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India's artisanal fountain pens are making their mark (bbc.com)
211 points by thomas 5 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 134 comments

Loved fountain pens as a school kid in India. You had to write in cursive and "proper" handwriting was a big deal. They would not allow ball point pens in the younger grades. But they were messy. Then someone came up with the bright idea of cartridges with pre-filled ink. They were some great brands - Hero, Parker and Sheaffer.

A parallel universe is the ink brand. Growing up Bril was the "cheap" and popular brand. But the best one was Chelpark.

> But the best one was Chelpark.

Oh boy, this brought back memories. Turquoise Blue + Chelpark was nirvana level experience for me. Whoever (mostly teachers) noticed that shade of blue would get immediately confused. Is it blue? Is it Green? It would lead to a good discussion!

You cant even draw lines in green ink. That color is for gov officials signatures!

Not really. Green is used by school principals too.

Chelpark brings fond memories. They had a peculiar color, and it looked beautiful on paper.

Of course, Bril was the workhorse.

Chelpark had a purple-blue, which looked great!

Was it called royal blue?

Turquoise Blue :-) Glad to have found a fellow fan!

I have fond memories of using ink pens. When any kid in our broader family reached tenth grade, my grandfather would gift them a Parker ink pen. And the last day of exams was the customary throwing ink on each other.

We had an English teacher who used to chide us for writing with anything other than a pencil till the 5th standard, and after that, would insist that we write with ONLY fountain pens.

Chelpark Turquoise and Bril Royal blue were my favorites too. They both looked brilliant on paper!

Its been almost 30 years since I heard those names! Thank you :)

I forgot camel ink!

I used to prefer Camel because of the design of their bottles. Good times :)

Interesting, I don’t remember Bril. I had only used Chelpark.

Ha! A fellow Chelpark fan, those were the days!

Same here in Switzerland in the 90s. We always had 'Pelikan' pens, a German brand specialized mostly in school fountain pens.

Had a pelikan lefti with special lefti ink :)

Buy'd a Namiki some time ago and i love it, especially the japanese ink's and pens.

You're absolutely right. I still write with fountain pens and I have several including a Montblanc, Parker and a Waterman. I find that when I write with ballpoint pens my writing deteriorates significantly although I've noticed that for many others this isn't necessary so, as their handwriting is still excellent.

When I was at school I learned to write with a nibbed pen and I always had ink on my fingers (and often on my clothes much to my mother's chagrin); in fact during the early years we weren't allowed to use ballpoint pens at all!

I can only guess the reason for this is that ballpoint pens don't provide the correct kind of tactile feedback that's necessary for good writing. Anyway, it seems it's so for me, I think the reason is that they offer little resistance, and what there is of it is uniform, and with too little variation, thus one needs to better control the pen's movement but fails. On the other hand, fountain pens have a solid tactile resistance that seems to change dynamically as one changes direction when forming characters. (The fact that ballpoint pens were banned at school seems to indicate that others must have the same problem as me. I'd be glad to hear from anyone who's had similar experiences.)

Perhaps this is why I also find that my writing is much more legible when I write with a pencil. For normal day-to-day use, note taking and such I usually use propelling clutch pencils with 0.5 or 0.7mm leads (I've many scattered everywhere).

I am sorry I never learned to write those cursive scripts to which you refer. Whenever I see old historical handwritten documents I never cease to be amazed at the excellent standard of the handwriting, and it's often in this cursive style. Furthermore, from my observation, the older the document then generally the higher the handwriting standard is. In fact, the quality of handwriting in old documents, especially official ones, seems to be almost universally of a high standard (it seems that then clarity was more highly esteemed than it is now.).

It is a shame that nowadays we no longer pay much attention to the standard of our handwriting and that so few recognize or appreciate the fact. I've always believed that humankind loses something significant when a skill that's still useful— or that can be appreciated just for its aesthetic reasons alone—is lost.

The farther back you go the better the cursive, my grand-dad wrote in this beautiful cursive script. My hand-writing always sucked, it got worse with ballpoint pens. Now I can barely write :-)

I made a syringe contraption to fill Parker ink into the full size single-use cartridge. My fingers are far away from the bottle and I can use the full capacity as opposed to the plunger cartridge that is half the capacity.

Hehe, all the hacks that we did!

I did too! It was cheaper as well.

Interesting reference to adulthood.

> ... The moment you graduated from a pencil or ballpoint, to a pen you knew you were no longer a child ...

