A fountain pen is a nib pen that, unlike its predecessor (the dip pen) contains an internal reservoir of liquid ink. The pen draws ink from the reservoir through a feed to the nib and deposits it on paper via a combination of gravity and capillary action. Filling the reservoir with ink may be achieved manually, via the use of a Pasteur pipette (eyedropper) or syringe, or via an internal filling mechanism which creates suction (for example, through a piston mechanism) to transfer ink directly through the nib into the reservoir. Some pens employ removable reservoirs in the form of pre-filled ink cartridges.
The Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru received a French patent on May 25, 1827, for the invention of the first fountain pen with a barrel made from a large swan quill. Petrache Poenaru (1799–1875) was a Romanian inventor of the Enlightenment era. Poenaru who completed his specialised studies in England, was a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, teacher and organiser of the educational system, as well as a politician, agronomist, and zoo-technologist, founder of the Philharmonic Society, the Botanical Gardens and the National Museum of Antiquities in Bucharest.
While the earliest record of a fountain-like pen dates from the 10th century, fountain pens as we know them today didn’t exist until the late 19th century. In 1884, an American named Lewis Waterman patented the first practical model after supposedly having a sales contract ruined by a leaky precursor. Before Waterman’s version, fountain pens were plagued with ink spills and blots, and were unreliable and inconvenient.
The main problem of earlier fountain pens centered on airflow — there wasn’t enough. Fountain pens work by managing the rate at which the ink flows through the pen. When the pen is held at an upright angle, ink from the reservoir is drawn downward by gravity, and goes through the feed and to the nib in a controlled fashion. Unless air is brought into the reservoir to replace the ink as it is used, a vacuum will build up that stops the flow.
Waterman solved this airflow issue by cutting a series of three fissures in the pen’s feed. This created a capillary-esque mechanism that functioned by drawing ink into these small channels at the same time that air came back in over the fissures and entered the reservoir. The modern fountain pen was born.
WHY USE FOUNTAIN PENS?
- It feels better than a ball-point pen or a gel pen because the effort to write is way less in a fountain pen. It allows for extended periods of writing without fatigue. It’s easier to get in the flow, when using something that truly flows.
- It’s better for the environment: With a ballpoint pen, once you use it up, you throw it away. While you can buy disposable fountain pens, most fountain pens aren’t meant to be thrown away. When you run out of ink, just refill the reservoir and you’re back in business.
- It is economical: A lot of money is spent buying refills or replacements for the gel and ballpoint pens used. The ink meant to refill the fountain pens are super cheap and last long. Thus being economical and saving money in the long run.
- It makes cursive handwriting look better: Besides reducing fatigue, the light touch and flowing hand movements that are necessitated by a fountain pen make your handwriting look better. That said, my handwriting must’ve been terrible because the fountain pen didn’t make it look any better. The ones who maintained notes and topped the class had great handwriting. We even had like 5 marks for handwriting in school.
- It makes you feel superior (and who doesn’t want that?): One of the appeals of writing with a fountain pen is that it just makes you feel great. There’s something about writing with the same implement that Teddy Roosevelt and Winston Churchill used that makes you feel like a true scholar.
So, here are a few suggestions of fountain pens for beginners:
- Varsity Fountain Pen by Pilot: These are disposable, so you’re not going to get the “true” fountain pen experience with them. But at $8 for a pack of three, it’s a great way to give fountain pens a try without much investment. The big downside I’ve found is that the ink feathers on most types of paper, causing my handwriting to sometimes become less legible.
- Lamy Safari (This is my personal favourite): After lurking on several fountain pen forums, it became clear that the Lamy Safari was hands down the most recommend fountain pen for beginners. With a Rs. 2000 price tag, it’s a great reusable/refillable fountain pen for the people just getting started. I have used this pen and it’s UH-MAZING!
- Pilot Metropolitan: Right behind the chorus of recommendations for the Lamy Safari was the Pilot Metropolitan. It’s a sharp looking pen that writes well and costs Rs. 2,324.
Try these and tell me what you think in the comments!