My 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 really wanted to get the new Pilot Metropolitan, but you’re completely out of them. What’s up with that?

I know, I’m really sorry about that! Trust me, we’re doing everything we can to get more, we have several outstanding orders for them and we’ll be restocked as soon as Pilot brings more of them into the US. I’m told that they just got a shipment in and should be sending them out soon, so hopefully we’ll see them in the next few days as they work to fulfill all their backorders. I think they just didn’t expect this pen to sell as fast as it did. We’ll make sure to stock up so we can have them in stock longer than a few hours :)

I have a bottle of noodlers polar green. I enjoy the ink bit I find it is often hard to start and bleeds through all paper! Is polar green a lubricated ink? I am using clairfontain 90 gram paper and a noodlers fountain pen, not the flex nib the old standard nib. I have also used it in a duke fountain pen, but it was really wet when it wrote. On another note I am looking for a quick drying noodlers ink that will not bleed too much. I use a Franklin planner for time management and need the combination of quick dry and limited bleed. Would the new Q’Ternity fit this bill? I do like the blue/black color.

I’m not surprised at all to hear how Polar Green is acting for you. It has a few good things going for it, and a few things against it….the things against it are exactly the things that are most important to you :P It is lubricated, and since it is, it writes wet. Not only that, but it’s a very permanent ink, and much like the other very permanent inks similar to it (Polar Blue, Luxury Blue, Bad Green Gator) there is a tendency for it to feather and bleed. About it being hard to start…part of that may be the pen. The standard Noodler’s pen isn’t particularly awesome about keeping the nib from drying out, and when it gets into the drier winter months, it can test even the best inks at startup. 

Looking for quick-drying inks that don’t bleed is tough…the properties that make each of these possible are in conflict with each other. The way that fountain pen inks dry quickly is by absorbing into the paper, but when they do that, it often causes at least some spread, feathering, or bleeding. To combat that, ink makers may formulate their inks to absorb slower, but in doing so, it extends the dry time! You see how there’s a push and pull thing going on here. It’s hard to come across an ink that is truly fast drying and bleed resistant, and two of the best ones I know are Noodler’s Black and Heart of Darkness. The Noodler’s Bernanke and Q’Ternity inks are amazingly fast drying, but are known to bleed, because of what I just described. It is a little tough to find the ideal ink with both these properties, because most ink makers don’t advertise their properties!

I wanted to first off thank you for all the great videos that you put on your website. Every one of them was VERY informative and your website is very well put together! I am surprised to see that you have not put any information up on your site though for lefthanders. I work in organ transplant in Houston, TX and my boss has recently got me into fountain pens. Being a lefty however, my initial thoughts were that I could never write with a fountain pen because the ink will just smear right across the page. I was surprised to hear that this is not the case. After doing a bunch of research on what pen is the best for lefties, I think I am going to start off with a Lamy Safari and an extra fine nib. I am not quite sure about the ink just yet but any suggestions/ input would be very helpful to me. I am even considering the Organics Studio brand because of your review on them. I figured if I have an extra fine nib with good ink, hopefully the paper I use will not have to play that big of a roll. Honestly though, I really do not have that much a choice when it comes to paper that I use at work.

I’m right-handed myself, so I don’t have any personal expertise on left-handed writing. You can definitely enjoy writing with a fountain pen as a lefty, though it does complicate matters a bit. From what I understand from talking to lefties, the hand position matters a great deal. In general though, it’s best to have an ink that dries fairly quickly, to help prevent smearing. Noodler’s and Private Reserve have some fast drying inks, but no other companies advertise that as an attribute for their inks. Some other inks I’ve heard are good for lefties are Pilot Iroshizuku, and Rohrer and Klingner Salix and Scabiosa. A Lamy Safari with an EF nib is a good choice, that’s what I hear a lot of lefties use. It’s fine enough to put less ink down on the page, but not so fine that it feels scratchy.

