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If The Size Is Right...


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G'day FPN


I know the only real answer to this question is 'try them out!' but all the way down here in Australia there seems to be a scarcity of brick & mortar pen shops, so I'd love to hear from you:


Is there any rule of thumb for marrying a pen size to a hand size?


theres a lot of talk around the forums of large and small hands, but as it's so subjective what size 'large' hands actually are, and obviously the weight distribution of the actual pen in hand plays a huge part in what makes it balanced or not. the Safari I use at the moment is a little back heavy when posted (those pens are really quite long though) so what factors would lead you to decide between an M400, 600, 800 or 1000 apart from visuals or price?


heres a picture of my hand for reference, with a pen we all know and love




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I consider myself to have probably "big" hands, in proportion to my 6 foot 3 inch person. Surprisingly my Lamy Safari looks to be resting in the same place on my hand as does yours. I grew up with smaller, thinner pens & almost 50 years later, when I resumed using them I was determined to purchase ONLY large pens; I made an exception for a Parker 51 & found I really didn't mind it's lesser size. I did start with a Pelikan M800, BUT after I decided I wanted a white tortoise, decided to purchase the M600 & again was surprised to find that "size really doesn't matter, it is the PEN, that matters. I don't think I would like the smaller sized ones, but wouldn't "rule them out, without trying them." AND I also have never seen a pen prior to purchase because most of the pens I have wanted are not available without a 5-8 hour drive.


I KNOW I can happily use a Kaweco Sport, albeit posted, so I know if a pen is ONLY available in a smaller size than I prefer, the USE & enjoyment of same is NOT merely determined by the pen's size alone. I think I have married most of my pens to my EYES &/or mind, rather than size, once I realised I enjoyed the Kaweco Sport & Stipula Passaporto, even with their size limitations.

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There used to be a myth going around that if you had big hands you needed a big pen, and vice versa. Problem was it was just a myth.


There are a lot of competing and sometimes subtle factors that make a pen comfortable to use, not least (to mention a couple) how you are used to holding your pen (firm, death grip, loose, limp lettuce etc.) and how far from the page your fingers are (i.e. the nib length). Then there is girth, weight, length, balance, feel of the material, and any permutation of all of these.


None of this is very helpful other than to say the only way is to try. I am in the same position as you, eissante, and I have made a lot of errors. Some of those errors have not been at all obvious - this is particularly noticeable when you pick up two pens that appear to be the same size but feel quite different. It could be something like the length or shape of the section, or where the threads lie.


On top of all this, as it's a journey, you may find that your preferences mature over time. For example, you may like using a pen today, and 6 months down the line find that it is uncomfortable.


Experience really does matter here.

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It really is a journey and your preferences will change over time.

My hand is about the same as yours. I really like the M-200 for every day carry. I don't post and the size still works just fine for me. The pens are built like a tank, hard to damage and reliable. Really like the interchangeability of the nibs. The M 200 is cheaper than the 400 and pretty much the same pen with a little less gold trim. The M 200 can take standard plated steel nibs or the gold 400 nibs.

The only thing you can really break on the pen is the nib. New pelikan gold plated steel nibs can be had for around $30, less if you look hard.

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From experience, the rough correlation between hand size and pen size seems right. Nevertheless, there are a few more ergonomic and other aspects that play a role. The best way to decide is still to try the pens that interest you. If there are no real stores around, there might be other pen users who could help you. As for the Pelikans, I don't think there's substantial difference between the 200, 400 and 600 for someone with big hands. My 600 felt always a bit too short (I prefer not to cap), while the 800 was just perfect in size.

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I have rather small hands. However, I am used to not posting (2 reasons for this, one is I don't like it when the cap makes marks in the barrel of my pens and the second is that if I ever lend a pen, I prefer to hold on to the cap, that way they always return right back to me).


I have Pelikan 400s and 600s and I find both a bit smaller than ideal. I just bought an M800 that should arrive next week, I'm hoping this will be the perfect size for me.



