Your First Fountain Pen – A Buying Guide

Getting Started with Fountain Pens

Jennifer Selfie

I’m a real person who REALLY reviews these fountain pens myself

I’m Jennifer, creator of Best Fountain Pen. If you’re new to the world of fountain pens, this page is for you! You’ll find what you need to buy and use a fountain pen with confidence!

Buying your first fountain pen raises some questions. Is this the right pen for you? Are you spending too much money? Are you investing too little, which will cause frustration when you write with it?

Choosing a fountain pen isn’t just a matter of buying a handsome one. A trustworthy person can help you move the needle in the right direction when you’re making a choice, and that’s why I’m here.

Be sure to subscribe to the BFP newsletter to get reviews, tips & tutorials as they’re released.  BFP fans email me often about how helpful these articles are in understanding fountain pens. They’ll help you too.

I’m here to guide you with honesty and transparency about each pen I’ve reviewed. If you see it reviewed on my site, it’s because I’ve actually used the fountain pen. Not everyone with a review site can say that unfortunately. I see too many sites with all manufacturer images and none showing they’ve actually even held or written with the pen. It’s sad. My reviews keep it real for you.

Choosing a Nib (the point that touches the paper) Size

You have lots of choices in nib sizes, the most standard choices being fine, medium and broad. For most people, a fine nib will be their preferred nib size to start.

Why?

Because the fine line most fine nibs produce best approximates the line width on a standard gel pen or ballpoint pen. If you like a thicker, bolder line, go with a medium or broad nib. There are many more variations and specialty grinds, but let’s save that discussion for another day!

What To Expect

There are two articles that I consider required reading for anyone that wants to get up to speed on choosing and using a fountain pen. The first two. Number three and four are additional reading for my comparisons among throw-away pens and the cheapest keeper pens that will make you feel like you’ve officially entered the world of fountain pens because you bought yourself what might be your first really nice pen!

  1. How To Use a Fountain Pen
  2. Best Beginner Fountain Pen
  3. Battle of the Budget Fountain Pens (Mostly Disposable)
  4. Best Pens Under $50 (Refillable Keepers, GREAT first pens!)

Ink and Paper, Do They Matter?

Baoer Chinese Horse

Yeah, that’s my pen, my candles and my photo. No slick manufacturer images here! MY thoughts are what you will read all through this blog, you might not agree with everything I say, but I will give you my honest opinion.

Paper

Every fountain pen needs ink and some paper to write on. The question I get often is do different brands really make a pen perform differently?

Short answer: yes.

Long answer: A quality fountain pen will write on almost any paper but you will notice the exquisite experience of writing on Clairefontaine paper versus your standard notebook paper. I really wish all pens would write equally well on any paper, but some bleed through thin notebook paper, some skip, some just make writing, well, frustrating! That’s okay though, I include that info in my reviews!

Check out:


Ink

bottle-of-inkInk plays even more of a hand in how your pen performs. I tend to use the manufacturer supplied ink to test each pen, you can see more about how I review here.  I figure, if it’s designed by the manufacturer to work with this pen, then this ink should demonstrate how this pen writes to the best of its ability; I share those results in my reviews.

Check out:

If no ink is supplied with the pen, I tend to prefer Waterman, Diamine and Iroshizuku, but I own MANY bottles of ink so I haven’t expanded my selection very far. I hear Noodler’s makes great inks as well.


Quick Tip:

Have a pen that’s a bit scratchy? Try:


Amazon: The Company I Use and Trust

I’ve used Amazon since the beginning and trust them implicitly. I love their customer support, Prime super-fast shipping, and amazing return policies. I use them on this website as a supplier and in my personal life.

I hear horror stories of people waiting months for fountain pens that are out of stock, not finding the ones they want and dealing with massive customer service headaches. Amazon is amazing and I don’t have those issues.

Disclaimer/Truth: I do earn a commission if you choose to buy anything through Amazon. (Trust me it’s not enough to retire off of or anything, and it doesn’t change the price you pay. It helps pay for web hosting and obtaining more pens to review.) There are obviously other pen sellers around, but again this is my recommendation based on my experience with them since before I started doing business online. If you do purchase through my affiliate link, thank you so much for your support!

My Newsletter

Before I let you go so you can start digging into reviews and find the perfect fountain pen for you, I’d like to invite you to subscribe to my newsletter. It’s full of awesome content on fountain pens… new reviews, how-to articles, and fun links.

