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Category: Fountain Pens

People with Pens: Wendy Van Camp

Posted in Fountain Pens

Fountain Pens in the Creative Process

I love fountain pens.  Sometimes I think I’m the ambassador for using these pens in life.  I’ve introduced them to my friends, to my husband, and to many of the writers in my circle.  Making converts everywhere I go.  What is so great about them?  Well, for me, they not only make the writing I do easier, but they help me when planning my short stories and novels.

I discovered the fountain pen back in 2013.  At that time, fountain pens were not cool.  To use one invited stares and derisive comments.  The pens drew me because my cursive writing had fallen into disuse and was unreadable.  I took up journaling to counteract this, reasoning that if I wrote one entry a day in cursive, my penmanship would improve.  The more I wrote with the ballpoints, the more my hand cramped.   I googled about writing and learned that fountain pens need not press onto the page as you write. You hold them at an angle that is more comfortable for the hand.  You could write more words and for a longer time with a fountain pen than with a ballpoint.  I had to try it.

The inexpensive Chinese model I bought to find out if I would like writing with a fountain pen was easy to write with.  I loved the feel of the pen in my hand, the myriad of ink colors to choose from, and that I could select different nibs to change the way my words looked on the page.  I went from using a standard medium nib to a fine nib and to an italic nib, which is a smoother version of a calligraphy stub nib.  It was fun!  I became hooked on the pens as a hobby.

Fountain Pen 101: Stores

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 101, and happy Fountain Pen Friday. Sadly, this is the final issue. But fear not, pen enthusiasts! I’ll be back in a few weeks with Fountain Pen 201. If you missed any of the previous issues, you can check them out here:

Why Fountain Pens | Anatomy of a Pen | Where to Start | Nibs | Ink | Ink Reservoirs | Cleaning & Filling | Paper

For now, however, I’ll be discussing the benefits of brick and mortar stores. While online stores are fabulous, there are some things they simply can’t provide. To aid you in your brick and mortar store search, I’ve compiled a map of stores known to sell fountain pens. But before I get to that, let’s discuss brick and mortar store benefits.

Most important, in my mind, is the ability to handle a pen before you purchase it. You can see it from every angle and learn how it feels in your hand. Depending on the pen, and the store, you may be able to dip-test it, meaning you dip the nib in ink to test the writing quality. This is probably the only thing that is absolutely impossible for an online store to replicate, making it a HUGE point in a brick and mortar store’s favor.

Fountain Pen 101: Paper

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 101. We’re down to the last two issues. This week I’m covering paper.

As a fountain pen user, you’ll have to give thought to what paper you use. You’ll want to make sure you use “good” paper, often referred to as “fountain pen friendly”. This term references paper that “behaves well” with fountain pens, and is, to some degree, personal preference.

In this particular case, it will be easiest to discuss various properties paper is judged on, rather than the paper itself. If you’re only interested in overviews of different paper and notebooks, then feel free to jump ahead to that section below.

Bleedthrough

Bleedthrough is considered a negative trait. As I mentioned before, this is how much an ink bleeds through paper. Particularly “bad” paper will cause bleed-through with nearly every ink, but some ink will bleed through on nearly every paper. Keep in mind that you can make virtually any paper bleedthrough if you lay down enough ink.

Examples of bleedthrough.
An example of minimal (left) and major (right) bleedthrough.

Fountain Pen 101: Cleaning & Filling

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 101 and happy Fountain Pen Friday. This week, I’ll be discussing cleaning and filling your pens. However, because videos can explain cleaning WAY better than words ever can, I’ll be linking to videos for a decent portion of this post. I’ll also provide you links to good pen cleaning supplies. NOTE: The prices listed below are in USD and don’t include tax or shipping.

Cleaning is one of the down sides to fountain pens, especially if you can’t disassemble the pen. However, it is vital to preserving the quality and prolonging the life of your fountain pen.

As a rule, you should thoroughly clean your pen every time you change inks or before you store your pen for an extended period of time (think more than 2 weeks without use). If you are simply refilling your pen with the same ink (some people always use the same ink in a specific pen), then you should clean your pen every 1-2 months.

Looking for something specific? Jump around this post with these links: Tap Water vs Distilled Water | Pen Flush | Ultrasonic Cleaner | Good Tools | Cleaning Instruction | Tips & Tricks

Regalia Writing Labs Semiflex Nib Review

Posted in Fountain Pens, and Reviews

If you’ve been reading my Fountain Pen 101 series, you’ve seen a couple of shout-outs to Regalia Writing Labs. Beyond being a genius with nibs, Ralph Reyes, the creator, is a really nice guy.

He offered a limited run of “Full-Flex” nibs a few months ago, and Jim was lucky enough to snag one. It was absolutely amazing. Check out this fabulous flexibility. I wasn’t even putting much pressure on it.

