Tools: Favorite Fountain Pens

NOTE: UPDATED 1/2018!w16-9-24-pens-bw-2With Inktober arriving in a week, pens are an appropriate tool to review!
(BTW, yes I am doing the challenge — I love it — but
I don’t use the prompts.  I just draw every day in ink!)

I’ve drawn my favorite pens, the ones I reach for, walk from desk to home to bed, the ones I love the feel of, that flow well. I will talk about a few others that are keepers but…
know that there are amazing artists who will disagree with me and love that which I tolerate or hate!  (Thinking about Cathy Johnson and Noodler’s flex pens.)

My priorities in a pen are that it WORK.  That is 90% of it.
I’ve had some pens that didn’t work at all, that had to be fussed with constantly,
and so they went to other homes.  I hate fussing.  I am all about the drawing.

If possible, I want them to be beautiful.
Being a former architect, designer and artist, I love beauty!
I love a well-designed object (see WORK above), though it is more than that.
I want them to be able to post for the times I use them outside my studio.

w16-9-24-pens-color-3The favorites:

w16-9-24-pens-copy-2W15 10 10 BLACK-EYED SUSAN INKTOBER 4 BANNERMy favorite pen is the Lamy Al-Star.  Reliable 100% of the time;
it only clogs if I abuse it — mostly by letting let the converter go dry unintentionally;
then I need to clean it.  It feels good in my hand and  is gorgeous!
I bought a converter, which is a must for me as I want waterproof inks for sketching with watercolors.  I can easily change my nibs in a flash, meaning I only have to have one pen and I have all this nib variety.  How cool is that for traveling?    I confess to have it in several colors.  Pen pig. I use this one exclusively with Diamine Ancient Copper.

The  Lamy Joy (below) didn’t make my favorite list, but it is a good pen,
much better than the Safari.  I’m not as thrilled with the feel of it in my hand,
and the colors/design are not as beautiful.

UPDATE:  I now love my Joy….

I’m not sure why, but I’ve not had luck with the Lamy Safari with my inks.
Clogging constantly… drove me nuts.
My husband loves his with their cartridges… Me, not so much.


w16-9-24-pens-copy-3W16 7 25 PENTALIC FLOWER 02 BANNERMitchell bought me a gorgeous Jinhao as a memory of my first pen show.
I’m not a purple person, but this cobalt blue violet is stunning.
I said I’d never own another Jinhao (a dirty word in my studio) BUT
the dealer buys them and retrofits them and tweaks them with lovely Goulet nibs.
Mine has a 1.5 stub, and I love it.  It is juicy and if I turn it I can get quite a thin line,
above, or flatten it and it is a good calligraphy pen.
I am still trying out colors but think I’ll chose the Diamine Regency Blue, above.

UPDATE:  I now convert my own, as it is easy if you have
a little bit of technical ability.  I used a Jinhao 750
and I like stubs so I bought Goulet’s stub nib!  Yay!

*sigh*  Still in love with my first purple PEN!

w16-9-24-pens-copy-5W15 10 HAIGHT 022 BANNERIf how often you reach for it is the way you decide which is your favorite pen
(the one you can’t live without), then the
Platinum Carbon Pen with waterproof cartridges is my favorite.
A total workhorse.  My first was the fine point,and I used it and used it and used it with no clogging then one day it stopped.  I panicked, wondering what had I done? 
I wet it and wiped it and babied it and then realized I had an empty cartridge!

I have it in both sizes, have the desk holders on my studio desk, and then have
two with cartridges for holding brown ink.  I really love this  pen!

The big downside is the dang pen doesn’t postReally, how stupid is that?
Most of us are using our pens in the field and then you really want to post
so you don’t lose the pen.  I haven’t done this, but Cathy Johnson
has solved the problem of the non-posting pen by cutting the tip off until it posts!

w16-9-24-pens-copy-6Another workhorse that rarely clogs and can hold a ton of ink is the
Platinum Preppie, in three sizes, including a truly extra fine.
I convert it to an eyedropper using O-rings and silicone grease
from Goulet, and have them filled in several ink samples to for play!
At under $4 these are also great to give as starter pens.

w16-9-24-pens-copy-4W16 4 11 VSW HAROLD WASH LIBRARY CHICAGO 008 BANNERThe Pilot Metropolitan is also a favorite: inexpensive, comes with a converter at $15.
You can buy a better converter (Con-20 another squeeze converter — or Con-50),
but the squeeze jobber (bladder) works fine!  Gorgeous bright colors or
an elegant subdued color with a bit of patterning around the band.
I admit to having them in several colors to match ink.

Downsides:  You can’t easily swap out the nibs, and there is no stub nib.
I am fond of stub nibs, and like the option.

UPDATE:  Now we can buy them with stubs!  Yay!

I also have found they are fussy with some inks, and can’t get the hang of what makes them fussy.  Daily I use a bronze with Super5 Australia ink (waterproof, left above.)

