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hpr1941 :: What's in my case

I'm a fountain pen enthusiast; here's what's in my pen case

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Hosted by Dave Morriss on 2016-01-11 is flagged as Explicit and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.
fountain pen, nib, ink, cartridge, piston fill, penmanship. 21.
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Duration: 00:32:56

What's in My Toolkit.

This is an open series where Hacker Public Radio Listeners can share with the community the items that they can't live without, what they find useful in day to day life.

What's in my case

I'm a fountain pen geek and I thought I'd share my geekiness on HPR in case there are any other FPGeeks out there.

I have a pen case which I bought from China through eBay, and so I felt that this allowed me to add this show to the 'What's in my ...' series.

I have written out a long set of notes to accompany this episode and these are available here


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Comment #1 posted on 2016-01-11 14:01:17 by Magnus919

Chronicles of a Cheap Geezer

Regarding blue-black ink, those inks were not dye inks like you'd use in most fountain pens. They were an iron gall ink, which can foul an improperly maintained fountain pen. The iron gall ink goes on blue and as it oxidizes it bonds with the paper and settles into a blacker shade. This is really durable and for a long time in places like the UK, it was the ink legally required for use by registrars for recording legal documents because of its endurance and tampering resistance.

I recently started a new blog (see my link) for having fun exploring sub-$25 fountain pens and other low-cost/high-value stationary supplies.

Comment #2 posted on 2016-01-11 16:06:11 by Dave Morriss


Thanks Magnus919,

I was aware of iron gall inks, my dad used to work in the Legal trade. I have been warned not to use such inks in a fountain pen. However, I wasn't aware that school ink was an example. Good to know.

Your blog is looking interesting. Some nice looking pen photographs.

Since the coment system here doesn't display the website (and I'm an admin) I'm showing it here:


Comment #3 posted on 2016-01-11 22:08:15 by Frank

I have long preferred fountain pens, ever since I started using one in school (no, we didn't have inkwells in our school desks in Birdsnest, Virginia). That one belonged to my father's mother and I used it until the barrel broke in two in the vicinity of the lever used to fill the ink bladder.

I have six fountain pens in this here desk, plus the Waterman which I normally use.

There is an element of conceit herein, as, after you've used a fountain pen for a while, the nibs wear to fit your hand and the pen will then write properly for no one else.

I fear that I don't use fountain pens very often any more, as they have been made obsolete by duplex checks; unless you use a ballpoint, the duplex doesn't.

Comment #4 posted on 2016-01-12 20:12:50 by Dave Morriss

What's a duplex check?

Hi Frank,

I had a fountain pen with a lever+bladder filling action a long time ago but I think the bladder failed and it probably got thrown out since it was a cheap thing. Modern pen filler designs do a much better job I reckon.

Yes to the nib wear-in issue. I was taught never to share a fountain pen for that very reason, even though it seems churlish.

I have no idea what a duplex check is. Cheques (as we Brits call them) are largely obsolete here now. Is it something to do with making a carbon copy (something many will probably not be acquainted with these days)? I assume that the issue is that a fountain pen can't apply enough pressure compared to a ballpoint. That is certainly the case.

Thanks for your comments.

Comment #5 posted on 2016-01-12 20:40:32 by Frank

A duplex check ("cheque" in some ancient climes) is one that makes a copy of itself as you write it.

Under each check in the checkbook is a sheet of NCR paper, so that as you write, what you write is reproduced on the NCR paper. The NCR paper is formatted as the check, but does not bear any account numbers.

A proper fountain pen does not exert enough pressure to create the copy.

Aside: I use electronic payments sparingly, not because I'm agin' 'em, but because I'm afraid I'd lose track. I spent lots of years figuring out ways not to overdraw my checking account and I don't want to change now.

Comment #6 posted on 2016-01-13 15:34:28 by Mike Ray

Nostalgia aint what it used to be

Great episode Dave. I remember desks with ink wells, although I never witnessed the wells being used.

At my primary school the top class were taught to use a fountain pen and we were each given a cheap pen which took cartridges (is that still a 'fountain' pen?) and were expected to use it.

It was not until secondary school that ball-points were tolerated and then not by some of the older and crustier teachers.

If you are looking for a case, what about one of those old classic wooden pencil cases with a sliding lid? Some of them even had a swivel at one end which allowed access to a second compartment below once the lid was slid back.

Of course then it would be mandatory to scratch "Dave Morrison was 'ere" on it with the point of a compass.

