Anatomy of a Fountain Pen

Picture of a pen with labels defining all of the parts of a pen

There are a lot of parts and pieces to a fountain pen, and sometimes it’s confusing which parts are called what, especially if you’re newer to the hobby. Depending on who you’re talking to, there are different names for different parts, and it can be tough to try to troubleshoot when you’re calling parts different things to someone else! We’ve noticed this when trying to help our customers over phone or email, so we put together this infographic to show some of the most commonly talked-about pen parts.

This pen is the Platinum 3776 (in Chartres Blue), which is a cartridge/converter pen that is a fairly representative of what you’d expect to see on most cartridge/converter pens. There are many parts that can have multiple names, and depending on the manufacturer/model of pen you’re handling, there might be different terms that are typically used. We’ve chosen the most common terms that we’ve used and heard others in the fountain pen community use. Hopefully this can help you out!

The Cap:
Cap: the part of a pen that covers the nib and attaches to the pen body.
Clip: the metal doohickey usually attached to the cap that holds your pen in your shirt pocket and also keeps it from rolling off your desk and landing nib first on the ground (why does it ALWAYS fall nib down??)
Finial: the top of the cap, sometimes decorated with the maker’s logo.
Insert: the plastic liner on the inside of some pen caps that help seal the nib and keep it wet when capped.
Centerband: the metal decorative ring that is usually placed near the bottom of the pen cap for decorative purposes, or perhaps to provide reinforcement to the cap threads.
Lip: the open end of the cap, where the threads of the body fit to close the pen.

The Barrel:
Barrel: the long part of the main body of the pen which houses the ink reservoir.
Threads: thin grooves cut into a pen to hold parts together, especially pen caps to the pen body.
Step: the part of the barrel where the threads ‘step up’ to the body, which can matter when holding the pen.
Body: the length of a pen barrel that typically houses the ink reservoir.
Trim Ring: ornamental accents that serve an aesthetic purpose.

The Nib:
Nib: the metal tip of a fountain pen that actually touches the paper.
Tipping Material: a small bit of hard-wearing metal (usually some sort of iridium alloy) that is welded to the end of a nib and ground to a specific intended size.
Slit: the very thin cut running from the breather hole to the tip of the nib that carries the ink from the feed to the tip.
Tines: the two front parts of the nib that taper to the tip.
Shoulder: the widest part of a nib, where it starts to taper towards the tip.
Breather Hole: a hole in the nib, at the end of the nib slit, that allows air to assist in the ink flow, also called a vent hole.
Imprint: the engraving or impression left on the face of the nib that shows the brand, model, or nib size.
Body: the part of the nib that is typically imprinted.
Base: the bottom end, or reverse end of the tip, where the nib fits into the section of a pen.

The Feed:
Feed: the piece of plastic or ebonite (usually black) that hugs the back of the nib and acts as a vehicle for ink delivery from the reservoir to the nib.
Wings: the widest part of the feed that matches up to the nib shoulder. Sometimes nibs will slide on and grab onto the feed wings.
Fins: the small, thin pieces on the feed that allow ink to saturate into the air channels. These act as an ink regulator for consistent flow when writing speed varies.
Ink Channel: a very thin slit in the feed that hugs against the back of the nib and provides a route for the ink to travel through the feed. This is what helps to provide the necessary capillary action required for ink flow.
Post: the back end of a feed that goes into the ink reservoir and feeds ink into the channel.

The Section:
Section: the part of the pen where the nib fits in and attaches to the pen barrel.
Grip: the front of the section where you hold where the nib fits in, sometimes called just a ‘section’.
Trim Ring: ornamental accents that serve an aesthetic purpose.
Threads: thin grooves cut into a pen to hold parts together.

The Converter:
Converter: a small filling mechanism (usually a screw-piston type) that fits onto a pen that also accepts a cartridge. This allows you to use any brand’s bottled ink instead of relying on limited proprietary ink cartidges.
Mouth: the opening that fits onto the feed post to hold the converter in place.
Ink Reservoir: a cavity inside a pen that holds ink.
Seal: the ‘working’ part of the converter piston that creates a vacuum in order to draw ink into the reservoir.
Rod: the threaded portion of the piston mechanism that causes the seal to move up and down when the knob is turned.
Shroud: the metal covering that holds the piston mechanism onto the back of the ink reservoir.
Knob: the part of the converter that you turn to move the piston seal up and down (and thus fill the converter).

