The Ink and the Fountain

The world of the fountain pen is a real rabbit’s warren.

When you first dip your toe into the shallow end, you just don’t realize how deep the deep end really is.

My first experience with drawing with nib pens was about 15 years ago. At that time I used dip pens, perhaps one of the more ancient forms of writing or drawing, sticking a stick into some kind of color or dye and making forms on a surface.

The downside of dip pens is that they work fine in the studio but not so good in the field. Image carrying an open bottle of permanent bulletproof black ink around. That’s an accident waiting to happen!

The first fountain pens I experimented with were the Noodler’s Ahab Flex Pen. While I like using these pens in the field, they proved to be messy as they have a tendency to leak ink, leaving my fingertips covered in ink. So it was no wonder that I was put off fountain pens because my experience with Noodler’s gave me the false impression that all fountain pens leaked ink; And I later found out they all don’t.

Then I purchased my first Lamy Safari. These rugged German pens work great in the field and at about $25, they are a great pen to take out into the field because if you lose it, well, it only costs $25. Another benefit with the Safari is that, with the Lamy converter, you can add any ink to your pen (the Lamy ink provided with the pen is not waterproof). This pen is also easy to clean and feels good on the paper and in the hand.

I worked on a spread about the Safari and also tested some different inks (featured sketch).

Now I headed a little further down the fountain pen rabbit warren (I sure hope I packed my headlamp!)

I started with a pen from Taiwan, the TWSBI ECO. This is a great all round carry costing just $30. This is known as a demonstrator pen, meaning that the barrel is clear so you can clearly see which ink you have charged the pen with. To add ink is simple because there is no adaptor required. The ECO is made as a piston filler. All you have to do is place the nib and feed into a bottle of ink and turn the back of the pen.

Then I made the big leap and found out the difference between a $30 fountain pen and one that costs almost $200.

It was like going from driving a Kia Echo to Subaru Sport! The pen was great to write and draw with. While the pen might be expensive, these pens are built to last a lifetime (yours not the pen’s).

The pen I chose was the Pilot Falcon (I’m a sucker for bird names). This is an iconic Japanese pen and the cost reflects the construction and the materials. The nib is a 14k gold fine soft nib which gives you nice line variation depending on how much pressure is applied to your drawing. The body material is a black resin and trim is silver rhodiuum. With the Con-40 converter, the Falcon can use any ink. This has quickly become my favorite pen and many of my recent sketches were done with the Falcon.