Fountain Pens

I've always preferred keyboards to writing by hand. I can type much faster than I can write in longhand and my left handed cursive was normally illegible. But, I always like to design software projects on paper and start stories and articles on paper. It just seems to come together more quickly. For software design, I've normally used pencils, and usually mechanical pencils, as the point remains fairly sharp. But, with my heavy hand, I also broke lead more frequently than I would like. Things started to change recently, as I discovered new writing tools of distinction and utility that would allow me to write better, longer and more comfortably than before.

It all started innocently enough, with a Palomino HB, from California Republic. I read about this pencil on the Internet. Made from cedar wood, with a glossy red-orange finish and a graphite interior that put down a fine, smooth, dark line with a minimum of pressure. Then I made the mistake of driving over to Levenger. A mistake only in that I am now addicted to their fine paper, pens, notebooks, and other accessories to enhance your reading and your writing.

The first time I went to Levenger, they gave me a sample of one of their Circa notebooks, one of the best organizational tools that I have ever used. But, that's off the subject of pens and pencils. I bought a Bexley Multi-Max lead holder. Basically, it looks like a large mechanical pencil, but the 5.3 mm (not .5 mm) lead is moved manually, when necessary (rarely) and sharpened someone like a pencil. The lead that comes with the lead holder  doesn't put down quite as dark a line as I would like, but it is exceedingly solid and comfortable to hold. A big piece of graphite like that doesn't need to be sharpened nearly as often as a pencil. After a little research, I came to understand the differences between the different styles of lead and the tradeoff between soft/dark lead and hard/less dark lead. I'll probably try a 2 mm lead holder next, but I like the Bexley quite a bit and haven't finished exploring what I can do with it. I did try something else of interest, the Pentech liquid pencil. This had actually been around in various forms for about 50 years. Basically, it's a ballpoint pen that uses some type of liquid graphite. It writes very smoothly and it is erasable like a regular pencil. It also never needs to be sharpened. The main problem with the liquid pencil is that it writes like it skips a bit as it writes, so the line it puts down isn't satisfyingly dark. This product will be a real winner, if it can be perfected.

Once I started upgrading my pencil experience, it was only natural that I would start considering pens, too. I came to the realization that one of the reasons I didn't like pens that much was because you need to exert a fair amount of pressure to get a dark line, especially with a ballpoint pen, and after a couple of pages, it can cause your hand to cramp. So, I started experimenting with rollerballs and gel ink pens. The Pentel G2, for example, puts down a nice, fine line and is inexpensive. But, some pages I read on the Web got me thinking about fountain pens. The thing about fountain pens is that liquid ink glides off the nib (tip) of the pen with very little pressure. That means that you should be able to write much longer without discomfort. The fountain pen also has benefited from over 100 years of development. While the technology hasn't changed much, it has been refined, as have the inks.

I pulled out a fountain pen, my only fountain pen, a Parker 51, that I received as a gift many years ago. Apparently, it's a bit of a celebrity in the fountain pen community, because it was a breakthrough pen for Parker, very popular for several years, and is a durable, smooth-writing pen. I didn't bond with it when I first received, but this time, it worked nicely for me.

Coming soon... The Rest of the Pens


© Jon Rosen, 2010