Things to Know - Before You Use Your Fountain Pen

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This is one of those articles the user new to fountain pens needs to read and thoroughly understand before putting ink in the new fountain pen and trying to write with it. The fountain pen is not a ballpoint, gel roller, or roller ball, in the manner it's used, and is even more sensitive to pressure than the old felt-tips despite the metal "point." So where to we begin ?

The fountain pen, like the old dip pens, has a "point," in fountain pen terminology it's called the "nib." Nibs are delicate, usually made of a more flexible metal (gold), and consequently easily subject to unintentional damage, as well as abuse or neglect. Abuse can be anything from exerting too much downward pressure (as with a ballpoint) when writing, to an accidental drop of the pen and it land nib first. Neglect usually involves storing the pen with the nib pointing down and ink still in the reservoir, leaving ink in the pen when not used for an extended time or not properly cleaning the pen on a routine basis.

First, if you're new to writing with a fountain pen chances are good it will be a somewhat different experience. The pen will actually feel different in your hand, have a different balance, and may feel somewhat unfamiliar. This is typical and not a problem. Take a few minutes to get the feel and "sense" of the pen in your hand before you try writing with it.

Second, refer to the Penmanship portion of this site if you are unsure of the correct way the pen should be held in your hand. I routinely see people using all manner of contorted, twisted, uncomfortable, and improper pen holds that seem more like wrestling the pen than anything else. It doesn't take long to get into cramped muscles and discomfort trying to write from these positions. Worse, it often results in excessive pressure being place on the point (nib) of the instrument and, for the fountain pen, the result is usually a trip into the shop for repair. Begin at the beginning, learn the correct way to hold the instrument. It takes a little practice to adapt, but the results will be excellent and there's less possibility of damaging the pen.

The lefties out there need not worry too much. You can learn to use a fountain pen too, with or without the arm wrapping around. Some pen makers offer nibs cut specifically for use by left-handed writers. See the article about lefties.