it's marked to look like an elephant! Eyes and tusks and rings around the end of the trunk! Kind of neat.

Another surprise -- once I'd soaked the nib for a while I realized it was two-toned, and engraved on it is "iridium point Germany" and some scroll work. Another hopeful indication, I think.

The pen had a dried up noname ink cartridge inside but the universal converter I tried seems to fit fine. I'm still getting a lot of ink out of the nib, but I hope to fill it tonight and fingers crossed.

Even if it turns out not to write worth a damn, it's pretty and will look very nice in the little crystal vase I use to hold other pens I've picked up and never seem to use...

Chinese Pen?

I think you may find that it is a Chinese pen, they are generally well made and very usable but not of high monetary value.

Ah, so?

Chinese? Could be. And I can't complain about it not being valuable, considering I paid at most $4 for it. ;)

I filled it last night and gave it a go, and it does write nicely -- not quite as smooth as my good Waterman, but way ahead of the 'disposable' pens you can pick up.

My only complaint is that the nib is just a tad broader than I'd ideally want to use. OTOH, the pen is just about 5.24" when closes, which means it would fit nicely in my new index card purse. OT3rdH, will I be happy with a fountain pen for on the go writing? I've always used ballpoints and more lately gels for this.

Time will tell, I guess.

Levenger True Writer?

I must be following the normal progression on my new love of paper, because I'm considering purchasing a fountain pen myself. A cursory review of the local stores reveals nobody around here has much of a selection, so I turned to my newest love....Levenger. Their "True Writer" fountain pens look nice and are in my price range. What I don't know is if they are of decent quality. Can anyone help me out?

Online retailers?

Can anyone recommend an online store to purchase a Pilot Knight? I'm thinking it would be a nice Christmas gift to myself and it would go nicely with my new Circa.

Thanks and Merry Christmas!



Hi Scott

Friends in America speak highly of Pendemonium.

Merry Christmas. :)

Many thanks! I'll check it

Many thanks! I'll check it out. Mom sent an AmEx Gift Card that is burning a hole in my pocket...


Have you seen "" ?

I found this site while looking for another type of pen.

I ordered a Pilot Petit1 and a Tasche Fountain Pen.

"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)

Waterman Phileas

On the way into the office this morning, I decided to stop by the local Office Max to check out their selection of pens. They made my choice for me, as they only stock one type of fountain pen...Waterman Phileas. It came in a kit with five different colored ink cartridges, a converter, a bottle of Waterman ink, two blotters, a cleaning rag, and a book entitled "How to Write with a Fountain Pen". The entire kit only cost $39.99 (plus another $5 for five more ink cartridges. I don't want to get caught short when Office Max decides to discontinue carrying this product line). Once my hands stop shaking from the experience of purchasing my first fountain pen, I shall endeavor to fill it and start "creating". I don't know if this pen is decent, but it offers me a starting point. Besides, it came in a really nice gift box for storing everything.

Ooooooooooo I'm jealous!

I've only ever tried writing with relatively cheap fountain pens, and they were scratchy so I decided fountain pens were not for me. Reading this thread makes me want to try again, though, and it sounds like you got a good deal Roberto. Let us know how the pen works out!


Got my JetPens

They came last night, but due to a minor veterinaty emergency, I only had time to scribble a few lines from each pen. The initial impression is excellent. More to follow, maybe a small "article" with pictures.

"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)

Tasche fountain pen

Hey ygor, I'm really keen to hear how the Tasche fountain pen is. What do you think so far?


Waterman Phileas

The Waterman Phileas is a really nice pen to start with. Not terribly expensive and very dependable. It's widely available. Because it's well made, you can stick with it or decide to move up in price later. If you elect to move up, I second the comments about the relationship between price and preference/quality. There isn't one.

I love Jetpens

I'm rather a Jetpens devotee. My favorite is the Zebra 5-way pen/pencil. It gives me black, blue, red and green plus a pencil, and is cheap! Also, Dr. Grip refills will fit it; you just have to trim them down to the right length.

I'd love to hear how the Tasche fountain pen is. I've had my eye on it for a while.


