February 17, 2012 § 1 Comment
The principles of the fountain pen have been established and refined over the last 150 years. Put simply, an ink reservoir feeds ink into a delivery tube, through a series of capillary tracts, through to the tip of the nib, where contact with the writing surface causes the ink to be deposited. Although a fairly crude process by comparison to the writing technologies of today, the fountain pen, either because of its idiosyncrasies or in spite of them, remains the most rewarding way to put words onto paper for others to read.
Much has been written about the attributes of different styles of nib fabricated from almost every conceivable type of resistant material but, ultimately, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. At PenFountain, what is very clear is that the current trend towards one-size-fits-all ‘medium’ nibs is eroding the very market that the fountain pen works for.
When asked for advice about pens with alternative nibs, sizes, and formats, the conversation invariably contains the caveat ‘without spending a fortune…’, to which only one reply is currently available, Lamy. Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my faith in Lamy’s interchangeable nib system with its low cost and reliability. However, even with its greatness, the design of the Lamy pen range can be a little too contemporarily radical for what may be described as an inherently conservative market. In an ideal world, perhaps the solution could be to put the Lamy nib system into pens of a slightly more conservative style such as, Waterman. Keep the price below £50 and you could have a commercial winner. While we’re designing the perfect commercial fountain pen, the range could possibly be extended to include some oblique nibs. We have been surprised at the number of fountain pen users requesting italic and oblique nibs and, even with Lamy’s ‘calligraphy’ pen nibs, which are technically italic, the 1.1mm nib does not offer sufficient variation between major and minor line widths and yet the 1.5mm major line width tends to suit people with larger writing. Conversely, the broad italics and obliques from the other major players tend to be neither wide enough and, being predominantly18ct gold, too expensive.
We understand the issues associated with production costs, tooling, and economies of scale but surely in the age of CNC manufacturing it would be possible to develop a digitally controlled tool to create a range of nibs that meet the fullest market requirements without prohibitive cost?
Would this be your ideal solution? Please let us know.
January 28, 2012 § 1 Comment
Buying a pen, particularly a fountain pen, can be a very personal experience. The price, the style, the nib and even the presentation can be a determining factor. At PenFountain, we are currently experiencing the Rolls Royce for a Mini price scenarios on the retail front. A £5.00 pen in a velvet lined cardboard veneered case so that it the looks the business (but it’s a lie!).
For fountain pen users, without a doubt there are some fine ‘gems’ to be found below £10 – without the presentation case but, for collectors, these are often the little extras for selection from a pot of pens on the desk. When it comes to buying the more serious pens, is it hearts vs. heads on price and appearance or is it all in the brand?
We are conducting a short poll – please feel free to complete the poll and comment.
September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment
We have been advised today that Lamy are discontinuing their Extra Fine nibs in all but their high-end pens. In effect, the superb stainless steel nib range is being reduced to fine, medium, broad, and left-handed, in the core products with 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9mm in the calligraphy type nibs. The steel nibs are renowned for their ease of changing.
The 14ct gold inlaid nib in extra fine will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.
At PenFountain.com we are disappointed to learn of this change because it was a popular nib for the finer characters used in many Asian scripts. We will maintain stocks of the steel nibs for as long as possible.
August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Lamy Safari and its success as a school fountain pen is well-known. But lying behind this success is a combination of design and manufacturing quality together with features that make this an attractive pen from the outset.
From picking the pen up at just 18 grams in working order, the quality of the ABS moulding is immediately noticeable. The Lamy Safari uses the same polymer that is used in the manufacture of Lego bricks, offering the same high quality, and durable finish. Its round-sectioned barrel is finished with facing flat sections and an ink level window. Whilst the grip, also round in cross-section, has 2 asymmetric flat recesses to accommodate the thumb and forefingers in an ideal position for optimum control. The stainless steel nib, shared with the Lamy family up to around £80 pens, offers excellent writing characteristics from its range of widths from extra fine through to 1.9mm square-cut italic calligraphy style. There is also a left-handed nib available.
Filling the Safari is by conventional, proprietary ink cartridges or by optional screw-piston pump ink converter to allow use of bottled inks. The best thing about the Safari is that it works reliably with a smooth performance which, particularly for the uninitiated, exceeds expectation for a relatively low-budget pen. The Safari also uses a rubber o-ring as a final seal to its click-on cap contributing to the reliability of its initial ink flow.
The detail adds to the Safari’s difference. The ability to change the nib with minimal cost and simplicity is well-known, using the Lamy slide-on mounting system. This offers 2 principle benefits including, replacement of a damaged nib or selection of an alternative nib width or style. The cartridge has a small reserve ink supply in the final constriction at the top of the cartridge where, when you’re down to your last drop, a little flick of the end will release the ink from its designed-in air-lock.
By the way, when you get your first Safari fountain pen, please remove the cardboard spacer from the barrel – it’s only there to prevent premature puncturing of the sealed ink cartridge before use. You’d be surprised at how many customer have complained at not being able to get their new pens working!
The Lamy Safari is currently on Special Offer at PenFountain.com for £9.95 until 5 September.
August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
Cranleigh, like many high streets in the current economic gloom, is extremely quiet. The tumbleweed almost rolls down the road some afternoons. However, Cranleigh is relatively quiet even when other high streets are heaving with shoppers preparing for a holiday. This is why the retail shop for PenFountain.com is in an ideal position. With the majority of our sales being online, for those prepared to make the journey, we are able to offer attentive, personal service that buying a quality pen deserves.
