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What Is The Right Balance Point For A Pen?

balance centre of gravity length posting

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23 replies to this topic

#1 praxim

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Posted 25 July 2019 - 05:40

I am curious to know what is considered the best / right / perfect balance point for a pen as it is held. This will be a centre of gravity point always locating in a narrow range regardless of pen length or weight (or else it would not be an ideal balance point).

 

Is it measured in distance from the nib, the section (allowing for variation in grip) or somewhere else?

 

Of course I know how comfortable I am with each of my pens, but I am wondering about the recommended or ideal position?

 

I searched without finding a corresponding thread, in case this already exists as a topic.


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#2 silverlifter

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Posted 25 July 2019 - 06:50

Objectively? I have no idea.

But for a very small sample set of four of my favourite pens (in terms of ergonomics), they are all quite similar in their centre of gravity is either at the mid-point, or slightly behind that (towards the end of the pen) when filled.

Pens are a Conid Minimalistica, Sheaffer PFM, Lamy 2000 and Senior Duovac. Interestingly, posting the L2K and the Duovac has little effect on the overall balance.

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#3 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 25 July 2019 - 08:36

I've never done a put the pen on the skinny edge of a ruler to see where a or the balance point is.

 

For me, which grip is used will make a difference. I use the 'forefinger up' method, others use a more forward classic tripod grip.

Depending on where I place my thumb, I can have the pen balance at 45 degrees right after the big index knuckle or at 40 degrees at the start of the web of the thumb.

If a pen is heavy, or long,  it will tend to hang lower in the hand. If long enough or heavy enough it could rest in the Pit of the Thumb at 35 degrees..............there the weight on the pit will make the nib rest lighter on the paper..............an odd sort of balance. ;)

 

Medium-short, standard and medium-large IMO should be posted for best balance, as they were designed to.

 

Pens with perfect balance for me....MB 234 1/2 (standard sized, wider girthed, and brass piston parts so a bit backweighted), Geha 725 a thin medium long pen, the standard sized P-75, light for silver....4th was the Pelikan 400nn (took two years to figure out the 400nn had slightly better balance than the 400.). Perhaps the skinny large Snorkel.

 

Pens with great balance, the P-51, Pelikan 600, P-45. Pelikan 400/200. Geha 790. Pelikan 140. Osmia-Faber-Castell 540..............and many others...........but most are vintage, and standard.

Back in the Day....if a pen didn't have good balance, great balance for a flagship........one lost a customer for ever.....or 7-10 years till the next time the customer needed a new pen.

 

I'm sure my Vac has very good balance, it had to have it. Men with ivory slapsticks stood around tables while their coffee grew mold, getting it right.

 

The balance point of a Esterbrook DJ could be altered by sticking a small eraser tip in the bottom of the barrel. That could have had two reasons. One having to do with balance, the other with supporting the sac.  Mostly I found the DJ with out the eraser.  Was that discarded when re-saced, or did a penny pincher pinch a penny???

 

There are two P-45's; one with a short round barrel the other with a longer tapered one. That long tapered one gives very good balance in the weight at the end of the pen is less and at a different place than I imagine the balance point is for the first model P-45. Only have one P-45, an English one with a regular flex nib.

 

Of course size of one's hands will have much to do with what size pen feels best in them.

Hand strength should have absolutely nothing to do with a fountain pen  (light grip)....it's not a ball point that has to be shoved along to make the ball roll. (Gel pens are so much lighter but I still have a bunch of 'vintage/old ball points with out a gel refill. :)  So I can Old Days on that.


Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 25 July 2019 - 08:39.

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,

 

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#4 praxim

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Posted 25 July 2019 - 21:39

Depending on where I place my thumb, I can have the pen balance at 45 degrees right after the big index knuckle or at 40 degrees at the start of the web of the thumb.

If a pen is heavy, or long,  it will tend to hang lower in the hand. If long enough or heavy enough it could rest in the Pit of the Thumb at 35 degrees

 

Degrees from what? Horizontal? How is this being measured please? It is unclear to me.

 

 

Pens with great balance, the P-51, Pelikan 600, P-45. Pelikan 400/200. Geha 790. Pelikan 140. Osmia-Faber-Castell 540

 

Are not these pens all around the same length, weight? Does that not imply a preferred size and heft rather than CG?


