Choosing the right pen-why and how
Major Nithi C J (Retired)
Remember writing on slates with chalks in your preschool? Taking the chalks from the teacher’s table and making flowers, trees, everything under the Sun (including the Sun)on the blackboard was an adventure. Of course, more adventurous was having a chalk fight with friends. If we revisit our childhood, our memories have many writing experiences, rather than using writing instruments most creatively. The first fountain pen, your favorite crayon set, stealing grandpa’s pens, and there are many such untold memories. Let it be playing tic-tac-toe, or writing secret chits to your best friend, or simply drawing dreamy stars with pencils; those were beautiful memories! Isn’t it interesting that the first doodle you made was when you were five?
In the last blog, I brought out how subconsciously the human brain is closely connected to handwriting and how having a writing routine helps. Today, I will take you through the most important question of how to choose the right writing instrument, and with the number of confusing options available, how to select one. So hold on tightly; today, it’s a long read for you all!
What are the types of Writing Instrument?
- A writing instrument essentially comprises of a tip, grip section, ink, and the barrel.
- The tip is the portion that contacts the paper and puts the staining chemical on the paper surface to create the handwriting.
- A grip section is a suitable place from where we hold the instrument to make it comfortable to hold for writing.
- A barrel is the reservoir of the ink or the place which holds the staining substance.
- A barrel is the reservoir of the ink or the place which holds the staining substance.
Over these ages of evolution, writing may have become easier and more comfortable, but the instrument has evolved with many complexities structurally but making the writing experience easier and pleasurable. And thus, the parts, as I mentioned above, have become more distinctive in nature. The differences amongst these writing instruments can be evidently seen in
- The ink type is used in different kinds of pens.
- The ink filling systems.
- The type of writing tip, and,
- The writing surface they’re suitable for.
Thus, these rudimentary differences are what you would have to keep in mind while choosing your Pen. Of course, the material of the Pen will play a role. How? We will discuss when I tell you about how to choose a pen.
What are the types of pens, and how they impact handwriting?
The modern age pens are mainly of the types described below:-
- Fountain Pens use water-based ink and ink filling systems like eyedroppers (directly filling the barrel with ink), cartridges (plastic refills with pre-filled fountain pen ink), converter (cartridge like structures which have piston mechanism to fill inks), inbuilt piston mechanism (the ink can be directly sucked into the barrel using piston mechanism). Here’s a detailed yet straightforward video by Jetpens.com about fountain pen ink filling systems. https://youtu.be/dNSOyoGlfug
- Ballpoints comprise oil-based inks, which are compressed in refills. These refills can be changed as per suitability. What makes ballpoints more durable and widely used is the feasibility to use them on any surface paper. This is because the oil-based inks deposit in a more coagulated form on the paper.
- Gel Pensuse gel-based inks which have a waterproof chemical nature. These links are not as smooth on the paper as fountain pen inks nor as dense as the ballpoint inks.
- Space pens are newer in the race, aiming to have an inking mechanism making the Pen suitable to be used in space.
- Felt pens have softer tips made of fibrous material called felt and use different alcohol solvents as inks. Marker pens, sketch pens, micro-tip pens are all in this category.
When it comes to the impact of the writing instrument on handwriting, we observe the effect of the type of Pen on the personality of the individual. Let me explain by sharing an experience of analyzing the handwriting of two individuals, Person A and Person B.
During the analysis of person A, I observed that his handwriting showed traits of aggression, stress, and impulsiveness. When I queried that does he extensively uses a ballpoint pen, he agreed and confirmed to have the assessed traits. Well, for once, we can give into saying that this is not difficult as ballpoints are widely used, but here’s where another analysis brought me to newer experiences.
The analysis of person B exhibited similar aggression and behavior to person A, but I found her handwriting to be that of a person who more culturally conscious and rooted and possessing professional composure. Thus, I queried her that does she use a fountain pen for work or say special occasions like writing a card to a friend. Also, I observed that she actually prefers a fountain pen but uses a ballpoint more due to availability, and she agreed to both the queries and confirmed having the assessed traits.
This helped me to understand two things, firstly, how two distinct traits affect personality by a mere selection of pens, and secondly, how the trait of one Pen dominates more based on usage. The architecture of handwriting is definitely affected over a period of time due to the choice of the Pen. “In subsequent sittings with more people, I further experienced that the writing instrument does contribute in a small but significant manner in shaping handwritings and defining personalities.”
How to choose the right Pen?