Full Flex Writing Sample

So when Ralph announced a Semiflex nib was coming, I turned on post and story notifications for his Instagram account and eagerly awaited the start of the sale. I was lucky. I got my hands on a nib, as did Jim. It took a while, but our nibs finally arrived on Monday.

Semi-Flex Nib Packaging

Ralph did an amazing job with the packaging. I felt like I was getting a piece of jewelry. And I loved the custom seal.

Fountain Pen 101: Ink Reservoirs

Posted in Fountain Pens

Last week I covered ink, this week I’m covering it’s holders, namely ink reservoirs. The reservoir is what makes a fountain pen a fountain pen. Without one, it would be a dip pen. Essentially, there are two categories of ink reservoirs: removable and built-in.

The ratings you’ll find below are averages and based on my opinions. Each pen is different, and every person has different preferences, so don’t discount a pen just because of a rating; research it first. Ink capacity is rated ★☆☆☆☆ (least capacity) to ★★★★★ (most). Ease of cleaning is specifically for cleaning the reservoir itself, not the entire pen, and is assuming you do not disassemble the pen at all (e.g. removing the nib unit).

If you want video instructions or step-by-step photo instructions of how to utilize some of these ink reservoirs, check out these guides: JetPens | Goulet Pens

Fountain Pen 101: Ink

Posted in Fountain Pens

It’s impossible to cover ink in a single post. For one, I don’t know every ink brand, and new brands are popping up every day. For two, there are all sorts of properties that people like to discuss and/or include in their reviews. However, what I’m going to try to do is give you an overview of the ink properties I’ve heard discussed most often and the “best known” ink brands.

As a side note for newbies, make sure you only use fountain pen inks. Ink for dip pens could destroy your pen.

Ink Properties

As you start exploring inks, you’ll hear about various properties, including shimmer, shading, sheen, wetness, feathering, and bleeding. Most ink properties are at least partially dependent on the paper you use. Basic copy paper, for example, will negate almost all ink properties, while Tomoe River paper is well-known to enhance most ink properties. To enhance ink properties, you want to write/draw on “ink resistant” paper.

Fountain Pen 101: Nibs

Posted in Fountain Pens

Another Fountain Pen Friday, another Fountain Pen 101. Welcome back! This time I’m covering nibs. Let me start out by saying that this is an introduction to nibs. I’ll cover nib customization (yes, that’s a thing) later.

Overview

Your average fountain pen is going to be available in one of the following nib sizes: Extra Fine (EF), Fine (F), Medium (M), Broad (B), Double Broad (BB), and Stub (usually 1.1mm or 1.5mm, although 1.9mm does exist). You do occasionally come across Oblique nibs (similar to a stub, but cut at an angle), but they’re far less common and typically found on specialty pens.

Some pens, especially from indie pen makers, utilize standard #5 or #6 nib units from Bock or Jowo. That means you can purchase other nib units of the same size and manufacturer and swap them out. It’s like giving your pen a mini makeover.

Jowo Nib Unit
A Jowo nib unit. Photo from Nibs.com

Something to keep in mind when selecting a pen is the origin of its manufacturer. Japanese nibs tend to run 1-2 sizes thinner than Western nibs. So if you like a M Lamy, you’d probably want a B Platinum. JetPens (yep, them again) have a great post on the various nib sizes and differences between Japanese and Western nibs.

Nib width comparison
Comparison of Japanese and Western nib widths. Photo from Pentorium.com

Fountain Pen 101: Where to Start (with Pens)

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 101, and happy Fountain Pen Friday! This week, I’m taking a look at what I think are the best pens with which to start your fountain pen journey. This one is rather long, but I wanted to give you a good overview of each pen.

If you’ve never touched a fountain pen before, I’d suggest trying out the Platinum Preppy or the Pilot Metropolitan. They are both solid pens, with far more benefits than detriments. Another good pen, although a “step up” price-wise from the Preppy and Metropolitan is the Lamy Safari. It’s another solid pen that’s unlikely to let you down.

EDIT 2/12/2021: Since writing this post, I’ve changed my mind about the Safari being the best “step up” pen. I’m leaving the review below, because it’s not a bad pen by any means. However, there are two pens that, in my opinion, beat it out for top “step up” pen: the TWSBI 580 series and the Kaweco Sport series.

I’m leaving out the disposable Pilot Varsity, because, although inexpensive, it abandons the best parts of fountain pen use: changing inks and re-usability.

I’ll be rating each of the three pen on reliability (in terms of writing), appearance, durability, ink (both the availability of cartridges and the converter quality/style), nibs, and ease of cleaning.

