Why fountain pens?

The easiest answer is, “Well, I like them.”

And that’s really it. At the end of the day, it’s all about what gets you writing.

As a writer, I’ve come across “Writers Hate This!!!!! Become a BESTSELLER in just 30 days!” time and time again. But there’s no guarantee that 1) it’s not a scam 2) it actually works.

Why? Because every writer is different. Every method is different. Are there some techniques that might make you write better? Sure. But they’re not necessary. I have an MFA in Creative Writing. It helped me be a better writer, but people could become better writers without the degree.

(And if you look at certain awards like the Hugo and the Nebula, MFAs are the minority)

So it goes with fountain pens.

Up above you see a smattering of pens I really like. From left to right: Pilot Metropolitan (fountain pen) and my non-fountain pen go-tos: the Pilot Precise V7, Uni-ball Vision Elite, Pilot G-2, Pentel Energel Needle Point, Papermate Inkjoy, and the Grademaster5000–a red Pilot G-2.

Every single one of those pens writes well and serves the function of applying ink to paper. So if plain function is all you’d like, go with any of those.

But if you want to add a little variety, here are a few reasons why you should use a fountain pen.

1. It feels nice

As much as I loved writing with my Pilot G-2s or my Papermate, I had the bad habit of sometimes gripping too hard on the pen. Now, a lot of that could have been trained away when I was a young child but it somehow never took.

That’s not a problem with fountain pens. My Pilot Metropolitan (pictured above) is heavier than the pilot but I don’t feel my hand cramped after long writing sessions. Even as a lefty, it sometimes feels like the pen is singing as I jot down notes on whatever might be coming to mind at that moment. For those people with much nicer handwriting than mine (in other words, anyone with fine motor skills beyond those of an angry chicken) having a fountain pen would be a real treat.

They’re very comfortable and like a pair of shoes, all it takes is a little bit of research. You might even find that you’ll hit on your ideal pen from the very beginning. To me, it’s going to depend. I think if I were to pick for me it’d be a solid tie between the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy AL-Star. The AL-Star is pricier but it’s got a very comfortable weight on it and a better color selection. The Pilot Metropolitan has less ink capacity but like the AL-Star it has a very comfortable weight to it.

2. It‘s environmentally friendly (and might spare your clothing if you’re the type to not pay attention)

So, by volume, regular pens are cheaper. A pack of 4 Pilot Precise pens, for instance, runs you as much as the cheapest entry-level fountain pen (a $10 Pilot Kakuno). A pack of Pilot G-2s or Pentel Energels goes for anywhere betweem $3-$5.

Because they’re as disposable as all the ballpoints I used to collect. They get lost easy, and they’re just plastic you’re adding to the environment because let’s be honest, no one actually buys refills for the Pilot G-2s. So soon that pack you got for $5 turns into $20 and now you’ve spent more money than you would have on a nice Pilot Metropolitan that you won’t be so inclined to throw away.

And there’s something so…forgettable about those plastic pens, and that leads to problems if you happen to be the type of person to pocket their pens. As in, one day you’re just forgetting to check your pockets and the next thing to know you’re asked if you’re into Star Trek given how many red shirts you find yourself owning.

You won’t be so inclined to pocket a fountain pen, and if you do, you’re clipping it securely and taking it out before you throw your clothes into the hamper or The Chair.

3. The Ink selection is out of this world.

From the pens mentioned above, the Pilot G-2 has the most diverse color selection.

Let’s just eyeball the individual colors and say there’s 20 in total of all kinds. 20 doesn’t even come close to the shades available for fountain pen ink. The Pilot Precise comes in black, blue, and red. The inkjoy in about 18 varieties.

JetPens has 39 different shades of –purple-and that’s not all the purple inks out there. For example, I have the Diamine Scribble, a really dark purple you can only tell is purple if you swipe your finger right across it before it dries. Or the DeAtramentis Alexander Hamilton, a vibrant, Advent-colored purple.

I’ll go into detail in further posts about why the hell having such an extensive ink variety helps, but right now let’s leave it at that. It’s nice to have variety, and it’s nice to be able to have anything from SUPER SRS black or blue inks to SPARKLY GOOD UNICORN POOP sheening pink inks.

4. It just looks cool

My collection of Lamy AL-Star! Marco www.stilografica.it | Fountain pen  ink, Lamy fountain pen, Fountain pen

Why WOULDN’T you like something that looks cool when you write? The AL Star pictured above is amazing. Or take a look at the TWSBIs below.

Workhorse Pens: The Case for the TWSBI 580 and the TWSBI 580AL/ALR — The  Gentleman Stationer

You have such a wide array of different pen bodies and types and nibs to choose from.

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The above is my collection (that’ll be downsized by 5-6 pens soon) Each pen has its own personality. I like to sign official documents with my black Pilot Metropolitan M. I like carrying my orange TWSBI around because I have inked it with a blue ink and it’s the colors of my alma mater. My yellow Safari is inked with a ‘stain your soul’ blue ink that’s very loud and vibrant. My two red pens are my go-to graders (Waterman Graduate inked with Monteverde Ruby and the red Lamy Safari with Diamine Oxblood). My Moonman (furthest from right) is inked with a green with gold sheen after Robert Frost’s Nothing Gold Can Stay (Nature’s first green is gold…) a poem I teach every year in class.

And really, it’s kinda fancy. You’re signing something and then out comes that steel (or gold, or palladium) nib, you hear an audible bling somewhere and it makes signing even an attendance sheet a fancier experience.


