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Fountain pen ink properties (crlf.site)
153 points by polm23 11 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 119 comments

Much as I like fountain pens (they're more or less the only pens I use) I have a suspicion they're a bit like a mini version of hi-fi - you can spend an arbitrary amount on admittedly beautifully made objects, which you then have to basically pretend are so much better than the cheaper ones.

My favourite pen is actually my cheapest - a Platinum Plaisir (a Japanese company - I see the author mentions Platinum pens). I bought it in an airport when leaving Japan in order to use up some left-over cash. It looked a bit crappy and I was surprised to find, first, that the plasticky body was actually metal, just somehow made to look like cheap plastic - and then, that it wrote really well. I still think it looks a bit crappy, but it's a pleasant case of a product being far better than it appears.

I still wouldn't advise going to any trouble to find one, though. Something like a Kaweco Sport - almost as cheap - is practically as good and, in the UK at least, much easier to find.

The article might be on to something in focusing on ink - that could well be the most important bit, much as the most important bit of your record player is the cartridge (hm, there's an analogy here that isn't quite what I intended). Different inks in the same pen can make or ruin your writing experience.

As a lefty, the ink's drying speed is key, but also, the size and shape of the nib. Lefties should be using big bulbous bold 1.0+ tip nibs that glide across the page instead of stab into it.

Unlike a rolling ball pen, it won't skip or fail to roll with pressure due to the rightward angle-of-attack against the paper, so a proper fountain pen is actually better than most other pens for us lefties. First time experiencing smooth writing in my life.

Ultimately, the enemy of lefties is the pointy tip, and the rolling ball that's expected to be rolled against the paper, not pushed against it. Felt-tip pens work just fine for us, so those pen Sharpies are alright, but so are the 1.0 bold tip roller ball pens from Pilot, at least all the Pilots I've tried. Can't say all the others work as well.

Fellow lefty, fountain pen user. Just my 2 cents if any other lefty reads this and takes the bold nib advice at face value:

Although I prefer bold nibs, and the reasoning of your comment is sound (bold is going to be smoother and easier to push, which is what lefties do on paper), you can definitely get away easily with medium nibs too as a lefty, unless they are badly tuned.

Fine and extra fine sized nib are a matter of 1. taste in smoothness and line size, 2. how well tuned they are, and 3. hand writing position:

I don't enjoy particularly the fine line they leave, but I have at least an extra fine (european, on a Diplomat Aero) that writes really well, and it has very little feedback when sliding on paper, to the point it's almost smooth (I prefer smooth over feedbacky) even left handed.

There are cheaper pens on the market to try out different nib sizes, if one enjoys pens like I do, definitely find your favorite

And these are the most common nib options, there's even more :)

A friend of mine, a lefty, built a little writing table with a surface warmed by a small heating pad to dry his fountain pen ink rapidly. He used a smooth, rubber-like, or maybe vinyl, drafting table mat to cover the writing surface. It worked for him. I thought it was ingenious.

You could also use a Noodler's "bulletproof" ink on cheap paper. The cheap paper will have lots of exposed cellulose, and the bulletproof ink is designed to react to and bond with cellulose. A lefty will smear Noodler's bulletproof inks on high-quality paper designed for fountain pens and calligraphy, because the sizing (coating on the paper) keeps the ink and paper apart (for beauty), but on cheapo printer paper, it bonds (like ballpoint pen ink, it doesn't dry, it polymerizes and bonds) almost immediately.

Interesting. I use Noodler's Bulletproof for check writing due to its alleged strong resistance to erasure and check washing. I have seen it mentioned as being well-suited for use on cheaper, rougher paper but hadn't really given it much thought and it makes sense that it'd work well for lefties.

That's pretty clever! A good writing surface other than a wood table can also improve the comfort of writing as well.

Two other pens you might want to look at/for are the Platinum Preppy (a very cheap clear plastic pen, intended to be disposable but which can be eye-droppered or used with a converter/cartridge) and the Pilot Metropolitan (a metal body with a cartridge or converter, about the same price as the Kaweco Sport; I found one once at a Walmart). Both tend to write very well.

My pocket-pen is a Pilot Petit 1, another disposable that can be refilled and dirt cheap.

Fountain pen ink does make a difference, but nib quality is probably the major factor.

I use an inexpensive Pilot fountain pen and it's awesome - solid, writes well. Uses any ink I put in it but I've definitely spent more time trying out inks rather than pens.

I love my Plaisir too! I have a green color and of course, it's always inked with green :)

I kept wanting to love fountain pens, and I bought a couple, but the experience was always meh and not really any better (to me) than a decent ballpoint. They certainly didn’t help the writer’s cramp I’d suffered with all my life like I’d heard they would.

