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Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Advice for Fountain Pen Newbies

There’s always a little bit of fear when trying something new. Just think about when you were a kid first learning to ride a bike. What about getting behind the wheel for the first time? Or starting a new job? 


Some of these fears diminish as we get older, but even as adults, these same nerves can often follow us. When you’re first getting into fountain pens, it can feel overwhelming. It’s more than just jotting down a few notes. It’s an experience. You might be asking yourself, how do I hold this pen? How do I fill it with ink? And most importantly, what do I do with all the ink on my hands? Thanks to the internet, the fountain pen community doesn’t have to be limited to geographic proximity. We’re able to share in this hobby from all across the globe. And all of us at Goulet Pens love getting to play a small part in helping to make that happen. 


One of our company values is “empower through education." We really enjoy introducing people to the enhanced writing experience. So, we asked our Facebook fans to share their pieces of advice and words of warning to fountain pen newbies. Whether you are just starting out using fountain pens, or you're looking to get your friend hooked, these bits of wisdom will be invaluable to you. There was tons of input, so we selected only a few to share with you here. A big thank you to everyone who shared their wisdom with us and our Facebook community!


Advice and Words of Warning to Fountain Pen Newbies:


  • Rachel L. - ...Join a fountain pen forum or FB group. learn from others. share. try try try!

  • Rob P. - Paper matters. Don't be surprised if your new fountain pen writes too thick or if your new ink doesn't shade like you see in online pictures. The cheap paper used in most offices is much too absorbent for fountain pen use. Do yourself a favor and pick up a few good pads of paper to enjoy the full fountain pen experience.

  • Carmel C. - You don't need to spend the big bucks for a good pen. Get to know the pens you have before you buy more. Experiment with different inks and paper. Do some research before buying your pen. Look after your fountain pens.

  • Stephanie P. - Subscribe to ink drop or pick up a bunch of ink samples every few weeks, when you find one you love, buy a bottle, but not before then!

  • Maria A. - ...Read up online, and learn about the different kinds of pens, the different filling systems, the different pen materials and the basics. It will pay off quickly. Apart from that, enjoy, have fun, and most of all: Never be afraid to use Google, and ask a lot of questions. We have all been newbies, and most are happy to help a new possible "penholic."

  • Maeli Z. - Get a little notebook and start an ink journal. I started one after my second round of ink samples and it has been a great resource. May want to include a section where you can write the date, ink, and pen type each time you ink up a pen! (I was constantly forgetting which ink sample I'd put in which pen.)

  • Michelle W. - You might as well buy a 10-20 pen case, cuz you're gonna fill that puppy up in no time flat.

  • Ruth S. - If you're left-handed, don't listen to people who tell you you can't use a fountain pen because your writing style is "weird" or awkward. You can learn to use a fountain pen. It might take a little more time to find the pen-nib-ink-paper combination that best suits your personal writing style...

  • Allastair L. - Don’t be afraid to tinker.

  • Patrick T. - Buy the pen you want, not the pen other people tell you that you should want.

  • Kenneth H. - Budget, budget, budget, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, learn, learn learn and welcome to a wonderful world of wonderful, sharing people
  • LiAnn T. - Don't procrastinate when your pens are empty. Clean them up!

  • Jeffrey G. - Just because it's expensive doesn't mean it is right for you.

  • Heather C. - Don't get overwhelmed by all the choices...pick a pen and ink and go from there. Oh, and also, enjoy the adventure!




  • Shannon M. - Buy lots of paper towels.
  • Chris P. - Don't fill your pen from a bottle of ink when there are toddlers or cats around!
  • Ceit D. - Ink happens, if you have a kitten, Ink happens on the floor, if you don't cap it and put it back. Ink happens on your hands and everywhere else. Don't be afraid of the ink and the mess it will make, embrace it --;)
  • Paul K. - Check and recheck that the lid is screwed back on before lifting the ink bottle. Otherwise you will have a real mess on your hands. Literally.
  • Hugh R. - There are no 100% leak-proof pens, so be very careful, guys, before inserting one in your oxford shirt pocket.
  • Thiago P. - Beware: beyond this purchase lays a whole new world. You will never have clean fingers again, and ink stains will have names on them.
  • Junee L. - Don't leave your pens uncapped to roll off the table nib downwards and have the nib do a leg split afterwards.
  • David J. - Put the cap back on the ink bottle first.
  • Kenneth M. - Don't shake your pen like a ballpoint if it is not writing. My office has a nice streak of Waterman Florida blue due to someone doing this.
  • Caitlin P. - ...Do your research but realize what works for someone else may not be comfortable to you. Last but not least, have fun, enjoy.



What would you add to this list? Be sure to like us on Facebook so you can join in on our next conversation! 

