Fountain Pens

Love fountain pens? You'll like this blog devoted in full to collecting, repairing and enjoying these fabulous writing instruments. Waterman, Pelikan, Parker, Mont Blanc, Cross enthusiasts share their experience and knowledge about vintage and modern fountain pens.
Saturday, November 17, 2007

Why Not Share Fountain Pens with Anybody

Fountain pens must not be shared.
It is true that each one has his peculiar way of holding the pen and that the nib gets used to the angle at which it is held.
So it is a good practice not to share one's fountain pen with others.
But refusing to lend your fountain pen would have made you unpopular.
But I would never lend my Mont Blanc or Parker to any one. I never had to. These expensive pens are usually not carried in one's pocket. They are usually for private and limited use and kept safely in one's drawers in the desk. It was too risky to carry it around. Chances were you would lose it. I have lost several "Heroes" in my lifetime.
I have met people with extraordinarily neat handwriting who used very expensive pens and who flatly and without fear of unpopularity refused to lend them to others. But I wonder if they thought of mundane mechanical and geometrical factors like wear and tear or the angle of the nib etc. It was more due to the desire to have exclusive rights to something they were proud to possess and were fanatically attached to.
It's like never wanting another person to drive your Mercedes car.
Any way there are no hard and fast rules about this.
But I agree that it is wise not to share one's expensive pen with others.
To avoid embarrassment, it is practical to keep handy an inexpensive ball point pen also and lend it on occasion.
Refusing to lend your expensive fountain pen may lead to some unpleasantness, particularly when the borrower does not know it is expensive, and does not know why a pen deserves a single owner.
In a public place, when someone wants to borrow your pen, lend it but take the precaution of unscrewing the cap and keep the cap with you. Chances are he will be less likely to sneak away with your pen. Without a cap a fountain pen cannot be kept in one's pocket without soiling the shirt. The man is more likely to look around for you in the crowd and return this "half object" which has just served his immediate purpose.
Fountain pens went out of fashion in America and nowadays even I have almost stopped using them. Ball point pens were horrible in the early days and we were not allowed to use them in schools. It was claimed that they spoil our handwriting. But over the years there have been great improvements in design and nowadays, for sheer convenience, it can't be beat.
I still prefer a fountain pen when I need to write a whole page or two.
But nowadays I type more than I write.
All writing is limited to a quick jotting down of info in my scribbling pad or signing on forms.
For this a ball point pen is definitely more convenient.

Misspelled Fountain Pen Riches

Most luxurious fountain pen seekers take a quick search through eBay looking for great bargains. However, one secret to sweetest deals are fountain pens up for an auction that are spelled wrong. There are a lot of people that have no clue what that fancy pen they found at home or inherited is worth, so they put it on eBay in the hope to sell it for a couple of bucks if they're lucky enough.

Many people misspell words describing the lot in the title. They wonder why there are no bids. Here's why . . . the item does not show up in eBay searches . . . nobody knows it's there. Many times you could be the only bidder.

People have no idea what they are actually offering, not only do they misspell the name, they haven't a single idea how to describe the pen or take a compelling photo. It's recommended that you email the seller any question you might have.

However, make sure the pen has at least one bid (preferably yours) on it . . . before you tip off the seller that they actually have a fountain pen of substantial worth up for an auction. Once a bid has been made, the seller cannot change the price or description of that item.

You can find many of these pens in great condition, minimal brassing, clean and correct nib, a lever box in great shape, properly cared for, looking mint, etc.

There is 'safe trading' advice offered by eBay team that you should pay attention to by all means. By reading this advice you will be able to eliminate the anxiety of buying a product you can't personally check out, while buying it from some stranger.

Warning: there are a lot of fake pens up for an auction on eBay. Do you know how to spot one?

- Does it have a serial number? (with all fakes flood going on, many manufacturers put serial numbers on fontain pens);
- Where should the serial number appear on the pen?
- Is the country of origin spelled correctly?
- Name of a manufacturer spelled correctly?

