Friday, February 6, 2015

Fountain Pens and the #RhodiaPaperProject: A Perfect Match

Two weeks ago, January 23, was the 278th anniversary of John Hancock's birth. In honor of his status as the first signatory -- and his bold signature -- on the Declaration of Independence, the Writing Instrument Manufacturers Association (WIMA) designated the the date as National Handwriting Day, providing "a chance for all of us to re-explore the purity and power of handwriting."

How fitting, then, that on that very day, these three fountain pens, sent by my longtime friend, Barbara, for me to try out, arrived in my mailbox.

Best of all, was Barbara's three-page, handwritten (with a fountain pen, of course!) letter on Clairefontaine paper, in which she described the pens:

  • The Japanese pen by Sailor [the green one in the photo above] has one cartridge of ink already inside, with an extra one in as well.  Sailor pens take special cartridges -- not terribly hard to find but takes a bit of effort. The Sailor is a specialized fountain pen.  And yes, the nib is supposed to look like that.  It's designed so that you can get lots of different line variation, and it is really intended for calligraphy.  I don't think it will be a pen that you are especially drawn to use, but it can be fun.
  • The second pen [the silver one in the photo above] is the Lamy -- I think this is a Safari, not the AL. This pen and the last one both have converters for bottled ink.  If I can find some small containers for ink, I will include it (though shopping for ink is fun and much less expensive than pens). As you probably know, the Lamy is a German pen. One of the advantages of this model is that there are many exchangeable nibs. The nib on the pen is a bit unusual because it's black. It looks to me like a medium nib. The Safari also comes in many colors so if you like the feel of it and the way it writes, it is pretty easy to customize. I have a teal blue Safari with a very wide nib (really designed for calligraphy). That nib is a bit too wide, and I think I tend to like pens that are a bit heavier.
  • The third pen [the middle one in the photo above] is by Faber-Castell. Even before you start writing, I suspect that you know that this is the best pen of the lot. I don't see any markings on the nib that it is 14k, but it might be. It is a broad nib and writes very nicely in my opinion -- I tend to like somewhat wet, thick lines, and this pen delivers. Its body is made of wood, which is somewhat unusual.

Along with the pens, she sent four small bottles of ink -- "ink drop" samples from
  • Pelikan Edelstain in Mandarin
  • Noodler's Sequoia Green
  • Sheaffer's Red
  • Private Reserve's Shoreline Gold

Postmarked the same day that the pens arrived, were the three paper samples from Week 12 of the #RhodiaPaperProject, which showed up just a day or two later:  
  • Exacompta FAF Pad (60g)
  • Clairefontaine GraF it (90g)
  • Clairefontaine Triomphe (90g)

Thanks to a YouTube video, I was able to fill the Lamy Safari with Noodler's Sequoia Green ink, having chosen the penfor its lightweight feel as compared to the much heavier (and, in fact, too heavy for me) Faber-Castell.

Not surprisingly, neither of Barbara's fountain pens (not even the thick, wet ink of the Sailor pen) nor my assortment of disposable fountain pens bled through any of the paper samples. Although perfectly adequate, my least favorite paper among them was the Excompta FAF, which lacked both weightiness and tooth.  The Triomphe, at 90g, ranked better in terms of its weight, but, like the Excompta, lacked tooth.  Its surface was just too smooth.

Hands down, my favorite among the three samples was the Clairefontaine GraF it, both for its 90g's of heft, but also for its tooth, which really seemed to draw the ink into the paper and hold it there in clean, bold (but not too bold) lines.

Stay tuned in the days ahead for photos of the "Growing (Sequoia) Green Doodle."