I’ve actually been considering putting together a Fountain Pen 101 video on left-handed fountain pen tips, I’ve been emailing with some folks who are left-handed to get a good idea what’s going on. I have some key points already: putting less ink on the page is good, try for faster drying inks, smaller nib sizes are better, more absorbent paper is better, holding position is critical (and may need some serious practice to adjust to prevent smearing). Most papers are pretty absorbent, so that will likely help you a lot when it comes to using a fountain pen, as the faster the ink absorbs into the paper, the less chance there is of smearing.

Hopefully this helps point you in the right direction, anyway. When it comes to fountain pens in general, there’s always a lot of trial and error and matters of personal preference involved in having the most enjoyable experience, and that’s probably even more the case with left-handers.

I recently received the J. Herbin 1670 Rouge Hematite ink and I noticed that the neck of the bottle was way too narrow to fill pens from it (sadly seeing that the bottle looks so good). Because of this, I transferred the ink to a different container because it had a bigger neck for filling. I remembered to shake the bottle thoroughly beforehand. But then after I transferred the ink, I realized that there was a good amount of the sediment that gives that sheen when writing that everyone talks about. I was really mad that I left that behind, because that is why I bought this ink! So I decided that I will just put the ink back into the bottle because I would rather have a slight trouble filling my pens then to have an easy time filling my pens with an ink that does not appeal to me (this ink without that sediment). So I transferred the ink back into the original bottle now. Now… I realize that it left behind a bunch of sediment again… Now I have the ink, without a lot of the sediment, in the original bottle, that has a really small, and annoying neck to it. What do I do? I tried filling my pen from here and I do not notice any color in the writing but just a red. I would be very disappointed with this ink if I had to pay that much money for this final product.

I’m sorry for your trouble, but I don’t want you to worry too much! The amount of sediment left behind in your bottle from transferring it is a nearly insignificant amount, it’s certainly not what’s making the difference in the way its appearing on your paper. This ink is one that looks really different on different types of paper. The absorbency is really what makes the difference. I’ve found that when you’re writing on absorbent paper, there is no sheen to the ink at all, it just appears red. But if you’re using an ink resistant paper like Rhodia or Clairefontaine, that sheen will blow up in your face!

Yeah, so I wouldn’t worry too much about transferring the ink into another bottle, do whatever is most practical for you for your bottle. 

What is the founder of Goulet Pens favorite ink?

My favorite ink? Can I only choose one? ;) If it was just one, then it would have to be Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium. I love blue, and I personally went through quite an ordeal to get this ink as it is, working with Nathan Tardif of Noodler’s to develop it. I personally have a lot invested in the development of the ink, and there is a lot of meaning behind the label. I have many other favorites though for different reasons. Noodler’s Apache Sunset is a great ink in a flex pen, as is Noodler’s Black Swan in Australian Roses. Diamine Marine is one of my favorite turquoises, and shades beautifully. Noodler’s 54th Massachussets is my favorite blue black, and Diamine Red Dragon is my favorite red. 

What nib do you recommend for the new Royal Red Lamy Studio? I’ve heard you mention that it is a smooth writing nib, is it really? I’m looking for something smooth and wet that would be good with Liberty’s Elysium or Baystate Blue. Which nib do you think is the smoothest? In the Nib Nook the 14K broad looks very broad, to me, too broad. I’ve got the steel Lamy nibs in EF, F, M, B, 1.1, 1.5 for the Vista and Al-Star. In just regular writing B looks too broad so I jumped between F and M. I now prefer the 1.1 and currently use the 1.5 nib. The steel EF seemed too scratchy. On a few other pens I have: Falcon – SF VAC 700 – M (to me writes like F) #3776 – M (also seems like F to me and after trying it I thought maybe the B would have been preferable.) I was hoping the 14 K nib would be smoother than the steel nibs I currently have. Most of my pens are M. I like wet writing pens and I would like something smoooth. I heard Stephen talk about how smooth the Faber-Castells are – The FP Geek guy said they were “buttery smooth”. That describes what I would like. How’s the inventory on this pen? Short supply?

