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Beginner Advice For Pen Type And Paper

rotring speedball

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11 replies to this topic

#1 dragonaura



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Posted 15 October 2013 - 07:39

I apologise if this was the wrong place to put this
So I've been looking to get back into my old love of fountain pens and speed ball pens and I was looking for a little bit of advice because it has been quite a few years and I remember little.
I was looking at buying an (old?) Rotring 60 nib speedball pen set (quite cheap about $30) but I was wondering if I could have some opinions for whether it would be good to try this set since it is cheap or begin with a sturdy fountain pen (low end to start with). I do realise that speed ball and fountain penning are slightly different with slightly different techniques.
I was also questioning the paper that should be used with these pens. With my technical drafting pens, they are easily clogged and blocked when using fibrous, weak papers (butterpaper). With these pens will the same thing happen or would that be the result if you didnt clean the nibs and such

The post above should not be regarded as the absolute and undeniable truth and facts as it may contain the garbled mutterings of an overworked, stressed and nonsensical student who may or may not be on the brink of insanity.
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#2 Bigeddie


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Posted 15 October 2013 - 08:17

I have never used a speedball pen, a few dip pens for fun, but I have never been able to get the flow quite right (it's probably because I am using FP inks).


My advice as someone who has never used speedballs is go for a low end fountain pen and a couple of bottles of ink. Advice on which one to get will vary but I quite like the Lamy Safari (it's quite divisive, some people love the triangular grip section, others hate it) or a Pilot 78g (best bet for this one is eBay, be aware that the fine is very fine, and the broad is more of an italic stub). These are decent pens that lots of people are using alongside the rest of a pricey pen collection. 


In terms of paper, Rhodia is well loved because it is quite smooth and ink doesn't bleed into it or through it. A pad of 80 A4 sheets is about £4/$6 so it's worth a try alongside whatever you go for. Nibs can pick up fibers from rough paper, but typically the culprits are textured papers rather than cheap 'pulp' type copy paper. If this happens a wipe and a rinse should solve the problem. 


I hope you find something you like, and let us know what you go for! 
... This may be a project for later down the line.

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#3 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 15 October 2013 - 12:45

I don't know about Speed ball either.

I would suggest a regular flex F, = a Japanese M. Japanese nibs are marked differently than the rest of the world.

That gives you a relatively thin nib. I would suggest a regular flex nib over a nail....others could point you at a nail.

That regular flex  F nib allows nice shading with two toned shading inks. An EF (Japanese F) would not allow much shading and would require a vivid monotone supersaturated ink.


You do need both two toned  shading inks and monotone vivid inks.



Oxford Optic 90 g, is a very, very good paper that is inexpensive. You find it now in the Red and Black notebooks too. It is right up there with Clairefontaine, Veloute 90. (Clairefontaine Triumphe is one of the slickest papers. Rhoda is also a good name in Paper. Conquerer also from GB is a good name; depending on which of their papers, 5-10 papers. Some of the HB papers are good for fountain pens too.


I was so impressed with the Oxford Optic, I was able to beg a large spiral notebook from from GB, from a nice poster.


There are papers good for copying and fountain pens. Do not get ink jet papers. Ink jet papers are designed to suck up the ink rapidly...so would kill shading, could cause feathering.

Get laser only....I think laser-inkjet papers, not as good in there has to be compromises made to do the ink jet.

Eventually you should have a nice 90 g copy paper, and real fountain pan paper for your scribbling.


I suggest visiting Richard Binder's com, it is the basics of fountain pens, good advice on inks too. I still go back and review...he has some drop dead beautiful pens, some for sale some as examples.


My advice is to take your time...always, do some research to what pens can be had in your budget level.

Cartridges are very expensive. They can be refilled with a needle syringe. Converters hold less ink than a cartridge. A used C/C pen is cheaper than new. Bottled ink can go from inexpensive to expensive.

