Last time I promised I would go over my favorite pens and papers for students – well I’m finally back. If you’ve missed out on part one of this two-part series, check out The Case For Fountain Pens” (<a href="http://uwimprint.ca/article/4408-the-case-for-fountain-pens">http://uwimprint.ca/article/4408-the-case-for-fountain-pens</a>), to read up on why I think you should use fountain pens.</p>
There are a few fountain pen terms that will be useful for know before jumping in. A converter is what allows you to refill your pen with an ink bottle instead of buying cartridges of ink. However, you can also buy fountain pen syringes to refill your cartridges if you choose to go that route instead. The nib of the pen is the tip that touches the piece of paper and range from ultra-fine to bold – usually higher quality pens will write on paper more smoothly. Feathering is the effect that ink has on cheap paper – the ink spreads into the fibers of the paper in a ‘feather-y’ looking way.
So here goes, my favorite pens and paper for students.
The Pilot Metropolitan, hands down, is my recommendation as the best fountain pen for students. At ~$15, with an included convertor, they write smoothly, and have several colour schemes that look quite elegant. They’re also quite durable, as the entire pen (excluding the converter inside) is made of metal. The weight of the pen feels great in the hand and it doesn’t feel cheap. This is one of my favorite and go-to pens, despite it being one of my cheapest. The only caveat is that they don’t have any way for you to check how much ink is left, and so you might be out of a pen in the middle of class if you happen to run out of ink.
The Lamy Safari is another absolutely great pen for beginners. They come in a HUGE range of colors, and the hard plastic they’re made out of is super super durable. More expensive at ~$30, you’ll actually have to buy a converter ($6) to use them without cartridges. However, the pens have a little ink window which allows you to see how much ink they have left, they come in a multitude of nib sizes (that are swappable!), and they are incredibly reliable. The only downfall I feel is the triangle grip can be quite alienating to users. Some (me included), love it, while some just find it too uncomfortable to use.
It wouldn’t be fair for me to make a list of pens if I didn’t include one that was disposable, the Pilot Varsity. What, you may ask, is the point of a disposable fountain pen? Well, seeing as they’re only ~$3, write fantastically, and are super convenient (no ink filling or nib tweaking required), it makes them a super accessible pen for students to try out. They are one-time-use, non-refillable, and come in a single nib size, but they’re a great way for you to try writing with a fountain pen and a nib if you’re interested in trying. It’s definitely a “gateway” pen.
Finally, the Jinhao X750 at ~$10 is a pen you can’t go wrong with. This pen also comes with a converter, and can even fit the standard international convertor which makes it easy to replace. This is also a very durable pen, although a bit on the heavy side. There are limited options in terms of the nibs and colors, but who can argue at that price.
Some of the nicest notepads you can get for fountain pens are Rhodia notepads. They come in a variety of prints – dotted (my absolute favorite), lined, gridded, and plain, and they’re some of the smoothest fountain pen paper. They’re quite feathering-resistant, but I find the paper slightly thin. The notepads range in sizes, and can cost anywhere between $3 for a small notepad, to $15 for large ones.
Clairefontaine is another great paper. Their paper is much thicker than Rhodia (absolutely no chance of leaking through), and writing on Clairefontaine paper is like writing on soft butter. It’s the smoothest paper I’ve ever written on, and I absolutely love writing with them. Of course, with smoothness and thickness comes a price and inks tend to take longer to dry on them. They also range from $3 to $15, again, in a variety of sizes.
I’m not going to lie, paper doesn’t come cheap – that’s why I only mentioned two of my favorites. And while you can totally and completely use normal lined paper for writing on with fountain pens, the ink will (almost always) feather, and depending on the thickness of your nib, might be unusable on the other side. That being said, it doesn’t stop me from using cheap $5/5000 sheets of lined paper at Staples for day-to-day scratches in class. However, for ‘important’ notes or even a day-to-day notebook, buying a high quality notebook feels great.
Great! So where do I get this stuff?
Recently, Wonder Pens opened up in Toronto – it’s a beautiful and small shop located at 906 Dundas St West. They have a huge range of inks, pens, and paper – and they actually let you try it out before you buy it. Fountain pens will always feel different in one pair of hands, so it’s nice to be able to try them out first. The people who work there are extremely knowledgeable about fountain pens and can help you pick out the best one to suit you.
Although I haven’t been, I’ve heard absolutely fantastic things about Phidon Pens located at 63 Dickson St in Cambridge. They’re also very well stocked, and have a ton of paper, pens, and ink.
Laywines at 25 Bellair St in Toronto is yet another well stocked shop.
Generic stationery stores like Staples or even the uWaterloo store will carry Rhodia and Clairefontaine paper. I know for a fact that the uWaterloo store also carries a school-branded Lamy Safari (although they’ve marked up the price a tad) if you’re itching to get your hands on a pen right away.
If these places sound like too much of a hassle to get to, you can always go shopping online! Wonderpens (www.wonderpens.com) also has an online store with a flat shipping rate of $7. They’re pretty well stocked online. My other favorite online store is Goulet Pens (www.gouletpens.com). The owners, Brian and his wife, are some of the nicest people ever, and will reply to every tweet, email, or question they get. They are extremely, extremely well stocked and have all of the fountain pens, inks, and paper you could ever want, and also more expensive pens up to several hundred dollars. You absolutely cannot go wrong ordering from them.
Hopefully you’ve found something that interests you above! Fountain pens, as mentioned, are a luxury item that aren’t for everyone. I gave one a chance, and now I have expensive pads of paper, several pens, and too many bottles of ink to use. If you have questions or want to get more information on fountain pens, give me a shout out @retainerbox on Twitter.