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#5 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 25 July 2019 - 21:49

If 90 degrees is pure vertical...45 degrees is right after the big index knuckle....40 degrees at the start of the web of the thumb.

This is 'forefinger up', showing both 45 and 40 degree holds.

Help! How Do You Hold Your Fountain Pen?


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.

 

 

 


#6 praxim

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Posted 26 July 2019 - 05:22

Interesting, but how does this affect or relate to the CG of a pen? When someone talks about an ideal balance point, is 'ideal balance' just a discussion of how the pen is held, at what angle and where the fingers and thumb lie (referring also to the linked images)?

 

@silverlifter: thank you for your comment, by the way. 

 

eta: Bo Bo, do you have a link to some discussion of your comment below, perhaps in some publicity or a trade mag, or memoirs by one of the engineers? It might give us clues.

 

I'm sure my Vac has very good balance, it had to have it. Men with ivory slapsticks stood around tables while their coffee grew mold, getting it right.

 


Edited by praxim, 26 July 2019 - 05:54.

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#7 BaronWulfraed

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 01:11

IMO: Balance will tend to be a personal constraint. What one person finds "right" may be wrong for another.

 

My Levenger Titan, if posted, has extremely bad balance -- if I were to loosen my thumb&forefinger, the pen would flip backwards right out of my hand.

 

Tail-heavy (but not to the level of the Titan) tend to want to ride lower in the gap between forefinger knuckle and thumb knuckle -- but not so badly as to lift the nib from the paper.

 

Any CoG between the fingertips and the point between knuckles where the barrel rests will likely be found "acceptable" as the entire pen pushes downward. If the CoG is at the knuckles (or behind them) the pen will feel squirrely, as the nib wants to lift from the paper. CoG at the fingers or past them will tend to be nose-heavy and want to "stand up" -- the barrel will wander around.



#8 praxim

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 04:38

It has been written by more than one person on FPN that "pens are designed to be posted." Given I recall from a survey here that about half of all our users do not ordinarily post, I wondered whether that throng (and I) were quite daft or whether, alternatively, the claim itself had no basis.

 

So, I started this thread to learn the ideal balance point, or at least its narrow range. Once we know that then a few things necessarily follow if the claim is to have legs:

  • There will be bio-mechanical justification for that point, probably found in literature from a large pen company (whenever the company existed).
  • The great majority of fountain pens will have a balance point falling near or on that point when posted but not otherwise. If the range were even moderately wide, no such distinction would be possible.
  • ​Most users will agree that pens not matching up to that ideal balance point are unbalanced.

Bo Bo was willing to present some arguments related to grip but there are no facts or definitions of balance range other than from Silverlifter and Baron Wulfraed, and neither supports  the criteria (not that I believe they intended to). No-one else has offered support for the claim though others have made it.

 

People have wide variation in hand sizes and proportions both within and between genders, and differing preferred pen grips, so how could a narrowly defined balance point ever succeed, even across half of users? The distinction to be drawn is not whether a person with a larger hand prefers a larger pen (some do not), but whether posting or not posting defines comfort in all reasonable size combinations.

 

I am not arguing for or against posting here. As I said, it is a pretty even split and good luck to both. I am averring that the "designed to be posted" argument lacks any evidence and in any case fails in principle. Having it appear in threads without a counter is simply misleading to newer users, so in future when anyone says it I intend to point them to their opportunity to save the day in this thread. :)

 

edit: changed erroneous reference to "point" to "range"


Edited by praxim, 27 July 2019 - 04:39.

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#9 silverlifter

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 05:14

I am averring that the "designed to be posted" argument lacks any evidence and in any case fails in principle.


This is consistent with my understanding, and use, of pens. The only pens I believe are specifically designed to be posted are pocket pens, like the Kaweco Sport.

Otherwise, manufacturers obviously strived for a neutral balance point--midway along the pen--because this would allow for the greatest variation in hand size, grip position and the other physiological variables that are completely outside their control.
The obvious exception, of course, being the PFM*. Which, incidentally, even with a metal cap, is still beautifully balanced when posted.

* Yes, Virginia, I am joking...