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I find myself liking the size of the M600's a lot (and the Safari sits in my hand the same as your pic). That said, I find I've been using the little Pilot Petit a lot lately and really liking it too (currently away from home and left the Pels safe at home).


But I love 'em all and agree that the handsize thing is a myth.

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." -Pablo Picasso

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My hands are of an average size. Along the years, I got accustomed to the following simple rule: if pen is small, use it posted; if large, use it unposted. For instance, I would use a Pelikan M400 or a 400NN most of the times not posted; a 100 or 100N will get action most of the times posted.


I do not have a 600, 800 or a 1000, but I do have some similar size pens. And I use these unposted, because I do not feel a good balance when I am using them pens.


However, sometimes exceptions do occur: I have a black chased hard rubber pen, unnamed (although it does sports the Waterman logo on the filler lever and a Waterman heart holed nib, a beautiful flexible). This pen (cap aside) is some 13.5 cm in length. This pen I use posted, for the light weight and thin profile endeavor this pen to be used in such fashion.


My 2 cents on the matter :-).

Edited by Le Vieux

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I was looking at an Edison pen recently and after a quick question to the Goulet Pen Company discovered that the pen was too short for me un-posted, and of course it doesn't post. That kind of design essentially restricts the customer based I guess.

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From the size of your hands, it looks like the M800 would be the best size. That's closest to the size of the Lamy. However, if you post your pens, then the M600. The M800 is also heavier due to the brass piston.

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Rule of thumb? No.


I reckon you're spot on about the importance of balance, so the question is more about girth and length of the section, length of the pen and perhaps mass of the pen.


I use a metal cap+barrel Parker Sonnet Flighter as my daily writer, so that is my benchmark.


When off exploring ye olde nibs and feeds, I encountered petit pens with narrow girth and low mass, which I learned to write with joy by altering my grip to keep the nib running on its sweet spot.


The pen should disappear in the writer's hand so that thoughts make it onto paper seamlessly.


For example, I bought a rotring 600 for my field-use pen, and found that it is an ergonomic nightmare, but by altering my grip and where I grasp the pen, we get along well enough for field notes but not long-haul writing.


I am a big fan of the M400 series, but as these things go, I was thinking about a larger pen: M600 or M800? As Fortune would have it, the metal binde M640 came to market and the Sahara design became an Object of Desire. I'm tickled pink, and love to write till dawn with that pen. :wub: (My MB149 is jealous.)




Edited by Sandy1

The only time you have too much fuel is when you're on fire.


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Light and nimble Standard (400/200) & medium-long (P-51/600) use to be the normal sized pens back when one wrote with one 8 hours a day. They were mostly posted, in that is where the great balance comes in. Large pens out side the Snorkel were very rare. I never saw a Sheaffer PFM....Pen For Men...in the late '50's- early '60's when it came out.



If you post the 200/400/600 they are not 'too small'. If you don't post....they can be. There are folks who don't post who don't think they are too small.

But I think they are a minority. Mostly I read....how small they are by folks who refuse to post. :wallbash:


The MB 146 went from being a very nicely balanced medium long pen to being a slightly clunky Large pen in the '70's. I have both....I was chasing the '50s MB for the nib and the '70's one was cheap at a live auction. I do have to adjust for a few seconds when I use it....and it is one of the lighter of the Large pens.


IMO Large pens are so large in they Bling....well. Sort of Clunky in my mind.


The only Large pen that is great, is the thin Snorkel (could be a Touchdown which I don't have, also)....a great balanced pen. You could have knocked me over with a feather when I found it to be the same length as a Safari. Yes, you do post a Snorkel.

On second thought my Large light and nimble Waterman 52 that I post has good balance.

Outside of them, I have 8-10 Large pens that I reach for last.


