The 10 Best Fountain Pens
This wiki has been updated 26 times since it was first published in September of 2015. Despite rumors to the contrary, handwriting is not dead just yet. For those who still practice the art, one of these fountain pens will make any words look elegant, whether they're jotted on shopping lists or in a romantic letter to your loved one. We've included models in various designs to meet any budget, some of which would make excellent gifts for the discerning executive or student. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
December 15, 2020:
Even if this list had 50 items, it would probably still be tough to highlight all of the fountain pens that enthusiasts love, so we've focused on adding the most popular, versatile, and elegant choices. We've also kept those at a range of price points; fountain pens can be expensive, but there are plenty of budget-friendly options that allow everyone to experience the joy of writing with one.
For those who would prefer an option with executive styling and a top-notch construction, we have kept the eye-catching Cross Townsend Medalist Chrome, the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Classique, and the Cross Beverly. The Beverly is a surprisingly good value, and we're happy to see that it's offered in plenty of colors at this time, including business-friendly black and cheery purple. The Lamy Safari Fine Point remains, as well. It's a solid writing instrument that's perfect for beginners who are looking to make the switch from ballpoint or gel pens.
As for options that are on the more fun side, we opted to remove the GC Writing Quill over concerns about the ink bottle leaking. Instead, we selected the Platinum Preppy pack of seven, which offers you a range of colors, including violet, pink, and green. We also added the Pilot MR Retro Pop Collection instead of the Pilot Metropolitan Collection. The Retro choices feature beloved geometric designs, such as houndstooth, and conveniently come with your choice of a fine or medium nib.
Finally, we opted to add one piston-filler model, the Twsbi Eco. It is see-through, a helpful feature when it comes time to refill it. The stub nib is a nice touch for those who are seeking a comfortable way to create line variation.
December 19, 2019:
When you factor in the cost, overall quality, and attractive (but not garish) design, it still remains hard to top the Pilot Metropolitan Collection. It is offered in three colors, and it has a fine nib that most find enjoyable to use. The perennially popular Lamy Safari Fine Point is a good option, as well, especially as it is durable and comes with one blue cartridge. If you're in the market for something a little fancier, the Cross Townsend Medalist Chrome might fit the bill; it has styling that evokes Art Deco design principles as well as 23 karat gold touches. There's also the Mont Blanc Meisterstuck Classique, a pricey choice that you'll definitely want to avoid losing. Finally, we have opted to keep the GC Feather Writing Quill after some consideration. It's a quill pen, as its name suggests, and although it offers a lot of bang for your buck, it is not exactly robust, so you'll want to treat it gently.
Waterman Exception For something a little different, check out the Waterman Exception, which is square rather than round. It tapers into a rounded front grip, however, so it is just as comfortable and usable as it is unique and attractive. There are several colors to choose from, including those accented with gold or silver. waterman.com
Tiffany & Co. Ampersand The sterling silver Tiffany & Co. Ampersand would make a luxurious gift for those discerning individuals who seem to have everything, or it might be a stylish way to jazz up your own day-to-day work. Each measures 5.5 inches long and is sure to turn heads. tiffany.com
Mont Blanc Writers Edition Homage to Victor Hugo If you're looking for a fountain pen because you have serious literature to compose, you can get into the right mindset with the Mont Blanc Writers Edition Homage to Victor Hugo. Of course, you'll have to hope that your book sells well, as the price is quite steep. montblanc.com
A Brief History Of Writing Instruments
Later civilizations used a different technique to record their thoughts.
The very first pen was probably an animal tail dipped in blood and dragged across cave walls. This was a great way to commemorate slaying that woolly mammoth, but pretty inefficient if you were looking to pen Don Quixote.
Later civilizations used a different technique to record their thoughts. Rather than applying ink or other substances onto a surface, they used hollowed-out reeds or other implements to write into the surface. This included carving letters into baked clay, scratching characters into turtle shells, and digging into wax.
These methods had their problems, of course. The surfaces were large and unwieldy (which is why Moses always looked like he was struggling to carry the Ten Commandments). Furthermore, it was extremely difficult to erase or make corrections, short of starting all over, and most of the surfaces were brittle and wouldn't stand the test of time. Plus, writing on the go was just about impossible — you try making a grocery list on a stone tablet.