Ah yes, that Studio does come with the delicious 14k nib. “Buttery smooth” would be a perfect description for how these nibs feel. Given your preferences, I think a fine nib on that pen would be right up your alley. It’s not so drastically wetter than a Lamy steel that it will give a noticeable different line variation, it just lays a bit more ink on the page. The 14k nib is a little ‘springy’, so if you’re writing with some pressure on it (like I do with my X’s and figure 8’s below), you can see more of the line variation. Here’s the fine and medium 14k vs steel:

Our supply of these is pretty good at the moment. We knew there would be a lot of demand for these pens and we stocked up. It is a limited edition pen though, so the supply is not infinite. Usually the way Lamy does their limited stuff is that they will have a set number in mind that they’ll make (I don’t know what number they chose or how they come up with it), and once they sell out, that’s it. Usually, limited edition pens take 6-10 months to sell out, but that’s with Safari’s and Al-Stars. I would assume the Studios are a little harder to make, and they wouldn’t make as big of a stockpile of these. I think they’ll be around for a little while, but availability might get a bit spotty after the initial shipment of them sells out. 

Thank you for taking the time to answer so many questions from the FP community. I really enjoy reading the Monday Mailbox posts! =D Usually I can find answers to my fountain pen related questions online. But I would like to ask for your opinion on this. I gave my boyfriend a Pilot Prera last year. He enjoyed using it, but the plastic body of the pen has cracked and a piece has fallen off. I would like to surprise him by getting him a new pen. This time around I would like to pick a fountain pen made of a more durable material, since he tends to keep pens in his pants pockets or sometimes just tosses it in his bookbag. I know people’s tastes vary a great deal, but can you recommend some daily use pens that would be suited towards a little rougher treatment? I believe the Lamy Al-Star is made of aluminum, hence the name, but I would like something a little more classy looking. I was thinking of the Lamy Studio. Is the body of the pen made out of metal? I’m worried that anything other than metal will eventually end up breaking. I like the TWSBI and they seem durable, but I’m not sure how he’d like a demonstrator (I’m afraid to ask, in case it ruins the surprise). Somewhere between $75 – $150 would be my price range. If the pen comes in blue, that’s a big plus but not a definite requirement.

The Prera is a great pen, but if your boyfriend is tossing it around like that, it’s not super surprising that it has cracked (I hope that doesn’t come across wrong…I’m sure he’s a great guy!). If he’s going to treat his pen as you describe, then you’re right to get a more durable pen. I don’t know that the TWSBI will be the way to go…it’s made out of the same type of plastic that the Prera is made of, and would likely damage over time if being carried around in a pocket or tossed in backpacks. It is a good pen though, and it even comes in a blue demonstrator. A little more durable TWSBI is the VAC-700, and it’s also available in blue. That’s a newer pen with reinforced parts to help resist cracking, but it’s still not going to be quite as durable as a metal one. 

Going with a metal pen will be a bit of a safer route, since those do typically stand up to more abuse. The Al-Star is made of aluminum, and can take some abuse (though the finish on it will scratch). If he likes blue, then the Ocean Blue might be a good choice! The Studio is made of metal as well, though I’m not sure what kind…it’s noticeably heavier than the Al-Star. We have a blue one of those, too (though it’s out of stock at the moment). Another one you could consider is the Sheaffer 100, it’s metal, sturdy, and can take some abuse. Here’s a blue Sheaffer 100. Another one that have become a recent favorite of mine is the Pilot Metropolitan. It’s only a $15 pen, but performs wonderfully for that price, better than any other value pen I’ve used. I would give that one a serious look….he could abuse it all day long and if he breaks it, no biggie, it’s only $15 to replace. We’re out of those at the moment too, but should be getting a bunch more in soon (hopefully today, but I’m not sure about that).

Thanks 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!