Then I bought a Lamy Safari on a whim and realized I could barely hold the thing. I did some reading and found out I was using the “lateral tripod pencil grip”[1], but the shape of the Safari’s wedged end really wants you to use the dynamic tripod grip. I fought through forcing myself to adjust the way I hold my pen for a couple of weeks, and what do you know: it really did end my hand cramps.

Ballpoint pens push you to hold them vertically. Fountain pens work much better at shallower angles. The difference in grip, and angle, and much lower writing pressure makes a huge difference (for me) in writing comfort. After trying and giving up fountain pens a few times, now I’m sold on them.

[1] https://www.ot-mom-learning-activities.com/correct-pencil-gr...

Thanks, I didn't know there was a name for that grip. I sort of picked it up by osmosis through watching a ton of youtube videos. I wouldn't say one arrives at that grip automatically, but due to how fountain pen nibs behave and how ink flows, I have noticed many people stumbling upon that grip without instruction. It definitely is different from a ballpoint pen grip which as you've noted is more "hand-crampy".

I've a few Lamys but my favorite pens of the last year or so have been TWSBI ECO Fs, an upgrade from Pilot Metro Fs, which I find scratchy. I also have some super cheap Jinhaos that look good on the outside but are leaky. I gather most people buy Jinhaos for the exterior, and switch out the nibs.

An astoundingly cheap and surprisingly good fountain pen ($4) is the Japanese-made Platinum Preppy F. They write way better than Pilot Metros. I kind of think Preppys should be the recommended starter pens rather than Metros.

I grew up writing with cheap Parker fountain pens in elementary school-- those poor experiences colored my perceptions of pens until I tried better pens. If I had a Preppy, I would have started on my fountain pen journey earlier...

> An astoundingly cheap and surprisingly good fountain pen ($4) is the Japanese-made Platinum Preppy F

I just wrote a comment praising cheap Platinum pens as well (though mine's not that cheap!) They must be on to something.

> I grew up writing with cheap Parker fountain pens in elementary school-- those poor experiences colored my perceptions

I have a fondness for the Parker Jotter, mainly from the fact that my grandmother always used one. I like their simple appearance as well. I have a couple, one of which I use quite a bit, but I agree, the cheap Parker doesn't write as well as the cheap Platinum.

Hmm - in fact I think I left a filled Parker Jotter in the desk drawer at work, back in the middle of March...

The difference between cheap and more expensive pen that quality control. I have dozens of Preppy pens, and almost not a single one of them wrote as good as a new Sailor pan out of the box.

But again I generally purchase moderately expensive Indian acrylic pens and send them to a nibmeister to work on it and the pens come out better than any branded expensive pens.

Once you get a nibmeister work on your nib then the only difference between a cheap and expensive pen is in the quality, style and material of the body (Preppy is too light unless you mod it to eyedropper pen and fill the body with ink completely, this means you will tire faster, compared to a slightly heavier pen).

I like Preppies. I don't know where to get them for $4 (open to suggestions), but I often want to try exotic inks with some pigment or sparkle or acrylic or acid (iron gall ink) or whatever that risks damaging a fountain pen. I'm fine if I neglect to clean it and it clogs the Preppy. Oops. Throw it away.

Amazon has a multicolor pack of 7 for $25 (~$4 per pen after tax).

If you buy them individually, they're between $5-$7 retail.

I read before that good handwriting is apparently due to relying on the shoulder muscles for fine grained control, plus results in less hand issues/cramping.


Have a couple Safaris myself, they've definitely helped my handwriting (long way to go still...). I find that paper makes a pretty big difference for the writing experience with fountain pens

Absolutely. In another comment I mentioned that I like the Rhodia Webnotebook paper a lot. It’s super smooth but takes the ink nicely and doesn’t blur. There are plenty of other great options (and I don’t have Lamy or Rhodia stock, honest!), but that’s my sweet spot for good paper, easy to find, nice form factor, and reasonably priced.

Rhodia is my go to as well! I like the big pads with dot pattern

Me too. Not to hard to find, and the dots are better for my notes and diagrams than lines or grids.

I really like a number of the Japanese spiral bound notebooks too. The paper is great for my (mostly Japanese) fountain pens and inks. However, it’s much easier for me to find Rhodia here the US.

I keep thinking I would, but my heart belongs to lines.

I do love the line spacing on the Rhodia, though. Some others are too narrow and it's hard to keep my writing both legible and tiny at the same time. Others flash back to those writing pads they give you in kindergarten.

I like the HP Premium 32 paper for use with fountain pens. Smooth surface that ink glides onto.

In my European home country, all kids in school must write with Fountain pens. At least in Elementary school and as far as I can remember.

