Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Fountain Pens

I don't really use fountain pens in the course of my oil painting day, but I'm a compulsive sketcher and note-taker and I'm a fountain pen nerd. Yep, a fountain pen is archaic and it's really pretty silly to collect them, but I wish I had more of these pens. Writing with a fountain pen is a sensual experience, like drinking tea from a real bone china tea cup instead of a stained, chipped mug, not that I don't drink out of stained, chipped mugs all the time. I believe in maximizing small pleasures in life, if at all possible. At least I'm not a snob about expensive pens, as you'll see when you read this.

By the way, there are hundreds of fountain pen/ pencil fan websites and blogs on the internet. If you do a quick blog search you'll come up with a lot of people who are passionate about writing instruments. I guess there are niches for all the myriad obsessions you can imagine, from live-bearing tropical fish to stiletto shoes.  I'm sure I would have a wider readership if I were a stiletto shoe blogger.

Anyway, here are the fountain pens I own at the moment:

Noodler's Ink is a wonderful American company. They make tons of different inks, mostly with weird names and their boxes and labels have arty and fun, funky artwork. Some of the inks from this "boutique" company have come under fire for various reasons, but I'm enjoying the inks so far. They also make terrific pens. I own two - the first is the Ahab Flex Nib (loaded with an apricot ink, either Sailor  or J. Herbin "Orange Indien", I can't remember, sorry. ) I was a little grumpy about the flex nib when I first got it since I thought it was scratchy and slow, but I like it much better now that I've used it a bit. The Ahab Flex pen is made of resin and isn't very expensive at $20.00. I want another one for Christmas.

My second Noodler's Ink pen is free with the purchase of a big bottle of "Heart of Darkness" Eternal Black Noodler's Ink. I'm going to buy ink from Noodler's in part because of the names of the inks. Don't you just love being able to say, "I'll have some of that Heart of Darkness, please!" And definitely a bargain; I got it from Amazon, I think. It doesn't have a plunge mechanism since you're supposed to fill it up with the eyedropper contained in the ink bottle. This pen writes well but it has a bump (an O-ring here?) where you hold it, which I don't like. The bump seems to be common in the fountain pen universe when the cap clicks onto the pen to close it, so if you are essentially anti-bump, see if you can find pens with twist-on-and-off caps. The pen comes with a ballpoint nib which I haven't yet tried out.

Edit: I've destroyed this pen by tinkering with the rubber O-ring. It leaks and makes a huge mess.  It probably not the pen's fault, but there you have it. It's put away until I can figure out what to do with it next.

This is the TWSBI Diamond 580 with an EF nib. I love this TWSBI - and yes, it's more expensive than the Noodler Ahab. It might have been around $50 or $60 and is made in Japan, a country that truly does seem to be crazy about pens and pencils. It feels wonderful and elegant in your hand; I feel like an adult when I hold it. I have a real fondness for these "demonstrator" fountain pens. Since they have clear bodies, you can tell what color ink is in there and how much you have left. It has a very elegant red design on the end of the cap and writes like the Dickens. I have a Noodler's Ink brown ink in there right now.

The Pelican Pura is probably the most expensive fountain pen I own. I bought it during a visit to Montreal for the Waterhouse show at the Montreal art museum a few winters ago. I spent a long time lingering in an underground pen store and ended up buying this. It's a really nice, elegant pen and writes well. I usually use a syringe to fill it up with ink in it's original cartridge. It has a ridge (no O-ring, just a ridge) where the cap clips onto the grip that bothers the callous on my right middle finger. Such a whiny fussbudget. Also, the metal of the pen is cold and feels... well, metallic.

This is another great deal of a fountain pen, costing around $12 or $15, the Pelikano Junior. I've read that it's made for schoolchildren in Europe who are learning to write so that they will learn to appreciate the feel of a elegant writing instrument while learning fine motor skills. What are the chances something encouraging like that will happen in the USA? Let's not even speculate. Think about getting one of these for a budding writer. I love the chubby rubbery grip and the sturdy feel of the design. Look, Mom, no clip!

Update: I accidentally stepped on the blue cap and cracked it. I tried gluing the crack but it still didn't make an airtight seal so the nib was always dried out. This pen is now in the Retired Pens Home for Assisted Living. If you have an extra Pelikano Junior cap, email me, because I really like this pen and don't want to toss it.