New Pen, Same Ol' Penmanship

I just finished writing a "test page" with my new Waterman. I LOVE how effortlessly the ink flows, but it hasn't improved my penmanship (sigh). Sarah, you may want to consider trying the fountain pen again. I giggled when I read your post, for I also remember using a "scratchy" cheap fountain pen. I also remember the ink as smeary. My new Waterman (I love saying that) is neither scratchy nor smeary.


I initially found the same thing with my rather inscrutable writing. After a while, though, and a good bit of practice, I found that things had improved a good bit, although I lapse back into my traditional scrawl when my hand gets tired.

I don't know if this has anything to do with proper technique, but I noticed that, when my writing was flowing best, I was holding the pen more like a paint brush, extended out a bit more than normal, with more arm and less hand in each stroke. That also has helped me keep the pressure on the tip minimal.

Just keep at it, and allow yourself to mess up a good bit. You'll learn new things and not realize it until later on.

Oh, and the pen that got me back into this whole thing was a Waterman rollerball from Officemax. That inspired me to find my grandfather's fountain pen, at least partially because I got tired of only blue or black ink (oddly, red is difficult to find in pressurized refills).

Encouraging News

Thanks for the encouragement! Yesterday afternoon I escaped to a local coffee house for some "journal time". I found that the fountain pen writes much thicker than any other pen I have recently experimented with, but that is not surprising since I normally use fine point pens and my Waterman has a medium nib. The angle at which I hold the pen makes a great deal of difference with regard to ink flow as well. The instruction manual indicates that the nib should be held almost parallel to the paper for optimal flow. With this particular pen I have found that to be true, but I also need to cock it slightly clockwise. It's tricky business, but the end result looks much more artistic (an adjective that is rarely used when describing my penmanship). I look forward to experimenting with the rainbow of ink colors available once I master this pen.

I got a fountain pen!

I stopped by our small, quaint, local pen and stationary store under the pretense of buying some refills for another pen... and walked out with a Retro51 Tornado fountain pen in red! I tried several different brands in different price ranges, and this one felt to be balanced just right and flowed smoothly. I really was somewhat doubtful that I would be able to feel any difference in different pens or that I would not feel that scratchiness I've experienced in the past, so I was pretty amazed that the differences were quite evident to me. And the price was right - $35.

I've filled a few pages with scribbles and my sad attempt to remember how to write cursive, and it is really a pleasure to use.

This pen only takes cartridges, and doesn't have a converter. Can anyone recommend nice brands of standard size ink cartridges?


Sea of Ink...

Nice pen Sarah. Looking at the refills page I would say your pen takes 'Standard International Short cartridges'. Converters are available in this size quite cheaply. However I am not sure if they will fit inside your pen. Fear not! Monteverde (the pen manufacturer not the Italian composer) make an extra short version...

Cartridges - I have listed a few manufacturers whose bottled ink I like AND who also sell Standard International Short cartridges:

Diamine - English ink, more vibrant than most.

J. Herbin - French ink in unusual colours. Most are pale or old fashioned, rather like myself. :)

Pelikan - German ink (I like their pens more).

Private Reserve - American ink. Nice blues. Hard to find in my country.


Now that pen will get some attention :o) Very elegant yet sassy!

I might be a bit jealous... I have a collection of different ballpoints and rollerballs I'm using up before I buy new writing instruments ::sigh:: I have trouble leaving the office supply aisles empty handed some days :o)
my artwork:

Ink cartridges

Sard, thanks for the ink hints. I shall have to do some online shopping, methinks!

How about the Levenger inks? How do they compare?

Sara- thanks, I love my pen so far. I also enjoyed looking at your artwork. It does occur to me that, as an artist, it is really your duty to obtain and become familiar with any and all writing/drawing tools, don't you think?


*Ping!* A Cunning Plan...

Quote - "How about the Levenger inks? How do they compare?"

I have never tried them, unfortunately. However I have an idea. Actually two ideas. You could try setting up an informal cartridge swap in the Bazaar. Each person lists the type, colour and make of cartridge they wish to trade as well as the ones they wish to try.

The second idea is, we badger Ryan *cough* sorry I mean ask politely. :D , for a Levenger cartridge sample pack. For example instead of paying 10 USD for 16 cartridges of one colour, the sample pack might contain the 12 different coloured inks for 10 USD....

Sara, I agree with Sarah. You have too great a talent to waste on ballpoints; we insist you get a nibbed pen. NOW! ;)

Smashing idea!

