upgrade my fountain pen

Q&A: Why should I upgrade my fountain pen?

upgrade my fountain pen

Our guide to spending a little bit more on a fountain pen

Introduction

So you are considering upgrading your fountain pen for a smarter, more expensive model. But what will you get for your money? You have maybe dipped your toe in the water and bought your first fountain pen. Now persuaded of the joys of using a fountain pen, your thoughts have turned to where you go next.

So having let your mind wander to what other pens are out there and what spending a little bit more might get you, this article is an attempt at giving some basic advice in terms of what to look for when moving from an entry-level pen to a mid-range pen.

What is an entry level pen?

lamy safari fountain pen

Typically most people will start here. This is most likely because of cost. A first pen might come in around £15-20 and even that can be a big investment when you are making the step up from say a ballpoint pen (dare I suggest you made the leap from a Bic biro to fountain pen?).

That is not to say that an entry level pen is not one that won’t last you a lifetime. Typically these pens might be something like the Lamy Safari fountain pen, the Kaweco Skyline, or maybe even a TWSBI Eco or the Pilot MR (aka the Pilot Metropolitan). All come in at under £30, some for under £20. All are great pens and will serve you well for many a year. But if you do want more…

What is a mid-range pen?

lamy aion fountain pen

For the purposes of this article, a mid-range fountain pen has been defined as being one that costs over and above an entry-level, but not into the eye-watering levels that you can pay. So this has been set at a more modest level of between £40 and £75.

Also, since entry-level will vary from brand to brand, it is deemed to be pens that display elements of being an upgrade on a more basic pen.

Key reasons to upgrade

So why upgrade? Well it becomes ever harder to actually justify the step up purely on value for money. There are gains to be had by spending more, certainly, but it is also an emotional decision and there is no point skirting round this. Nevertheless there are some clear benefits to be had from spending a bit more.

Material

Whilst your entry-level pen will typically be made of plastic, you would certainly expect your mid-range pen to be made of a superior material. More often that not this will be metal, likely aluminium as it is lightweight and perfect for a pen. It makes for a more solid, durable pen than plastic, yet you will not be adding any serious weight to the pen. In fact the slight extra weight might make the pen better as it adds just enough to make it feel substantial without being heavy.

You may also find that this extends to all elements of the pen – look for what the clip and grip sections are made from.

Tip – consider what material you would feel comfortable writing with, and what weight of pen would suit you, and check the full specification.

Nib

This is something that will vary from pen to pen, and a lot of mid-range pens will not necessarily have a better nib that your entry-level pen. For example many Lamy pens have the same Z50 nib, from the Safari and ABC through to a Scala or Accent. Others like the Aion do have a better nib, in this case the new Z53 nib. It is more likely that the extra cost of the pen will get you a better barrel than a better nib but it is worth checking.

Also, a more expensive pen may actually have access to a better range of nib sizes although this again will depend on each manufacturer.

Tip – how important would a better nib be at this stage? This may require you pushing your budget even further.

Features

This will vary from pen to pen but a more expensive pen might come with a few extra features or add-ons. Certainly most Lamy pens above a certain value will come with a converter. Other entry-level pens may not come with a gift box (worth considering if it is a gift for someone).

Tip – consider all aspects of what you want from your pen – don’t just be seduced by the look!

Design

The design of the pen is where there will be marginal gains in making the pen better – possibly a better grip section, or the way the cap can be posted or the way the clip works. Small improvements but it can make a real difference especially with a pen, which requires a good connection between hand and pen.

Tip – consider what you like the least about your current pen and in what ways it could be improved. Then consider your ‘new’ pen in light of this.

Style

This is where the choice becomes more emotional. Typically a more expensive pen will be better designed, and may even have been designed by a well-known product designer. This might not make it a better at writing, but owning a pen that you love might make a difference. A pen you want to write with because it looks good is a pen you will enjoy writing with all the more.

Tip – this all comes down to personal preference. Only you know what you like.

Other tips

If you are still unsure then read a few reviews. Think about what you don’t like with your current pen and consider whether a new pen will answer some or all of these problems. And if still unsure then see if you can try out the pen in person. We do offer a try before you buy service with pens but please do check with us first as we can’t offer this on all pens.

left handed fountain pen nib

Q&A: What Is A Left-Handed Fountain Pen?

Lamy Z50 left handed fountain pen nib

How well suited are pens to left-handed people?

