My Favorite, and Least Favorite, Starter Fountain Pens

fountain pens

Starter fountain pens: let’s get into it. Everyone loves a “what starter fountain pen should I buy” question. I am no exception: I have a few suggestions. The problem is, I also have a few I really don’t suggest, even though they are commonly recommended for beginners.

My choices are based on my own preferences, my own experience and my own tastes. Feel free to disagree. Different opinions and experiences are part of the fun.

For a starter fountain pen, I want a pen with a fairly low price. That encourages people to take the chance. And if you don’t get the hang of writing with the fountain pen, or don’t like it, or you lose your pen, it’s not the end of the world. I only consider new pens, not vintage pens, for ease of purchase and ease of use.

But another requirement for me is that the pen be capable of providing lasting satisfaction. My ideal starter fountain pen can be used regularly even when you’ve moved past the starter stage. Because fountain pens don’t have to be expensive or precious, in my opinion.

So let’s jump in the pool.

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Quick Look: Platinum Classic Inks

Platinum Classic Line ink writing sample

I was lucky enough to get samples of the new Platinum Classic Line of inks. I dipped them all with a Kaweco dip pen. (And yes my writing is even worse with a dip pen, but it was the quickest way to look at them all.)

I like all six, but my initial favorites are Cassis and Citrus, which darken a lot and are colors I happen to like. Sepia is a little unexciting for me, as is Khaki — both end up more in the brown-black range, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Lavender is really nice for a purple if you don’t skimp on the amount of ink. Forest was nice, too, as it turned very dark green. I wonder if the inks will keep darkening as the days go on; I feel like they might.

However, I want to warn people: my first impressions lead me to believe that these are going to be higher maintenance iron gall inks. They seem strong. So I’m going to be careful picking an appropriate pen.

The main thing in choosing a pen, for me, will be to pick a pen with a gold nib, without any metal trim on the section end that could come into contact with the ink when filling. That’s because my dip pen nib looked like this by the time I had finished dipping three inks.

discolored dip pen nib

The surface of this nib’s plating was discolored where it made contact with the ink. I don’t mind that on a steel dip pen nib costing $3. But I would mind terribly if that happened on an expensive pen. A gold nib is not subject to this type of damage, and that’s what I’ll use.

Given the visible damage quickly inflicted on this dip pen nib, more care needs to be taken choosing a pen/nib for these Platinum Classic inks than with other iron gall inks for fountain pens. For instance, most KWZ iron gall inks don’t require this kind of caution — the ones I’ve tested have been perfectly safe for Safari nibs.

Here’s why, I think: Platinum Classic Line iron gall inks are described as “highly water resistant and suitable for permanent preservation,” per Platinum. That places them in the document ink category, like a Registrar’s ink. That would explain a higher iron gall content, higher acidity and also the higher-maintenance and greater risk to metal plating.

In contrast, most KWZ iron gall inks are not document inks, and not as permanent. And these lighter iron gall inks from KWZ also are more gentle on pens. It’s a tradeoff.*

I also will choose a wetter pen for these inks, because I suspect that the wetter the pen the darker the color you’ll end up with. I saw a dramatic color change with all of these, as they darkened noticeably as they dried. But I also kept dipping to make sure that I had a generous amount of ink on the pen nib.

I’m not surprised: traditional iron gall inks are drier-writing inks. A wet pen is a better match for traditional iron gall inks, so it makes sense that would be true for these Platinum Classic inks, too.


* KWZ Iron Gall Blue Black is a document ink, I’m told, so it should be treated with the same caution as Platinum Classic Line inks. I found KWZ Iron Gall Orange higher maintenance than others, too, so that’s another I’d treat more cautiously.

New Iron Gall Inks From Japan Are Coming Soon: Platinum Classic Inks

Platinum Classic Inks

My friend who’s just become a Platinum dealer texted me this photo last night. Yay. It looks like Platinum is going to be debuting a new line of inks, and although Platinum doesn’t use the words “iron gall,” these must be iron gall inks.

In the official announcement, Platinum says its upcoming Classic Line ink is produced using the traditional method. Also that the Classic Line is an extension of Platinum Blue Black. Platinum says Classic Line ink is bright when you start writing, but gradually darkens. “It is also highly water resistant and suitable for permanent preservation.” All of that, my friends, clearly adds up to “iron gall.”

Yay, again. KWZ inks have shown a wide audience how attractive, and easy to use, modern iron gall inks can be. The more of these in the marketplace, the merrier.

