February 2008: More Fountain Pen 101, Part II

Extra Fine Points Index  ]


BY DON FLUCKINGER • This month, we continue the newbie FAQ started last month.

In addition to the Parker “51”, try a Sheaffer “TRIUMPH” from the 1940s. Why? Solid, stiff nibs are better suited to lefties than some of your other choices out there. Extra Fine Points

As a lefty, are there issues with pens? Richard said there is no need for a special nib, but certain tuning might benefit you if you are a lefty?

Write with a bunch of pens so you:

  1. Know what smooth is.

  2. Experiment with holding pens differently.

  3. Understand how different pens of different sizes affect how you grip and how they perform.

If, after that you still think Lamy’s “all that” and want it tuned, send it to a nib mechanic of your choice. As I said above, before you do that, play the field.

I have a lady friend for whom I am buying a first fountain pen. Pelikan has an M150. Are those as good or better than my Lamy? Anything else in that price range or thereabouts?

Pelikan M150 or M200 are good, inexpensive pens. M200s are nicer than the M150; if you can afford/shoehorn one into your budget, do it.

Fountain pen

She’s a lefty. Now what?

The modern pens — there are no truly vintage-style flexibles available as stock models; there are few funky points (oblique, stub, italic). Those are the ones that lefties often encounter trouble with. — I would say 99.99% of modern pens will work equally well with lefties and righties. The other 0.01% can be fixed to work; on the very off chance your friend can’t write with the pen she falls in love with for life.

Hey, all my writing smears! What is up with that?

Like me, you are left-handed. Your nib is wet. These are not bad things. You can use a blotter or wait for it to dry. Also, look at the heel of your hand: Are you rubbing the ink as you write? Can you raise the heel of your hand so as not to, without getting uncomfortable?

It’s a curse for us lefties — but not a problem with fountain pens per se. The nib can be adjusted to write more dryly, but your writing style might ultimately be the problem. Investigate, experiment.

Probably what will need to happen is you’re going to have a little internal dialogue: “Am I going to give up and get a Sharpie, or am I going to ‘man up?’ My grandfather and grandmother wrote with fountain pens, and they weren’t spoiled babies.”

Something else to consider: In addition to the above-recommended Parker “51”, try a Sheaffer “TRIUMPH” from the 1940s. These two vintage models write great for me and I got to thinking why? Solid, stiff nibs better suited to lefties than some of your other choices out there.

Fountain pen
Fountain pen

I also collect Sheaffer Targas. They take a little getting used to in the looks department but they’re phenomenal pens.

Fountain pen

Don’t get the Sheaffer Triumph confused with the 1970s Sheaffer called the Triumph 444 (Google it), although that one is another of my all-time faves because it’s a poor cousin of the Targa. Writes great. In fact the 2 pens I got inked up at the moment are a brass Targa (I wrote an ode to it on Richard’s site) and my stainless steel 444.

I am trying to write on packages that are clear plastic, but they have this white block for writing. They smear. If I buy Waterman ink will it still smear? Most pens work fine but the ink that I got with my Lamy smears like crazy.

This is an application that is probably not fountain-penable. Give that up. It’s going to smear because water is the main component of all inks, except ballpoint ink, which I think they make with dioxin and kerosene. And Sheep Guts, too. Ballpoints=evil. You know that, right?

I had no idea ballpoint ink is toxic. So interesting. We are saving the planet together.

Yes. After a nuclear war, the ballpoint ink will withstand more heat and radiation than cockroaches. In fact, before the Big Bang, dinosaurs wrote with ballpoints, and the records they left behind are how paleontologists today figured out all they know about life back then.

I will also print this beginner’s guide out and use it as my newbie fountain pen bible.

Do yourself a favor and go to www.richardspens.com. Click on “Reference Info” in the left-side menu.

Read what looks interesting, but pay particular attention to the “Taking Care of Your Pens” section. See what I am doing? I am your pusherman. You can check out of this hobby anytime you like, but you can never leave. Watch the spiral pinwheel spin, and repeat after me: I’m going to get my hands on a vintage Parker “51”. I will love it and quit fixating on these inexpensive pens at the Bangkok market that are giving me fits.


Freelance writer Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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