If you are still unsure on what you are looking for, there are many fountain pen forums online. These experts will be more than happy to answer any question you might have, just type in "Fountain Pen Forum" into any search box and then look around. Or look for blogs owned by fountain pen collectors - most probably you will get an expert advice in no time by leaving a comment for blog owner.

Not only should you be aware of fake pens, but be aware of bidder scams. While rare enough in luxurious pen auctions, it still does take place sometimes, unfortunately. But you can and should avoid being scammed! This type of scam is run by one person in control of two eBay accounts or two people with separate accounts. One eBay account will place a small bid on your fountain pen. Then another eBay account will place a very high bid. Right before your fountain pen auction is about to close, the high bidder will cancel or withdraw their bid, leaving the low bid as the winner. Setting a "reserve price" on your fountain pen will avoid this scam.

Hopefully, this information will be of help to you in your struggle to find a great bargain and not get taken or scammed (which is worse) when using the world's largest e-auction for shopping for fountain pens.

Spotting a fake fountain pen

I am offering the following tips ( which I hope are useful ) and would welcome any additions on how to spot fake fountain pens (Mont Blancs, Parkers, Pelikans, etc).
1. Ask for a picture of the underside of the nib section. A genuine Mont Blanc's black section will be aligned perfectly with the ink aperture between the tines ( a genuine article is accurately produced down to the smallest detail ). If the black section is not aligned and is either side of the aperture, then it is likely to be a fake.
2. The nib is the most difficult aspect to fake. Always ask for a close up picture of the nib section - iridium tip and 'made in germany' stamped on the nib is a dead give away. To my knowledge, most fountain pen manufacturers do not stamp 'iridium tip' on their nibs. The exception to this is the Genuine Mont Blanc Starwalker pen - it does have the words 'iridium' stamped on the nib section, is nearly always silver ( hence, this pen is faked more than any other ). Always ask for a pic of the floating star on the cap, if it appears to be irregular or not dead centre, it is likely to be fake. The best tip I can give is go to a genuine dealer and actually take a picture of a starwalker ( barrel and cap ). That way you know what to look for.
3. Before you bid, get an emailed assurance from the seller that it is a genuine fountain pen - because if turns out that it isn't , you can ask for your money back or get ebay involved. If you get a vague response to your question - don't bid.
4. Another dead give away, ask the seller if he has more than one item and if you can purchase more than four. A faker always buys in bulk and then sells them individually. Many genuine fountain pens (especially of Limited Edition series) are rather expensive, and if a seller has more than four - it's likely that he has bought in bulk.
5. Hold the pen up to the light. The black plastic should be somewhat transparent.
Montblanc's pens are made of resin (except for the solitaire line) and this natural material is able to hold an electric charge (much like amber). This material also feels more animate and doesn't feel cold to the touch.
6. Look under the clip, and you can read Pix. Thats always a good first look to see if it is fake. A fake will not have it.
7. Counterfeit Limited Edition pens won't usually be in their original special boxes or cases, instead they might come in an ordinary Montblanc box that someone has sold on eBay
8. When buying on eBay, always send seller email with a few questions before placing bid. Also pay attention to feedback ratio and number. So, a seller with over 20 positive feedback score and no negatives deserves trust.
9. On the fountain pens, the number "4810" is on the nib, representing Mont Blanc's height in meters. Mont Blancs all have serial numbers, which is how one can distinguish a fake from the real fountain pen.

