email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I
spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person
who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that
I feel are worth sharing with you! I’ll be posting highlights of some
of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are
some emails of mine from the past week or so:

I have a TWSBI 540 EF that I love, also a Lamy Safari EF that
to me is ok, and a Monteverde Invincia Stealth (either F or M). I was wondering
if you had any recommendations, in regaurds of selection, for someone semi-new
to fountain pens. I guess if I had to set a limit, I’d prefer to keep it under
$100, but I could flex up to $150.

You have some decent pens already! There are a lot of good
ones to choose from still, and a lot of what I can recommend will depend on
what you want. Some people like to grow their collections based on what they
like, getting one of every color Lamy Safari for example, and inking them up
with all different colors. Other people like to build their collection based on
diversity, getting pens because they’re different than anything they have in
their existing collection. Think about what you like, that’ll help you right
there because it’ll tell you if you should be looking for pens similar to what
you have, or if you should avoid ones like you have!

If you like what you have and want something like it, an
obvious pen to consider is the TWSBI VAC-700 ($85). It writes much like the
540, but has a cool vacuum filling mechanism (which is typical only seen in
pens MUCH more expensive) and has an ink capacity up to 2.3ml (the 540 is only
1.5ml). I have a video on it here:

If you like the Lamy and want to stick with it, there are a
lot of other models that you can ‘upgrade to’. The Al-Star, Studio, Accent,
CP1, PUR….these are all basically going to write the same since they all
share the same nib type (as your Safari). Spend a little more in some of these
same models with 14k gold nibs, and those nibs are really nice! They’re a bit
more though, only certain Studios and Accents have those, and they’re pushing
just past the $150 range. Steel nib Lamys in these other models are in the
$50-80 range though.

Sheaffer also has some great writing pens, they’re quite wet
writing. They’re metal pens so they’re heavier, but they write really well. The
100 is the least expensive at $38, but it writes just as well as the more
expensive 300 and Preludes. This should be enough to wet your palate. :)

What makes Pilot Iroshizuku inks worth the price? I have yet
to find a video review of any of the colors I have looked at. Are they water
resistant at all?

Haha, you’re definitely not the first to ask this ;) It’s
good ink, for sure. The bottle is also gorgeous and quite functional. However,
you’re definitely paying a premium (and we have them discounted too, list price
is $35 per 50ml bottle!). It’s some of the most expensive ink around, and the
truth is that its value is in the eye of the beholder. Some will say its
overpriced and not worth it, others will say it’s the best ink and use it
exclusively. My suggestion to you is to get samples of whatever color you’re
interested in and try it for yourself, you will be the best judge!

As for water resistance, they’re okay but any water
resistance is an afterthought, it’s not the intention of this ink. I will say
the dry times on most of the Iroshizuku inks is faster than most other inks,
that and their smooth flow is the most attractive feature.

The Platinum converter I ordered is too large for my
Platinum pe500. Do these converters come in different sizes or am I
missing something? I would have thought that one size would fit all
Platinum pens since they also accommodate Platinum cartridges, which I assume
are all the same. Basically, the converter is too wide to fit into the
nib section. Any ideas?

I’m sorry to say that Platinum only makes one size of
converter, and it’s the one you have. I’m not aware of any other converters
they’ve made in the past, at least since we started carrying the brand a couple
of years ago. (Any insight you readers may have here would be helpful!)

As far as the Vanishing point goes, I am down to trying to
pick a color (which is good since I have been reading about the VP for nearly
two months), is the red a maroon red, a maraschino cherry red, a dark red… it
is hard to tell from a computer screen. It looks like a deep red, but I can’t
quite tell.

The VP is a great pen, very popular and one of the better
‘value’ pens in the gold nib arena. The red is more of a dark red, definitely
not maraschino cherry. It’s closer to maroon.

