A Fountain Pen Hater Visits Inkophile


It’s true. “Michael” submitted a comment to my “Does It Hurt To Write? Get A Fountain Pen!” post that is the absolute opposite of my experience.

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.

Is this guy right? What do you think?

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  1. i would say it depends on your writing style. For me, fountain pens work best, but that is with decent to good paper (standard office tablet fare is totally hit or miss). Good fountain pens are not necessarily messy but they do not work unless they have ink. :) My experience is that pen, ink, paper, and writing style all play a role. So many of my colleagues hold their ballpoints, etc. in the most awkward looking ways. When they try one of my fountain pens, it forces them to hold the pen correctly in order to write. They find it is not comfortable to write with a fountain pen. Most have atrocious handwriting as a consequence. IMAO (in my arrogant opinion).

    • Thank you, Harold, for your reply. Writing style is very applicable but so is IMAO. :D

  2. There are many variables in writing in general to determine whether the experience is enjoyable. I am not going to refute the statement made by “Michael” because though both me and my sister learned how to write in fountain pens, she does not want to bother with it now, while I am almost obsessed with it. I have tendency to hold a ballpoint tighter than usual because how “slippery” (or some will say smooth) it is, so it is tiresome for me to write with a ballpoint. Less pressure is exerted while writing with a fountain pen because I don’t want to ruin the nib and I also find it easier to write when I have a lighter touch.
    So instead of giving a clear-cut verdict, I am going to say, it is just tomato, tomahto :)

    • Good points. For some people there is a learning curve to using fountain pens. I experienced a small one while my daughter did not. She took to them instantly. Also, someone with a heavy hand might kill a fountain pen while doing no damage to a ballpoint, gel pen, rollerball, or pencil. Again, these are good points.

      Despite having all sorts of writing tools available, when my hand hurts, it is a fountain pen I use. A well-balanced one only needs guiding. That isn’t nonsense but for someone who has little experience with fountain pens, especially quality ones, it might seem that way.

      • There is a period of adjustment to new fountain pen users, since fountain pens do write differently from pencils, ballpoint, or gel. Like you said, the balance for each fountain pen is different, so in that, there is another layer getting used to. It all comes down to personal preference. I openly admit that I really do not know how to use a ballpoint pen because ever since I started writing, I seldom used it.

  3. Different strokes for different folks. Bad fountain pens can be totally offputting to people who don’t understand those “leaky, messy things” are malfunctioning mechanical devices.

    All I know is ballpoints = hand cramps for me. Some of the fatter rollerballs are passable and I use them for items such as thermal paper. My fountain pens let me write 6-8 hours a day without hand cramps and use the inks of my choice to increase the flow and speed. But if I were forced into the accountant’s specials [F & M cheapies], I probably wouldn’t enjoy my writing the way I do.

    • Beth, now I know I’m in a time warp. Your comment arrived at 3:08 and I approved it at 3:07. It must be one of those wibbly-wobbly, timey-whimey, Doctor Who things. :D

      Indeed, there is nothing quite like a beautifully functioning fountain pen. The only other writing instruments I use much are my Levenger True Writer fiber tips and Autopoint 0.9mm mechanical pencils. Both have sufficient diameters to ease cramping, write at any angle, and glide across paper with little drag. I am unacquainted with a “fatter rollerball” so do make suggestions.


      • I have a few Visconti Van Gogh Maxi rollerballs, not to be confused with the newer versions of the same name.

        Sent from my iPhone

  4. I don’t write for a living, but jotting down information quickly is a large part of my work processes. As much as I love writing with fountain pens, I can’t use them at work. I wish I could, and even purchased a color coded set of Lamy Safari pens for just that, but they are too messy and unforgiving for my hand. So I jot with a ball point for work, and write with a fountain pen for pleasure.

    • Too bad the Lamys didn’t work out for you. Have you considered selling them?

      Using a cheap ballpoint at work has the advantage of being easy to replace as well as making paper quality irrelevant. Jotting quick notes is how I use my mechanical pencil. It’s always primed and ready for action. ;)

      • Sell them? No way! Just because I can’t use them for work doesn’t mean that I don’t want them. I love all my pens (way more than I need) and enjoy every opportunity that I get to use them. I use them for journaling, creative writing, and note taking in a less stressful environment than work.