When papyrus was invented, a better way to write came along as well - the reed pen. Made from a sharpened reed, these pens could be dipped in ink and then scratched along the papyrus. These instruments were great for making bold flourishes with your writing, but they lost their point very quickly (much like Don Quixote, in my opinion).
As a result, they were replaced by quills around the 2nd century B.C. Made from the feathers of large birds, quills were hollowed out and filled with ink, and were great for drawing, as well as writing. They were a writer's tool of choice for over 15 centuries, and their design was very similar to modern pens.
It's not clear when the first fountain pen was made; attempts exist as far back as 963 C.E., but the first patent was issued in France in 1827. These pens benefited from early mass production techniques, and quickly became ubiquitous. They did tend to leak horrifically, however.
The first self-filling fountain pens came along in the early 20th century, but after ballpoint pens became the norm in the 1950s, fountain pens stopped being common and started becoming a fashion statement. There's a reason why most important contracts and legislation are signed with a fountain pen: no one wants to see a peace treaty signed using a Bic with a chewed-up cap.
Tips For Using Your New Fountain Pen
Fountain pens are great, but if you've never used one before, there is a bit of a learning curve. You'll likely have to change the way you write a bit, but once you see how elegant your words look on paper, there'll be no turning back.
You don't need to hold it upright like a ballpoint; instead, around a 45° angle is usually the best way to keep the ink flowing.
First, let's have a quick rundown of the anatomy of a fountain pen. There's the nib, which is the pointy end (usually gold or steel) where the ink comes out. Above that is the feed, which is the black piece of plastic above the nib where the ink is fed down to the end of the pen. The feed also controls the amount of air going back in, which is important for a steady flow.
Inside the pen is the reservoir, where all your ink is stored. There are several different types of reservoirs, including cartridges, pistons, and converters. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, with the cartridge being the simplest and therefore likely the best for beginners.
When writing, it's usually best to put the cap on the other end of the pen for balance. You don't need to hold it upright like a ballpoint; instead, around a 45° angle is usually the best way to keep the ink flowing. Also, move your arm to write instead of relying on your hand and wrist. This may take some getting used to, but it will allow you to write for longer periods of time without getting tired. This is especially great if you prefer writing out angry Yelp reviews in longhand and mailing them in.
Keep the cap on when you're not using it so the ink won't dry out, and be sure to flush it every few weeks or so to ensure there are no clogs. However, the most important thing to do with your fountain pen is pull it out dramatically every time you use it so that everyone sees how sophisticated you are and feels ashamed of their crude ballpoints.
Benefits Of Using A Fountain Pen
You may ask yourself, "Why should I use a fountain pen, when ballpoints are cheaper and easier to find?" That's a good question, and we're not necessarily advocating doing away with plastic Papermates just yet. They do have their uses, especially for businesses where customers are always stealing the company's pens (it's the only reason I ever go to the post office anymore).
However, there are certain advantages to the fountain pen that the ballpoint can't match. The first involves waste and environmental impact. Once your ballpoint pen has run out of ink, it is done. It goes straight in the trash, and probably ends up in a landfill somewhere.
But let's face it: some folks are fountain pen people, and some aren't.
Fountain pens, on the other hand, can be refilled time and time again. Also, because you'll probably spend more on a fountain pen (and, let's face it, you'll like the looks you get when you use it), you're less likely to lose it. I can buy a pack of 10 pens and in a week they've all disappeared, but I've had the same fountain pen I got for my high school graduation for almost two decades now. In that respect, a fountain pen that you keep and use repeatedly can actually end up cheaper than having to constantly buy more Bics.
And, as alluded to in the history lesson above, fountain pens just look cooler. It's a great way to show someone that you mean business, and that you take life seriously. Also, your handwriting will look way better, even if you're a chicken-scratcher like me.
People suffering from arthritis, carpal-tunnel syndrome, or other hand-related ailments will prefer fountain pens as well, because you won't have to press down hard at all to get the ink flowing. Writing is much more of a light, sweeping motion, whereas I bear down so much on a ballpoint pen that it's almost like I'm trying to carve my name into my checks.
But let's face it: some folks are fountain pen people, and some aren't. If you want one, you should get one (you'll love it, I promise). If you don't see the point, though, then nothing I can say is likely to convince you.
Just know that the pizza delivery guy is so impressed when I write that bold dash in the section of the receipt where the tip should go that he often mutters to himself as he walks back to the car.