When I was growing up, we started with pencil, moved to fountain pens (the one with the cartridges & tiny glass balls), then graduated to ballpoint.

A cultural difference.

We use goose quills in the UK. No we don't! I'm 50ish and I started with a pencil and moved up to a variety of pens later.

My prep school (that's a UK private school for 13-16) encouraged pretty much anything that made a neat mark on the page. The Head who later retired to Bursar was a massive fan of fibre tips - less blotting I suppose - how progressive. I should point out that corporal punishment (ie cane/belt/backboard rubber) was still legal back then, not so progressive 8) Everyone had a fountain pen or two. Generally cartridge type but some used a bladder sucker type and a bottle of Quink because it was much cheaper. We used a lot of pink blotting paper.

At Rheindahlen infant school, I think we used chalk (it was pencil.) Paderborner First - probably a chisel on stone (pencil.) Those are BFES (UK military) schools and yes it was all a bit bewildering for a young child. Before 13, I went to those and Button Lane infant school in Manchester, not to mention "Jerboa" School in Soltau. I may have missed one or two out.

"We use goose quills in the UK."

Perhaps you should—perhaps we all should—when learning. The best handwriting I've ever seen was written with them. ;-)

"<...>school for 13-16) encouraged pretty much anything that made a neat mark on the page."

As I mentioned earlier, when I was first taught to write there was no option other than a steel-nibbed pen that we dipped into inkwells (pencils were first but only in infants' class (6 or so) and we basically only drew pictures with them). Well-behaved boys (teachers never ask girls) were chosen to mix up packets of powered ink with water. Budding young chemists like me had a ball of a time, we were excused from class to a sink near the corridor. Sometimes ink went everywhere including all over us.

By 13-16 we too could use just any writing implement we wanted (presumably by then we were supposed to know what to do). Not that you'd know it, a teacher once likened my handwriting to Chinese hieroglyphics done by the wanderings of a demented spider (I'm sure that line was was wheeled out every year for especially 'problematic' kids like me.)

Incidentally, I recall that on a few occasions we were given quills during our art class period to try out and they worked very well but they didn't stay 'sharp' very long (BTW, we used the ink in our normal inkwells to write with). We were shown how to cut and prepare them, this we did with single-sided GEM razor blades. I reckon today if a teacher gave 7 - 8 year olds razor blades to play with it'd be deemed child abuse.

My-my, how things have changed.

That's surprising for me - my memory of it was that ball points were just plain safer as a 3rd / 4th grade kid using them.

Fountain pens on the other hand were expensive, messy (they can leak in your pocket, you have to refill them with ink, the nibs might need replacing) and just plain hard to use in general.

I think I got my first fountain pen in high school - one of those landmark dad / son moment along with things like learning how to shave etc.

I grew up in the US in the 90s and 00s, and I only used pencils and ballpoint pens. I've never used a fountain pen, I don't even think I've seen one outside of a display case of a fancy pen shop.

I'm also pretty sure I can now only write a paragraph or two before my hand starts cramping up.

> I'm also pretty sure I can now only write a paragraph or two before my hand starts cramping up.

This was actually a nice thing about picking up a fountain pen to write with. The ink flows without you applying pressure (or significant pressure) to the page, and you learn to let the pen mostly rest in place in your hand. If you're gripping it tightly, you're probably holding it wrong. I've written dozens of pages at a time with a fountain pen and never felt much hand strain, in contrast to how I often felt with other pens and pencils. Though since learning to hold a pen properly with the fountain pen, I've become better with those as well

Except for cheap ballpoints, they suck.

I’m about 3 years into an experiment in which I try to determine if fountain pens can reduce waste and be less expensive overall. This is the first time I’ve ever used fountain pens and am finding that success is likely, with the side effect of increased writing enjoyment. I bought a Lamy Safari and a Pilot Metropolitan with refillable tanks. These are “cheap” pens.

Funny thing - I once was cleaning one of the pens in the sink at work and a colleague noticed, and happily told me of his happy memories with fountains pens growing up in India. There were a few others in the room who heard and started a conversation about childhood, school, and especially the anxiety of school exams with their fountain pens. It was a real treat.

" I bought a Lamy Safari and a Pilot Metropolitan with refillable tanks. These are “cheap” pens."

I wouldn't let that worry you for an instant, that is unless you want one that's very pretty or just damn pretentious (i.e.: a wanky talking point) like my Montblanc (I got it super cheap and duty free). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meisterst%C3%BCck. Like watches, you pay heaps and heaps just for the styling (they don't necessarily write better).