They may have some style and look good cool, but honestly, I prefer ink rollers.

This is one of the best pens I know:


I had to learn to write with fountain pens in Italy, too, when I was in Elementary school. I am glad I did: nowadays I try to only use pencils and fountain pens when writing long pieces, just because other pen types just require too much pressure and give me pain the wrist and/or fingers. With the right ink, the writing is also very contrast-y, which helps readability IMO. Of course, it doesn't count much if the handwriting is not intelligible!

In Germany in the 70s when I was in elementary school and forced to write with fountain pens there were two camps: Geha and Pelikan - you were one or the other and they had different ink cartridges.

Later on we upgraded to fancier pens like Lamy or Montblanc but honestly, the mass market kid pens worked better.

There were also strict rules about which colors we were allowed to use.

When we spent some time in a US school during my dad's sabbatical we were amazed that the kids used pencils - so convenient and erases better than the "Tintenkiller" we had to use.

It’s funny how different brands have different perceptions over time and space. Today, as an American, upgrading from a Pelikan to a Lamy makes no sense to me; for me Lamy produces cheap intro pens (2K excepted), while Pelikan produces gold nibbed introduction luxury pens.

Montblanc remains luxurious, but I have a hard time imagining them being purchased by a child or student; I associate them with older executives who would proudly display it on their desk.

In Germany of early 90s it was Lamy or Pelikan, Lamy having the long cartridges and Pelikan the small ones (if I remember right).

It is hard to beat a Pelikan and they have some fancy range.

It is strange you didn't mention Rotring. They are quite affordable, nice design, good pens.

I didn't use Rotring till college. For drafting I had a set of 4 pens with the thin cylindrical shaft in different diameters.

I also love rollerballs (bad name since even the shitty 20 cent ballpoints are technically rollerballs). I personally prefer the Uni-Ball Vision Elite, and compared to the cheap but well-regarded fountain Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen (which I used for 6 months before giving up on it), I really prefer the Vision Elite by a large margin.

The big 0.8mm ball feels much better to write with, and the ink is really great. While you don't have the same variety in ink as fountain pens, the black is really dark (& waterproof), and Uni-Ball has some nice BLX colors - the dark blue is also great. But the rollerballs are less sensitive to any imperfections in the paper, will write at any angle and rotation, never leak (so I don't need to constantly pay attention to what angle it is in in my pocket), don't get ink all over your fingers, and don't need special handling to take into airplanes. Just much more practical overall, and more of just a tool that works rather than an art piece that needs strict care (analogy).

Using rollerballs is more expensive over time; a bit less so if you buy refills instead of a new pen every time. But it's worth the convenience. And while I do keep them close since they're expensive, they're cheap enough that I never have to worry about losing one of the pens. I can afford to buy 12-packs and have 3 pens scattered around the house + a stockpile of extras.

You know, in my decade of using a fountain pen, I have never had a fountain pen just leak.

I have also stored them up right and so forth, I have never had a fountain pen just catastrophically leak somewhere while I was writing with it. I have made them burp before, or dropped them or waved them when I was brand new to them, but I've never had an otherwise normal riding session spoiled by ink going everywhere.

Maybe I am just lucky in what fountain pens I use? Or just lucky in general?

The large perception of fountain pens, vintage or modern, around the internet seems to be that they are like small grenades that will any moment to go off and leave you drowning in ink, and I just haven't seen that.

Anecdote not data etc

I've only had this happen when I did something kind of dumb like trying to use one on an airplane or walking outside in freezing weather with one in my pocket.

And you can react to that by saying "these things are crazy" or you can say "oh yeah, it's nothing but water, that makes sense."

There's still the occasional "too muck ink in the nib dripped into the cap" but that's hardly an explosion.

My fountain pens leak as well. Doesn't matter which one I use, Montblanc, Parker, Caran d'Ache, Waterman, Lamy, Rotring... The leaks are not severe, but holding area always has some, leaving inks on my fingertips.

You may want to check on the inner cap seal. I don't know about the others, but Montblanc might be able to do something about that.

The caps screw or use friction to connect to the body of the pens, with the cap covering the area you hold, the section. In many pens, there is an inner cap that seals over the nib and against the end of the section. It is intended to keep ink leaking into the cap from getting back on the section, but they don't always seal very well.

The adapter on my Jinhao can get disconnected from the body, which can make refilling a messy process, but that’s the only issue I’ve had.

My daily driver, a Twsbi Eco, has never leaked on me.

I was excited to bring my new fountain pen with me, on a job, outside in 105 degree weather. It was a cartridge and somehow ended up covering my head and face.

I’ve had pens leak 2-3 times while on flights. Several of the pens I use can be closed up for when you fly. But sometimes I forget.

