fountain pen

Hi- My name's Jon, and I just bought a fountain pen...

Seriously. Yesterday, while at a local store, looking for sidewalk chalk with my daughter, I saw a cheap fountain pen (that takes cartridges) for about 75 cents USD. It came with 12 refills, and had two carts inside. Not bad for the price. ;-) So, I brought it home, and finally figured out how to get ink out of it! It didn't have any instructrions, and has a weird name on the blisterpack, "bene" but the nib says "BEIFA".

First impression--never having written with one of these before--boy does it write easily!!!! No pressure whatsoever! I've got some relatively cheap copier paper, and it does well on it. I have also written on some Levenger paper--ooh boy! I can understand why people like fountain pens for the writing...

However, a couple questions.
1. The cap is clear, and I see little droplets of ink gathering inside. Is this normal?
2. While relatively smooth, I sense a bit of 'scratchiness'. Is this normal? Or, is this, as a I suspect, a factor of the pen's price. ;-) What do more expensive pens offer over a cheap pen? Just curious. I don't see myself switching to fountain pens, but this is the sort of thing for writing in journals, etc.

However, as a leftie, I get the ink smudging. yech. Also, I find that printing leaves tiny lines between letters because I apparently don't lift my pen high enough... or do others have this? I find I may prefer cursive with a fp! Others also experience this?

Thanks for listening to my confession...


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Welcome to the Order of the Inky Fingers

1. The cap is clear, and I see little droplets of ink gathering inside. Is this normal?

In my experience, yes. If it annoys, swab it out occasionally with a Q-Tip

2. While relatively smooth, I sense a bit of 'scratchiness'. Is this normal?

Could be the pen, could be the paper, could be both. Did you get one of those Clarefontaine notebooks ? The first pen I had handy when I got mine was the throw-away Pilot Varsity. It was as smooth as oiled glass writing on that paper.

As far as the Problems of the SouthPawed Fountain Penner, I can sympathize as I have taught calligraphy. The big problem is keeping your hand off of wet ink. I found this page that might offer some clues and ideas.

Good luck and, again, welcome to the Inky Fingered Brotherhood
"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)

Welcome to the obsession.

Welcome to the obsession. Don't forget to check out!

must ask

So where on earth did you find a fountain pen for under one dollar? :D

my artwork | my blog


At a store local to us. Named Alma. I have no idea where it originally from, be we have a couple in town--known primarily for their foods that they import, and for their typically high prices for their food--but the pen was cheap. ;-)

Oh, this is Krakow, as in Poland.


Welcome to the addiction.

I'd only add that a tiny droplet here and there in the cap is sort of normal. If there's a lot of ink, then no.

The scratchiness is indeed a factor of the cheap nib. Some more expensive pens will have steel nibs and will 'sing' (that is, make a faint noise as you write) but the actual writing experience will be smooth. When it's scratchy, it usually means the nib itself needs to be smoothed. Obviously, it's not worth it for the pen you bought, but when (uh, if... I mean, if) you buy others, they should either be smooth or exchanged if they are not.

One option is an old remedy for a scratchy nib: Do a series of figure-eights on a brown paper bag with ink in the pen. That's supposed to do a 'quick and dirty' nib smoothing. I've tried it with a couple of cheap pens I have and I have seen a difference. Not great, but it did improve the smoothness of the nib. Btw, I don't recommend doing this with expensive pens!

And when you do get a smooth nib and smooth paper, like Levenger's or Clairefontaine, oh, the writing is sweet.

further observations...

Thanks for all the comments. I did some reading yesterday, and discovered that my left-handedness means I spent most time pushing the nib. That alone would account for some of the "scratching." Also, I spent some time writing in my Levenger notepad that came with my portable folio office, and noticed that I didn't hear much, if anything other than a faint feel or impression of scratching--but I attribute that more to my being used to ball point pens (it is much less scratchy feeling and sounding than my mechanical pencil on the same paper), and to my left-handedness. When I simply drew straight lines on the paper, drawing toward me, I didn't notice it, so I suspect I must attribute my impressions to ignorance. The more I read, the more I realize how much of a different world fountain pens are. On the one hand--interesting, but on the other--lots of work. ;-)

My biggest "complaint" is that the nib is so sensitive, that I can see marks between my printed letters. It can be distracting to read, so I like writing just fine--it's reading what I wrote that is difficult. On this point, however, I suspect that some time with the pen will improve this aspect of my writing--making me lift my pen higher off the paper. I suppose that's a good thing.

I've learned that there are basically two types of lefty writers--"over-writers" and "under-writers". I'm somewhat in between the two, leaning more towards "over writing" without actually succeeding. I don't like bending my hand double, so I doubt this will change, but it makes for messy writing. ;-)


Quick-drying ink


There is a quick-drying ink from a store called Swisher Pens that a lot of left-handers use called SwishMix. The ink is made by Noodler's and was specifically created for problems such as yours. I know that won't help you with the cartridges you have now, but if you did decide to go to a different (as in refillable with converter or built-in system) fountain pen it might be something to keep in mind. It's also - somewhat - a factor of the paper (how quickly it absorbs ink). Unfortunately, the smoother the paper, the more time it takes for the ink to dry.