I also took a look at several major retailers to see who offers the best deal for a “starter pack” of pen, pack of cartridges, and a converter. Prices listed below are in US dollars with the total price first, and the price of standard shipping to Maryland, United States — included in the total price — in parentheses.

Fountain Pen 101: Anatomy of a Pen

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome back to Fountain Pen 101. Before I really dive into the meat of this series, I want to cover the basic anatomy of a fountain pen. I’m just going to cover the parts I’ll be discussing later. If you want an in-depth look at all of the parts, I suggest you check out this post on the Goulet Pen Co. blog.

Open fountain pen

Cap: This one’s easy. Most pens have a cap. Those that do, it’s important to keep them capped when not in use, so the nib doesn’t dry out. Some people like to post the cap when using their pen (like in the photo below), but not all pens are postable. It depends on the body.

Fountain pen with cap posted

Body/Barrel: Another easy one. The “official” term is barrel, but I doubt anyone would be confused if you call it the body. If you’re using a cartridge or converter pen, this is the part you unscrew to get to said cartridge or converter. Depending on the shaping of the body (if it’s tapered or not) you may or may not be able to post the cap.

Fountain Pen 101: Why Fountain Pens?

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome to my inaugural Fountain Pen 101 issue! I’ve had a handful of questions about fountain pens on my various social media accounts, so I thought it might be helpful (and fun) to provide an introduction series. This 101 series is intended to provide you with all of the information necessary to make your first (informed) fountain pen purchase and/or prepare you to use a fountain pen you’ve been gifted. Stay tuned for a 102 series that will guide you through this rabbit hole you’ve discovered.

Down the rabbit hole

I’ll be posting weekly on Fountain Pen Friday (yes, that’s a thing), but you might want to subscribe to avoid missing a post. Before I go any further, I’d like to take a moment to say this won’t be an objective, all-informative series. I’ll be including what I’ve learned so far in my 1.5(ish) year journey down the fountain pen rabbit hole, including some very subjective information/analysis.

I decided to start with the simplest question: why fountain pens? But before I answer that, I’d like to take a step back and address a larger question. Why write?

The benefits of writing vs. typing have been well-documented, and are easy-to-find. Writing improves memory/recall, sharpens critical thinking, and pen/pencil and paper are easier on the eyes than digital screens.

Now, imagine how much the benefits improve when you enjoy writing. Ballpoint/Rollerball/Gel pens have come a long way. The writing is smoother, there are more color choices, and the pens are prettier than they ever have been. But fountain pens give you a completely different experience that really brings joy to writing.

Benefits

So what are some of the real benefits to fountain pens? Keep in mind, this list is not exhaustive, it’s an overview of what I consider to be the biggest perks.

2018 Baltimore Pen Show – Part 6

Posted in Fountain Pens

Alright, this is it. The big one. The one we’ve all be waiting for…whoops, nope, this isn’t Harry Potter. This is my last BWIPS 2018 post. I hope you’ve enjoyed reminiscing with me. If you haven’t yet, go read parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 before continuing.

When I left you yesterday, we were all heading back to the hotel for the “official” pen show after dark fun. Somehow, between leaving Frank & Nic’s as one big group, and arriving at the hotel (a 5-minute walk if you’re going slow) we separated into multiple smaller clusters of 3-8 people.

Jim made a beeline for the hallway between the show rooms as soon as it became apparent that that was where the “event” was being held. Jim wanted a good spot, and I tagged along with him.

Soon Cary Yeager and a gentleman whose name I don’t know came down the hall and started setting up the area. I helped bring out and set up the chairs so my conscience would be clear when I didn’t stay to clean up.

Slowly, people filtered down from the bar and lobby, filling the little hallway area to overflowing.

2018 Baltimore Pen Show – Part 5

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome back to my BWIPS experience write-up. Today starts the pen show after dark shenanigans. If you haven’t read parts 1, 2, 3, and 4, you might want to go do that. This post is back to a shorter length, but tomorrow’s (which should be my last post) will probably be rather long.


The announcement that the show was official over (for the day) was a bit of a bummer, but it also meant that it was time for after-show shenanigans.

It took me a while to locate Jim, who I found sitting with Adam at the Bertram’s Inkwell table. At that moment, the plan was to stick with Adam to enjoy the after party.

But when we got shoo’ed out of the room, we found ourselves in a crush of people. For a while, we sat and listened to Larry Ragland of Diplomat Pens play the guitar. I even had some fun dancing. Te was kind enough to let me include some photos she took.

Larry Ragland playing guitar Dancing to Larry Ragland's guitar playing

2018 Baltimore Pen Show – Part 4

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome back to my BWIPS experience write-up. If you haven’t read parts 1, 2, and 3, you might want to go do that. Fair warning, this post is longer than I intended it to be because there’s a lot to say. That said, I hope you enjoy it.