What pens have you had success with on flights?

Vacuum fillers are known to tolerate flights well; that was part of their original sales proposition during the early jet era. Purportedly they can even write on an airplane, but I personally wouldn’t dare try.

The trick with flying with fountain pens is storage angle. The air pocket that remains in the pen is going to be at a much higher pressure than the air in the airplane, so it is going to expand. If the pen is stored nib up, that air pocket is close to the top, and can escape through the nib with minimal leakage. If the pen is stored nib down, the air pocket will expand and drive ink out of the nib.

The TWSBI pens tend to do well. A pen that doesn’t do well is the Pilot Vanishing Point.

I think the comment on what angle you keep it at until you reach flight level is spot on. If you can store it so that the air bubble is up and the feed doesn’t have a huge amount of ink in it, it should be okay.

Some variations of vacuum fillers also have a piston that you unscrew to let ink flow from the reservoir, but close when you fly.

(Sorry if this is a bit vague. I’m more of a user of fountain pens rather than a collector so I tend not to geek out as much when it comes to the technical details. I mostly tend to choose pens based on what kind of writing I’m doing :-))

Every single one of them if you keep them upright during the takeoff which isn't too difficult if you put them in your top pocket when you go to the airport (even if you don't you will be getting a reminder when you go through the TSA line and you have to make the pain run through the X-ray).

When I was at a school at age ten you had to hand-write a thesis on a subject of your choice, in fountain pen in joined up writing, in order to graduate to using a ball pen or some other more convenient pen. It was called your Master Scribe and I remember all the pupils taking it extremely seriously.

As far as I know they use or have used fountain pens, because it forces you to use more proper technique, e.g. not pressing too hard and be more careful while writing to not cause a mess.

Which I find interesting, because we often use highly simplified versions of things for kids and then give them the real deal later on. But I know very few Millenials or younger that used Fountain pens regularly after elementary school.

Maybe because of how much of a pain we remember them to be and never tried a more quality pen in a different context. I recently got into ink drawing with dip pens and quite enjoy their capabilities and limitations. I definitly wouldn't have as a kid.

Indeed. This was the case with me until I became 25 and bumped into the fountain pen topic and I was finally able to afford to buy a proper fountain pen (which happened to be a Parker Duofold Chocolate Pinstripe).

I do like a good pen, blue ink, but I don't miss the fountain pens from my school years in Bavaria.

But: What writing instrument you use should depend on the message and receiver.

Now that is old school! :D Using a fountan pen is definitively not continued where I live in Norway. The elementary school curriculum used to contain "løkkeskrift" up until the 70's, which is loosly translated to "curly writing," or fine writing. However most schools switched to using pencils during the 50's and 60's, so only older people in Norway remember having to learn "løkkeskrift" using a fountain pen. Lately there has sadly even been discussions on removing some of the pencil writing exercises entirely to the benefit of learning to type instead. However some studies claim that pupils retain more information, and hence learn more, when they use a pencil or pen to take notes, rather than a keyboard.

There are still some good reasons to learn to write with a proper pen. The nib gives quite a unique stroke, seeing as it's flexible, which is also why you see those varying strokes on good comics, such as those drawn by Albert Uderzo, or Franquin's hillarious Gaston Lagaffe, and not to mention his dark humour series, Idées Noires.

Personally I've always been drawn to fine writing, and I started learning calligraphy quite early, inspired by the wonderful written illustrations from Tolkien's world. I was overjoyed when I found a whole box of old nibs in a bankrupt store one day. Some of them dated back to as far as the 1800's, though most were from the 40's. So I got as many as I could afford, and that's when I started writing mostly using "dipping pens" for my fine writing. On a trip to London I also found "the best calligraphy store in the world," L. Cornelissen & Son, well in my personal opinion anyway lol. So if you're into that stuff, and nearby London, this is a wonderful place to stop by.

Interesting. In The Netherlands we still learned writing with fountain pens and 'curly writing' well into the eighties and possibly nineties.

(As a leftie, I was not too happy with that. Switched to a ballpoint whenever I wasn't in school.)

Finland was still teaching "curly writing" until a few years ago, but it was with pencils for the last few dozen years.

That shop is awesome

When I was in Germany, it felt like there was a calligraphy store on every corner. In the US, you basically have to order fountain pens online unless you happen to live in a major city because they’re not common at all.

The same in Romania. In the 90s, everyone I know had to learn how to write with a fountain pen. For me at least, I write horribly when I use a ballpoint pen, vs a fountain pen. Because the ballpoint slides on the paper much too easy, like on ice, and you need much more discipline to write nicely. A fountain pen nib is generally more scratchy and feels easier to control. My 2 cents anyway...