I'm passing this info along, though I'm not left-handed so can't say how well it all works in practice.

(Ack, I just remembered you're in Poland. I have no idea what the postage for ink would be to there.)


I should have thought of quick-drying ink. I suspect I should be able to find the ink I need here--fountain pens are _very_ popular here (in fact, the _grocery store_ where I bought my pen had a large selection of pens, carts, and bottled ink!). That's why I found mine so cheap, I suspect. :-) However, the extra effort.... something to consider. :-)

Right now, I'm mostly using a Junior circa, with Levenger's Cornell-style note paper, and I notice my hand doesn't go into the relatively narrow columns, so I think I'm safe for now. I just won't use this pen when writing on wider paper. :-) And what you said about smoother paper is something I observed today, but didn't realize the significance until reading your post. Thanks....


Cursive Only

I only use my fountain pen in my journal, and only write in cursive. I had a similar experience with printing as's not legible. Fortunately I have a variety of other pens I use for mundane daily tasks.


That's how I'm leaning....

although I fear I may try to force myself to get printed writing working. It takes up much less space for me than cursive. Plus, I will be able to read my printed much more easily in 6 months than my cursive... (yes, it's that bad!) I just need to retrain my heavy hand. ;-)


Chicken Scratch

Jon, I completely understand your concerns over bad handwriting. Prior to starting my journal in December '06, I had not written anything (other than my signature) in cursive in probably 20 years. I couldn't even remember how to make some of the letters (yes, really!). That's how long I had abandoned cursive for.

My journal is a very private and sacred place for my inner thoughts. Having poor penmanship makes it all that much more private. I can still read it myself, but it isn't easy. :o)

Writing with a fountain pen is fun, but I wouldn't try to use one in my everyday work life.


how do you....

write some characters?

I couldn't even remember how to make some of the letters (yes, really!). That's how long I had abandoned cursive for.

I'm in the same boat! I don't remember several capital letters, and even the small "z" and "y" and "v" stumped me! And like you, I don't think my fountain pen will be my daily habit. but it's fun!



It always surprises me when I hear about people using printing over cursive. Cursive is soooo much faster! Not to mention so much less work.

I'm wondering now if cursive has fallen out of favor because the fountain pen was displaced by ball points. Writing cursive with a fountain pen is smooth, easy, and quick. Using ball points takes more effort, so perhaps the short straight lines of printing were better suited to them. Roller balls have reintroduced the fountain pen dynamic in that they use a smoother liquid ink, so perhaps a few of us can hang on to our soon-to-be unreadable (because it won't be taught anymore) cursive for a little while longer.

I can't speak for others...

but in my case, I went back to printing in college. I couldn't read my notes because with cursive, and being left-handed, I tended to "trail off" my letters, and I simply couldn't read my hurriedly-written class notes. Besides that, I quickly discovered that I could fit more words on a page with printed. Also, as another side "benefit" printing slowed me down enough that I had to be more careful with my writing. I soaked in just a tad more, it seemed.

I do agree re: cursive and fountain pens. It seems more natural, somehow. And I'm _still_ surprised that I can't remember how to write some letters! That bowled me over the other day, and I'm still amazed!


Less work ...

I'm with some of the others here. Printing. In my first job printing was essential. I was writing program source on coding sheets. The little squares needed my characters to be much the same size and legible so the card-punch opearators could make sense of what I wanted. After filling in hundreds , thousands, milions (?) of those sheets over the years I would "write" in print too. Print is a good compromise because of the poor fine motor control aspect of my dyslexia.

Don't get me wrong I love cursive. Think I've mentioned before that my choice of book for that mythic Desert Island with all my discs would be Edward Johnston's Writing, Illuminating and Lettering but even if marooned on that island for eternity with a perpetual supply of luxury paper and the finest fountain pen and much as I would like to be even a quarter that good as a penman as Johnston it ain't never gonna ha'pen.

As for less work. Um. Having written so many coding sheets cursive needed more work. There are two aspects to it. It may be quicker to write cursive but with my drunken spider trail writing reading back is really hard work -- to the point where I describe my "natural" handwriting as WORN (write once; read never).

What's That Word?

I switched to printing because nobody could read my cursive. Before the days of email, I left a lot of voice mails and hand written notes. I found I was actually losing more time with cursive because people kept interrupting me to ask "what's that word?" on a note I had left them.

Cursive can be a beautiful thing when done correctly, or a source of extreme frustration for the reader if certain liberties are taken with letter formation. I'm constantly asking others "what's that word?"


Holy moly.

I just discovered something weird. I'm used to writing cursive with my trusty G2 Pro pens, and tonight I attempted to do the same with a Pilot Varsity. The results are nearly illegible. The smoothness with which the pen writes makes my control go all to hell.

I need to practice. Especially since I just gave in to temptation and ordered a Lamy Vista. :)

Remedial cursive classes?

Ok, so we're all the same boat. Switched to printing long ago and when we try to write, it's hideous and illegible. Anyone found a good website to help improve your writing or teach a nice scipty style other than boring old cursive/Palmer?