Write On,
The Goulet Pen Company Team

64 comments:

  1. I'd add to the list to the list start off slowly but work out what you are really are passionate about and go for the example you really want even if there are cheaper options available as that way you will end up with a collection you really enjoy. Rather then a load of pens that remind you if only I'd saved my money and gone for ____ in the first place. There is no reason why you can't go from a Safari to a 2000 or a Frontier to a Duofold etc.

    Anyway Brian when are you going to stock the the Waterman Ombres Et Lumieres range? I got my eye on the Persective.

    Ombres Et Lumières

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  2. Mix n Match your existing inks for some beautiful colors!

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  3. Buy some of the Magic Eraser sponges (name brand or store brand, doesn't matter). They will remove or lighten ink spots - on 50+ year old formica and linoleum - and on similarly aged skin.

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  4. Practice good ink/pen hygiene. Clean your pens/nibs on a regular schedule. If you are not going to use them for a while clean them and leave them empty of ink. Consider transfering some ink from a bottle to a vial (with a clean syringe) and filling your pen from there, so you don't introduce potential contaniment to the whole supply from you pen. I you use a dip pen, ALWAYS do this. Mold in an expensive or discontinued bottle of ink will make you cry.

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  5. As a pretty much still newbie, I'm learning to try different inks. I'm finding some inks are wetter than others and that each ink has it's own character. Same goes for the pen. So far, I've not really tried the better papers. I'm just using standard typing paper/copier paper and legal pads. And yes, ink on your hands is your friend. And please, cap the bottles as soon as you're done filling the pen.

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  6. Don't worry about getting your hands inky. It will happen. Just have fun!

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  7. In regards to the first point: I actually started a chat room for fountain pen users about a year ago. You can join via our webchat at fpnerds.com/chat.

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  8. I am a newbie, and I really appreciate all the advice I've read.
    I have been watching the Q&A from the first episode, at work, while I work. I put the videos on and work while listening, and when I hear something that catches my ear, I'll stop and watch as well as listen.


    I've not committed to a bottle of ink, yet. I'm still in the sampling phase. I love all the educational stuff on Goulet, such as the swabs and the nib comparisons. Thanks guys!

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  9. LOL! David J "Put the cap back on the ink bottle first."

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  10. Point first towards the paper.

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  11. Such wonderful information in both the blog and the comments. I will add one recommendation that I sure wish was available when I returned to fountain pens in 1997 - Watch all of Brian and Rachel's videos, from Fountain Pen 101 through all the Q&A's, the product reviews and everything else you can find in the Blog Index above. This will take many many hours, but the education you will get is astounding.

    After 16 years of using fountain pens I discovered this treasure trove of information. It has opened my eyes to the wonders of fountain pens, inks and papers and boosted my passion for them to an all time high. Don't neglect your family, job, or education as they come first. But this is a wonderful journey to take.

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  12. When they say Noodler's Ink is filled to the very top, they're not kidding! Open with care, preferably on an absorbent surface such as newspaper or paper towels :D

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  13. Buy a cheap fountain pen, a small bottle of ink other than black in color and a notebook. Doodle or draw in the notebook and you will be developing a fun skill that will last you a lifetime.

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  14. I would also add, make sure you try a gold nibbed pen. It took me a long time to try one and buy one thinking that there was no difference and value, but when I did, I had absolutely no regrets. My first gold pen was a Lamy 2000 and I will say that the writing feel is very different because gold is a softer metal and the nib is springier. I feel like I waited too long. Now I have a Pilot Custom 74, Falcon, Custom Heritage 912, and working on a Pelikan. Make sure you save some money for these higher priced pens.

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  15. Top tip for sure: set (any brand of) bottled ink on a paper towel before opening!

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  16. Way to sacrifice for the cause, Brian! Wow that is some ink on your hands. I hope it isn't Baystate Blue! My only advice is to echo that of others. I do find it funny in some ways to see all this advice on how to use a fountain pen. I picked up a cheap Sheaffer at the dime store 50+ years ago, when I was in the 8th grade, and just started using it. It's not a big deal -- it's a pen! Gel pens, ball points -- they all smear or glob, fail to write and fountain pens are no worse, and a lot more interesting and fun. Go for it. And as Gary, below, mentions, don't wait too long before trying a gold nib.

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  17. It's okay to text your best friend (who got you into fountain pens in the first place) for an hour, trying to figure out why your nib is scratchy and not working. It's okay to stop working on college homework and spend an hour on Goulet Pens. Just make sure you're still making good grades. That's all.


    Watch the videos while working on homework, especially the ones you've watched over and over. Brian's voice is very nice to listen to while taking notes on environmental science with your Pilot Metropolitan and Claire Fontaine notebook.


    (As for my BFF and I, we did spend an hour or so trying to figure out why my nib wasn't working on my Safari. Problem solved by Goulet! Huzzah!)