I can still remember the fountain pen randomly refusing to write and my constantly ink-stained fingers during primary and middle school.

For me it's gel pens. Pilot G-Tec ones are great.

I think ink roller and gel pens are very similar. In fact, I bought my first ink roller pen by chance, assuming it is a gel pen and only looked into the brand and type after the ink was finished and I considered it the best pen.

I’m a fountain-pen aficionado that was taught to write with fountain pens and cursive writing way back in the eighties and never stopped.

Now I have a sizeable collection, but by far my favourite is Faber Castell’s Tamitio which features a collection of italic nibs (I myself use the most modest 1.1 size).


I’d like to chime in with an appreciation for Noodler’s ink. I first encountered it when I was in New York but I stocked up and then returned home and found (happily enough) that now it’s very conveniently available online.

I've been using The Parson's Essential[1] with an italic nib for 5+ years, and have to drop a recommendation.

Also of interest to anyone exploring transitioning to fountain pens would be the Pilot Vanishing Point[2], which is a retractable fountain pen that is generally well regarded.

[1] http://www.mrpen.co.uk/contents/en-uk/p866.html [2] http://pilotpen.us/categories/fountain-pens/vanishing-point-...

I have quite a few fountain pens - a few that are somewhat expensive, but my top tip is TWSBI. They make unreasonably good pens with large reservoirs.

Another tip is Noodlers Ink’s fast-drying “Bernanke Blue” ;-)

I wrote all my university notes with Bernanke Blue, Bulletproof black (I think) and Widow Maker red. I had a few TWSBI pens, which were nice while they lasted, but unfortunately the plastic crazed after a few years of sitting in a box and at least two are now broken. I had the big one and two minis. I'm not sure if that was becuaee I didn't flush the ink out before storage, but something to be aware of.

My goto before that (and now) are Uniball Jet Stream. The ink dries faster than you can try and smudge it. Refills are slightly hard to come by in physical stores, but I don't write much these days and they last for ages. I got a nice metal one (Jet Stream Prime, I think, single colour) last time I was in Japan - wasn't too expensive. Very hard to find that version elsewhere, but it's lovely and heavy.

I have two TWSBI pens, and so far so good. (but I've only had them for 1.5 years).

As for inks, I like really black inks. I've tried Noodlers, Herbin Perle Noir, but they turned out greyish on even on premium Rhodia No 18 pads.

Then I found Rohrer & Klinger's Leipziger Schwarz, which is a very dark black ink with a dark blue tint. It's my favorite ink to this day.

Crazed as in becoming brittle?

I keep ink in my pens constantly. My philosophy being that any tool that can’t take the way I use it doesn’t deserve its place. (Pens that don’t work get thrown away mercilessly).

The environment where my pens are stored and used is very dry with little variation. Perhaps humidity and temperature is a factor?

Yep, they just cracked and broke. Maybe more of an issue with the TWSBI because the reservoir is part of the pen. Maybe environmental, but I don't live in a particularly extreme area. I never had an issue while I was using them regularly, and I believe they're reasonably maintainable in that you can strip them down to lubricate. Most of the internal mechanics are also plastic though.

TWSBIs have a certain reputation. They have excellent designs and are cheap, but there's something wrong with their plastic. They suffer a lot of breakage.

I haven't been following them lately, but they used to be very good about replacing broken parts. (Which would then break.)

No idea if it’s heretical in the fountain pen world, but I’m a fan of Pilot Varsity disposable fountain pens. They come in both fine and medium points and a variety of colors. One upside is I always know which pen is mine since I’ve never run into anyone else using them.

I also have some expensive fountain pens, but don’t take those to work.

The Varsity pens are the only fountain pens that "just work" when I use them. Any other ones I own (Parker, Monteverde, Cross) seems to get dried up if they sit too long. My only complaint about the Varsity pens are they are too light -- I like a bit of weight to mine.

I wonder if the not-drying-up is to do with the ink solvent mixture?

It has a different smell to other inks.

It's possible. Another factor is simply how air-tight the seals are. My older fountain pens tend to dry out faster than most modern ones. There are also some pens (Platinum 3776 for example) which are designed to virtually never dry out.

Possibly, but I've used Noodler's ink in them and it doesn't dry up either. (I left one sitting for nearly a year and started hard but would otherwise write fine. Back to normal after I cleaned it.) I suspect it may be the feed they have.

My Pilot Prera is always ready to write. Oddly enough the one other fountain pen is my super cheap 1990s Parker Vecto fountain pen. Just always goes.

I will echo the Varsity as a great daily. Its the only fountain pen the office supply place at work stocks without a special order too. They don’t leak, ink is smooth, and it comes in purple.