We are often asked about pens for left-handers, specifically left-handed fountain pens. Given that a lot of people are left-handed this market is poorly catered for. Apart from those designed for young children, there is not much available.

Although some 10% of the population are left-handed, as a child I was the only one in a class of 39 pupils apart from my teacher. She, being a no-nonsense type, was determined that if she could write ‘properly’ so could I. Properly meant ensuring my writing sloped to the right and not backwards and she would return all my left-sloping efforts to me with a big red ‘NO’ all over them. After being kept in for seemingly endless lunchtimes being made to write out over and over the handwriting cards we used, she declared herself reasonably satisfied. My writing was and still is, forward sloping.

left handed writing with a fountain pen
Left-handed writing that avoids smudging the ink (it's a Caran d'Ache 849 fluorescent orange fountain pen, nail varnish model's own)

These days children are allowed to develop their own style and backward sloping writing is considered fine. The problem many left-handers have though is that they find it difficult to see what they have written as they are going over the text as they move forward This then leads to the curled hand or hook many people end up developing to avoid smudging. The answer is to try and learn to hold the pen under the writing so that you can still see. The grip should be well back from the end of the pen so as to keep the hand back and the wrist should be straight. Turning the paper by 45 degrees clockwise makes it easier to slant the writing forwards if that is preferred.

But what of specialist pens? Many pens have a universal grip but with fountain pens there is the question of the nib. Of the brands we sell, only Lamy offers a left-handed fountain pen nib. Opinion is divided on how useful this is with some feeling there is no real difference between an LH nib and a medium. When I have tested them out I can feel no difference but that may be because of my writing style which is more akin to a right-hander (thanks Miss) but others may find differently. One of the issues to consider is that the left-handed nib only comes in medium so if you want a fine or broad, tough, they don’t make them for left-handers. Italic nibs can be difficult for those with overhand styles as contact with the paper can be lost with some angles but again, all these things depend on the writing style.

Certainly for children there can be an advantage of offering a left-handed nib. Even if the difference is slight or non-existent, the child may feel they have a special writing instrument that will help them and sometimes small things make a difference. Arguably fountain pens in themselves can help as they require careful positioning which encourages a proper grip and of course they are a bit special. For adults though it is a harder choice. Ultimately, if you are happy with a medium nib then it may be worth trying the left-handed version to see if that feels comfortable. If you want a fine or broad though, give it a go and you may be surprised to find it works just fine. If not, you’ll have to come see me at lunchtime I guess.

how does a fountain work?

Q&A: How does a fountain pen work?

how does a fountain work?

What are the basics that I need to know?

Fountain Pens may seem like complicated little contraptions, but there are just a few sophisticated but relatively simple parts that make it function. Here we will show you some of the terms and the functions there are in each bit of the pen that make a fountain pen work.

Fountain pens draw ink from the cartridge or reservoir to the nib through gravity (the ink draining down out of the pen when held vertically) and by capillary action (where a liquid will be drawn along a narrow tube).

What are the main components of a fountain pen?

There are three main parts of a fountain pen that get the ink from inside the pen onto the page – the reservoir, the feed and the nib.

1 – The reservoir

fountain pen ink reservoir
An ink reservoir (from a Twsbi Eco fountain pen)

The storage part of the pen which holds the ink. The inks can be held in a cartridge, in a converter or even just in the barrel itself (known as a demonstrator pen). Ink is fed from the barrel into the feed when the pen is held upright.

2 - The feed

Fountain pen feed
The feed (taken from a Lamy Safari fountain pen)

This is the clever part, where the ink flow is controlled from the reservoir to the nib. Once the ink passes into the feed, this delivers the ink from the barrel to the nib in a consistent and steady flow. The feed is actually made up of several parts but to keep life simple, it covers the elements that take ink from the reservoir and deliver it consistently to the nib to apply to the page.

The most noticable part of the feed are the fins. They serve an important purpose in controlling not just the ink flow but also the flow of air. The fins help collect ink as it flows and stop too much ink flowing at once. They also allow air to flow back into the barrel – if you think of inverting a bottle of water, the liquid will flow out in an irregular way due to the air trying to get back into the bottle as the liquid flows out. A fountain pen will allow air to flow steadily back in to replace the ink flowing out. The nib may also have a small air hole in it for this purpose.

