Friday, 9 September 2011

Fountain pens and italic nibs

Those of you who know me, will know that I like to write in fountain pen. I don’t know if it’s because I slow down and focus on my writing more when I write with one or whether other writing implements like biros just do horrible things with my writing, but in fountain pen, my handwriting usually looks relatively nice and with biros it doesn’t. Of course, the exceptions make the rule – I have one Parker fountain pen that can make my writing look like a spider has scrabbled across the page after taking a dip in my ink bottle and a few biros can make my writing look okay.

My favourite pen (for years – I shudder to think how old this pen is now, since I had it in school!) is an Osmiroid. I think it was bought as a pen for left-handers and it has a gold nib. I’m not left-handed, but I do put more pressure on the left-hand side of a nib than the right, from the way that I hold my pen. Anyway, for whatever reason, I adore this Osmiroid.

Over the summer, I also became interested in calligraphy (after a wonderful trip to Iona) and bought myself a Sheaffer Calligraphy pen. I’m not very good at calligraphy (I don’t have enough time to practise) but I do like the look of my ‘normal’ writing in it. However, the nib is far too broad for everyday use and so I wondered about getting an italic nibbed fountain pen. I mentioned it to my Dad at the weekend and he had a boxed set of a Parker fountain pen with a broad italic nib and a standard italic nib (and a non-italic nib) which he gave me along with a huge box of cartridges! (Thanks Dad!)

Well, here is my compare and contrast. The standard width italic nib is fitted to the Parker.

The different nibs and what they do to my writing
As you can see, I have several Parker pens (mostly gifts from people who know I like writing with a fountain pen!). Apart from the one fitted with an italic nib, they all have the same “Medium” nib (allegedly), yet my handwriting is very different with them.

The first of the ‘other’ pens is the one I like the least. It’s a Parker Vector (I think) and my writing is always terrible with it.

The second looks like an identical pen (different barrel colour) – Parker Vector – and again has the same nib (and same ink) and yet looks like a broader stroke and is much nicer to write with.

The last is also a Parker, but I don’t know what kind. A Sonnet I assume (since I do have a Sonnet box, so that would be a decent clue!). This is lovely to write with – it has a rubberised grip area and is chunkier in the hand and is very comfortable to write with. If I was a little happier about changing nibs, I would swap the italic nib into this pen. Maybe DH can help. The other bonus of moving the italic nib to this pen is that it wouldn’t look identical (until uncapped) to the pen I really don’t like!

The gallery!
Left to right:
Sheaffer calligraphy, Osmiroid, Parker with italic nib, Parker that makes my writing look terrible, Parker that’s not too bad, Parker Sonnet which is lovely.

Things I don’t like about fountain pens:
Much as I love writing with a fountain pen, there are three things that can really annoy me.
1. That when you come to use them after a few days away, the darn thing has dried up and it takes ages to rehydrate (Yes, I’m talking about you, Mr Sheaffer Calligraphy).
2. That after being neglected for a week or so, all the ink disappears without trace. You know you left them at least half full and yet when you return to them, they are empty (Yes – you again, Mr Sheaffer Calligraphy. You are by far the worst for this! See final letter of your sample writing for proof!).
3. You start writing with them and they cover your fingers in ink. I’ve found that usually it isn’t really coming from the pen, it’s coming from ink that is in the lid that has then been transferred to the barrel. Application of cotton-buds to clean the cap out (and avoiding dropping the pens) works well, but I usually only remember to do that after I have been covered in ink.

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