Difference between a fountain pen and a calligraphy pen?

Exposing my ignorance here, but, what exactly is the difference between a fountain pen and a calligraphy pen?

I know fountain pens come in various nib widths, and calligraphy pens do too. But, they seem to be treated as distinct entities on this board and in the various fountain pen sites I've visited.

Try as I might, I haven't grokked the difference yet.

Also, I've frequently said that I must stay away from fountain pens because I'm a pen spinner. But, is there any fountain pen that might withstand an occasional, inadvertent spin or two. Without damaging the pen and Jackson Pollock-ing the room? I'm definitely getting pen envy.

-in search of spatter free illumination

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The point

A calligraphy pen has a broad, flat point. A non-calligraphy pen has a small sphere for the actual writing point. I have taken points an chopped them off to make calligraphy points.

This translates to line width. A calligraphy pen can do varied line width while a non-calligraphy pen's line width is more uniform.

Another issue is that there are such things as calligraphy fountain pens. I have several.

Does this clarify or confuse ?
"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)

yes :)

actually, that makes sense. So the different widths of fountain pen points just means how thick or thin the still uniform line is. While with calligraphy points it means greater or lesser possible line variation. It's starting to come clear now. I was actually given once a very very nice fountain pen that frustrated the heck out of me since I was trying to do calligraphy with it. Luckily I still have the pen at the bottom of the desk drawer. I'll have to go dig it out.

difference grokked!

Many thanks!!

further question about fp vs calligraphy

So, is an 'italic' nib basically a calligraphy nib?

Italic vs. calligraphic

My guess would be yes. It's been a few years since I bought calligraphy supplies, but I'm thinking either they're the same OR the "italic" nib may be a flat nib cut on a slant. I always achieved the slant by turning my paper on an angle. The only advantage I can see to a nib cut on an angle is that it might allow you to keep your paper straight in front of you. Since I don't do that anyway at any time with any pen, I'd just as soon have a regular flat nib. My favorite fountain pen was a cheap Sheaffer "ball"-end cartridge pen that I had filed the ball off of. Worked great for many years!

That said, I do have a collection of fountain pens, most of which were my mother's and grandfather's. The most intriguing to me was my mother's "bookkeeping" pen. It was the last pen she used before the company she worked for switched to typewriting everything. When they did they allowed the bookkeeping staff to keep their pens.(Think about it: that's akin to keeping the last typewriter you used before switching to a computer!) I can't remember if it was the nib or the ink used that made it a "bookkeeping" pen, but it was one or the other.

Personally, I can't imagine doing math in ink!!! :-o

italic fountain pen nibs

Most italic fountainpen nibs have their outer edges rounded off. It allows one to write at a normal speed.

That sounds accurate

Nibs meant for true calligraphy have very sharp edges to be able to produce hairlines and are not known for speed. I have never tried an italic writing pen, but I have lots of calligraphy 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)

Slightly different

You're talking about a "cursive italic"--generally used for those who like the look of a varied line but not so much the scratchiness of a true italic nib. The difference is that the corners are rounded off a bit more to make a smoother experience, but this also sacrifices a bit of line variation.

My two cents...


The calligraphy sets I've seen generally use fountain pens as their basis, and have several interchangable nibs. Generally, those are italic nibs in varying widths. Italic nibs are cut straight across and have sharp corners to give you a highly defined and precise line with a lot of variation. It looks flat if you view it with a magnifier. You have to write deliberately with an italic because the corners would catch on the paper if you use too much force or moved it too quickly.

An italic nib with rounded corners is a stub. It's made to give some line variation, but enable you to write faster. My favorite.

An oblique nib is what you'd call an italic that's cut at an angle. Can be either left footed (angled to look like the toes of your left foot, I guess) or right footed.

And, you can get them in a hundred variations on almost any fountain pen, either with interchangable nibs or with a custom grind.

As for pen spinning? I dunno what you can do about that. Definitely sounds dangerous with a fountain pen. Maybe a new form of art? :-)

Richard Binder's site has great information on nib types. (www.richardspens.com)


"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

Thanks for the info!

Armed with a correct understanding, I dug out that fountain pen, that hasn't been used in 15 years or so. Flushed it, put in a 15 year old or so cartridge, and can you believe, its writing great! It won't ever be my everyday pen, but I can practice improving my handwriting with it. And maybe I'll finally get thank you notes written. (that's probably overly optimistic)

It's a medium nib, so I'll probably see if I can get a fine or an extra fine for it. I tend to write small. That was probably another factor in my not liking it originally, I used to write absolutely tiny. I used to always use extra fine ball points and .3mm mechanical pencils. Now I'm up to .5mm pencils, and can stand medium ball points. The bookeeping / accounting pen does sound beguiling. May have to keep an eye out for one of those.

Anyway thanks again to all for the info.

And, I think I'll just have to concentrate very hard on never spinning the fountain pen or I'll be a very spattered Kim.



If you have a look at pendemonium - their ink facts - it is apparently possible to keep and use ink for much longer than that, basically till it dries up!! Their article is full of very interesting, useful and helpful information about a wide variety of inks on the market and ink in general.

Have a look it is very good if you are a fountain pen user.


Well, until it dries up or

Well, until it dries up or grows icky gunk--generally known as "SITB" (Stuff In The Bottle).


I wonder if spinning with the cap on could be a little messy, but not quite as disastrous. I'm not really willing to try it with my pens though...

Only when you take the cap off

Eeewwwwwww !
Get one of them double eraser-ended pencils like Johnny Carson had and use that for spinning.
"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)

spinnable items

I spin with either hand, so maybe that is the solution afterall. I'll keep pens in my right hand, and only spin with my left hand. I've hidden all my click erasers, since I tend to click them incessantly and annoy the heck out of folks, but I could dig them out again for lefthanded spinning. Or, I've got a little Tombow twist eraser, that I can jusssst barely spin. If I keep that in my left hand, I'll both get better at spinning little things, and save all near me the threat of flying ink.

Did you know that they have a selection guide for Pen-Spinners at JetPens? Its just a marker though. A nice long, even balanced one, but not useful for me really.

Course, I could ingest less caffein and maybe not feel the need to spin at all.


Have you searched YouTube?

There are some amazing pen-spinners in Japan, where it's apparently a fad. Definitely not for fountain pens.


"The only reason for time is so that everything doesn't happen at once." Albert Einstein and Buckaroo Banzai

Use Google

If you want to search YouTube then use Google to do it. The YuoTube search feature is broken in comparison to Google even though Google itself is broken compared to real (commerical) search engines.

Stick the qualifier site:youtube.com onto the end of your Google search terms. You then have colocation and exclusion to play with to really refine your search criteria.

You're correct. You'd end

You're correct. You'd end up with a bunch of ink in the cap, which might end up on the section of the pen, and then your fingers...