That said, I prefer both my Parker and Waterman to the Montblanc as I prefer to write with them, especially the Waterman. Moreover the damn Montblanc leaks when taken on planes—having ink dripping down one's shirt in the middle of a flight is a real pain. Nevertheless, keep in mind that refillable tanks are the best as you can select and match inks to suit but they are more likely to leak than a pre-filled cartridge when on a flight.

I don't have a Lamy at the moment but I've had them in the past and they're really pretty good pens. Irrespective, of which pen you have, it's important that the nib you have suits your writing style (it's worth trying various types out if you haven't done so already).

To your point of reducing waste, Pilot cartridges are refillable - you just need to tweeze out the little plastic biscuit, and later push it back into the refilled cartridge with the back of a chopstick or something.

I refill from Iroshizuku bottles, having found inks designed for Western pens to tend to flow poorly in Pilot F and EF nibs - a shame; I really like Herbin inks. For the actual filling, I use an adjustable automatic pipetter that I got for $30 off Amazon, before I quit doing business with them, and which can anyway be found more cheaply on eBay; the cartridges take about a milliliter, so get one whose range includes that volume. (I fill mine to 950ul, but it's not super critical.) If you haven't used a pipetter before, read the instructions carefully and practice with water first, since misuse can potentially damage the tool. But you'll get the hang of it pretty quick, and it's a lot faster and neater than syringes and dispensing needles. The tips are meant to be disposable, and it's good to have a few spares on hand in case of inadvertent bumps damaging the very fine dispensing orifice, but you can also just flush well with water after use and keep using the same tip for a long time.

Another problem is holding cartridges for refilling. I made a six-gang rack a couple years ago, but before that had reasonable results with a clothespin at the bottom of the cartridge and a bit of masking tape to keep the clothespin in place on my desk - slow, but workable.

I don't even know the last time I had to throw out a cartridge. They can crack if you have the bad habit of squeezing to push ink from a newly installed cartridge into a dry feed, so don't do that; otherwise, I've found them to hold up really well.

I appreciate your response! I am also using the same Iroshizuku bottle in both the Pilot and Lamy pens.

I'm curious about the Pilot cartridges - why do you need to replace the "little plastic biscuit"? Does it serve a purpose other than preventing spills or evaporation in unused cartridges?

No, I mean, it's just a mechanical seal, not required for the pen to function; the cartridge friction-fits the same way on the stem of the feed whether the seal is there or not.

That said, I'd still say it's worth keeping track of the seals, just so that you're not out of luck if you do find a use case that requires a sealed cartridge - carrying a couple of spares in a work bag, for example, as I do. The best way I know to keep track of them is by reinstalling them in freshly filled cartridges, but I guess I'd do that anyway since I refill in batches rather than by the each. It is a fiddly task, so I could see skipping it if it wouldn't be needed.

Side note: If you're always going to be filling and using cartridges by the each, a Pilot CON-40 or Lamy Z28 converter will likely be more convenient; these offer an inexpensive alternative to cartridges, and use a screw-piston mechanism to let you fill the pen directly from a bottle of ink - see [1] for examples and details of use. I've found converters inconvenient and messy to use, hence the preference for cartridge refilling, but they might well serve you better than refilling with even less potential waste.

(Reviewing your prior comment, I note you have a Metropolitan, which should have shipped with a press plate converter. That's definitely one to try! The page linked at [1] has info on how to use it, including how to get past the pitfalls I ran into when I tried the one that came with my first pen. Goulet says it has a higher capacity than the CON-40, too, at 0.9ml vs. 0.6ml for the CON-40. [2] [3])

[1] https://www.jetpens.com/blog/how-to-use-a-fountain-pen-conve...

[2] https://blog.gouletpens.com/2013/08/pilot-converter-ink-capa...

[3] https://www.gouletpens.com/products/pilot-con-40-piston-conv...

I had that problem before I started using fountain pens. Now I can write pages at a time in my diary like it's nothing. The Pilot Metropolitan is a really good pen and you can get one for $20, maybe it's worth a try!

In my country it generally works the same (as writing with fountain pen is enfoced in primary schools), but after "ballpoint" phase during college some people go back to fountain pens, as they are seen as more classy and elegent writing tool.

Which country is that?

