In these days of texts and emails, traditional handwriting seems to be making a bit of a comeback and fountain pens are becoming more and more popular. Writing with a fountain pen is completely different to writing with a ballpoint pen and sometimes it can be difficult for people used to writing with a ballpoint to get to grips with a fountain pen. Ballpoint (and rollerball) pens write very easily from almost any angle and position, but, a fountain pen needs to be held against the paper at a very specific angle. Once this angle has been found, the ink will flow more easily and evenly and the pen will feel more balanced in your hand. Writing should be almost effortless, natural and enjoyable. How you use your pen is ultimately up to you and what style actually works for you, however, I hope you’ll find these hints & tips useful. Holding the pen Some of the fountain pens I make are “non-posted”. This means that the cap is kept separate from the barrel of the pen whilst in use. Others can be used either “posted” or “non-posted”. However you use this second type is completely up to you. Some people prefer to use them posted, but, it is down to personal preference (and, also, the size of your hands too!). To get the best control over the pen, hold it between your thumb and index finger with the pen resting against the bottom knuckle on your middle finger. Your little finger should be resting gently against the paper. To help the ink flow easily, the pen should be at an angle of around about 45 degrees to the paper. Each nib has a “sweet spot”. This is the area of the nib that touches the paper and leaves a trail of ink. It is different for every nib. When the pen is held against the paper in the “sweet spot”, the tines of the nib separate slightly allowing ink to flow easily. Without finding the “sweet spot”, the nib will feel scratchy, uncomfortable and the ink will not flow consistently. Before rushing out to buy a new nib, it’s worth experimenting with different angles, rotating the pen slightly and using different pressure to find the “sweet spot”. Writing style Some people write by keeping their hands fairly still and control the pen by bending & flexing their fingers. This makes it very difficult to keep the pen in its “sweet spot”. A technique that will keep the pen it’s “sweet spot” is to control the pen using only your lower arm. This takes some practice! Hold the pen in your fingers and let it rest against the paper – don’t press too hard! Keep your fingers and wrist steady and move the pen by moving your lower arm. This keeps the pen at a consistent angle to the paper, enabling you to keep the nib in it’s “sweet spot”. With ballpoint pens, you need to push down constantly to keep the ink flowing. Fountain pens in the “sweet spot” only need to be held against the paper with their own weight. Pushing against the page can actually ruin the alignment of the nib and cause premature wear. Nibs The standard nibs on all of my fountain pens are all good quality medium/firm nibs. They are tipped with iridium, which is similar to platinum. These nibs are more than adequate for normal, general purpose use. Initially, any brand-new nib may feel a little scratchy, even in the “sweet spot”. However, over time the tip of the nib will wear and adjust to your individual style. It will soon become smooth and comfortable to use. This is why traditionalists recommended that fountain pens are never loaned or used by others! Some people may prefer a different nib to suit their individual style, perhaps to write in italics, maybe. The choice of nibs is vast and the price varies considerably. It is completely down to your personal preference and writing style. Personally, I would not recommend the use of traditional calligraphy nibs in any of my pens. These nibs use a lot of ink and, as such, the ink feed in my pens may not be able to keep up with the ink demand (and the cartridges will run out quickly!). However, I have heard of people who have used these successfully.