First of all, I’m so embarrassed that I didn’t know this national day existed, and I call myself a fountain pen geek! From the website (fountainpenday.org), National Fountain Pen Day takes place “on the first Friday in November each year, (and) is celebrated by enthusiasts worldwide as a time to embrace, promote, and share the use of fountain pens.” I Love this! So here we are this week with… the fountain pen. Most people think that there is a bit of nostalgia with fountain pens, and many think the fountain pen is ‘old school’. That is partly true, as the fountain pen was invented way back in 1827. (As a comparison, the ballpoint pen wasn’t first seen until 1938). That said, there may be a few things you don’t know about the fountain pen, so on the eve of Fountain Pen Day, here you go!
- First, the fountain pen is pretty darn scientific. It uses capillary action (a property of fluid dynamics, but please don’t email me any questions about that!). Essentially, capillary action is where a fluid (the ink) is able to flow through the narrow channel in the pen nib without any external force creating that flow. What that means is that a fountain pen is typically a smoother writing experience than many other types of pens like the ballpoint.
- The tip or nib of the fountain pen can be quite ornate and exotic. It can be made using a number of different materials including steel, Palladium, 14 carat gold, 18 carat gold, and even 22 carat gold and titanium. Non-component materials (for the barrel and the cap) can include natural materials like woods or pinecones, as well as different resins, plastics, metals, or a combination of both.
- A fountain pen can mold itself to the user over time, as the nib wears to the angle the user holds the pen (this takes quite awhile however!). This particular characteristic probably explains the reluctance of many fountain pen owners to loan out a favorite pen. I used to use a fountain pen almost exclusively at work for note taking and journaling while on the road, and would actually take a 2nd pen with me in case I had to loan a pen to a colleague.
- And finally, the fountain pen has status! Even today, these writing instruments are seen as status symbols around the globe, with the most powerful figures in all walks of life signing ceremonial and important documents with them.
As with many things, there are a few Fountain Pen Myths to clear up as well:
- A fountain pen is hard to use- FALSE. Because of that capillary action, fountain pens (once you get the feel of a nib rather than a ball bearing) flow smoother and require less pressure to write. If you are writing for any length of time, you’ll likely notice less hand fatigue because the ink flows just by touching the pen to the paper. You don’t have to press down like you do with some other types of pens.
- Fountain pens are messy and hard to fill- FALSE. Ok, well, this one can be true but doesn’t have to be! I own 3 different types of fountain pens, that I use for different purposes and which have varying ways of filling. Cartridge pens use small cartridges which you simply pop out and replace when you run out if ink. More so than many other pens like ballpoints and rollerballs, there are hundreds of colors of ink to keep you engaged and creating your unique personality with your writing.
Ink converters allow the use of traditional ink bottles to fill a cartridge that then fits into the fountain pen, ready to write. Finally, is the piston reservoir, which may be what many of you think of when you think of a fountain pen. To fill the reservoir, you first screw the piston down to push out all the air. Then you submerge the pen nib in a bottle of ink, pull the piston to draw ink into the pen’s ink reservoir, re-lock the piston and wipe the nib clean. Voila! You are ready to write!
- No one uses fountain pens anymore; they are obsolete- FALSE. There is a huge community of fountain pen lovers, users, and collectors around the world. They come from all walks of life and you’ll likely be surprised who of your friends has a secret fountain pen addiction!