My experience, and that of my kids (in USA) is that pencil is used through high school for daily work. When I was in school, final drafts of essays or other papers could be in ink or typed. Math and science was always done in pencil. Today, pretty much everything written is submitted by computer. Kids can barely print legibly, forget about cursive writing or any care for penmanship.

Pencils are not valid for most (all?) exams in the kindof high school I went to and definitely not valid in university exams (in Austria). It's just too easy to fake afterwards

This is what I see in Germany. A few people stuck with fountain pens thorough high school, but I think moist people switched to ballpoint or fineliners. I don't have a particularly nice handwriting, and a fountain pen would not help with that. So it's not worth the fuss.

I have a handful of Indian pens, and the article is pretty spot on. If you’re interested in something unique, custom, and/or hand made, Indian pens are by far the best value out there right now. Ranga is increasingly popular in that community.

A big part of it is that a custom pen from a small US manufacturer might run ~$800-$1k; a comparable pen from a small Indian manufacturer will likely be <$200.

How do you buy them?

The man in the article has his own site: http://www.fosforpens.com/

I bet the hard part is finding out who actually makes and sells high quality pens. Betting that slick marketers have already copied the artisanal pictures and stories but have very poor quality "clones" shipping

What if I want to wait as little as possible?

Peyton Street Pens is a CA-based retailer who sells Ranga pens in the US: https://www.peytonstreetpens.com/pens/ranga/

If you’re looking for instant gratification from one of the vendors from the article, there you go. Fair warning: Ranga pens generally range from large to obscenely huge, so do some research to figure out what model(s) you might want.

> Today, the waiting list for Mr Deshmukh's pens stretches up to nearly two years. The 10 models come in a range of colours and cost between $70-$160


> "The last time I looked at his online list, it said my order would be ready in 95 weeks," the Indian-born author, most recently, of Gun Island, told me.

Seems like a pretty big failure on pricing here... Raising prices to reduce wait times will generally make for happier customers and more money. Low prices and scarcity lead to secondary markets and unhappy customers.

Maybe he wants to ensure those who love his pens can get them for a reasonable price? There's a democratic quality to waiting. Maximizing profit is only one way to run a business.

How will he avoid the secondary market if that his objective? He will be indirectly exploited and 90% of the earnings will be passed to add-nothing intermediates.

He gets the good will of reasonable prices while keeping the prestige of long wait times, so from a brand perspective, he's still doing well. He can't prevent scalpers right now. But even if he sold to maximize profits today, people in the future, even in his lifetime, can make super profits off even higher prices. This happens to artists whose earlier work sell for millions, while they see no benefit from those sales, except high prices for newly-produced art.

Perhaps the pen maker could raise prices and offer a discount for personalization.

Ha that's smart but I could see that getting taken advantage of.

Most people on the waiting list for that long are not going to be buying to flip it. It's not like sneaker flash sales which are copped by bots.

Let's see what my friend N. Vidia has to say about this.

> There's a democratic quality to waiting

What does that supposed to even mean ? There is no virtue in needlessly waiting for something in a line. Assigning virtue to such inefficiency is dangerous.

I am pretty sure people who are buying his pens would find their time lot more valuable (2 years in this case) than more price.

The buyer is willing to wait. The buyer is waiting because he likes the pen and don't mind the wait.

btw, why is this dangerous?

Buyers do not have a choice. It is either wait or don't buy. However if you create an auction system, you would know how much these people are willing to wait.

> why is this dangerous?

Economic inefficiencies lead to wastage. In this case people might put themselves on waiting list only to buy them for $150 and then sell it to someone for $500. The democratic virtue here is thrown out of the window and you have needlessly now employed a middleman who adds no real value to the process but as a remedy to the virtue signaling of the manufacturer.

Reminds of all bad things that happened when US government tried to subsidize baby formula.

what inefficiency and why is it dangerous?

If you have an item to sell and if people are willing to pay for it more than the price, if you do not increase the price someone buys it cheap and simply sells it to the highest bidder making a profit.

This is a bit like low cost government subsidized housing in bay area. Joe gets it but then rents to Kumar and continue to live as homeless. Now you have subsidized Kumar. It is dangerous in a sense, it assigns virtue to bad economic sense, creates incentives for needless middleman and prevents goods from going to people who really need it.

Maximizing profit is not always the best way to go. Especially in the realm of luxury items. Their elasticity is counter-intuitive with regards to the general idea of supply and demand.

That's why you have waiting lists in many luxury industries (think about Tesla too). It's part of the trade.

> Maximizing profit is not always the best way to go.

