After a 20 year hiatus, I decided it was time to start writing letters again. Writing long emails to friends feels too much like work. I sign off fast, and transmit info as quickly as possible. On a typical day, Analog has 50-150 messages in the ole’ inbox, and really, it makes looking at email kinda ehh. Point is, I wanted to write to people I like, because I hate email and I hate the phone, can’t hear a damn thing. But what to write with?
Ball point pens can be ok, but they lacked the emotive quality I was looking for. Good writing instruments are more like pianos and less like harpsichords. Ball Point Pens are the Harpsichord of the writing world. No tonal variety, just bam, this is the note / letter / word. Look, I love harpischords. I think Bach’s Goldberg Variations is way better banged out with some quills and strings. But that music is based on precision, pattern, science. I wanted the Moonlight Sonata of writing instruments. Pencils, as a lefty, smear easily. And they need sharpened constantly. Great for short notes, drawing, etc, but for serious writing, a 4 page letter, forgetaboutit. I’ve spent many an hour drawing with a quill pen, but there is actually TOO much variation in there for writing, unless you grew up writing with one. Plus, it’s easy to make a huge mess with one.
I thought about fountain pens. My grandfather, the other ‘Art’, along with Uncle Art, was a pen collector. When he passed I inherited about 40,000 pens. As one does. 99.9% were crap, stuff he got or was given for less than 10 cents at a yard sale. Mostly they were bank pens, or hardware store pens, that kinda thing. A few were gorgeous early 20th century fountain pens, from the golden age of the fountain pen. Unfortunately, all of these were made of plastic, with rubber seals, and none of that stuff ages well. So they’re just show pieces. I kept maybe 5. I sold the rest at a yardsale to weirdos who collect such things.
Looking at contemporary fountain pens, I found most of them to be in the 20-400 dollar range, all of which was way outta my price range. Then, after many tries, I found these pens. Turns out, in China, folks still love affordable fountain pens. These are rips offs of a famous brand of pen that costs way more. I am sure the famous pen is nicer, but damn, these are GREAT writers, comfortable, a nice nib, easy to fill. You press down differently with a fountain pen, writing with one doesn’t tire your hand out as much as a ball point does. It’s pleasurable, even just making a grocery list. Wanna write a letter? Fantastic. But you can use these as a daily driver, and if you lose it, bummer but it was only 3 dollars. You can fill these with a traditional pot of ink (my go to) or pre filled little ink cartridges. Either is fine. Get fancy and blend black and blue ink to make a really nice dark blue ink that will wow your friends. No, it won’t, but if you point it out, and they’re good people, they’ll pretend to be interested.
Wanna smaller pen that reminds you of that time you wrote poems while sitting in a boxcar with Kerouac? Check out these transparent fountain pens.