A fountain pen is a pen with a metal nib that is filled from the inside with liquid ink, either from a cartridge or from a bottle.

You will recognise it by looking at the characteristic nib. Some may associate it with times past, but as a matter of fact the fountain pen still is a very popular writing tool. Maybe because the feeling when writing is something special, or that the fountain pen is linked to nostalgia and luxury.

So why buy a fountain pen? Fountain pens are made to last, and may include several details in fine materials. A more expensive pen often means a more complicated design or an extra soft writing experience. Some people indulge in expensive watches or bags, so why not indulge in a more luxurious pen? On the other hand, if you do not want to spend too much money there are many priceworthy alternatives which also maintain high class and quality.

Choosing nib and nib size

Maybe you have found a pen that you like, but gotten stuck when it comes to nib size. The most common nib sizes are Extra Fine (EF), Fine (F), Medium (M) and Broad (B). Some pens are available in many sizes, some are available in one or two. It is difficult to say what the size corresponds to exactly in millimeters, because it can vary depending on the brand. How wide the lines become also depends on who is writing and how hard you press down the nib.

So what size should you choose?

If you write quite small, Fine or Extra Fine is a good choice. The advantage of a finer nib is that it is less wet and may work better on paper that is not adapted for fountain pens. If your writing is normal sized maybe Medium is better for you. Because of it being broader, it can be experienced softer to write with. Broad is more appropriate for signatures, or if you want to see the colour of the ink more clearly. Something that is good to know is that fountain pens from Japanese brands (like Pilot or Platinum) generally have a finer standard size for nibs than other brands, like Lamy or Parker.

Are you left handed?

It does not have to mean that you need to use a special nib. Most fountain pens can be used by both right and left handed people. However, some people may hold the pen in a special way that demands a particular nib, that is why some brands offer nibs for the left hand. But as mentioned, feel free to try out a regular nib first.

Difference between firm and flexible nibs

The most common shape is the round nib, which produces even lines when you write. There are also so-called stub nibs, sometimes called calligraphy nibs. With a stub nib you can vary the line thickness. Both round and stub nibs are firm, meaning that they are not flexible. If you are interested in a flexible nib, some fountain pens may have them (they are sometimes called flex nibs), but you will find a larger variation among calligraphy pens (such as brush pens or dip pens).

Refilling ink

Fountain pens can be filled with ink cartridges or with help from a converter. You use a converter in order to suck up ink through the nib. Many brands have their own standard size for cartridges and converters, but some brands use an international standard. For more on this topic, and if you wish to learn more about refilling a fountain pen, you can read our guide How to fill a fountain pen.

You want to be able to use pigment ink, india ink or archival inks in your pen? Do not choose a fountain pen. Unfortunately these kinds of inks will clog your pen, and, in worst case, ruin it. Instead, use a brush, dip pen, or technical pen for these kinds of inks. You will need to clean your pen regularly, to remove dry ink or dust.

One last tip

Is this the first time you write with a fountain pen? Make sure to angle the pen a bit when you write, and always hold it so you can see the front of the nib. Do not push it too hard against the paper, or else the nib can become crooked. The ink is supposed to flow easily from the nib.

If you have decided to get a fountain pen – congratulations on a good choice! You will probably be able to use it for several years, and if you have got one with more durable materials it will probably survive generations. The fountain pen is a conversation starter and a craft, but most of all it is a dependable pen. Here at Pen Store you can find a wide range of fountain pens.


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