Jump to content

The Fountain Pen Network uses (functional) cookies. Read the FPN Privacy Policy for more info.  To remove this message, please click here to accept the use of cookies

Registration on the Fountain Pen Network

Dearest Visitor of the little Fountain Pen Nut house on the digital prairie,

Due to the enormous influx of spammers, it is no longer possible to handle valditions in the traditional way. For registrations we therefore kindly and respectfully request you to send an email with your request to our especially created email address. This email address is register at fountainpennetwork dot com. Please include your desired user name, and after validation we will send you a return email containing the validation key, normally wiithin a week.

Thank you very much in advance!
The FPN Admin Team


Shopping For Fountain Pens

fountain pen ink handwriting penmanship novice beginner pens

  • Please log in to reply
10 replies to this topic

#1 willshung


    Dipped Only

  • Member - Bronze+

  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 01 December 2016 - 21:33

Just starting out with pens and am in the market for a nice fountain pen. What kind of features am I looking for? What should I ask? How do I know I'm not getting ripped off?? Tips and suggestions much appreciated!

Sponsored Content

#2 inkstainedruth


    Ancient Artifact

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 18,760 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 01 December 2016 - 23:13

You should be looking at what feels comfortable for you to hold (not too large and heavy for your hand, but also not too small and which will give you hand cramps in long writing sessions; and you'll have to also decide if a step-down between the section and the barrel is going to be an issue).  And girth does not always equal weight -- I have what was my husband's grandfather's Sheaffer Balance Oversize, which is not too heavy a pen for me even though it's quite large; but I tried a Mabie Todd Grammercy once in a pen shop, thinking it would be a good size, and discovering that it was a metal-bodied pen and surprisingly heavy.

I also don't know if you're looking for new or vintage, what your price range is, what nib width you're going to like.  That's something you're going to have to try for yourself.  I don't know about other people, but I have pens in a range of prices that are all over the map -- from a Parker 41 that I got for 50¢ US (!) at an estate sale to a couple of Pelikans for which I paid almost $200 apiece; from cheap Chinese pens that are worth $5, to a couple of *sumgai* Parker 51s for which the correct (i.e., caps for 51s) cost more than I paid for the pens.  And I have a range of nib widths from EF to OB.

You want to make sure that the nibs don't have misaligned or bent tines, or bad tipping (although that can be fixed, it might not be cheap).  You also want to have pens which write well -- but dry pens can work to tame wet inks, and wet writers can coax flow out of dry inks.

Read reviews (but keep an open mind -- a guy in my local pen club was absolutely convinced that I would love his MB 146, but I didn't think the nib was as nice as the one on a Parker 45 I'd paid $10 + tax for in an antiques store out in the boonies of NW PA) and try pens if you can.  

And be aware that your opinions are probably going to change: my first pens were cheapie Parker cartridge pens with medium nibs, and when I got a Vector I was convinced I would hate the F nib on it -- until I realized how much farther a cartridge went...).  Also be aware that some people like butter-smooth nibs while others like a bit of feedback (and that those factors are going to be partially dependent on the ink and the paper).

Hope this helps some.  When I bought that (first) Vector I thought I was being horribly extravagant -- it was *$9* -- just for a PEN....  :blush:  My most recent purchase?  A 1st generation Emerald Pearl Vacumatic (I think the size is a Slender).  Price (after getting the diaphragm replaced)?  Uh, quite a bit more than that Vector cost me....  B) 

Ruth Morrisson aka inkstainedruth

"It's very nice, but frankly, when I signed that list for a P-51, what I had in mind was a fountain pen."

#3 Bo Bo Olson

Bo Bo Olson

    Pen Dust

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 21,622 posts
  • Location:Germany

Posted 02 December 2016 - 01:13

I think you should get a EF nail nib, two older semi-vintage or a Pelikan 200 with 'true' regular flex nibs ..could be done with one 200 and two nibs....a F and M, for shading inks....and a B in nail for the fun of a thick wet line.