3 - The nib

fountain pen nib
The nib (TWSBI Eco fountain pen)

And so to the nib, the most obvious part of a fountain pen. It is the nib that delivers the ink to the page and as expected the nib has several key elements to it. Along the nib there is a fine slit or gap, and this allows ink to pass in a steady flow to the tip of the nib. The two sides of the nib are known as tines.

The line that you can see on top of the nib, created by the gap between the two tines (the metal prongs) of the nib, this takes the ink from the feed and delivers it to the tip of the nib. This is why it is very important that these are aligned and not too close together or too far apart, otherwise the ink will not transfer properly.

Also note the small hole usually just above the slit, this allows air to flow into the pen so that the ink can come out.

The tips of the tines are where the ink finally gets to meet the page, as it pulls along the surface it should draw more ink out, creating a smooth line when you write, and the shape of this tip also affects the style of writing that is possible, it might be a fine ball or square ended for an italic style, there are so many different styles to choose from.

You may find our previous post on the anatomy of a fountain pen of use here as well – think of it as a dissected pen showing all component parts.

What is an ink cartridge?

Fountain pen cartridge
Fountain pen cartridge (Lamy T10)

Ink is either available in bottled form, or comes in a cartridge. These deliver a preset amount of ink in a sealed unit. Typically a cartridge will hold around 1ml of ink. This is compared to a bottle of ink which can vary from around 30ml to 80ml.

Cartidges also vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, and many pens will only take the set cartridge from the same manufacturer (e.g. Lamy fountain pens will only take Lamy T10 ink cartridges). Some pens will use a universal cartridge though.

The cartridge will fit inside the barrel and plug into the feed.

What is an ink converter?

Fountain pen converter
Fountain pen converter (Lamy Z26)

Bottled ink is a far more economical way of buying ink, and to get the ink into the pen will depend on the pen itself. If it is a demonstrator pen then the ink will sit directly inside the barrel. However most pens cannot take ink directly into the barrel, and so you will need a converter to let a fountain pen work with bottled ink.

The converter is essentially a refillable ink cartridge, and it fits into the feed inside the barrel as with a cartridge. However it will normally have a plunger that allows ink to be drawn into the converter. This is done when the pen is dipped into the ink in a bottle.

In summary

Almost all modern fountain pens use these key parts, although how they look might differ slightly, and we hope this will help you understand the purpose behind them. Take a look at our fountain pen page to see some of the variety of pens on offer.

You Tube Channel launched

Helpful guides and product information

We have put our You Tube channel live, and it currently has two videos. The aim is to use the videos to provide additional information that we just can’t really convey through the website, and the two videos give an idea of this.

First up is a little video on how to change a Lamy fountain pen nib. It is a question we are often asked, and although we do our best to explain we hope the video will make it clearer.

Second up is a video which showcases the new Moleskine Reporter bag – again it is easier to show some of the features of the bag rather than try and explain in words.

The idea is to carry on and make more videos, with other luggage items and some more Help guides planned.

Lamy Nibs – a helpful guide

For an updated (and more useful) guide please head over to this article instead: The Fountain Pen Nib Guide – Lamy

Lamy Nibs
Lamy nibs

Despite selling Lamy pens for something like 16 years, there’s always something new to learn, and today we learnt something new about the nibs available on Lamy pens. I thought I would share this, to make a definitive statement of what nibs are available.

Most Lamy pens take the standard Z50 nib, available in a range of sizes (see below). Some pens take a more expensive 14 ct bi-colour gold nib (e.g. the Lamy Dialog 3, Lamy Accent 98 series and some Lamy Studio pens). The Lamy 2000 fountain pen takes a slightly different 14 ct gold nib.

The point of this blog entry is to summarise the different Lamy nib sizes available, and to highlight what nibs are available as spares. This is as follows:

Lamy Nib Sizes

Z50 Standard sizes

EF – Extra Fine

F – Fine

M – Medium

B – Broad

LH – Left Handed

A – Medium light (see notes below)

Z50 Calligraphy sizes

1.1mm

1.5mm

1.9mm

Z50 special sizes (available fitted on limited range of Accent and Studio pens)

BB – Extra Broad

OM – Oblique Medium

OB – Oblique Broad

OBB – Oblique Extra-Broad

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NB: The ‘A’ nib is a medium nib positioned in size somewhere between a fine and a medium nib, and it is intended for being a more suitable nib for younger children. For this reason it is fitted to the Lamy ABC fountain pen, and also comes as a special option on the Lamy Nexx pen.