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When A Fountain Pen Just Won’t Do

02/25/2010

Have you got a minute? I need your advice.

Several companies have sent new paper products for review that are terrific looking but not so friendly with fountain pens. It’s a shame the paper isn’t accepting of bottled ink but it’s hard to begrudge companies catering to the larger share of the market. Well, not much anyway.

Still it would be fun to put a few of these handsome journals to use. That means finding something other than a fountain pen to pair with them.

Are you shocked? Heh, so am I.

Well, here’s another shocker. The Sharpie Pen crept into my arsenal last year. It works on any paper and unhesitating delivers a consistent if uninspired line despite weeks of neglect. It makes a great pen for my handbag while my pampered fountain pens remain safely at home.

However, gorgeous binders deserve something more upscale. Understated to let the journals take center stage and under $20 are my basic requirements.

So pen friend, what would you suggest as a non-fountain pen solution to complement a very attractive journal?

46 comments

  1. A nice high quality comfortable ballpoint pen. You can write nicely with one.

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    • Okay, but which one? Not all are created equal…

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  2. i like the pilot hi-tec-c cavalier pens and the slim-knocks.

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    • Thanks, Mabeloos. The Cavalier is new to me. It looks like a more upscale pen than most gel pens and there are lots of colors of ink. It even looks narrow enough to fit in a pen loop. That one is a good possibility. 🙂

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  3. MontBlanc roller ball. Even if you just hack the refill and put it in a G2.

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    • Thanks for the suggestion. Would the MB meet the under $20 requirement? A G2 lacks the understated look but it’s interesting that a MB refill can be made to fit it.

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  4. i had a red one. i loved it until i began using fountain pens almost exclusively. it’s thin but it gets heavy, so i leave it unposted. i dropped it once and the needletip bent, so i used another refill for it: i think a G2 refill, but can’t be certain (it was conical but fit perfectly). good luck with your (re)search!

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    • Unposted is fine but heavy might make it less useful. However, it won’t be needed for long sessions so I can probably live with that shortcoming. Using a G2 refill would be great since those are easy to find. Thanks for the tip. 🙂

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  5. Any good name will write well-Mont Blanc, Pelikan, Parker, etc. What matters to me is how it feels in your hand and how pretty it is to look at…to enhance the experience of writing.

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  6. The Pilot G2 Limited pen with a blue Mont Blanc medium refill is my go-to pen when I need a good ball-point pen. The writing is super-smooth, the color is nice, and it writes on most paper, cheap or otherwise. My only gripe is that after writing with a fountain pen for so long, I’ve gotten used to the fantastic Noodler’s inks, and have become a bit of an ink snob… 🙂

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    • Hmmm, the champagne or gold color is very nice and a MB refill would be a nice upgrade. Thanks for the suggestion.

      We are all ink snobs. It is an unavoidable result of falling for the charms of the far superior fountain pen. 😛

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  7. Oh I didn’t see the $20 thing, sorry. Typical grease monkey, don’t read the “instructions”. See my tweet to you.

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    • Here’s Rodney’s tweet for those who don’t use Twitter.

      No need to be high end or nice really, but that makes writing more enjoyable than w/ a pen like this http://twitpic.com/15bm25

      Thanks, Rodney. The idea is to find a pen that would complement a beautiful journal – not provide competition with features like wild colors or other “look at me” issues. Now if I needed a flashy pen for a plain black journal, there is no dearth of those to be sure. 😀

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  8. Before my love affair with fountain pens, I mostly used fiber tipped pens, like the Sanford/Paper-Mate Liquid Flair. They come in fine and extra fine points that write on any paper. They are easier to write with than a ball point and they are cheap.
    You can also go with Levenger True Writers that have fiber tip refills as well as the roller ball refills. Gel writers are also good for easy writing. Nothing beats a Fountain Pen, though and it’s a shame that some papers are just not friendly.

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  9. You are better than I. I’d probably do the review and then give the journals away if I couldn’t use my FPs. I have other types of pens that are just ok, but the entire time journalling I’d be yearning for my FP!

    If I HAD to use something else it would probably be one of the newer Sharpie Pens, the ones that click open and closed. Or I’d use a Dr. Grip gel pen. Or I’d use a Pilot G2.

