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Pens for mathematics


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#1 mathmarc

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 03:36

Throughout the forum archives, I have seen many mentions of different setups<br />for the engineer/mathematician, but very few (no) reviews written in "math-speak".<br />Attached is hand-written comparison of three pens I use in my everyday work*. <br />(Finishing up my phd in computational mathematics, so I do a lot of writing and <br />alot of coding.) The  content of the review is basically three equations I came across<br />in my work today, which I felt would best showoff the differences in each pen/ink<br />combination. A little history to the latter:  Over the past year or so, since my<br />switch from pencil -> fountain pen, I have studied this forum and experimented with<br />many different combinations.  The goal was to find the minimum number of pens/inks<br />needed to accomplish my work efficiently, but enjoyably. My priorities were based <br />performance first and cost second (man I had to save up hard on a grad student's<br />funding), however, given that these are items I use for hours every day and<br />will continue to do so for years and years, I consider it worth it.  <br />These recommendations may not fit your needs, but they do fit mine so YMMV.  Of<br />course, any recommendations from the wonderful people here at FPN are greatly<br />appreciated.  <br /><br />I have converged on the following:<br /><br />Omas Emotica (fine point) with Noodler's Old Manhattan Black.<br />		Uses:  Research notebook, long writing spells, seminars (it is just pretty)<br />		Reason for use:  The OMB ink leaves a fine line, unlike other blacks<br />						 I have experimented with.  Also, in my research journal,<br />						 I like using a water-proof black ink.  Moreover, I tend<br />						 to stop and think a lot and find the cap quite<br />						 useful in keeping the pen in "writer-friendly" position.  <br />						 As for the seminars everyone likes to look at it.<br />Namiki Falcon (fine point) with J. Herbin Eclat de Saphir<br />		Uses:  Scratch work, annotating papers, editing<br />		Reason for use:  I chose this blue ink, as I found that it stood out<br />						 easily from papers while making annotations, and also<br />						 dried quickly without feathering on almost all paper<br />						 I threw at it.  For scratch work, this is the first pen<br />						 I reach for, as it puts out a wonderfully fine line and<br />						 it just a joy to write with.  For extended periods of time<br />						 though, I find that the Emotica is more comfortable. I also<br />						 often use this to annotate and edit in my research book,<br />						 as the contrast again is easily visible at first glance.<br />						 My main complaint with this pen is the look.  I am a simple<br />						 guy and dont like the look of gold-trimmed pens.  Plus,<br />						 the plastic body feels insubstantial on use.  <br />Lamy Safari vista (fine point) with J. Herbin Bleu Nuit (or Noodler's Ellis Island)<br />		Uses: Workhorse, writing in coffee shops, classrooms, grading<br />		Reason for use:  I tend to work in "high-risk" environments where there is a<br />						 risk of theft or worse yet, the pen being knocked onto the <br />						 ground. (coffee shops, class rooms, etc)  This is my goto pen<br />						 for such situations.  I tend to alternate between the above<br />						 blue-blacks depending on my mood.  Both work wonderfully. <br />						 Also, as I use this pen for grading, students can't attempt <br />						 to cheat by changing my written numbers, as these colors<br />						 are quite hard to reproduce (and yes, I have caught a<br />						 student or two trying to change a 5 -> 8 and then say<br />						 I added incorrectly).  <br /><br /><br /><br /><br />I have experimented with some of the chinese pens, however, I did not enjoy the<br />experience.  