I use them, used them at school sometimes (also used some of the cheaper Parker pens back then).

Now I have a small collection of 'cross' fountains that I love to use on the few occasions I have cause to write anything.

There are still a couple of pilot varsity pens in the drawer though.

Those things are wonderful! If you want to move on to a refillable fountain pen, the Pilot Prera and other "lower-end" Pilot pens provide a similarly nice writing experience with a dash more style and refillability.

Fountain pen inks are amazingly varied, and combining them with the particular properties of thefountain pen inks are amazingly varied, and combining them with the particular properties of the fountain pens themselves prove quite the rabbit hole of a hobby.

Example of this is below, but feel free to skip.

Just yesterday, I reached for my custom ink replacement for Parker penman Sapphire and was glad I had it handy. I was cleaning out some boxes and rediscovered my esterbrook SJ pen with a manifold fine nib. It has been restored, but I tend to not put modern inks in vintage pens oh, so having that ink sure was handy.

I remember not really liking the pen because it was such a nail to use, but with my current journal being a poetic Earth journal using handmade carbon paper that most fountain pens don't like, this one seems to do much better then any of the rest, and really the only other writing instrument in competition to write on this journal would be a pencil, and hard pencil at that. Silverpoint inkless metal pens are entirely useless, and fountain pens for the most part don't like the uneven paper surface, it's a bit like driving off road in a 4 x 4 sedan, well it can do it, it's not really liking it.

It is just interesting to me how even though I prefer my pilot myu 701 and other Japanese pens, because of the variety of nibs available in fountain pens, I can still find a use for a pen that at the time I didn't think I could use.

If you want writing excellence, the paper also matters a lot. This is especially so if you're using more specialized equipment, and in particular if you're using inks that are more prone to seeping into the paper. The ability for the paper to only hold the top layer, without "drowning" or seeping in like watercolour, is then paramount. Rough or uneven paper just won't do either. Rather carefully use an ink blotter if the ink doesn't dry fast enough.

Wow, I had no idea my crappy post ended on Hacker news! I just collected a bunch of info and links for myself :) I guess I have to update the post with some pictures, at least...

Fountains pens are an experience and a statement. It's fussy in that it takes much longer to dry than most ball point pens, and it has a clear preference for pricy paper. In return, it makes a mundane part of life (writing notes etc) much more fun and personal. My signature ink is the Iroshizuku Asa-Gao. It's a punchy blue ink that comes in a gorgeously slick bottle. Every time I see the bright blue ink on paper, it makes me happy.

Regarding paper: I bought a Rhodia Webnotebook - no, I don’t know why they called it that - and my fountain pen loves it. It’s the first time in basically my whole life that handwriting has been pleasurable.

Just got a three pack of Iroshizuku in! The tsuki-yo, kon-peki, and take-sumi. Only tried the first so far but it's lovely. Maybe I need to get the set with asa-gao soon?

> it has a clear preference for pricy paper

Well so do I :)

Here's a fairly extensive ink review: http://www.richardspens.com/ref/care/inks.htm

Based on his recommendations, I've been using Waterman Intense Black. It works great: I just write a lots of text, and don't need colors - and importantly dye-based inks are less likely to cause clogs. But one drawback is that the ink isn't water-resistant, so if my notes ever get wet, they're done. I was thinking about trying Noodler's, since a lot of people seem to like their inks.

Has anyone who has used the Noodler's Bulletproof inks noticed problems with clogging (or the pens needing frequent cleaning)? (The review I linked mentioned problems with the Buletproofs.)

Richard Binder hates noodler's inks because one of the crazy inks (Baystate Blue) to destroyed a very expensive antique pens.

Since then Mr Binder always recommends the easiest and the most watery ink ever (Waterman Blue), because he's a pen guy, he doesn't care about the Inks nor does he care about writing.

I am neither an ink guy nor a fountain pen guy, I care about what I'm writing and how long would it last on the paper and my experience writing it. I don't have any collectible pens just moderately expensive fountain pens, a really good quality of paper, and a wide variety of inks to keep things interesting. Noodler's inks are an example of American ingenuity out there.

Bulletproof ink means they are archival and forgery proof, if you don't necessarily need to write unforgeable stuff like checks, then you just need to archival inks from Noodler's.

But I have used plenty of his inks and other than Baystate Blue none of them truly give you any problem. and if you are into fountain pen and inks nobody should die without using Baystate blue at least once.

My favorite are noodler's Henry Hudson blue which is a fountain pen Hospital exclusive ink, and the general of the armies. they both are complimentary things in ways that Henry Hudson blue is blue on writing but greenish on drying. General of the armies is the opposite, it's green on writing and bluish on drying. I have my pens loaded up that Henry Hudson blue and I picked them once a week, and other than priming them a bit there is no problem.

