Day 26: Fountain Pens and Typewriters, favorite old-school writing tools

fountain pen and typewriter - unsure about the origin of this photo. please advise if you know the photagMany, many years ago when I was just a wee Tempest in grade school, I read an essay by a writer who stated that every writer needed to keep a journal and write in that journal with a fountain pen because fountain pens are the best. Being young and impressionable, I bugged my mother until she took me somewhere I could buy a fountain pen (probably Staples) and proceeded to write in my journal with it like a real writer and everything. The story ended in tears, though, when the fountain pen leaked all over everything and I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to make it stop or change the ink.

Since then I have avoided fountain pens even though I did like the smoothness and ease of writing with one. Eventually I found that gel pens of a certain size gave the same satisfaction of gliding across the page without effort and I’ve been happy with them since. However, I find myself super tempted by fountain pens once more thanks to Mary.

Those of you who hang out in the forums may remember a post from earlier this month about a small tragedy Mary suffered. She lost all of her favorite fountain pens while traveling and right as A Month of Letters was in full swing. I (sneakily) got her to tell me which pens she lost by pretending that I intended to get into fountain pens, then I asked her friends to donate toward replacing them or send one as a gift. I’m happy to report that Mary now has a replacement for all of the pens, including the vintage one we couldn’t find, at first. That’s partly due to some of the folks here (thank you, by the way!).

As I was pretending to be interested in fountain pens, I found myself actually getting interested in fountain pens again. Mary has this affect on me. I also had a brief moment of madness where I wanted a typewriter after visiting her apartment, which is filled with beautiful antique typewriters.

Both fountain pens and typewriters activate the same section of my brain that tingles when I write a letter to send in the mail. Mailing letters, writing by hand, typing on a machine that doesn’t require a battery, these are all old school activities. They’re no longer necessary or the most advanced. This is part of the appeal. Feeling like you’re connected to some part of the past simply with the tools you use or the action you’re taking adds weight to the proceedings. It makes me feel connected to people who are no longer with me.

And who knows, someday I might be sitting in front of a computer trying to recapture my middle years while my grandchildren look at me funny from behind their Google Glasses. “You still use a KEYBOARD to TYPE, grandma? OMG.”

What do the tools you use to compose your letters make you think about or feel? Do they put you in a specific mindset when you sit down to write letters?

6 thoughts on “Day 26: Fountain Pens and Typewriters, favorite old-school writing tools”

  1. I have a divot in the middle finger of my left hand that perfectly fits the barrel of a Rotring Art Pen. The nib on my M one (er, full disclosure: ONE of my M nibs…) has been worn down by its 20 years of use such that it pretty much will only write in my hand.



  2. I really like my Pilot Plumix that I got from Staples. It’s the cheapest fountain pen I could find. Had to go to to find the filler cartridges, tho.
    I have bottles of ink but can’t find any of my pens that require filling. 🙁

  3. I have several fountain pens, but only two I’ve used for most of my LetterMo activities. One is a purple Ohto Dude fountain pen I bought from Jetpens — a Japanese model that writes like a dream, no priming/extra effort. The Retro 51 Tornado needs a little more time with a new cartridge.

  4. I LOVE fountain pens, which I discovered last year. My favorite fountain pen/ink company is the Goulet Pen Company. Their website has lots of videos for instruction and review of products. Check them out!

    I also have a vintage 1950s Smith Corona Skywriter typewriter in mint condition (that I bought for $5 at a garage sale!)

  5. I have two beautiful fountain pens made by Faber-Castell. I bought them when I lived in Singapore – where the writing bug bit me. I keep one filled with royal blue ink and the other black ink. When I pick them up I know it’s time to shift gears.. a little slower, a littler more centered. What happens when I use those pens changes lives.

  6. I use fountain pens for letter writing, usually. I cannot claim an absolute favourite, as I have only five differing models and four makes of pens, all “entry-level” (for those who want to try, I know big fans of the Lamy Safari; Pilot Metropolitan pens are recommended by Goulet Pens as an entry pen; and Platinum Preppy is fantastic value. For those who like a big, cigar-ish pen to grip, a Jinhao 450 would serve well.

    Pilots have a squeezable pen sac for filling; Lamy and Jinhao have piston-fill converters which hold more ink. As mentioned earlier, the Goulet Pens/Ink Nouveau have very good instructional videos assisting the new fountain pen user with going beyond cartridges (ink bottles with converters are a better deal, unit price wise.)

    I have more ink samples than I have pens (and converters). Many express their personalities through their choice of inks: some are wild about orange, others like an earthy brown, I like to use violets, azure/turquoise/aqua blues and purplish-greys or purplish-blacks and blacks. Some inks are “wet” on the page for 15 seconds, some dry near instantaneously.

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