Today we sit down with Jolyn Pek, she’s known to many as @missmuffat. A fountain pen and ink collector, she does swatches of the inks she has! Her collection of ink swatches is dazzling!
After being introduced to the world of fountain pens here, and/or perhaps getting one for your kid recently on Children’s Day, here are some tips she has for beginners! We ask her some questions to get started.
Which fountain pen was your first and why did you choose it?
I was lucky enough to be introduced to some very fine pens when I started, so my first pen was an entry-level Namiki, a Maki-e Ukiyo-e Courtesan Fountain Pen. It was love at first sight – it spoke to me when I wrote with it – I went away to save the money and went back to buy it.
What is the biggest mistake that most fountain pen beginners make?
I don’t think there are “mistakes” per se – the fountain pen world is not black-and-white and so rigid. I think when we are able to embrace our little mis-steps, it forms part of our fountain pen story. Having said that, I do wish that people clean their pens more often – the importance of writing with a clean pen keeps you going at this hobby, and ensures your pen stays with you for a long time.
How can we know which nib size is the right one for us?
Understand your intended use for the fountain pen – are you planning to use it for line sketches, bullet journal, or just casual writing? What is your usual handwriting size? For example, you may need to write quite a bit in a bullet journal – I find that I need smaller nib sizes for this purpose. For sketches, I use a bold because I tend to use broad strokes or draw patterns, but I know many people prefer Fine or Extra Fine if you are sketching, say, the face of a bird – something that has so many details you’ll need a finer stroke. Again, there is no right or wrong nib, just what you prefer. If you are just starting out, pick from F, M, B. Write with these nibs to test them out before you buy – then follow your gut feel.
If you are crossing over from the world of normal pens – the following might help with some reference
0.38 – EF (extra fine)
0.5 – F (fine)
0.7 – B (bold)
Medium sits between 0.5 to a 0.7.
Note that nib sizes may vary across regions – for example, a Japanese M may be finer than a European M. Nibs are an entire world on their own, find out more!
Should I use a cartridge or bottled ink?
Cartridges used to be deemed boring because colors are limited. There are plenty of colors these days – although bottled inks still top the charts. I carry cartridges for portability when I travel, or in my work bag, in case my ink runs out in the middle of a discussion. For other times, I prefer bottled ink.
There are less steps to fill up the ink using cartridges because all you do is to plug it into the pen, and you are ready to go.
Most ink makers, especially the cult or boutique brands, make ink in bottles. Cartridges are available if a brand has been around for a long time – Pilot, Kaweco, Lamy, Sailor, just to name a few. If you like sheen in your ink, or want to observe variation in ink color, only bottled inks serve that purpose at the moment. Cartridge inks are more regular, consistent colors.
Ultimately, I think the choice boils down to what suits your lifestyle the most, and how attracted you are to the world of ink colors.
What are your top five recommended pens for beginners?
I always thought it was too presumptuous to assume beginners only look for low-priced pens. If you are looking for a first fountain pen, I have the following advice:
Here are some ideas on where to start:
- Accept that it won’t be your only pen (many more to come!). Takes the pressure off from finding THE pen.
- Test and test and test the pen. Don’t just rely on reviews or what the current “hype” is. It is a bit like picking out your first pet, see if there is a connection.
- Don’t force yourself to suit the pen. Let the pen adapt to your hand. Most of you whom I’ve helped pick out pens would know this – pick a pen that does not bully you.
- Does my handwriting look natural when I write with this pen? Does my hand feel tired (informs the desired weight of pen)
- Ask yourself: Will I use this pen for more than 1 occasion (the more uses you identify, the more likely you will pick out a pen that fits your lifestyle)
- Set a reasonable budget, not necessarily a low one. (value is relative)
How I’d describe a successful pen experience:
- pen contacts paper with minimal resistance (does not feel too “scratchy”)
- your writing hand is feeling rather relaxed, even after writing half a page
- your heart is almost “singing” with the pen gliding melodiously along the paper surface
- handwriting comes out looking normal or better
- you are smiling at the end of the experience
I’d prefer not to recommend pens before meeting the user, because pens are personal, but if you must…
1. Kaweco Sport– it is very versatile in its use, you can use both cartridges or converters with it and it is handy and portable!
2. TWSBI ECO – it is a low maintenance pen, easy to clean and ink, and a real workhorse pen.
3. LAMY Safari – triangular grip, light, easy to maintain
4. PILOT Metropolitan – good choice for a “student” pen,
5. PLATINUM Preppy – good choice for a “student” pen, convertible into an eyedropper pen later
What do you personally enjoy most about this journey?
The world of pens and inks is an intriguing one. I like that it can be enjoyed solo, or in a group. You can do whatever you want, whenever you want. It is a very liberating feeling to know that possibilities are endless. Personally, it is a source of motivation for me to work hard – how else am I going to fuel this passion!
It has become a lifestyle, and I like that writing with a fountain pen helps me focus my thoughts and enjoy the moment. For me, the fountain pen is like a reassuring personal item, something that reminds me of the good in analog and traditions, amidst the chaos of smartphones and gadgets.