You will grow a collection of inks, in more colors and at higher prices than you would now expect. :D


A Pelikan 200  (@$80-90?)might be a bit more than you want to buy at the start, but it is a pen you can use the rest of your life and has a superb steel nib. The advantage is for @ $22-25 you can get different nib widths, because the nib screws out. Used it is still a good pen.


I prefer vintage nibs, they are better on the whole...out side the Pelikan 200, which has a springy regular flex to hard semi-flex nib. It is also a bit narrower (truer to size) than the modern more blobby nibs on most other pens that are not Japanese.


Do take a couple of weeks, the amount of time you'd take if you were buying a new car, to define your needs, so you can look in the used pen market.  Used gets you a pen one to two classes higher than new for the same money.


Once you have an idea what you want/need, do take a look at the used pens sold in the Sales section of this com. It will be a tad more expensive than Ebay, but they have to keep their good name so you will get a good pen, instead of hoping for one on Ebay.

You have to know your stuff to buy wisely on Ebay.



Writing is 1/3 nib width&flex, 1/3 paper and 1/3 ink in that order.


Don't get caught up in the gold is better than steel myth. A good Steel nib is as good as a good gold nib. Accent on good.

You will get a good pen with a gold nib eventually, but it need not be now.

Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 15 October 2013 - 12:57.

German vintage '50-70 semi-flex stubs and those in oblique give the real thing in On Demand line variation. Modern Oblique is a waste of money for a shadow of line variation. Being too lazy to Hunt for affordable vintage oblique pens, lets you 'hunt' for line variation instead of having it.

www.nibs.com/blog/nibster-writes/nibs-germany & https://www.peter-bo...cts/nib-systems,


The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.




#4 Randal6393


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Posted 15 October 2013 - 20:31

Agree that a Safari makes a nice first pen. A lot depends on what style of writing you intend to persue. If you are planning on working on business cursive, a ball nib would be fine. One of the calligraphic alphabets? An italic nib -- 1.1 is the "medium" -- would be fine. Of course, a flex or semi-flex nib would probably cost a lot more and require quite a bit of work and study. Fun thing about the Safari is that it is easy to change the nib and costs only $10.00 or so.


Not sure about the Rotring 60 speedball set. The speedball sets I have used were dip pens and worked out OK, not fantastic. But, it's not a great amount to put into an experiment.




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#5 WirsPlm



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Posted 15 October 2013 - 20:59

Typical recommendations for start pens are Lamy Safari, Sheaffer VFM, Pilot Metropolitan/MR or 78G (they have the Plumix if you want to start with italic), Pelikano / Pelikano Junior. I'm sure Parker has a starter pen too, but don't know what it's called. For paper, Rhodia, Clairefontaine, PaperBlanks are all good brands. There's different ways that people like their papers, generally you want heaver (higher gsm) and the paper should feel smooth to the touch.

#6 ac12


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Posted 15 October 2013 - 21:08

Personally, I would get both the Speedball set and a fountain pen.  They are different even though both use pen and ink.  The fountain pen you can use daily, the Speedball is more of a special use pen (I think) for caligraphy and such.


Go to the Paper forum, LOTS of discussions about fountain pen friendly paper.  Many treads around "affordable" paper, as some of us use a lot of paper, and as consumables, it can start to add up.  Plus the less spent on paper is more $ available for pens.


  • The best of the fine paper is probably Clariefontaine and Rhodia, and their cost reflect this. 
  • Black and Red is good.
  • Many people like 32 pound HP Premium Laser Printer Paper.  But this is blank/unruled paper.
  • The affordable paper is the Made in Brazil or India notebooks and filler paper.  Note that this stuff is thin, probably around 16 pound paper or less.

I myself use made in Brazil notebooks.  Much cheaper than Clairefontaine or Rhodia, and naturally the quality is nowhere near as good, but for my rambling journal writing, it is perfectly fine.  I go through a notebook in about 3 weeks, depending on how much or little I ramble.