My comment was not advocating for 'maximizing profit' - secondary markets do not make for happy customers, nor do excessively long wait times. Yes - a waiting list can be part of a luxury good, but there's probably an optimization of customer happiness somewhere shorter than a 2 year wait list.

A wait list that excessive can spur a secondary market, which makes the wit list even longer, which makes customers and potential customers that much less happy. And the secondary market only enriches the middle-man, while doing nothing for your loyal fans and customers.

> Especially in the realm of luxury items.

Especially for luxury items, it makes sense to keep the price pretty high and supply limited (like Ferrari).

I am from India and $150 is pretty low for the market he is targetting. For example I routinely purchases Moleskin notebooks for around $30 in India and this was not even a rare item. A doctor, a judge can easily afford to pay $500 for these pens.

>For example I routinely purchases Moleskin notebooks for around $30 in India

Do you use fountain pens? Moleskin notebooks are amongst the worst paper I have ever used for a fountain pen. Even the finest points I have bleed an absurd amount.

Oh no. Moleskins are pretty bad for fountain pens. I use rollerball jel pens mostly.

Most of the custom pen makers I've tried to contact lately had multiple year wait lists. A few years ago it seemed like you could get one made in a a few months. US makers charge $200-500 for fairly standard custom pens and for more specialized stuff the prices can get even higher. The wait lists are still long. Personally as a person with a collection of vintage pens worth several thousand dollars, I wouldn't pay much more than $500 for a new custom fountain pen unless it had a lot of gold or silver hardware / overlay.

I have a couple of custom pens. One was about $500, used a rare celluloid material no longer in production, and had sterling silver hardware and an 18k nib. The other one was just as well crafted, but only cost about $225 because it was from someone relatively new to the market and it had steel hardware.

I'm sure someone would pay more if the prices went up significantly, but I would either just buy a vintage pen that writes better anyways or I would stop collecting.

Also, so far there doesn't seem to be a secondary market for scalping people with custom pens.

I dabble in woodworking/woodcarving too though, and there's a lot of people flipping custom carving knives for 3-6x what the makers charge. Its a pretty obnoxious practice.


This is why I feel modern economic machine has failed us. An artisan is making something and selling at a price they are happy to get as wage. And external people have to now think* how the artisan should be raising prices to make more money.

There is no pricing failure. Someone is happy creating their version of art and selling it to run their life and family. They have enough customers to keep working for the next many years. Full stop.

Once he starts raising the prices more he starts competing with european and japanese high end fountain pen makers and then his quality proposition is a more common characteristic.

You're mistaking the market with other firms for a pricing failure of this firm.

Assuming his business makes enough money to satisfy his needs - there is no personal need to raise prices. Not everything follows a model of optimizing pricing to have a business that "functions better" in some abstract economics sense.

There is satisfaction in receiving fair wages for your work. At some price point, it feels like overcharging, even if customers are willing to pay that, and not everybody wants to go down that route. There is satisfaction in working with somebody like that, or buying from them, even if it takes longer.

Not everything needs to follow some moralistic purity test either. Just sell the damn thing at the market clearing price and let other people wring their hands about fairness of the pricing for these luxury pens. Most people do not need to redeem themselves or assess their self-worth via the pricing of luxury goods.

You're aware that they set a price that they're comfortable with, yes? They chose not to set a market clearing price. It's not about a "purity" test. It's what they choose to do.

It's amazing how uncomfortable people get if there are examples of people not wringing every last ounce of profit out of something.

Please read the post that I was responding to, which insisted on framing everything in terms of some weird definition of luxury-price morality. It's strange how much of a raw nerve is touched when you point out the absurdity of people's various moral crusades.

In terms of why the actual vendor is or is not raising prices, I have no idea, neither is it important. I was making a counter argument, not lobbying the vendor. They could charge a million dollars or one dollar for their handcrafted pens and there would be zero moral difference between these two prices.

Besides, who gets to decide what a “fair wage” for your work is? If people are willing to pay more for your pens, I say charging them what they’re willing to pay is still pretty fair of you.

> Ghosh is willing to wait for his pen to arrive from the maker

I'm a bit flabbergasted how you'd think that a customer willing to wait 95 weeks for a product is proof of a pricing failure. It's proof that price is not a factor.

The implication is that increasing prices might balance supply and demand better and/or increase profit for the manufacturer.

But the manufacturer is turning a profit and the customer is satisfied. Why fix what ain't broke?

