Fountain Pen Follies

January 28, 2017


I have always liked pens. In my youth and college years I collected pens, much like now I collect books. (If you could see my bookshelves you would probably call me a hoarder.) Most of the pens I ever bought were used only once or twice, or never at all. I just liked how it looked. I even had a fountain pen or two. I tried using them and found them non-conforming to my writing style. None of the pens I collected made it through the many moves from house to house, town to town, or state to state. And I moved a lot.

I still have that fascination with pens. I now am more frugal and more particular with the pens I buy. I much prefer blue ink ball point pens. The 21st century has seen a staggering increase in gel pens and other roller ball pens. I can’t write with those. And here’s why.

When I was middle school age I hit my “writer” phase where I would write in spiral bound notebooks and journals a lot. I wanted my penmanship to resemble the seemingly perfect loopy, consistent, and somewhat flowery cursive that my female counterparts wrote on their papers. I practiced and practiced and found that my slightly right-slanted cursive always came out sloppy. So I modified my style to write sort of like a backwards left-hander. I’m a righty, but I curl my hand around so that my writing it straight up and down. But by doing so my pinky tends to rub and smear the lines I have already written.

With my kooky style I must be consciously aware of the type of ink I use so that it doesn’t smear. Gel inks are no good. Ball points are a must, and has to be of a more viscous ink that drys fast and doesn’t smudge. Fine point uses less ink so that is a must-have as well.

Fast forwarding past the 80’s into the 21st century during which hand writing all but disappeared into the virtual arena of electric keyboards and word processors, I am in a mental place where I like to write freehand again. Not that I could ever write an article or a novel all by hand, I still like to write holiday cards, journal notes, and morning pages a-la Julia Cameron and her Artist’s Way by hand. And I have found a new love for fountain pens. And let’s face it, there’s something cool and retro about an elegant looking writing instrument.

One was given to me as a gift a few years ago. It is Italian made and I have never found an ink cartridge that fits. Recently I bought a cheap Zebra V-301 which has surprised me with how durable the pen is, and how smooth of a writing tool it is. I’m also impressed with this fountain pen ink as it dries fast and doesn’t smudge like I thought it would with my kooky writing style. I like it so well that I went & bought what I thought were universal ink cartridges for my Italian model. Nope. They were Shaeffer cartridges and only fit Shaeffer pens. Well, says I, why not get a Shaeffer model fountain pen to match? So I found a nice, sleek matte black Schaeffer VFM model which I thought I could slip a cartridge inside and write away. Nope. Seems the cartridges fit all Shaeffer pens EXCEPT this model. Gah!

Ok, so I fall back on my trusty 21st century technology and Google my pens to find out what ink cartridges will fit. Turns out there are dozens and dozens of different pen manufacturers and about as many types of ink cartridges. My research landed on what I hope are the right cartridges for the right pens, including my trusty Zebra. So with Amazon Prime delivery I will know in two days if I will need to continue my search for properly and correctly fitted fountain pen ink cartridges, or if I will finally toss them out the window and stick with my trusty Bic accountant fine point. And if all else fails, at least I can still type 80 words per minute…with no smudges.

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