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!