Ye Olde Writing Implement Thread: Fountain Pens, Ink, Pencils, and Accessories

This is a thread for showing off your fine fountain pens, inks, and accessories; pencils and lead and other writing implements too. (For newbs, there’s a video on what fountain pens are and how they work at the end of this post.)

Why would anyone care about fountain pens? (@pvn) Well, they’re just cool. They can last a lifetime. A bottle of ink is practically bottomless. There’s a variety of materials, styles, shapes, sizes, and colors. Some of my absolute favorite people are into pens.

Nat seems to favor Pilot’s Vanishing Point (retractable rhodium-plated 18 k gold nib, ~$180) fountain pens. I think that’s what she’s got here.

According to wiki, the history of the fountain pen goes back over a thousand years to an Egyptian caliph that “demanded a pen that would not stain his hands or clothes”. Later, DaVinci probably designed and made his own.

Despite the desires of despots and artists, I’m guessing the early fountain pens still leaked and clogged and besides would have been too expensive for most people so quill pens dominated until better fountain pen designs came along, patents started to be issued, and mass-production became possible in the 1800s.

But everything changes, and the ballpoint pen overtook the fountain pen in popularity in the 1950s. Nevertheless, the fountain pen has stuck around and sales have actually gone up over the last decade or so. It’s a complicated machine and innovations in design and materials are still coming along.

Here are some of my tools. They’re cheap 'cause I’m poor.

I just got the Kaweko Classic Sport (navy with the extra fine nib just like AOC’s!) from Goulet Pen Co., along with the clip and a converter for $45 including tax and shipping. The converter is tiny! I’ll probabaly try to convert the pen to an eyedropper. Could have gotten all this at Amazon for a couple bucks less with quicker shipping but Goulet is to pens what Dunder-Mifflin is to paper-- great customer service. They even give you lollypops!

Below the Kaweko are two Pilot Metropolitans. Fountain pens can be extremely expensive (hundreds for very nice pens, thousands for collectibles), but you can get decent pens like these for under $20.

Next is a Fisher Bullet Space Pen, ~$25. AOC has a chrome version.

After that are your basic Pilot G-2 gel pens. These are cheap ($1-2 each in multi-pen packs), reliable, and available in lots of colors. Fountain pens are neat, but I use these G-2s more because a lot of the time I just want to jot something down and throw the pen down somewhere.

Last is a mechanical pencil. I’m not sure of the brand, but more than one manufacturer has made similar pencils. Currently, I see Sakura SumoGrips for ~$7-8 on Amazon. I’ve had this one a while as you can see by the yellowed rubber grip. I like this style of pencil because they’re cheap, practically indestructible, and have big fat erasers for people who make a lot of mistakes. You can replace the erasers with the ones Pentel sells for their Clic retractable erasers by cutting them to length. This pencil takes a 0.5 mm lead and I like a softer lead (B or even 2B). Softer lead of course makes a darker mark, which is easier for my old eyes to see. I often favor a version of this pencil with thicker 0.7 mm lead now because I think I press harder than I used to so thinner lead tends to break on me.

Promised video on fountain pen basics:

Further information in this playlist.


I had to take a drafting class in engineering school, too. We worked with pencil, but no pens that I remember. I was pretty bad at it and managed a grade of C, maybe a B-. Like a lot of things for me in engineering, it was demoralizing. Much later, I did some 2D CAD on PCs as part of my job and it was a lot of fun. Never got really good at it though.

I don’t recognize that style of pen (I’m not really an expert), but with fountain pens, you can get specialty nibs called stubs for drawing lines that can vary in thickness as you write. People who do calligraphy also have their own nib modifications they like to do.

There’s a huge variety in inks too, and people will experiment by mixing them for example. They each have their special properties. Like some are archival quality (neutral pH I guess), which might have been why your ink was special. I have a few different inks, though nothing that unique. I will post a pic of some later.

The Germans are big in fountain pens. The Kaweko I got is German. I was a little surprised that the extra fine nib produces an even finer line than my Japanese Pilot Metropolitan with a fine nib. The Japanese nibs tend to correspond to one size smaller nibs from other countries.

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I believe this is true, though not just about writing. Like I started doing crosswords and it weirdly affected my dreams.

Never been a fountain pen guy myself, but I do have a deep appreciation for a quality writing instrument.

First one obviously my favourite, they give these out at Jeopardy! auditions. They mimic the actual signalling device quite well. Very average click pen otherwise (with a clearly flimsy clip!)

