I’ve been enjoying fountain pens so much that I thought it might inspire some of you to try some of these beginner fountain pens and inks. A year ago I bought the first fountain pen I had owned in many years. With all of the digital technology in my daily life, both at work and home, I felt like I just wanted some simple creative moments. Pen and paper…that’s all you need to explore the various typography, illustration, letters, movement, and inks. You can take it anywhere in the world.
Over the past year I’ve collected a handful of pretty solid beginner pens that are in a very accessible price range and I thought it’d be fun to share them with you. With the exception of the first example, all of the pens shown below run $30 and under. Some are very respectable daily writers for as little as $4!
The reason I’m showing the $$$$ option is because exploring fountain pens might lead you to want to try the old-style Spencerian script or more calligraphic styles. For that, you’ll likely end up seeking out a flex nib fountain pen. And then you’ll quickly realize you have 1 of 2 options. You can get a hobbyist pen like the Noodler’s Ahab or seek out a vintage fountain pen with a gold flex nib. After a lot of trial and error (mostly user-based, I’m sure) with the Ahab, I threw up my hands and plunked down the dough for the pen that brings me the most joy of any in my collection. That pen is shown at the top of the list and is a 1920’s Moore Fountain Pen (link goes to an overview of their history). It’s very small, so I have the feeling it was intended to be a ladies’ pen. There’s a tiny ring on the cap that I suspect was meant for running a ribbon or chain through to keep around the neck or wrist. It writes beautifully. I don’t have to fiddle with it, it’s reliable, and I love the feeling that it’s written many stories and letters before coming into my possession.
The biggest difference between my Moore and the other pens in my collection is that the Moore fountain pen has a flex nib and the others (Ahab being the exception) are not. The tines on the tip of a flex nib will gently bend and splay apart when pressed against the paper, which puts a wider line down as you write. That’s where the more illustrative style of writing comes from. (See an example video of flex nib fountain pen writing here.)
You really need to look elsewhere for beautiful flex pen writing examples. I’m so early in my days of learning. Yikes! Not it!
Aside from the time I spend curled up with a pad of good quality paper and my Moore pen, I like to rotate the other options in just because that extra bit of engineering ads some interest to daily tasks. I enjoy filling them with a range of colorful inks from beautiful little bottles and writing with them is more like floating a pen over paper rather than scrawling along with pressure.
For daily fountain pen inks, my 2 favorite go-to brands are J. Herbin (romantic little French ink bottles!) and Noodlers. The guy who owns Noodler’s is really passionate about making this artform accessible and creates beautiful inks that have a lot of personality. When I say “personality” I mean that the ink lays on the page with shade variations and have a lot of unique characteristics which are very different from a typical ballpoint pen.
If you’re looking for a really solid starter, the Pilot Varsity is a great first fountain pen. They’re disposable, so the expense is limited to the purchase of the pen alone. No cartridge, converter, ink, etc. They run about $3-$4 and are pretty common at art supply stores and more specialized stationery and office supply stores. I haven’t found them at large office supply chains.
Let’s assume you like writing with a fountain pen and want to get a little more into the ritual of it all. If you’re on a tight budget, the Jinhao FP-599, or any Jinhao really, is very easy to get into at about $6. You can add a converter for a few more dollars. The converter is what allows you to use a wide variety bottled ink types and colors. Otherwise you can stick with ink cartridges, which are disposable little plastic cylinders and usually come in a limited range of colors.
Below you’ll see one really interesting ink I’m having fun playing around with. When it dries, there’s a metallic sheen and range of color. It’s called 1670 Anniversary Ink Emerald of Chivor and it’s made by J. Herbin.
Other very solid pens in the $20 range include the Pilot Metropolitan and Lamy Safari. I own both a Lamy Al Star and a Lamy Safari, and to be honest, I can’t really tell a difference in writing. The only real difference is that one is a plastic pen and the other is metal. The Safari comes in a great assortment of really fun colors. It’s a great pen for someone who is looking for a modern, poppy aesthetic, where the Pilot is more of a classic fountain pen.
The Preppy is a nice-writing and very affordable pen (under $5) that I keep in my bag or use when it’s not going to break my heart if it gets “borrowed” and never returned. -Like on my desk at work, where it plays stunt pen, protecting the wellbeing of more treasured writers.
So that should give you some good places to start if you’re interested in trying out fountain pens. I hope you give them a try! If you’re interested in learning to use them as a creative tool, I highly recommend The Postman’s Knock. Lindsey has created a great resource of tutorials and examples to inspire you. I check her site regularly for ideas and to download practice sheets.
I’d love to hear from you if you’re interested in learning about fountain pens or if you’ve been using them for awhile. What do you enjoy about using fountain pens? What do you use them for?
*this post contains some affiliate links. They will not add any cost to you should you like to purchase through them. This is not a sponsored post. All products shown and linked are mine, from my collection, I have paid for them and just want to share them with you for a little fun inspiration.