We all have different preferences when it comes to how we hold a pen and the sizes we like. This can make it difficult to judge how accurate a review can be if you’re looking to buy a pen as you first need to know what the reviewer likes. Sure with fit and finish it should not make a difference, however when it comes to the writing experience personal tastes do. Ideally if you find a reviewer who likes the same pens as you then the chances are this will carry on through to other pens, but it is not guaranteed. Thus for a little bit of fun and for a guide on my partialities for the reader I thought I would write this article. Enjoy and have fun trying to identifying your own preferences.
I am right handed and tend to hold my hand at a more natural angle with the pen at roughly 45 degrees rather than the near straight that many of us were taught1. It does mean my letters tend to be more narrow than normal and my few attempts at calligraphy have resulted in squished O, o, and e letters.
I rotate my pens about 10-15 degrees anticlockwise, which with the above does not help the standard of my writing.
While helping out John Hall of Write Here at the Late Late Spring London Pen Show 2021 I did almost grab the hand of one person who was trying a pen as I could see him pushing apart the tines of a steel nib. I asked him to use less pressure to which I got a rebuttal of ‘I know how to use a fountain pen’, he obviously did not but fortunately put it down and moved away. I think/hope he is rare in our community, so what am I like.
I have a very light and subtle touch. This has advantages, but also disadvantages. Most people who know what I’m like with pens have no problems with me trying theirs, even ones where the nib may be close to springing, as they know there is no risk from me especially if they also ask that I do not try flexing. There are downsides though as it means I do not get as much ink flow to the tipping meaning I suffer from ink starvation where the baby’s bottom is very minor and also notice any mild roughage in the tipping, or slight misalignment of the tines, when others do not.
Partly as much of my writing is note taking and annotation I tend to have smaller writing with the result that I prefer fine and medium nibs. I do have a variation of nib sizes and I enjoy the larger ones, it’s just that these tend to be used for greeting cards and notices. I also keep an extra fine or needlepoint in my active set for very fine/small annotating, though the feedback of this type of nib is not to my preference (more further down).
I’m slow and careful. Actually that is a big fat lie. I rush my writing and struggle to slow down even when concentrating. It also means that if I’m playing round with a flex or semi-flex nib then my lettering looks crude/ugly as there is not enough time from me releasing the pressure on the nib till the bottom/top of the stroke.
For note taking I have no real problems with any weight, however heavy pens do limit how long I can use them for. I would suggest my Gravitas Skittles Polished is towards my limit for medium to long term usage. Certainly the brass Namisu Nova I previously owned was far too heavy for any bar limited use.
I’ve no problem with really light pens though I do prefer a little heft. It is the reason I rarely use my Franklin Christoph pens. All are well designed and a joy to write with, but they are just too light for my preferences. With acrylic/resin pens, if there is a barrel ring or metal threading I think I am fine.
I bounce around here. Certainly I am not a fan of really thin pens and I was worried my Pininfarina Segno One would be a risky buy, however it is just within my limits. At the other end I am happy using pens with girth though the reason I sold my Pilot Custom Urushi was that is was just a bit too wide for me.
Section shape also affects my comfort levels as there are pens where the grip area curves or tapers from a comfortable width to one which is too narrow for me. A good example of this is the Pilot Vanishing point/Capless.
In my early days of this blog I used to detail my preferences with virtually every post, however felt it was silly to keep repeating this and thus I stopped. I prefer softer nibs and with smoother tipping, the latter probably down to my light touch. It is the reason I am unlikely to own a modern day Montblanc (with the rare exception – 1912 Heritage has a soft nib), Pelikan (with the possible exception of a M100x), Sailor (with the exception of the King of Pen 21k nib), and Aurora (despite really liking some of their designs and finishes). Platinum have been a mixed blessing as the SF and SM nibs work for me (though designed for oriental calligraphy, not flex writing) and the tuning Nakaya give to their nibs personally makes a big difference.
Net result is my long term collection seems to contain pens from OMAS/SCriBo, Graf von Faber-Castell, Pilot, and Lamy (14k gold). I’ve no problems with steel nibs if properly tuned, such as Diplomat, Faber-Castell, Pininfarina Segno, and Franklin-Christoph. In fact with Diplomat and Leonardo I actually prefer the steel nibbed pens over the gold ones. I enjoy the Visconti palladium offering, however the much stiffer Bock variant2 I do not. Titanium I truly hate, there is no bounce, just bend (and a risk of not bending back) and a pencil like feedback I find to be scratchy and unpleasant3.
I seem to be comparatively rare in our community. I not only use clips but also put fountain pens in jacket pockets. From my reviews you may remember that I am critical of ‘decorative clips’ where they just do not work and by that I mean there is no friction/traction on the underside of the clip or not enough pressure between the clip and barrel to secure the pen in the pocket. When I buy a pen without a clip I know in advance it will not be used as much as one with and in recent times I’ve found myself with a great pen, the Pininfarina Segno PF Two, which I have wanted to use more but on several occasions could not as the pen I was to carry needed to go in to a jacket.
Before anyone mentions I should use a case/roll, through one of my hobbies I wear a jacket and can not carry a pen case with me to around 30-50 events per year.
The number of turns to remove a cap do not bother me, but I know it does for some hence including this category here. Personally I am more interested in caps staying on pens regardless of whether are in a pen case/roll, in the hand, or in a pocket. Snap caps may be the quickest to use but there is a limit to the materials this method can be implemented with and also there is a perception that screw threads are more ‘luxurious’ or a sign of higher quality. In addition a lot of snap caps do not seal well and the pens that use them tend to suffer badly from ink evaporation. I know a lot of people are fans of Visconti’s application of the hook lock mechanism4, however my experience with a Monza was that in its metal form there were sharp corners and edges which did cut in to my fingers, and with their resins you can not keep the pen in a pocket. I have tried and with two different pens. Putting a jacket down then picking it up has resulted in the barrel dropping out of the cap. This was one of the reasons behind me selling my Bronze Age as I just did not use it partly as a result of this.
So there are my personal preferences. What are yours. For my fellow bloggers feel free to take this article on and post your own results (and also feel free to link back to here 😉 )
- In reality I think most of us do not hold a pen straight with the arm due to comfort factors.
- I believe Bock no longer make stock Palladium nibs.
- In recent times I have come to the conclusion that the reason a number of us find titanium nibs to be scratchy and unpleasant whilst others do not, is because we rotate pens and tend to use lighter pressure on the nib resulting in only the bottom tine being pushed back but not the top one, causing tipping misalignment.
- In case anyone is unaware, the hook lock mechanism is far from a modern design, however Visconti were there first to use the method for a fountain pen and also took out a patent to protect its application with writing implements. I actually thought they did no have the rights but on research found I was wrong, resulting in my losing an argument.