How I Almost Didn’t Obsess Over Fountain Pens

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

LAMY Vista with Fine Nib

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.

Yes, there are affiliate links to Amazon on this post about fountain pens. Shop responsibly.

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