The Edison Nouveau Satin black is listed in the Clearance
page, but the price is the same. Which is it? Obviously, I’m rooting for a sale price! :D

The pen is going to remain at the current price at the
request of Brian Gray, but he only has a few of them left and he wanted to
discontinue the color. So they are on clearance because once we sell the pens
he’s already made, there will be no more. Sorry there won’t be a drop in price
(unless Brian changes his mind), but if you did want to get a Satin Black, your
time will be running out before too long. I’m really sorry if this sounds like
a high pressure sale and I assure you I don’t want it to be that way! We have 8
of them left and I don’t anticipate they’ll sell right away, just be aware that
once they’re gone, they’re really gone. You’re welcome to email me at any time
if you’re curious to know how many are left, so you won’t miss out. I think you
have some time though.

I have just ordered few items from you and as I live in India
will I have to pay various taxes or is it inclusive in the express mailing

I can’t guarantee that the customs/duties fees will be
included. Sometimes packages go through without incurring fees, other times
fees get charged. It varies a lot by country, and seems to vary by the value of
the package too. I would contact your local customs office to see what their
rules are. I would plan on having to pay fees, and if you don’t then it is an
added bonus. There’s nothing we can do on our end to avoid any fees though,
it’ll all depend on your locality.

Is there an ink that has some bulletproof characteristics
that is not from Noodlers? From what I read, these inks are bad for piston
fillers and I have a 50’s Pelikan 400nn in the mail coming my way. I need
another ink that is resistant to water and can withstand nature really. It
doesn’t have to be something in the antiforgery area since I don’t write checks
or do special things for the government.

Well, when it comes to permanent inks, there’s no safety
guaranteed in a vintage pen like this (noodler’s or any other ink). The bottom
line is that permanent inks are meant to stain….hopefully stain the paper,
permanently, but they are more prone than conventional (washable) inks to stain
other things….clothes, fingers, carpets….and pens. If you look at any of
the big pen companies’ warrantee policies, they’ll all pretty much say only to
use their company’s ink and no other. The problem is, they all sell
non-permanent inks. The only companies that sell permanent inks for use in
fountain pens are boutique companies like Diamine, Rohrer & Klingner,
Noodler’s, Private Reserve, and a few others.

Noodler’s Black is an ink that I hear the least trouble
with, but my advice is if you want to truly avoid staining in your vintage
Pelikan, stick to the conventional inks and dedicate a modern pen to the
permanent inks.

I’m hoping you can recommend a fountain pen for me. I’m
relatively new to the fountain pen universe, but I’ve fallen in love quickly. I
have a Lamy Safari, a TWSBI 540, and an Ahab flex.

I love them all, but my problem is that my hand and wrist
start hurting after extended periods of use (more so with the TWSBI than the
others). I really need a pen that has a wide grip section but is still a smooth
writer that won’t completely break the bank (preferably under $100). Do you
have any suggestions?

I think this issue here is more about the way you’re writing
than it is about the specific pen. The TWSBI 540 and Noodler’s Ahab in
particular are some of the larger pens around, you’re actually going to have
kind of a hard time finding much bigger, believe it or not! Can you describe to
me how your hand hurts? The reason I think it’s the way you’re writing is
because most people (before they switch to fountain pens) are used to having to
‘bear down’ with poor performing ballpoint pens, using the wrist as the pivot
point instead of the elbow. Ideally, you want to sit at a desk where your elbow
is about at a 90 degree angle, and your wrist should stay locked in place, and
your shoulder and elbow should move and pivot to move the pen, not your wrist.
Using the wrist to pivot will cause fatigue particularly for the tendons in the
back of your hand. The overall idea when writing with a pen is that your hand
should be relaxed, as a fountain pen is fluid and should write well without a
lot of pressure (like what’s usually required with a ballpoint pen). If your
hand is tense when you write, then it’s going to hurt no matter what type of
pen you use!

So I’m not trying to discourage you at all from exploring
other pens, but I would hate to see you spend up to $100 on another pen only to
see you have the same hand pain when you write!

for taking the time to read my emails! I’d love to hear what you think
in the comments. I’ll be compiling this coming week’s emails into next
week’s Mailbox Monday post!