My experience has been

  • If you use XtraFine or Fine tip nibs, then the harder and smoother the paper the better.  The small tips will pick at the surface of the paper and any place that the tip can get down into could snag the tip.  Result is a scratchy, snaggy writing feel...YUK.  Some nibs have sharper tips and are more sensitive to paper surface texture than other nibs with more rounded tips, which are more forgiving of paper surface texture.
  • If you use Medium or wider tip nibs, then you have more freedom in paper surface texture, as the wider tips will ride over the texture on the surface of the paper.  I had paper that felt so scratchy with my Fine tip pens that I could not stand to write on it, but it was OK with my Medium tip pens.

However, for some of the Speedball stuff that lays down a LOT of ink, you probably need heavier paper than what is in notebooks and filler paper.  The thin paper may bleed through or turn soggy with a lot of ink.  I think Speedball uses India ink, which is different than fountain pen ink, and should NEVER be used in fountain pens.

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#7 Vendome


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Posted 15 October 2013 - 21:08

Entry level Parker fountain pens are the Jotter and Vector. (Although the Jotter FP is a dinky pen.)

I started off with them and worked my way up to mid-range Parker and Sheaffer pens.

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#8 dragonaura



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Posted 17 October 2013 - 08:02

Thanks for the advice. I think I will try to research a few of the pens that have been mentioned here before I make a hasty decision in buying. I will have a look now at the website mentioned. I definitely have to buy some new inks because all I have are India inks

The post above should not be regarded as the absolute and undeniable truth and facts as it may contain the garbled mutterings of an overworked, stressed and nonsensical student who may or may not be on the brink of insanity.
Please regard her with ten grains of salt and stay out of arms reach and at least ten metres away.                             

Much obliged, 
Crazy Cat Lady

#9 MattD



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Posted 20 October 2013 - 08:01

An interesting paper you might like to try if you like lined paper is the Five Star Reinforced Filler Paper.  It is a 20lb notebook paper that comes in both wide and college rule.  I haven't used the wide rule, but I do like the college rule.  Ink dries really fast on it compared to the paper in some of my other notebooks.  The few notebooks/pads of nice paper I've tried tend to have paper that feels slicker and the ink also takes longer to dry on it. 


The five star reinforced stuff is hole punched, loose leaf, which has a lot of advantages over a bound notebook for me.  I've bought it both from Amazon and Staples and it seems to be consistent.  I don't remember what the Staples package said, since I threw the wrapper away before I knew to look at such things.  :)  The three packs I got from Amazon all have been "Made in the USA" though.  I combine it with the Mead Flex binder things, and find that is a good combination.  Stiff enough to write on by itself in your lap, but lays flat or folds over so the rings don't get in your way.  I bought four of them at Staples when they were marking down back to school stuff, and I have a notebook for each active project plus a spare.


Lots of people like the unlined paper too.  I just prefer having lines.  :)

#10 chris.uk



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Posted 20 October 2013 - 13:29

A lot of excellent suggestions here, personally i can't recommend the parker vector highly enough. For a sub £10 pen it is truly a joy to write with and as a medium size/weight pen it will give you a good idea of which way you want to go if you decide to use FP's on a regular basis. I can also recommend the jinhao x450 a very good pen for the price and both of these pens can be used with a converter or cartridges so you can have a wide choice of ink. I've found choosing a pen is a very personal thing and there are a lot of factors to consider but as a starter i wouldn't really want to spend more than £20 or £30 pen,ink and paper, but be warned you will get bitten and you will buy more!

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#11 plumeau



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Posted 20 October 2013 - 15:11

Schneider base wih M nib or Pelikan Grand prix with M nib, for paper which you want which is not a blotter.

#12 Clancy


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Posted 20 October 2013 - 16:03


......... or a Pilot 78g (best bet for this one is eBay, be aware that the fine is very fine, and the broad is more of an italic stub). These are decent pens that lots of people are using alongside the rest of a pricey pen collection. 



+1 for the Pilot 78g :thumbup:

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