The sidebar of this site says that Word Miner is “a place to discuss all aspects of writing and saying, from pronouns to pens.” The pronouns have come up before, but some pen-talk is past due.

I think everyone has pen preferences. One blogger I read likes space pens. A friend told me not to long ago that his criteria for a good pen are “fine and smooth.” Actually, those are my own criteria, as well as many other people’s. There are some exceptions. I’ve seen pen enthusiasts online who can’t stand “anemic” pens; they want the big, bold, inky kind.

My quest for the perfect pen started about a year ago. My dad came back from a pastor’s conference with a complementary gift - a Conklin Glider fountain pen. He figured that he wouldn’t use it much, and gave it to me. I was enthralled. After spending some days, however, cleaning, filling, shaking, and sometimes cursing at the pen, I put it away. I still use it every few days for fun, but serious business like class notes and journaling required a pen that wasn’t so time-consuming.

The problem was, the fountain pen had me hooked. Nothing can yield a smooth, fine, silky stream of ink like a fountain pen. I had roamed about the web, exploring nubs (tips) and inks and frequenting the fountain pen communities; there was no way I was going to give up that pen’s versatility and flair. But, reluctant to waste my time on maintenance, I began my search for an alternative. After innumerable experiments with everything from sharpies to dip-pens, I settled on a few favorites.

Generally speaking, there are three kinds of pens: ballpoint, rollerball, and gel.

  • Ballpoint pens are common. My favorite ones are very fine and smooth, with line-widths responsive to pressure. These include the fine ball point Office Max Tul (although the physical casing is bad), and the Zebra F-301.
  • Rollerball pens use liquid ink; the best I’ve found is the Pilot VBall Grip extra fine.
  • Gel pens are in between ballpoint and rollerball. The most common kind is the Pilot G2, which I hate (it skips too much). The one gel pen that I love and use all the time is the Uniball Signo RT Gel, 0.38 mm. It’s extremely fine and opaque, and dries fast so it doesn’t smudge. With the right paper, it’s perfect.

All the pens listed above are reasonably priced (less than $2 each), fast-drying, smooth, fine, and permanent. Permanence is important: after writing with my fountain pen, I found that a bit of moisture and an accidental rub would ruin the text.

During my search I discovered Molskinerie, a website where the biggest pen fanatics hang out. One of my favorite articles there has to do with archival quality ink. Another good home of pen discussions is Journalismo, which unfortunately is rather stagnant of late.

6 Responses to “Pens”

  1. adrialien says:

    I wandered over here from FCN and have really enjoyed everything I’ve read. I look forward to reading future posts!

  2. Matthew says:

    FCN is great, isn’t it? Thanks for stopping by.

  3. velomom says:

    Wordminer is a wonderful blog! (As are all of your other sites.) I have enjoyed reading around.

  4. Matthew says:

    Thanks Velomom!

  5. Dakota says:

    Smart and amusing as usual Matthew.

    I too am quite the pen snob, but this is bridled by my extreme thriftiness and practically. While I enjoy using a good solid pen, I find that necessity brings me to using whatever I can find handy. I do try to avoid some types of common ballpoints because their ink and tips make my class notes look like a crazy jungle, but even then I find myself desperate and forced to use one. But such is life…everytime I get my hands on a nice pen I lose it within a week it seems and have to start all over!

  6. Matthew says:

    Lost pens are a plague. As the philosopher hath said, “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” I take solace in the thought that lofty ideals atone for mortal shortcomings, and I am confident that all the $2 pens I have misplaced have found rest in a home beyond this world of vagaries and vicissitudes.

    Thanks for your comment, which was, to quote another philosopher, “smart and amusing as usual.”

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