You can unsubscribe at any time, but I promise you won’t be disappointed.

All you have to do is enter your name and email below, and you’ll be added to my weekly newsletter to help steer you on your journey to choosing and using fountain pens you’ll love.

Subscribe to the BFP newsletter

Common Questions / FAQs:

There is no need to be intimidated by pen buying since the hardest part of using your first fountain pen is just getting used to releasing your death grip on a pen. What does that mean? Well, I grip my ballpoints tightly and press rather hard, making indents on the paper underneath it when I write. This causes hand fatigue and that’s the main reason I prefer fountain pens.

So let’s attack some questions:

“What are the differences in fountain pens that cause the wide range of prices?”

Most of the money you invest in a fountain pen is invested in the nib, or tip, of it. Beginner, or cheaper versions, all have steel nibs. Now obviously when you get above $200 for a pen, there are adornments like jewels that also factor into the price, but for $15-150, it’s mainly the nib you’re buying.

Steel nibs are fine to get comfortable writing with one. As you begin to prefer using a fountain pen, you’ll want your second or third pen to have a gold nib. It’s like writing on glass. Gold nibs are a pleasure to write with (they are more malleable than steel which gives the nib a slightly softer feel as you write) but they are also more expensive. Gold nibs are probably out of reach for most first fountain pen purchases. You can read more on gold vs. steel nibs here.

“Am I spending too much money?”

A solid beginner fountain pen will set you back about $30. Any less and you’re more likely to be frustrated with your purchase. The cap kept falling off of my first cheap pen and it took a while to adjust my grip so the nib was positioned to deliver a constant flow of ink to the paper. There isn’t as much adjustment required for a beginner pen so expect to pay about $25-30 to avoid frustration with your purchase. Spending more will get you a better experience if you’re buying a gold nib, but otherwise, it’s good to start small to make sure you enjoy writing with one before you shell out $100+ for superior quality and craftsmanship.

 Why Buy A Fountain Pen?

No Pressure – Using a fountain pen is fun because you need to barely touch the paper and the ink starts flowing. (Except if you’ve left the cap off and the ink has dried and gummed up the nib. In that case, you just unscrew the nib from the body of the pen and run it under cool water in the sink, set it on a paper towel upside down to drip dry, then reattach it… good as new.)

Lovely Handwriting – Your handwriting will improve when you use your first fountain pen. How do I know? Well, probably for the first time in your life since kindergarten, you will be thinking about how you’re forming your letters as you write. You’ll enjoy the beauty of the pen and not want to damage it, so you’ll slow down as you write (at least at first!) You’ll also want to write something worthy of your inspiring new fine writing instrument so you’ll print the letters more neatly. It happens to everyone.

DSC_0152It Expresses Your Personality – Using the cartridge ink that comes with your first fountain pen is a great start. You’ll eventually want to try out different colors of inks, probably not standard blue or black the cartridges come in. Syringe Refilling a Cartridge is for the brave souls like me who want to refill used ink cartridges with any color under the sun instead of being stuck with the manufacturer’s inks. This is when writing becomes an expression of your personality and not just a functional pastime.

Choose a color that resonates with you! It’s all super easy.

It’s Fun! – Just remember, children were taught to write with fountain pens in schools for decades so there’s nothing hard about writing with your first fountain pen!  The toughest part is choosing one and just getting started.

It will feel a little awkward at first because you don’t need to push the pen to get it to write. As soon as the nib touches paper the starts to flow. But you’ll soon appreciate that and begin to enjoy the process of writing more.

There’s a reason presidents don’t usually sign important papers with rollerballs! It’s because of the elegance, style and sophistication of a fountain pen.

Where To Go Next

As stated earlier, I recommend checking out the top two articles (with #3 and #4 when you’re ready to purchase) before diving into individual brand reviews.

But, by all means, suit yourself!

Here are a couple of my recommended places to start:

I Appreciate You!

I just wanted to finish by saying that I’m here for you, and I appreciate you sincerely.

I do my best to respond to all emails (it’s getting tougher as this blog gains in popularity, but I will always do my best!)

Thank you so much for your support. And if you’ve made it this far, I’d love for you to come say hi to me on my Facebook Page or Instagram.  I look forward to hearing from you soon!