Sardonios said:

The second idea is, we badger Ryan *cough* sorry I mean ask politely. :D , for a Levenger cartridge sample pack. For example instead of paying 10 USD for 16 cartridges of one colour, the sample pack might contain the 12 different coloured inks for 10 USD....

I love the way you think, Sardonios!



More pens?

Oh yeah, p.s., don't you guys think I might need a few more pens so that I can try out different inks in parallel...?


Parallel Lines...

Quote - "p.s., don't you guys think I might need a few more pens so that I can try out different inks in parallel...?"

Let me think... You will want an fine/extra-fine nibbed pen for your pocketster, a fine to medium (unless your writing is very large in which case a broad) for every day use. A fine, wet nib for all those forms which say ball ballpoint only. (Use 'carbon' ink or Noodlers Bullet proof black). An 'italic' or a flexible nib for the Embodiment Project. A little black pen for those horrid functions one 'must' attend, and, subject to a satisfactory lab report from Ygor, a pocket full of Ohto Tasche for that colour code-ordinated look. :D

Pen case

Ooooooo it sounds like I'm going to need one or more of those nifty pen cases to carry all those pens around!



A Case for Pens...

I think so too, Sarah. I use this sort of case for my extra pens. The other two usually ride in my jacket pocket. However, I would not recommend this type for collectible pens as there is a gap where the flap goes over. I think Levenger's own quote sum this case up nicely:

"Our (Levenger) Pen Parapet shelters your four most frequently used pens"

So if you a pen user on the go this is 'your' case. If you are a collector or stuck at a desk look at the alternatives. Hope this helps. :)



Great idea Sardonious. Your suggestion makes perfect sense. I have a box of "always greener" cartridges with 15 of the 16 cartridges remaining - after 3 years.

A sampler would be a nice way to promote experimentation without the commitment to the remaining 15 refills.

Did something edit my link ?

The words this site used to be a link to, I thought.
Did I do something improper ? I want to know so that I do not make a repeat boo-boo.

"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)

Link fixed

Just a missing href, my friend, no big deal. Fixed.

all my best,


They make all the difference in the world. A gold nib is soft enough that it molds to fit your writing style. Even a 10k nib writes more smoothly than a steel nib. Levenger's carries quite a few inexpensive pens with gold nibs. I don't care what the pen looks like, it's all about how it writes!

Gold Vs Steel: Battle of the Alloys...

Quote: "Nibs, they make all the difference in the world".

True. However, this part is a myth:

Quote: "Even a 10k nib writes more smoothly than a steel nib".

'Smoothness' is a function of the tip, usually a hard metal welded on to nib; the ink, does it lubricate? and the paper. (hot pressed, long fibre is smoothest). Some nibs are know for their smoothness; Waterman, Sheaffer and Sailor spring to mind. Other for their feedback, ie Aurora. (Useful if one has problems controlling one's writing). OTOH, flexibility is a function of nib shape and temper rather than material. The Lamy 2000 has a 14k gold nib with a little flex, the 21k Sailor 1911 has none. Both are smooth. My Gillot steel dip pen nib (formally known as exSWMBO's Gillot steel dip pen nib :D ) is very flexible and is a terrible writer, so bad in fact I will return it its former owner. :P Finally exSWMBO has a LaPine with an exceptionally smooth staniless steel nib....

Quote: "I don't care what the pen looks like, it's all about how it writes!"

You know Angela, that sounds like the punchline to a very good joke. I like a poster with a sense of fun. ;)

May I refer those of you

May I refer those of you interested in budget priced fountain pens to my letter earlier which found it's way into "Active Forum Topics" and is entitled "Fountain Pen Sources",

'Thinning" ink?

I have a pen which writes fine with it's 'own brand' ink, but with another, in my favourite colour, blue/black, it seems as if the ink is just a little too thick for it. I think I know that fountain pen inks are water are they 'thinnable"?


'Fat Ink' Problem... :O

1/ Can fountain pen ink be diluted? Yes, However I would use distilled water to maintain the pH balance. :)

2/ Is it a iron-gall (ferro-gallo-tannate) ink? The reason I ask is these types can form salt crystals which will block one's flow. Montblanc recommend a pen flush ever three weeks if you use their B/B (bottled) ink.

