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:

For a budget under $180 I was wondering what you, Rachel, Drew, Alex, Sam, Ben. Randall, and Will think about for a smooth writer. 
I am wondering what pens are the smoothest for the budget.

That’s a pretty good budget, you have a lot of options there! I have a few favorites, the Pilot Custom 74 with a medium nib is one of my favorite daily writers, and one of the smoothest pens around is a medium nib Lamy 2000! Generally speaking the larger the nib the smoother it feels, but that’s not always the case. What nib size do you prefer?

Edison pens are also quite smooth and reliable, I’m a fan of those as well. The nibs on all of the Edison pens are the same, it’s just the body that’s different (with the exception of the Encore, but that is $5 above your budget!).

All of the Lamy pens with gold nibs are really pretty amazingly smooth…the Lamy 2000 is one I already mentioned, but there are other models like the Studio and Accent that has comes models with steel nibs and some with gold. The gold nibs are pretty awesome.

Pilot Vanishing Points are pretty darn smooth as well, and they’re incredibly popular. They’re just plain interesting pens.

These are some of my favorites, most everyone else around the shop uses steel nib Lamy’s or pens I’ve already mentioned here ;)

As I’m working my way through your videos the thought struck me that I should seek the sound advice of a subject matter expert. I was pleasantly surprised and really impressed with the amount of written correspondence that you undertake. So what would be your recommendation for a good quality correspondence paper? And what size? You know, something good enough to send to family and friends and not too expensive so that when I send letters to rant at our representatives I won’t feel the pain when they get round filed/shredded/recycled?

I’m happy to help! There are a few paper’s I love for correspondence. The size is really a preference thing, and it depends how long your letter plans to be. The two main sizes for correspondence are A5 (5.875″ x 8.25″) and A4 (8.25″ x 11.75″), with corresponding envelopes. For A5 paper, you’ll want the 4.5″ x 6.375″ size, for A4 (larger) paper, you’ll want the 4.33″ x 8.66″.

Rhodia Premium: off-white, smooth, great for fountain pens, and pretty economical. It’s just nice stuff! There are no matching envelopes for them though, so you’ll need to get one of the other types for that.

Clairefontaine Triomphe: Very bright write, super super smooth. Awesome paper, and pretty fairly priced too. They do have matching envelopes.

G. Lalo VergĂ© de France: this comes in several different colors and is what’s called ‘laid’ paper, meaning it has raised lines going across the page. It feels amazing in the hand…is not as smooth to write on as the other papers, but is class all the way. It has matching envelopes.

Original Crown Mill Classic Laid: nearly identical to the G. Lalo paper.

Original Crown Mill Pure Cotton: This paper is what it says, pure cotton, and it’s more absorbent than any of the other papers. If you like a lot of shading an color variation with your ink stay away from this, but boy does it feel nice. It’s good stuff, different than any of the other paper listed here.

That gives you some options!

I travel a lot for work and I write a lot as well. I would like to carry a fountain pen. But I am very concerned about leaks, or a plastic pen getting crunched in my briefcase. could you recommend a sturdy pen that minimizes the likelihood of a leak or breakage?

When it comes to a good travel pen, there are really only a couple I’d stay away from. Platinum Preppies, though great pens, can crack if crushed. You also probably don’t want anything too nice or expensive, because if you lose it, that would really stink. As far as leaks, there’s nothing that is an absolute guarantee against them, unfortunately. Fountain pens use liquid ink, and they’re more prone to leaking than ballpoint or rollerball pens. There is really one main thing that causes a fountain pen to leak (aside from just outright damage), and that’s changes in pressure. Two main things cause this that you’ll encounter as a traveler: 1) airplanes (changes in cabin pressure) and 2) rapid temperature changes (especially going from a hot car to a cool building). In general though, leaking isn’t a problem if you have any wherewithal about the way you’re treating your pens. What I would definitely stay away from is any eyedropper-fill pens…that’s pretty easy because there are very few eyedropper-only pens, most of them do accept cartridges and converters as well. Stay away from flex pens too, those are a little finicky and you don’t want to mess with those on the road!

So, all that said, your options for pens are fairly open, one of my favorites that I can easily recommend is the Sheaffer 100. It’s very solid and can take a ton of abuse (it’s metal), it writes reliably, and is affordable enough where you won’t cry if you lose it (it’s $38). Plus it’s pretty classy looking. Another rock-solid pen I can recommend is the Lamy Safari (or Lamy Vista, they’re identical pens except the Al-Star is aluminum instead of plastic). Both pens are reliable, pretty affordable, and durable.

I just saw your newsletter and you have the Kaweco products on closeouts. Are you not carrying them any longer?

We aren’t dropping Kaweco completely, just everything outside of medium nib pens. The Kaweco distributor only brings in medium nibs into the US, and we’ve been having to special order everything else from Germany with high minimum quantities. It’s been nothing short of a logistical nightmare, and it’s just not economical for us to continue doing it. That’s why we’re clearing them out.

Tell me: is Noodler’s Black a nib-stainer? My nib is getting a bit stained. It’s obviously difficult to clean because any contact with a tissue etc will just draw out more ink. But previous inks seemed like they’d clear away more easily. Noodler’s Black leaves the nib rather grubby. I’m not complaining because the ink is great and the purpose of the pen is to write, not to look clean. Just wondering if it’s the particular ink and if there’s anything I should be doing.

Black isn’t necessarily ‘staining’ your nib, it’s doing what’s called nib creep. It’s very common with a lot of inks, especially with Noodler’s Black specifically. If you look at this video at 6:29, I actually use a pen inked with Noodler’s Black in my video!

I’m looking at the Pilot Custom 74 on your site and my Pilot Prera and wondering if they have the same size/shape nib (as in the actual metal piece). It might sound odd, but I like the body of the Prera better than the 74 but am interested in upgrading the nib on the Prera somehow, and swapping it with a 74 seems like it might work. I see on the comparison chart that they two nibs are the same length but I assume that’s only protruding from the pen, don’t know how they look inside the feed.

Unfortunately, the nibs are different. The measurements of them protruding from the pen is a coincidence, they’re entirely different shapes and the feed system is different too. I’m sorry!

The clip on my Lamy CP1 is slightly loose and moves to the right and left. I’m also able to push it down (where the clip meets the cap) and it comes back up, as if a spring is under it. I just wanted to ask if this was normal, seeing as it’s new and I don’t want to break it (I’ve only had it for three days and I found out the clip was movable about ten minutes ago).

Yes, the CP1 clip is spring loaded and supposed to move like that, it’s not broken or anything! Additionally, if you were to grab a hold of the clip and wiggle it back and forth, it will shift a bit from left to right. Have no fear – it’s sturdy! As long as you don’t bend it too much, it should hold up well.

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!