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#10 Karmachanic

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 05:49

Wherever it feels best in hand.


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#11 Honeybadgers

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 05:57

Somewhere close to the nose. I prefer a pen to be front heavy, but as long as it isn't tail heavy, I'm okay.


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#12 Bo Bo Olson

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 12:01

Don't have any links, but logic as twisted as it is.

 

Someone pointed out here or somewhere else old advertising often/mostly had a pen posted.

 

I'd have to dig my Vac out of the glass topped pen case....but it was a Flagship pen, so had to have great balance.

Balance was important when one used a pen to write with all day long, instead of just bling note taking at the conference room table and to only swirl a signature.

 

I don't know if the Japanese make a standard sized pen....Esterbrook DJ***, 400/200 size. Pelikan makes a medium-large pen a 600 that has good balance posted...IMO the non DJ P-51 is a tad better in balance.

 

*** The DJ Esterbrook often had a small eraser at the tip of the body beyond the sac. I think that was for balance. Such a little bit can make a big difference in balance, especially when at the end of the lever. 

When I first came to the com, there were many more lever users or folks complaining all piston pens were too back heavy...........which is not the case today..........but I think nicely balanced lever pens are now in a small minority of use.

 

My P-75 a flagship, standard sized, has real great balance. Which surprised me in it was metal....light actually, but metal.

 

 

The 400 is from 1950. The 100n is a shorter pen with a longer cap, so balanced about where or how the later 400 did.

 

The medium-large P-51 has great balance. I don't have the DJ 51 or the transition from the Vac. All I have is the later pure plastic torpedo tip body one.  I don't know how great the earlier P-51's balance was. The later one has great balance as expected from one's flagship.

 

The Touchdown and the Snorkel, like the Sheaffer New Balance had great balance. The Vac and P-51 needed to match it.

 

I don't know which Waterman was flagship then, I know nothing about the Wahl-Eversharp, but would expect the flagships to have great balance. They had to compete with other flagship use all day pens.

The Swan torpedo, a lever pen right after the war was reputed to have great balance. I almost got one, but found a 'flexi' German 'war' pen cheaper around the corner. 

 

As a teenager, I thought when I got out the house and got a real job, I was going to get an Adult Pen. That being either a Snorkel of some type or a P-51...............Waterman had already died and moved to France so didn't count.

Neither did that clunky MB or ugly Pelikan....in I was an Army Brat over here then.

 

That has nothing to do with balance.....in at least I was very ignorant back then....like we all were......but Esterbrooks (ugly metal cap '60+ ones), Wearevers, Venus felt cheap, no substance. No real balance. P-45 was a school pen like some Sheaffers.  The Flagship was what was advertised on B&W TV or better magazines around Christmas.

 

In @ 1970, I became a One Man, One Pen man, of the time.....as was normal.....one didn't have many pens, in there was no reason to do so....Clean a pen....????? :unsure: :huh:

Why......Well there were no supersaturated inks then.....and I was as ink ignorant as any one else. One bought Pelikan ink in it was cheaper than Sheaffer or Parker..............if there were any other inks, I didn't know about them. Didn't know a thing about cleaning a pen. If you borrowed a different color cartridge at school, sooner or later it would settle down to the basic cartridge color.

Girls may have known about esoterical things like cleaning a pen, in they used girly inks; we boys were culturally limited to blue, black and blue black. So there was no reason or need to clean pens.

 

I lucked out, I bought the P-75 for the wrong reason....it was snazzy and silver. But it is one of my very best balanced pens..............being a flagship, had flagship balance.

Do look at your pre'70 pens, and see if the Flagships had better balance than the companie's second tier pens. Like the difference between a P-51 and a _=45.

 

We still had good to great paper back then, not that we knew it. Fountain pen friendly paper was still normal. ;)


Edited by Bo Bo Olson, 27 July 2019 - 16:21.

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.

 

 

 


#13 LobsterRoll

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 19:05

My first thought was that it should be closer to the nib. If the pen is tail-heavy, it feels uncomfortable. I also wondered if it would feel more comfortable if the center of gravity was near the grip.

