I didn’t always understand the demand for nice pens. Throughout my entire school career, I used whatever I bought at Walgreens or office depot, and they worked just fine. It wasn’t until I started seeing these other types of pens that it hit me. Pens can truly be beautiful accessories to any desk, and there is a monumental difference between the Walgreens Bic and a Waterman or Waterford fine writing instrument.
Waterman and Waterford Pens have elegantly and intricately designed pens, and they are now on sale at Executive Essentials. If there was ever a time to invest in this type of product, it’s now. Whether you need a gift for Father’s Day, a graduation present, or just think it’s time to add some class to your desk, Waterman and Waterford have the pens and prices for you.
Just to highlight a few, the Waterford Rainbow Arista Prism Rollerball Pen is a good pick. Its contemporary colors and shape come in your choice of multicolored mocha or rainbow, and marbled caramel or purple. Polished chrome appointments accompany each pen to make them stand out from any other design.
Another good choice would be the Waterman Expert II Ballpoint Pen in Dune Blue. The vibrant gold trims, deep blue lacquer, and mesmerizing reflective effect ensure a distinct elegance and originality.
Of course, you should browse the selection for yourself because there are more than 20 designs on sale. With colors ranging from fire engine red to deep sea blue, there is sure to be a pen for you.
No, I don’t mean the pens have a shiny gloss finish or some sort of crystal design. I don’t mean there is a diamond designed painted on. I mean straight from the ground, carbon rock, beautiful brilliant diamonds.
Montblanc released two pens as part of the already exquisite Meisterstuck LeGrand Collection: one ballpoint and one fountain pen. The fountain pen is equipped with a 14 K gold nib rhodium-plated inlay, precious black resin barrel and cap, and platinum plated clip and rings. As if that weren’t enough, the real catch with this one is the .06 ct. diamond in the cap top of the pen. It looks like it’s suspended in midair. I mean, it doesn’t get much cooler, sleeker or original than that. The ballpoint shares the same remarkable and distinguishing diamond as well as all of the other features as the fountain pen.
If there were ever a pen to invest in, this is it. Every part of this pen was thoughtfully designed and executed, and you are sure to make a statement with it. The floating diamond will mesmerize any eye as you write, and act as the perfect complement to your desk.
Strong. Defined. Powerful. Innovative. These words describe the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, and what’s more impressive is that they also apply to Montblanc’s new pen dedicated to her throne.
Montblanc released two limited edition fountain pens that capture the essence of 16th century England. Thanks to Queen Elizabeth I, England was a world super power that created the foundation for a historic age of culture. Montblanc recognizes this epic era with its pens.
The brilliant lacquer of both writing instruments is modeled on the royal garments of the Queen. The royal insignia is well represented on the cap by the Tudor rose and the cross of the British Crown, along with a green cabochon on the clip. To finish off the adorned cap, the words “Video et taceo” meaning “I see and say nothing” are engraved as a reminder of the famous Queen’s signature motto.
The Queen Elizabeth I fountain pens come in two editions; one is limited to 4810 pieces while the other has only 888. If you are a fan of British History, this pen is the perfect collection piece. This pen is also a worthy addition to any desk or collection and is sure to spark conversation.
Car enthusiasts, get ready. Cross released a new collection, the C-Series, modeled after sports cars. The collection features fountain and rollerball pens in your choice of blue, champagne and black, with the black coming in two finishes.
The body of the pen is inspired by sports cars while the appointments are designed to reflect lug nuts. The fountain pens are equipped with a twist off cap and a rubberized grip section for optimal comfort. To top it all off, the pen is finished with an 18 karat gold nib with rhodium plating.
The rollerballs use a twist to engage the pen, and the capless design makes for a high tech look. As with the fountain pen, the body brings to mind a sports car, and the appointments scream lug nuts. The pen takes either gel ink or jumbo ballpoint refills, and both are included with your purchase.
I know you’ve been eying that new Audi A5 and that Infiniti G37, but who has the money for them these days? The new Cross C-Series is a great alternative, and the price won’t give you that pit in your stomach…or wallet.
It’s tax season all around the United States. For those who overpaid it’s a time of joy, an occasion to expectantly check the mail or log into our bank accounts. For everyone else…it’s just tax season.
