Writing à la mode

| October 4, 2013 | 0 Comments

Which pen design is right for you?

Point of View Pen CaseChoosing the right pen for the task at hand is an art as well as a science. Fountain pen, rollerball and ballpoint are the three most popular modes. Each writes differently and has its own benefits and drawbacks. Which mode do you prefer? Some writers use more than one mode; others swear by one favorite. Here’s a quick overview of these three popular pen modes:

The Fountain Pen
Using a fountain pen facilitates beautiful handwriting. Calligraphers and artists love the way the fountain pen allows for a demonstrative and articulate writing style. Many writers use a fountain pen to sign letters and documents because they can render their signature with more character, subtlety and flourish than when using other modes.

The modern version of the fountain pen was developed in the late 19th century. Fountain pen ink is held in a reservoir within the barrel of the pen, and the ink is drawn through a metal nib. The fountain pen’s flexible nib allows for its expressive writing style. In most modern fountain pens, the reservoir is either a plastic ink cartridge or a converter that allows you to draw bottled ink. The ink in a fountain pen is water-based, made with dye rather than pigment. This makes the ink relatively slow to dry, and translucent on the page.

A variety of nib sizes are available for most fountain pen designs, allowing more variation of stroke. No pressure is required to make the ink flow—as soon as the nib touches the paper, the ink will flow.

Using a fountain pen requires some little skill and care, but fountain pen users enjoy the little rituals involved in filling the pen, writing at just the right angle, and keeping the nib clean and pristine between uses.

The Ballpoint
At Levenger, we like to call the ballpoint pen the workhorse because it’s ideal for extensive note-taking. Ballpoint ink lasts and lasts; the ink dries quickly, and the pen requires no maintenance. However, the fixed ball limits the ability for expressive penmanship, and the ink can tend to be sticky.

Developed and perfected in the mid-20th century, the ballpoint uses a thick, alcohol-based ink, unlike the water-based ink of a fountain pen. The ink is accessed through a tiny ball at the tip of the ink reservoir. The ink flow is activated by pushing the ball tip into the paper and dragging it along the surface. The writer is required to apply pressure to the paper to get the viscous ballpoint ink to flow.

Ballpoint ink doesn’t seep into the paper, so it can be used on fairly thin sheets, and won’t feather through the surface. As soon as the ink is deposited on the page, it dries quickly, making it less prone to smudging.

The Rollerball
An innovation of the late 20th century, the rollerball combines a few of the benefits of the fountain pen with some of the convenience of the ballpoint. The rollerball’s liquid ink allows much more flexibility of expression than a ballpoint, but is easier to use and maintain than a fountain pen. A rollerball gives your correspondence more character than a ballpoint, but the water-based ink is slow to dry and therefore more prone to smudging and feathering. On the other hand, the ink flows quickly and easily, and rarely skips.

The rollerball offers a liquid write that gives your writing character, similar to a fountain pen but without the fuss. Water-based rollerball ink runs out more quickly than ballpoint ink, and the rollerball’s fixed ball tip offers less flexibility than a fountain pen nib, but for many writers, it’s the perfect compromise. In fact, the rollerball is the most popular pen mode for Levenger customers.

—CC

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