Anyone with a keen interest in fountain pens will eventually own more than one. The “more than one” will of course in all likelihood not merely duplicate the original. Most look towards having some variety of experience — different pens, nibs, sizes and designs. A cursory glance through any pen enthusiast’s social media feed will provide an insight into the amazing variety in many collections, be they developing or mature.
Usually, variety also comes with favourites. Those we might prefer to pick up just a little (or perhaps a lot) more than others. “Favourites” however — is not necessarily a category into which all of those great pens will fit into. Such a category is quite personal and subjective after all.
Perhaps “preferred” might be a better term. Horses for courses. Specific pens which may better for certain tasks than others. I’ll touch on this a little more below, however regardless of what title we put on, or how we define it, I think you get the idea.
There are times when I’m writing a post for this blog where I suddenly stop and think: why am I actually writing this? Who really cares about my personal experience or thoughts on x, y, or z? Something which occurs more often than you would think — and certainly more than I would like. This? Definitely one of those times.
When it does occur, one of two things generally happens: (i) The specific reason something might be of value to someone reading becomes clearer, generally resulting in a re-write with a more specific focus; or (ii) I feel like a bit of an idiot for spending so much time only to scrap the entire thing quite late in the piece.
Blog posts I find most valuable have a way of changing how you think about something — not simply make you think about it. How your own situation is — and will be — influenced by your approach to it, and your philosophy behind that approach. There are plenty of posts published on these pages which won’t achieve that, however hopefully on occasion some will.
Of course when I hit a point in my writing as I’ve described above, I tell myself it improves the overall quality of what does end up published here, though I’m not sure I fully buy that. Here’s hoping I’m onto (i) above with what follows.
Not a “favourite pens” post
So, I’m talking about what exactly?
Well, I can only speak from personal experience of course, however perhaps I’d call it the curious case of my static yet evolving fountain pen collection. It is evolving more with time, and as that continues, it is providing quite an intangible change in value — something that is as exciting as it is perhaps a little unusual (to me at least).
I have a fountain pen collection which has not been added to for well over a year now. For those who may be interested, a listing of said collection can be found here. For those unfamiliar with how much of that collection came together, it is explained here. To say I remain grateful for these pens every day I uncap one would be an understatement.
To explain the apparent incongruity in this same, yet different notion — this “evolution” I speak of, is not in the “I’ve moved on” sense of the word. Over time I’ve noticed an ebb and flow of usage and delight within this collection. Granted, not entirely unusual, however I’m talking about pens I had placed (somewhat firmly) in the unsuitable/not my style/not comfortable/just cannot seem to like it category, completely coming around.
This whole pen caper can be a complex one to think about at times. What’s that? Well if you make it complicated it certainly is. I don’t disagree with you. Just pick up a pen and write with it — simple. Again agreed. However that is precisely the essence of what I’m talking about here. Those we choose to pick up, and those we don’t, and what becomes of those we more often than not don’t.
Thinking back on previous pen posts here, most have always contained a few points on my usage patterns, a big part of which is dictated by the size of the pen, and how comfortable it may be over longer periods of use. Most I generally consider to be either shorter note takers, or long form writers. Of course long can be short — though short is usually never long.
Pens which fit into the long form writers category, and by default can of course handle the short stuff, tend to be those “favourites” or “preferred” pens of the bunch.
From a previously published post, my thoughts on the Faber Castell Ambition:
Over longer writing sessions, the Ambition is probably not quite as comfortable as some larger diameter pens with a tapered form, however here I am referring to a three or four A4 pages before I began to have those thoughts
Another, on the Sailor 1911 Large:
For me personally, the answer is just about perfect, both from a size and weight perspective. At 122 mm (unposted) the barrel has enough length to provide scope for a higher or lower grip on the section, which I will vary at times during lengthy writing sessions.
Finally – the Pilot Decimo:
For shorter writing sessions or quick notes, it is just about spot on. When in the zone and powering through multiple pages of a longer draft, I’d more likely pick up one of my other pens.
Perhaps some form of size/balance sweet spot or preference appearing over time?
