Choosing a pen that feels “just right in your hand” is actually more challenging than it sounds. Most stores have pens entombed in plastic, or locked behind glass. If you get lucky enough to actually get your hands on a fountain pen, it will most likely not have ink. Lovely catalogs tease us with pretty pictures, we can only imagine how they feel.
If you go to a stationary store where you can actually try out a pen, experiment with different types of pens and consider- size, feel, ink colors, and point thickness. Ask for scrap paper and doodle. Try signing your name, how does your signature look?
Fountain pen (1880) The Cadillac of Pens! Pluses: Liquid ink and a flexible nib provide the most expressive writing line possible. Drawbacks: needs practice to develop skill and ease. Pen requires some care.
Ballpoint (1930) “The old bathrobe of pens,”- Margaret Shepherd. Pluses: Requires very little maintenance, has a long ink life, very versatile, writes on a variety of surfaces, reliable, practical and inexpensive. Drawbacks: requires heavy pressure from the hand onto the page and the line is not expressive.
Fibertip (1960) Pluses: Uses dye which glides across the page easily. Ink dries quickly making this pen a good choice for lefties! Inexpensive. Drawbacks: May take some time to get used to. Ink can bleed through paper.
Rollerball (1980) Pluses: Has thinner ink, flows more readily, line glides across the page with no strain on the hand. Drawbacks: Cartridge runs out quickly, inexpressive- doesn’t offer any variation in line.
Gel pen (1995) Pluses: Rich assortment of ink colors, smoother than a roller ball. Drawbacks: Short ink life.
If you write small, you will get the best clarity from a fine point. Fine and extra fine points are also good for note taking. If you write larger, you can go for a medium to broader point.
Today’s broad palette of ink colors offers an opportunity to personalize one’s handwriting in a variety of hues. “She always writes in turquoise.” Remember to choose a color that will be easy to read. And with fountain pens, always use the manufacturers recommended ink.
Other suggestions: If someone has a script you admire, ask what kind of pen is being used. Consider buying one pen for your signature, and then also having another less expensive working pen.
Margaret Shepherd points out that the refill of an expensive ballpoint is the same as that of a cheaper model. Therefore, she recommends that one doesn’t spend more than $20.00 on a ballpoint. She also states “that a cheaper fountain pen is usually better than an expensive ballpoint.” My personal recommendation is buying a pack of the Pilot Varsity Disposable Fountain Pens. They are inexpensive, come in a variety of colors, available in medium point only, AND kids love them! (see store for these pens).
Remember, a pen is just a tool that works for you. Don’t get hung up on the price. Find one or two that feels good, inspires confidence, doesn’t intimidate you or throw you into debt!
References: The Art of the Personal Letter– Margaret Shepherd, Script & Scribbles– Kitty Burns Florey, Levenger.com