Second one is a wooden hand-crafted mechanical pencil. My uncle makes these and gave me a pair for my 40th birthday. Just gorgeous, and incredible feel in my hand.

Last one I picked up in Stockholm two years ago, my wife and I were in a department store near the hotel on our last night looking for something uniquely Swedish, and we ran across this in the stationery department. We got a couple along with a really nice notebook. The pen is quite comfortable and writes very smoothly.


Wow, that’s awesome!


Here’s my ink supply. Black, a few blues, and red; basic. These inks all work well in my pens if I’m writing on good quality paper. The cartridges are like $5 for a box of 12 and the bottles $15-$20 each. You can spend a lot more.


Paper matters with fountain pens and inks. I use it a lot but dollar store notebook paper (~55 gsm) doesn’t cut it sometimes. With some combinations the ink bleeds through the paper or diffuses so fine lines are not so fine.

These Rhodia pads are 80 gsm and have a smoother surface. I mainly use them if I’m writing a letter to a friend, which is not often these days. They are expensive though, currently about $7.50 for a small pad (A5), $12 for the larger (A4) size on Amazon.

Occasionally a nib seems “scratchy” even on good paper and then you might want to “tune” it using one of these sheets of abrasive material. They’re about $5 for a single small sheet.

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Sooner or later, your pens will fail to write because they’ve dried out or become clogged or have air bubbles in the ink reservoir. If it’s not a fountain pen (which you can just clean out with water or alcohol) you might just throw them away at that point.

But If they’re not too far gone, there’s still a chance they can be saved by

  • Heating the nib. (In warm water or with a heat gun or hair drier.)
  • Soaking in water or alcohol.
  • Taking the nib out and cleaning it out with a toothpick or pin.
  • Blowing air into the ink reservoir to try to force ink to flow.

The video illustrates some of these methods. They can get messy and in my experience don’t always work. You probably have a better chance with gel pens since the gel is water-soluble.


You may think fountain pens are uninteresting but that can be a feature if you have trouble falling asleep. There are a few of these ASMR youtube channels that use pens to put you in a state where you can drift off.

Pen knowledge coming in handy today.



bump, not sure how I missed this thread

shopping for a new pen, my ideal right now would be

  • gold nib
  • piston filler (really just don’t like fiddling with converters)
  • snap cap

the only thing that has all of this for under $500 is the Lamy 2000, which I should just go ahead and pull the trigger on, but I’ve been overthinking for months.

For reference, my most commonly used pens right now are:

  • Twsbi 530
  • Lamy Studio
  • Lamy Safari

A few pens I’m thinking about in addition to the Lamy 2k:

  • Opus 88 Jazz/Omar/Demo (not really sure which one, they’re all basically the same, really big eyedropper-fillers with steel nibs), this one really checks zero of my above boxes but they’ve got my attention
  • Pilot Custom 92 (piston, gold nib, but screw-cap)
  • Sailor Pro Gear Slim (converter, screw-cap, but still seems pretty nice)

Anyway, taking recommendations in the $100-300 range

There doesn’t seem to be much interest in this topic. And I just dink around with entry-level pens, so I won’t be offering any advice on nicer pens. Someday I would like a Pilot Vanishing Point with a gold nib but that’s likely as far as I go. I’d probably spend most of the time just clicking it, ha.

I got a couple of Lamy Safari’s and they’re the most consistent writers and best overall fountain pens I’ve tried. The Lamy nibs produce a wider line than I like, even the fine size, so I ordered an extra-fine replacement nib.


never did grab any of the pens I mentioned above, most recent acquisition is a Nahvalur Original Plus vac-filler.

this is a nice pen and very reasonable, but I’ve had some issues with the seal on the vac piston. Not sure if I just have a weird defect or if the design is bad, but I haven’t seen a lot of complaints so I am working on sending this back to the factory to get checked out.

really close to pulling the trigger on one of these:

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Was looking for new desks. A guy was offering an old one for free so I picked it up. In the pen drawer was a 1930’s or 1950’s Esterbrook fountain pen with lever action.

Nothing amazing. They go for 20 to 50 dollars on Ebay. But still cool.

Gold nib? Very cool.

My desk is a piece of plywood sitting on a filing cabinet and a shelf I made from the slats of an old waterbed.

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Nah silver nib.

I took it apart and the ink sac seems to be in very good condition. Ordered me some ink and going to see how it goes. First time every buying ink as a separate thing from a pen.

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Picked up a vintage pilot elite.

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