TL;DR: I second your points and add some anecdotes of my own.

Like you say, Noodlers inks have various flavors of permanence, from none, to archival / eternal, bulletproof, and Wardens series. Almost all of them are PH neutral which helps keep them from harming the pen they are in or more commonly the paper they're put on.

I treat inks at my house on a spectrum, depending on how long I want whatever I'm writing to last.

0. Goners - chucked because they couldn't even hit level 1.

1. Non-permanent - often water soluble, looks great and behaves well, but I don't expect it to survive being in the sun, getting wet, or otherwise taking any torture at all. An example of this is Diamine Red Dragon, which has a cool name and a cooler look on paper.

2. Bulletproof - my standard inks for journalling or other documents that I want to resist aging and be reasonably readable if dunked in a bucket of water. An example would be Noodler's Heart of Darkness (looks like a shiny onyx black on paper) or Noodler's Navajo Turquoise (optional Eel), or even the humble Noodler's Bulletproof Black (looks like a grainy black).

3. Safe inks - My 'nice' non-permanent inks. Used for birthday cards, special occasions, and self-indulgent musings if the writing is not intended to be used more than a year or so. I also reach for these when I have a pen that is misbehaving with my usual inks. An example of this would be Pilot Iroshizuku Iro Ai.

4. Top Security inks - There are only 2 of these in my house. Noodler's Bad Blue Heron, and Noodler's Bad Belted Kingfisher. I use the latter in my Myu 701 for things that I want to last till the end of time, and resist the sun, rain, bleach, forgery lasers, the works.

None of the above considerations can be applied to ballpoint or rollerball pens, indeed, you are lucky if you have a 3 color pack of something nice from the disposables, like the Uni-Ball Signo DX UM-151 if you are gonna go to JetPens, otherwise you are stuck with the Uni-Ball Vision Elite Needle Grip family, which does okay, but still doesn't hold up to all the color varieties, nib variations, and grip sizes that fountain pens offer.

When I need to reach for a pen that is not a fountain pen for whatever reason (half the time all my FPs are just clean and un-inked and/or out of ink and I don't have time to fill 'em) I reach for the Pilot Hi-Techpoint V7, which is a refillable version of the Pilot Precise series of pens.

I have mostly used Noodler's; I'm a big fan of water resistance. I have never had any problems.

I haven't used Bay State Blue, though. That's supposed to be the ink of the devil.

Yet so beautiful!

I ran some noodler's bulletproof through my pilot MR for a few months and had no problems

Speaking of which ... for the last year, I've been using a combination of these two for my daily note-taking. I'm extremely delighted with them (especially the nib):

- Waterman Hémisphère fine nib pen[+]. It costs between 80-105 euros, depending on where you buy.

- Waterman "Encre Noir Intense" (Intense Black Ink)

[+] https://www.waterman.com/en/hemisphere/160-black-fountain-pe...

Muji makes a fantastic, beginner friendly Fountain Pen. I use mine daily, and I bought it for a lot of my friends who expressed interest in it. It's only $15.



Link to Product:


If you have the patience to handle Iron Gall Ink, they are a pleasure like none other. It was the penman's popular choice for good reason. They produce very fine hairlines and enable swift stroke production.

Cons wise, they require a good quality paper to reflect those hairlines. Also, given its nib-eating nature, instead of a fountain pen, I'd suggest pairing it with a holder and a good nib. More hassle, but more pleasure. McCafferey's Ink is a great recommendation if anyone would like to try.


"* McCaffery's inks are highly acidic and can eat away at nibs. When using this ink, clean your nib thoroughly and often to avoid corrosion. You may also find mold on the surface of the ink, or a dried skin. These developments are natural and do not mean your ink has gone bad. Simply remove the mold or skin, throw it away, and stir the ink well. You are now ready to keep writing!*"

Uh, yeah.

Glass dip pens are generally available, though I haven't used one. I also have a glass-nibbed fountain pen, but it's mostly for pondering the weirdness of the universe.:-)

"do not use this ink in fountain pens "

This is not a fountain pen ink but recreation of historic inks used with non-fountain pens.

For fountain pens try Platinum blue-black, Pelikan 4001 blue-black, Diamine Registrar's.

Noodler's Air Corps Blue-black, here! :-)

I was mostly looking at the mold comment.

There is https://www.mountainofink.com/

Probably the most comprehensive ink reference I’ve come across.

Oh thanks a bunch, that's how many hours of my life I'm going to lose browsing that site?

If you think fountain pen inks are complex you'd be amazed what crazy stuff our inkjet ink chemists come up with.

Pilot Namiki Black is also a very well behaved ink and easy on the pen.

