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All you need to know about fountain pens

The first practical fountain pen was invented by Mr Lewis Edison Waterman in 1883. He created a pen that carried its own reservoir of ink and thus the fountain pen was born. The beauty of writing with a fountain pen is partly derived from how intensely personal it is. Everything from an individual’s grip and hand pressure to the nib and silhouette of the instrument shape the strokes and indeed the very experience of writing into a singular event that is unique to each individual.

In addition to overt characteristics like good ink flow and a gorgeous exterior, a good fountain pen can offer subtle nuances in performance that add to the experience and elevate the artform into haute ecriture. While many predicted that with the advent and subsequent dominance of digital communication, fountain pens have actually experienced a renaissance. Fountain pen groups are springing up across nations and there are legions of young adults joining the ranks of enthusiasts.

In this fast-paced world, there is something reassuring about an artform that can captivate both grandparent and grandchild, about owning something that will last a lifetime or more.

Section 2: A beginner's guide to fountain pens


With proper care, your fountain pen will have a long life. The prospect of buying your first high-end fountain pen may seem a little daunting. With the expertise gained from being the first multi-brand retailer to offer fine writing instruments to consumers in India, we’ve compiled a list of aspects that will help you learnhow to choose a fountain pen.

Fountain Pen parts


Base Material and Barrel- We recommend beginners choose a lightweight pen. This will help stave-off cramping, until you get used to writing with a fountain pen. Pens made of resin, lightweight aluminium or ABS plastic are usually lighter than those made with brass or precious metals. Resin in particular, is very versatile. It allows for an unlimited number of patterns and colours. Some pens are coated with lacquer, which allows for some truly beautiful designs.

The diameter and form of the grip area (also known as the section) decide how comfortable the pen is. If the barrel of the pen is too thick or heavy, it may throw off the balance and strain your hand. Naturally the size of your hand plays a part in how comfortable a particular pen feels, but a 9-11mm barrel-width suits most.

Cap– While there are a few retractable fountain pens available on the market, most fountain pens have either a snap-fit cap or a screw-on cap. The screw-on cap is better at preventing the nib from drying out and preventing leakage. Most of them have clips which help you secure the pen in your pocket.

As with all the important things in life, inner beauty is even more important than the outside.

Nib– This is the most important factor in your decision. Nibs can be made from a number of metals, ranging from stainless steel to solid gold. High-end pens will often have intricate carvings or precious metal inlays on the nib. You should pay special attention to the shape and size of the tip of the nib.

Fountain Pen Nib Sizes- The size of the tip determines how broad the ink-stroke will be. There are many sizes available but typically most nibs will be classed between extra-fine to broad. A medium nib will suit most beginners.


The nib can be either rounded or shaped. A rounded nib will produce a stroke of the same width irrespective of the direction you write in. In the case of a shaped-nib, the stroke-width will changedepending on the direction of the stroke. The most common type of shaped-nib is the Italic cut. It creates thin vertical lines and thick horizontal lines. Aficionados and experts may resort tocustomisation of the nibto produce their perfect version of a stroke, but for beginners a rounded-tip will suffice.

Nib sizes vary across brands. Some brands like Sailor have an incredible array of nibs designed for various types of writing. The followingfountain pen nib sizescharts depict Sailors standard nib range and some of its more unique nibs.

Fountain Pen Mechanism- Like plants which draw water while working against gravity, fountain pens also operate on the capillary action principle. Fountain pen ink is usually dye-based and less viscous than the ink used in a ballpoint pen. The ink should be free of sediment as well as free-flowing to work effectively. A good way to be sure of the ink quality is to use ink from the same brand as your fountain pen. Fountain pen ink is less quick-drying than a ballpoint’s ink and you need to be careful to avoid making a mess. Keep in mind that the ink might smear, feather or even bleed through low-quality paper.

There are different types of ink-filling mechanisms. While cartridges are the most convenient, they come in a limited number of colours, unlike bottled-inks. For a beginner, we recommend using either cartridges or a built-in piston filling system. Many cartridge-based fountain pens can also be adapted to use bottled-ink with the help of a converter. While this significantly expands the ink-colour range it is important to note that the converter will only hold approximately half the ink a cartridge can.