Capitalism is so wonky.

I imagine he would make out really well with a limited quantity, sky-high priced, "expedite an existing order" button. And it's not too late for that. A small portion of the upcharge would easily fund a lesser skilled helper for non-critical/lesser-skilled tasks, so that existing orders weren't delayed.

Sure, though it wasn't a suggestion he had to do that. Just that an opportunity was there. Also, I just noticed on his website that he is already looking to hire some help: http://fosforpen.blogspot.com/2021/02/i-am-hiring.html

I was just trying to be funny :) Didn't really pull it off, I guess.

Ah, friendly jabs are uncommon here, so perhaps it's my sense of humor and not yours.

I read the fabulous "Clapton's Guitar" a few years back and I think a lot of the fun of it is that not everyone follows the economically logical rule of adjusting the prices like that.

Surprisingly accurate. There are dozens of custom fountain pen makers online now, but the wait times only increase from what they used to be a few years ago.

As a long-time Lamy Safari fan, I have a hard time believing people really put these fat, front-heavy pens to use. Anyone here actually use these as more than just decoration or gifts that get tucked into a drawer and forgotten?

I used to use fountain pens but then discovered the Pigma Micron PN pens: https://www.jetpens.com/Sakura-Pigma-Micron-PN-Pens/ct/4069, which are not too expensive, write very nicely, and can be easily lost, given out, and so forth.

Interesting. I use Pigma Microns for line drawing, but never used them for writing. They are lovely!

I use the Pilot 100th Anniversary Meiji-Maru to write letters to my family. I think it's around the same level of fatness and even more decorative.

As far as being heavy, well, neither has anything on a brass Kaweco.

What do you mean by "fat, front-heavy pens"? I'm genuinely curious. The article doesn't have a ton of close-up photos and none of them would seem to match that description.

The pens they do show have a profile that reminds me a bit of the Montegrappa Elmo, which I have and love:


Their general shape doesn't look that far off from, say, a Pilot Metropolitan? Most of the pictures look fairly typical sizing except for maybe the very first picture.

I have a Pelikan M800 which gets used quite a bit. I don't know if that's "fat" to you, but it's definitely on the big side. I love it, the weight feels great and the balance it just right.

I have a dozen or so other pens, all of which are "thinner", but that's the one I use the most.

I think they are often reserved for signing documents and not for general use.

I like fountain pens for drawing with. They all have their character. If it fits well in the hand, the ink flows well, and the nib has some variance, then I would put any chubby pen in the rotation.

I think by writing, both on a keyboard and paper. Tendonitis was prevented by using the Dvorak layout (keyboard model more or less irrelevant) and a fountain pen. Fountain pens reduce or eliminate cramping by not requiring pressure. You just drag the nib across the page to make a mark. The ink stands out as blacker for a given pressure compared to anything else I've used except maybe a thick technical pen with India ink (which clogs easily). I prefer older pens with flexible nibs. Modern fountain pens are designed for people used to ballpoints, so the nibs are very stiff and it feels like writing with a nail. These newer fountain pens may actually require pressure to make a decent mark, which goes against the ergonomics for me. Price is irrelevant; my Parker 21 or Noodler's Ahab, both with flexible nibs, write nicer than my Mont Blanc which admittedly looks prettier. The Noodler's takes some noodling to get the way you want (pulling nib tines apart, messing with the feed) which can be a pain in the butt similar to setting up X configs... sometimes you just want the tool to work. The Parker just runs beautifully as long as it's clean and used with Quink. Anyways if you write a lot, consider these, along with the Blackwing pencils if you prefer graphite. Also props to the reMarkable 2 (with the fancier "erasable" stylus).

I enjoy writing with the Pilot Kakuno fountain pen. It's a budget pen made in japan, you can install a CON-70 converter and use any ink you want. It's light and comfortable to write with, unlike some of the heavier pens out there.

I think it would be a good choice for someone who wants to get into fountain pens but has a tight budget (especially when you get addicted and want to buy a bunch more).

The Pilot Metropolitan is also in the same price range and comes with a converter already.

The Metropolitan and the Kakuno actually shares the same stainless steel nib.

The difference between the two is that the Kakuno has a plastic body while the Metropolitan has a brass body.

A JetPens guide to the Pilot Metropolitan: https://www.jetpens.com/blog/pilot-metropolitan-a-comprehens...

