So, I started with pens when I was a kid. I loved pens. I absolutely adored them and I wanted them, in all colors, shapes and forms. I really did. I wanted so much to become an artist, but well, that was not to be and the reality crashing down on top of me made me lock away a big box of pens and dreams, all together.
Then one day, I sort of rediscovered my interest when I found out that I couldn’t get my head around any good programs to do mind maps, keep all the ideas and comments sorted and easy to get a quick overview of. Hence, I simply picked a paper from the printer and the nearest pen and scribbled down some notes. It is far from the neatest way, but damned be evolution, few things are so easy as to take a paper and watch your notes to remember and get an overview of things. Once done, check it, store it or throw the bad ones away.
Was I alone in this? Would I become the laughing-stock of this modern age and app frenzy? Nah, I found that my hero, my idol – Neil Gaiman not only liked pens, he liked paper and he had written an entire book this way. Of course he did.
So, we newfound strength and also a newfound way to write, I opened that box I had stored away and pens. All those beautiful pens neglected.
So, what better way to motivate you than spending money on things? Well, beats me, but for me it works and I can get my inner nerd starting to explore new vistas. I read that this is good. Pick up a new hobby every now and then. So fountain pens, inks and paper was it.
Now, my journey, while not long so far or far from over – I have already encountered a lot I had wished I knew before I started out. Sort of friendly tips and ideas. I wanted to share a few of my ideas, thoughts and learning with you. I hope that you find them helpful.
What the hell are everyone talking about? Well, take a look here: https://blog.gouletpens.com/2014/01/glossary-of-fountain-pen-terminology , this page is a shop, but it is run by perhaps one of the shining knights in fountain pen world right now, Brian Goulet. I will tell you to read, watch and learn from this gentleman a lot throughout this piece, so well, get over it 😉
This two images (taken brazenly from Goulet’s Pinterest shows the anatomy of the pens.)
Find out the pen suitable for you.
I started writing, because I didn’t find a good enough program that could help me fix my ideas in an easily and clear way to see all my notes and ideas for my story writing. So, I got myself some paper and a pen and started. Then I realized I had a pen, a really nice pen. This is because of Neil Gaiman. He posted about writing an entire novel by freehand and that it changed his way of thinking and writing. He uses Leuchturm and fountain pens, so naturally, when you have no confidence – you mimic and wish for greatness to rub off 😉 My goal is mainly to find pens suitable for writing roughly an A4 or a few A5 pages at a time. So, for me, a steady enough pen with a good grip that suits my small hands is essential.
The state of the second-hand market, trading etc.
Where I live, you buy a pen, you keep the pen. It will either be a valuable and fond memory, or a blotch on your record that you have to pen down to your learning curve. Puns intended, even though I cringe reading them. This means that buying semi-expansive pens is an easy way to hold off buying the right pen. Since you won’t get shit back for your pens, unless they are Pelikan or really high value stuff, it is things you buy and get to keep or through like a ninja at someone and run away madly cackling into the dark night…
So, what do I want to say with this? Depending on where you live, the second-hand market could be a viable place to start to find pens for a great price, but it could also be a damned trap and if you want to sort through pens to learn your way around, it could become the path of an unwilling collector’s path.
You get what you pay for, to some degree.
Speaking of the money, in order to not quickly overspend, get a few pens. Try them and then set your goal on that one damned fine pen that could be the jewel in your collection.
You will to some degree get what you pay for, do your research and don’t trust the friendly guys selling stuff or receiving pens for free online too much. Nothing is really bad according to them, so take on the critical glasses and be critical. There are steel nibs, iridium point nibs and gold nibs. There are bad to good in each category. Gold is a different beast, it just is, and dude, it’s like gold so it is silly expansive. That’s not pens, it’s the damned metal….
Now, while the guys I refer to are a bit too friendly, in my opinion, you will find enough acid in forums to balance things out a bit. Try and listen to people’s experiences and as usual, if they can’t offer solid point pro or con, it may be to justify an expansive buy or the pen might just not be what they had hoped for.