Pen flush

Hi Sard. Can you describe a "pen flush"? I imagine it means taking the cartridge or converter out and running water thru the pen, but maybe there are details of the procedure that I don't know about? Do you have any other Fountain Pen Maintenance tips?

The Tongue in Cheek Guide to Pen Flushing...

Hi Sarah, Yes in your case, simply remove the cartridge/converter and run warm water though the the nib section. In the case of fixed fillers one sucks up the water through the nib and squirt it out several times. :) Although some piston fillers, such as those from Pelikan have a removable front sections making cleaning almost as easy as a C/C pen. Next take a dry piece of tissue (Toilet/kitchen roll type) and hold gently on the top of the slit to draw out the moisture. Obviously, if one is re-ink straight away it does not need to be bone dry. ;) Note: DO NOT rub with tissue as this will cause micro-scratches on most pens, use a soft cloth. - Says the man who cleaned and damaged his glasses with a cotton hanky :( Now gently wipe any ink out of the cap with a damp cotton bub. I do not know if this is true, but I have heard one gets less condensation (in the cap) if the pen is recapped with the nib pointing upwards. FWIW Montblanc say no, Sheaffer say yes. I say worth a try. ;)

Red and brown inks sometimes form a harmless coat of ink on the nib. The best way I have found of removing it is simply to dab with a damp tissue. :)

If we shadows have offended, Think but this and all is mended...

Hi Sarah

Apparently I may have come across as condescending in some of my posts. Cannot imagine why. :S Anyway, the above, although true, is supposed to mimic one of the poorly translated leaflets manufacturers used to include with their pens. Sorry if anyone, especially you Sarah, has been offended by it. :)

Not at all

No worries, Sard, I heard the sarcasm correctly, I think.

I'm just offended that you would think I would be offended.

Just kidding!

"Fat Ink"

good term, thanks Sardonios, that about describes it. As for the 'Iron Gall' thing...............I dunno, it's a Montblanc pen with a broad nib but the blue/black I'd prefer to use is "Quink" from Parker. I should proably just try to track down some Montblanc Blue/Black & start again but their store in San Antonio did not have any,



You are most welcome :) Montblanc fountain pens are usually very good and as you say it works well with other inks. broad nibs need runny inks. However Quink B/B should be fine. Unless Sanford's have changed it , it is just dye, water and a few additives, no iron-gall at all. I would just add distilled water and see if that does the trick. Also check the cap is sealing properly as the water may be evaporating.

Something you might like to try: mix some Waterman's Florida Blue with a little Skrips (Sheaffer) black. not waterproof like real iron-gall but it is safe, and with a broad nib, you get the shading too.

Sorry, rushing now. I have been reading inno's post instead of dressing :)

recommendation and question

I want to add one more pen to the recommended-pens list:
the lamy logo. I have one in steel, with a fine nib and I love it. What I like about it is the fact that it isn't fat. Most fountain pens are fat and I can't hold them well, I have small hands and write small too. This one is great, looks good and isn't expensive.

The question: what do you think better, cartridges or bottled ink? I have only used cartridges so far, and I don't know if I should get a converter for my pen. Also I carry it around much, in my backpack. So it isn't always with the nib pointing upwards. Will that be a problem?

Hitting the bottle...

Quote: "what do you think better, cartridges or bottled ink?"

Better in which way? The ink used in Lamy cartridges is good stuff, although none of it is waterproof and I find the colours a little boring. Cartridges have the advantage of convenience although I do not mind carrying a bottle. IF you can find a syringe they can be refilled from a bottle... (although I prefer it to have ink in :D ). Bottled ink can work out cheaper although it depends on the brand. I like my Lamy 2000 and it writes very well, although I have no experience of their converters. Personal opinion? If you want to try different inks and cannot get hold of a syringe I would buy a converter and see. :)

Quote: "I carry it around much, in my backpack. So it isn't always with the nib pointing upwards. Will that be a problem?".

Hard to say. The problem is some pens leak a little ink in to the cap if they joggled around or if the points are not kept upright. Therefore manufacturers (oops - disclaimer time: 'Some' manufacturers) claim that it is the users fault for not keeping the pen up right rather than saying pens may leak get over it. :) At the risk of sounding patronising (yet again) Fountain pen ink is water based and can be removed with a damp tissue ;)

Hope this helps. :)

Waterproof ink?