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  10. And the Levenger fiber tip refills come in XF, F, M, and B….. so that IS a great option.

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    • That’s sounding better and better. 🙂

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  11. There used to be a pen known as an INK-RLLER, a hybrid funtain pen and rollerball-forgot the company name! Gernabm I recall.

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    • Must be unavailable these days since Google couldn’t find it.

      Fountain pen ink would not be my choice since the paper in question is not suited to it. Also, one of the benefits to ballpoints, etc., is that the pens don’t need regular use to keep the flow going. That’s perfect for my carry pen. It’s weird going out without a fountain pen but I’m working on that issue. One of these days I’ll conquer it. 😀

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  12. The Pentel Energel LR7 refills are great roller ball refills — smooth, good flow, nice color blue, and writes reliably on almost all papers. Try them in the Pentel Alloy RT / BL407 [available at Staples or Pentel store https://www.pentelstore.com/index.php?grp=3962&osCsid=c5965fb9e67a3233df712beea8e4f916 ] and/or the Pentel Tradio Energel [$8.50 at JetPens http://www.jetpens.com/product_info.php/products_id/5249 ]. Also isellpens.com sells a Baoer Skywalker rollerball [ http://www.isellpens.com/dewen.html ] in which the LR7 fits perfectly .

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  13. Visconti refills, if they fit your roller ball, come in lovely colors like sepia and arre available in broader tips than the usual micros that I loathe.

    Mostly, I give such products away to people who are happy with their gloppy stick by the gross pens and don’t waste my time.

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    • I hear ya, Beth. These journals are small and easy to fill when I’m out and about so compromise seems in order. Carrying a pen that writes not matter what is also a smart move for me. So this is a dual purpose pen. Might as well get something decent so I feel less compromised. 😉

      Great to know about the Visconti refills. That might sway my pen choice though not towards a Visconti. If I were shopping in that league, it would be a fountain pen for sure.

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  14. If you’re going to stick a Mont Blanc rollerball refill into a G2-style pen, be sure to get one of the models with a cap, as the rollerball ink is not a gel and will dry out pretty quickly if uncapped. I use the Pilot Execugel.

    I also love my Platinum Double R3 Action multi-pen with Hi-Tec-C refills: 0.4mm black, red and pencil – it’s a classy design, writes on most any paper, and is always in my jacket pocket.

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    • Another good tip. You guys have been very helpful today. 🙂

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  15. I should mention I got my Platinum pen from Jetpens: http://www.jetpens.com/product_info.php/products_id/1162

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  16. I have 2 ‘luxury’ pens (I’m a uni student, I can’t afford much!)
    The Pilot Gel-X 0.7 (smooth smooth writing)is good for more ‘menial’ tasks, I think it takes the same refills as Pilot G2? Not sure about that…

    and I have an old Parker rollerball which my dad let me have when he saw me ogling it – it’s from the old days when his work mass-stamped them with the company name. Well, he actually just gave me the the barrel, because the ink was all dried up. I got the Parker Rollerball Fine point refills from Officeworks at about $17.99, so anything that can take the same refill I’d definitely recommend. This writes so perfectly I giggle with glee.

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  17. I would like to add another vote for the Pilot Dr. Grip gel with the Mont Blanc refill. I use the fine black refill.

    In regards to the quicker drying of the rollerball ink, I have come up with a pretty simple solution:
    1-get a short piece of shrinkwrap of appropriate width and use a lighter to heat it around the Dr. Grip ballpoint tip. The ballpoint tip or pencil tip is slightly narrower than the Dr. Grip gel.
    2-Crimp the end to form an airtight seal
    3-Let it cool and boom, you have a temporary cap to use when the Dr. Grip goes out of rotation. It isn’t pretty but it’s a cheap fix to keep those expensive refills from going dry.

    I used this pen to write on some of the most terribly rough paper I’ve ever used and it wrote like a dream.

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  18. I’m quite fond of my Fisher bullet space pen.

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  19. I have two TrueWriter ballpoints and I love them. They write as beautifully as any ballpoint can and the pens themselves are gorgeous, well-proportioned and dreamy to write with. And you CANNOT beat Levenger’s customer service.

