Daily Archives: January 15, 2015

On Pens and Writing

It’s never been a secret that I am a stationery geek. I love pens and blank notebooks of all kinds.

Recently, my love of fountain pens has been rekindled. My four fountain pens have been in their glass cup on my desk for a few years, ever since I ran out of ink cartridges for them. I own a Sheaffer Javelin with a F nib (which is my favourite), a Parker Vector with a F nib, and a Waterman Kultur with a M nib, as well as a standard Sheaffer calligraphy pen that came with three italic nibs of different widths. I use the smallest italic nib for regular writing. Nothing high end, mostly student-level models that I like. (I mourn my lost Pelikan fountain pen, which had a perfect nib for my handwriting style; not too wet, not too scratchy. I also have a collection of dips pens that is stored in a writing box.) I do so much work on the computer that buying new cartridges seemed wasteful. Besides, the only cartridges I could find for them were filled with black or blue ink, neither of which are colours I enjoy working with very much. I love brown ink the best, and while I used to be able to buy brown cartridges at local office supply stores and even pharmacies, those days are gone.

But a couple of spinners I follow online mentioned they got orders from Goulet Pens, and one day I clicked through to the website and fell into a deep rabbit hole. There is a very healthy market for fountain pens of all price points, and better still, there are inks. Oh, the inks! All sorts of colours and effects! But they’re mostly sold in ink bottles, and my fountain pens take cartridges.

A bit of sleuthing turned up a couple of options. I could wash my empty cartridges and refill them with syringes (this is perfectly acceptable and operable, but apparently the cartridges can begin to leak over time), or I could buy converters for my pens. Converters are essentially refillable ink reservoirs.

And rather than dropping thirteen to thirty dollars on a bottle of ink, I could order 2-ml samples to experiment with and help pinpoint the right colours I wanted to invest in to use! An average pen cartridge takes 0.5 to 1.5 ml of ink at a time, so it’s a decent amount for a trial. Shipping from the US and our feeble Canadian dollar led me to find Wonder Pens in Toronto as a Canadian alternative to Goulet Pens, and I used the last of a prepaid Visa card to order some samples of brown ink and a couple of syringes. I’ll save up for converters. (Of course all my pens are from different companies, so I need different converters. Figures. I suspect I may not get a converter for my Waterman Kultur; I tend to prefer using finer nibs.)

Tied to this is my investigation of pencil grips. When I handwrite for a long period of time, my hand cramps up. I looked into this and discovered that there’s a whole subset of pediatric occupational therapy devoted to pencil grips, examining efficiency and physical issues arising from the odd grips children develop to offset various obstacles. I use what I have discovered is called a thumb (over) wrap grip, where the web space in my grip is closed and my thumb wraps over the pencil and my index finger. This leads me to use my whole hand as a writing unit, making larger movements from the wrist instead of just moving my fingers. In addition to this, I grip my pencils tightly, which leads to fatigue and stress in the hand and forearm. My handwriting is neat (although less so when I write quickly) but I have to rest my hand frequently.

With the desire to begin using fountain pens again, I’ve started thinking about how I hold them and how I can make handwriting a less tense experience. Since most of my work is done on the computer and I only take brief notes with pen and paper as I work, it isn’t generally an issue, but I’ve begun working on a new story and it wants to be handwritten, so I’m running into these issues again after a long time. It’s interesting to look at this from an adult perspective, as opposed to a child learning cursive. I’m aware of the smaller elements, requirements, and stresses in a very different way. Having new inks to play with will encourage me to practice a new adapted grip, too.