I have known many people with a stationery, erm, I think 'fetish' is the word you were looking for :-p and one of the regrets of ebing blind is I can no longer just use pencil (or pen) and paper to capture and diagram ideas

Comment #7 posted on 2016-01-14 11:53:21 by Jonas

Great Episode

Thanks so much Dave. I really enjoyed the subject and the excellent detail. I went straight out and picked up a disposable Pilot for $2.25 American. I remember taking a calligraphy class that used fountain pens somewhere long ago. My grandfather had a couple inkwell pens. One had a lever on it. Another had the squeeze fill. I still have a sterling silver ink bottle. It's glass inside with a silver screw cap and silver exterior. I just ordered a similar priced Chinese pen and a Piolot MR. The disposable is a medium point and a little too wide. I'm hoping the fine point I ordered will be closer to what I expect. I typically keep a G2 gel pen or Pilot precise pen until it runs out then switch to a different style as they get used up. I'm looking forward to daily writing with fountains. Now if I could just stop watching the pen review videos, I may get time to write something.

Comment #8 posted on 2016-01-14 12:53:59 by Dave Morriss

Check vs Cheque

Hi Frank,

As to the spelling question I reckon it's another case of parallel language evolution. Both the UK and the USA variants of English have been evolving in their own directions for hundreds of years. Spelling gelled in Britain earlier than in the US but the French variants became popular on this side of the Atlantic. Thus cheque/check with the French spelling being chèque. There's a tendency for both "sides" to tell the other they're wrong. I try to resist this personally.

Thanks for the explanation of "duplex check". I don't think anything like this has existed here. We simply note things like the date, payee and amount on a stub which remains in the cheque book after the cheque has been torn out, and tally them up from there.

In my case I use electronic transfer for almost everything these days. If my kids ask for money for Christmas they get it that way. I did create fake "Bank of Dad" notes for Christmas 2014 just for fun, so they had something tangible! For Christmas 2015 I didn't bother.

Comment #9 posted on 2016-01-14 13:10:33 by Dave Morriss

Re: Nostalgia

Thanks Mike,

You were lucky to have had access to fountain pens so young. Yes, I think the definition of 'fountain pen' extends to cartridge pens. I believe anything with a nib and an ink reservoir fits that category.

I actually have an old wooden pencil case of the sort you mention. Thing is, fountain pens really need to sit in individual spaces so they don't rattle together. That's what my cheapo leather case does, each pen has its own elastic loop. I know that this verges on the obsessional, but after spending £100+ (or possibly a lot more) on a writing implement you'd want it to stay in pristine condition.

Yes, 'fetish' is the word I was trying to avoid! Or possibly 'obsession'.

Comment #10 posted on 2016-01-14 13:48:51 by Dave Morriss

Thanks Jonas

Delighted to hear that you are sampling some fountain pens. I hope you enjoy the Pilot MR/Metropolitan. Maybe you could record an HPR show about your experiences!

Your sterling silver ink bottle sounds wonderful. You should show us some pictures in your HPR show!

Actually, I often use a Pilot G-TEC-C4 (0.4mm) gel pen. It has an ultra-fine point and is great for writing in small notebooks and so forth. That's if you have the small handwriting to match of course.

I know what you mean about the pen videos. I watch a fair number of these myself. I so often end up wanting to buy the pen that was reviewed. They are dangerous from that point of view!

Comment #11 posted on 2016-01-14 14:52:44 by Mike Ray

Leftpondian spelling

I was once told some of the spelling differences which 'leftpondians' use, like color instead of colour etc., were actually deliberate attempts, when the earlier American Dictionaries (was it Websters?) were compiled. It was an attempt to just put their mark on the language. I don't know if there's any truth in that

Comment #12 posted on 2016-01-14 16:00:40 by Dave Morriss

Re: Leftpondian spelling

I have heard something similar, though I have never found a description of it that seemed completely reliable.

The story seems to be that Noah Webster "rationalised" spellings when compiling his dictionary, in some cases reverting to more ancient forms which didn't have the French influence that British spellings did. I don't know if that accounts for examples like the replacement of 'ph' with 'f' though. I'd like to find a detailed explanation written by a linguist or similar academic, but so far I have failed to do so.

I'd also prefer to get away from the haranguing which is often resorted to on both sides of these arguments. "Those *@*s over there don't know how to spell properly". You know the type of thing.

I quite like 'Leftpondia' and 'Rightpondia' by the way. Never encountered those before.

