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Tips On Holding Fountain Pens


hankas
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Hello,

 

Being a ballpoint generation and having used ballpoints since the first day I went to school, I had difficulty in transitioning to fountain pens. Loosening up the grip and using the whole arm movement were like learning how to walk all over again. In the end, I finally found what works for me, and hopefully this may be helpful to others who are having similar problems. Note that this is not the only way. I am pretty sure that others may have discovered various ways of holding fountain pens.

 

Figure 1 shows how I hold ballpoint pens. The pen is held/pinched by the index finger and the thumb, and the pen rests near the first joint of the middle finger. Notice how much my index finger bends and how my index finger meets my thumb. When writing using this grip, I rely a lot on finger movements and downward pressure, both of which are unsuitable for writing with fountain pens.

 

Figure 2 shows my fountain pen grip. First, notice that I slide my thumb position backward (Always remember to pull back your thumb when using fountain pens). Second. the pen is held by my middle finger and my thumb. The pen rests near the first joint of the middle finger and held in place by the thumb. The thumb is positioned slightly backward towards the rear. Third, the index finger simply rests on the pen. In fact, I can actually lift my index finger up and write (as shown in Figure 3). Forth, when writing, do not use any part of your palm as the pivot. Instead, use the fleshy part of your forearm as the pivot and let your arm move freely.

 

When using this fountain pen grip, you will rely less on finger movement, and more on wrist and whole arm movement, which is the ideal according to Palmer. The only caveat is that you cannot use this grip when you need to exert downward pressure. So when you are writing using ballpoint pens or you need to write on carbon papers, you need another grip.

 

I hope this helps.

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You are no doubt practicing a copperplate derivative such as Palmer. There are many calligraphers and ordinary users of fountain pens who write with fingers, with minimal movement in the hand, myself included. This goes back to cursives and formal writing that predates copperplate.

 

The pen rests on the thumb and third finger and the index finger manipulates the writing. Yes, it is downward pressure (that's light pressure) on the downstroke, with a lift to the next downstroke. look closely at old and modern manuscripts, as well as typefaces, and you will note that the weight is on the downstroke.

 

BTW, my pen follows the path of italic letter formations. For caligraphic practice I look to the 'foundational hand" of Edward Johnston: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/305518/Edward-Johnston

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When using this fountain pen grip, you will rely less on finger movement, and more on wrist and whole arm movement, which is the ideal according to Palmer. The only caveat is that you cannot use this grip when you need to exert downward pressure. So when you are writing using ballpoint pens or you need to write on carbon papers, you need another grip.

 

 

 

There is no reason to have a different grip for ballpoint pens if the grip is sound. Yours is not.

 

Compare your figure 1 with figure 24 on http://www.iampeth.com/books/palmer_method_1935/palmerMethod_1935_page16.html

 

Comparing the two: your pen shaft is held too flat. It rests in the web rather than on or just below the knuckles. Consequently, you grip above the threads, not on the section. (It's there for a reason.) The shaft crosses the 2nd finger above the 1st knuckle, rather than below it. The thumb is too bend, likewise the index finger. The errors cascade from the shaft angle. Your grip may be relaxed, but it is also unstable, which is why it doesn't work well with ballpoints. With a more correct grip, pressure, as little or as much as needed, is applied by the entire hand, not any single digit, freeing up the fingers for the subtle manipulation of the pen tip or edge required by some writing styles.

 

I'm not a huge fan of the Palmer method, but the grip shown in the above cited manual is as sound as it gets.

Edited by Mickey

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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Thanks for the link on Edward Johnston. I learn something new there.

 

The point of my proposed grip is indeed to reduce reliance on finger movements, and to depend more on the wrist and the whole arm movements. In my case, I have a bad habit to press the pen down really hard that it often leaves a pronounced depression on the paper itself. In fact, I can turn over the paper I have just written using my normal grip, run my fingers over, and the paper feels like braille writing. This bad habit is difficult to be undone as it's been developed and practiced for years. I needed a way to loosen up my grip before I ruin my fountain pens and hence the proposed grip.

 

I am learning the Palmer/Zanerian's concept of using the whole arm movements. While there is nothing wrong with using finger movements, I find that when writing cursive on a standard size blank paper (a4 or legal size with no guide line), I have problem in keeping my lines straight when using mostly finger movement (assuming normal handwriting speed). This whole arm movement thing solves this for me.

 

This isn't a replacement or an improved grip over the other grips. I am just sharing what works for me.

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Another important consideration concerning the grip is your history. If you have been writing for decades with a certain grip, you cannot unlearn it overnight. You may make good progress by nudging the 'bad' grip in the right direction whereas using a completely new grip may throw you a long way back, leading to barely legible letters and a loss of morale.

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Another important consideration concerning the grip is your history. If you have been writing for decades with a certain grip, you cannot unlearn it overnight. You may make good progress by nudging the 'bad' grip in the right direction whereas using a completely new grip may throw you a long way back, leading to barely legible letters and a loss of morale.

