A Beginner's Guide to Fountain Pens

Writing Getting Started Fountain Pen basics

Being initiated into this hobby , perhaps by your friend or teacher , you may be dumbstruck by the truckload of information you'd need to swallow down upon googling about fountain pens. Talk about a mouthful. (Gulp)

Don't fret , here's an all-in-one guide just for people like you and me. Let's begin!

The PEN

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Ah , of course we'd start here. It's what brought you into this hobby , yes? As of now , 2015 , there are many , many companies that produces fountain pens. Mont Blanc , Pilot , Platinum , Sailor , Sheaffer... and the list goes on. You get the point. With that great list of manufacturers , naturally , there would be a wide variety of fountain pens available on the market. As a general rule , Japanese nibs run finer than European nibs. For example : A Japanese Fine would be the European Extra-Fine equivalent.

Fountain pens come in all sizes and prices , which can range from a mere dollar to well over a thousand bucks. How do you determine which pen to start with? It would definitely depend on your preference. For most beginners (and students) , i'd suggest getting the Pilot Kakuno. Why skip the Platinum Preppy? Although the preppy is much cheaper , it definitely is not as durable as the kakuno , with it being susceptible to cracks on its barrel. You're in luck , my dear Singaporean readers , for the pen mentioned above is easily obtainable from local retailers like Straits Pen and also retail stores like NBC and Tokyu Hands ($16.10).

Fountain pens , unlike conventional pens that most people use nowadays (eg. a Uniball Signo DX 0.38) , have many parts. This means extra care! Here is a little snippet into the parts found in a typical M800 from Pelikan :

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The INK

Ink , ink and more ink. One can never get enough of ink. We may typically think of the 7 colours of the rainbow when we hear of "coloured" ink , but not in the case for fountain pen ink. Identifying a blue to get in the FP world is simply diving into the deep abyss , literally. That being said , my job here is to make your life simpler so here are the qualities we look out for , in inks.
*Paper plays a HUGE role in these qualities as well.

Drying Time : As implied from the name , we look at how fast or slow an ink dries up on the sheet of paper.

Feathering : Thinking of a feather? You're on the right track. Feathering on (poor quality) paper looks something like this - https://wonderpens.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/img_4158.jpg

Showthrough : This quality considers how visible the ink is from the next page or the other face of the paper.

Bleedthrough : Somewhat similar to showthrough , but instead of just being visible , the ink "leaks" to the other side. (Adele , anyone ?)

Sheen : This is my favourite quality amongst them all. Inks with sheening qualities are able to create a "shimmering" aura at the edges of where the ink has pooled , sometimes producing a colour that would seem impossible to create from that colour. http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/uploads/imgs/fpn_1373225629__dsc_0016_4734cropped.jpg

Now , you might be wondering : "Since there are so many inks to choose from , and the qualities seem so daunting , what should I get?" To that , here's some inks that I often recommend to my friends.

DOs and DONTs for Fountain Pens


  1. Make sure to wipe the pen gripping section and nib clean enough after inking your pen up - you wouldn't want inky fingers! (or do you?)

  2. NEVER leave your pen uncapped for long periods of time. It can cause the ink to dry up in the nib , which can cause flow complications.

  3. Keep your pens away from the table's edge. Definitely a bad idea.

  4. Always choose fountain pen ink. Other "drawing inks" like Winson and Newton's will clog your pen for eternity.

  5. Treat your fountain pen like a baby. Use light pressure when writing with one , too much pressure may cause the nib tines to spread considerably , which could potentially render the pen unusable. (cue sad music)

  6. Without proper research , do not temper with the nib or the pen itself. This can cause the pen's warranty to be voided (if any) , damage to the pen and/or make the pen unusable.

    If you have any more questions about fountain pens , comment below and i'll be more than happy to answer them.

    'Till next time , keep writing!

    This is part of a series for the basics to the Fountain Pen. Stay tuned for other installments for this series!