Out side the Japanese beginner pen, buy used....for 1/3 cheaper for once top of the line to 2/3rds cheaper for good second level (P-51 was top of the line; P-45 good second level)  or with luck a top of the line dirt cheap...if one has a bottle of patience.

....Semi-vintage and vintage is old and very old used pens...in good shape. A Cartridge/Converter pen is almost unbreakable.

You can get a fair deal in our sales section....they have a name to protect so sell a good working pen. You pay a bit more than hoping on Ebay, but there should never be a problem to start with.


Some people freak at the thought of buying an old used pen...and have no problem buying a pre'64  Mdl 70, a Harley hard tail or a '57 Chevy.  Same o, Same o.


For the cost of one medium priced new pen. 3-4 pens.....semi-vintage....mid-late '90's to 70's. ...

Vintage '70-50's.

After your 4th pen you could think about getting a German semi-flex '50-65 piston pen....or having the 200 could buy a semi-flex '50-65 nib that will fit the 200.


M is a very good shading nib size that most avoid in they want a fat or a skinny nib instead, and M is often what is offered on new pens...and sometimes a 'noobie' believes all the BS he reads here.

I missed MB Racing Green, because I believed....oh, well....that was before your time....Ink!!!  Not a pen. :) 


Don't go chasing superflex until after you have used a semi-flex nibbed pen for 3 months so your Hand has a chance to get lighter. You should have four pens by then.

Superflex the falsely named "Flex" pen :gaah: :wallbash: ...requires work and a very, very light Hand....I'd suggest waiting at least 6 months....8-9 might be better.

Some folks jump in the deep side of the pool with out their water wings and end up hating superflex. Besides it is very easy to ruin a good irreplaceable nib. One does not jump straight into Islay Single malt either.  


Then do you want a skinny Euro/American EF nail or do you want super skinny Japanese EF=XXF.

Warning those who start with the cheap Japanese pens....good nibs, will be forever contaminated with the miss marked Japanese nib. A Japanese M= western F....and so on. Japanese nibs are designed for super tiny Japanese script. Mark ll calibrated eyeball.

If you start with a western, which is designed for Cursive writing....you will know...Japanese is too narrow....not that western is too Fat....Mark l calibrated eyeball.


If you write cursive, go western...if you are a printer get a printing nib; Japanese.


All nib widths are off as is....long story...you can pick up later. Wide, Medium, fairly narrow, and real narrow......+ or - all the way. Does the nib write well...that's all that counts. Please read my signature.


The narrower the nib the smaller the sweet spot...and rougher paper becomes a problem. One has to use vibrant monotone (boring :angry: ) supersaturated inks with real narrow nibs.

I like two tone shading inks :notworthy1: :thumbup: ....you need a minimum of 90g paper. Out side of Rhoda and some Japanese paper.

I'm a tad prejudiced. :happyberet: And do not agree with those still locked only into loud wet line of supersaturated that shading ink is wishy-washy or pastel.....could go a bit towards pastel....but have many that have respectable dark or dark enough tone.


One needs both of those inks....and later there are inks that have sheen.


EF/western is good for editing or if one can't find the free program that allows you to print the width of line you wish. It is rather foolish to use a big modern fat fun B on narrow collage lined paper.....M/F works well on a medium line you print. You want the letters to be open, so pick your line width to match your pen.


By insisting on the super tiny script...others can't read it...and the money you save by scribbling magnifying glass tiny...is not worth a can of Coke...store bought.

One should be able to write large and small....at will. :o


Paper...buy good to better paper. Laser 90g allows shading....normal 80g printer paper not.  Stay far away from Ink Jet paper.


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


Go to Ink Reviews and look at any ink review by Sandy1 :notworthy1: :thumbup: Our ink guru. She uses 4-5 normal pens of different widths of nib, 4-5 good papers that any can get if they put their mind to it. It is often a shock that that is the same ink, from one pen or one paper to the next.