So, inquiring minds ask, is there such a thing as waterproof or "permanent" fountain pen ink? I know that ink like India ink are a strict no-no for these pens. Other than that, I'm ignorant!


permanent ink

Yes, a company called "Noodler's" makes permanent and waterproof inks. They even have one they say will not freeze in sub-zero temps. But unless you're in Antarctica, or maybe the North Pole, you may not need that benefit.

Swisher Pens has their own label "Swishmix", that is made by Noodler's. They carry a very large selection of Noodler's inks.

Pendemonium also sells Noodler's.

School ink...

Yes Gayla is correct, beautiful name by the way. :) , Noodler's ink seems the way to go However in the interest of completeness:

Noodler's waterproof permanent ink - Name says it all (reacts with cellulose)

Noodler's 'bulletproof' ink - alegedly fraud proof. (reacts with cellulose)

Iron-gall (ferro-gallo-tannate) ink - Very acidic. This is the type used by da Vinci (allegedly in a Moleskine ;) ) (Reacts with air. Usually Blue-black or the odd earthy colour).

Quink 'Permanent' ink - not waterproof, it permanently stains clothes.

Quink 'Washable' Blue - again, not waterproof, allegedly it washes out of clothes. (I used this and Stephen's ink at school).

Permament ink in cartridges?

Does anyone know if there is a place to obtain the permanent ink in cartridges?

Cartridges and their inks

Well, I'm not entirely sure this is the best thing to do, but I've been refilling spent cartridges with my favorite Noodler's inks, using an eyedropper. The Namiki cartridges for my Falcon are nice and sturdy, and I haven't experienced anything strange as a result of doing this. There's likely an upper limit to the number of times this can be done with any given cartridge, though.

I'm sure I've violated some law of physics, though, but it does allow me to use my favorite inks in a larger-capacity reservior than the Falcon's converter.

Having said that, Private Reserve, though not a permanent ink, comes in cartidges now. Nice colors.

Portable cartridges

I guess what I'm wanting is to be able to care a spare cartridge of my favorite ink in case I run out. I don't really want to carry the bottles and stuff.

refilling cartridges

I do not know if any permanent inks are available in cartridges. But, like Metropolitan, I refill used cartridges.
I purchased s syringe for 25 cents at the Wal-mart Pharmacy. (It is where we get our P-Scripts filled, so they know us.) I asked for the most blunt needle tip they had, and have not tattooed myself with it yet!
Also showed them a pen and cartridge so they could see what I was talking about. ;-)

an eyedropper works

I have found that a normal eyedropper works with most cartridges, although the smaller they get, the greater the potential for messiness (pilot - no problem - international size - be careful).

The long and short of it...

Hi Sarah, The short answer is no. The closest is Platinum carbon black. However, it only fits Platinum pens and, as with all carbon based inks, it may clog the pen. How often do need need waterproof ink? If you refill a cartridge at home will there be enough for all day? Will your Levenger pen except International Long Cartridges, giving you twice the capacity of a short one? What about a converter? Although you will still need to carry a bottle of ink :S Finally, what about an 'eyedropper or piston fill pen? These hold more ink than usual. The cheapest new, piston filler is the Pelikan M150 (around 45 USD) or there is the the M200, a gold nibbed version (around 60 USD). There are also some nice older classics available. However you may prefer if I stick to pens. :D Pelkan 100 and 400NN; Parker 51 Vacmatic, Sheaffer Touchdown: all good pens with a reasonable ink capacity....

Smeary ink

Hmmm, why do I want waterproof ink...? I would enjoy using my fountain pen in my daily activities as well as in my personal journal, but knowing that if I spill my coffee on it, or drop it in the mushy slushy street all my writing will melt away keeps me from using it as much as I'd like to.

My truewriter has a converter and also takes the longer cartridges, so maybe I'll experiment with some of the inks mentioned in this thread.

However you may prefer if I stick to pens. :D

You flirt! :)

Inking Tonight...

Hi Sarah

I bet you thought I had forgotten you. ;)

I agree, in your case waterproof ink is a good idea. :) As you already have an International Standard Converter why not try it in your Retro 51. If you can screw the body up with the converter in place it fits, otherwise you will need a mini-converter or to refill old cartridges in order to get fully waterproof ink.