If posting is against your religion than you are condemned to using large clunky pens. :headsmack:


Now for the nib.....'50-65 era is it. Stubbish semi-flex or maxi-semi-flex nibs are standard. :drool: :puddle:

'82-98 is second best....the M400 is 'true' regular flex, like the 200. The 200's springy 'true' regular flex nib is very good, gives a good ride.


'True' regular flex use to be the norm for many pen companies until so many Ham Fisted Ball Point Barbarians started using fountain pens in the mid-90's and bent so many nibs that had to be repaired the companies went over to issuing semi-nail or nail, instead of 'true' regular flex nibs.


Modern M400/600 have fat blobby semi-nail nibs......butter smooth....that's about it....not a nice ride like a '82-97 M400 or the modern 200.....good for making it a stub or a CI....one can buy vintage nibs...'50-65 that will fit. I have a '54 Transitional 400's semi-flex B nib in my 605. My fat and blobby 600's nib is stored in the 400 tortoise until I use it again. Don't want to misplace nibs. :P

One of these days I'll turn that 600's fat and blobby semi-nail BB into a stub....been saying that for ages.

I do want some character to my writing that the vintage '50's era nibs give me with out me having to do anything at all......magic. :P


The 600 has a nice girth, light and nimble, well balanced posted....and there are very many beautiful ones of them. If you get a nice '50-65 semi/maxi-semi-flex nib, you can put it in your 600. And have a real pen.

Chase the nib....


Yes, if one is use to the American Bump Under....the stubbish minimalist tipping or that era can be a shock. I as 'noobie' thought some shade tree mechanic tried to stub them....but that was what that era's tipping looked like. Works wonderfully..


Do not waste money buying a '82 or later Oblique....it is a 100% waste of money.


Buy a '50-65 one, there you have that era's stubbish nib with semi-flex or maxi-semi-flex tine spread. and the 15 or 30 degree grind. (pure luck to which it will be) :notworthy1: :thumbup: :puddle:


If you want a great 'true' regular flex the W. Germany ('87-89/90) 800 has that nib***.....but it is a large and clunky pen....it will take a while to get use to it. I don't know nor has anyone said when in the '90's the 800 became the nail it now is.

Yes, your Safari is a Large pen...and not as heavy as many. The brass back weighted 800 will fell bigger.


**** The '82-90 W. Germany 400's nib is a slight tad more springy than the '90-97 Germany M400. It costs much more too.

Get a '50-65 one for less than that...and you will be spoiled by the nib.

I'd asked someone once that had it and '50's nibbed 400's and she told me not to buy it, in I'd been spoiled by semi-flex.

Edited by Bo Bo Olson

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.

RIP...200's once great nib, now a double ball.:crybaby::wallbash:


The cheapest lessons are from those who learned expensive lessons. Ignorance is best for learning expensive lessons.




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M 200, 400, 600, 800. Are you confused yet? They are all quality pens. You'll enjoy and get years of writing out of any one you pick. Chose the Pelikan that fits best into your budget, then you'll have no regrets.

Whichever you buy, it can always be sold or traded later. These pens are always easy to sell. Even in parts.

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I don't buy the large hands -> large pen logic either. There are some pens that are extremely small and/or thin, so much so that it is very uncomfortable for me to use but any pen within the normal range fits great in my hands.


I personally prefer large pens, not because they are more comfortable to use (honestly, I'm just as comfortable with my M800s or 146s as I am with my M1000s and 149) but because they offer larger nibs. This is simply a preference and the nib size may make a pen uncomfortable to use, mainly because your hand will be higher off the page. The nib size difference between a Safari and a M1000 (or 149) is huge. It took a while for me to adjust to the larger nib size, but now I really like the bigger size.


If you can try the pens before buying definitely do so, you don't even need to ink the pen. If there's a possibility of group meeting, that will obviously be better.

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I have medium size hands and find the M400 to be too small unposted, the 600 about right and the 800 to be perfect, and the 1000 to be a bit big even unposted. If you want to carry it in your shirt pocket the 600 is the perfect pocket size to me.