Fountain Pens Need Special Care

Fountain pens (almost all of them) are comprised of the same basic components: a nib (also called a point, this is the decorative metal writing tip of the fountain pen, available in stainless steel, rhodium gold and other metals), a feed (the ribbed component attached to the back of the nib), and the ink supply (various options here include: cartridge, piston, converter, plunger, vacuum, and sac). Many people do not realize that there are certain care requirements for Fountain Pens and that if they are followed many “problems” can be resolved or never start.
Fountain pens come in many finishes and are constructed of a wide variety materials, so their care varies from material to material. Silver, sterling and plated: use a store bought polishing cloth or glove infused with silver cleaner. For hard to clean patterns and finishes such as “barley etched”, use a liquid silver polish with a soft brush to get the polish and tarnish out of the crevices.. Remember silver is a soft metal and will take on a patina and will show scratches and even small dents.
Platinum, palladium, rhodium, stainless steel and chrome: These finishes generally do not tarnish and remain “mirror like”. While they can show scratches and wear, they are much more durable than Sterling and/or silverplate. A soft cloth will remove fingerprints and dirt.
A fountain pen should be cleaned after every second filling of either ink from a bottle or cartridge. Which means, if you use the pen and you replace the cartridge, insert another and then run out, clean the fountain pen before you install the third cartridge or fill from an ink bottle.
Fountain pens should only be cleaned with clean, cool water. IMPORTANT: NEVER USE HOT WATER. Hot water can easily damage the feed. If your fountain pen is excessively dirty, a teaspoon of ammonia can be added to a cup of water, then soak the nib section overnight. You can also use a window cleaner like “Windex”, just be sure it has ammonia as this helps break up dry ink and dirt the best.
Drying After Washing. Cover the nib section with a soft dry cloth and shake it a few times to force the water out. It is best to do this right before bedtime and leave it to dry overnight. In the morning just pop in a cartridge and you are ready to write! We use a store bought toothbrush rack with a soft paper towel folded where the nib will rest. You can put the freshly cleaned pen in one of the slots and let the capillary action from the towel draw the wetness out. This is very effective and we clean our pens like this in the store. If your pens are piston fed only (only bottled ink can be used) you can soak your pens first in water then suck fresh water into the chamber and evacuate the water. Do this 3x or until the water runs clear.
Never store your fountain pen lying down. The ink will coagulate and dry in the nib section and make it difficult for the ink to flow and for the pen to write properly. Keep your pen capped with the nib pointed up in a pencil cup or other type of holder. Toothbrush holders work great at our stores. Find one that suits your pens size(s). If you are not going to use your pen for a week or more, evacuate the ink or remove the cartridge. Pen cases where the pens lie flat are great ways to store unfilled fountain pens.

Going to collect fountain pens?

Many people like to collect antique or vintage fountain pens, while others like collecting the modern limited edition pens, or pens from a specific country. Collecting by brands, such as Parker or Sheaffer is also popular. Many people just collect what they like, resulting in a beautiful, eclectic mix of fountain pens.
1. Decide if you want to focus your collection on one specific area of fountain pens, or if you want to collect a mixed variety of pens. This is important because you should define the purpose and area of your young hobby before you start joining forums of special interest in fountain pens.
2. Read articles and books to learn about your favorite fountain pens. When you become familiar with pictures of the various fountain pens, you'll know when you to find a good buy at a yard sale, auction website (like eBay), flea market or thrift store.
3. Join a fountain pen collectors group, such as the, to share your interest with others that also enjoy fountain pen collecting.
4. Visit local antique stores (if any happen to be in your residence area) and let the shop owners know the types of pens you want to add to your collection (or to begin the collection with). The store owners will look for the pens you are trying to find when they are in other antique stores, at auctions and on buying trips.
5. Purchase a fountain pen collector's price guide at a local bookstore or online. I recommend going to Amazon as it is the world most trusted online bookstore.
6. Go to online web auction sites, such as, and online antique and collectible stores for fountain pens to add to your collection. When looking for listing on ebay, be sure to learn how to spot fake fountain pens!
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Your time planner is probably the most important and critical piece daily ballast that you carry with you. I highly recommend buying a very expensive planner. I've tried them all. I use a filofax cover. It's the classiest. It will make you feel that the planner is highly valuable, which it indeed is. You should invest in the finest leather that you can afford. So that everytime you open it, you feel a sense of pride and are programming you mind for prosperity. Then invest in a very expensive a Mont Blanc. Again, you are programming your mind that time management is highly valuable and that you are properous. You also will send that vibe to others who see you in meetings with this set up. Don't go for electronic devices..the English leather filofax and Montblanc pen is the epitome of taste.
As for system and fillers, I'd suggest studying all of the systems. Choose the one that is most effective for you and then hole punch into your planner what works. Create YOUR system. The best system is your own custom one. GTD has extremely valuable strategies, as does Tony Robbins TOYL and Franklin Covey. You can't afford not to buy them, study them and use them. THIS IS CRITICAL. Build you own custom planner with whatever is effective and works for you.
Monday, November 12, 2007
Fountain Pen Filling Systems

Unlike ballpoint pens, fountain pens contain a lot of detail and expensive craftsmanship in the nib. Thus, nearly all fountain pens are designed to be refillable. A number of different refill mechanisms exist, including piston fillers, sac fillers, lever fillers, and cartridge-converter fillers.