In fact, most other pens do not appeal to me for as these three pens fit<br />nearly every niche perfectly. (the exception is mentioned below... ;-)  As for other<br />inks, I have experimented with Aurora Black, PR Black Ultra (there is a thread<br />about that failure) as well as other blues.  I did notice that the Herbin Bleu Nuit <br />did not perform as I liked in the Emotica, but performed perfectly in the Safari and<br />Falcon.<br /><br /><br />If pushed to recommend only one pen, I would choose the Falcon.  I like the Emotica<br />more, however if you are on a budget, the Falcon is far cheaper and a joy to write<br />math with.  The Safari (even in the extra fine) is just too broad for precise indices.<br /><br /><br />Paper:  Original Crown Mill, Computer-ruled in Grey.  <br />		I find this paper to have great qualities for scratch work (which I always<br />		save).  I tend to cut the A4 paper in half to create A5 sized sheets <br />		for my scratch.  I like the look of the grey and also there is absolutely<br />		no visible bleed through, so both sides of the paper can be used.  I know<br />		it is not cheap, but honestly, given the cost of everything else, it is worth<br />		the extra money to add some additional happiness to my work.<br />		<br />Notebooks:  Apica CD 15 or Tsubame W80 notebooks and research journals.<br />     		There is not much to say here.  Both use acid-free paper and take <br />			fountain pen ink nicely.  <br />		<br />			<br />			<br />Other writing instruments which serve a purpose:<br />	California Republic Pencils:  <br />								  These are the most amazing pencils currently made.<br />	 							  Seriously, check them out. <br />	Graf von Faber Castell Perfect Pencil:  <br />								  It is so pretty and was a gift.  I use<br />								  it lovingly and not as much as I should.  When<br />								  I do carry it to talks and seminars, people always<br />								  comment how elegant it is. <br />	Graf van Faber Castell Classic Rollerball in Grenadilla:  <br />								  Again, it was a gift.<br />								  For quick notes and travel, this is my goto pen.<br />	Fisher space pen:  <br />								  It is small and fits in my pants pocket right next<br />								  to either my Apica CD-5 or Rite in the Rain #135,<br />								  depending on the weather.<br />								<br />								<br />If you are curious, for correspondence, I use  the G. Lalo Borghese cards in grey for<br />short notes and Amalfi stationary for longer letters.   The pen I choose depends on my<br />mood and the color of ink in it.  I keep on wanting to get a new pen to fill with one<br />of the many beautiful brown inks for use with the Amalfi paper, but I dont want to<br />admit to having a problem.  My fiance already thinks I am a little crazy... ;-) <br />(Seriously, though any recommendations under 250$? I was thinking of getting something <br />drastically different in functionality than I already have. A M or F italic?) <br /><br /><br />I hope this helps!  IF you have any questions, please feel free to contact me<br />either through this thread or via PM.   I just want to give back to FPN as much<br />as it has given to me.  <br /><br />Take care,<br />marc<br /><br /><br />*Some more information about the handwritten part.  This was written in my standard<br />hand, ie. it is focused more on getting things written quickly rather than neatly.<br />(Although I hope I obtain enough of the latter.)  Personally, I do prefer the <br />semi-flex of the Emotica and Falcon and the little bit of personality<br />it gives my writing. Also, integrals and summations look "purty." If more <br />fine-ness is needed, I will often flip the pen over to write small symbols, <br />such as the infinity symbol, however I did not do so in this document.  Also, the <br />scan as hard as I tried, came out a little blurry from my scanner.  In real life,<br />the Falcon indices are extremely crisp and precise.