As Americans, we started paying a federal income tax in 1861 and 1862 to pay for the Civil War. During this storied time of civil unrest, young men on both sides were using smooth-bore, long-barreled muskets and keen-edged sabers to solve the nation’s differences on the field of battle. But, off the battle field they were using quills and dip pens to write letters of their experience and re-connect with their friends and family back home. Quills had a short life span and were easily breakable, especially in the pockets of young soldiers tramping around the countryside from skirmish to skirmish. Metal tipped dip pens were more durable, but also more expensive and rare. But, even though the typical soldier of the Civil War era relied heavily on quills, dip pens and even pencils, it doesn’t mean the fountain pen didn’t exist in America.
Peregrin Williamson, a Baltimore shoemaker, received the first American patent for a fountain pen in 1809. Later, in 1831, John Jacob Parker patented the first self-filling fountain pen. However, these early fountain pen models were fraught with mechanical problems that led to ink spills and other inadequacies that left them impractical for the average user and thus hard to sell. All that would change, however, after the Civil War. As the war ended and the healing process began, the nation once again turned it’s eyes on innovation and technology. During this period the fountain pen in America would begin to take shape as we know it today with the addition of what many consider the first practical fountain pen produced by Lewis Waterman. Countless others followed.
Modern fountain pens have changed drastically from their civil war era counterparts, as has the tax code that initially sprung up to help fund the war. But, what hasn’t changed is our connection to our written language and the instruments we use to lay our thoughts out on paper. As collectors we still yearn for that perfect writing instrument to pen the great American novel, draft that world-renowned play or simply write a letter back home. At the very least we’ll need something to sign our taxes with this season.
Which reminds me, if you need any help figuring out what to do with your return this year, might I suggest something along these lines?
This post will be the first in a series about the technical aspects of fountain pens. — by Tracy McCusker
If you have never owned a fountain pen before, it can be bewildering to understand them when you run across one for the first time. Most fountain pens look gorgeous. The bare nib is their most striking feature. Aside from the price (which can span from twenty to two thousand dollars), it can be hard to understand the pen beyond its appearance. Despite a fetching lacquer & chrome trim, the appearance of a fountain pen will tell you nothing about how it writes.
The truism that “fountain pens are not ballpoints” should be kept in mind. Ballpoint pens have standardized points that vary very little from refill to refill. The writing experience with a fountain pen, on the other hand, is highly individual. If you ask the opinion of ten different people, each of them will likely desire a different kind of “feel” to their pen. You will often hear the “feel” of a fountain pen described on several continuums of “smooth or scratchy,” “springy or stiff,” “flexible or nail.”
There are three factors that go into the writing experience with a fountain pen: the ink, the paper, and the nib. Two of these factors can be controlled by choosing different papers, or different inks. For example, a pen may feel scratchy on printer paper but smooth in a journal. The one variable you cannot change is the quality of nib. That is why when you buy a fountain pen—and mean to write with it, rather than display it—you buy it for its nib.
Anatomy of a Nib
The fountain pen contacts paper with a nib rather than a ball (as in a ballpoint or rollerball). The nib is made up of several parts, though only a few are important to us right now. The breather hole is the small hole (usually on top of the nib) that allows air to replace the ink that moves out of the pen. The slit is the small space between the tines of the nib that allows ink to travel down to the tip. The tip of the nib is coated with an extra-hard tipping material that stands up to the pressure exerted during writing. This tip is often small enough that you would need a loupe (a jeweler’s magnifying glass) to actually see what you write with.
The breather hole, tines, and slit control the amount of ink that follows to its tip. In turn, the tip of nib affects how scratchy or smooth a writing experience is. Tipping a fountain pen nib is so common that descriptions will not mention it. If they do, they often call it “iridium tipping,” even though iridium is hardly used.
Modern fountain pen nibs are made from various materials such as palladium silver, titanium, gold, gold-plated steel or stainless steel. Nib materials need to be corrosion-resistant because inks are generally acidic.
14k gold, 18k gold, and stainless steel are the three most common alloys used in nibs. Stainless steel nibs are seen as workman-like and are generally inexpensive. Stainless steel has shorter shelf-life than gold, though a good stainless steel nib can last for twenty years or more. Gold nibs can last for a hundred if properly maintained, and can be heirloom-quality objects. Gold nibs are, however, expensive. Unless a pen has inlaid rare metals or stones on their body (and believe me, Krone is plenty guilty of that excess), a pen price over 200 dollars generally means that it has a gold nib. Recently higher-end pens like the Waterman Exception and Perspective have been released with rhodium-plated gold or polished steel nibs in place of traditional yellow-gold nibs. It is therefore important to check the material of the nib in the description to understand what you are paying for.
