My kingdom for a pen

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A silver fountain pen sits poised above a blank sheet of paper, prepared to write Pxhere

Learning to love a great fountain pen

by hammad ali, contributor

I have had an interest in pens and the writing experience they provide for as far back as I can remember. In high school, I had a prized possession, a deep green Parker fountain pen that I had to refill from a blue black Pelikan ink bottle. In addition, any trip to an office supplies store always involved looking at what new pens they had. I was particularly partial to gel pens thanks to the smooth writing experience and how beautiful the ink looked on paper. I have to admit, somehow my fountain pen did not quite meet expectations in comparison. Then, in college, it became inconvenient to manage a fountain pen that had to be refilled every few days, and I moved on to ballpoints.

But my obsession for pens remained. I remember a few years ago, when I heard a friend was visiting the UK, I got him to bring me several packs of the Uni-ball Jetstream, which I had just read about as being recognized as the best rollerball pen in the UK. I do have to admit though, I did not see why. It seemed to me that Uni-ball themselves have made better pens.

In early 2019, I was listening to a podcast by Tim Ferriss, interviewing one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman. A large part of the interview talked about how Neil writes all his novels with pen and paper, and in more recent years will only use fountain pens. Since then I have found out that Neil Gaiman owns over two hundred fountain pens, including some meant just for autographs and others just for longer novels. Back then though, it got me thinking. I had not used a fountain pen in a while, and my circumstances certainly made it possible for me to manage ink bottles. In fact, as I soon found out, most fountain pens today will also just let you use refills. So I went ahead and bought one.

I will refrain from telling you the brand, because the experience was underwhelming. To be fair, the writing was great. It was the ink leaks, and the fact that the converter used to draw ink stopped working within six months, that left me disappointed. But I persisted, and went for a more renowned brand, the Pilot Metropolitan. I have had this pen for a little over a year, and was honestly happy with it. Until it needed repair. But I am glad it did.

Trying to repair my Metropolitan led me to the Paper Umbrella, a Regina business specializing in writing supplies. Within a few weeks after that, I was subscribed to dozens of fountain pen forums. I was learning about the different kinds of nibs (some flex!), converters (I like the push kind and hate the squeezy ones), and even ink (someday I am trying the rose color ink)! Today, I have three fountain pens, one of them, the Pilot Custom 912, the most expensive pen I have ever owned. But when I sit down with some good paper and start writing, as the pen glides off the paper with minimal effort, and as the line widths change at the slightest variation of grip, I have to say, it feels right. I am certainly not done with fountain pens for a long time to come, if ever. In fact, I think I need a fourth one soon!

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