In this primer, I am going to focus on how to write with a fountain pen. Stop laughing! I used to write with the feed side up and nib side down just to restrict the ink flow of a Fine nib on really super, exponentially, tremendous, vast, whopping cheap paper.
Why use a fountain pen
Ballpoint, gel, or rollerball pens are functionally practical and boring. Writing with a fountain pen produces that unique characteristic to your handwriting that can’t be replicated by any of those boring pens. Why is that? A fountain pen has a metal nib with two tines, and you can control the thickness of the written line by applying more or less pressure.
Photo by Best Pens In the world.com
The following is going to make fountain pens sound like a PITA, but really, writing with a fountain pen is an experience so let’s make it worthwhile.
Let’s be clear, printer paper is not really suitable for fountain pen ink, it is cheap, the ink will bleed through and it looks very bad.
Instead, buy paper or a journal that is made for fountain pens. Good paper doesn’t feather or bleed and is often made of cotton – intended for fountain pen use. Paper by Rhodia, Tomoe River, and Leuchtturm1917 are renowned as great fountain pen paper.
One more thing, buy from a source that supplies quality fountain pen paper goods, not from Wal-Mart.
To post or not
Fountain pens have a cap. Some pens are intended to have the cap “posted” on the opposite end from the nib to balance the pen. The size of the pen vs. your hand will determine if posting the cap influences the balance. Small pens benefit from posting the cap but this is something you have to try out for yourself and see what kind of feel you like.
Holding the pen
I hold a fountain pen just like a ballpoint pen, gripping the pen between the thumb and the index finger along the dorsal side of the pen while my middle finger provides support along the ventral side of the pen. Grip the pen at the “section” or the bottom of the barrel. The ring and pinky fingers and the side of your palm needs to rest on the paper surface thus stabilizing your hand.
The sweet spot
With the nib on the paper and the slit facing up, the angle from paper to pen should be between 45 to 55 degrees. Now write a few words to find that “sweet spot.” This is when the nib glides across the paper with no feedback and it feels comfortable to write with.
If the angle of the nib is above 55 degrees or below 45 degrees, it will not write as nicely, it won’t be as smooth, and the ink won’t flow as well onto the paper.
Use your entire arm
When writing with a fountain pen the entire arm moves. Some people are finger writers, they move their hands and fingers as they write. With a ballpoint pen that is possible because it works at every angle. Fountain pens have a straight nib, once the “sweet spot” is determined maintain the position of your wrist, it is important to hold your hand rigid. Instead move your entire arm as you write, thus maintaining the “sweet spot.”
Don’t press so hard
Ballpoint pens require the writer to press the pen into the paper to transfer the ink. With fountain pens, when the nib touches the paper, apply gentle pressure, and the ink flows. Applying too much pressure may damage the nib as well as tear the paper. Too much pressure also means a lot more ink will flow and that is not going to end well.
Right sized pen for your hand
Using a pen that is either too small or too large will result in hand fatigue and cramping. Large hands will be more comfortable with thick, long pens.
How big do you write
If you have big handwriting, a slightly broader nib will be more appealing. While small, elegant handwriting will benefit from a Fine nib.
How fast do you write
If you write quickly, a light pen with a broader nib will make for a better experience. Avoid overcompensating for the pen’s lightweight by gripping it too tight. A heavier fountain pen requires frequent breaks to avoid hand cramps.
This is self-serving, but if you are a lefty I recommend reading my article dedicated to lefties and fountain pens.