Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Gear: Fountain Pen and Mechanical Pencil

fountain pen and mechanical pencil
I've written in here before about my "gear"— impractical little items that I pick up because they're cool. Because they add to the quality of my life. Call them "hyacinths for the soul." Impractical little items, or in this case not so impractical: I get a lot of use out of my fountain pen and mechanical pencil.

I used to use a fountain pen way back when, junior high and high school and on up into my early twenties. The fountain pens I got in those days were some dreadful things picked up for probably 59¢ in a dimestore. Still, they were a cut above your typical Bic ballpoint.

Then I drifted away from fountain pens until about eight or ten years ago, when I ran across this Rotring fountain pen in a Levenger catalogue. Black finish. Machined from a chunk of solid brass. Six-sided barrel, so it won't roll off your desk. Knurled grip. I got it with a medium nib— nib size, as you see, can be indicated with that twist-o-indicator at the top of the cap.

This pen is so sturdy that you could run over it with your car and it would have nary a scratch on it. (Though, as they say, "Don't try this at home.")

I also got a matching black-coated knurled solid brass mechanical pencil, which takes 0.7 millimeter leads. Push the button on top to advance the lead. Twist-o-indicator at the top, to indicate the hardness of the lead. It's another triumph of German engineering, and it looks like it, too.

Let's face it: ballpoints are cheap, ballpoints are convenient, but the aesthetic quality of something written with a ballpoint can't even begin to compare to the beauty of a page written with a fountain pen. Fountain-penned writing just plain looks better, it has character, and the ink flows onto the page like magic.

Ballpoint pens are serviceable: they represent the triumph of utility over quality. Fountain pens are serviceable and beautiful, and so is their writing— even if you've got electroencephalographic handwriting like mine.

Back in the old days, I'll admit, fountain pens could be messy to fill, and they could leak. Today's fountain pens are another story. I fill this fountain pen every three or four weeks, no problem; and I've never had any problem with it leaking. The only limitation is, it stays on my desk; but that's just because I don't want to deal with the inevitable scenario of "Hey, could you lend me your pen?", and then that's the last you ever see of it. (I can't begin to count the pens I've lost that way over the years.)

You can check out all sorts of fountain pens at Levenger or at Fahrney's Pens. Blows my mind to see how many hundreds or even thousands of dollars some of them fountain pens cost; I got mine cheap, and it'll last me a lifetime.



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