Tuesday, June 2, 2015

3 Helpful Tips For Buying A Fountain Pen

As a Community Coordinator here at The Goulet Pen Company, I often get asked, "I want to buy a fountain pen, which one should I get?" I definitely understand the difficulty that shopping online presents when trying to find the right fountain pen for you. You can’t hold it or write with it beforehand, so we want to do our best to help you throughout the process.

Writing with a fountain pen is different than writing with anything else. It’s truly an enhanced writing experience. It takes commitment to maintain and ink your pens, but you get so much in return. You have a new hobby to explore, an avenue to improve your handwriting, and the daily reminder that writing down your thoughts is powerful. Since there is so much to love about fountain pens, it can feel daunting to try and find a pen that meets all of your criteria. To help make it easier, my team and I put together this helpful guide to help you purchase your first (or next!) fountain pen.

1. Identify your must-have list

It’s important to realize that you might not be able to find everything you are looking for in one pen. That's why it's easy for so many of us to end up with an entire collection! (After all, you can't have too many pens, right?) You might be looking for a daily carry pen
-- a versatile writing instrument you can take anywhere, anytime -- a flex pen or a less expensive pen that you can lend to friends. Our website, GouletPens.com, has a comprehensive search function that will help you filter products based on your must-have list. You will find all of these listed on the left hand side of our website. Here are several factors to consider as you make your list...
  • Price
  • Body Color
  • Body Material
  • Cap Type

  • Compatible Inks
  • Filling Mechanism
  • Nib Material

  • Nib Sizes Offered
  • Overall Weight and Diameter
  • Postable/Retractable
  • Trim Color

  • Grip Section
  • Writing Experience (Smooth, scratchy, offers feedback)
  • Where You’ll Use It -- work, home, school, etc.
2. Read reviews

We have awesome customers who write incredibly detailed reviews.  Each individual product page has reviews written by our customers, and we now have close to 50,000 in total! Take advantage of these to learn what others have discovered while using a specific pen. We also have a section of questions asked by our customers and then answered by our team. Take a look at trends in the reviews -- as opposed to taking a single one at face value -- and don’t be afraid to ask us questions! There are other great resources on our website that will help make your online shopping experience a bit easier. 

Did you know about the Pen Plaza or the Nib Nook? The Pen Plaza is a feature on our site that allows you to view and compare the size and shape of all our pens. The Nib Nook allows you to do the same with writing samples of all of the nib sizes we currently carry. Seeing two writing samples or two pens side by side, really can help you make your final decision. 

3. Remember that your friend’s favorite pen might not end up being yours

Writing with a fountain pen is a unique experience for everyone which can leave a lot up to your personal preference. How you like to hold your pen, the amount of pressure you apply while writing or the speed at which you write all vary. For example, you might love the grip on the Lamy Safari but your friend might find the shape of the grip difficult to write with. You might find the clip on the Pilot Vanishing Point to be the feature of your favorite pen, but your friend might find it distracting. 

We reached out to Tom Johnson, a fountain pen enthusiast and frequent commenter on this blog. He's been using fountain pens for 50 years and has experience trying different brands, nib sizes and models of fountain pens. Tom shared what attracted him initially to all of the fountain pens he now owns, and these qualities range from the design to the price. But he also learned that what first drew him to a pen might not be the reason he ultimately loved or loathed it. It just goes to show that you might find yourself pleasantly surprised with a pen you weren’t sure about. 

Tom shared about one of his most recent purchase experiences when deciding to get the Pilot Metropolitan. He says, "Rather than cleaning out a pen and changing ink I decided to see if everyone is right about the Pilot Metropolitan, and ordered one with a F nib." He goes on to say, "Everything positive about these pens proved true in the one I got. Writes very well, nicely wet and smooth."

A big thank you to Tom for sharing his experiences with us. What things do you take into consideration before getting a new fountain pen? Let me know in the comments below.

Write On,


  1. kevin-landon@comcast.netJune 2, 2015 at 5:37 PM

    Great article and I love your title as Community Coordinator! I started choosing fountain pens by color, never too many blue ones, then moved to other factors such as nib sizes and filling mechanisms. Perceived value is also a factor in getting the most pen for dollar spent. Thanks to all the great people on Team Goulet I have a collection that spans the range of nib sizes from EF to 1.1 plus colors other than blue and materials from metal to resin. The most important factor to me still remains how a pen writes regardless of how it looks! Thanks again for the great article!