Tinker or not to tinker
So, you got the pen in your hand, fill it with ink and starts to write. Shit, it doesn’t write like I wished it to. Do you, A return it and go off crying for the time invested and the hyperbole of waiting leading to naught? B You rip the pen apart, watching YouTube videos and adjust the tines, the flow and order mesh and whatnot online and fix it? Depending on those two, you’re either a tinkerer, or you are not. Make sure you know which you are.
If you are a tinker by heart – I strongly STRONGLY – suggest you search for videos on HOW-TO and buy really cheap pens to practice on.
So, we are getting to the more personal bits here. Please note that I’m no expert, I’m not paid by anyone and I’m not claiming that this is the best way. It is just my way – and my way isn’t complete yet. So, if you have points and ideas – please, leave them in the comments! I would appreciate comments and tips and tricks!
We all have them, and sometimes they are really tough to admit to. But top of my mind here are a few of mine:
Buying two pens of the same. I bought two Lamy Pens, same look just because I wanted one office pen that behaved like my pen at home. I should so have gotten another color at least.
Buying my Levenger Pen, which came out as one of my most costly investments, and being the pen I use the least and which I don’t simply like. A bit more investigation might not have saved me here since some online tests tells off different experiences with the pen. I had several dry starts and bad flow. The nib isn’t damaged and shipping, toll and all, it was an expansive pen, so one would have expected more from it.
I regret the patience of waiting and learning before buying, but on the other hand, two of my first three buys are the pens I really have come to like the most; my Italix Viper and Pilot Metropolitan. Sometimes, you are lucky – sometimes, not so much. Learn to roll with the punches and make sure you have a large ‘Shit’s fucked up and stuff’ account to put it in.
I get you, but it’s still not enough, who should I ask?
I would say – ask Brian https://blog.gouletpens.com/. Brian Goulet of Goulet’s pens is one helluva champion for fountain pens and a nice and great guy. He has a lot of videos showing how to treat your pens, how to clean them, fix them, properly change nibs, ink, converters, cartridges and why you should invest in a plastic syringe. Find him and his company on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest.
If you are lucky, there may be some place in your country that talks or even where people meet up and talk about pen and fountain pen as a hobby. Here, I’m still searching.
Personally, I find that only taking notes and writing for my own need to remember things or to simply try out ideas isn’t enough. I want to write more and well, explore the way to write a bit more. So, some goals:
To learn to write better
Now, there is no amount of money you spend on a pen that will make your writing suddenly become that much better. Practice makes perfect, with a 4$ pen as well as with a 400$ pen. So, to make practice, I am looking into incorporate some calligraphy or long style into my writing. Let’s see how that goes. Apart from that, I try to write something daily and try to concentrate on making my style easier to read, since well, taking notes is sort of pointless unless you can read it back later.
To learn what to write and expand that
So, with these goals, I have to figure out a way to not get stuck in boring routines and lose interest. So I have to start figuring out what and how to make this writing more frequent and rewarding. You can write quotes, lyrics, small greeting cards or simply something nice to someone you like. A nicely penned little note shows both effort and care.
My tips to those picking it up
Right, I have a few hard-earned lessons that I have gone through in my own time that I will share with you and hopefully I can ease some of you into this hobby. This is by no means a bible, nor the advanced wisdom of a guy on a mountain top. No, it’s more some friendly pointers of me admitting that my scatter brain wasn’t perhaps taking the most efficient road to start this hobby. Because you can spend money on it. If you get stuck in this hobby, you most likely WILL spend money.
PEN – PAPER – INK
Yes, those three is the Holy trinity – you won’t get perfect without the three being in harmony. The pen and nib will react and give different experiences depending on ink in the pen and on which paper. That’s it.
No more – no less.
You want to ride the train all the way, or at least far enough – this is the one thing you should learn and take to heart. Just buying an expansive Mount Blanc pen and fill it with cheap ink and write on copy paper won’t make you happy. Investing in some Clair Fonataine, Leuchturm 1917 notebooks, Rhodia paper or the cheaper Moleskin paper/notebooks will make a huge difference.
