Hello again. Here we are with the second round in this series of commonly asked fountain pen questions. In the last FAQs About Fountain Pens article, we talked about some of the usual queries regarding our favorite hobby —
- What is so special about fountain pens?
- Why is the fountain pen better than a ballpoint pen?
- Can you use any ink for fountain pens?
- What kind of paper should you use with fountain pens?
- Can fountain pens be used everyday?
General answers were given, as well as some personal insights. Please give it a read if you haven’t yet. This time, we’ll be discussing other interesting elements that make up the whole fountain pen experience.
Question 2.1: What paper is suitable for fountain pens?
There are several factors to consider when choosing the appropriate paper. In addition to these, the fountain pen and ink being used heavily influence the total writing experience. Given the same paper — fountain pens with broader nibs glide more smoothly on the surface, as compared to those with finer nibs that tend to exhibit feedback. Inks that are well-lubricated flow more readily through the nib and onto the paper surface. Consider these when making your decision —
As a general rule — the smoother the paper, the better the nib glides on its surface. Coated papers have this feel, while uncoated ones have more texture or “tooth” to them. Fountain pen inks tend to dry more slowly on coated paper as compared to uncoated ones since the ink is not absorbed as quickly and instead relies on evaporation. Shading and sheening properties usually become more prominent on coated paper as well. Feathering, bleed-through, or show-through happens less when using coated papers or those specifically designed to resist the ink spreading into the paper fibers.
Even though the brightness of white can differ between paper manufacturers, a standard, crisp white is generally preferred since this helps the fountain pen ink showcase its true color. An alternative that leans towards ivory or cream is softer and easier on the eyes. This option can lend an interesting visual appeal to your handwriting as the ink’s color becomes more nuanced.
Paper Weight or Thickness
Most heavier and thicker papers help prevent bleeding or ghosting, unless they are more absorbent or the ink is wetter. Thinner paper tends to exhibit show-through or ghosting due to its increased transparency, but may not show bleed-through if specifically made to be resistant.
Other factors to consider are cost, availability, composition, and purpose.
The choices are largely dependent on personal preference. Composition pertains to whether the paper is made from wood pulp, cotton, or a blend of both. Paper made from cotton is known to be more durable and commonly utilized for its archival qualities, but it is more expensive.
Here are some examples of fountain-pen friendly paper —
Question 2.2: What fountain nib is best?
(We shall take the more basic route in answering this question — because the other path brings to mind choosing among the different fountain pen brands, which relies mostly on personal preferences.)
The nib is the soul of the fountain pen. The enduring pleasure of a particular pen is fueled by how the nib performs according to your needs. Choosing the best nib for you is the one of the most important decisions to be made. For beginners, this step is particularly overwhelming because of the plethora of options available nowadays. Therefore, here are some general guidelines about the most common fountain pen nibs categorized by the nib widths —
Extra Fine ( EF / XF / X )
This is the nib that works well with small and precise handwriting. It is also preferred by artists for fine line work. The tipping is miniscule so feedback is a common experience. Ink flow is lessened and might make the ink appear lighter on the paper. Dry times are quicker due to the less amount of ink deposited on the paper. This nib width is not recommended for shimmer, sheening, and shading inks.
Fine ( F )
This is also a good choice for small handwriting and precise artwork. As there is no standard, nib widths tend to differ between manufacturers and regions. Western nibs generally lay down a wider line of ink as compared to their Japanese counterparts. This width is suited for general, everyday writing.
Medium ( M )
This is the most favored nib, and the default for most fountain pen models. There is less feedback and more ink flow — so a greater chance of feathering, bleed-through, and show-through should be taken into account. The same differences apply between manufacturers. This nib width is popular for general purpose handwriting and signatures.
Broad ( B )
This nib is best suited for fast writers with larger penmanship. Due to the greater flow of ink, the kind of paper being used becomes essential. Dry times are longer, with higher chances of smudging or smearing. Shading, sheening, and shimmer properties of inks are more evident with the broader line.
Stub ( ST / SU )
This nib is characterized by a rectangular nib tip, as opposed to the usual round one. Another defining characteristic is the ink line it produces depending on the stroke - broader on the vertical downstroke and thinner on the horizontal. This provides more line variation and visual interest. Ink flow, dry times, and suitability for shading, sheening, and shimmer inks are similar to those for broad nibs. This nib is recommended for those who’d like to try their hand at calligraphy or are looking to add some flair to their larger handwriting.
This nib relies on pressure to produce line variation. It requires a certain degree of skill and fine control to maximize its potential and avoid damage to the nib itself. This makes it suitable for more experienced fountain pen users, or those with a light hand who are willing to practice. Calligraphy and ornamental signatures are easier to do with this kind of nib.
Question 2.3: Are fountain nibs replaceable or interchangeable?
Disclaimer: Removing a fountain pen nib may damage your pen, please do so at your own risk. Practice due diligence by researching before attempting.
Replacing a fountain pen nib through the manufacturer can be expensive, at times almost as much as the cost of the whole pen itself. It’s no wonder that the alternative of tinkering with and swapping nibs has become a viable option. A fair number of fountain pen brands rely on a few specialized manufacturers for their nibs. Because of this, some nibs can be swapped between different pen brands. (This practice is widely-known as Franken-penning.) Standard nib sizes can also exist within one brand, making it easier to interchange nibs among the pen models.
Some nibs are friction fit, meaning they can be pulled out and replaced with a similar one. Others will need to be swapped along with the feed and nib housing since the whole unit is threaded into the barrel. Since some fountain pens can be delicate, care must be taken as nib or nib unit is interchanged.
We hope that part 2 of these FAQs has provided insight regarding other elements of your fountain pen journey. Learning more about your fountain pen helps build a better foundation for the continued enjoyment of the hobby.
Until next time — Happy Writing!
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Written by @lekzumali
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