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Earlier this year I attended my very first pen show. I learned a lot, but mostly I learned that I needed to spend a lot more time figuring out what I wanted from a writing implement before I could really invest myself into the world of fancy fountain pens. Since then, I’ve grown my collection of fountain pens by trying out some low-end, low risk models. I thought I’d share my full collection, and my thoughts on each.
Penatia Fountain Pen, by Cross
This is the pen that started it all. Before I received this as a gift, I was very into inkier pens of the rollerball variety, and I’ll admit that I was a bit intimidated by this gorgeous pen. I was afraid I would do something wrong, destroy the nib, explode ink everywhere – I’m not quite sure what. Once I started using this pen, though, I was instantly converted. It writes so smoothly and is so easy to refill. I even dropped it, nib down, once, and it was perfectly fine. This is easily my favorite pen. Caked with ink and scratched all over, it is my most used pen. I typically keep it stocked with a bright color for grading and editing.
Sheaffer Snorkle Pen
This pen I inherited, and learned about both from a pen-seller at the Pen Show, and from some information given to me by my brother-in-law, who is quite the pen aficionado. I’ve cleaned it as thoroughly as possible, but I still haven’t managed to fill it.
I followed these instructions to the letter, but there’s either something off about the pen itself, or my technique. I hope it’s the latter, but even if the pen has snorkeled it’s last, it’s one of my favorites.
Parker Fountain Pen
This is a lower-end Parker. My dream is the top-of-the-line Parker Sonnet, but rather than leap wildly to the high-end version, I thought I’d start with something a little more affordable to see how I felt. I love this pen – the writing is smooth, and the fine point nib makes it a great note-taking pen. I use it for my regular writing. The only issue is that with the cap stuck on the back end, the balance feels a little off, and my hand cramps a bit after a long writing session. That’s easily solved by taking the cap off for writing, though.
These are great pens for traveling. They’re cost effective, and surprisingly high quality. I purchased a set of four, but I’ve only been using one regularly. The nib is a little off-kilter, but it still works great. I learned from these pens that I really don’t need anything terribly fancy to feel like I’m working with something fancy.
Highly Stylized JinHao Pen
This is a beauty. It feels great in your hand, and for such a pretty pen, it’s very cost effective. It’s great for travel, and is weighty but nicely balanced. This really makes me feel grand and important when I pick it up, which is a great feeling when writing poetry especially. This exact pen doesn’t seem to be available on Amazon anymore, but this would be a nice substitute.
Harry Potter Quill
I got this pen on my trip to the Harry Potter Theme Park at Universal Studios last year. It’s so cute, but I am absolutely dreadful at writing with it, even though it has a nice metal nib.
I think there’s a trick I haven’t mastered. I love the little stand that came with it, though, so it can sit out on my desk to remind me to practice with it every now and then.
I mostly use a red/maroon Diamine ink for grading, editing, and taking notes in the margins of articles, and a black Parker Quink for regular writing.
Occasionally I like to branch out with a bright red, a bright blue, or a brown. And I always keep a few extra black cartridges on hand in my bag for my travel Jinhaos.
For Christmas this year, I received a lovely chocolate brown Royce leather case (similar to this one), just big enough to hold two fountain pens. It keeps the pens from getting scratched up, and makes it much easier to find them when I need a pen.
Actual Feather Quill
Last year, I visited the old schoolhouse at the Hagley Museum and Library, where I also toured the property and visited their 19th century machine shop. Set up in front of each chair of the desks were feather quills, ink pads, and handwriting worksheets. I didn’t get to add one of these quills to my collection, but I thought it would be fun to share my thoughts here.
If I thought using a metal-nibbed quill was difficult, I would have to classify writing with an actual feather quill as impossible, or at least highly dependent upon the quill itself. Because they were hand made from actual feathers, the tips were all vastly different – some were sharp and well suited to writing, and some were wide and flat, dripping ink everywhere. You would have to become quite adept at quill maintenance if this was your primary writing tool. And I thought having to rinse out my nibs every so often was a chore!
This collection should probably keep me for quite a long while, at least until I’m ready to splurge on the Ryan Krusak pen of my dreams. If anyone out there has a favorite pen to suggest, I’d love to hear about it in the comments.