Choosing the right pen

Selecting a pen can be a difficult and overwhelming decision, particularly when you are looking to buy a gift for someone else. When we serve you at Pencraft, we will often ask what kind of pen you are after. It is a way for us to narrow down our extensive range and show you the most suitable options. So, what are the different kinds of pens and why might you prefer one type over another?

Fountain Pen

A fountain pen has two main features – a reservoir for a water-based liquid ink and a nib which you touch to the page when you write. The reservoir may be in the form of a disposable ink cartridge, a refillable converter (which you can interchange with a cartridge) or a reservoir built into the body of the pen. It works in a similar way to a dip pen, but with the advantage of not needing to be dipped every few words. The ink passes from the reservoir, through the feed to the nib via capillary action and gravity. Consider whether you would like to use ink cartridges or bottled ink. While ink cartridges can be more convenient, there are also limitations in ink colours and they work out more expensive for your pocket and the environment. 

Fountain Pens do not require any pressure to write, in fact pushing firmly on the nib can damage it by separating the two tines that bring the ink to your page. It is quite important that both tines touch the page evenly to facilitate the flow of ink, so we recommend models like LAMY Al-Star or Safari, Pilot Kakuno or Kaweco Perkeo as training pens to help you learn how the nib should feel upon the page. They have angled grips to support holding the pen at the right angle. 

Some people think that Fountain Pens can be very messy, and while it can take a little practice to hold them correctly and refill them (especially if using bottled ink), they have a charm and uniqueness that is incomparable. With several nib sizes available for many brands and a great range of ink options available, you really can customise your writing with a look that is distinctively yours. 

Here are some of our tips to get the most from your fountain pen:

  • When travelling, keep the pen cap up, this will stop ink sloshing into the cap as you move around. Keeping a pen upside-down or sideways while moving will result in an inky cap which can transfer onto the grip section when you go to hold it. Hello inky fingers
  • Flush your pen out regularly with cold water, particularly if you are changing inks, using shimmer/permanent ink or haven’t used your pen for a while. It will remove any sediment and support smooth ink flow
  • If your nib flow looks inconsistent, check the nib for fibres from your page, these can get caught and move the ink in ways that you don’t want. We recommend paper from Rhodia, Clairefontaine and Leuchtturm1917 for the best Fountain Pen writing experience
  • Gold nibs will soften to your writing style, creating an experience that is smooth and personalised just for you. We do not recommend letting anyone else use your gold nibbed pen as this can interfere with the way it will write for you

Ballpoint Pen

When you mention ‘pen,’ chances are most people will think of a ballpoint pen. It works by dispensing ink from a reservoir through the rolling of a metal ball that is placed at its point. Originally designed in 1888, the technology was improved in 1938. The ink in a ballpoint pen is oil based, making it more resistant to water and the flow on the page is a little stickier, although this feeling is minimised with a good quality pen. 

All of the ballpoint pens we sell at Pencraft can be refilled and we range the refills in a number of colours and sizes, typically fine, medium and broad. 

Generally, Ballpoint Pens don’t have a cap and work via a twist or click mechanism, so they are great for someone who is not interested in additional parts for fear of losing them. They are also the most affordable of the pens, so are popular for corporate gifts or if you’re really not sure what kind of pen someone might like. 

The Fisher Space Pen contains a special type of refill that has a pressurised reservoir for ink and is hermetically closed. This allows it to write at any angle, when no gravity is present, upside down and under water. It was developed in 1966 and is still used by NASA in all manned space missions. The refill is available with a small part to make it compatible with any pen that will take a Parker Style refill. Check with us if you would like to know if your pen can be refilled with a Fisher refill. 

Here are some of our tips to get the most of your ballpoint pen:

  • Excessive use of the click or twist mechanism can cause it to wear out prematurely, so if you’re a nervous clicker or twister, consider finding a different way to channel your nervous energy or you may have issues with your pen in the future

Rollerball Pen

A rollerball pen uses a very similar mechanism to bring the ink from the chamber to the page as a ballpoint pen. The difference is that they use a water-based liquid or gelled ink rather than the oil-based viscous inks. They were developed in Japan in the 1960’s and provide a nice compromise between the writing experience of the Fountain Pen and the convenience of the ballpoint pen. 

As the ink is water based, the refill will typically run out more quickly than a ballpoint, but the feel against the page is much smoother. They generally come with a cap, so can make a more impressive gift or add to the ceremony of signing documents with a beautiful pen. If it is a capped variety, avoid leaving the cap off as this can cause the ink to dry out more quickly, as can leaving it in a warm space, like a car during an Australian summer. There are a few capless versions available, one of our favourites is the Retro51 Tornado which is exceptional value and really beautifully weighted. They also take a Parker style ballpoint refill so you can change between writing styles. 

Felt-Tip Pen

For a felt-tip pen, the reservoir is filled with an absorbent material and a tip made of felt brings the ink to the page. They feel very smooth to write with, but we do not recommend them for customers who push firmly onto the page, as pressure can damage the tip. This will give the impression that the refill has run out of ink before it has. That being said, Montblanc Fineliner refills do have the ability to absorb some of the pressure. 

We are always happy to offer a selection of pens for you to sample in store to find the style that works best for you. Considering where and when you’d like to use the pen can help you to narrow down the best option or provide a good excuse to have multiple pens for every occasion!