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How Does A Fountain Pen Work?

When writing with a fountain pen, ink is pulled down the nib’s centre, which is split in two, by what is known as capillary action. Natural gravity also plays a part, as does air entering the pen via the slit in the nib, which fills the ink storage as it empties. Alongside the technical aspects of course, there are many other things worth knowing before purchasing a fountain pen.

How do you hold a fountain pen?

Taking the upper end of the pen between the thumb and index finger, then moving it down towards the end of the finger to where it feels comfortable may require a small amount of trial and error, but it should be obvious when it feels satisfactory. When this has been done, the hand should be used to lightly press against the paper, to a level and pressure that again feels natural. The barrel of the pen should rest somewhere on the middle finger, to give a solid base. Whereabouts on the finger varies from person to person, but it is important to remember that the thumb and index finger should be the guide, with the middle finger simply a base support. Keeping the pen at an angle of somewhere between 40 and 55 degrees should provide the best results and help ink flow.

How do you put ink in a fountain pen?

There are various methods of filling a fountain pen, with the simplest being cartridge insertion, which involves little more than pushing the suitable refill into place firmly. Inserting a converter works in a similar manner, but then requires the user to place the nib into the ink bottle. Twisting the converter counter-clockwise removes the air, while clockwise should suck the ink in.

For pens not using a converter the process is the same, but with a metal bar or crescent on the main shaft pressed and released to draw the ink from the bottle. It is always useful to keep a cloth or piece of blotting paper to hand during the process to remove any excess ink that may be generated.

How do you get the ink to flow in a fountain pen?

Depending on the pen being used, issues around ink flow can vary. Most pens will experience little problem in bringing the ink straight to the nib, however struggles can sometimes arise in new equipment.

Things to check for include making sure the cartridge is fully and correctly inserted, and that there are no faults with the nib itself. Keeping the pen vertical while tapping it can often help the ink flow, as will pushing the nib down firmly onto paper a number of times or running it under gently running warm water.

Fountain pen vs. ballpoint pen​

There is much debate over whether a fountain or ballpoint pen is superior, with a large amount of personal opinion forming the basis of many arguments on both sides. Ballpoints are often praised for their convenience and ease of use, as well as their reliability. Fountain pens offer the writer a higher level of penmanship, and are viewed highly for the style and classicism in which they present the users handwriting.

Criticism is sometimes levelled at them however for what is deemed as ‘high maintenance’ levels of cleaning and refilling. The propensity for them to leak is also larger than their ballpoint counterparts. Ballpoint pens are usually heavier, so are more suited to writing brief notes and small amounts, with fountain pens praised for their light and comfortable nature. As both pens can be said to perform their own functions, and come into their own in different areas of use, to many people they complement each other perfectly rather than being rivals.

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