If you're interested in making yourself a lovely looking fountain pen then here's how:

For those who are into woodworking you can make yourself some very spiffy looking fountain pens (in fact they can be as beautiful as anything you can buy). First, get some very pretty wood in the form of pen blanks (that's their correct name) and there's plenty to choose from. Many woodworking suppliers sell wooden pen blanks like these:


Then you use your woodworking skills as follows


This video is a bit over the top though, most woodworkers won't want to forge the metal bits as well. Usually all the 'metalwork'—the nib/ink/cartridge assemblies can be bought from the same place as the blanks.

Incidentally, here's an unrelated but useful tip: if you've some broken furniture a table or wardrobe, etc. and there are small bits or chips broken off it and you want to find some matching wood to patch it up then a cheap source of wood can often be found by selecting a pen blank that matches the missing piece. There is such an enormous range of pen blanks available that you're almost certain to find one that's a pretty close match.

I shifted to writing with fountain pens a few years back. After I joined my job.

I like writing for the pleasure of writing and have written copious amounts of notes. Most of it is circuits, notes, tech stuff, software architecture diagrams, etc.

Fountain pens are the best. For fine diagrams I use Platinum Preppy 01. I just love that pen.

For daily use, I use a normal Reynolds one that costs Rs. 20 (about 30 cents, US).

My preferred choice of ink is Parker Quink. I fill up using a syringe.

Can never ever write with a normal pen. However, I am forced to use ball pens on older paper as fountain pens blot a lot on yellowed out paper.

You need a gel pen like a uniball. Its pretty close to a fountain pen (or better depending on nib quality I guess) with the convenience of a ball point. Different tip sizes are available as well - 0.7mm is probably the most popular, 0.5mm is available too. Both write real nice.

If you interested use the Pentel Energel pens rather than Reynolds. I hated Reynolds as a child because of how thin the barrel which used to hurt.

Some of the quick drying waterproof gel pens give similar feel of a fountain pen.

"He reached for a pen in a cup on his desk; amazingly, it was full of Montblanc fountain pens, Meisterstücks, at least a dozen of them. Quickly he wrote out a note and handed it to me. 'Don't lose it,' he said, 'because the Registrar never assigns counselees unless I request them.' The note was written in a masculine, rather nineteenth-century hand, with Greek e's. The ink was still wet."

Donna Tartt, The Secret History, 1992

I used to love fountain pens, but I don't use them any longer. It's not that I've converted to another kind of pen, it's that I do more and more on my computer.

I used to go to meetings, take notes with my fountain pen, and then type in my notes back at my keyboard. But now I have a laptop ...

There's a guy in Bangalore who sells mechanical grandfather clocks too built from metal.

I've made a pen myself at a local makerspace. If you have the chance, you should definitely try to do it yourself- it's pretty safe and if once you get the hang of it it's very relaxing.

Can you recommend any tutorials?

I have not done it myself, but there are a number of kits out there. Look up "pen blanks". You'll usually need a lathe (often a small desktop one is sufficient for this purpose) and a kit to get started. Once you have a better idea of what you're doing, you will still need the hardware kits (for the nib and ink bladder, or pencil mechanism, etc.) but can branch out into using your own blanks and coming up with your own designs.

With increasing automation/machine made everything i think "artisanal" ways of production is how we can carve out our niche and make a good and stress free at-our-own-pace living like the old Artists/Sculptors/Artisans of yore. This is a good way to live.

How can one do this in the Computer HW/SW business ?

Overall I think we're too commoditized to do this "generally". There needs to be a scarcity.

To be a scarcity is to chase things with high specialization and a relatively small niche.

It's actually not hard to do in SW/HW per se, find a really old language/hardware and become useful in it. Mainframes come to mind.

Right; i am looking for those sort of niche specializations where people are willing to pay good money eg; Mainframes/COBOL/Specialized MCUs/Unique Product/Maintenance etc.

However finding them is not easy, would love to have some leads i.e. websites/list of companies etc.

Page 19 of https://pagedout.institute/download/PagedOut_002_beta2.pdf has an artisanal QR code, enjoy!

That's Neat!

You can try buiding and selling wood craft computer accessories - there might be a niche market for such things.

A little bit of self promotion, but I built a site for learning about fountain pen history and managing your pen collection. It's kind of like a wiki and github mashed together. You can file reviews to have new content get added.


I started using fountain pens again last year when I started journalling. As a side effect my hand writing is so much better. Later I shifted to a dip pen since I wanted to write slower and think more before I wrote. I had shifted to a ballpoint in school for exactly the opposite reason.