I only have a few pens, but, uncapped, all of mine seem to have a CG pretty much right in the middle. I think most people hold the pen at around a 45 degree angle. Depending on the type of grip and size of the hand, this would make the middle of the pen fall against the forefinger, or in-between the grip and where the back of the pen is resting on the hand. It seems reasonable to have the main downward force region in-between those two support points. (Basically what BaronWolfraed wrote). The overall weight-distribution may also have a notable effect on the ergonomics.

I don't post, but presumably if a pen is comfortable that way, the shift of the CG is not enough to move it out of the comfortable region. I don't know about "designed to be posted," but something like the CG shift when posted is probably taken into account.

I usually like lightweight pens where I think all of this has less of an effect, though.



#14 praxim

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Posted 27 July 2019 - 22:38

Bo Bo, nice to know your personal preference, which you share with half the pen-using population and not with the other half, although that is in very general terms because most people do what they please at the time. Do you seriously think manufacturers did not recognise that fact? Or that marketers were happy to ignore half their market.

 

I looked through a dozen pen ads, half for the Parker 51. For such a dramatically important point, balance seems to get no press at all. Cutting out the ad-words and waffle, Parker list in one of their ads their important features, all being to do with their visible ink supply, high capacity, not leaking and having a smooth nib. Seems reasonable. The waffle is about creating desire.

 

If advertisers wish to photograph a pen with nib exposed, what are they supposed to do with the cap? If it posts, they can post it so it is still neatly visible in the ad of course. If it does not then they omit it, for which I have copies of ads. If this is meant to be a recommendation on how to write then perhaps you should add the following images to your recommendations on how best to hold a pen:

 

fpn_1564266619__over.png

 

or

 

fpn_1564266663__open.png

 

There are many others equally risible for writing.

 

It is called advertising, not specification.

 


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#15 OMASsimo

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 00:17

Though the question is very interesting, indeed, I  doubt that there can be a definitive answer. What someone perceives as perfect balance surely is widely different from person to person, from country to country, and from continent to continent. I hope I can provide some observations from my not so small collection of fountain pens that might be interesting for this topic. My pens are mostly German, Italian, and U.K. plus a few U.S. and French pens. I've never had a Parker 51 in my hand though.

 

1.) Centre of Gravity (CoG)

All my U.K. and U.S. lever fillers have a CoG near the middle when empty and uncapped. They would be slightly back heavy when fully inked and much more so when posted. The same holds for my German button fillers. My Italian and German piston fillers tend to have the CoG slighty more to the tail of the pen when not posted. The shift of the CoG when posting depends a lot on the pen as well. Most vintage pens (the majority in my collection) are very light and often small. Posting such a pen doesn't change the force needed to hold it properly very much. Some of my modern pens like the OMAS Paragon with sterling silver section or the Pelikan M800 are so heavy and with massive caps that posting, at least to me, feels like I have to fight against the pen. Unposted, these pens feel like heaven to me. This brings me to the next issue.

 

2.) Writing experience

Many, if not most, pens have a specifically shaped section to hold the pen. Small pens with small nibs usually have small sections. Holding such a pen at the section that's designed for it usually leads to writing fairly small. And that's what I see when reading older documents, they are written in small but crystal clear letters. When I write with such a small vintage pen, I tend to write small myself. If I post such a small pen, I automatically have to hold it a little farther back to get the right balance and I write a little larger. But then, my forefinger will rest on the threads for screwing on the cap. I'm pretty sure that was not intended. Moreover, this observation also holds for bigger pens and modern pens. Most of my big modern pens become so extremely back heavy when posted that I wouldn't even dream about it. But writing with them unposted feels like heaven.

 

3.) Observations from vintage pens

The vast majority of my pens are vintage from the 1930-1960s which I bought or got unrestored and restored them myself. Most of the time it's obvious that the pens were used a lot and not handled with kid gloves. But, maybe surprisingly, the majority of my vintage pens did not show any significant posting marks. If these pens had been posted on a regular basis while writing, there should be way more significant marks in my opinion. That indicated for me that posting a pen, at least here in Europe, might be a more recent habit. 

 

To summarize my thoughts and observations, it seems that basically all pens were designed or naturally come out for a balance that is characterized by the CoG slightly behind the midpoint of the uncapped pen. I also think that most pens were designed such that they feel good when used unposted. 