By the way, I am working on a post about how one can confidently use modern iron gall inks in fountain pens. Because in my experience, modern iron gall inks are excellent inks to use, and almost all are as gentle as the gentlest Pelikan or Waterman ink. (Some are higher maintenance or require more caution. But that is true with any brand of ink. Even Waterman has the harder-to-clean purple.)

The Platinum announcement actually says that Classic Inks turn black with time, and as a result the Classic Line puts the word “Black” in each ink’s name. But until I try them, I’m going to assume most of the inks will darken, but not necessarily all the way to what I’d call black. Because, in general, that’s been my experience with modern iron gall inks. Platinum does have ink swabs at that link above.

If the Classic Line inks are available by the first weekend in May, I’ve already twisted my friend’s arm so I’ll have samples for people to try at the ink testing station at the Chicago Pen Show. I’m really hoping I’ll get them sooner, however. Because these look awesome.

Fountain Pen Favorites for September 2016

calendar image

This was a great month for fountain pens and ink for me.

1. Kaweco Traveller Case. This little case worked its way into my heart, moving from curiosity to essential. Some prefer large cases, but not me. Sized for Kaweco pens, the Traveller fits small and standard-size fountain pens. It carries six of those, plus extras, but easily slips into purse or briefcase. That meant I started carrying multiple fountains for the first time. The price is a splurge, but the quality seems high.

2.  Platinum Classic Maki-e. I fell for this, too. To keep the cost down, the maki-e on this pen starts with screen-printing, but it didn’t look or feel like a compromise to me or anyone else who tried it. It’s an attractive pen with a great nib at a great price. And it’s a maki-e pen that you don’t need to fuss over.

3.   Pelikan Hub. That was lots of fun, meeting other Pelikan fans and trying other fountain pens and inks. Kudos to Pelikan for bringing people together. And thanks for the Pelikan Edelstein Aquamarine. If you get a chance to go next year, I recommend it.

Photo by Dafne Cholet, Flickr, used under Creative Commons license.

And the Platinum Classic Maki-e Goes to …

Platinum Classic Maki-e Bush Warbler fountain pen

The random winner of the Platinum Classic Maki-e from Pen Chalet is Gareth19. Congratulations to you, Gareth19, and I know you’ll enjoy this beautiful pen. Please use the Contact menu at the top of the page to send me your full name and address, so I can send you your new pen.

If the pen isn’t claimed by next Monday, I’ll do a new drawing next Tuesday and post that person’s name on the blog instead. Because if this thing stays with me much longer, there’s an excellent chance you’ll next see me hiding with it underground and cooing “my precious.”

But wait, because there’s more to give away. Ron at Pen Chalet and I were so blown away by the rhymes laid down by our commentators, that Pen Chalet is also going to give away two Flash Poetry Prizes. Each Flash Poetry Prize will be a new bottle of J. Herbin 1670 ink of the winner’s choice. I heartily recommend the new Caroube de Chypre, or Emerald of Chivor if you want a bolder color.

With the Flash Poetry prizes, there were so many great choices we just chose 11 of the most outstanding, then had a random number generator pick the two ultimate winners. And those are: Jorge Gomez and Robert Holland.

So Jorge and Robert, please use the Contact menu up there at the top of the page, to give me your names, addresses and choice of ink.

Congratulations to all the winners, and thank you to all the entrants. Those rhymes for Pen Chalet really did slay.

Platinum Classic Maki-e Fountain Pen: Enter to Win Right Here

Platinum Classic Maki-e Bush Warbler 

(If you are just stumbling across this post today, I have some bad news: entries are closed; this giveaway is over; and this bird has flown to its lucky new owner. But I have some good news, too:  the pen still is available for purchase, so go ahead and read the review if you’re interested. And do read the comments below, because our commentators contributed some awesome rhymes. Hooray.)

Our friends at Pen Chalet are giving away this gorgeous Platinum Classic Maki-e fountain pen with a broad nib through Fountain Pen Follies. The pen is great. Don’t take my word for it — everyone at my Pelikan Hub loved it, too.

To enter to win the Classic Maki-e, just leave a comment below. Any comment is fine, but how about something that rhymes with Pen Chalet? Mine would probably be, “I’m waiting for the next Dim Sum tray.”  But for the well born, maybe, “I could use a good valet.” Fans of the most lovable baseball team ever surely know, “Hey, hey, what do you say, the Cubs are going to win today.” And kudos for anything like, “Shopping at Pen Chalet makes it a good day.”

This contest is open to anyone, anywhere, but only one entry per person is allowed. I will randomly select the winner on September 27th, and post the lucky winner’s name on the blog. So be sure to check back then. Once announced, the winner will need to contact me with a mailing address within a week.