Comment #13 posted on 2016-01-14 18:13:10 by Mike Ray

Rationalising languages

I think any attempt to 'rationalise' a language either as it is written or spoken is a hiding to nothing. It's too fluid and has too many things pressing on it from all sides.

If that wasn't true I guess we'd all be speaking Espiranto by now.

And certainly a people, wherever they are, have a perfect right to speak and spell their language as they like. As long as every other word in their podcasts isn't 'awesome', grrrrr

Comment #14 posted on 2016-01-15 02:55:00 by Jon Kulp

Gotta try one now

Thanks Dave, my son and I really enjoyed listening to this while I drove him to school. I've also sent a link to this episode to Trumpet Guy because he's a huge fountain-pen fanatic as well. I put one of the Pilot entry-level pins on my wishlist on Amazon, going to give this a try. In my new position I have to sign my name a **lot** nowadays so it might be more fun to do it with a nice pen.

Comment #15 posted on 2016-01-15 15:54:25 by Dave Morriss

Language rationalisation

Yes Mike, I can only agree. Haven't the French tried doing something like this in the recent past?

On the other hand, I rather regret the evolution away from certain singular and plural forms which seems to be ongoing. I'm thinking of examples like the use of 'criteria' where 'criterion' is meant, or 'supernova' where 'supernovae' should be used. The battle is already lost with 'data' and 'datum' of course. This is probably old fart territory though.

As to 'awesome' I always hear that as 'aweless'.

Comment #16 posted on 2016-01-15 16:42:50 by Dave Morriss

Hope you enjoy your fountain pen

Hi Jon,

Good to hear you are tempted to join the ranks of fountain pen users. If you like your Pilot get yourself something classy like a Pelikan Souverän 600, 800 or 1000 to impress everyone :-)

Comment #17 posted on 2016-01-16 00:49:18 by Jon Kulp

Umm...probably not

Well I think it's pretty safe to say that I will not be buying any of the Pens you mentioned there, Dave. Wow pricey!

Comment #18 posted on 2016-02-11 22:13:35 by NYbill

Its been a bit of an adventure...

I'll just leave this here. ;)

Comment #19 posted on 2016-02-15 08:30:39 by Dave Morriss

Old fountain pen

Hi Bill,

Good to know that you tried out the Pilot Metro. It's a sweet pen.

Your adventures into fountain pen "archaeology" sound fascinating. I think I remember this model, the Parker 21: it was one that was popular in the 1960's I think. It has a partly "hooded" nib, with only the front part showing, I believe.

I have been cleaning out some of my pens recently. Disassembling them and leaving them to soak in warm water with a tiny drop of dish soap is the recommended way to loosen the dried ink. Brushing the nib and the feed underneath with an old (soft) toothbrush can help. In some cases, removing the nib and feed is very helpful, if it *is* removable of course.

Hey, I think there's at least one other HPR show here. You want to recount your experiences?

Comment #20 posted on 2016-02-15 12:57:14 by Jonathan Kulp

Pilot Metro and Scheaffer

Dave, Bill, I recently got a pilot Metro fountain pen as well. It's pretty nice. Also Trumpet Guy gave me an old Scheaffer fountain pen that he had and it writes pretty well too. The ink flows a little faster in the Scheaffer than it does in the pilot. I can't decide whether that's a good thing or a bad thing yet.

In my new position at work I have to sign a lot of documents and whenever they are not in triplicate (which requires a ball point pen to put enough pressure) I use one of my new fountain pens. Had to see what all the fuss was about after this episode prompted more comments than any I can remember.

Comment #21 posted on 2016-02-15 20:19:55 by Dave Morriss


Hi Jon,

That name is hard to spell. It looks as if it's German so I tend to type "Schaeffer" a lot of the time! It's an American company from around 1912, however.

I used a Sheaffer cartridge pen as a schoolboy. I still have it and am just in the process of resurrecting it.

There are various opinions about "wet" pens (I've heard them described as "juicy" too). A broad nib needs plenty of ink to be delivered because it deposits more. Finer nibs conversely need less. However, much lower-quality paper doesn't suit wetter pens as the ink tends to sink in and "feather" or bleed through. On the other hand, a drier pen can be frustrating as the ink feed often doesn't keep up with the writing. Many factors to consider!

I'm glad you're enjoying the Metro. I'd love to see the Sheaffer - we need a show on your experiences :-)

Another aspect of fountain pen usage you might enjoy is the huge selection of inks that is available. I'm enjoying one called "Ancient Copper" from Diamine at the moment - a sort of reddish brown.

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