Good advice and the best tips when buying a fountain pen
The world of the fountain pen can be quite overwhelming, if not intimidating, at first. For a layman it is completely unclear what is important when buying a fountain pen and what the side issues are. Fountain pens are available in all price ranges, with round or flattened nibs and so on. There are so many designs made of different materials that it quickly becomes dizzy. What exactly should you pay attention to when buying a fountain pen? Choosing the right fountain pen requires some attention and knowledge of the manufacturer’s jargon. Do not be discouraged. With some knowledge, you can buy a fountain pen that you or the recipient can enjoy for years to come.
- Four important criteria when buying a fountain pen
- The nib is the most important criterion!
- Write with flat nibs
- Anatomy of the nib
- The price
- The design of the fountain pen
- Is the ink capacity good?
- The best tips and advice applied in handy questions
Four important criteria when buying a fountain pen
When purchasing a fountain pen, four criteria play a role, namely:
- the nib (also called ‘nib’)
- the price
- the design of the pen (design and shape)
- the ink capacity (how long can I write with it?)
The nib is the most important criterion!
Anyone who buys a fountain pen as a layman is often guided by the appearance of the pen: design, color and shape. Indeed, the case is the sexiest and most attractive part of the pen. A beautiful fountain pen can radiate style and class, who wouldn’t want that? A fountain pen has become a “style statement” these days. It is synonymous with stylish and chic.
Of course, in addition to the design, the price and ink capacity also play a role, but the function of a fountain pen is mainly focused on the formation of letters and characters. The most important thing about a fountain pen is therefore the nib. After all, ink comes into contact with the paper through the nib to write letters or characters. Ultimately, that is what it is all about: a fountain pen is intended as a writing article.
It is good to know that nibs differ greatly from each other, depending on the job they have to do. This is expressed as follows:
- Pen nibs have several tip styles, such as a rounded tip or a flat (flattened) tip.
- Nibs are (semi) flexible or not flexible;
- Nibs are available in various sizes (from very thin to very thick).
In order to choose the right fountain pen, it is necessary to be able to decipher the language of the manufacturer: What do the designations and their abbreviations mean? The most common pen tip designations are:
|extra fine||EF or XF||for writers who write small and precise|
|fine||F.||for writers who write small|
|medium||M.||for the average writer|
|bold – broad||B.||for writers with great handwriting – for signing|
Dimensions of the nib may differ from manufacturer to manufacturer, while – universally – the same designations (abbreviations) are used. This means that the term “extra fine” can be a nib of 0.25 mm or 0.40 mm, for example. Since manufacturers have their own standard, dimensions in millimeters of the nibs have been omitted from the table. It is also good to know that the paper used also has an influence on the thickness of the line.
People with small or precise handwriting benefit from smaller nibs. Who a hefty ?? handwriting is more likely to opt for a pen with a wider tip. As an example, this is clearly reflected in EF nibs of Japanese fountain pens. The Japanese script has a particularly fine interplay of lines. Some Japanese fountain pen manufacturers even have super extra fine nibs in their range to meet that. With a larger nib writing some Japanese characters will not even be possible.
It is also important to take the speed of the writer into account. A fast writer needs a larger ink output and therefore a wider nib (higher flow). If the nib is too small, it may falter and scratch at a high writing speed.
A nib with a rounded tip
A rounded tip ensures smooth lines and is used for standard everyday writing needs. The size of the tip determines how wide a line can be drawn. A line will not get wider by pressing harder on the paper. Modern fountain pens have basically no flexible nibs. The design of the nib is such that it does not yield.
The resulting variations in nibs affect:
- The amount of ink that flows from the fountain pen onto the paper (the flow);
- The line width of the letters (style and size of the point).
Write with flat nibs
Flat-tipped nibs allow you to draw lines of various thicknesses. This is a quality that is necessary for the special art form called calligraphy. These pens are popular with bullet journal writers. Of course, a fountain pen with a flat nib cannot be compared with the properties of a dip pen. A dip pen has to be dipped in ink each time for writing or calligraphy. The flexibility of the crown (nib) of a dip pen provides an alternating play of lines (thick and thin). The flexibility of the nib of a dip pen allows more or less ink to flow to the tip. A flat nib on a fountain pen is not flexible. The flat nib provides the width of the lines and can be compared to drawing lines with a flat paintbrush.