That's what I use. My only complaint is that it evaporates so quickly. I don't write a lot, so anytime I want to use my pen the first thing I have to do is replace the cartridge and try to get the ink flowing again.

Pilot Namiki Blue-Black is cellulose reactive and very permanent yet safe for fountainpens.

This is a strange blog post, almost like a Wikipedia page with more references than information. Also no images. Is there a name for this style? Is it very popular?

Martin Fowler has called his website a "bliki" (https://martinfowler.com/bliki/WhatIsaBliki.html).

Has anyone left-handed successfully used good pens? It’s something I would like but it seems a waste when I know it’ll just become a smudge.

I don't because I'm not left-handed - but my spouse is left-handed and uses fountain pens. And dip pens. And whatever else will give him writing and/or art he likes. (He does asemic writing in artwork... whole books of nothing but giggerish writing and charts and things). I honestly haven't really paid attention to his method, though. I just know it can be done without smudges everywhere.

Been ages since I used a fountain pen, but did for years in school. https://www.nibs.com/content/left-handed-writers has a few techniques - #5 is close to what I was taught in elementary school. Ink selection also helps, some inks dry a lot quicker than others.

Lefty here, been using FPs for a few years. The occasional smudge accident happens, unfortunately. But you definitely can learn a way to avoid it most of the time, other comments here offers some good advice.

I just want to add that when using cursive, I love the slanting some people do, but as a lefty I find it difficult to do "forward" (because of how I need to position paper and hand) so I started to slant my handwriting backwards if it makes sense: it's like italicizing the test in a word processor, only in the other direction: the amount of flair/personality I'd like without bending backwards to make the forward slant work with my hand position

You can do a Leonardo and write from right to left [1].

How do Arabic writers use fountain pens? Do they write with their left hand?

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leonardo_da_Vinci#Journals_and...

my brother-in-law has used his first fountain pen, a pilot metropolitan which I gave him about six months ago, and he wrote left handed using the ink that came out of the cartridge and does not seem to have any smudge.

I would say his writing style somewhere halfway between hook-handed and left-handed pusher.

I use a Pilot Metro and taught myself to write on an angle so that my hand stays below the line of text. Something of a pain if you don't have room to spread out, but otherwise no more ink smudging than using any other pen.

I am left-handed and used a bunch without any issues. However, Sailor makes left-handed nibs. Pilot also has WA nibs that are suitable for writing in various angles.

There are 'quick dry' inks. Combined with a fine nib(lays down less ink).

A TWSBI Eco with a bottle of Noodler's Bernanke would do.

Thanks -- I'll give that combo a go.

Would love a breakdown of ink viscosity so I can finally do a dropper build that doesn't leak.

Surprising to see this on HN. Yes, fountain pens are a rabbit hole. No, they are not really useful - it's hard to edit or search through what you wrote on paper - but the feeling while writing is pretty amazing.

> No, they are not really useful

Pens aren't useful?

> it's hard to edit or search through what you wrote on paper

As opposed to every other document not written using FPs? I don't even know what your point is here.

> Pens aren't useful?

Yes, this is my point.

> As opposed to every other document not written using FPs?

As opposed to documents not written on paper. Please, read carefully.

I was also confused. Your first comment was poorly worded to convey the meaning you had intended.

More to the point though:

> it's hard to edit or search through what you wrote on paper

You'd be surprised how fast queries can be done in the type of physical organization systems that existed before computers! People weren't stupid, they came up with many brilliant systems. There's a great art to organization, summary, and consolidation. Maximum flexibility is usually not synonymous with maximum efficiency. And we've never quite mastered the input system for computers.

Editing is generally much better on a computer though, but even that shouldn't be overestimated. As humans we are much more often limited by the speed at which we can think, than by the speed with which we can record that information.

I must say I was confused too. You explicitly referred to fountain pens, while everything you said applies to all handwriting.

I have to use a fountain pen at work to write certain documents, so knowing about good pens is very useful.

Yep, and I am old enough to have actually worked several years at a time when certain official documents/registers had to be hand-written.

I am not talking of one line per day, I am talking of tens of pages per day.

When you have to write at length (hours per day) there is nothing as "light" as a fountain pen, using ball pen or rollers invariably get your hand more tired.

Up until the 2000s, in Hungary, CVs and cover letters had to be written by hand. Mostly, because handwriting was considered a precursor to how literate and educated is the candidate.

> it's hard to edit or search through what you wrote on paper

You shouldn't really handwrite things you need to edit or search through. I would definitely type all "archival" type notes and things.

But I still handwrite plenty of stuff. Daily to-dos, retention type notes, and exploratory idea work are all better suited to paper, in my opinion.

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