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Does It Hurt To Write? Get a Fountain Pen!

10/19/2012

If you experience hand or wrist pain, a fountain pen could make your life easier. There is no need to press down even slightly when the pen, ink, paper combination is in harmony. That reduces stress and drag making it possible to write longer and more enjoyably. But which products will produce this writing experience?

Inks that flow well or do a good job at lubricating the nib can make a huge difference. Even so there is a need to match the ink to the nib to keep lines neat. Does that sound complex? Tackle the pen first. That may be all you need to improve your writing experience. Find one that glides smoothly but not so much that it gets away from you. If possible, test a pen before you purchase it. Pen shows offer a huge variety with knowledgeable vendors to guide you. Many pen shops are accommodating but make sure the salesperson understands what you want. If you wind up with a stinker that cannot be returned, work with a professional to get the nib adjusted. If all else fails, sell or trade for a more suitable pen. What doesn’t work for you might well be the perfect pen for someone else.

If you want to experiment, an economical option would be to buy a single Lamy Safari and try a variety of their replacement nibs. The wide range from EF to 1.9mm  is fun to explore and eventually you will find a sweet spot. For me it’s the 1.1mm though it did require some practice to become a favorite. Be sure to purchase a converter so you can easily try any ink. Cartridges can be used but need a syringe to fill them. The Kaweco Classic works only with carts but they do offer many nib sizes. It has a more traditional grip than the Safari that will suit some of you better.

Once you have a pen that makes writing enjoyable, experiment with a variety of inks. Over the summer my rotation was quite limited and revealed some standouts that improve nib performance including Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses, Ottoman Azure, and Eel Blue, Diamine Mediterranean Blue and Violet, and Iroshizuku ku-jaku. Many inks improve nib performance like Private Reserve Tanzanite so don’t feel limited.

Paper is the last thing I choose since most of what I have on hand is fountain pen friendly. Reducing drag is helpful so I go for very smooth paper preferably lined. Most anything from Clairefontaine and Rhodia will do. Much of what comes from Japan is good and my Staples Brazilian filler paper is working out nicely as well. Note that very smooth paper may slow drying time with some inks. Again, it will take experimentation to find the perfect match.

Of course, there is an exception. My daily journal is an Apica 6A10 that isn’t super smooth but rather a tad absorbent. It has a “soft” surface that cushions the nib and for me that works extremely well. It isn’t for everyone and the occasional sheet of paper will resist certain pens and inks. I can live with that in my journal since the writing rarely gets read. The size and form factor suit me perfectly so I’ll stick with the Apica but with reservations for anyone else.

Good quality paper helps but is less essential. Besides sometimes you just have to write on junk paper and grin and bear it. That’s a whole lot easier when the pen in your hand already makes you happy.

Wide Nib Fountain Pen Samples

Wide Nib Fountain Pen Samples

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14 comments

  1. Great post! I can write for hours with fountain pens, whereas I feel the strain with ballpoints almost immediately. Pens with interchangeable nibs are great. However, the Safari’s grip is just too uncomfortable for me. I have found the Lamy Calligraphy pen is a bit easier to grip, even though it still has the indentations.

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    • Erin, you reminded me of the Esterbrooks. They are on the small side and have the drawback of being somewhat hard to find but they can’t be surpassed for nib variety. Pen shows are good sources for them though I have bought mine from Ebay sellers with varying degrees of success. Best to get one that has a new sac but swapping the nibs is easy for even the newest of pen users. They are super easy to clean, too. :)

      M

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  2. Lamys are FAR too narrow for me. I need fat pens such as an MB 149, many Deltas (especially the lovely limited editions offered by Bryant at Pentime.net) and the Conway Stewart Churchills. Visconti offers another option with their Ripples.

    Too many pen companies seem to think the narrow bodies common to ballpoints are sufficient. I can put in an 8 hour day writing if the pen is fat and the nib is broad and wet. No hand cramps here!

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    • Beth, I agree the Lamy Safari isn’t for everyone. It took me some time to adjust to the grip but my daughter took to it immediately. Like you I prefer fatter pens but there isn’t much available for those of us on restricted budgets. Glad you chimed in with some of the more expensive pens that fit the bill. Thanks.

      M

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  3. Pity Clairefontaine don’t make loose paper (A4|letter) since theirs is such a nice pen friendly surface

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  4. I write for a living and I get through an A4 jumbo pad in half a day.
    This business of fountain pens being easier is a complete fallacy. Ballpoints require no more pressure than is needed to keep the tip on the paper and the idea that a fountain pen can write with just the weight of the pen is nonsense, I gave up the messy, inky things when I left school in 1969 and good riddance to them. Rollerballs and gel pens just fall between two stools and they are expensive to refill.
    I’ll stay with ballpoint or pencil.

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    • Check out this thread for replies to the comment from “Michael” and add yours if you feel strongly about it. The more opinions, the merrier.

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    • Tell it to my rheumatoid arthritis. I don’t write nearly as much as you but I cannot make it through half a page of A4 paper before the joints in the back of my writing hand begin to hurt.

      As to writing pressure I’ve tried the “just drag it” method with ballpoints, from Bic sticks to Schmidt 9000 Parker refills. Using only enough pressure to keep the pen erect the ballpoints leave a line that is substantially thinner, and thus less legible, than when downward pressure is applied. The same cannot be said of my fountain pens.

      I agree, however, that pencils can work well too.

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      • Well put, macaddicted. Whether coping with joint problems like RA, muscle pain, carpal tunnel or any other hand or wrist issue, writing can be a painful chore. On a bad day even holding a ballpoint as erect as needed and applying enough pressure to make my writing legible is too stressful. The Autopoint with 0.9mm HB lead doesn’t produce as wide a line as my stubs and italics but it is legible. A bold, fiber tip gives me another alternative especially since it is so forgiving of any writing angle. Depending on paper quality and ventilation, even a Sharpie can get me through the day. But a ballpoint? Perish the thought!

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  5. [...] true. “Michael” submitted a comment to my “Does It Hurt To Write? Get A Fountain Pen!” post that is the absolute opposite [...]

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  6. [...] Fountain Pens / Writing. Visconti Homo Sapiens Steel Midi  Ink Links Double Dose — The Pen Addict Ink Nouveau: Pilot…Plumera? FIELD NOTES COLORS:THE TRAVELING SALESMAN EDITION New Additions to the Family — The Pen Addict Omas Saffron, Extra Flessibile nib. Waterman Phileas Fountain Pen Ink Nouveau: Monteverde Prima Conway Stewart — Jaguar Limited Edition Channeling Your Inner Tigger: The Tiger Stripey Pen by Ken Cavers Ranga Model 3 (Duofold) – Black Polished Ebonite Ink Drop Soup: The Pilot Prera-Plumix Switcheroo Review of Dixon Ticonderoga Groove Monteverde Invincia Deluxe Does It Hurt To Write? Get a Fountain Pen! [...]

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  7. [...] Does It Hurt To Write? Get a Fountain Pen! « An Inkophile’s Blog. [...]

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  8. I must agree with this. I have tried using fountain pens and it is so smooth to use. No wonder, people from years back show how nice their penmanship are!

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  9. [...] Does It Hurt To Write? Get a Fountain Pen! If you experience hand or wrist pain, a fountain pen could make your life easier. There is no need t [...]

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