Fountain pens: Your questions answered

Investing in a fountain pen can help improve your handwriting and pen grip and elevate your writing experience.

With their attractive design and trusted mechanisms, there is much to learn about the elegant fountain pen. Discover the answers to all your fountain pen questions and ensure your tool stands the test of time.

What are fountain pens?

Fountain pens are writing tools that use a metal nib to apply ink to paper. They use a cartridge, or convertor, to store the ink, providing a continuous flow that is also refillable.

As the ink flows faster than typical ballpoint pens, fountain pens produce smooth, rich lines that make them popular with calligraphers and handwriting fans.

When was the fountain pen invented?

Many prototypes of the fountain pen exist throughout history, some dating back to 974, and the topic of when and who invented the first fountain pen is still debated.

The first fountain pen patent was filed in England by Frederick Folsch in 1809. In 1827, however, Romanian inventor Petrache Poenaru received a patent from the French government for the writing tool.

By the 1850s, Birmingham was one of the largest mass producers of steel-nibbed fountain pens. However, the introduction of sturdier gold nibs, hard rubber and free-flowing ink propelled the instrument into popularity.

Lewis Edson Waterman invented a superior fountain pen in the 1880s that made inkwells and dip pens obsolete. His design featured a nib and feed mechanism that provided a steady flow of ink, minimising mess and making writing more accessible.

Fountain pens are still essential to any writer’s toolkit, maintaining their allure and elevated style. Today, you’ll find all different styles of pens, including those adorned with gems, one-of-a-kind designs, and fountain pens intended for improved handwriting.

How do fountain pens work?

Modern fountain pens use gravity and capillary action to draw ink from a reservoir inside the pen down through a feeder and to the metal nib.

A fountain pen feed usually has three tiny ink channels at the bottom and a more significant channel for air. Air helps to regulate the flow of ink, so it doesn’t spill out all at once, resulting in a carefully controlled amount of ink to make a smooth line.

What are fountain pens used for?

People use fountain pens for handwriting, note-taking, calligraphy, and even fountain pen art. Writers and artists can choose from various pen styles and ink colours to produce unique handwritten letters, documents, and drawings.

How to write with a fountain pen

Black fountain pen is writing a letter or a manuscript on a white paper

Writing with a fountain pen is simple, but requires some consideration regarding grip style and writing angle.

It’s essential to keep the pen at a 40-55 degree angle so the ink continues to flow. Keep your ring, pinky finger and palm against the writing surface to increase stability. Make sure your fingers are firm and hold the pen between your thumb and index finger.

With fountain pens, you tend to write with your lower arm, moving it across the page to avoid hand injuries.

Fountain pens also don’t require as much pressure as ballpoint pens — to find the writing sweet spot, gently glide the pen across the surface and ensure it doesn’t scratch or skip.

Regular practice will improve your fountain pen writing style and make your writing skills faster, smoother, and more efficient.

How to take care of fountain pens

Properly caring for your fountain pen will make it last longer and provide optimum performance.

  • Don’t let the ink dry out in the fountain pen nib – this will reduce and eventually stop the ink flow.
  • Use the correct ink cartridges for your fountain pen. Some pens aren’t compatible with pigmented or waterproof inks, and using these will damage the instrument.
  • Wash the nib occasionally by removing the ink cartridge and then holding the nib under lukewarm running water before drying it with a paper towel.
  • Replace the cap after each use to avoid accidental damage, and don’t knock the pen against a hard surface.
  • Always carry the fountain pen with the nib pointing upwards to avoid ink clogging it while not in use.
  • Store the fountain pen away from bright sunlight and extreme heat.

How to clean a fountain pen

It’s essential to carefully and regularly clean your fountain pen to keep it performing at its best. You can either do this using clean water or with a fountain pen cleaning kit for a more in-depth clean.

  • After dissembling the pen, carefully run the nib section under cool, running water.
  • Leave the nib to soak in a cup of clean water, replacing the water when it becomes saturated with ink. Repeat this process until the water remains ink-free for one hour.
  • Remove the nib section from the water and leave it to dry in a cloth to help draw out the moisture.
  • Once dry, reassemble the pen and use it as usual.

How to repair fountain pens

Fountain pens are intricate and delicate writing instruments that may encounter problems over their lifetime.

Luckily, fixing a dry or skipping fountain pen is relatively straightforward. Check out our guide on tackling this issue without purchasing a new pen.

Repairing a bent or broken fountain pen nib is slightly more complicated and may require expert help or advice. We recommend practising on a cheaper or less cherished fountain pen before addressing the problem yourself with household tools and this step-by-step guide.

How long do fountain pens last?

With proper care and maintenance, good quality fountain pens should last at least 10-20 years. Some more expensive instruments can last 100 years, making them fantastic family heirlooms for future generations.

How long a fountain pen lasts also depends on the pen’s materials. Newer, plastic or rubber fountain pens will likely last longer as they are less delicate and not prone to breakage.

How to fill a fountain pen

fountain pen dripping ink in an inkwell

Filling a fountain pen depends on the pen’s brand and style.

Classic cartridge fountain pens sometimes use a convertor — remove this before inserting a new cartridge. Once you’ve reassembled the pen, it’s best to leave it nib-down for a while, so the nib gets saturated.

Piston or squeeze converter pens use a convertor to help insert bottled ink into the pen. You’ll squeeze or twist the device until your pen is full of ink and there are no air pockets. Clean the excess ink from the nib, replace the barrel, and then use it as usual.

Who makes the best fountain pens?

When looking for the best fountain pen makers, look for brands that have been around for a while and utilise classic fountain pen technology.

Our largest stocked brand of fountain pens is Montegrappa, a maker that’s been around since 1912. The Italian company is known for its luxury and prestigious fountain pens, used by lovers of the craft.

German brands Kaweco and Lamy, founded in 1883 and 1930 respectively, attract large cult followings. Their range of writing tools has stood the test of time, producing some of the best fountain pens in the world.

A classic Parker fountain pen is also an icon of writing luxury. Though now based in France, the company originated in the USA in 1888. After George Safford Parker failed to find a pen that wrote well and didn’t leak, he decided to make one himself.

Waterman — the first inventor of the ‘practical’ fountain pen — still makes fountain pens that many love and enjoy. Their modern designs featured printed patterns and metallic hues, ideal for the everyday writer.

Where to buy fountain pens

The Pen Company stocks a wide range of everyday and luxury fountain pens that are perfect for various occasions.

Give the gift of writing or elevate your handwriting, and put pen to paper with a Pen Company fountain pen.

Mariah enjoys typing articles for our blog on her laptop but she'd much rather be writing them by hand with a luxury fountain pen!

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