Why the tech columnist loves fountain pens

Blair Hanley Frank

I’m a gadget geek. I love having the latest, greatest thing (no, I do not have an iPad yet). Over this semester, though, I’ve picked up a new love for a particular gadget, or rather a family of gadgets: fountain pens. Before you start making assumptions about my writing instruments of choice, let me tell you a bit. Fountain pens don’t require dipping. You won’t find me walking around with an inkwell and quill around campus. Instead, these pens are often well-designed pieces of art made of plastic or metal, and have a means of storing ink beyond just a few lines’ worth.

They’re also the best writing experience I’ve ever had. Nothing compares, in my experience, to the smoothness and precision that a good fountain pen can provide. Ever since I picked up my first one, I’ve had nothing but good experiences with the pens that I’ve acquired. I was able to write for five hours straight with a fountain pen over spring break, without even so much as a hint of a cramp.

“But Blair!” I hear you say, “You’re the tech columnist! You’re supposed to be writing about computers and video games, not pens!” Well, I disagree. Fountain pens are the epitome of a technological experience. Each one has to be precision-made. While I do most of my writing on my laptop, it’s nice to have a writing implement I can take with me, along with a notebook, so I can quickly jot down notes.

Fountain pens even have a better impact on the environment: Refilling the same fountain pen saves the plastic or wood and graphite required by traditional pens and pencils. Plus it means that you can use a wide variety of inks. In the three pens I have inked right now, one of them has a red-black, the other one a grey, and the third a dark teal.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that my little primer here has provided you a significant enough impetus to look into becoming a fountain pen user. Where do you start? If you want just a taste of the FP experience without having to sink a lot of time or money into it, try the Pilot Varsity. They’re like any other disposable pen, save for the fact that they use fountain pen nibs instead of a traditional rollerball or ballpoint design.

If you feel like fountain pens are definitely for you, check out the Lamy Safari. I’m a huge fan of Lamy’s pens. They come in four styles: broad (the widest, wettest line you can get), medium, fine and extra-fine. Try one you think is right for you. (I’m a fan of their fine nibs.) The best part of the Safari is that the nibs are interchangeable. Want to try a broad nib where you usually used a fine? Just swap out one nib for another.

If you just want to find some more information, check out the Fountain Pen Network at fountainpennetwork.com. It’s a huge, friendly community of folks who love fountain pens and are happy to help other people who might be interested or need some advice. You can find me on there–– I’m “belril.”

So, I hope I’ve piqued your interest. If you see me on campus and want to give one of my pens a try, just holler. I’ll be happy to show you.