        • Whew! The four on my desk are relieved to hear their brethren are happily engaged.

        • Have you tried some of the fast drying inks?

          • Wayne, I tried an early version of one fast frying ink a few years ago. It was so-so. They’ve probably improved considerably in the interim. Have you any experience with them?


          • No, but it probably wouldn’t matter. I think it’s more about the way I write/script and use pens than the ink.

  5. //the idea that a fountain pen can write with just the weight of the pen is nonsense, //

    As a manufacturer of fountain pens, and someone who tests each nib prior to shipping, I can tell you that this is false.

    • Thanks for setting the record straight, Brian.

  6. From @drgoretex on Twitter:
    Funny. Used to use ballpoint all the time – I had chronic pain in hand and wrist. Started using FPs, and no pain at all since.

  7. If a fountain pen did not write with just its own weight, then the pen (nib and feed) were not properly adjusted. And that is a key point–fountain pens can be adjusted whereas ball pens and rollers cannot.

    I wished Michael could attend one a pen clinic by some nibmeister from Sailor or Pilot (those are the ones I know first hand) to have his pens fixed.



    • Bruno, “Michael” abandoned fountain pens in 1969 but your point is well taken. If a fountain pen does not work well, it should be adjusted by a professional. The guys from Sailor and Pilot can do amazing things with a nib. What a treat to go to one of their clinics!


  8. I too left school around that time, forced to use a messy, cheap, Platignum? fountain pen. Hence I left hating them.

    I now write with one daily. No mess (except when i clean it) and I get pleasure from writing, which I don’t remember even with good biros?

    I think the memory is one of those variables!


    • heh. yeah I left school that year too, and messy Platignums, and later, for being good, a Parker. Also messy.
      But my pen regularly rolled off the desk and fell on the nib – bending it/them. So I had bent back nibs with wobbles that never wrote well.
      Later in the 70’s I went back to fountain pens when I got a Parker 25 – which I still have – because stainless steel doesn’t bend like that. :-)

      Recently got an Al-Star & nexx for my birthday and I am very happy with them. (1.1 stub & EF respectively).

      • Glad to see you weren’t put off by your early experiences. My first pens were stinkers, too. Once I discovered quality pens, there was no looking back. Hope you like the Lamy. The nibs can be very good especially for the price.

  9. Although I admittedly don’t own a fountain pen yet, I believe your ballpoint pen loving poster is misguided. I’m a writer and an illustrator, so any pens I have also get used for sketching–and I tend to have a very light hand. Ballpoints are the definition of terrible, if you don’t naturally apply a lot of pressure. They blob all over the place unpredictably, the amount of pressure required to write both causes hand cramps and indents the paper enough that it’s impossible to do anything useful with the backside. Sketching? Forget it. Ink doesn’t flow freely enough. And on top of that, you get blue crap on the side of your hand where it came in contact with the viscous ink that never dries, which inevitably gets transferred onto the next clean sheet you start. Downright irritating. At the moment I favor needlepoint pens for both writing and drawing; as soon as the tip comes in contact with the paper the ink just flows out, no pressure required, and variable line width based on hand pressure and angle of pen to paper is achievable. Pilot precise v5 and v7, and the Bic Z4 (if they still make it) are nice. I’m honestly surprised that there’s such a narrow selection of needlepoint pens on the market.

    • Thank you for the detailed comment, chrom3heart. You brought up an annoying issue with ballpoints that is worth mentioning. I have a couple of Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens. One is 0.25 and the other is 0.3. The lines they produce are incredibly fine but the ink takes forever to dry. Not that some fountain pen ink doesn’t have the same problem, but there are many that dry almost immediately. That’s a real plus for many of us.


      • If you’re looking for a needle point to sketch with, check out the Falcon nibs. I believe there’s a review on this blog somewhere. Because they’re flexy, you can go from lettering the size of the motto on a penny to wide, swooshing lines. Then choose the ink you want. There’s another blogger out there who does watercolor washes using Herbin fountain pen ink.

