Christmas is approaching the goose is getting fat… some of us are gearing up and others merely digging in and trying to survive the season. But I know that some of us are already looking at the opportunity of introducing our friend/family to the delights of the fountain pen world. But what advice do we give to those just starting out and who might find the adjustment to using a fountain pen more difficult than they first imagine. Well here are a few pointers I’ve used with friends.
1. Relax – no seriously… A smooth writing experience, to a great degree, depends on the pressure one puts on the pen as we write. This has two elements. First is the way we grip the pen and second is the amount of downward pressure we then transfer to the paper. Most of us fall in the ballpoint conditioned generation and we often press way too hard on our pens. For using a fountain pen I would recommend purposeful relaxation for both of these elements. Relaxing your grip on the pen and easing off on the pressure you exert on the page will, as you persevere, really transform the way you experience using your fountain pen.
2. Technique – Using your whole arm for writing is good advice too. Many of us write from the wrist, (again thank you ballpoint pens…) But you will find that using your whole arm, writing from the shoulder, while maintaining a steadier wrist will help as you continue to write.
3. Speed – Almost without exception using a fountain pen will force you to slow down in your writing. As you take the pressure off you may find yourself speeding up a little. Try not to do this for the sake of legibility. Slow and steady wins the day.
4. Comfort – In order to write successfully with a fountain pen you need to experiment a little with a couple of different pens. I recommend the Pilot Metropolitan as a great starting pen (aka the Pilot MR in the UK). Things like pen size, weight, barrel shape and diameter, will all have a bearing on whether a particular pen is comfortable. For example I just can’t get along with the Lamy Safari/Al Star, barrel shape and grip. I find them uncomfortable (among other things)
5. Nib – this too might appear obvious but it is still worth mentioning. Generally the wider the nib the smoother the writing experience, but this has to tempered by the way you write. It’s no good going for a broad nib when your writing is too small. A good way to know if a nib size is right for you is the lower case ‘e’ test. Write a few and if the top part of the ‘e’ is solid ink use a finer grade of nib.
Later you may also want to experiment with particular nib grinds, italic, oblique etc which can further enhance the writing experience
6. Practice – Theres no shortcuts folks. Buying a fountain pen will not improve your handwriting on any real and sustained basis without practice. Do try and make your fountain pen your default writing instrument.But this part of the fun and the hobby.
7. Paper – Paper really is important in terms of using a fountain pen. Nasty paper will mitigate your pleasure. Good papers are not necessarily expensive though but will also vary, some are coated and smooth others toothy with a lot of feedback, so try some out and choose wisely
8. Ink – The final part of the writing trifecta (pen , paper, ink) Inks vary in their properties. Some are free-flowing, particular;y lubricated inks, this may help or hinder, the only thing is to try different ones. If you have friend who use inks why not try an informal swap and check out other options. I personally recommend brands such as Diamine, Rohrer and Klingner, Kaweco, Sailor, Pilot etc depending on your budget.
Note: please try to avoid pigmented or calligraphy inks if you can in your fountain pen, stick to dye-based inks in the main, trust me on this…
9. Links – Ok this isn’t a point but I thought I’d recommend a couple of links. First, Stephen Brown, SBRE Brown on YouTube, a great guy does great YouTube videos on all aspects of fountain pens. Here’s one on how to improve your handwriting with fountain pens.. Second is Brian Goulet from Goulet Pens is another great guy who has great videos, including a brilliant fountain pen 101 series as well as some great reviews and Q&A. Here’s one of my favourites…
Well, there you go, hope this helps, please feel free to comment, argue, send me money 😉 etc