N.B. Seeing as the blogging facility is under-utilised, and this is arguably on-topic for a fountain pen hobbyist forum, I'm going to use this ‘article’ as a place for an openly visible, partial brain dump that I can and will come back to edit from time to time, without being constrained by a narrow and strictly limited window of opportunity after initial posting.
A dear friend of ours, to whom we've made a habit of giving fountain pens, bottled inks, and other paraphernalia over the past couple of years — whenever we had the opportunity to meet up every few months, what with busy lives, lockdown restrictions, and all that — has recently ‘graduated’ in the hobby to ordering pens, ink, and even an inkwell of her own initiative. Bravo! My wife and I are so pleased to see the interest we sparked take hold.
However, not being someone who routinely spends time scouring blogs and forums, or shopping online for the next thing of mild interest to buy, our friend is finding the breadth of the hobby, even just in terms of the nouns and concepts, a little overwhelming to grapple with on her own. (She still refers to an ink converter as the ‘thingie’, trying to explain the differences and difficulty she had filling her new TWSBI, because an integrated piston-filler is still somewhat foreign to her at this point.) She's been looking up some things online on her own; but, of course, there is a steep learning curve that many of us deep in the hobby have long since forgotten.
While I'm more than happy to send her links to articles and discussion threads from time to time all year round, or spend hours discussing various aspects of the hobby when we do meet up every so often, I think it might be helpful for me to send her a logically more organised primer. I may even end up hand-writing it in a fountain pen friendly notebook for her; some things are better illustrated with physical artefacts of ink on paper, instead of digitised images hosted somewhere ‘in the cloud’ and linked to or embedded in posts online. It would also help if there's a single ‘place’ for collecting a bunch of links to online material I'd like to show her as ‘reference’ and/or examples.
So, I'm going to use this space as a whiteboard for planning what I'll cover in the primer.
Just to be clear, while I'd love to see your comments about what you would do or write if you were doing something similar for a personal friend who shows sufficient interest in fountain pens, I don't intend this to be a collaborative effort to produce a (or ‘the’) guide as a common resource to be made readily accessible to everyone online — as a tutorial, reference, or even just entertainment as many of us enjoy seeking out by browsing review sites and such. Nor am I planning on ‘publishing’ my end product; it is being written for my friend (and this particular friend), and so it'll inevitably have my spin on things, as well as take into account what I know of her use cases and preferences. Brands such as Parker will get a ‘good’ kicking; American brands will get no love in particular; Kaweco will get ridiculed for its antics trying to fight Moonman; and ‘vintage’ pens as a subject area will get all the coverage of, ”I avoid them,” (which is a statement of fact of what I do, not a recommendation, if my understanding of English grammar is correct). I know some Internet denizens just love to see that kind of ‘published’ statement of personal opinion or choice as unwelcome provocation, as if what they themselves like ‘deserve’ equal and/or positive representation at every turn by someone else not even writing with them and their ilk remotely in mind.
Major sections: Inks; Pens; Papers; Paraphernalia; Techniques; The Rest
Types: ‘standard’ dyestuff-only inks; iron-gall inks; particle inks (including carbon inks, pigment inks, and shimmer inks); inks that should not be put in fountain pens
Usage and handling: flow (‘wet’ vs ‘dry’); lubrication; drying time; aptness to smear or smudge after drying
Intrusive characteristics: feathering; show-through; bleed-through
Permanence: lightfastness (including, counter-intuitively, fading when in a closed book not continuous or continually exposed to light); water resistance (and versus waterproofness); ‘bulletproof’-ness and treatment with alcohol, ammonia, bleach, etc.
Presentation characteristics: spreading; shading; sheen; shimmer (none of which is assumed to be desirable for all unspecified use cases)
Other characteristics: colour-shifting; multi-hued; nib creep; ink crud; pH value; mixing; biocides
Concerns: staining (types; how to remove); SITB
Status: In current production; modern versus ‘vintage’
Names of common parts: essential elements that makes a pen a fountain pen (nib, feed, reservoir, handle); parts on the cap (finial, clip, cap ring and trim) and barrel (including gripping section, end finial, piston knob, blind cap)
Body materials: resin; celluloid; ebonite; aluminium; brass; steel; sterling silver; wood
Cap types: screw-caps; snap-caps; slip-caps (and desk pen holder cones); magnetic closure; capless (knock or twist mechanism)
Sealing effectiveness: porosity of cap material; holes by design and physicals gaps in construction; inner caps
Filling mechanism: cartridge/converter; (integrated) piston-filled; vacuum-filled; eyedropper-filled; captured converter; sac; (note agitators); (note corrosion of exposed metal components, e.g. piston rod); methods: create a vacuum vs direct deposit
Nibs: material; finish (can affect wettability and flow); tipped vs untipped; number of tines (and hence slits); width grades (and ‘Japanese’ versus ‘Western’); open, hooded, semi-hooded ‘fingernail’; types of grinds (nominally round-tipped; Stub; Italic; Zoom; Fude de Mannen; Waverly; Architect; Concord; Posting; Naginata Togi; long knife; art); elasticity (‘nail’; soft; flex); broad tip vs round point; manufacturers (Japanese ‘Big Three’; Lamy; Pelikan; Aurora; JoWo, Bock, and Schmidt; others)
Feeds: material; ink and air channels; fins; wick; cartridge piercer; priming the feed
Interchangeability and interoperability: nib sizes (and that the ubiquitous ‘#6’ doesn't actually mean anything); length, curvature, notch, cutouts; removable, threaded nib units vs friction-fit straight into the gripping section; keyed vs round housing; converter ‘standards’ (‘international standard’; 2.6mm-bore; 3.4mm-bore; Aurora, Parker(3.2mm?), and Lamy; Schmidt K1, K2, K5, and K6; Japanese ‘Big Three’; Cross; other); how some pens would not accommodate all ‘international standard’ converters with thick rims at the mouth or metal collars; beware of splitting the mouth of the converter!
Ergonomic and practical concerns: step-down; weight balance; posting and ‘postability‘ of the cap; burping; faceted gripping section; slippery gripping section; rubberised gripping section; disassembly and servicing
Problems, diagnostic procedures, and ham-fisted/broad-based solutions: (directional) scratchiness; hard-starts; skipping; railroading; unexpected colour dilution; variability from unit to unit; clean and flush before first use; fluctuation in ink flow due air return as bubbles; ‘air lock’ and blockage
Tomoe River FP (not a recommendation)
Cleaning: bulb syringe; flushing liquids; ultrasonic cleaners; drying aids such as a repurposed salad spinner
Pen storage: boxes, cases, folders; chrome-tanned leather?
blotters and blotting paper
Obtaining line variation
Changing wetness of ink marks by varying writing speed (and/or pressure, of course)
Nib tuning: flow adjustment; tine alignment; smoothing and grinding
Servicing of filling mechanism: disassembly; lubrication; reseating of the piston (if necessary, cf. many HongDian pens) to maximise ink reservoir capacity
Commentary on particular brands: flow adjustment; tine alignment; smoothing and grinding
Commentary on particular retail channels: Amazon; eBay; AliExpress; Taobao; particular independent retailers
To find a logical place for: ‘wet’ as an overloaded adjective, as applied to flow, pens, ink, lines on the page, etc.; ‘dry out’ as a verb, in pen usage while uncapped and in storage while capped; ‘feedback’ as logically separate from scratchiness