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@ eissante:

If you can't try pens ahead of time, I would suggest reading up about pen size/weight and see which is similar to the size and weight of your Safari (which you clearly like). That should give you a ballpark to begin with, size/weight-wise.

But it is subjective. Because there are also factors such as the size of the section, whether there is a step-down between the barrel and the section, how thick the threading is, and so on. I have small "girly" hands, so I don't like pens that are too heavy (M200 and M400 are a perfect size and weight for me). But as Empty of Clouds said, the whole "bigger hands, bigger pen" is kinda a myth -- a friend of mine has way bigger hands than me, and he likes little teeny pens as well as bigger heavier ones. Balance is also an issue: I personally post nearly all my pens (except for a few where I can't because of issues such as a tapered barrel, or some sort of obstruction in the cap on one of the Noodler's Konrad) -- but if the cap adds too much weight the pen will be unbalanced and not feel right in my hand I won't like that either....

I started out with a really skinny pen -- a Parker Vector. And while I love my Vectors (I now have around 8 of them) they are a bit too thin to do long term writing with -- they would not be for writing the Great American Novel. Even the Park 45s are a bit slim for long term writing sessions. But my Safari? Maybe. The Sheaffer Snorkels? Maybe. My M200s and M400? Definitely. Ditto for my Konrads (even the one that won't post) and my Parker 51s -- those are all a good size and weight for me.

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."

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I have large hands, 11" span between thumb and pinky finger, and use various sized pens but mostly M800 and MB 149 size is preferred.


My bugbear is when the unposted pen jabs into the webbing between my thumb and index finger (the MB 146 does this.)


The 149 is great when posted because i can grip it at the back and write way below the ink on the page

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I agree that hand size = pen size is a myth. My most comfortable pens are Aurora Optima and Sailor ProGear - although somewhat short, the section is just about right for me, and the nib is the right size (largish).


Pelikan sections are kind of puny. Currently I'm only using M800 which is about the size of a Safari, but much heavier, especially when posted.


For long writing sessions I prefer Sailor, but for meditative journaling, the weight and beauty of Pelikan M800 are more rewarding.

"If you can spend a perfectly useless afternoon in a perfectly useless manner, you have learned how to live."

– Lin Yu-T'ang

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I have medium sized hands and find that I can use all of Pelikan's pens comfortably (a blessing and a curse). I don't believe the size of ones hands has a ton to do with the comfort of the pen. If you like to post, I find the Souverän M400 and M600 to be exquisite when posted. If you like a pen with more heft, the M800 is the way to go. It's a tough call when you can't try before you buy. Good luck with your decision.

PELIKAN - Too many birds in the flock to count. My pen chest has proven to be a most fertile breeding ground.


THE PELIKAN'S PERCH - A growing reference site for all things Pelikan

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Like many others I think the big hands = big pen thing is a myth. A Marketing Myth. My hands aren't particularly large (~8"/20 cm from wrist to tip of middle finger), I prefer the M200 sized pens, and can write with them unposted comfortably. A M150 unposted is a stretch but can do it for short notes. I usually post it. I am pretty sure I could go M400 and M600 pretty easily.


Esterbrook J's I can go either way, same with Esterbrook LJ, but the SJ I must post. But I have others (True Writer Silver Anniversary) which is about 30 grams and don't like going heavier. It also doesn't post as well as some of my other pens. Yet I can go extended with a Parker 45 Flighter or Waterman Phileas posted or unposted. Even my TWSBI Eco and 580 - they don't post or don't post well. I easily go unposted with most of my pens. Some I post off and on and others I must post. My Al Star doesn't get posted as it does weird things balance wide which you are familiar with in the Safari.


"Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind" - Rudyard Kipling
"None of us can have as many virtues as the fountain-pen, or half its cussedness; but we can try." - Mark Twain

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