UPDATE:  Wit the stub I find no problem, so perhaps the sluggishness is in the fine point.

w16-9-24-pens-copy-72015 2 27 LETTERING PRACTICE 006 BANNERW16-9-5-ro-beachThe Pilot Parallel is not quite a
fountain pen — it is unique!  I have it in
the 1.5mm and 2.5mm, and larger than that would not suit me. I highly recommend
the video by Rachel Goulet to see the capabilities of the pen — I use it in the most mundane manner, that is, for lettering.

Downside:  The pens often feather on cold press (rough) watercolor papers.
Sometimes I am okay with that look, sometimes not.

w16-9-24-pens-copy-8W16 8 10 PENTALIC MIDDLE NIGHT 04 BANNERNoodler’s Ahab, the pen I hate even after I replaced it with a Goulet nib, and filled it with De Atramentis Tobacco ink.  $23 + $15 for the nib….
I’m not a fan of Noodler’s inks or pens.
I’m not sure if it the nibs themselves or perhaps it is Noodler’s are just too fussy for me.
I also feel like the body is cheap — it FEELS cheap in my hand.
It’s a big pen, so for small hands (mine are medium) that might be a problem.  If you want to try a flex nib, at least you know you can swap it out for a great nib if you hate it.

UPDATE:  I tossed my Noodlers as the body was sort of disintegrating after 2 1/2 years… 

Next for me is that I am going to learn dip pens!

 I am adding this great set of test trials by Susan Bronsak.  She diligently compared the pens and inks she had on hand — and it is a nice way to see the inked lines.
I may have to do this sometime.  A good way to break in a journal!
Goulet also has a page called the Nib Nook, and this is great if you are determined to compare sizes because you are looking for a very bold or very fine nib.

Want to know more about taking care of your pens? 
Goulet has 22 videos called Fountain Pen 101:

Just for fun:

Pens banners / samples as described.
Painting is in a Fabriano Watercolor journal, so not my favorite, using a
Platinum Carbon pen, Super5 Dublin ink, and Daniel Smith watercolors.

w16-9-22-pentalic-laguna-beach-days-of-yore-05-sq w15-10-haight-sq w16-8-rp-trojan-horse-sq w16-4-1-newberry-library-sq w16-9-22-pentalic-laguna-beach-days-of-yore-04-sq

Drawings ©D. Katie Powell.
My images/blog posts may be reposted; please link back  to dkatiepowellart.

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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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28 Responses to Tools: Favorite Fountain Pens

  1. Youanna N. says:

    Wow! Katie, this is an amazing post you did, like all the others! 😍 So much info that I need to digest now! I have a few pens, but my fave so far is a Lamy Joy with DeA black ink and Lamy Al in copper with DeA brown!


    • Over two years I’ve tried a lot of pens. Some went to good homes as thank yous when I wanted to smash them with a hammer (they were better off with their new artist owners….) There are some I’d still like to try, like the TWSB Echo — I tend not to spend too much on them because I don’t like the idea of losing an expensive pen in the field! If I had unlimited money I would be dangerous. And yet, now I know what I am looking for so I can read reviews and see if this pen is what I really want!

      Samples from Goulet saved me many many $$$$.

      And I am trying to do a good post on tools every other week.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. susanissima says:

    LOVE this post! Learned so much. Thank you!


  3. Dan Antion says:

    I used a fountain pen (for writing and doodling only) for years. I still have one but I don’t use it much. Great post, Kate.


  4. I always love reading when people review their pens. It is so interesting to see that different people love one and hate another. I love the Lamy Safari I have, but tend to use the Platinum Preppie more since I don’t have to worry about it getting lost. I also use the ring and fill the entire barrel. I love having such a wonderful capacity to count on. Thanks for sharing, Katie.


  5. I have one of the carbon pens and am slowly but surely learning to love it… I am scared if I start getting too into pens I will become a crazy pen hoarder so i a sticking with my dip pen for now… might not last though after reading this…


  6. Jeepers I HAD NO IDEA!!! I thought a pen was just a pen. Maybe felt tip/biro/fine nib/fountain pen – but just WOW
    And I think you may possibly be a pen nut – or I am an ignoramus. The latter most probably!
    Happy drawing.
    I was thinking of trying Inktober, and ‘just’ buying some ink. But maybe it’s a bit more complicated than that. Lol


  7. I bought a Lami Al-Star a couple of months back, but bought blue ink by mistake, and discovered it’s not waterproof. “( I bought several black ink cartridges, but fear those won’t be waterproof either. I’m using the blue ink up by using the pen in my check-book.
    I’ll have to check out that converter you linked to, and find some black waterproof ink. How easy or challenging is it to fill the converter without making a mess on your hands or workspace?

    Great write up and review post Katie!


  8. loisajay says:

    “big downside is the dang pen doesn’t post!”–Kate–what does that mean? What is posting in pen-speak? Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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