#16 A Smug Dill

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 01:41

I am curious to know what is considered the best / right / perfect balance point for a pen as it is held. This will be a centre of gravity point always locating in a narrow range regardless of pen length or weight (or else it would not be an ideal balance point).


Considered by whom specifically? Authors of some technical standard on behalf of a committee or consortium? Or just individual opinion that has no standing with fellow pen users, and with which nobody else need agree?

Or that marketers were happy to ignore half their market.

I looked through a dozen pen ads, half for the Parker 51. For such a dramatically important point, balance seems to get no press at all._...‹snip›...
There are many others equally risible for writing.
 
It is called advertising, not specification.


There's also a difference between design/product specifications (à la 'data sheets') and 'user stories'. Most consumer products, even those of a highly technical nature, are not specified with regard for the intended application or user experience. You're more likely to see talk of user experience and customer testimonials in TV ads (or online video clips these days) and infomercials, which are all artefacts of advertising and no part of product specification.
Let's give each other due respect, and approach discussion rigorously. We're all peers and equals here as fellow hobbyists, with common interests in the acquisition and use of fountain pens, but not necessarily any shared values, and no obligation to offer each other moral support for one's narrative or position.
 

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#17 praxim

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 02:16



Considered by whom specifically? Authors of some technical standard on behalf of a committee or consortium? Or just individual opinion that has no standing with fellow pen users, and with which nobody else need agree?

 

The proposition to which I am referring, as I made clearer in a later post, is that pens are designed to be posted, necessarily, and can not be considered balanced if not posted. That is or was an opinion expressed more than once by FPN members in other threads. I saw no basis for the view. This thread was intended to elucidate that there is no basis; and it has. No evidence other than user preference has been advanced.

 

 

 

Most consumer products, even those of a highly technical nature, are not specified with regard for the intended application or user experience.
Really? Seating options in a car are not specified so actual people can sit in it? Pens are made up to a metre long because, after all, no-one is going to write with it? I understand perfectly the point you were trying to make but it is not material here. The claim included coffee going mo[u]ldy while engineers agonised over a perfect [posted but never unposted] balance point. Balance is a clear reference point for the user, just like a clear sac is notable to the user even though the PVC specification appears no-where to the public.
 
edit:typos

Edited by praxim, 28 July 2019 - 02:18.

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#18 A Smug Dill

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 02:27

Seating options in a car are not specified so actual people can sit in it? 

 

 

I don't recall seeing a single instance of automobile product specification sheets that made statements/claims pertaining to the driving experience it promises to deliver to the buyer or driver. Not how much force it takes to use the gear shift or turn the moving vehicle sufficiently with power steering. Even the 0-to-100km/h metric, where one is stated, relates to the maximum performance capability of the vehicle under test conditions, not what the driver will experience or achieve on highways (or urban roads taking off when the traffic lights turn green).


Let's give each other due respect, and approach discussion rigorously. We're all peers and equals here as fellow hobbyists, with common interests in the acquisition and use of fountain pens, but not necessarily any shared values, and no obligation to offer each other moral support for one's narrative or position.
 

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#19 praxim

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 02:56

Wow. And the end-user purpose of their deliberations? What do the marketing people want to convey? To what user experience target are the engineers designing? Are you trying to suggest that marketers would not want to convey a feature which they believe optimally designed in terms of practical user experience? I think you have shot down a rabbit hole some way distant from the topic. :)


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#20 A Smug Dill

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Posted 28 July 2019 - 03:36

Are you trying to suggest that marketers would not want to convey a feature which they believe optimally designed in terms of practical user experience?


No, I'm saying that something such as the centre of gravity of a pen's design is not part of any sane product specification sheet to publish and share with prospective buyers/users, but belongs more in advertising.

This is in response to your earlier allusion to the distinction between advertising and specification.
Let's give each other due respect, and approach discussion rigorously. We're all peers and equals here as fellow hobbyists, with common interests in the acquisition and use of fountain pens, but not necessarily any shared values, and no obligation to offer each other moral support for one's narrative or position.
 

Don't think 'cos I understand, I care
Don't think 'cos I'm talking, we're friends

—'6 Underground' by Sneaker Pimps






Also tagged with one or more of these keywords: balance, centre of gravity, length, posting



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