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Analogue Journey Part 4 Fountain Pens

Thu, Sep 14, 2017 6-minute read

This is the third article in my series about exploring a more analogue existence. If you’re interested you may want to check out part 1, part 2, and part 3 before continuing.

I always thought that fountain pens were kind of neat. A quaint throwback to a simpler time where people put pen to paper when issuing an invitation to dinner, and when manners and etiquette were the order of the day.

The journey down the path to owning multiple fountain pens begins with the rest of my analogue journey that I started earlier this year. Notebooks, pens, paper and other stationery products have become the tools of my trade. It didn’t start with fountain pens, of course, I didn’t understand them at the time. But I’ve begun to and let me assure you, this rabbit hole goes deep. Very, very deep.

I mentioned in an earlier post that I didn’t want this entire exercise to devolve into an excuse for me to amass a bunch of new pens and notebooks and go on an extended binge to acquire new “school supplies.” There was a job to be done. While I would need notebooks and pens to do that job the cost and number needed to be commensurate with the value those items were bringing to my day-to-day life.

The main unit of value was in terms of productivity. It was a more loose measure, I admit, but it was there nonetheless. Pages of notes taken, and subsequently the tasks organized in the Bullet Journal became the currency by which I showed the value of my new analogue experiment. Within a few weeks of working with whatever moderately reliable gel-ink ballpoint I had taken from the office supply cabinet, I turned to the Internet for guidance. I didn’t need a fountain pen, or anything particularly fancy, just something a bit nicer to write with – maybe a bit smoother. This, my friends is where the rabbit hole began. As I Googled for pen options I stumbled across the Pen Addict media empire. Little did I realize that my path down the fountain pen road was now laid out before me… waiting for me to take that first tantalizing step away from office supply cabinet garbage.

I started down the road with a couple of nice black fine-tip rollerball pens. These did a great job of always working when I needed them and fulfilled my two main criteria reliability and ease of writing. It was the Pen Addict podcast that taught me the value of these liquid ink pens. Namely that they write with much less pressure on the page than your average gel or pall point pen. This makes writing easier on your and and your wrist. When you’ve embarked on a journey to write more, going easy on your body while doing so is a great benefit.

I went for a bout a month with this system doing wonders but as I began to contemplate replacing the notebook, which was going to be full in a few weeks, I began to rethink the pens. There was a third factor that began to assert itself. This first started during the notebook selection but very quickly showed up in my thoughts about pens as well: happiness.

I had wanted to try a fountain pen ever since I’d heard Brad and Myke talking about them on the podcast. I had started with the first episode and followed their journeys of discovery as they both began to use fountain pens more and more. As they talked about the different types, brands and price points I realized that this was something that would, in fact, be accessible. It wasn’t going to cost me an arm and a leg just to get started. Before I knew it, it had happened. I had ordered my first fountain pen and I was giddy.

That first pen was an all-black Pilot Metropolitan (maddeningly shortened to “MR” for reasons I can’t understand.) I had picked it up from Wonder Pens. I had also picked up some black ink to go with it because I’m a monochrome kind of guy – or at least that’s what I thought.

The pen wrote beautifully and smoothly. It was effortless to get ink out onto the paper (the cardboard box it came in at first.) The weight of the pen was enough to get the capillary action to draw ink between the tines, from the feed and down onto the paper. I scribbled, I doodled, and I made a bunch of words on a page. I also did what I’ve since learned is the “obligatory” new pen/new ink ritual which is writing out the name of the pen and the name of the ink with said pen and ink.

I suspect I could have been very happy with my newfound toy, living in a one-pen world for some time. But the thing is, it never really was a one fountain pen world. Because the Metropolitan came home with a couple of friends.

I’ve always been a bit of a tinkerer and a hacker. As I grew up I always liked to customize my things. I often didn’t have the requisite skills or knowledge to build stuff from scratch, but I could tweak. So it should come as no surprise that I am a huge fan of the concept of the eyedropper conversion of a fountain pen. When I heard that you could turn a cheap cartridge-based pen into a beautiful transparent high capacity powerhouse filled with whatever colour ink you might want to try I knew I had to try it. So along with the Metropolitan were a pair of Platinum Preppys and a few ink samples to try out in these inexpensive little toys.

I need not document my descent into madness in detail any further. I will simply summarize by saying that the stable of three has now grown to seven. And there are now six bottles of ink in my office, only one of which is black.

I’m still using the paper books every day. In fact this series of blog posts has all been written in first-draft form in the second of my notebooks using three different fountain pens. They have added some extra joy and happiness in my life, and for that I’m grateful. Will I still be writing and using fountain pens in five years? Or two? I have no idea. But I’m using them now. They’re doing the job they’ve been assigned, and doing it with panache.