Be sure to check out more fountain pen terminology in our Glossary of Fountain Pen Terms, and ask for any clarification in the comments below! Be sure to share/link/Pin this graphic to your heart’s content, we created this to help educate the fountain pen community. Enjoy!

Write On,
Team Goulet

2017-10-11T13:45:47+00:00 July 28th, 2015|Fountain Pen 101|29 Comments
  • Mitchell Weinberg

    What an absolutely outstanding educational post, just the kind of thing I’ve come to love about GPC. May I suggest posting some sort of link to this in your educational section/Reference Guides, for easy future access to this wealth of information about fountain pen terminology?

    • That’s a great idea Mitchell, we’ll give that some thought! Thanks for the compliments, this was a team effort here, with Jenni, Drew, and myself leading the charge. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • A beautiful fountain pen and a great Fountain Pen Anatomy Primer. Love it.

  • Andrew

    Although no longer a newbie with fountain pens, I could see how this could have been incredibly helpful to me when I was one. Great job Goulet Pens!

    • Thanks! Yeah, even if you’ve been around pens for a while, it’s nice to have some common terminology.

  • Freddy

    Absolutely beautifully done! The simplicity of the layout, the breakdown of the definitions, and the definitions themselves make this entire post eminently approachable to newbies to fountain pens as well as a superb reference to all, no matter one’s fountain pen knowledge.

    • That’s great feedback, Freddy. That’s exactly what we were going for!

  • Kathy

    Great, simple presentation. Thanks for doing this!

  • Otter

    Excellent diagram of a pen, really useful. And that Chartres Blue is one I’ve had my eye on….it’s really gorgeous. Thank you for providing that great reference material!

    • Yeah, we may or may not (but definitely did) choose that for the Goulet Blue color…. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • Tom Johnson

    This is a perfect example of how Goulet Pen Co. provides needed
    education on fountain pens, inks, and papers to anyone interested in pens. Beyond textbook quality! Wonderful photos. In 2013 I
    discovered the treasure trove of information in all the Goulet videos, Monday emails, etc. and learned more about this subject
    than I had in 17years of using fountain pens. There is no other source
    of fountain pen knowledge so readily available anywhere else, supported
    with wonderful videos, photos and descriptions, as there is in this blog and its archives. Thank you so much Brian, Rachel, and everyone at Team
    Goulet for this.

    • Thanks Tom! You flatter us here ๐Ÿ™‚ We’re honored to provide useful stuff like this to the community!

  • Recoil Rob

    Well done!

  • Jenn H.

    Just lovely! Thank you!

  • Dorian Ferguson

    Saved for future reference.

    • Madigan

      Awesome! Hope it helps! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Deb Zyla

    Seriously, could you be a more perfect pen company?!

    • Madigan

      Awww… thanks! We are always trying to provide the best educational experience to our customers. Glad you enjoyed this! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Michael Winn

    Thank you! The information is available elsewhere, but your version is clear and complete. Now if I can just start being consistent….

    • Madigan

      Haha! I’m glad you found this helpful. It can be confusing sometimes, but hopefully this made it that much easier to know what to call those tricky little parts on your pen. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Ruth Feiertag

    I have been wanting exactly this information recently; thank you for the timely post. And I have been reading through your glossary as well โ€” love the definition of ink:

    “Ink – The liquid substance that you put in a fountain pen to be able to use it for more than a paperweight or a piece of jewelry.”

    I keep telling a friend who doesn’t understand the obsession with fountain pens that they are jewelry for the intellect.


    • Madigan

      Oh!! I love that description of a fountain pen- how poetic. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed our glossary. We like to be informative but also fun! ๐Ÿ™‚

      • Ruth Feiertag


        Mission accomplished! And thank you for all the great information.


  • TrixieinDixie

    As a huge fan of infographics as art (a la Pop Chart Lab for example) I think this would make a brilliant poster, suitable for any office space and a wonderful gift for any fountain pen lover! Maybe that could be a thing, huh?

  • Sophia

    This is fantastic. Thank you!