Geek Throwback: Fountain Pens
I’m a programmer. I type on a keyboard for a living. In fact, while the backspace key is my best friend, I type pretty fast, despite being self-taught. Typing is such a big part of my life that if I need to make a note of something at work, I type it into a text editing app. About the only time I grab a pen and paper is if I’m heading to a meeting, and that’s only because I find it too distracting to type while I’m listening.
Which brings me to the point of this post. About a year ago, my wife expressed an interest in getting a fountain pen. “Why?” I asked her. Why not use a ballpoint? They work well, they’re inexpensive, and they don’t leak (fountain pens leak, right?).
She gave her reasons, but I wasn’t convinced. Luckily, we have a great pen store not far away, so we paid them a visit to see what was what and to ask lots of questions. We did settle on a pen for her, but personally, I still didn’t get it. (She loved using the pen, so that first visit was far from our last, but I digress.)
Eventually, after picking up a couple of nice ballpoints for myself (hey, I knew what I liked), I started wondering what all the fuss was about, and I decided to get my first fountain pen. And then I got it. It really is a whole different world.
Fountain pens certainly aren’t for everyone. They need to be cleaned occasionally, they can run out of ink and require a refill, and they don’t always work well on cheap paper (think copy paper and the like). And depending on the ink you use and how much ink your pen lays down, it can take several seconds for your writing to completely dry.
As for leaking, it’s a joke in the pen world that a fountain pen is basically a controlled leak. And it’s true that if you take one on an airplane, the changes in air pressure can cause the pen to “burp” into the cap. But if your pens stay on the ground (or fly empty), you shouldn’t have a problem.
So, why fountain pens?
With a nice, fountain pen-friendly notebook, the writing experience can be almost magical. You barely need to apply any pressure when putting pen to paper. The nib (the part that touches the paper) glides across the page. And the ink colors! Unlike with ballpoints where you’re generally stuck with blue or black or red, there’s a literal rainbow of colors of ink to choose from: oranges, purples, turquoises, pinks, greens, every possible shade of blue or brown, and on and on.
All of that makes a fountain pen great for journaling, drawing, writing letters, adding a note to a birthday card, or even just jotting down a reminder.
Now granted, for the sake of convenience, you may find that a ballpoint is still the best option at work, and I won’t argue the “point.” But for de-stressing and just enjoying something the way it used to be, fountain pens can be a real delight. And an addiction. But I’m getting help. 😉