The best fountain pens come in different shapes and sizes to optimize ink flow and reduce hand fatigue. Moreover, the flowing ink in the barrel and comfortable grip lowers surface tension so people can focus on the script.
To improve your handwriting try using only the best inking pens on the market. But finding the right fountain pen can be tricky since there are several factors you should keep in mind. For instance, the size and shape of the pen can greatly increase durability and feel for extended writing sessions.
In today’s guide, we look at the best fountain pens available right now to help you make the right choice.
The History Of Fountain Pens
The origin of the fountain pen dates back to 973 when a caliph, Ma’ad al-Mu’izz, requested a pen that would not stain the hand while writing. A craftsman back then invented a unique pen with a built-in ink reservoir, which allowed him to write without worrying about ink spilling out.
In the 16th century, German manufacturers started to modify the original design and develop pens that required two quills instead of one. These pens used a cork to keep the ink inside the quill. The ink would only come out whenever the small opening of the nib was squeezed while writing.
As time progressed, this design was further modified and improved, giving birth to fountain pens in the 1700s which became very popular in England. Even during the mid-1800s, different brands and manufacturers continued to reimagine this writing instrument, leading to a wide range of fountain pens.
Most of the craftsmen started to develop fountain pens for gentlemen across Europe. They were also famous among wealthy aristocrats since they were a symbol of status and prosperity.
But in the late 1800s, another unique invention, known as the stylographic pen, became popular. This is because one of the major drawbacks of a fountain pen was that it required the user to have a steady hand if they wanted to write a beautiful script.
In addition, self-filing pens didn’t exist before the early 20th century and most pen manufacturers had to rely on the hand-filled production process. These manufacturers made several failed inventions before they could perfect the “safety” pen, which had a retractable cartridge system that held in ink without causing any leakage or spill.
Later, the ballpoint pen and rollerball pens started to grow in popularity in the 1960s, replacing fountain pens entirely.
Different Types Of Fountain Pens And How To Fill Them
Now that we have learned a little about the history of fountain pens, let us take a close look at the different fountain pens available on the market. Most fountain pens differ from each other based on the ink-filling system they require.
In this section, we have discussed some of the most popular fountain pen ink-filling systems and what makes them unique. We have also mentioned the advantages and disadvantages of each of these systems.
1. Cartridge Fountain Pens
Out of all the ink-filling systems, the cartridge fountain pen is one of the easiest pens to master, making it extremely convenient. Users don’t need to purchase a separate ink bottle in this filling method since the ink comes in a pre-filled cartridge. Hence, you can easily refill the pen by sliding the new ink cartridge into the feed slot.
The feed slot will instantly puncture the cartridge, which allows the ink to flow from the pen to the nib. In fact, this design uses the principles of gravitational force to pull the ink into the pen.
Another way to prime the cartridge is by pressing it down till the ink starts to flow. Once the cartridge has been installed properly, you can remove the cap and insert the nib so that the ink can flow smoothly from the reservoir.
- The pre-filled disposable cartridges are ideal for long-distance travel
- They are cheaper and easily available
- Quick and easy filling process
- Fewer ink colors are available
- Certain pens are only compatible with a specific ink cartridge
2. Eyedropper Fountain Pens
The eyedropper-style fountain pen was one of the most used fountain pens amongst enthusiasts since these models can easily hold a large amount of ink. Moreover, you can find all types of eyedropper-compatible nibs for various writing instruments, such as dipterous, rollerball pens, ballpoint pens, and much more.
While refilling this pen, there should be enough space between the end of the cap and the barrel. This ensures that the cap screws back perfectly on the barrel without spilling any ink.
- An eyedropper fountain pen usually has a large barrel to store large quantities of ink
- It doesn’t require a frequent refill
- Eyedropper pens are compatible with all types of fountain pen nibs
- You need to use a separate eyedropper to refill the pen with ink
- Eyedropper pens have higher chances of leaking out easily
3. Converter Fountain Pens
A converter fountain pen is similar to a cartridge pen, but it uses a small cylinder instead of a cartridge. The best part is that the converter is capable of using different kinds of ink and guarantees more versatility.