So, I’ve settled on the publication schedule for this blog and hopefully, the [redacted adjoining project] as well:

Magister Mondays

I will talk about writing in general, the craft, genres, and just stuff that could be useful for would-be writers.

wINKsday

Will be my ink review day. All reviews will be objective and predominantly positive because I know that just because I don’t like an ink doesn’t mean someone else won’t.

FP Fridays

Fountain pen and stationery discussion. Next Friday: A discussion on the best starter pens or one on my everyday carry (EDC)

Welcome to the Obsidian Palms

It’s been years since I’ve had anything close to a blog but I’ve got stuff to say and I need somewhere to say it.

Okay, that’s a little dramatic. I really just needed another outlet to geek out about some of my favorite things: Fountain pens and writing. And puns!

If you’re coming in from the Facebook group, you already know what to expect, only now I’ll get to elaborate more on some things.

If you’re new here, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Hugo Esteban Rodríguez Castañeda (always make sure there’s an accent on the i) and I’m a writer and educator hailing from Mexico and the Rio Grande Valley. I received my undergaduate degrees from the University of Texas at Brownsville/Texas Southmost College and my master’s of fine arts from the University of Texas at El Paso. Since 2015, I’ve published one book and have 20 poems, stories, and essays strewn around the internet in places like The Airgonaut, The Acentos Review, Picaroon Poetry, Neon Mariposa, Mathematician Transmission and the Texas Poetry Calendar. When I’m not working or writing I’m listening to my Audible collection, going on walks with my dogs, painting, owr writing letters.

I also really like stationery.

About two years ago, which really feels like five years ago, thankyouverymuch, Covid, I figured that I needed a hobby. I was 31 and I felt I needed something “Grown up” to spend money on. I immediately ruled out a car collection because, I’ve never been one for cars. To me, the car gets you from point A to point B and that’s it. People ask me stuff about models and engines and I’m like “yeah my car’s the black one over there”.

I didn’t have enough time to start building a game collection and I had heard horror stories about the hundred-plus games backlog some of my friends had on Steam.

I loved the Black Library books, but wargaming had a very steep admission price.

So I thought — alright, I’m a writer. What are some things that could be connected to the writing aesthetic?

Coffee? Sounds great but I didn’t have the palate. Three years in a call center and you find yourself being able to appreciate coffee that tastes like diesel fuel.

Alcohol? I needed to have the proper dry bar set up at the house but we didn’t have that many people over to warrant creating something like that. I did want something pretentious but I didn’t feel like I had quite the palate for it.

So I went back to square one. What is something I’ve always liked?

Stationery.

Specifically, notebooks and pens.

Never pencils or mechanical pencils…that’s been a texture thing for me. I associate mechanical pencils with fragility and pencils with that red welt on my middle finger that popped up after every scantron in high school.

But pens? I’ve loved them. My mom practiced medicine in a small office in front of my grandpa’s house when I was young. So naturally, we’d have a LOT of pens that had the names of pharmaceutical companies boldly displayed on their side–usually a monogrammed Bic Cristal.

And paper, SO MANY NOTEPADS.

So I filled the first half of so many notebooks with scribbles and ideas and drawings and I just loved the way pens felt on paper.

And then I had my own notebooks, for school, for journaling. And even as I got older I’d still compulsively buy and get gifted notebooks that I’d use sparingly or sometimes just stash and keep around. My current journal, for instance, is a gift from two years ago.

So I found myself browsing reddit one day, thinking about maybe exploring this stationery option. I discovered Bullet Journaling, which for the ADHD mind is a godsend, but I needed notebooks to start with.

I thought I knew notebooks. I thought. It was in Reddit that I saw really how much I didn’t know. Everyone kept talking about gsm/s and whether or not something was FP friendly.

It intrigued me curiosity. Some google rabbitholes later and I found myself exploring tons of fountain pen videos.

It looked so cool and so after a week of vacillating, I went ahead and got myself my first fountain pen (pictured above) and I haven’t looked back.

It’s weird but….I feel like this completes my writer’s aesthetic.

And so I thought I’d start with an ink that just came here today: Diamine Writer’s Blood, a collaboration between Reddit and the good people over at Diamine.

So here are a few ink swatches I’ve made with this ink.

I’d love to apologize about the messiness but it’s my first time doing a full-blown panel like this. Mountain of Ink has some fascinating swabs (and they’re my go-to for swatches)

I’m partial to darker inks and this fits the bill quite nicely. I was journaling with it earlier and it’s a little bit of a wet writer on my Diplomat Magnum F but not to the degree some my other inks are. Here’s how it looks like compared to my other red inks.

And here’s how it’ll perform on different types of paper.

From left to right: Mead notebook paper – Office Depot version, copy paper, Rhodia, Clairefontaine Triomphe, Leuchturm1917 and Tomoe River.

The ‘tests’ I ran the ink through featured different types of paper, a quick scribble with a glass dip pen, a drying test (the 5, 10, 15, 20 marks), and a water test to determine how it’ll handle with water on it. Now if I flipped them on their back…

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The Clairefontaine took the most punishment and remained unchanged on the other side because it’s better paper, but the ink didn’t perform too bad on the regular old notebook paper either,

I think looks best on the Leuchtturm but I’m partial to slightly off-white notebooks. I don’t conduct tests on Moleskine because honestly Moleskine is wrapping paper with an incredible marketing arm. It’s not fountain pen friendly and it’ll ghost like crazy so if you take notes on one side of the paper and you’re trying to have something super legible on the other side you’re out of luck.

I do recommend the ink. I purchased mine from Goulet Pens.

A proper blog schedule will follow in my next update.