In actual fact, I drafted the beginnings of this post some months ago. Seriously? What have you been doing? Good question for another time — actually no it isn’t. I don’t actually have an answer to that one.
In any event, that original post had a working title of A Pen Sweet Spot. In it I began to wax lyrical about how it wasn’t just about nibs. It was (and is) about weight, dimensions, and overall balance as well. That is often why I pick up what I do on any given writing occasion. About how it isn’t just about numbers and specs. How there is a good deal of the intangible.
It might help at this point to provide a little context of where I was headed with that post.
The original draft
A surviving excerpt from the original:
So, it sits about where this so-called sweet spot?
For reference, it’s around a Pelikan M600; a Sailor 1911 Large; or a Pilot Custom 912. Towards, but firmly within the lower (read smaller) end, it’s a Pilot Custom Heritage 92; a posted (of course) Kaweco Sport; or even a Pilot Kakuno. Aside from the Kaweco, all of the above are used without posting the cap, as are those towards the upper end of the window.
Towards the larger end we have contenders such as the Pelikan M800 series, my OMAS Ogiva Alba, and even the Platinum President.
There are also some notable omissions from that list. If we are simply talking approximate size, then it also should be the Lamy Safari, probably the Lamy 2000, and even the Pilot Metropolitan. To me that suggests there is more at play. Those and a few other pens I’ve never really gelled with. Great pens mind you — each of them, and I do enjoy using them — just not for any significant amount of time.
Some notable omissions? Probably the Pelikan M200 and 400 series, the Faber Castell Ambition, and the Pilot Decimo. Each probably a little on the slender side to keep things completely comfortable over the course of more than a few pages.
Between writing those words in the initial draft and now, a few things happened which I have to admit surprised me. For one – I powered through a number of pages with the Ambition and wondered why I enjoyed it so much. I wrote a lot of the first draft of this very post with the Lamy 2000 – again stopping to think: what happened there? That is, with reference to the above, the short did become the long — and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact, and the pens. It changed my whole perspective on some of the pens I’d not used in a little while.
How did this magic occur?
A few pens with which I’d never managed to end up in “the zone” with, magically appeared there — and appeared there effortlessly. Though we might all have our own word or term, you know what I’m talking about when I refer to “the zone”.
Those writing days where everything just feels right. The pen sits truly in your hand — the nib gliding freely but with precision. The slope uniformly even, the tails curve in symmetry, and no matter how fast the page is filling — it’s all falling into place. You’re in the zone — and it will take a big nudge to bump you out of it.
Somedays it can be found in the first sentence. Perhaps late in the first paragraph or even over the page. Other, more frustrating days? Good luck finding it at all. It’s a Field of Dreams really isn’t it? Putting together a combination of perfect tools: pen, paper and a perfect position will see it somehow magically appear from the corn field. Other times? It’s just you sitting in the empty stand.
Your point exactly Pete?
This (sweeps hand above pen storage boxes) — all of this changes.
This is a journey that goes not from A to B. To borrow a phrase from legendary Australian band Powderfinger, it goes up and down and back again. It isn’t simply a linear spectrum or continuum — there is more to it.
As I mentioned – I’ve not acquired any new fountain pens for some time, yet somehow, I have what I consider a whole “new” group of pens patiently waiting for me. That is as weird to me as it is wonderful. I’d begun thinking a little about my longer term plans in relation to these pens, yet now it’s decided – I’m hanging onto them, for I’m sure those sitting patiently in that drawer are likely to have something more to offer when called upon.
I feel extremely lucky all over again.
If you’ve made it this far I thank you, and apologies if what I’m trying to say remains unclear. The essence of the message is simply that it seems this whole fountain pen journey indeed evolves, however it is equally back to the old as it is on to the new.
So yes, buy on recommendations, however embrace what you own. Love your pens, look after them, and go back to them. You never know when that one at the back of the drawer might become “the one” — at least for a while anyway.
There you have it, over 1900 words that could have been summed up in a tweet. Long form writing though — with fountain pens.
Exactly. You get it.