When it comes to filling the converter fountain pen, you will need to remove the section that covers the converter to see it clearly. You should check to see if the converter is firmly fixed in place before refilling it. Normally, most converters are threaded to the pen, while others are compressed and attached.
Once you have confirmed that the converter is firmly fixed in place, you can dip the pen’s nib into a fountain ink bottle. During this step, you must ensure that the breather holes are fully submerged in the ink.
You can then proceed to draw the ink from the bottle to the converter by either twisting or pulling the knob of the converter. We highly recommend you repeat this process several times until the cylinder is full.
- Compatible with inks from multiple brands
- It doesn’t require any extra cartridge
- Ideal for traveling
- It has a smaller ink capacity
4. Crescent Fountain Pens
When it comes to crescent fountain pens, they usually contain a small bladder, which is found inside the barrel. This design allows the pen to store a fountain ink without any difficulty but you cannot use it like an ordinary fountain pen since it works differently.
If you want to use the pen, you will need to twist the top part of the cap till it matches the bottom part of the pen. Similarly, you can refill the cartridge by pressing and holding the crescent section of the cartridge while the pen’s nib is submerged in an ink bottle. As soon as you release the crescent section, it will draw some ink into the pen, so repeat the process till the pen has plenty of ink in the cartridge.
- Easy to clean and maintain
- Has a simple filling process
- Compatible with all types of fountain pen inks
- Takes a longer time to fill the cartridge completely
5. Piston Fountain Pens
The piston fountain pen comes with a built-in piston which helps the barrel store the writing ink. For filling the pen, you will first need to ensure that the plunger has been pushed forward to the ink chamber. This will allow the ink to flow through the feed tube till it reaches the reservoir.
You can now place the nib into the ink bottle while ensuring that the breather hole is perfectly submerged. This will instantly help the pen draw fountain pen ink and refill the barrel.
- A piston fountain pen is capable of holding more ink
- Compatible with all types of fountain ink
- Easy to clean and maintain
- A bit more expensive than a rollerball pen
- The ink dries up quickly in the barrel
Fountain Pen Nibs
Out of all the different fountain pen components, the only component used for writing is the nib. The nib is usually connected to the reservoir, which supplies the ink whenever it is needed. Another interesting fact about nibs is that they come in different sizes and shapes, which include regular nib size, italic nib size, oblique nib size, and many more.
Since this component plays a crucial role while writing, you must choose a nib that suits your writing style. In this section, we have listed some of the most common fountain pen nibs and their applications.
1. Cursive Nib Or Italic Nib
This nib is specially designed for people who want to develop and perfect their handwriting. The nib has a wide and flat tip with a straight edge to provide the best line variation. However, this is one of the most fragile nibs, so you must be very careful while using it for calligraphy, as applying excess pressure to the nib can damage it.
2. Stub Nibs
The stub nib has a very distinct shape since it has a rectangular-shaped tip. This allows the nib to draw thinner horizontal lines and broader vertical lines, which are impossible on a round ball tip. Writers can use this unique feature to decorate their writing which makes them ideal for calligraphy pens.
We highly recommend using this nib if you are looking for a high-quality fountain pen that can deliver smooth lines. But practice plays an important role if you want to write beautiful scripts and develop a free-flowing style.
3. Gold Nibs
Most gold nib pens are designed with 18K gold because it prevents the tip from scratching the paper surface. Moreover, they are not stiff, which allows the writers to develop a flexible writing style, instead proving smoother and softer than other nibs available on the market.
While purchasing a gold nib pen, you should always ensure that it is authentic since there are plenty of counter fakes in the market. One of the best ways to check the authenticity is by looking for the 14K or 1C stamp. This can be easily found on the end of the pen and when a product doesn’t have an authenticity stamp, you should refrain from buying it.
