IT lawyer Tom Hall has been a devoted fountain pen user for nearly 30 years. Here, he talks about how he got interested in them, and describes his favorite pens…
Why use a fountain pen?
It seems a reasonable question. Ballpoint pens are readily available, fairly reliable and inexpensive. Losing or breaking one is no cause for concern. But for the most part they are also dull to look at and many are difficult to use. A good fountain pen floats across the page. Many ballpoints need to be forced to their task. The necessary death grip does nothing for my carpal tunnel.
My first fountain pen was a chrome Shaeffer Targa, circa 1980. I used it to draft two senior theses in college. I liked it so much I bought a second. Nearly thirty years later they are still in service, although I sometimes have difficulty finding cartridges for them.
Next came law school and a black Lamy Safari, purchased for all of $12 at the University of Wisconsin book store. After slight modification, it became an excellent all purpose pen. The ergonomic grip is a fine idea, but I disliked the sharp edges. I rounded them off with a file. I also added a gold nib, for the princely sum of $20. It is not an impressive pen to look at, but it writes like a dream. Law school also provided one of my favorite curiosities a Pelikan student’s pen. It had a black body and a striking orange clip. A classmate absconded with it after an Evidence lecture. What could I do? She was gorgeous I was but a mere male. She tells me it is still giving loyal service.
After I began to practice, I treated myself to a sterling silver Pelikan. The barrel diameter and overall balance are just right for me, while a Pelikan nib is truly wondrous. In addition, Pelikans generally cost a little less than the better known brands.
Then there is Big Red, my Parker Duofold Centennial, a recreation of the 1920s classic. It was a gift from my wife and is almost too beautiful to use. It is fitted with a medium italic nib, which adds a touch of character to even my scrawl. (I believe it came with an ordinary medium nib, but, at that time, Parker offered new owners their choice of nibs, installed at no cost.)
The downside of fountain pens? They require occasional cleaning and filling them can result in ink-stained fingers. At the moment, though, my greatest hardship is finding ink. The days when every stationary store had at least a bottle of Skrip in the corner have evidently passed.
The next pen? I’m fascinated by the Waterman Edson, but balk at the price. Besides, I’m an aspiring writer. I’m looking for one that contains the Great American Novel.