Get a Lamy Safari and buy
Lamy Safari is one of the best pens to start out with. It’s not perfect, it is not the best and it may not even look or even behave like the classic fountain pens. What it do have is a nice none wallet busting economy. It behaves well enough. It is a modular system, which means that even though the nibs shows some decent variation in the same size, you can buy a new nib for not much money and get to try how that style is. My suggestion is to start with a FINE nib size, get the Z50 1.1 Italic. This one for cursive text and calligraphy script etc. You can also try a broad nib. This won’t break you, but you will get a fairly good grasp of what you prefer early on, and now you can set your sights on that next pen and hopefully avoid some disappointments. The Lamy supports its own converter (a piston filler for using inks on bottles) and cartridges. This sucks, but well, it’s easy enough to find them at least. If you start, you may get stuck. LAMY has a nice range of pens and they do collectible stuff and yearly editions.
Consider yourself warned.
Decide what you want to write
Comfort, length of text, size and type of writing technique. Sketching, painting?
Why? Well, you want different grip and maybe even different inks. If you will go painting and try your hand at Manga – you may want to skip too many pens and head for a nib holder and lose nibs to start with and get iron gall inks, or Indian inks. Neither are fountain pen friendly.
Now, the kind of books or paper you want will also be different for what you want to write. Leuchturm, Rhodia, Claire Fontaine etc Notebooks can be somewhat pricey, and if you want to just write short pieces, a Rhodia A4 block of paper will be far superior. So, explore and question yourself. Now, you don’t have to limit yourself, and if you are as weird as me, you will soon have more books, troves of paper and blocks over the area too… I’m not judging you for wanting the same paper with simply another color on the lining or dots than the one you already have. Not at all.
Get a Pilot Metropolitan
Seriously, you will thank me. It’s a work horse, it’s a straight working tool and it show why the Japanese pens are so damned good. This is a in-step pen, can be had in several different nibs and colors and it’s a nice pen and great writer. Perfect for office or home.
Get a glass dip pen
Love your inks? Want to doodle but the flushing and rinsing of pens feel like a chore when you want to draw a happy smiley in rainbow colors? Get a glass dip pen, dip write, doodle, scribble sketch – wipe dip another color and on and on.
Don’t be afraid and ask Brian!
I felt so comforted by watching Brian Goulet’s videos on YouTube. It felt friendly, kind and informative all in one. Brian is my pen guru go to guy. He explains in a friendly and informative way everything you need to start the hobby, how to care for your pen and inks. He also ships worldwide and has a great website with gouletpens.com Don’t find a video related to your problem? No problem, hit him up on Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest, Facebook and ask away. He tries to answer, but can take a bit of time.
Right, so not so you think I have a bro-crush on Brian (well maybe a small one 😉 ) here are two other fine gentleman in the hobby!
And yes – only guys. I’m sorry, but I have not found anyone doing quite the reviews like they do, but I do follow some really talented female artists on Instagram and Pinterest. Still, the search goes on. Here’s an opportunity for you to help out, link to good reviewers! 🙂
Don’t be a square – get lively!
Don’t be afraid to go for shiny bright colors. These are inks and they will be OK. The dark ones have a tendency to just come out black with a subtle tone anyway. No wrong and that may be what you like, but honestly, how many shades of black do you need? Go for a coffee brown, a bright green, orange and try different ink manufacturers, because that’s the next long and big and scary step. The huge and vivid world of all these wonderful and marvelous inks that makes your writing, doodles, scribbles and illustrations come to vibrant life.
I really want to stress this, because well, some inks really will put a smile on your face as you try them out. Don’t squander that opportunity to bring a bit of craziness into your life!
Don’t worry – have fun
Finally – don’t let details drag you down. Have fun, be creative and enjoy yourself. There probably is a science and logically explanation for things, but it is as much your experience. No, it IS your experience. It is a part of you put down on the paper and graciously MAY share with others.
So again, take this last advice to heart – have fun and when you will try something new you don’t know is safe for your pen – use a cheap China pen for a dollar or two. Keep a few around – use them to experiment on – not your finest pens.