        On Mon, Oct 22, 2012 at 3:37 PM, An Inkophile’s Blog wrote:

        > ** > inkophile commented: “Thank you for the detailed comment, chrom3heart. > You brought up an annoying issue with ballpoints that is worth mentioning. > I have a couple of Pilot Hi-Tec-C pens. One is 0.25 and the other is 0.3. > The lines they produce are incredibly fine but the ink ta” >

        • Good point, Beth. There are writing samples attached to various posts but only one review of the Namiki Falcon. It’s a good pen for drawing since it can produce various line widths. It’s a fun pen regardless.


          • Thanks guys, I’ll definitely look into the falcon nibs. Quick drying is a definite plus, although I have gotten accustomed to holding my hand out of the way.

            J. Herbin inks behave beautifully when used as watercolor, though I wouldn’t do linework in anything water-soluble.

  10. I write most everything with a JetStream ball point, a simple recording of words.

    When I want to express an emotion, best wishes, congratulations, condolences, how are you, etc., only a fountain pen can draw my feelings.

    • Elena, where do you buy your ball points? Does the ink dry quickly?

      • Jet Streams at Jet Pens. Ink is butter smooth, dark, dries quickly, light and water resistant. I especially like the multi pens. Pick up one pen, and click your choice of color, or pencil.

        • Good to know. The Uniball Jetstream looks like a good prospect.

          • I don’t like ballpoints at all. Writing with them makes me angry. The Jetstream is pretty much the only exception to that rule. I like the big, fat Monteverde refills okay, too.

  11. If you share a passion of handwriting, there is no other way then writing with an fountain pen on a good sheet of paper. I like this very special sound and sometimes i like to look on the shiny surface of the wet ink.

    • I like your avatar, Michael. :)

    • +1 on the ‘good sheet of paper’. Even a good pen feels not so good when the paper is cheap and thin and rough. Put the two together and it makes writing a real pleasure.

      • I like the sensation of writing on cheap, rough paper with a smooth-nibbed FP and an iron gall ink. There is more tactile feedback than with smooth, expensive paper. The IG ink dries quickly and rarely feathers. Plus there’s the amusement of ‘getting away’ with a combination that shouldn’t really work. Then again, it’s good to use quality paper too.

        • Thanks for the smile-eliciting comment, David.

  12. [...] A Fountain Pen Hater Visits Inkophile It’s true. “Michael” submitted a comment to my “Does It Hurt To Write? Get A Fountain Pen!” post tha [...]

  13. Reblogged this on inginkpen and commented:
    I think everyone needs to do what is right for themselves. I have every computer overuse syndrome there is, so hand writing is a relief.. However, I prefer fountain pens because they have less drag on the paper than ball point pens. I also find relief I with using more than one pen as I need relief from gripping a pen. A simple change from a Namiki to a Sheaffer will give me many more minutes of writing time. Then, of course, a change in ink color is just a delight to the eye.

    • Well said, Ingrid!

  14. I always found it easier to write with fountain pens…my friends kind of don’t understand why I need so many. For some strange reason, I have always liked writing with one, and the ease of it. As if ink just flows out more easily, and there isn’t too much effort to write. ballpoint pens require pressure, and a ways of holding…and most often, my handwriting becomes loopy and small due to the rush.

    I’ve loved it before, and I still love it now… and it looks like I will never NOT love it. :-)

    different strokes for different folks, always.

    • Steffy, isn’t using a fountain pen elegant? Often I write words just for the pleasure in it. The only other writing tool that comes close for me is the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen. It is more supple than a fountain pen but also harder to control. When I want to write words, nothing beats a fountain pen. But you’ve already figured that out. :)

  15. I am obsessed with writing, I love writing with a fountain Pen the most but what I have noticed from all the fountain pens that I have bought is that they don’t write nicely at all and you have to hold them in a certain way to write and most of the time they don’t feel smooth on the paper, sometimes scratchy even as you write.

    I have noticed that certain paper can be very unforgiving to fountain pens, the ink absorbs poorly and the pen does not glide at all, I usually polish the tip of the pens with a small power tool and adjust the ink flow with a knife edge graver by opening the tines a bit to truly make the pen write so smooth like nothing else and under the slightest pressure as well but like I said I am obsessed, a good gel pen can do the same for way less effort and may suit you better, I can’t explain the frustration of losing a pen after so much effort. Losing a gel pen its nothing but a minor inconvenience haha.

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