Yes ygor, I've googled a bit :-) but haven't found much beyond courses you have to pay for.

I never finish anyth

Dear Mrs. L

Wow, I guess I owe more to my third grade teacher than I'd thought! Penmanship classes were a bear with her. She was never happy that I didn't always close my lower case 'a' at the top. LOL But I can write fast and tirelessly for hours, and, even better, I can read it later. Thanks, Mrs. L. :D

Over on FPN, there's been mention in the past of a handwriting book that many have found very useful for, uh, resurrecting their cursive handwriting. I'll see if I can find the references to it and post here.


That'd be super duper! I'd like to see it since I can use the improvement. My writing is a mix of written and printed letters, depending on how they flow in a word, but it can be pretty bad. I usually print if anyone but me has to read it. My wife and I have been together ~15 yrs and she can't always read it...

I never finish anyth

Write Now by Barbara Getty

Hi, Reese,

The book Write Now by Barbara Getty is one I was trying to remember. There's another one, though, that I can't remember the title of that has a different approach to writing cursive. I'd put that on a long-ago 'someday maybe' list but have forgotten it. If I can remember, I'll post it.

Also, you (and others) may want to look at the Penmanship threads over on the Fountain Pen Network (FPN -> Creative Expressions -> Penmanship). While some of what they discuss is calligraphy, there's quite a bit about both regular handwriting (including discussion on how to improve) and left-handed writing (problems, solutions, etc.). I'd say it's definitely worth a look.

A complete course in Italic handwriting

starts here:

My handwriting has gone from ugly & unreadable, even by me if more than a day had elapsed, to clear, legible, and even slightly pleasing on the eye. Italic is the way to go!

Calligraphy: "Beautiful writing"

I have taught calligraphy.
In my experience, it's the attention to the form of the letters that sinks in and becomes habit.

That course looks nice.
"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)

I'll be looking

Thanks to you both for the book ref and the link, as well as ygor's encouragment. I'll be sure to look for them both.

A new someday/maybe project for the list...

I never finish anyth


Your signature line is HILARIOUS!!! <3 I needed that! TY <3

my artwork | my blog


I saw it somewhere else and it cracked me up - too good to pass up. :)

I never finish anyth

The nice thing about working on your handwriting

is that you can work the practice into your daily life.

Like, if you try that italic course, you learn new shapes for small subsets of related letters. So you take a few extra seconds as you are writing that to do list or shopping list and use it to practice making really nice Ms and Ns. ;)

Forgive my fountain pen ignorance....

Forgive my ignorance on the subject, but what is the difference between fountain pens and calligraphy pens? Is it just the diffence in the width of the nibs?


Nib shape, mostly

Your best bet is to check out Richard Binder's excellent site His explanations and diagrams are the best I've seen.

mmmmmm fountain pen

I just got my Lamy Safari in the mail yesterday and have spend quite a bit of time scribbling and doodling. I'm amazed at how little pressure it takes to write. So much fun. I see a bit of an obsession coming on. :)

fountain pens

I have been collecting fountain pens for a long time.

If u find these new pens writes well, u should try the
vintage ones where there is flex and the nib writes like

itss just a pleasure to use ..



I got a Pilot fountain pen for my birthday a couple of weeks ago. It was my first 'writing' pen, I've used sharp, flat calligraphy pens and sharp pointy drawing pens before, long ago.

Prior to this new item, I was an avid user of ball pens with liquid inks--like the uniball signo--and gel pens like the pilot G2.

Personally, I find the difference between my new fountain pen and my gel and liquid ink ball pens to be rather like the difference between suspensions in a luxury sedan and a sports car. The sports car, like the gel pen, allows you to feel the texture of the road. The luxury sedan floats you over the road, smoothing it so you don't feel any bumps. I will just say that an ordinary cheap ballpoint pen is like walking through deep mud in loose rubber boots. Sticky and difficult, requiring a great deal more muscle.

It's actually not that wide a difference to me, gel vs fountain. Not as far apart as the car analogy seems. It feels to me like they write with the same force, just one is a hair smoother and floatier than the other. The new fountain pen *is* heavier than the gel pen, being metal and quite solid. I can't write with it when the cap is perched on the end of the pen--it's too heavy and the balance is wrong. But it's not uncomfortable when I have the pen set to the side.

The fountain pen requires more thought when writing--there's a definite 'up' and 'down' and the correct side has to be 'up' to write at all. Likewise my pen lays down a broader line than I prefer with my gel pens. I like a fine line, .05 or less. There are fountain pens that are narrower, that's just not how this particular one is made. It also isn't pressure-sensitive, really--the line is as thick on the upstroke as the down, whereas my gel pens' lines do change thickness slightly on the upstroke. So it's less calligraphic than I thought it would be. You can get fountain pens that do adjust--this beginner model just doesn't.

I don't really know if I'll go after another fountain pen that is more calligraphic, lighter, and narrower. The 'luxury sedan' feel isn't a real motivator for me, though I understand why it appeals strongly to some folks. I work from home mostly, so I'm not out to impress anyone, either. *shrug* it's a nice pen, but I don't get a 'wow' from it.

I must be weird.