:W2FPN: There is no best pen, ink or paper....One starts at a limit....and slowly breaks it with a new border of expense. $20-30-50.........$70- 90...$120 and so on. I can remember when $50 was :yikes: ..and only this once. :lticaptd:


The important thing is never hurry, that pen will show up again...next week, next month. Do not get in bidding war. Make one bid only, right before the end or snipe it.


Remember LA was not built in a day.....and it is a life time hobby.

Go to Richard Binder's com...it is the bible of fountain pens....after @ 3 days many questions will be answered. Once 98.2% of all I knew came from there...now it's only 95.8%...one should learn something in 8 years. :rolleyes:

Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 02 December 2016 - 01:23.

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 Sasha Royale

Sasha Royale

    Ancient Artifact

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 14,444 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 02 December 2016 - 02:14

First of all,  WELCOME !  

What have you been using for daily writing ?  

I recommend this  HERO  616  fountain pen to you, not because it is a "good" fountain pen, but because it is a serviceable pen @ 1.50 CAD.  You will need a bottle of fountain pen ink.  Ask fellow members in Canada, before spending a lot of money.  




Get one.  Flush with dish detergent solution and rinse thoroughly before first ink.  Shake dry.  Fill with fountain pen ink.  Write with fingers extended, relaxed grip, 45-degrees slant.   Make notes.

What do you like about the HERO 616 ?   What would you change about it ?  There is a possibility that you will not like using a fountain pen.  It is not for everyone.  Be honest with yourself.  

Auf freiem Grund mit freiem Volke stehn. 
Zum Augenblicke dürft ich sagen: 
Verweile doch, du bist so schön ! 

#5 TheRealMikeDr


    The Great Schnauzer King

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 1,108 posts
  • Location:Northeast Ohio - US

Posted 02 December 2016 - 13:45

Some background questions:


What size is your handwriting? Japanese Pens tend to write with a finer line than Western Pens.

How big are your hands? Pens come in all sizes and shapes and weights.

Do you prefer a lighter pen or a pen with some heft?

What will you be using the pen for? If you're taking notes on generic legal pads you may want something different than if you'll be writing on a decent Rhodia pad.

What sort of budget are you starting with? Keep in mind that that you may also want to purchase some ink and decent paper.

Edited by TheRealMikeDr, 02 December 2016 - 13:45.

#6 katanankes



  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 503 posts

Posted 02 December 2016 - 16:12

Set a budget and stick to it. It can get out of hand easily. 

#7 Arkanabar


    Ain't I a stinker?

  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,901 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 03 December 2016 - 05:03

Prior to deciding to start using fountain pens, what were your favorite writing instruments?  What did you like about them?  What would you change?  Consider length, girth, grip section width and shape, weight, line width, and what you want out of a pen.  

How big do you write?  Your line width should be in proportion to the size of your handwriting.  I tend to write kind of cramped and so usually prefer narrow nibs.  I also really, really like what a chisel/ stub/ calligraphy point does for my writing.  I have a broader point or two that I am using to teach myself not to make such narrow loops and letters.

The thing most easily learned from your ballpoint days is whether you prefer a narrow (Parker Vector, Parker Jotter stainless, PaperMate), medium (Zebra F-301, Bic Biro), or wide (Dr. Grip) body.  You may also know from prior experience if you prefer rubberized, plastic, smooth metal, or textured metal grips.  Most pens have enough length for control; those that might not (Kaweco Sport, Pilot Prera) usually post pretty well, which provides the length needed.  Bear in mind that fountain pens are usually held at a lower, more relaxed angle than ballpoints, which have to be held much more upright to transfer ink.

If you don't know, one of the better ways to find out is to buy a bunch of cheap pens with varying characteristics.  But do it slowly.  Buy one, use it for a month or two or three, paying attention to how each of these things affect you, and what you wish was different about each of them.  Choose your next pen to remedy at least one of the things you don't like about the last one.  

