Saturday, February 24

Fountain Pens

Ever since I was in high school I have used fountain pens. As you can probably imagine, I have gone through quite an arsenal of them over the past three plus decades. And you might have guessed that I have come to have strong opinions about my favorites.

Montblanc’s Meisterstuck fountain pens are beautifully handcrafted (meisterstuck is the German word for masterpiece). They are made of black precious resin with gold trim and the finest, smoothest nibs available anywhere. Over the years I have owned a Diplomat (I still have it but hardly ever use it), a LeGrand (my favorite “good” pen), and a Chopin (alas, lost one dreary afternoon on the London Tube).

I have an interesting Montblanc LaBoheme also. Given to me in the exotic city of Jakarta, I always think of the East when I write with it.

When I want to write elegantly, I almost always reach for a Montblanc. But of course, I don't always want to write elegantly. Sometimes I am just dashing out ideas, scribbling notes, sketching furious impressions, or just making lists. For such pedestrian fare, I typically use a cheap, but fabulously well-designed, Lamy Safari (I have three or four of them).

Or sometimes, I will reach for the "best everyday pen ever made," the Waterman Philias (I have two).

The pen that I most miss using (I gave it away on a trip years ago) is the Cross Townsend. I have often thought about replacing it, but honestly, I have a hard time justifying actually buying these kinds of things.

I prefer a fine nib, though I tend to apply a good bit of pressure when I am first breaking in a pen to give it some "leading and kerning" depth. When I have to do a lot of correspondence or book signings though, I really enjoy the heft and breadth of a medium nib.

I know, I know, all this sounds terribly persnickety and peculiar. But, my pen is my "axe," my "tool box," my "instrument." And having a sharp axe or the right tool or a tuned instrument can make all the difference.


Jess Greene said...

You're funny.

Lawrence Underwood said...

Fountain pens are one of the last ties we have to an age of civility. They also just work better than any modern pen. I do a great deal of writing, by hand not computer, and I almost exclusively use fountain pens. My favourites are Pelikans. They have great balance, wonderful nibs, and they fill with a piston; thus I don't have to full around with cartridges or having adapters become loose.

Dr. Grant, I concur that they are definitely worth it. And, yes, the can make all the difference.

Matt B said...

You've inspired me to not only buy some Moleskin notebooks, but now to give a try to a decent "everyday" fountain pen. Thank you.

Matthew Bianco

Josh said...

I use a fine point for doing crossword puzzles, and a medium or bold point for most everything else. Fountain pens are one of perhaps 5 things that never have to be justified.

Michael R. Shipma said...

Fountain pens are the next best thing to dip pens. I am endeavoring to write more, but, alas, I still find myself held captive to the Egypt of my computer.

Jennie Chancey said...

I couldn't resist a comment on this one. I started using fountain pens as a teenager when I fell in love with the distinctive feel of nib on paper. I kept three "cheapie" fountain pens in my desk for years, then graduated to my long-coveted treasure: a Meisterstuck purchased at an Alexandria, Virginia, stationery store. I am romantic enough at heart to remember the pens fairly glowing in the light of the display case.

Now, the sad ending to my tale is that the Meisterstuck decided to leave me when, as a new bride, I moved to the country with my husband. I never found it, though I cherished hopes of seeing it again when I cleaned out old drawers or discovered forgotten boxes of stationery. Your post motivates me to replace my wonderful pen. Writing simply hasn't been the same without it. Letter writing seems a chore with a ballpoint....

Thanks for a fanastic post!

CPCC Pastor said...

What? Such little credit given to Waterman fountain pens? The Waterman Ideal, for instance? For shame!

The fountain pen was created by Waterman (yes, a French company, but we can't change that). My daily favorite pen is, like Dr. Grant, the wonderful Phileas (note the correct spelling!).

Thanks for the enjoyable post.
Dave Bissett, upstate NY

Lynne said...

What a wonderful post, George! My daughter emailed me from Denver when she saw it to make sure I wouldn't miss it.

Here I sit at my computer with a pocketful of Lamy Safaris and Lamy AL-Stars - all filled with different colored inks: bulletproof Noodler's, regular Noodler's, and a red Safari that has never known anything but Private Reserve's Shell Pink. (My notes on each Gileskirk lecture and each Sunday sermon get their own color.)

I've gotten most of my homeschooled children hooked on fountain pens, too, and they change ink colors whenever their pens run out. How beautifully colorful their school work has become!

I've loved fountain pens since high school (the feel of the nib on good quality paper is just elegant!), but only recently have I found a couple of places that actually carry a decent selection and fine nibs: one local (Pasquale at Pens International) and one in the midwest with an extensive website and friendly and personal service( I found these sources none too soon as my wrists began bothering me a couple of years ago and ball points simply exacerbated the pain.

I've begun appreciating good paper now and use French Rhodia and Spanish Miguel Rius tablets for my household and school to do lists as well as choosing journals more for their paper quality than a pretty or fancy cover. Add Noodler's bulletproof (waterproof and permanent with a cellulose-reactive dye), fountain pen-friendly inks and my grandchildren will some day be able to read my journals.

There's something about using a fountain pen that gives life a slower feeling, hearkening back to a more simple time.

Quick note: the pen you identify as a Lamy Safari is actually a Lamy Vista; we gave one to one of our sons for Christmas.