For those who have discovered the almost therapeutic pleasure derived from pen selection, many have travelled some distance. Recently a couple came over from Woking. This is not exactly the other end of the country excepting they came by bus requiring a change of route at Guildford just to visit the shop. 2 x buses x 2 and over an hour of travel each way. They seemed to enjoy their excursion and think it well worthwhile.
What is waiting for those who make the pilgrimage? A good range of pens, a selection of nibs and paper types, enthusiastic, informed opinion, and advice, with prices parallel to our online offering. Arguably, this offer could not be replicated in a bigger store elsewhere because our personal involvement cannot readily be scaled up to a busier shop. Our service is not just for the high-end pens, either. In many ways greater satisfaction comes from helping first-time fountain pen users, particularly left-handed ones!
Once in Cranleigh, we can recommend a selection of excellent refreshment stations and some other interesting independent retail experiences too. Walkers and cyclists are well catered for with open countryside all round us. So, why not make a day of your visit to PenFountain.com?
August 6, 2010 § Leave a comment
1. Kids love them because of the colours and because they are pretty bullet proof.
Technically, they are made out of ABS plastic which is the same stuff they make Lego bricks from and if you’ve trodden on one of those in bare feet you’ll know how unforgiving ABS is!
2. The cartridges are available in 7 colours. So when the little rebels want to write their homework in green, Lamy can help.
3. If 7 colours are not cool enough, convertors are pretty cheap at £2.95 and we can offer over 70 different colours at PenFountain.com.
4. Avoiding the tearful ‘I’ve dropped my pen in chemistry and the nib’s bent’ scene, Lamy nibs are available in a wide range of widths from extra fine to a 1.9mm flat calligraphy style (and left-handed) for just £4.00 and changing them couldn’t be simpler. We’ve produced a video showing you the tricks of the trade!
5. We’ve got Safaris on Special Offer for the Back to School period.
June 28, 2010 § 3 Comments
The number of early-learners coming into the PenFountain.com shop in a distressed state to buy their first ‘proper’ pen are a disappointment to us – not to mention their parents! What should be an exciting milestone in their development has been tainted by their teachers’ response to their ‘disability’. In common with about 7% of the UK population, they are left-handed. “Teacher says … hold this pen or that pen and get used to it.” This should be a time to encourage, to excite, to develop a love for writing, for words, for spelling, for grammar, not a time to put obstacles in the way. At PenFountain.com we keep a range of inked pens in a pencil case for youngsters to try, both left-, and right-handed.
There is no shortage of choice for the first-time writer either, with specialist starter pen ranges from the Pelikan Griffix, Stabilo S’Move, Staedtler’s Starter and Lamy’s ABC fountain pen ranges.
Pelikan Griffix is a range of pens which start with the Stage 1, an ‘un-handed’ wax pencil in a pen casing, designed to get
young hands used to the feel and control of a more formal writing instrument than a basic wax stick. Stage 2 is a ‘handed’ pencil, Stage 3 a fibre-stick type nib and Stage 4 a fully functioning, cartridge fountain pen. The 3 later stages are all designed with right- and left-handed grip options offering recesses to ensure the correct finger positioning on the pen and a smiley face logo to reassure the user that they holding it in the correct position. In our opinion, the only downside of the Griffix products is their rather juvenile decoration, particularly for the fountain pen aimed more at an age group in the UK where sophistication becomes an important issue.
Stabilo’s S’Move has received greater awareness through its TV advertising but is only available in pencil and rollerball formats. The water is further muddied through the visual suggestion that the ink is erasable (which it is not). The same principle of left- and right-handed options and enforced posture operate although, the S’Move is a little more subtle than the Griffix in its grip management.
Staedtler Starter fountain pen is similar in principle to the Griffix but has less pronounced grip features and a slightly less conspicuous decoration than the its competitors. The Lamy ABC is available to special order from PenFountain.com but, in our view, is slightly anomalous in that it is a basic wooden pen with a less sophisticated grip design but in fountain pen format. Lamy don’t often get their designs wrong but this could be the exception that proves the rule in terms of design positioning. Why a kindergarten style on a pen targetted at late primary school age?
When asked for advice about first ‘real fountain pens’, it’s no contest in our opinion. The Lamy Safari hits the mark. It is durable, not too expensive, has a universal ergonomically designed grip, offers options on cartridge or converter filling, and, most important, a nib system which must be the envy of other manufacturers. The stainless steel nibs are available in extra fine to 1.9mm and a left-handed option, with a simple slip-on format which allows changing of nibs by choice (or when dropped!) for just £4.00 each.
Our experience has been that parents are amazed to see their offspring try different pens and actually enjoy writing, sometimes for the first time. We have even had to ask whether the child is left- or right-handed tying to analyse the cause of the distress where the parents have failed to recognise the problem. Interestingly, not all left-handed writers get on with a left-handed nib but, instead, prefer a broad right-handed nib because, as the nib tends to be pushed across the paper, it is less inclined to catch the fibres and dig-in than with a medium nib.
Not all left-handed writers get on with fountain pens at all because of the tendency to smear freshly written prose with the following hand. In these cases we have another alternative for producing good quality, crisp text with comfort; the Uniball Jet Stream rollerball. The Jet Stream is so-called because the ink dries almost immediately preventing the smearing on most ordinary writing papers. These are available in both capped and retractable formats.
What has been even more satisfying for us is the number of parents, seeing the response of their children to a satisfying pen and having tried our recommendations for themselves, have bought themselves their first fountain pen since leaving school!