Fountain pen ink cartridges date back to the 1950s. Some early models were made out of glass, but various plastics quickly became the material of choice. Some manufacturers experimented with refillable cartridges, but these were messy and unpopular; disposable cartridges quickly became the norm.

Cartridges are considered by some to be more convenient than bottled ink. This depends a lot upon the pen's filling mechanism — whilst a good cartridge pen is less prone to mess than a bad bottle filler, a modern piston filler is very clean. Cartridges may also be easier to carry around than some ink bottles.
There are downsides to cartridges too. They are typically more expensive than bottled ink and are available in fewer colours and styles. The ink flow from cartridges tends to be slower, which can be a problem with some nibs. Also, pens designed to take cartridges carry less ink than a dedicated sac filler of similar dimensions compared to fountain pens.
Sunday, November 11, 2007
A new nib of a fountain pen should be cleaned from grease and factory-applied anti-corrosive lacquer before the ink will flow evenly. Some artists recommend sucking on a new nib to get it ready for ink. Manufacturers recommend immersing the nib in boiling water. An alternative is holding the nib briefly in the flame of a lighted match — but be careful — the heat can alter the temper of the nib.
Nibs must be kept clean during use or the ink will not flow freely. They should be wiped with a soft rag and afterwards washed and dried to prevent corrosion. The best way to clean lettering or drawing nibs is to scrub them gently with a wet toothbrush. Crusted pen nibs should be scraped or brushed clean before using. Use a scalpel or an X-acto knife. A fiberglass brush and a Swiss Army knife is also useful.
From nibs and brushes: Clean wet brushes with soap & water. Clean dried acrylic paint with acetone, denatured alcohol or equivalent product.
From clothing: While paint is wet, clean with water and/or window cleaner. Dried acrylic paint is permanent on fabric when applied to fountain pen nibs.
Monday, November 05, 2007
Murex is the ultimate modern fountain pen. You can carry it everywhere, travel with it, sit on it, toss it in your bag, knock it around, and it never fails you. This is the pen you'll want to grab as you go out the door. And this is the pen most likely to grab everyone's attention when you whip it out to jot a note.
The first two short models were actually named "MYU" by Pilot. The later models full size models were called Murex. These were two distinct pen lines, although related. While western pen collectors lump both of these together under the Murex banner, most Japanese collectors do just the opposite and refer to both groups as "MYU" pens, short MYUs and long MYUs.
Pilot MYUs and Murexes were only sold here in Japan, intended for the Japanese market, which explains why they are so highly valued in the west. Even in Japan they are difficult to find since Pilot no longer makes them. But they are such tough pens, the ones that do turn up are usually still in great condition. These are workhorse pens.

Seeing their popularity today, it's an amazing fact that Pilot stopped making these pens over twenty years ago. I asked Pilot pen craftsman Mr. Hirosawa if they ever considered making these pens again. He acknowledged their popularity right now but smiled and shook his head "no" at the suggestion.

They are often compared to the titanium Parker T-1 pen which was introduced in 1970 just before the Pilot MYU came out, and was produced for only one year.
The first Murex appeared in 1971, and was called the "MYU 701" in Japanese and identified by the Greek letter for "m" in Pilot's advertisements. Its model number is M-350SS. This pen is displayed in the Pilot Pen Museum (now called "Pen Station") in Tokyo. This one of those ingenious Japanese short style pens with long cap and short barrel that made the pen short when capped, and full size when the cap was posted. It was an extremely streamlined design with no markings anywhere except for the small Pilot name engraved on the cap. There is also a tiny date stamp with month and year on the barrel.