Section 3:Where to buy fountain pens

William Penn is an amazing place to buy fountain pens, or just pens in general. A trusted brand with twenty years in the space, it has an extensive catalogue of some of the biggest names in the world including Montblanc, Sheaffer, Lamy and Cross. As authorized dealers of every brand we carry, you can rest assured every pen on the site is authentic and comes with its brand’s applicable warranty. The online store allows for the convenience of home delivery and the physical stores mean that you can see the products in person and speak face to face with a member of the team instead of dealing with a faceless or automated customer service representative. Our team of gifting experts is on hand to help you find the rightLamy fountain penfor your type of writing and can guide you to discover the perfectSheaffer fountain penfor your child’s graduation. We even have fountain pen experts you can book an appointment with for specific queries or you could reach out for recommendations onthe best fountain pens for beginnersetc. 


Section 4:Best fountain pen brands

If you ask 10 fountain pen enthusiasts “which is the best fountain pen brand?”, you might receive ten different answers. While it is subjective, certain brands like Montblanc, Sheaffer, Lamy, Cross and Sailor have widespread appeal across countries. Our own customer data reveals that the most popular or best fountain pen brands in India are xx. Lamy, Sheaffer, Cross and Caran d’Ache areall good fountain pen brandswhile Sailor, Montblanc and Pelikan are widely considered to be the best luxury fountain pens.


Section 5:Fountain pen friendly notebooks

Fountain pens have legions of fans across the globe because they deliver a writing experience that is both pleasurable and deeply personal. This class of pens offers a wide range of nib options and is sensitive to every subtle nuance of your style - from the pressure you exert, to the angle at which you hold the pen. The richness of the experience owes much to the free-flowing nature and vivid colours of fountain pen inks. Every flourish in your writing is made more beautiful by the ink that saturates the page, but if you use the wrong type of paper, you will find the ink soaks through to the other side or even on to the next page (ink bleeding/bleed-through), the ink spreads making your strokes look blurry (feathering) or that the words are visible on the other side of the page (ghosting).


Wet, slow-drying inks and juicy nibs tend to produce these effects more commonly than their drier counterparts. However, even the wettest ink and the juiciest nib should cause no problems when you use the right kind of paper.

Fountain pen paper is of a higher quality than normal paper. The paper should be smooth enough to showcase the fluidity of the free-flowing ink but not so smooth that the paper becomes too slippery to capture the strokes effectively. 

Japan’s Tomoe River Paper and European labels Clairefontaine and Rhodia are some of the best-known makers offountain pen friendly notebooks. These sheets and notebooks tend to be more expensive than regular paper but Pennline’s new fountain pen-friendly Quikfill journal is a good, reasonably priced option. The pages are made with natural shade, 100 gsm paper and they offer a good amount of feedback when you write. The compact, good quality notebook journal can be used as part of the Quikrite system or can be carried independently.Leuchtturm1917 is another popular brand that offers notebooks known for their ink proof paper.If, however, your heart is set on Tomoe River Paper,then an Endless Recorder is the notebook for you.

Section 6:The best fountain pen inks


A fountain pen is only as good as its ink. Indeed, much of the magic of writing with a fountain pen comes from the ritual of filling the pen with a gorgeous ink and watching it swirl onto the page with every stroke of the pen.

One of the greatest advantages bottled ink has over disposable cartridges is that they are better for the environment. They tend to be made of glass not disposable single-use plastic and can hold much more ink than a single cartridge. They also offer a much larger selection of colours than cartridges.

There are two main types of fountain pen ink - dye-based and pigment-based.


Dye-based ink uses small, water-soluble colourant particles which are fully dissolved in a liquid solution.

Dye-based ink:

  • Vibrant colour

  • Comes in wide colour range

  • Water based

  • Non-waterproof

  • Can be left in the pen for longer time 

  • Low maintenance

Pigment-based inks contain solid particles of pigment powder suspended in the ink itself that transfer colour. Since they are made up of large, insoluble particles, they may block the feeder of the fountain pen nib, and it is therefore important to clean your pen regularly when using this type of ink. 

Pigment-based ink:

  • Less vibrant

  • Has less colour variety

  • Comes in darker shades

  • Long lasting

  • Good for dip pens

  • Has higher maintenance requirements

Most well-known fine writing instrument brands manufacture fountain pen inks that are safe to use with their own instruments and with pens from different brands. They even come out with special edition inks that compliment certain collections or mark significant events and milestones. 

