Hello hello hello! Welcome back to Pen-o-holic! I hope you enjoy my previous post on the review of Cross ATX fountain pen. If you haven’t read about it, you can click here to find them. =)
While I am preparing for my next pen review, I noticed that there are many people out there who still don’t know about fountain pen; some of them haven’t even heard or seen one before in their life. So, I have been giving it a thought for some time and have decided that I will write an introduction to fountain pen, hoping that I will be able to lure more people to join me with my latest addiction. Ha!
So, let’s get started!
I will begin with some history of fountain pen. When I started to know what is a pen, when I am still little, the pen that I am using and holding in my hand was a ballpoint pen. The normal and less-than-a-dollar pen that can be easily found in any bookstore or stationary stores. Then as I grew up, during history lessons, I learnt that human being begin writing by carving it onto something; wood, stone, bamboo, and some even do it on leather. Further then, in the movies, I learnt about quill pen, or what most of the people would recognize as the feather pen, because well, it is made of real feather. After quill pen, then there is the born of fountain pen. As far as record was retrieved, it was believed that the first concept of fountain pen was born in the 10th century, when there is a demand for a pen that won’t stain the writer’s hand or clothes; as a result of that demand, is a pen that is able to hold its own ink reservoir and able to deliver to the nib when writing is required. Apart from that, the ink won’t leak even when it is being hold upside down. There, ladies and gentlemen, is the born of fountain pen.
There are several distinctive features about a fountain pen. For instance, the point of the pen which delivers ink to the papers, is known as the nib. The nib is like the soul of the fountain pen; it is that important that if you have spoil the nib, the pen won’t be able to writing anything properly anymore. There are people however, have made some tutorials on how you can mend your nibs, which you can look for in Youtube. For me, I would have prevent that from happening in the first place though, to spare the pain of all the repairing process.
Normally, fountain pen will comes in 3 sizes of nibs; fine, medium and broad. The width of fine nib is around 0.45mm, plus minus; medium nib is between 0.55mm-0.60mm and broad nib is about 0.70mm-0.80mm, or more or less like that. There are many pen makers out there and when it comes to the width of the tip, they don’t have a standard measurement to that. Also I would like to note that Japanese fountain pen makers used to have a finer line that any other pen makers. You will notice that Japanese pen maker like Pilot has a thinner line even though it is a medium nib, compared to other pen maker of the same nib size. Hence, my advice is that when you are buying your own fountain pen, test them out to make sure that the width of the nib is to your liking, otherwise you will be wasting your money.
This is the nib. Amazing isn’t it? What a piece of art. =)
Apart from the nib, another features of fountain pen is that it has its own ink reservoir. There are few types of ink supply that you can get for your fountain pen: a cartridge, a converter and built-in piston. Cartridge and converter are more commonly found in the market. Fountain pen that comes with built-in piston are rarer in the market though. Cartridge is a plastic ink container that is very easy to use; just plug it into your fountain pen and you are ready to go. Once the ink is finished, pulled out the cartridge and replace it with a new one and you are ready to go again. All in all, process will take less than a minute. However, there are limitations with using a cartridge; for users that want to try out more colours in their writing, they will find that the colour choices for cartridges are pretty limited. Therefore, this is the part where most of the user will switch to converter.
A normal short international standard cartridge.
Using a converter requires a more delicate process. Why is it called converter in the first place? It is basically an ink piston that draws ink into fountain pen. Yes, it is. The reason it is being called a converter is because it is an accessory that can convert cartridge compatible fountain pen to be a piston-filled compatible fountain pen. The good thing about a converter is that it can be reused for many time to come, which proved to be more economical for fountain pen user in the long run. And it is more environmentally friendly too, I believe; you don’t have to throw away the plastic cartridge every time it finishes. Another plus point of using a converter is there are more choices in terms of ink brands that you can use and the colour as well. For instance, say you are using a Parker fountain pen, you may not be necessarily using Parker brand ink; you can use inks from other brands as well, as long as you like the colour of it, then all is well. But I do wish to note that some pen maker will tells you that they encourage their pen user to use the ink of their own brand, reason being they are worried that the composition of the inks of other brands might cause unwanted reaction with your nib and hence damaged it. But well, as long as your perform maintenance on your fountain pen regularly and keeping them in tip top condition, you can have a peace of mind over that.
There are several downside to using a converter though; for instance, the hassle that it takes to refill the pen when the ink finishes. You have to be very careful so that the ink won’t spill over your tables or stain your hand or clothes upon refilling. Another downside to using a converter compared to a cartridge is the ink capacity; the ink capacity of a converter is comparatively smaller than a cartridge, but the difference is really very little, so, you don’t have to sweat about that. =)
This is a sample of how a converter looks like. Photo courtesy of Louis Vuitton.
The last is the built-in ink piston which is lesser to be found in the market. Its function is the same with the converter, except this one is built in and no, you can’t simply remove them and use a cartridge instead. There is an upside to this however; the ink capacity is higher in this one. Significantly higher than the other two. I don’t have one like this at the moment but I look forward to own one in the future. =)
Photo courtesy of TWSBI
In a nutshell, a fountain pen has its own ink reservoir and it has a nib that delivers the ink to the paper that you are writing on. Cartridges is the most convenient way to your pen filled up; converter gives you more choice on the colour, is much economical in the long run and much environmentally friendly as well; built-in piston does provides you bigger ink capacity.
So, how much difference it is compared to ballpoint pen?
Ballpoint pen is an advancement of fountain pen. It carries its own ink, it won’t leak, easy to carry around (you don’t have to worry about the pressure of the surrounding as if it will affect the ink flow of your pen). People like that and above all, because it is very affordable and easy to obtain, it has become the most commonly used type of pen in probably the whole world. Thus, it has make fountain pen almost obsolete in this era. In terms of convenient and affordability, fountain pen is behind ballpoint pen.
In these days, fountain pen still remains, mainly I think is because there are many out there who still appreciates art, for it is a piece of art and a creator of art.
I love fountain pen so much because the writing sensation that it gave me is irreplaceable. The user experience is magical. When the ink is finished, you have to fill them up. Then from time to time, you will have to do the maintenance of the pen to keep it in tip top condition. I felt more connected with my pen comparing to when I am using ballpoint.
They are just wonderful.
So this is it, the introduction of fountain pen. Next week, I will write on tips on choosing the right fountain pen. Stay tuned. =)
As usual, if you have followed me until this part, I would like to thank you for your interest and support in my humble blog. I would like to further invite you to drop me any comment that you have for me, whether on how I can further improve this blog and what you would like to see from me in the future.
I look forward to hear from you soon.
Cheers, yours truly.