By the way, did you miss me? ;)


By the way, did you miss me? ;)



Oh, and p.s., I ordered some Noodler's bulletproof ink to play with. I don't have it yet, though.

Noodler's Ink at Swisher Pens only $9.75 for the regular ink, plus shipping.

Inspired by this thread, this afternoon I pulled out a fountain pen that I bought some years back and gave up on. (I make a huge mess when I use it... always get ink on my fingers, my clothes, my desk, you name it. I don't dare try the waterproof ink until my technique improves!)

Between this and my circa habit, this site is turning out to be very expensive! ;)


Speaking of ink...

Matching inks and pens is a bit of a experiment. Some formulas will work great in certain pens and not so in others. It can even vary a bit from pen to pen, and sometimes pens have to be flushed and cleaned out to improve their flow. The ink channels in the feed (the black plastic piece underneath the metal nib) are where the ink flows from the pen's ink reservoir or sac to the nib. If the ink channels get gunked up with dried ink, the ink won't flow well to the nib. I'm in the habit of leaving inked pens sitting around for a while, so I'm guilty of gunking up my own pens! That's why Sardonios recommends flushing pens fairly frequently - clean pens write better.

Waterman makes well regarded ink that tends to flow well. It's definitely not waterproof though, but they also don't tend to stain the clear parts of pens unlike some of the more intense inks. So, I tend to use Waterman Florida Blue (another dark blue) in my vintage pens. Waterman ink is also available in cartridges from Office Depot and Office Max.

Here's a good site for information and reviews of fountain pen ink.

Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
B. Banzai

If you want a VERY good pen

If you want a VERY good pen try Rotring 600 (if you can find one because it's and old model and IMHO was replaced by a not so good model). It's about 50 EUR/USD and have a very solid, tech look, metalic body that lasts forever.

There is also Pelikan Safari (plastic or metal body), starts at 30 EUR/USD wich is a good value for money.


I am sorry, it's not Pelikan Safari but Lamy Safary. Check

Pilot Petite

All this talk of fountain pens and rainbows of ink has made me want to try one. I had a calligraphy set from Barnes and Noble a few years ago and loved it. I've been looking around and Pilot Petite1 seems to be popular. How would it work as a fountain pen? The site I found doesn't give me any information on it other than that it's refillable. It seems to have a fine nib which is what I want. Those of you who have used it, what did you think? Any problems that might make me reconsider?


Pilot Petit1 IS a fountain pen...

cartridge type. Use an eyedropper or blunt-needle syringe to refill cartridges.
"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)

Just a few places you can

Just a few places you can buy fountain pens online:
(dare I say it?) eBay, as long as you're careful and read descriptions, feedback and return policies carefully. - excellent place to learn about all kinds of fountain pens, modern and vintage - also has tons of fountain pen information

Modern Pelikan pens are excellent and some models retail for under $100.
Vintage Sheaffers, Parkers, Watermans, Esterbrooks, Pelikans. I've got vintage models of each of those except for Pelikan. I have three modern Pelikans, though.

Just recently got a 9128 nib for my Esterbrook (previously had a 2048), which is my main drawing pen. Not as flexible as the nib in my Waterman, but it's still excellent.

I don't have any personal or financial stake in any of the brands/dealers/websites listed above, but I have bought pens from a few of them.


I have just read with interest these comments on Fountain Pens which to say the least can give the utmost pleasure when being used provided that one can write in a way which is both readable and good to look at, in order to do just that one needs a pen with balance and most importantly a good Nib. To my delight I have discovered a brand of F/Pen which has both of those qualities and at very affordable prices, in fact so affordable that one does not need to take out a mortgage to collect a rather large quantity of the models available. The Brand that I can tell you fills all of my requirements at the moment is called JINHAO who also make another Brand called Baoer. I have in my own personal collection more than 40 different pens made by them all of which perform so smoooothly when writing I can write for hours on end and enjoy every moment of the experience.Being a member of the Judiciary I have occasion to sign lots and lots of documents on a daily basis which gives me the opportunity of rotating my collection over a period of days.These pens are readily available on E-Bay at very low prices so take my tip start collecting them. Please dont hesitate to contact me for any further info.