This model is considered the quintessential MYU/Murex, and therefore the most popular model today. It has also been called the "ultimate travel pen" because of its small carrying size as well as its sturdiness and reliability. It retailed for 3,500 yen when it first came out over 30 years ago, but an original MYU with price sticker (identical to the one in the photo) was sold last year on an internet auction for over 500 dollars. The market value of all the MYU/Murex models has been increasing dramatically as more collectors show interest in them, and those that remain will continue to grow in value.
In 1973 a black striped version appeared, also a short type pen. Its model number is M-500BS. The letter "M" (for "MYU") plus the Pilot name was stamped on the cap. The black enamel stripes are recessed, away from exposure to rubbing. The finish was brushed steel. It retailed for 5,000 yen. This model is very difficult to find today.

In 1977 the integral nib steel pen was radically redesigned to be a full sized pen with textured section, flat nib and black stripe in a spring type clip that adjusted to any thickness of pocket fabric. This model was the first "Murex" pen. Perhaps this new name was meant to designate this bigger, improved MYU as the king (Rex) of the MYUs. It could also be a reference to the sea shell of the same name. Its model number is MR-500SS, and it is also displayed in the Pilot Pen Museum (Pen Station) in Tokyo since it represents a new line. On the cap the black letters "MR" (for "MYU-REX") plus the Pilot name are engraved. It retailed for 5,000 yen, much more than the price of the original MYU 701, and its design was technically superior to the original MYU, although not as radical in its looks. This model was designed for comfort and effortless writing.

Stainless steel Japanese fountain pens such as these MYUs and Murexes tend to come with tiny scratches. I have rarely seen one without scratches, especially on the barrel of pocket pens. This is because of the metal piece inserted into the cap which grips the barrel and keeps it firmly attached to the cap by friction. As soon as they put the cap on a new pen, it receives a tiny scratch, the first of many. This also explains scratches on the barrels of brand new plastic pens.

There is no need to be upset if you find scratches on your steel pen. If you look closely at the stainless steel surface you will see that it is brushed steel, which is basically a pattern of microscopic scratches covering the entire surface. Each scratch reflects light, so the more it's scratched, the more the pen sparkles. The longer you use your pen, the better it looks. You don't have to baby your MYU or Murex or any other stainless steel fountain pen.
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Nakaya fountain pens of Japan have caused quite a ripple in the fountain pen community in Japan and around the world lately. These custom hand-made pens seem to be the topic of discussion almost daily on Pentrace and other discussion groups as well. It's amazing to think that this company was only started around two years ago, and consists of only a few retired pen craftsmen.

The company didn't even have its own office until recently, but borrowed a room in the current Platinum Pen company building. A few months ago, in March, they finally became completely independent by setting up shop in a small office in one of the older neighborhoods in Tokyo.

Recently I visited their office, camera in hand.

I took the subway (the Ginza line) to Inaricho station which is located in Higashi Ueno. This area retains the atmosphere of old Edo, its ancient streets and buildings stubbornly resisting the winds of change, and is a very fitting location for Nakaya. The Nakaya Pen Company is located on the second floor of a building surrounded on both sides by old shops filled with the smell of incense, and specializing in Butsudan and other Buddhist articles.

By coincidence, directly across the street from Nakaya's office is the old Platinum Pen Company building, which has not been used by Platinum since the company out grew it many years ago. The current Platinum building is several blocks away.

Many have asked what is the relationship between Platinum and Nakaya.

Platinum was founded in 1919 by Shunichi Nakata, and the original name of the company was Nakaya. Later, the name was changed to the Platinum Pen Company. The current president of Platinum is Toshihiro Nakata, son of the founder.

The old Nakaya name was revived a few years ago, and given to this newly formed company which is directed by Toshiya Nakata. Toshiya the grandson of Platinum's founder, and son of the current president. The old globe logo of the original Nakaya company once again adorns the nibs of the current Nakaya pens.