A word now on gold nibs, as they are associated with better writing experiences. Many collectors believe that gold nibs automatically equal better “feel”; many first-time pen buyers also assume that a higher price will equal a better pen.
Generally, it is said that gold nibs are “springy,” or “supple” and stainless steel nibs are “nails,” or “stiff.” The assumption is that everyone prefers to write with a “springy” nib, and shuns the “stiff” nib. But these are relative terms and every writer has a different preference. I personally like to write with nibs that are stiffer than average; I currently favor two fairly inexpensive pens that use stainless steel nibs. The stainless steel nibs can stand up to a constant torrent of writing. I have also written with nibs that I would consider too stiff–one was a 14k gold nib on a Pelikan 205 Demonstrator. There is no substitute for actually trying the nib before buying a pen.
A pen maker’s reputation often can serve as a guide for what their nibs will feel like. Several pen manufacturers are notable for their good stainless steel nibs–Lamy and Rotring are among the best. Other pen-makers, like Waterman, use truly amazing gold nibs in their higher-end pens that are a great mixture of springy & smooth.
The other important factor in the writing experience is the size of the pen nib. The size of the nib refers to the amount of tipping material that touches the paper. The broader the nib, the more ink flows onto the paper; thus, the broader the nib, the smoother the writing experience. Most pen nibs are available in fine, medium, or broad. Less common are extra-fine, double-broad, stub, italic, and oblique nibs. Medium is considered the “average” size nib that will serve the majority of writers. Stub, italic, and oblique nibs are nibs that offer a variation in line width that you see in beautiful samples of handwriting; italic and oblique nibs are often found on calligraphy pens, or specially ground by a nibmeister.
Nibs are generally bought & fitted to different types of handwriting. Those of us that write in small, tight handwriting usually require a fine or extra-fine nib. Those who write in larger hands do well with medium, or broad nibs. Even if you love the smooth feeling of broad nib gliding across the page, if you can’t read your handwriting through the broad strokes of the nib, the pen is not going to be very suitable.
The flow of ink to a nib often changes with time. As I write with a pen it adjusts to my writing. Over time, the tip tends to broaden and put down more ink than it did at first. Thus after a few months, many of my fines start to write more like mediums, and some of my mediums more like broads.
Nib sizes are relative to the pen manufacturers. Japanese pen manufacturers like Namiki (Pilot), Sailor, Platinum, and Tombow tend to have nibs on the smaller side than Western pen manufacturers like Waterman, Parker, Aurora, and Lamy. I own a Pilot Prera with a fine nib, and it writes smaller than even my extra-fine Lamy. If you have tiny handwriting like me, you may consider looking at Japanese pens to find a pen more suited to small script.
In closing, I have scratched the surface on the topic of nibs. It is important to keep in mind how the pen writes. More often than not, we have a very good idea about what we want our pens to look like. With fountain pens, however, it’s often more rewarding to go with a pen that compliments how you would like to write than what you’d like it to appear to be. A good pen shouldn’t be chosen like jewelry, and you may consider giving a chance to a pen that looks a little strange (or plain) if it offers you a good “feel” on paper.
This post is second in a series about the technical aspects of fountain pens. — by Tracy McCusker
In an effort to educate readers about fountain pens, I have embarked on a series of articles about their technical aspects. In last week’s article, I listed the three factors that affect the writing experience with a fountain pen: the nib, the ink, and the type of writing paper. The nib provides the baseline scratchy/smoothness that must be taken into account when you are writing. While a nib that is truly a dud can be tweaked or replaced by a nibmeister, for our purposes, the nib is the “given” that can’t be easily changed.
Ink and paper, on the other hand, can be varied quite easily. Changing the ink in a pen is as easy as buying a new cartridge, or using a converter with a different ink. Paper, too, has a lot of variances. Paper that you find in a copier or laser printer isn’t high-quality stuff; it only takes a bit of looking to find pads from Rhodia or Clairefontaine that are more accepting of fountain pen ink.
Based on my experience with finicky nibs, I have found that in most cases, my complaints (writing is too scratchy, line is too thick) were complaints about how a particular ink interacts with a particular nib. So, before chucking that pen that’s giving you an unpleasant writing experience, let’s look at little more closely at the role ink plays in the pen.