 

You know this how? My experience teaching a different physical skill suggests that a clean break with obviously bad habits is usually the quickest and most reliable way to effect permanent change - leave no easy avenue for gradual regression. In this case, where both the grip and stroke were suspect, changing both at the same time seems the more prudent and promising route.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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I disagree. Most ballpoints I've encountered will not write when held at the angle of figure 24.

 

My experience of the last 6 decades is rather different. (I just tested your statement. Sorry, but you're dead wrong.) If anything, a ballpoint pen is less likely to function correctly in the OP's figure 2. A ballpoint pen will function at any angle from vertical (90 degrees) to something below 30 degrees, depending on the pen design. The shaft angle in figure 24 is around 45 degrees, well within the design window.

 

Think for just one moment. Would the designer of the original ball point pen, László Bíró, have invented a pen which couldn't be used in the grip that was nearly universal at the time of his invention? I don't think so. It's bad business. When trying to move your product into a well defined and occupied market niche, you don't force unnecessary change on your potential customers.

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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You know this how? My experience teaching a different physical skill suggests that a clean break with obviously bad habits is usually the quickest and most reliable way to effect permanent change - leave no easy avenue for gradual regression. In this case, where both the grip and stroke were suspect, changing both at the same time seems the more prudent and promising route.

Absolutely correct. Gradual change leads to recidivism.

 

Do it correctly each time for thirty days. At the end of the month you'll wonder why you hadn't done it sooner.

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My experience of the last 6 decades is rather different. (I just tested your statement. Sorry, but you're dead wrong.) If anything, a ballpoint pen is less likely to function correctly in the OP's figure 2. A ballpoint pen will function at any angle from vertical (90 degrees) to something below 30 degrees, depending on the pen design. The shaft angle in figure 24 is around 45 degrees, well within the design window.

 

Think for just one moment. Would the designer of the original ball point pen, László Bíró, have invented a pen which couldn't be used in the grip that was nearly universal at the time of his invention? I don't think so. It's bad business. When trying to move your product into a well defined and occupied market niche, you don't force unnecessary change on your potential customers.

Well, I doubt that you have tested my statement, because you neither know nor have "most ballpoints I've encountered." But that doesn't even matter because, in order to refute your statement (no reason for a different grip), just one random ballpoint is needed that doesn't write under this angle.

 

The angle in Figure 24 is approximately 40 degrees according to my measurements with GIMP. My claim is still that most ballpoints I have encountered---mostly cheap ones given out for free---will not write at an angle of 40 degrees, let alone 30 degrees. I happen to know this because I recently went through a drawer of pens and threw out all pens that did not write under my writing angle (Palmer). Out of 10 pens or so, there was one that kind of worked, so I kept that one.

 

Regarding the historical economic argument, I don't find it too convincing. The sheer convenience of a ballpoint goes a long way and it may very well outweigh the cost of slightly changing your grip and applying more pressure. A revolutionary product in a static market will almost always require slight or even drastic changes. That's part of being revolutionary. Plus, it's much easier to "learn" writing with a ballpoint than it is with fountain pens.

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Well, I doubt that you have tested my statement, because you neither know nor have "most ballpoints I've encountered." But that doesn't even matter because, in order to refute your statement (no reason for a different grip), just one random ballpoint is needed that doesn't write under this angle.

 

The angle in Figure 24 is approximately 40 degrees according to my measurements with GIMP. My claim is still that most ballpoints I have encountered---mostly cheap ones given out for free---will not write at an angle of 40 degrees, let alone 30 degrees. I happen to know this because I recently went through a drawer of pens and threw out all pens that did not write under my writing angle (Palmer). Out of 10 pens or so, there was one that kind of worked, so I kept that one.

 

Regarding the historical economic argument, I don't find it too convincing. The sheer convenience of a ballpoint goes a long way and it may very well outweigh the cost of slightly changing your grip and applying more pressure. A revolutionary product in a static market will almost always require slight or even drastic changes. That's part of being revolutionary. Plus, it's much easier to "learn" writing with a ballpoint than it is with fountain pens.

 

Do any of these cheap ballpoints you claim to have encountered write at any angle? The grip and pen angle shown in figure 24 have been pretty much standard for most of the past 100 years, including most of the ballpoint pen era. BTW there is no such things as a Palmer writing angle.

 

 

Added, after inspecting and testing a handful of ballpoints, grabbed from my desk: Of those which hadn't dried out and wouldn't write at any angle, all began to make marks once the shaft angle exceeded 36 degrees. From that point all the way to full vertical, the marking became more predictable and uniform, though improvement above 45 degrees was slight.

 

If you measure the angle in figure 25 (in the Palmer material) where the pen appears to contact the page, the angle is c. 50 degrees, well within the operational parameters for the pens I examined. Figure 24 was cited to illustrate the grip, not the orientation of the shaft while writing.

Edited by Mickey

The liberty of the press is indeed essential to the nature of a free state; but this consists in laying no previous restraints upon publications, and not in freedom from censure for criminal matter when published. Every freeman has an undoubted right to lay what sentiments he pleases before the public; to forbid this, is to destroy the freedom of the press; but if he publishes what is improper, mischievous or illegal, he must take the consequence of his own temerity. (4 Bl. Com. 151, 152.) Blackstone's Commentaries

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