I am of the opinion that a stainless steel Baoer 388 is a pretty good place to start, because it's so middle-of-the-road in terms of size, weight, line width, and styling, and can be had dirt cheap.  If you get it off Amazon or Ebay and it's a stinker, you can teach yourself beginning nib tuning on the cheap.  Both SBRE Brown and The Goulet Pen Company have YouTube videos on nib tuning.  Other decent bargain bets are the Hero 616 (to see if you'd like a Parker "51"), the Jinhao 599 (to see if you'd like a Lamy Safari), and Jinhao 250, X750 (kinda heavy), X450 (even heavier), and 159 (quite heavy indeed).  You can also seek these pens out from HisNibs.com, who gives them odd names, inspects them for alignment issues, and corrects what he sees before shipping, which adds $10-20 to the price of each pen.

There are also a lot of really good inexpensive Japanese pens available.  Nearly any Pilot, Platinum, or Sailor you find at prices from $3-40 are likely to be pretty good pens.  

Less certain to be good are inexpensive pens from Lamy, Pelikan, Rotring, and Faber-Castell, all of which have entry-level school-grade pens.  So too do Online (tons of options with regards to printed graphics -- see goldspot.com and online-pen.com/en/home), Muji, and Rosetta (the Explorer can be had for around $10 from ipenstore.com).

#8 willshung


    Dipped Only

  • Member - Bronze+

  • Pip
  • 4 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 09 December 2016 - 00:32

Such great info! Thank you guys so much for the feedback and advice!

#9 displacermoose



  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 526 posts
  • Flag:

Posted 09 December 2016 - 01:11

I got started by looking through Jinhao, Baoer, Hero, and Kaigelu fountain pens on Ebay (that is thousands of hits) and buying pretty much everything that struck my fancy. I think that came to about $35 for a dozenish pens. You can experiment with a huge range of sizes and weights for very little money this way, then you will have a better idea what you like and can invest in something a bit more durable. But, even with the sub-$5 Chinese pens, you are likely to find several that you love and will keep returning to. The ones you don't like you can practice nib grinding with.

Yet another Sarah.

#10 Ghost Plane

Ghost Plane


  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 28,424 posts
  • Location:USA
  • Flag:

Posted 09 December 2016 - 01:25

:W2FPN: Remember the nib is the business end. A lot of people get hung up on make and model before they've figured out if they like to write thick or thin. 


A contingent above is already extolling extra fine nibs. Be aware that very fine nibs in bulk-produced cheap pens are often scratchy. There are decent videos on line to give you visuals. Check out the blog of the Goulet Pen Company and watch Brian explain and demonstrate. There are lots of reviews of different pens on YouTube.


Just because the bulk sellers default to F and M nibs, do not assume these nib sizes will be the best for your hand. They are best for the corporate bottom line, which is why they appear in bulk. Take your time. A pen is a personal use item, like a shoe or a bra. One size does not fit all. Find a nice pen and it will last a lifetime with very basic maintenance.  :thumbup:


Kiss your wallet goodbye. You'll find yourself wanting good paper and pretty inks to go with that pen.  :D

#11 Helen350



  • Member - Gold

  • PipPipPipPipPipPipPipPipPip
  • 2,390 posts
  • Location:USA
  • Flag:

Posted 11 December 2016 - 16:00

:W2FPN: Remember the nib is the business end. A lot of people get hung up on make and model before they've figured out if they like to write thick or thin.


Kiss your wallet goodbye. You'll find yourself wanting good paper and pretty inks to go with that pen.  :D


I thoroughly agree!  It is vital that you first discover how you write, for that will dictate the nib you prefer in the pens you order.  Though many pen enthusiasts swear by fine & extra fine nibs, I discovered that true medium, broad & 1.1 stub nibs work best with my writing style.  I will say that if your writing is small, then fine & extra fine nibs tend to work best, as well as a Japanese medium. 


As Ghost Plane implied, you better learn how to hold onto your wallet!! :blush:

Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: fountain pen, ink, handwriting, penmanship, novice, beginner, pens

Sponsored Content