    My everyday knockaround running around pens are the Uniball Vision Exact and, for air travel, Vision Elite. They’re both pretty cheap, sharp-looking pens.

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  20. My son gave me a Parker Frontier ballpen for my birthday when he was 10 (now 24) and they are still available here in the UK for about $18. It takes either the standard Parker ink or gel refills although I prefer the ink. It has a great comfortable feel about it and just glides across the paper. Fairly understated pen too.

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  21. I like Parker Gel ink cartridges (when I’m forced out of my Lamy Safari fountain pen). I like the Parker Urban for its price (list $20) and heft.
    On Amazon: http://bit.ly/9fiO2j

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  22. I would recommend a Uniball. The ink won’t wash off checks (etc), no matter what identity thieves try. They write a nice, dark line, too.

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  23. Lamy Swift rollerball won’t dry out and puts down a clean, clear line on journal paper. Great in black and, also a nice dark blue. Retracting clip makes the pen very comfortable to write with.

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  24. I quite like my Tombow Object rollerball – clean design and nice flow.

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  25. Some papers that don’t do well with fountain pens will take a dip pen line and not feather.

    I occasionally use a vintage Cross ballpoint.

    A Parker liquid lead pencil?

    A vintage rollerball?

    Penhero has some great ideas for a wish list:

    http://penhero.com/PenGallery/Parker/Parker.htm

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  26. Needle tip pens are the way to go, as you can write by holding the pens at a lower angle instead of nearly upright. I like the Pilot v5 and Hi-tec ink pens, but they’re not suitable for thin paper. Gel pens like the Uniball 207ND are nice but the ink blobs too much. Perhaps you may want to try a fountain pen ink that doesn’t bleedthrough or feather? I know of only two, due to my limited experience, but they are the Noodler’s Luxury Blue and Sailor Kiwaguro (Carbon Nano). Unfortunately, pens filled with these inks can be hard starting if left unused for a few weeks. So I’ll look for a good looking but inexpensive fountain pen to use with the journals. Perhaps a Pilot Prera or Pelikan M150/200? 🙂

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  27. I miss the old Pilot V-ball pens; the various replacements just aren’t as good, and are becoming more difficult to find. (The needle-tip style is becoming more common than the cone-shaped tip that I prefer.)

    So, those, or G-2 gel pens (purple! teal!), or my secret weapon, a 20-color set of Staedtler Triplus Fineliners.

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  28. I am gobsmacked at the number of possibilities. Thank you all so much for offering such a variety of suggestions. For others who might have such a need, this is certainly the place to come for non-fountain pen instruments. I have a feeling sorting through this list is going to take more than just this weekend… 🙂

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  29. Just wanted to toss in my 2cents 🙂
    The Pilot G2 Limited with a MB fill is an awesome combo. Hard to deny. I have the silver one, but not using the MB fills yet. Clicker style.
    I’m also very fond of the much-under-marketed Pilot 1M, these came in Black, Silver, and Purple barrel paint, used a rollerball fill. Two-piece postable. Maybe a little heavy, though; I got the purple for my wife, and she loves the quality, but is not fond of the weight. Hard to find, anymore, it seems; I couldn’t even find a link to post for you.
    I tend to carry G2s and a stainless Jotter and a matte spacepen around; but those don’t really fit your “formal” search 🙂
    good luck!

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  30. Ah HAH, found a link with pic; http://www.getprice.com.au/Parker-IM-Rollerball-Assorted-Pen-Gpnc_576–40035470.htm
    Seems that alot of sites have them described as a model “IM” rather than “1M”, but I believe 1M is correct.

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    • Thanks for the link. It always helps to see the real thing. 🙂

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  31. Journalingarts.com has Tombow Rollerballs with a 0.3mm tip. I love mine and write with it daily.

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  32. I love the uni jetstream (.7)- this is the kind I use: http://www.viewpoints.com/images/review/2008/364/11/1230571037-12373_full.jpg

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  33. I use a Waterman hemisphere roller ball. It is my airplane and airport travel pen, and it doubles for use with “unfriendly” paper.

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  34. […] comments to my original post on the subject, When A Fountain Pen Just Won’t Do,  started my research. Eventually I settled on a fiber tip or fineliner as the second best writing […]

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