The name on the nibs, incidentally is the name of the founder, Nakata, rather than the name of the company, Nakaya. The Nakaya Pen Company employs 3 retired craftsmen from Platinum who specialize in handmade fountain pens. While the old Platinum building across the street is no longer used for producing pens, the upper floors are still the residence of founder Shunichi Nakata's widow, now 98 years old!

When I opened the door the Nakaya office, I was greeted by Mr. Watanabe, the nib craftsman who always represents Nakaya at pen clinics.

I also met Mr. Maruyama who specializes in metal work including nibs, clips and bands. I had not met Mr. Maruyama before, so this was a special priviledge.

Mr. Matsubara the barrel specialist whom I have met several times in the past, works at home. His huge foot powered lathe would not fit in this small room!

Also in the room was a new member of the Nakaya staff, Mr. Yoshida, who was formerly a pen designer at Platinum, and now does the same work for Nakaya. He entered Nakaya in March, on the same day they moved into this office.

Inspite of the traditional nature and feel of fountain pens, Mr. Yoshida does all his work on a computer using an auto CAD program. Now Nakaya is re-examining every aspect of their current pen designs from a scientific viewpoint to make them even more efficient inside and out, while retaining their traditional look and feel. There was a beautifully rendered new pen design on Mr. Yoshida's monitor, but I am allowed to publish a photo of it here, since it is still is the works.

Nakaya's hard working president, Toshiya Nakata
I took some photos of the room, but tried not to ask too many questions as the craftsmen were obviously extremely busy. I discovered that they have so many orders these days (one third of these orders coming from overseas), that they have to work straight through Saturdays and Sundays.

It was very difficult to tear them away from their work even for the few moments I needed to get a shot of their faces.

These craftsmen do not receive a salary, but merely receive commissions on the pens they create. So they are happy to be so busy. They even laughed when I apologized for the part which Pentrace has played in this recent flood of orders.

After a few minutes, Toshiya Nakata, president of Nakaya came in, so I was free to ask all the questions I wanted without being a nuisance.

His "day job" is at Platinum, and he gets no salary or commissions from Nakaya at all. This is a labor of love for him. The whole reason he started this company was to allow these retired craftsmen to continue to use their skills after they left Platinum.

He also wanted to promote the use of high quality traditional fountain pens. He once confided in me that he is happy to see people using fountain pens even if those pens were made by other pen companies.

He is a bit of a pen collector himself, as are the other Nakaya craftsmen.

Wajima-nuri Pens

We discussed the amazing success of the Wajima-nuri pens. These are ebonite (hard black rubber) pens which have been coated with several layers of urushi (lacquer). At first these were produced in the traditional Japanese urushi colors of black or red, but have recently become available in green and blue. In response to requests from customers, there are now plans to produce a purple Wajima-nuri pen. Right now they are experimenting to get the perfect shade.

The most sought after urushi finish is still the tamenuri, which has an undercoat of red which is later covered with black or natural brown urushi. As the finish ages, the top coating becomes translucent, allowing the color underneath to shine through like a dark pool of water. Some models have an undercoating of green or blue.

These pens have no gold band or clip; just solid unbroken color. A few months ago Nakaya did start producing a red and natural brown tamenuri pen with band and clip. During this visit, I was surprised to see among the newest pens a blue wajima-nuri pen with gold band and clip. The gold contrasted wonderfully with the dark blue color.

I asked Mr. Nakata where the idea for these unique pens came from. He told me that last year, he received an unusual order from an urushi craftsman in Wajima, Japan's most well known urushi and maki-e producing town. This man wanted to buy an ebonite pen with no clip or band or any other trimmings; just plain unadorned ebonite. Such pens were not yet being produced by Nakaya, but they went ahead and made one for him and sent it to Wajima. He then coated it with many layers urushi, and had created for himself a fine one-of-a-kind treasure. He later showed this creation to Mr. Nakata who was so impressed that he asked him if he could produce more pens of the same type, and thus Nakaya's most unique and successful pen was born!

I have been asked not to mention the name of this urushi craftsman as he is the head of a well known urushi business which has been passed down from father to son for many generations, and many of his fellow craftsmen would take a dim view of applying this ancient Japanese art to such a distinctly western product as the fountain pen.