I like writing with fountain pens — which I’ve written about before. I like the old-school quality that makes me feel connected to a nib & ink tradition that spans millennia. I like the variety of inks. I like that the ease of writing means a carpal tunnel flair-up is less likely than with other types of pens, pencils, and even keyboards.
On the various social networks, I’m sometimes asked what I use (especially when I do videos). As you can imagine, what I use varies quite a bit, but I do have my everyday items as well as my go-tos that for one reason or another aren’t quite in the everyday category.
This is easy: the majority of my everyday pens are Pilot Metropolitans (or their international equivalents). It’s a sturdy, inexpensive pen that often does nothing but give me joy. I prefer a fine nib — with the understanding that Pilot fine nibs are often thinner than extra-fine nibs you can get elsewhere. Unfortunately, the fineness of line from nib to nib is a little inconsistent. Some are exquisitely fine while others are bumping into European fine territory. Fortunately, Pilot nibs and sections can be easily swapped to create a “frankenpen” you can enjoy.
I have two favorites, because of their fine line: a silver zig-zag that uses the F nib-section-grip of a Pilot 78G (this one nib is just perfect for me), and a gold plain with a stock F nib. The silver is always inked up with Noodler’s Black, and the gold with Noodler’s Brown.
I also keep inked up a blue Pilot Cocoon (the Metropolitan equivalent before the F nib was available in the U.S.) filled with Platinum Pigmented Blue; a Pilot 78G body that uses the M nib-section-grip of the silver zig-zag above and is loaded with Noodler’s Black; and a Pilot Prera that has a tuned EF nib from a Pilot Penmanship and is filled with Rohrer & Klinger Scabiosa.
You might notice a Pilot theme. I do have many pens from other brands, but that smooth Pilot fine nib is what keeps me coming back time and time again. The reason for having the 78G with black in addition to the Metropolitan is for writing on envelopes and such that benefit from a thicker line. Also, for some reason that nib-section-grip has always leaked, so I have to store it nib-up separate from the other pens. Why keep it? Because that is the smoothest damn nib. It’s so much fun to write with.
Like many Americans, I gravitate toward permanent(-ish) inks. I don’t think it’s because of arrogance — that we think everything we write will be important for the ages — but that accidents happen, and we’d hate for something special to be lost when it could have easily been prevented.
My obvious go-to is Noodler’s Black. It’s pretty much everything you could ask for in an everyday fountain pen ink.
My favorite blue ink is Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium (exclusive to Goulet Pens). It’s semi-permanent and, to me, the perfect shade and vibrance of blue. Unfortunately, it has also been the single most troublesome ink I’ve used — largely due to me living in the high desert with consistently low humidity. As a result, I’ve had to change to Platinum Pigmented Blue as my everyday blue. I find the color to look (disappointingly) a lot like a standard Bic ball-point blue — with a red component that moves it away from Liberty Elysium’s more royal blue shade. The key plus to Pigmented Blue is that it’s been trouble-free; it’s been an ink I can count on.
I like Noodler’s Brown for those times when I want something more “olde tymey”, or want to give people something different without sliding completely out of convention. As a brown, it’s simply a solid brown. Not too dark, not too light, not too red. It stands out by being understated.
I like Rohrer & Klingner Scabiosa because sometimes you feel like something different. This iron gall ink yields a purple ink with a muted vibrancy but a small degree of shading. Using an iron gall ink (albeit with a modern, fountain pen friendly recipe) adds an extra layer of the traditional to using fountain pens. I like the purple shade. As with brown, it allows it to be used with conventional writing because it’s different, but not too different.
When I’m in the midst of editing, I’ll often ink up another pen with Sheaffer Skrip Red. It’s not water resistant, but it has the quality of being exactly the right color of red for editing or paper-grading. It’s just a red red.
And, of course, I have to give a shout-out to Noodler’s Apache Sunset. For a fun ink, this one really sets the standard.
I use Clairfontaine, Rhodia, and Apica notebooks and pads for the majority of my writing needs. Which I use depends on my writing purpose. A journal is more likely to get the Apica Premium CD, letter writing often goes to Clairfontaine, notes (and calligraphy practice) to Rhodia — especially their #16 dot pads. None of these are exactly the economy choice, but they take the ink so well and give such a nice writing experience, I don’t care.
I also use Staples EcoEasy spiral notebooks for story notes. Although the show-through is so bad you can only use one side of a sheet, the books are so inexpensive it’s no great burden to simply buy more. Also, the covers are nicely stiff and sturdy, so you don’t need to be near a table to write easily. I wish more notebooks had similarly robust covers.
For decades, I have also used National-brand 5×5 quadrille notebooks for all sorts of notes, programs, and designs. The paper takes ink surprisingly well with minimal-to-no show-through. The green-tinged paper, which can make copying an adventure, is its only drawback.
One of the annoying thing about fountain pens is that you tend to acquire more: more pens, more ink, more paper, more accessories, just….more. That’s also the great thing about fountain pens. When you find the combinations of pen, ink, and paper that fit your individual style, you don’t ever want to think about writing with a ballpoint pen ever again (gel or rollerball if you have to, but never a ballpoint). At first, it’s an idiosyncratic oddity…but after a while you see that maybe going old-school has its advantages.
In the end, you do tend to settle on a handful of items that you use everyday — whether due to economics, necessity, preference, aesthetics, or that ineffable je ne sais quoi. As times and desires change, so, too, will your choices. That’s how it’s supposed to be. I know I’m curious where my tastes will take me next.