How I Almost Didn’t Obsess Over Fountain Pens
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- 4 min
A few months ago, I bought a fountain pen. I had wanted to get a nice pen for a while, but two things scared me:
- What if I lose the pen? Fountain pens are kind of expensive. A nice futuristic refillable pen, such as the Pilot Custom Heritage, with a plastic body but a 14K gold nib, costs about $250.
- What if I get the “wrong” one? Have you seen how many words I’ve written and hours I’ve sunk into learning about something simple, such as brewing coffee? I am certain I could easily do the same with pens. Apparently, it’s quite common to obsess over pens, and I am anxious about doing it wrong. I could easily imagine spending lots of money trying to find the right one.
After reading this excellent introduction to fountain pens, I settled on the LAMY Safari. I initially got a charcoal one, since it seemed the most neutral, but I recently bought a demonstrator version of the Safari (called the Vista), which has a clear body that allows you to see all of the pen’s lovely innards.
The not-so-early verdict is that I got a decent couple of pens for a beginner like me. The price was right, less than $30 each, and both pens feel great and look really nice. Part of the reason I bought these pens was for the tactile experience, and these provide a satisfactory one for me. One of the many variables with fountain pens is the size of the nib—the metal tip that controls the flow of ink. The Safari I ordered came with a fine nib, which I read was a good choice for beginners on a variety of different papers. (Yes, your paper matters, too.) However, when I ordered the Vista, I got it with an extra fine nib. Even at first write, I didn’t like it. It did make nice fine lines, but it felt too scratchy to me. The touch-and-feel wasn’t right.
I had considered buying a whole new pen, but then I learned that you can simply replace the nib with a piece of office or packing tape. I bought a fine nib for about $15 and the installation was a cinch.
As for ink, I really hated using the stock LAMY ink cartridge. Instead, I bought a converter. A converter allows you to buy a bottle of any ink you want and fill your pen with it. You’re not subject to using specific cartridges that are only made or licensed by LAMY. As for ink, I was intrigued on a message board about Noodler’s Ink. They make a ton of different colors and are best known for their archival-quality ink, which is important to me, as well as the smooth flow of the ink. I ordered a jar of black, and that’s what I’ve been using in my demonstrator pen since early September.
I also loaded the charcoal pen with a Burgundy ink cartridge from Monteverde. The color struck me because it would be great for grading, which I really made use of over the last month, but it would also be bold enough to look distinct for casual writing.
The only change I would make to my current setup is to look for blue-black ink. I’ve seen a few demonstrations of it, such as the Monteverde Blue-Black, and I like it. It looks vibrant yet unique, but it is still serious enough to look professional.
And if I make any drastic changes, look for me to spill some proverbial ink on this site about it.
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