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  18. Hi Caine! Sounds like there is a story with that ink spray bit.... what color face did you end up with?? Thanks for the tips! :)

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  19. Have you come up with any good formulas or is it whatever you have around?

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  20. Great idea, Lisa! I've never tried those on skin. This could have come in handy when I served as the model for the inky hands up above. My hands were blue for days. :P

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  21. Great advice, Pira! A moldy bottle of ink can definitely ruin your day.

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  22. Hi Stu! As a cat mom, I can definitely say that capping ink bottles is REALLY important. If you want to get started in paper, give Rhodia pads a try! They are really great to work with and won't break the bank. :)

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  23. Hi Christopher! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  24. Hi Roseann! I'm glad you are enjoying all the videos and are enjoying all the educational stuff. What is your favorite sample so far? :)

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  25. Simple, yet very very good advice. :)

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  26. Haha! Good advice, Gina. :)

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  27. Great idea, Henry! :)

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  28. Hi Gary! What pen number was your gold nibbed pen? It is a different (and awesome!) writing experience. :)

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  29. Good points, Starchix! Do you still have that original Sheaffer?

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  30. Hi Amaryllis! I think the ink washes are a great use for all that extra ink. I guess it won't use it all, but it is a fantastic way to make individual cards or correspondence. I'm in complete agreement about the bottles! Heart of Darkness is my favorite black as well. :)

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  31. Hi Heath! I really like the idea of starting with the Preppy or Varsity and then moving to the Metropolitan. Great advice! :)

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  32. Sadly, no. In my benighted youth I never thought to clean the pen out, and at some point, after it had sat in a box or drawer for about 30 years, I, having not as yet found Goulet Pens and achieved Fountain Pen Care Enlightenment, casually tossed it in the trash! Tsk tsk.

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  33. I use Boraxo powdered hand soap along with my regular hand washing soap and a good scrub brush when removing ink. It works pretty well, though doesn't take everything off. The nice thing about skin of any age -- it is washable and even the worst ink stains are gone within 24 hours. I will say, that as a piano teacher, I might be expected to be fussy about ink stained fingers. But since I am also an avid gardener, my hands usually look less awful with ink stains, since they are colorful and cannot be mistaken for good old dirt.

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  34. It's mostly with the inks I have around.. The key is mixing different proportions every time :)

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  35. Believe it or not, Brian's Back-To-School Fountain Pen 101 video :)

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  36. My first gold nibbed pen was number 24. It was a Lamy 2000 makrolon with an extra fine nib. I bought a ton of Lamy Safaris and Noodler Conrads first. I should have bought a gold nib much sooner. Steel nibs are still great and some are quite smooth, but a gold nib is a real art form in both design and function.

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  37. What is an ink wash?

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  38. It's a technique to do a wash of color using fountain pen ink! Check out this blog (skip the wedding stuff if you want) http://blog.gouletpens.com/2015/03/how-to-diy-wedding-invitations.html

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  39. Lamy 2000s are fantastic. Nice first step into the gold nibbed world! :)

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  40. Ha yes! Thanks Madigan ☺ :)

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  41. The Blue Badge of Courage goes to Madigan!! Did they ask for volunteers? I find that a lot of the ink on my hands comes out when I shampoo my hair. Does anyone ever intentionally write on their skin, like make a doodle or drawing with their fountain pen? I've been known to do this when there wasn't any paper within reach. This is also fun with Blue Ghost ink.

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  42. Here is my $0.02 worth. Fountain pens don't have be expensive. For $10 you can get a Jinhao X750 which is a really excellent pen doesn't require anything special. Although you can write on all different types of paper you will have a much nice experience with something like Rhodia or Clairefontaine paper. Its not very expensive (you can get a nice pad for about $5). Start there then try different inks, paper and even pens. I would highly recommend watching Brian's or SBRE Brown's youtube videos. Most Important is to have fun.

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  43. So much good advice here! I have to second the recommendation of going to a pen show. It's a good way to learn. Pick up pens, see how they feel in your hand, ask questions, compare prices, meet other pen people, even maybe buy a pen or two. It's especially important to try pens when you're new to the game until you find out what you like.

    Seriously ignore anyone who tells you lefties can't use FP. I'm a lefty and have only used FP for 25 years. It's no big deal.

    Participate in online FP discussion groups, but beware the need to own every pen that becomes popular. They won't all work for you, and that's totally ok. Same with ink.

    Don't underestimate the need for FP-friendly paper. Thankfully, there are a good number of them.

    Most of all, play, enjoy, experiment!

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  44. When coming back to writing with a fountain pen after using one in school as a child I read on a web site that shampoo will wash the ink off. It works even on my every day ink, Noodler's Bad Belted King Fisher!