4. Flex Nib
Flex nibs are designed to allow users to better control the pressure while writing. This ensures users can adjust the pressure for developing different strokes and lines.
We have seen this type of nib is compatible with calligraphic ink since the writer can adjust the amount of force needed while writing. If you prefer to write fast, we don’t recommend using a flex nib as it is designed for slow writers who prefer more ornamental writing, unsuitable for daily use.
5. Steel Nib
Nowadays, most modern fountain pens use stainless steel nibs since they are extremely durable and last long. Besides, if you compare a stainless steel nib with a gold or titanium option, you will find that it is cheaper.
These nibs don’t rust so you can preserve them for an extremely long period with minimum maintenance. Although steel nib pens are not very flexible, some manufacturers can modify them slightly, which allows people to adjust them easily depending on the pressure applied while writing or drawing. You can also find these nibs in various colors, shapes, and sizes.
6. Fude Nibs
This pen nib is mostly found in Japanese fountain pens and is famous in that region. Just like the Chinese calligraphy nib, the fude nib is capable of adjusting itself to different pressures and angles. This allows it to deliver precise lines and create a lot of detail while writing, making it ideal for decorative purposes.
Most people prefer to use this nib for painting but you can also use this nib if you want to learn the art of Japanese calligraphy. Even better is the fact that fude nibs are available in different colors.
7. Metal Nibs
Metal nib pens were quite popular in ancient Egypt because most craftsmen would make writing instruments out of bronze and copper. However, these metals deliver a poor writing experience as they are extremely rigid, which prevented writers from achieving precise strokes and details.
In the late 1700s, two British men invented the iron nib pen. This pen had a stainless steel nib which was coated in bronze and attached to a wooden stick known as a ferrule. People could easily replace the ink cartridges since they simply needed to remove the cap.
The design was further improved in the 1800s, making the pens more flexible and stronger.
Fountain Pen Feed
The feed of a fountain pen is an important part that connects the ink reservoir to the pen’s nib. It also helps regulate ink flow from the reservoir to the nib, which prevents the ink from leaking. A feed can further regulate the airflow within the fountain pen, thanks to a series of narrow channels that exchange air between the reservoir and the fountain pen nib.
Fountain Pen Types FAQs
When it comes to fountain pens, there are 3 ways in which you can ensure that it lasts longer:
A. Always Keep The Cap On When Not Using It
One of the best ways to prevent the nib from drying up or getting damaged is to keep the cap on when you are not using the pen. If you accidentally leave the pen uncapped, you will notice that the ink dries up fast. This causes the ink flow to decrease since the dried-up ink clots the nib and prevents fresh ink from flowing smoothly.
B. Don’t Let Others Borrow Your Pen
Unlike other pens, fountain pens immediately adapt to the user’s writing style since the nib structures itself to suit the writer’s needs. Lending the pen to another person for an extended period can cause the nib to restructure itself according to the other person’s writing style. The nib can get out of shape, and this can ruin your writing experience later on.
You can let a person borrow the fountain pen for temporary use, such as when they have to sign a document, But refrain from letting them use it for a longer period, like if your friend or colleague needs to write an essay. You can offer them a ballpoint pen or gel pens, in such instances.
C. Regularly Flush The Pen
Another important practice you should follow while owning a fountain pen is to flush it at least once a month. This way, you can ensure that the ink flows freely by flushing out any build-up or residual ink that is stuck on the feed or the nib.
Besides, you can leave the nib to soak in a cup of cool water overnight to allow the nib to get rid of stubborn ink debris and gunk.
The simplest way of cleaning cartridge-filled or converter fountain pens is by disassembling the entire pen and washing each piece under the water. Here is a simple step-to-step guide for cleaning a fountain pen:
Step 1: Disassembling
In the first step, we recommend disassembling the fountain pen into four major components. Notably, the four major components of a fountain pen are the lid, body, feed, and cartridge/converter.
