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How to properly use a fountain pen
A hand holding a collector's fountain pen

Writing

How to properly use a fountain pen

13.02.2023

The fountain pen is a timeless writing instrument and a valuable lifelong companion. Like a phoenix, each ink refill or new cartridge brings it back to life, making it feel brand new. Many translate the stripped-down aesthetics of the common biro with simplicity of use. You may be surprised to discover that once you have learned a few simple tricks to use a fountain pen correctly, it can become easier and more satisfying to use than a ballpoint pen.

The perfect grip for smooth writing

The first step to using a fountain correctly is finding the correct grip. Being left-handed or right-handed makes little difference, grip the fountain pen firmly between your thumb and forefinger and rest the pen’s barrel on your middle finger. Finding the balance point is crucial to ensure stability and confidence while writing.

Close up di mani appoggiate su un bloc notes. Una sta scrivendo con una penna stilografica.

Contrary to popular belief, exerting excessive pressure on the pen isn’t necessary. Move your hand gently and let the nib glide lightly. To ensure maximum smoothness, hold the fountain pen at the right height and not too close to the nib, as this would change the correct inclination and thus alter the flow of ink.

Another essential aspect concerns the angulation of the fountain pen. To use it correctly, you must understand that, unlike the rotating ball of the popular biros, the nib has a pointed shape and must be positioned at a 45° angle to the paper to write. This inclination is not a stylistic quirk but rather a practical necessity. It allows the wings of the nib to move away from the feeder, thus facilitating the flow of ink. The main difference between a fountain and a ballpoint pen lies precisely in the angle: while the last can also be held vertically and continue writing without any problem, the fountain pen needs a correct angulation to exploit the width of the nib.

If you are using a fountain pen for the first time, test the writing instrument on a draft sheet of paper first. Tracing lines or other scribbles will help you get familiar with this precious instrument and understand how much pressure to apply without tearing the paper or damaging the nib.

A nib to match your handwriting style

Another important step when learning the correct way to use a fountain pen is choosing the most appropriate nib. Depending on the frequency of use and your writing style, you will need to adapt the tip of your pen to your needs.

If you use a fountain pen regularly, it is worth investing time in understanding the different characteristics of each type of nib. Opt for a rounded one if you like a more even stroke; a fine one for finer, more delicate lines; and finally, a stiff one, which though less flexible, provides greater stability when writing.

More experienced writers who have already acquired a good sensitivity in managing the level of pressure exerted on the pen’s tip can test the flexible or semi-flexible nib. Those who wish to experiment with an artistic stroke and calligraphy should invest in a stub nib to create broader or finer lines by changing its angle on the page.

The importance of proper maintenance

In addition to learning how to use a fountain pen on paper, knowing the secrets of its maintenance will guarantee its longevity and proper functioning. Experts recommend cleaning a fountain pen using only a little cold water and, in the case of fountain pens with a reservoir, filling and draining the chamber with water several times until it comes out completely clear and clean. In the case of a cartridge filling system, remove the cartridge and immerse the nib and feed in cold water for a few hours. Furthermore, it is essential to treat your nib with care. Any shock or impact could distort its shape and make it hard to use.

Thanks to the simple tricks listed above, it should become easier to explore the magical world of writing by hand with a quality instrument. Once you have mastered the skill, it might prove impossible to go back to the common biros. Even today, the fountain pen is still considered synonymous with comfortable and convenient writing, suitable for even the longest and most tiring writing sessions.

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