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  45. Only a matter of time before you devote one of your desk drawers to ink bottles. I'm on two drawers now. :)

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  46. For copier paper, some of the coated laserjet papers are also great for FP inks. They're heavy, but very smooth.

    Second the recommendation for Rhodia, and the Clairefontaine notebooks are also very nice. :) Be aware that all of these will take longer for the ink to dry!

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  47. My son does this in class. ;0

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  48. I unfortunately don't have drawers! They're on my shelf in their boxes right now xD

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  49. I use hand soap (i.e. Softsoap brand) and a lava pumice stone for stubborn spots. It doesn't take a lot of rubbing to get the ink off and my hands are always extra soft afterwards. If I get ink on my nails I use a nail scrub brush, which works but it still takes a day or so for my nails to get back to normal.

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  50. Get the right paper. Again, it does not have to be expensive (paper made in Brazil is quite excellent for fountain pen usage)! Also, consider taking up visual note taking (also called sketch notes). Mike Rohde http://rohdesign.com/sketchnotes/ and Kathy Schrock (http://www.schrockguide.net/sketchnoting.html) have great material.

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  51. So far, I have used up the Kon-Peki. I've got Noodlers Purple Martin in, and that's a nice purple, I can use it at work without it being obviously purple. I can't wait for this month's ink drop, I love greys and cloudy colors and all of the colors really appeal to m e. So. To answer your question, I really love the Kon-Peki. The color is fantastic!

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  52. The photo was my idea so I kind of volunteered myself! I don't know anyone around here who has purposefully drawn on their skin, but I'd say the majority of us leave the day pretty ink covered. Blue ghost could be fun to experiment with though!!

    I never thought it was through shampooing, but that makes sense. I find it usually disappears by the morning simply by living my life (dishes, showers, etc). The ink stain above lasted a few days. Got a few weird looks in my yoga class, but otherwise it never bothers me. :)

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  53. I will definitely be giving this a try. :)

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  54. Kudos, Madigan, for taking one for the team and messing up your hands. *LOL* It was quite an artistic mess -- my stains are never so pretty. ;)

    Regarding advice, great suggestions here. I will add: don't be afraid to learn to tweak your nibs using micromesh, mylar, and brass sheets. Obviously use very inexpensive pens or ones you will not mind possibly ruining as you're learning. But go slow and take advantage of the excellent supplies Goulet Pens carries, including the loupe (so you can see what you're doing). Check out fountain pen tuning videos for more instruction, and experiment! I have made so-so pens into ones I love, and scratchy nibs into buttery smooth writers, with a little tweaking.

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  55. When your pen doesn't write right from first inking, prime the feed. If it still won't write well, flush the pen well and use a clean toothbrush to scrub the feed. If it starts writing, but stutters or stops, it could be any one of the following problems.

    Your tines (misaligned, too tight) or the fit of the nib on the feed (may not be pushed in all the way, or may be too tight of a fit) need adjusting. Lots of good tutorials on the internet on the first, but the second may require swapping out nibs and feeds with replacements if available. Never throw away parts from broken/unused pens, they can come in handy!

    Also, never rule out the feed sleeve being cracked or damaged, which can cause the pen to leak or run dry. Don't try to wiggle a nib and feed out of the nib sleeve, but use a thin rubber square to pull the nib and feed straight out. Wiggling can crack your feed sleeve and ain't nobody got time for that.

    If a pen still struggles, try a cartridge instead of a converter, or vice versa. Convert it to an eyedropper if possible. I had a Pilot Prera running dry and constantly exploding on me with its cheapy squeeze converter until I converted the pen to an eyedropper. Total perfection after that, and a much larger ink capacity. Bonus!

    Also try a different ink or inks. Some inks just don't play well in certain pens, especially if the nib is quite fine.

    Buy a loupe, 10-25x magnification! Seriously, it will help you identify or rule out any of these problem areas. Check out all possible points of failure listed above before deciding to smooth the nib.

    And unless the pen is cheap, try to buy from places with great customer service and reasonable return policies.

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  56. And if you happen to lose your mind and attempt to tweak your Bexley, make sure you order a Goulet #6 extra fine nib. You will find it is even better than your original nib!

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  57. 1. Planning on going to only my second pen show in life in near future.
    2.Inked pens nib-up and capped
    3.Yet, buying an Omas Ogiva Alba, Diamond TWSBI 580AL, Noodler's AHAB, Burmese Red and Mars pearl are a bit too much. Find they all fight for attention and use. Probably instead, buy lots of sample inks at one time and less pens at one time.
    4.But, if you are retired and have nothing else to occupy your time, energy or funds, why not enjoy. You only live once!
    5. of us, who keep our hair short, don't have that issue. But nice to know

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  58. Great advice Deborah! Thanks for sharing. :)

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  59. I'm a big Jinhao fan as well, Greg! All of this is solid advice. :)

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  60. Thanks for the tip.

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