  2. Very useful tips, Margaret, and I even learned some things about the Goulet website I never knew before! When I first started collecting, I tried to acquire as wide a range as possible, though of course the appearance had to appeal to me first (which is why I still haven't bought a Lamy 2000, no matter how much everyone raves about it *g*). I wouldn't necessarily recommend that process for anyone, though, because you end up buying quite a few pens that don't necessarily suit. Your suggestions are much more methodical. However I have no regrets and learned a lot along the way. :)

  3. I agree with you about the looks. For years I avoided buying a Safari, because I think it's ugly. I hate the clip. Then I tried one. I love the grip, the ink window and changing nibs. Now I have every color. Do they write like my MB 149? No, but they are good writers, lightweight and I don't freak if someone wants to write with it.

  4. Very useful article, Margaret, and I think #3 is most important, and somewhat unique to fountain pennishness. The first two tips are the kind of basic research any smart shopper undertakes before purchasing something new. But fountain pens are much more of a personal choice than say, buying a new car or bicycle, or even choosing a brand of canned tomatoes. Writing by hand is so individual -- i.e. the person's (yours?) grip on the pen in the photo accompanying makes me wince LOL as I hold a pen so differently. You really do have to try it for yourself, and one person's opinion can be polar opposite of your own. Which makes spending money on a more expensive pen without trying it out a bit nerve-wracking. I have bought pens in stores, after trying them out, and ended up hating them. So you just never know. But with the wealth of customer comments you now have, it is much easier to see the spectrum. In fact I decided not to try a flex pen, based on comments by Brian and others, which I am sure has saved me frustration and regret. Writing on, out here in old fogey fountain pen land (50 years +).

  5. Very helpful article! And I have to say that it amazes me how much information Goulet Pens has provided on pens, inks, and the writing experience over the past few years. My first "fountain pen" was from a calligraphy set over 20 years ago. I knew I wanted more, but there was nowhere to find any information, let alone pens and inks. I was thrilled when I discovered the Goulet Pens site, and I've enjoyed watching it grow.

    But to answer your question...
    I always look for nib types first. I prefer a flex nib or a stub/italic that's fine enough for everyday writing. Then I look at the filling system. Flex and italic nibs use a lot of ink, so cartridges and small converters are a pain. Something that holds a lot of ink is much more convenient. Then last, but certainly not least - I look for something with a unique style or color that is in my price range.

    I do read reviews, but I take them with a grain of salt. Everyone has unique preferences and peeves, so I always keep that in mind.

  6. Hi Kevin! I definitely agree that the most important thing is how it writes. I love that you chose them by color at first. That can be a tipping point. I'm glad to hear that you are enjoying a variety of pen nibs now. :)

  7. Great points, Kathy! :)

  8. Yay! The website has a lot of great tools to help find that perfect pen. Hopefully, you've found something unique to enjoy in all of the pens you've purchased. :)

  9. Hi Starchix! Great points here! We love fountain pens and want our customers to as well. Part of that is making sure they make informed decisions about what they are purchasing so they aren't disappointed. The reviews go a long way in helping people make the right decision for them. :)

  10. Hi Karen! Yay!! So glad you enjoyed it. :) I love your list of things you look for. I'm on the flex train as well and have filling preferences. Do you prefer Ahabs or Konrads?

  11. Hi Madigan!
    I like the Ahab and the Konrad equally. The ink window on the Konrad is nice, and the capacity of the Ahab is incredible! I use them both for sketching and for writing. I've got a second Konrad fitted with a Goulet Pens italic nib that I use mostly for correspondence. (That is one smooth nib, by the way - love it!) I also have several of the original Noodler's nib creaper flex pens. They are a great option for someone who wants to try a flex nib without making a huge commitment.

  12. Margaret, I enjoyed your article, in the second paragraph you described elegantly all the joy about writing with a fountain pen. I felt your passion about what you do. Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

  13. Margaret, this is so good, so detailed - you covered everything we go through in selecting our next pen. Plus showing the wonderful resources available on Goulet Pens' web site. This summation of all the comparison tools on one page is a great resource in itself. Often customer reviews are my second resource, after my interest has first been peaked by one of Brian's reviews and the awesome quality product photos. Then I delve into the technical details on the product page, use the comparison tools, study all my options, and make my decision. These resources simplify the process and make it exciting and fun. Thanks for such a well delineated presentation, so clear and concise, just perfect.

  14. Hi dcatpdx! Have you tried De Atramentis Document Ink or Super5? They are both waterproof. You can mix and match De Atramentis ink to come up with the perfect shade as well. :)

  15. Hi Rafael! Margaret is pretty awesome. Thanks for the kind words. :)

  16. Hi Tom! Thanks for sharing your process. And thanks for sharing all your thoughts about your pens with us for the article. You are the best! :)


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