Vintage fountain pens
Vintage fountain pen nibs have different properties from modern fountain pens, because the first fountain pens focused on a different writing need: writing thicker and thinner lines in the letters and characters of the common typefaces of the time. The fonts that were in vogue during the emergence of the first fountain pens are called “Copperplate” and “Spencerian”. The main characteristic of these graceful fonts are the thicker downward lines and thinner upward or horizontal lines. A fountain pen that must be able to write “Copperplate” or “Spencerian” should have a flexible nib. Only then can the lines vary in thickness due to that flexibility.
Special nibs are:
|indication||abbreviation||meaning||user||italic fine etc.||IF – IM – IB etc.||dimensions vary greatly per manufacturer||flat nibs give variations in the lines (like a calligraphy pen does)|
|Stub||S or ST||mm indication||rounder than an italic point, for line variation|
|Needlepoint||XXF EEF||extra fine point||only with Japanese fountain pens|
|Extra broad||EB -BB – 2B||line width about 1.2 mm||great handwriting and for line variation|
|Extra extra broad||BBB – 3B -EEB||line width about 1.4 mm||rare, gives many line variations|
|Oblique medium and oblique broad||OM – OB||nib descends to the left||helps to correct for abnormal pen grip|
|left hand||LH||medium size point||for left-handers|
There are also nibs specially designed for writing music (MUSIC). There are, of course, nibs made for non-Western alphabet types, such as Arabic or Hebrew. These shapes use thin vertical lines and wide horizontal lines and need a nib to do that. There are many more variations to think of.
Anatomy of the nib
The anatomy of the nib has actually not changed since its inception. It is an ingenious piece of technology that has stood the test of time. Figures A and B show the parts of the nib. Since a lot of information about the fountainpen on the internet is in English, the terms in the table are also in English. The table can also be used as a back support when purchasing a fountain pen.
|NL term||English term|
- The wider the gap, the more ink can flow to the tip;
- The teeth are longer with flexible nibs;
- The vent prevents the tip from splitting and allows air to replace ink that has been written off;
- The shoulders are the widest parts of the nib and give it firmness.
- Narrow shoulders make the nib more flexible;
- The print includes the size of the nib.
The price of the average fountain pen can in principle be traced back to the material used to make the nib. Nibs are generally made of steel (cheaper segment) or gold and have various colors (silver – black – gold). Incidentally, other special materials can of course be used. It goes without saying that fountain pens with a gold nib are more expensive to purchase than fountain pens with a steel nib. Fountain pens above a certain price do not get ‘better’ in quality. The price of the pen is determined at a certain point by its design, availability (limited edition) and the material chosen for the case.
The design of the fountain pen
Whether a fountain pen is comfortable to hold is a personal experience. As a rule, it can be assumed that women prefer a smaller pen and men prefer to write with a larger copy. After all, Dutch women have a finer build and smaller hands than the average Dutch man. The universal differences according to ethnicity also play a role in the right choice. A Dutch woman is anatomically taller than, for example, an Italian woman (but not always!). It is also not unwise to look at the manufacturer of the fountain pen, because they produce focused on the wishes of their residents.
Is the ink capacity good?
The ultimate purpose of the fountain pen is decisive. Anyone who wants to write frequently with a fountain pen every day has different needs than someone who wants to place a signature now and then. A converter makes it possible to use many more colors of ink than are generally available in existing ink cartridges. A converter is a reservoir for ink with a suction mechanism. Standard ink cartridges are readily available and easy to use. Some fountain pens have a kind of “pump” to transfer ink to the reservoir.
The best tips and advice applied in handy questions
All in all, answering a number of questions can reveal the correct fountain pen for the hallway to the store:
- Does the person write small and fine or large and robust? Do they write fast or slow? (nib)
- is the fountain pen for a man or woman and what is the physique of that person? (position in the hand)
- what is the fountain pen used for and in what language? (nib and ink capacity)
- which size table does the manufacturer use? (manufacturers have their own standard)
- how much can it cost and are there any preferences of the recipient (brand – vintage – trendy)?
Finally. There is one thing that is certain. A fountain pen is a great gift for a wedding partner, for the bridal staff, an anniversary, as a Christmas present, with Saint Nicholas or just for yourself. It is a lasting memory of a special moment, a personal token of appreciation or a ‘secret indulgence’ for yourself.