Lapis Bard for example, recently released an exciting range of cocktail themed inks. The luscious, dye-based inks are safe to handle and the odourless inks flow smoothly, providing a pleasurable writing experience each time. The water-soluble inks have been carefully formulated with an optimal pH and they can be used with premium fountain pens from various brands. This collection sparked interest because of the variety of shades it has to offer and the reasonable price point the quality inks were offered at. The brand’s ink vial kit proved to be popular because it allows for experimentation and ink mixing to find the perfect shade without heavily taxing the wallet.

Our top selections for thebest blue fountain pen inkinclude xx, while xxx are strong contenders for thebest black fountain pen ink.

Section 7:Iconic fountain pens


Icons in the fountain pen world can be trailblazers, exceptional pieces of fine writing jewellery, tributes to important events and figures, witnesses to historic events or a combination of the above. There have been some incredible fountain pens that did not just record but rather, wrote history themselves.

Here is our list of some of themost iconic fountain pens:


The (MONTBLANC M)RED Fountain Pen[L6] -This pen was designed by the international designer Marc Newson and is part of the (Montblanc M)RED collection.

This collection was created in collaboration with (RED), a non-profit organization founded by Bono (lead singer of U2) and Bobby Shriver (nephew of former U.S. president John F. Kennedy). The organization partners with iconic brands to raise money to fight HIV / AIDS in Africa through the Global Fund. 

The bold red colour is a striking contrast from the usually sober Montblanc palette. The instrument is made from a red precious resin, handpicked by Marc Newsom himself. It features a magnetic cap closure with alignment of cap to barrel (including snap mechanism). The rich red barrel tapers into an elegant hand-crafted 14 K gold nib. The nib is coated with rhodium and has a ruthenium-coated inlay.

The arresting beauty of the (Montblanc M)RED Fountain Pen is further enhanced by the collection’s pledge to donate €5 to the Global Fund to support HIV/AIDS programmes. You can support this endeavour with your very ownpersonalised pen.

The Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Fountain Pen -Gustav Stresemann (1879- 1929), the foreign minister of the Weimar Republic, was honoured with the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1926; he and his French colleague Aristide Briand, were recognised for their reconciliatory work between nations after World War I. Besides his impressive political career, Stresemann also became famous for a new kind of suit that was sufficiently formal for official presentations and yet comfortable enough for work at the office. Stresemann liked to wear suits with thin stripes, and people began calling Pelikan’s striped fountain pens by the same name. Both the suits and the pens still carry his name to this day. To officially acknowledge and honour this legend, Pelikan renamed the Souverän model with elegant anthracite stripes the ’Stresemann’.


The barrel with its deceptively simple anthracite stripes is made of cellulose acetate, using a traditional process that is extremely work-intensive. The black portion is created using finely turned pieces of high-quality resin. The clip and the rings are plated with palladium. The pen has an inbuilt differential piston filling mechanism and its gold nib is completely rhodanised to obtain a silver sheen. The nib of every single writing instrument is mounted by hand and carefully checked to fulfil the strictest quality criteria, to create an instrument worthy of a legend.

Today’s leaders are still inking out the World’s future with fountain pens. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi for example, is known to favour Montblanc’s Meisterstück Solitaire Tribute fountain pen while British Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Brexit by signing Article 50 with a Parker Duofold International Black Gold Trim fountain pen.

Section 8:The best fountain pen gift

The best fountain pen is the one that suits one’s needs at the moment. A beginner may find that aLamy fountain pen,aSheaffer fountain penfrom the Pop collection or one from Kaweco’s Student collection is the best fountain pen for him, while a more experienced user will appreciate the precision offered by a Sailor nib and the majesty and history wrapped around eachMontblanc fountain pencollection.


In general though, when looking forgifts for fountain pen lovers, look for well-balanced instruments from reputable brands or for pens designed for a particular purpose (if you are familiar with the recipient's writing habits). Sailor’s Lefty fountain pen for example would be a thoughtful gift for a left-handed fountain pen lover. Visit our website tobuy fountain pens onlineor head to the nearest retail store to put pen to paper and witness the magic today.


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