> Nibs and ink filling systems are usually imported

How would one go about finding these components (in hobbyist volumes)? The fountain pen components I have seen for sale (in the US) are quite expensive and limited in options/quality.

For anyone interested in fountain pens but unwilling to plop down a huge amount of money, these Japanese "Preppy" pens by Platinum are pretty fun to play with. It's my first fountain pen so I can't say whether its as smooth writing as more expensive ones but for $6 I think its a great way to get started. They come in lots of colors, this is the one I got:


Yup. They are awesome. Bought a bunch of them when I visited Japan. If you are buying from a store, do check out the nib size on the nib itself rather than the cap, as the caps are interchangeable and the body does not have nib size markings.

They are a pleasure to write with and if you write with the 01 nib size with the nib facing the opposite way than normal, you get an extra extra fine line (at the cost of huge friction) that leads to amazing fine drawings.

Looks like they've fixed that -- my pen has a "03" marked on the top of the cap and the nib itself also has 03 engraved on it.

For a tad more money you can get a TWSBI Eco, that would be my recommendation. A very nice pen, not fancy at all but very practical.

Agreed, the Preppy is excellent! Some good reference information is here (for people who prefer it to a store link): https://unsharpen.com/pen/platinum-preppy-fountain-pen/

Pilot Varsity disposable FP are great too. Have converted many friends to FP by gifting them Varsities.

what a headline :golfemoji:

First vinyl records, then fountain pens... out with the new, in with the old! But why stop at fountain pens, why not use dip pens, those are even more stylish and minimalistic, kinda like a fixie bicycle? Or why not go all in and use a quill? Fortunately I'm not in danger to succumb to this particular trend, I'm left-handed, so I hate fountain pens...

Dip pens are used quite a bit for artwork still. Until very recently (last 10 years or so), dip pens were very much the standard for inking certain types of art, manga especially. The main advantages of a dip pen are the amount of control you have over the line by varying pressure and angle (like a flexible nib fountain pen) as well as the ability use pigment based inks that will clog most fountain pens. Of course digital tablets have pressure and tilt sensors, but without the tactile feedback of the nib flexing and pushing back against your hand, it can be much harder to control. I'm guessing that drawing tablets will eventually have haptic feedback for this reason. The ability to swap out nibs or use a paint brush with the same ink is also very useful.

> Fortunately I'm not in danger to succumb to this particular trend, I'm left-handed, so I hate fountain pens...

Have you tried a Right to Left language? Seems like it might help you get into fountain pens? (I'm happy enough writing illegibly with my right hand and a ballpoint though)

Fountain pens are hardly a trend. They will never rival ballpoints for the versatility but they have distinct advantages that will ensure that they have a loyal following.

I used to hate fountain pens in schools. But I recently switched to a fountain pen as an adult because my hand started to hurt when writing with ball point pens over a longer period of time.

I don't have that problem anymore since using a fountain pen because I don't have to apply any pressure when writing with a fountain pen.

I use a dip pens with knibs for some art inking. You can't really get the same line variation and character with a technical pen. You may be surprised to learn you can readily get dip pens and ink.

I sometimes use a refillable fountain pen instead but the nib isn't meant for it so changing it a pita.

Dipped nibs are still often used in calligraphy. They'll use either flexible nibs, where line width will vary with pressure, or stub / italic nibs, where line width varies with the orientation of the nib to paper.

> Or why not go all in and use a quill?

I do. Like taking photos with film, the relative inconvenience of using a quill pen gives you time to focus on penmanship and what you're writing and engage more deeply with the act.

Dip pens are excellent (and extremely common) illustration tools.

Its all basically this imo. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Handicap_principle Any other explanation is a bit of a stretch.

There's zero inconvenience barrier between my fountain pen with ink cartridges and my rollerball pen with ink refills. Writing and replacing the ink cartridges are functionally equivalent between the two. But my fountain pen has a 1mm stub nib that gives the lines some distinct width, so I use it when I want that characteristic.

A combination of a good fountain pen that matches your own writing (price doesn't matter) and good quality paper is an asset to me, not a handicap. The ink flows, the hand to pen to paper feeling/feedback/sound brings out words and sentences that typing doesn't.

I like FPs because they are the easiest on my wrist, they don’t go to the landfill as often, and I like to use different colors (have a bunch of inks and have even mixed them myself to achieve the “perfect” aquamarine). Also, the physical principles on which they operate are curious.

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