Step 2: Wash The Feed Under Running Water
Since the pen’s nib is attached to the feed, you will need to use running water to clean it properly. Let the water run down the feed to the nib for a while, as it will wash off any residual ink-build up or gunk. Once you notice the water turning clear, you can dry the feed and wet nib with a clean cloth.
Step 3: Wash Other Components With Water
For the other components, you don’t require running water since they can easily be washed in still water. After you have cleaned the other parts thoroughly, we recommend letting them dry for some time. If you don’t let them dry, any remaining water inside the components can dilute the ink and result in other problems while writing.
Step 4: Reassemble
Lastly, you will need to reassemble the components and fill the cartridge or the converter with ink. You should also test the pen to see if it is working properly and if there is no interruption to the ink flow.
Normally, a regular fountain pen can be used by a left-handed or a right-handed user since it has a universal design. However, school fountain pens are designed differently since there is a specific fountain bed for left and right-handed users.
A prime example of a school fountain pen is a Scribolino as it comes with an asymmetrical grip zone which makes it easier for novice writers to adapt quickly. A further benefit of a school fountain pen is that it helps correct the writer’s posture and you won’t feel tired or exhausted while writing long essays or projects.
We do recommend you test the different nibs from the stationary store to know which pen is the best. This way, you can figure out if the pen is compatible with your writing style or not.
A fountain pen usually skips when the ink flow cannot keep up with the pen strokes. Many fountain pen enthusiasts call this phenomenon skipping, and several factors can cause a fountain pen to skip.
For instance, if the ink runs out, you will notice that the pen starts to skip and miss out on important strokes or details. Another reason could be damaged or misaligned nibs that cause the fountain pen to skip because the ink will not be able to flow smoothly from the cartridge or barrel.
Similarly, if foreign particles and dust block the internal components of the pen, it can prevent the ink from flowing freely. But this problem can be tackled if you flush the nib with clean water as we mentioned earlier. Some professionals also recommend using thinner ink because it doesn’t clot or dry up easily.
It is a common misconception that new fountain pens don’t encounter any problems, but this isn’t true. If the pen hasn’t been assembled properly, it may develop problems while writing.
Similarly, using the wrong ink can prevent the pen from working properly but there is nothing to worry about because there are plenty of ways to prevent such problems. The easiest technique is flushing the nib with clean water to remove foreign particles stuck within the nib.
You should also check the cartridge to see if the plastic seal has been broken properly. This will ensure that the ink flows smoothly from the cartridge to the nib while another way of fixing the fountain pen is by priming it. Simply hold the pen and ensure that the nib faces downward for around 10 to 60 minutes, which will help the ink flow through the cartridge to the nib.
Most fountain pens with self-contained ink reservoirs and cartridges are designed for writing purposes. But you can still learn how to draw with an ink pen, provided you choose the right pen and nib.
Reed pens were first introduced in ancient Egypt with a similar design to a quill pen. They were made from cut bamboo, which ensured they were flexible and easy to control because the design allowed artists to apply different strokes and edges.
Some artists even use paint brushes to draw objects with calligraphy ink, but it requires a lot of practice to perfect the art.
Fountain Pen Types Conclusion
Before signing off, here are a few tips to help you maintain and clean fountain pens more efficiently.
Firstly, always make sure to clean the nip of the fountain pen after you have completed an assignment. This prevents any residual ink from drying up and clotting the pen’s nib.
You can either use a clean cloth to clean the nib or place it under running lukewarm water if you haven’t washed the tip for a long time. Apart from that, we highly recommend using the correct ink for the cartridge since cheaper ink can damage the fountain pen.
Further ensure that the ink filling system isn’t blocked by any dirt or foreign object as it can interrupt the ink flow. The important thing is not to compromise on quality and purchase only good fountain pen brands for the best writing experience.
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Always check the expiration date of the bottled ink and throw away old ink because expired products damage the internal components of the fountain pen.