Fountain Pens

Fountain pens rock. I use and collect fountain pens.

All About Fountain Pens

If you have no idea what the parts are and what they do, start by learning about certain basics. From there you can learn more about the parts of a fountain pen, filling mechanisms or delve into the details of the nib, the writing point of the pen.

Since most people are unfamiliar with fountain pens today, there are several myths and misconceptions that need dispelling. I also have a few random words on choosing a fountain pen and why you should use one.

Collecting Fountain Pens

Although I probably own more fountain pens than a typical person will see in his or her lifetime, my "collection" is very small by collector standards. This is because I am a Starving Graduate Student and therefore cannot afford to spend too much money, especially when I already have far more pens than anyone could possibly need.

Still, collecting fountain pens is fun, and I would argue that it is marginally more useful than coins, stamps, or Beanie Babies. At least you can use the pens in your collection on a rotating basis.

To cope with the plethora of pens, most collectors have a "rotation" where a pen is filled, used until it runs dry, then cleaned and put back into storage while the next pen is pulled out. This allows the pen collector to actually use many of his pens, changing them every couple of weeks.

Presented here are a selection of pens from my personal collection as well as some historical background. Learn about the history of fountain pens, or just sit and admire these beautiful little things.

What am I personally interested in collecting? That tends to change over time, but my current focus is:

  • Modern French Waterman
  • Parker 1960-1990, especially the Parker 75 family
  • Sheaffer Imperial family (and other inlaid nib pens)
  • Anything I can pick up very cheap

I will not respond to unsolicited offers, nor can I provide much guidance on where to buy a certain pen (google can tell you faster than I can), so don't bother emailing me about that.

Finally, it is sad that there are plenty of counterfeit pens on the market, especially of brands like Montblanc and Parker. Learn how to identify some of the more obvious fakes and remember that if a deal is too good to be true, it usually is.

Research Notes

Part of the fun of pen collecting is documenting and acquiring all the variations of particular favorite lines. Collected below are some of my personal notes, posted here in the hope that they might help you identify or learn about the pen you are interested in. Please let me know if you have additional information and sources to add.

I've made an effort to document modern (French, post World War 2) Waterman pens as they seem to be not as documented on the web as, say, Parker anything or Sheaffer or Montblanc, and because I really like them. These notes are grouped by approximately when they were discontinued, or whatever decade I think it is most associated with.

  • Modern Waterman Pens - The 2000s detailing the Serenite, Exception, Edson, Elegance, Liaison, L'Etalon, Carene, Charleston, Preface, Perspective, Harmonie, Expert II, Hemisphere, Ici et La, Audace, Apostrophe, Allure, Phileas, Kultur, and Harley-Davidson.
  • Modern Waterman Pens - The 1990s detailing the Man 100, Man 200, Gentleman, Exclusive, Executive, Maestro, Centurion, Forum, Lady Charlotte, Anastasia, Lady Patricia, Lady Agathe, Expert I, and Laureat I/II.
  • Modern Waterman Pens - The 1980s and Earlier detailing the Concorde, Watermina, Goutte, Directeur General, and CF.

A word on silliness

Many pen aficionados will tell you about the romance of using obsolete writing implements, about how it forces them to slow down and think, about how it provides a much needed psychological break from this hectic Electronic Age, and that this alone is reason enough to use a fountain pen.

Poppycock. If the above reasons aren't enough, you certainly shouldn't be swayed by these warm and fuzzy emotional appeals. My pens aren't for writing the Great American Novel, they get used for grocery lists, scribbling on scrap paper, meeting notes, doodles, and credit slip signing. This is hardly the dignified image of slow elegant writing in a bygone era. They are easier to write with than ballpoints (for me), and that's good enough.

For a great look at the silliness of marketing nostalgia, see the insightful commentary Reading for Serious Tools (Suck, Zero Baud column, 12 December 1996)