I must confess: my late introduction to fountain pens, and my subsequent mania, is all the fault of the estimable sockpuppet
. When we were in college, I noticed that he always carried with him a sturdy, elegant yet simple fountain pen - with the result that not only was he never without a pen, but he never lost any
argument that involved diagramming
on napkins. Believe you me, he can make anything in the world involve diagramming on napkins
At the time, I was a typical college student (read: broke) and hence was unable to afford a nice fountain pen of my very own. The next time I was home, however, I made a wonderful (re)discovery - I had been given, for my barmitzvah, a nice Sheaffer Executive fountain pen! I had, at the time, naturally made polite noises and shoved the box in a drawer, more concerned with the Apple II+ I had also gotten. Going through my desk (and my dresser, and my closet, and my bedside table, and my bookshelf, and my parents' dresser, and my father's desk - AHA!) revealed an unmarred Sheaffer box, with a sticky note on it. The note read: WHEN YOU FIND THIS, IT WILL BE BECAUSE YOU ARE READY.
I should mention that my father is a writer. To this day, he writes with an IBM Selectric, and edits with pen.
Opening the box revealed the pen, in its matte black and gold glory. I took it back to my room and spent perhaps two or three hours writing with it, until my hand was sore, trying to learn the proper position and stance. At the end of the vacation, I proudly wore it back to school, clipped to the neck of my T-shirt (yes, sockpuppet was talking about me, up there).
Over the next couple of years, that pen never left my person. I had a terrible scare one day when I did, in fact, sit down in my common room and pull the pen from my shirt - only to find myself holding the nib and reservoir - the barrel had abandoned ship some time before. Fortunately, it had been within the building, and I found it. After that, I started keeping it in my blue jeans change pocket - which to my dismay caused the barrel to split where it joined the pen body due to torsion on the pen whenever I sat down.
At that point, however, I learned one of the wonderful things about many good fountain pens, especially Sheaffers. They are guaranteed for life - with some escape clauses, but usually, as long as the nib isn't damaged due to carelessness, you're OK. I dug the box back out, shipped the pen to Iowa, and waited.
Five weeks later, the box returned. Inside was my pen, looking almost brand-new. They had brazed the barrel split, re-enameled the barrel, cleaned every piece of it, and shined the brass trim. The only way I could tell it was my pen was the pattern of shinier enamel spots where my fingers rested, and the fact that when I drew it across the first bit of paper, the nib whispered across it without a sound, knowing as it did the position and pressure of my hand.
That was the beginning. I had the (mis)fortune to end up working a job, later in life, next door to a fine pen shop. As of this moment, I think I have eight fountain pens. They are all in the $30-$90 range. I have my favorites - that Sheaffer is never far from me, but it has a fairly broad nib, and is more useful for quick doodles and signatures than technical writing or correspondance. I have a Rotring 600 which I keep loaded with red ink, for diagramming and editing. A brace of nice, slender Watermans that I keep on me for longer writing tasks, with (as a prior noder noted) their flexy nibs that allow a wider variation of pressure and hence line width. A Parker, just because I wanted a metallic pen, which turned out quite nice. Two older pens, a Parker 61 and a Pilot, and a newer Sheaffer Prelude to round out the collection.
Yes, I have more pens than I can use in a day or two. On the other hand, I don't own a watch, so maybe it evens out. I don't own (and never have) a Mont Blanc; one day I'll have the scratch to buy myself the 'standard' Meisterstück. If I get extremely lucky, I'll be able to nab the 2003 Writer's Edition pen - the Jules Verne. It's a blue enamel and steel pen, with Verne's signature, Captain Nemo's insignia, and a diving helmet engraved on the nib. Best of all, it's heavy and writes with a consummate smoothness even though the nib hadn't been adapted to me. I barely made it out of the Mont Blanc boutique without one. At least my credit cards survived, at least until the Apple Store next door.
The fountain pen, if you'll permit me some perhaps elitist enthusiasm, is (for me) a constant reminder of the power of information, and the fact that people create information, at the base of it all. There is no text or idea I can produce with my Macintosh that I cannot also produce with my pen; while it might take longer, and be less legible, it will also nevertheless retain a sense of me - whereas the computer product will be impersonal. Communication from me is recognizable through the pen, if you know me. My only lack, to date, has been a suitable notebook to keep with me - but after reading cbustabeck's writeup et al on the moleskine, I know where my next $15 is going.