Today we have a great guest post that takes a look at the experience of using fountain pens for lefties. It was written by friend of the blog and prolific left handed wrist watch blogger at The Wrist Watch Review and A Blog toWatch, Patrick Kansa (@abtw_patrick). Many thanks to Patrick for providing this view that as a right handed writer I could never provide for our great readers here. I think you its a great read regardless of which hand you write with, so read on if you are a lefty and unsure about fountain pens, or if you just want to get a great and unique perspective on learning to write with a fountain pen.
Learning How To Write with the Pilot Metropolitan and Noodler’s Bernanke Blue Ink:
Well, not learning how to write from scratch, but rather, learning how to write with a fountain pen. You see, as a lefty, there are all manner of things working against me successfully using a fountain pen. You have the whole push-vs-pull hand movement, but more importantly, there is the issue of ink. Specifically, of ink drying times. For any left-hander, you know all to well the unique joy of finding the side of your hand smudged with graphite or ink at the end of a long writing session. That’s why things like gel inks have been amazing (as I pointed out in my review of the Montblanc Cruise Rollerball). That was the big reason I had written off ever really fiddling with a fountain pen. Then Brian turned me on to something that is a bit of a revelation – Noodler’s Bernanke Blue ink.
Now, as it turns out, Noodler’s Bernanke Blue ink (via Goulet Pens) is not something new – it, and the black ink, were released back in 2011. As an aside, read through their post on it – it’s a humorous read, and gives you some insight into how they named the ink. For the general consumer, they basically wanted to create an extremely fast-drying ink. And in that regard, I would say that they succeeded. I had to try really hard (ie, make a line and then immediately rub at it) to make this stuff smear at all. This may also be impacted by the paper I was using (more on that in a bit), but I did find it to be a great ink for my left-handed scribbling, and in a lovely shade of blue to boot.
Now, regarding paper. When I was using this pen, it was primarily in a notebook I had received from work (not sure of branding, but it gives the appearance of a Moleskine clone). The paper itself took the ink just fine, and I did not notice any issues with feathering or the like. What I did notice was some not insignificant bleed-through to the reverse side of the page. Fortunately, I had been in the practice of only using the one side anyways, so this did not negatively impact my particular use case. When I found this, though, I realized why I sometimes see people going on about different qualities and types of papers in notebooks. For the casual (and gel pen) user, this really has not much impact. When you are using wet inks, however, it is a different story.
Editors Note: Looks like a Whitelines Journal (via Amazon) being used for the writing sample here.
The Noodler’s Bernanke Blue ink needed to go into something (since I was not about to fashion a quill), and for that, the duties fell to the Pilot Metropolitan fountain pen. I do not know if the Pilot Metropolitan (via Amazon) is what I would call a perfect beginner’s fountain pen (since I’m a beginner myself), but it certainly lends itself well to the beginner. For starters, it is fairly inexpensive, coming in at around $15. Yeah, you can get a box of pens for that price, for something that is an experiment in more of a longer-lasting sort of tool, this is a reasonable cover price for getting into the pool. The steel nib (in either fine or medium; mine is a fine), while not overly decorated, does have some patterning on it. An additional benefit to the beginner is that the Pilot Metropolitan comes with both an ink cartridge (so you don’t have to buy ink right away) as well as a squeeze converter. I of course used the squeeze converter for the Noodler’s ink, and have yet to try the cartridge out.
Now, about that squeeze converter. It is a fairly simple affair – a small, rubberized container within a larger piece of spring metal. You squeeze the metal to evacuate the converter, dip the nib into the ink, and then release the pressure, thereby drawing the ink up into the converter. While this works, and certainly keeps the pen affordable, it’s opaque nature makes it hard to tell how much ink you managed to draw up (if any at all; I’ve had a few mis-draws). This is not a make-or-break sort of thing, as there apparently is a piston converter available for the pen, which I believe makes the ink level more visible. Just something to be aware of if you’re jumping into this pen as a newbie – it will take a little bit of getting used to for filling the pen.
As to the pen itself, I found the Pilot Metropolitan to be a good everyday sort of use pen. The body of the pen (from the start of the nib to the tail) is 126mm, and if you post the cap, it has an overall length of 153mm (including the nib). Combined with the weight of 26g, this is a pen that felt decent in the hand. Not the weightiest, but it was workable, and felt sturdy. The one aspect of the build that I was not as much of a fan of was the cap, and the fact that it did not positively post onto the body when writing. You sort of friction fit it on to the end of the cap (no clicking it in place) and hope it sticks there. This is perhaps just more of a preference of mine, but I do like the cap to stay in place, rather than being loose on the tabletop. Oh, and there was one other wrinkle – there were parting lines on the body where your fingers grip the pen. They were not significant, but they are noticeable. You could try to argue that they provide some grip, but I think it’s just a fact of the price point the pen was built it – there simply was not budget to polish those lines down (something an enterprising home user could do, however).
All in all, I was rather pleasantly surprised by the Pilot Metropolitan combined with the Noodler’s Bernanke Blue. Frankly, as a left-hander, I had written off fountain pens as a whole. Now that I know of this fast-drying ink, well, now I have yet another anachronism I can add to my repertoire (along with mechanical watches and “old school” shaving). I still find myself working through the correct angling and position of the pen to ensure a consistent flow to the paper, but it’s getting there. I just need to be sure I don’t go falling down rabbit holes to find the perfect paper for the ink! In short, if there’s someone curious about fountain pens, the Pilot Metropolitan seems like a decent, low-cost entry to try out. And for the lefties out there, I cannot stress how nice the Noodler’s Bernanke ink is – definitely give it a spin if you are scratching lines with a fountain pen. For me, the usage continues, and I’m riding the learning curve. Time will tell how much of a daily companion a fountain pen ends up being.