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#2 acfrery

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 04:19

Beautiful!
Alejandro

#3 troglokev

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 08:26

I must confess to being slightly disappointed with the lack of ostentation in the integral signs.

If you're going to use a Namiki Falcon to integrate a Gaussian, you should do it with a flourish!

#4 mathmarc

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 13:44

QUOTE (troglokev @ Aug 11 2008, 08:26 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I must confess to being slightly disappointed with the lack of ostentation in the integral signs.

If you're going to use a Namiki Falcon to integrate a Gaussian, you should do it with a flourish!



Wouldn't a flourish detract from the inherent beauty known as the Gaussian?
I tend to see flourishes similar to gaudy expensive jewelry or make-up... roflmho.gif


(read this as: It is better to write plainly and well than risk an ugly flourish! Knowing
me, had I tried, I would have written the review over and over again until perfect.
Still, I would love to see one of the members with an amazing hand do a "guide
to math symbols." Some of the older texts on math have handwritten symbols
as printers could not make them easily and are simply stunning.)


#5 jonro

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 13:58

I'm curious about how fine a nib you need to get optimal results when writing equations. You've obviously found pens and nibs that work for you, but I would guess that something even finer than the Namiki might come in handy sometimes. The Safari doesn't seem fine enough for detailed equations, but you make it work when you need to. Would you comment more about the nibs and their suitability for mathematical equations?

#6 Philip1209

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 14:21

Great review. Thanks for the opinions!

#7 mathmarc

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 14:40

QUOTE (jonro @ Aug 11 2008, 02:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm curious about how fine a nib you need to get optimal results when writing equations. You've obviously found pens and nibs that work for you, but I would guess that something even finer than the Namiki might come in handy sometimes. The Safari doesn't seem fine enough for detailed equations, but you make it work when you need to. Would you comment more about the nibs and their suitability for mathematical equations?



Honestly, I have never needed anything finer than the Namiki used backwards. I experimented with some
chinese pens, which were finer than the Namiki, however, I could only really use those for short
equations or indices, as I did not enjoy writing with them. I should note that my work does require
a lot of fine writing.

#8 rhk

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 20:30

QUOTE (jonro @ Aug 11 2008, 02:58 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I'm curious about how fine a nib you need to get optimal results when writing equations. You've obviously found pens and nibs that work for you, but I would guess that something even finer than the Namiki might come in handy sometimes. The Safari doesn't seem fine enough for detailed equations, but you make it work when you need to. Would you comment more about the nibs and their suitability for mathematical equations?



I like to use a very fine nib for writing mathematics, so my Nakaya's with a fine nib are perfectly suitable. Also, my Pilot Custom 845 with its fine nib is good for writing math. On the other hand, I would not use a Namiki Yukari Royale with its medium nib for writing math: too much flow and too thick a nib. Nice to write plain text, but not suitable for superscripts and subscripts. For this reason, I always have a fine nibbed pen inked. Ruud

#9 karynv

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 20:59

What fun! After telling my high school math students to write in pencil please over and over again, I took an on-line calculus course this summer that required me to write in pen. I used my Lamy Studio fine point with Noodler's Black, and it was a joy to use ... except I hate having to cross out or start all over again for each mistake. I used a Rhodia notebook for notes and homework.
"I'm sorry, I don't let anyone borrow my pen."

#10 mathmarc

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 22:30

QUOTE (karynv @ Aug 11 2008, 09:59 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
<snip> it was a joy to use ... except I hate having to cross out or start all over again for each mistake.



To paraphrase one of my professors. "I always use a pen. It forces me to think very hard before I write anything down."
He tended to use an old school MB and wrote big to compensate for the lack of fine-ness in the nib.




#11 PAKMAN

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Posted 11 August 2008 - 22:38

Good review! I wish I had access to my new Lamy Studio xf when I went to school!

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#12 the hobbit

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 01:47

Thanks man! I'm in the middle of working on my undergrad degree in Mathematics, and I've been dying to see other math people's thoughts on fountain pens. I usually go to my EF Vista. I've actually narrowed the nib a little more (I spent about half an hour on it with a bit of super fine sandpaper to get it smoothed out and smaller. The end result is that the pen is a bit more flexible and smooth like butter.)

Quick question:

What notebook do you use? I'm ordering a stack of Black n' Red notebooks I want to try for this semester. I really wish I could find a good notebook with graphing lines, but I haven't been able to find one that will work well.

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#13 mathmarc

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 02:01

QUOTE (the hobbit @ Aug 12 2008, 02:47 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Quick question:

What notebook do you use? I'm ordering a stack of Black n' Red notebooks I want to try for this semester. I really wish I could find a good notebook with graphing lines, but I haven't been able to find one that will work well.


I use either Apica's CD15 or Tsubame's, depending on availibility at the local Kinokuniya. I am not a big fan of graph
paper, but plenty of people here like Rhodia's. I have never been a fan of the Black in Reds, either. NOt sure why.

