For transparency, I am not a lefty. If I misrepresent something or say something wrong, please call me out. There is no malicious intent, just ignorance.
It all began when I noticed that my future son-in-law is a lefty. I got to wondering how do or can lefties use fountain pens. Writing left in a right-handed world is a real challenge. For the lefty, as they commit words to paper – flowing left to right, their hand follow behind the words, and oops a real mess. Lefties have to push their hand across the paper instead of pulling it. Often resulting in the pen digging into the paper, but always ending with ink-covered hands.
Photo by The Heart Thrills
A popular belief is that fountain pens are not suitable for left-handed writers. Hogwash! Choosing the right pen, nib, ink, and paper make all the difference.
Left-handed people usually write with a peculiar angle referred to as“overwriter” or “underwriter.” Overwriters write with a sharper angle over the top of the writing line, while underwriters position their hand below the writing line. Underwriting reduces the pressure on the pen which will help reduce the ink flow and improve comfort.
Let’s dispel the notion that lefties must use specially designed fountain pens or nibs. There are special options available to assist the lefty, that will help reduce smudges and improving comfort.
Pelikan provides a number of left-handed pens or for the ambidextrous. For lefties, their ergonomic rubber grip promotes correct finger placement while the stainless steel nib has a little ball at its tip to better regulate the ink flow and keep the pen moving easily along.
The Lamy Safari with its ergonomically shaped section and a slightly oblique left-handed nib make for a very satisfying left-handed pen.
Waterman’s pens of the 1927 advertised a “Ballpoint tip,” on their fountain pens. Describing them as “suitable for left-hand writers”. Fast forward to now, as a general rule, avoid stub or flex nibs, they allow a larger flow of ink onto the page. Also, avoid fine tip nibs if an underwriter. Pushing the nib with a sharper angle can result in damage to the paper.
Lamy offers an LH Z50 nib, slightly oblique in favor of left-handed writers who tilt their hand.
Most fountain pen inks sit on top of the paper as they dry. This is great for everyone but a nightmare for the lefty. They need smooth (low viscosity) ink to help with the challenges of writing. These inks require less pressure for ink flow, thus more comfort and less exertion while writing.
The most popular fast-drying ink is Noodlers Bernanke. These are specially formulated to soak into the paper’s fibers. Worthy alternatives for consideration include Private Reserve (made by Yafa) line of Fast Dry inks, Birmingham Pen Company’s Crisp formula. DeAtramentis document inks, Platinum Carbon Ink, Rohrer & Klingner (iron gall inks), Pilot Iroshizuku and Pelikan 4001 inks.
Most paper is coated to improve smoothness. A fully coated paper is slippery, making it difficult for the ink to absorb and dry. While the uncoated paper is often course, making it difficult for fountain pen nibs to glide across.
Given different ink formulations, drying time will vary by paper absorbency; however, a paper’s absorbency is inversely correlated with its smoothness. Simply said, paper that is more absorbent will be rougher to write on, thus increasing feedback through the nib making for a less comfortable experience for the lefty. The challenge is finding the balance between drying time and writing smoothness.
Paper favored for its “fountain pen friendliness” often takes longer for the ink to dry since the ink sits up on the paper and does not soak in. Paper by Rhodia or Tomoe River are renowned as great fountain pen paper as the ink does not bleed or feather but it can often increase dry time, some lasting as long as 40 seconds to dry. Also, consider Leuchtturm1917 paper as an alternative.
Review Pelikan Pelikano Jr.
I am pleased to provide the following review of a left-handed Pelikan by a lefty – my future son-in-law, Stephen. It is worth noting that this is his first time using a fountain pen.
“The occasional smudge happens but the way I have to hold the pen to get the ink to flow makes it less likely to smear. The ink flow is smooth but again, only if I am holding the pen at an angle basically coming from the southwest side if that makes sense. [he is an underwriter]
“I would say that there is occasional scratching on the downstroke but only when I am not holding the pen as mentioned. My biggest issue is with the grip, it is super low on the pen for the angle that works best so it has taken some time to adjust to that new grip.
“As a new user with no previous fountain pen experience, I have very much enjoyed writing with it. I have noticed, my handwriting is becoming a little larger in order to accommodate for the difference between the fountain and the ballpoint pen. Also, I’ve seen an improvement in my handwriting when using the Pelikan.
A quick follow up, Stephen drank the Koolaid and now owns 3 fountain pens, 2 Pelikans and 1 Lamy.