More Pen Anatomy:
No two fountain pens are alike. How the tip of the nib is ground, or how the tines slope toward the tip accounts for some of this uniqueness. The other factor is the pen’s feed system. The feed system is the mechanism through which ink is delivered to the tip of the pen.
If you look at a demonstrator fountain pen–a pen that is entirely clear so you can see its innards–you can see that a pen has fairly simple parts inside it. It has a reservoir of ink and a comb-like piece of plastic that stretches from the body of the pen to near the tip of the nib. This comb is the feed system. On many modern fountain pens, the feed is visible under the nib. On certain pens, like the Waterman Carene or Parker 100, there is a smooth underside to the nib; the feed is hidden behind plastic.
The feed brings ink to the tip of the pen. The breather hole on the nib allows air to flow back into the ink reservoir to replace the ink flowing to the nib. This feed system is designed to work at standard pressure. At cruising altitude on a plane, the air-exchange can cause leaks or breaks depending on the quality of the feed. It is good to be cautious when traveling and store fountain pens upright either completely full or empty (I prefer empty) to avoid complications with the feed system.
Feeds are often marked more by when they go wrong than when they are functioning. Feeds can sometimes become misaligned to the nib, causing all sorts of fun problems like start-and-stop blobby writing. Flipping a pen over, the feed should be centered on the fountain pen tines. If it is skewed to the side, you can usually gently push it back into place with a finger. A properly functioning feed should be fairly invisible–not a part to fret about. When a feed goes wrong, usually the pen must be handed over to a professional for repair or replacement.
Because the feed system is a part that can’t be tweaked without considerable expertise on most modern pens, it is much like a pen’s nib. These are factors that you have to work around. Depending on the characteristics of the feed system and the nib, a fountain pen will interact with inks in different ways. Some inks may move through a nib sluggishly and provide for a dry, scratchy writing experience. Some inks may be very liquid and provide a very wet line.
Reviews can point you towards which inks are more likely to provide an enjoyable writing experience. A good ink reviewer will provide visuals of writing with the ink. Most reviewers will provide samples of the ink from different pens/nibs or on different papers. A color that strikes your eye is the starting point for selecting an ink. This is important. If an ink doesn’t look good on the page, you aren’t going to want to write with it.
Depending on what a user is looking for, there are a variety of considerations that go into choosing an ink. An ink that “Works well” is a personal standard. It is usually based on qualities like the ink’s dye on a page (is it a dark, saturated color?), how well it flows from the nib (is it a dry or hard-starting ink?), and if it provides the thickness of line desired by the user.
Some drawbacks to inks are “feathering” (when the ink spreads on the page unintentionally) and “nib creep” (when the nib spreads out over the fountain pen nib, possibly corroding or staining the nib without proper care & wiping the nib).
For those who wish to use fountain pens to sign documents, there are waterproof inks called “bulletproof” by Noodler’s Ink. These inks are cellulose-reactive inks that become water-proof and bleach-proof when they come in contact with paper. The drawback to bulletproof inks is that they can be hell to get out of clothing. If you’re a bit liberal with the ink as I am (and end up with spots of it in strange places), bulletproof inks can be hell on clothing.
Almost all fountain pen users have a favorite ink that they find works well in most fountain pens. My ink of choice is Private Reserve’s Ultra Black. I love how dark the ink appears on a page (it is one of the deepest blacks I’ve found), and it moves through most nibs fairly well. It provides a wet line on most papers. Although it has the tendency to feather (little lines spread from the original line) on papers that aren’t up to a certain quality, I prefer the super-dark line more than I care to find an ink that feathers less on cheap paper.
For fountain pen users starting out, Private Reserve is one of the low-risk inks that I encourage users to try. They have an excellent range of colors, a neutral pH (and thus won’t corrode a nib), and are fairly free-flowing inks.
No Two Pens Are Alike:
As I have said before and will repeat ad-nauseum: no two pens are alike. Even if they are the same model.
Two Four-Leaf Clover Montaguts with the exact same outwards proved this point to me quite clearly last year. One nib was smooth as butter, the other was scratchy out of the box, and was only approached the smoothness of its sibling with diligent care. My solution to this problem was to change out my usual ink, Private Reserve Ultra Black, with Noodler’s Borealis Black. The Borealis Black smoothed over some nib issues, but finally, I simply choose to use the smooth-nibbed Montagut and give the scratchier nib away to a budding pen collector who was branching out into new types of pens.
Changing inks can change your writing experience for the better, but it can only modify the baseline of the nib.