Saturday, March 30, 2013

Fountain Pens!

A couple weeks ago in chem lab, I noticed that my lab partner was writing in her lab notebook with a fountain pen. A fountain pen?? I thought those had died out decades ago! But no, she was writing with a bona fide fountain pen. It was beautiful.

For a week starting that afternoon, I spent all my free time researching fountain pens on the internet. My lab partner had recommended as a good source of pens, ink samples, and information. From there I found a whole fountain pen community on the internet. There are forums, blogs, stores... All the things I had come to expect from the internet foodie community, I found for fountain pens. I learned about proprietary cartridges, cartridge converters, and converting cartridge pens to eyedropper pens. I saw a range of 3 dollar disposable fountain pens to pens worth hundreds of dollars and inlaid with Japanese lacquer. 
From pens I went to paper, and I read about super smooth French Clairefontaine paper that weighs 90g per square meter. I read at least 30 various notebook reviews. I found writing samples of different pens and inks on different papers. It was an obsession.

Finally, I deposited my paychecks and bought everything I needed to start my fountain pen experience: a $4 Fine Platinum Preppy, three ink samples (Noodler's Blue-Black, Private Reserve Purple Ebony, and Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrun) and a Clairefontaine notebook. 

The Platinum Preppy
The Preppy's nib
The Preppy came with a cartridge of purple ink.
After reading about the ink that comes with the Preppy and being disappointed by its quality, I decided to not use the cartridge right away.  Instead, I did an "eyedropper conversion" so that I could use better inks. I got some silica grease from my lab partner and now I use the barrel of the pen to store ink! I used a syring to fill the pen with Noodler's blue-black ink.

2mL ink samples from Goulet Pens
10mL blunt tipped syring for dispensing ink
Now I had a working pen! Writing with a fountain pen is cool because I barely need to put any pressure on the paper to write. The ink just flows. Naturally, I then needed to test this pen everywhere. I first tried out the fancy French paper.
Clairefontaine's A5 "Basic Life. Unplugged" Notebook
It is clothbound!
Clairefontaine paper is well known in fountain pen circles for its smooth surface and absorbance. It is supposed to have minimized feathering (little spikes around lines) and minimized bleed through. I was not disappointed. I tested the paper with all the pens I could find in my room:
Various pens
No see-through!
A cool part of using fountain pens is shading. Shading is the effect of having different parts of letters have different amounts of ink. On the picture below, some strokes are lighter and more blue/green, and others are closer to black.

Close ups of the various pens are here

I also used my fountain pen on more standard papers. My "Evidence Ampad" recycled paper notebook actually fared very well. It had little bleed through although it did have some feathering.

Thin printer paper did not have as smooth strokes. Notice the feathering on the f. 

In conclusion, the platinum preppy is a fun pen to use, the ink I got has pretty shading, and fancy paper is nice but not necessary. However, I do find the lines a bit thick. After a bit of research, the most thin but reasonably priced fountain pen I could find is the Pilot Penmanship with an Extra-Fine nib, it is the next pen I will get. It has a nice looking clear barrel that could be converted to an eye-dropper pen, although I might get a cartridge converter to keep it cleaner. Cartridge converters are basically refillable cartridges that can be used with any ink.  

Now I want to go back to writing on random different types of papers with my Preppy pen :)

(Actually, I'm going to work on chem homework...)

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


Sometimes you just need a bowl of sweet, pink, grapefruit to get you through Ecology homework.