Pics of Apica's can be found throughout the forum.
Pics of my preferred Tsubame's. The former I use for notes, the latter for research.
http://www.tsubameno...ct.html#daigaku
http://www.tsubameno...ct.html#tokuatu


#14 troglokev

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 08:39

QUOTE (mathmarc @ Aug 12 2008, 08:30 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
To paraphrase one of my professors. "I always use a pen. It forces me to think very hard before I write anything down."
He tended to use an old school MB and wrote big to compensate for the lack of fine-ness in the nib.


Very sound advice. I used to use an MB149 with an EF nib, myself. Anything larger, and you might as well be using a crayon. I may have suggested just such a writing instrument to some of the lesser minds among the student population in the past, but there were other reasons for that...

Having recently discovered the Sailor saibi togi nib, I'd probably use that for preference thumbup.gif . The Namiki is another good choice, though.

#15 bluestocking

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 12:25

I use a Lamy 2000 XF for my physics/maths work. It's not very XF but I prefer a bolder line and I write bigger that way which means my hand doesn't cramp up as much. I also use a Safari/Al-Star F or XF for my knockabout pen. I tried using a Pilot F in the past, but it was too spidery for my liking.


#16 cmeisenzahl

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 13:22

Fantastic work, I enjoyed that!

#17 Lloyd

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 14:09

I lke to use either:
-pens that are Asian xf/f on one side and xxf on the other side
-pens that can flex from an Asian xf on up.
I like to use broader strokes for matrices, narrower strokes for scalars and the narrowest strokes for sub/super scripts.
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#18 Pendel

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Posted 12 August 2008 - 14:14

It is always nice to know that there are other mathsters with a fountain pen fetish out there!

I have noticed that for "slow" writing Safaris are wonderful, but I do find that they lack the necessary glide for taking fast notes or for speedy grading, unless you go up in nib size. At present I am using my Pelikan M600 (pre-1997) with a fine nib for this purpose. It is light and flighty. Mind you, the screw-on cap can be a pain, but I use it posted most of the time. Waterman ink works well in the pen, but the colors are not exotic and are easy to forge. People have recommended Lamy 2000, and I have just bought one in XF, but I do not have it yet. Perhaps it will be a winner, when it arrives.

:-)

Edited by Pendel, 12 August 2008 - 14:16.



#19 SallyLyn

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Posted 13 August 2008 - 01:46

QUOTE
I keep on wanting to get a new pen to fill with one of the many beautiful brown inks for use with the Amalfi paper, but I dont want to admit to having a problem.


I'd suggest one of the inexpensive Pilot 78Gs... light, but has a very nice nib. Med is like a Western F, etc. The B is a Stub instead of a Bold. Can find them for $8-25 each. One guy on eBay was selling 3 (one of each size) for something like $55 shipped. Don't know if he's still doing that and I don't remember his name, sorry. Someone could tell you if interested.

Something like Waterman Havana (brown) would be attractive in the B/stub.

#20 pencilx

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Posted 14 August 2008 - 01:11

Have you tried vanishing points?

Although I can afford a Nakaya Pen (simple black cigar with xf 2 tone nib which is about $750, where I'm based), it is too high end for my usage. If there's any pen that I'd want for work, it'll be this.

I'm still in college, and an entry level pen with an xf nib would suffice. Never considered Pilot VPs, until recently when I gave it a shot. Fell in love with it immediately.

I'm studying Mech Engineering, so most of my notes are detailed with Free Body Diagrams and sketches. The best thing about VPs, is that they eliminate the need to cap and uncap. So during long pauses in lectures or lab experiments, the nib can be retracted easily.

I would have gotten the Namiki Falcon if it were available. The closest that is available is the Pilot Custom 74. But the deciding factor for me between VP and Custom, would be the "VP" effect. Also, I feel that the pen is solidly made. Although it's plastic, it does not give you that particular "clinky" feel. Finally, if an "accident" occurs, the nib unit can be replaced, and I belief it's not too expensive to do so.

Edited by pencilx, 14 August 2008 - 01:12.







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