I’ve liked fountain pens ever since I was a young kid. I like what they do to my handwriting. I prefer to write with them whenever I can. What prevents me is often the fact that most paper nowadays is not good enough, and the ink feathers or bleeds through. I was excited when I learnt Moleskine notebooks were being produced again, but their paper is horrible for fountain pen ink. Clairfontaine is the best, but sometimes hard to find, and usually expensive. Here in Greece, the most reliable paper is produced by Skag, although they seem to have stopped producing simple spiral notebooks in favour of a lot of goofy stuff they seem to think will appeal to kids.
My first fountains were all Sheaffers, which, it was announced last year, will no longer be made. They were cheap, sometimes leaked, but they wrote well. Back then, when I was under ten years old, I used to use ink cartridges. For some reason I liked their turquoise ink, peacock blue.
When I was in university I bought a Waterman Expert of a particular line which has been discontinued. Waterman were very good about replacing nibs and stuff for free, as long as you paid for the postage. A few years ago I wrote to tell them that my pen, which was over ten years old, needed a new cap. Since they didn’t have the pen any more, they asked me to send the whole thing to them and they’d replace it. I didn’t like the new one as much — the nib was not flexible enough — and I stopped using it.
Then I did something very stupid. About three years ago I bought a Montblanc, which I’d wanted for a long time. If I had done a bit of research on the internet before I shelled out all that money, I would have found out that very, very few fountain pen users actually like the pen. They rightly consider it to be nothing more than an overpriced bit of pocket jewellery.
I bought the Meisterstuck 146, a burgundy one. It’s very nice to hold, and holds a lot of ink, but the feed (responsible for ink flow) was crap. It would skip all the time. Another problem is that body of the pen is made of some expensive but fragile plastic, and breaks very easily.
Eventually, I gave up on the Montblanc, and found a website that sells vintage pens at good prices. My first pen was this Waterman’s Ideal from the 1930’s.
The nib is very flexible, which gives it a lot of line-width variety. Waterman’s used to be made in London, but moved to France in the 1950s, where they lost the apostrophe and the s. They’re owned by Gilette now. Nothing comes close to what they produced back then though. It has a lever filler, which can be made out in the first photo. Lifting the lever presses on the sac inside. When you release it, ink is drawn in.
I’d found my pen, but I couldn’t resist buying one more.
This is the Parker Slimfold, from around 1970. It’s quite small, but the nib is beautiful. Not as flexible as the Waterman’s, it produces a thicker line. It also has an Aerometric filler. I don’t know how it works, but the Aerometric sac allows the nib to be submerged in the ink while you repeatedly press on the filler to squeeze air out and ink in. (If you don’t understand why this might be hard to understand, sorry but I’m too lazy to explain it at the moment.)
Today I decided I’d get out the old Montblanc and see how it was writing. I noticed fine cracks all over the “precious resin”, which is what they call the cheap plastic used to make the body of the pen. The cracks look like what you see on old porcelain enamel. In one spot, the ink is starting to show through.
I decided to bore anyone who made it this far today because I notice people come to this site just because they’ve googled something I’ve mentioned. If someone is doing research on Montblanc pens, and is thinking about getting one, let this be a warning. They’re a huge waste of money.