When I last left you, I was on my way to the Bittner table to buy a Homo Sapiens Bronze Age (VHSBA). There were a couple of people in front of me, so I waited, mostly patiently, for them to finish. Finally, it was my turn. Cindy Bittner was very efficient. She had my Homo Sapiens Bronze Age Maxi with a medium nib packaged up and checked out in a couple of minutes.

Happy as a clam, I met back up with Te and Jim, and we went to the Chesapeake Room to await the Organics (Studio) 101 chat with Tyler Thompson.

2018 Baltimore Pen Show – Part 3

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome to part 3 of my BWIPS 2018 experience write-up. If you didn’t read part 1 or part 2, I highly suggest you do so before continuing with this. I’d like to take a moment before I start to mention that the more I “got into” the pen show, the less I remembered to take photos. So you’ll be seeing less for this installment.


As I was leaving the Herbert Pen Company table, I spotted Jim, and went to grab him so he could pick up his own pen. Of course, in doing so, I lost Te along the way. These things happen at shows. We’re walking along, happy as can be, then suddenly, “Oooohhh!! Shiny!!!”

Jim was a very happy Pen Sloth once he got his hands on his pen. I may be biased, but I think my pen is a little bit nicer. ;-). His is beautiful, though. It reminds me of Thai iced tea.

Herbert Pen Company Pen

2018 Baltimore Pen Show – Part 2

Posted in Fountain Pens

Welcome to part 2 of my BWIPS 2018 experience write-up. If you didn’t read part 1, I suggest you do so before continuing with this.

– – –

I walked into the large room through the second door. The table immediately to my right is, for some reason, completely lost to my memory. I’ll blame it on pen show excitement.

I walked down the row and spent a few minutes staring at the Kanilea Pen Company pens. They’re absolutely beautiful, but, for some reason, they just don’t call to me. I’ve yet to figure out why.

Just past Kanilea was Jonathon Brooks/Carolina Pen Co. Unsurprisingly, the pens at his table were absolutely beautiful.

2018 Baltimore Pen Show – Part 1

Posted in Fountain Pens

I, like many of the fountain pen lovers in the Washington, DC area, attended the Baltimore Washington International Pen Show this weekend. I only went on Saturday because Friday I had to work and Sunday was my release party, but it was still fantastic. You may recall that I blogged about my experience at the Washington DC Fountain Pen Supershow (my first ever pen show) last August. I had so many positive responses, that I decided to blog about this experience as well.

Let me start by saying that the two shows are nothing alike. Well, ok, there are pens, and pen people, but the atmosphere is so different. DC is frenzied, Baltimore is calm. Baltimore is a significantly smaller show, but I think it benefits from that, because it’s a more intimate show. It really feels like everyone knows each other.

The shows were also different for me because I knew more people, and I knew more about pens. I recognize that this will color my impressions of the two shows. You might want to keep that in mind as you read about my BWIPS (I love that acronym! It’s so fun to say!!) experience.

Good Times at Bertram’s Inkwell

Posted in Fountain Pens, and Reviews

If you’ve been following my blog, you know I like “pimping” companies that I’ve had good experiences with. So far, I’ve discussed Edison Pen Company, Goulet Pens, and Surreal Makeup. This time I’ll be telling you about Bertram’s Inkwell.

Bertram's Inkwell

Shopping Experiences

Photo of a Red Nibbed Platinum Preppy 05Bertram’s holds a special place in my heart as the store where I bought my first fountain pen. It was a red-nibbed Platinum Preppy 05. I don’t have a picture of mine, as it sadly disappeared in my recent move, but I did find this photo from WonderPens. It was my gateway pen, and the experience of purchasing it was so pleasant that Bertram’s was forever fixed in my mind as a top-notch store.

Photo of Lamy Safari Dark LilacThe next time I visited, I picked up a Lamy Safari Dark Lilac, completely oblivious to the fact that I was buying a special edition. I just knew I liked the color and feel of it. I also picked up bottles of Diamine Meadow and Diamine Aqua Lagoon because they were beautiful, bright colors. I’ve since learned that just because a color is pretty doesn’t mean it will make a good writing ink. Meadow hasn’t gotten much use because a full-page of it can be hard on the eyes.

While we were there, Jim bought a Namiki Falcon as a birthday present to himself. I can’t recall if it was Bert or Adam (or both) who helped us out that day — I was too focused on buying my first “nice” pen — but whoever it was was incredibly patient with me as I went through all of the Lamy colors, and let me dip test a few different nib sizes. Jim was also treated very well as he tried to decide if he was actually willing to buy such an expensive pen (oh, how our views have changed).

And now the really fun part. I get to tell you about some of my customer service experiences that I feel went above and beyond what your typical store offers.