Now that we have understood why it is essential to choose the right Pen. Let us discuss how to choose one. I have purposefully not deliberated on considering a budget and colour choices as parameters. I believe these two considerations are inherent to us and very personal when we buy anything, and inapplicable to all in common. However, in my later blogs in this series, we will discuss popular pens in different price brackets and budgeting your pen purchase in great detail. As of now, I have suggested a few beginner pens, mostly fountain pens, as I have discussed each consideration.
It begins from your occupation and, to be precise, your writing routine. If you’re a student, a teacher, or someone with long writing hours, pens with large ink storage are suitable. An eyedropper fountain pen or an inbuilt piston fountain pen are the ideal choices or a refillable ballpoint pen.
Although a ballpoint will be suitable if the paper option is not available (as you can’t tell your teacher to give a fountain pen friendly paper in exams!), but a fountain pen is best suitable to write impressive assignments,the fountain pen is something which
magically enhances the handwriting, simply because of the texture of the ink flow on a fountain pen friendly paper. Personally, I have explored affordable eyedroppers and piston fillers by Indian fountain pen companies like Click pens and Kanwrite Heritage Fountain pens, which come with several nib options. I will go into detail with nibs when we discuss fountain pens separately in the subsequent blogs.
For scribblers or someone who has to jot down on-the-go, the ballpoint jotters are a good match. The Parker jotter is the most revered. If you are looking for something in the fountain pen variant of a jotter, the pocket-sized fountain pens are the best choice.
In pocket-sized fountain pens, I suggest the pocket pens by Activ pens (can be ordered from www.acriv.com ) and the V Sign Beena Safety Pen (both Indian pen companies) and Kaweco sport or Kaweco pereko by Kaweco (German Company) (available at amazon).The TWSBI Go by TWSBI (a Taiwanese company) (available at www.amazon.co.in) is another personal favorite, if you’re one of those who need to jot as soon as a thought sparks!
For corporate purposes or for more official use, there are options of more classic fountain pens available. Roller balls are also a good option to give the edge over the ballpoint and yet keep the usage manageable busy schedules. The design of pens by Pilot, Parker, and Lamy absolutely suits the formal aesthetics, are durable and have options in ballpoint, fountain pen, and rollerball in each design. My personal preference for a formal pen would be the all-time winner, the Pilot Metropolitan Fountain pen (available on www.Luxor.in ) or the Lamy LX (www.lamyshop.in ).
The material of the Pen.
The material of the Pen is again an essential aspect while choosing a pen. Brass, steel, acrylic, resin, ebonite, or even wood, talk of any of these materials, and you have a pen made of them. Silver and gold pens are more for luxury purposes and maybe a collector’s choice, but I won’t recommend in a day to day use. For extensive writers, lightweight material like a good acrylic pen or a resin pen is best suited. Aluminum pens (like Lamy AL-Star) are also great options for avid writers.
One thing to be kept in mind about the material is each material reacts differently in extreme temperatures and different types of wear and tear. For example, on the one hand, acrylic pens are easy to maintain; they have a tendency to crack over a period of time. And though metal pens can resolve durability to a large extent, these too are prone to scratches and withered look. So when you purchase a pen, do read the maintenance guidelines and deliberately check if the material is suitable for the climate of your place. And storing pens in pen cases are an all-time savior for the better life of your pens.
Like any other gadget or instrument, environmental concerns play a role in pens too. Just give a count how many throw-away ballpoints do you discard in a year? Or how many refills? Or how many pen cartridges? Trust me. If we add individual figures, it might get alarming. Forbes has declared the pencil as the fourth most important tool in the world, but I wonder how many trees get sacrificed for that?
Thus, it is important to plan your choice of pens as per your usage. If you have a lot of drafting like me, try a fountain pen over a ballpoint to draft, which I follow. I also keep a single refillable ballpoint or a rollerball for bank forms and bills. Most importantly carry I carry my own Pen, make it part of my purse or office bag to avoid unnecessary purchases. Also, in COVID times, I recommend avoiding sharing pens as they too can transmit infections.
Select a pen which defines You!
Lastly, like a pen collector, I feel one needs to connect to the Pen. When I get into purchasing fountain pens, it’s very important for me to connect to the Pen, irrespective if it is for collection or daily writing. As I often say to the retailers I purchase from, “My pen should have a story.”
Mr. Zaim Kamal, the creative director of Mont Blanc (Luxury Pen Company), in one of his interviews on the writing instrument, states that the uniqueness doesn’t come from the Pen, It comes from the user, so each writing instrument is different, as each person uses it in a different way. He also adds that each writing instrument becomes more unique as the bond between the user and the instrument becomes closer each day until one day when your Pen uniquely defines you!