This pen is a terrific buy on Amazon, the Nemosine, which I've filled with a waterproof black Noodler's Ink. Two things I like about this are the shape of the grip and the screw-on cap mechanism instead of the clicked on cap.  And as I mentioned before, I like the clear demonstrator ink chamber. The nib is elegant and beautiful.

The Lamy Safari is a German entry-level fountain pen.  I own a pen which is a slight step up from the Safari, but similar to it, the Lami Joy, with a long tapered body and an italic nib. I decided to change out the nib to a regular Fine nib, though. The Lamy is a nice pen with great flow, but to me feels a little industrial and hard to grip. I love the big red clip though, it has a certain industrial vibe.

These are old, battered relics from my past. The white pen is my Osmiroid 65. I don't think the company is in existence now. I used this pen to ink drawings back in the 1970s and it was very precious to me. Same with the Pelikan black and green pens. If I were truly a nice person, or maybe just a person with a lot of income to throw around on pens, I'd send these to a fountain pen hospital and see if I could get them to function, but for one thing, the Osmiroid fills with an odd pump bladder mechanism which was neglected over the years and now looks pretty decayed to me. The other two just look generally wrecked. I think I filled these pens with india ink or possibly a Higgins ink.  The topic of ink uses up a lot of ink and I should write a separate post about inks, I guess, though clearly I'm no expert. Incidentally, I've read that you can now get nanoparticle ink, which contains pigments so fine that Brownian motion keeps the particles from gumming up the works in your fountain pen.


George Jacobs said...

Hi Linda,

I also love fountain pens. I still remember when I was about 10 when the black ink bottle I used to carry round in my pocket broke and I ended up with a massive black patch on my orange school blazer!

I now use Montblanc, as their nibs seem to be the firmest. Anything else just gets bent out of shape whenever I use it.

I seem to be the last person in the office writing with a traditional implement - does that mean it's time for me to "spend more time with my family"?


d-vallejo said...

Ooooooooo... nice post Linda. I love my Noodler. Somehow, it didn't even occur to me that they would have waterproof ink. Their ink is kind of pricey and it doesn't work on all papers but the ink I'm using for dip pens clogs in spite of the manufacture's claims.

I love drawing with the flex nibs. I have the reverse situation of George (above). The more flexible the better for me. In fact, I like it so flexible that I carry around a brush and draw with that.

Anyway... fun stuff

Linda Tracey Brandon said...

Hi George! You actually bend the nibs on fountain pens...? I doubt I could do that if I tried. I've wrecked a few, but I doubt I've actually bent a nib.

I can easily picture you in your office writing with a Montblanc. Everyone you work with is jealous, as of course am I.

Linda Tracey Brandon said...

Hi D! The "Bulletproof" Black Noodler waterproof ink looks the tiniest bit gray to me. Heart of Darkness looks... well, darker. I'm still playing with these inks so I'm really no expert. I'm thinking that if you want a totally dense, waterproof black ink you might have to stay with india ink and a dip pen. (I also have a dip pen collection but they aren't as exciting as fountain pens.)

I'm not surprised you like flex nibs! You should try using some of those "shaded" inks that change values slightly depending on hand pressure.

Anonymous said...

Glenn Vilppu (my drawing teacher in LA) has every fountain pen. He said to just skip them all and get a fine point Nakimi Falcon, refillable. Well, I bought two of them and every other fountain pen that exists. He was right. I wish I could trade all of my Pelikan, Noodler, etc. for one more Nakimi.

Linda Tracey Brandon said...

Hi Donna, I have Vilppu's Drawing Manual from a few years back - lucky you to have him as a teacher. I just watched the video about the Nakimi Falcon over at - wow - that is such a responsive nib... ! Thanks for letting me know about it.

Anonymous said...

You are welcome Linda. I hope you get one of the pens to try. Goulet's is great. I love their samples. I would try World Lux, Amazon and others for a better price. It should be around $130.

Love Glenn, yes, SO lucky. I also was in a class at Scottsdale (Bill Whitaker) with you many years ago (although a teacher there, you were being a student that week). I am the luckiest ever, now that I think about it.
Donna xoxo

Linda Tracey Brandon said...

I got the Pilot Falcon, it's so responsive! thanks so much for the suggestion. I still like holding those smelly plasticy-rubbery Noodler pens though.