Top Fountain Pen Myths and Misconceptions

There are many fountain pen myths and misconceptions. Some people are afraid to use a fountain pen or just don’t know much about them. These myths may make using a fountain pen for the first time intimidating. We hope to dispel some of the most common myths and help you feel more comfortable using a fountain pen.

Fountain Pen Myth 1 – Fountain Pens Leak

Fountain pens do not leak. If you have a leaking fountain pen then there is something wrong with your pen. You may notice some ink on the nib. This is called “nib creep” but most pens will not have this issue. Some minor ink on the nib is normal and not to be worried about.

Fountain pens use gravity and capillary action to feed the ink from the ink chamber, whether that is an ink cartridge, converter or piston. The ink flows through the feed section of the pen, through the breather hole or vent hole where the nib splits, and down to the tip of the pen. Fountain pens function as a controlled leak. As pressure is put on the nib of the pen the tines separate and allows the ink to flow. The pen will not leak or release ink unless there is pressure put on the nib of the pen.

Fountain Pen Myth 2 – Fountain Pens Cannot Be Taken on Airplanes

Have you ever opened a bottle of liquid after traveling and air or the liquid runs out? This is caused due to the pressure variation in the altitude change. This same pressure variation can cause fountain pens to leak if you a not careful.

Fountain pens, however, can be taken on airplanes with proper care. Some simple precautions can keep your pen from leaking. We recommend you follow the same instructions with electronic devices. You can always flush the pen and remove the ink but if you want to use the pen make sure you keep the nib of the pen upright during takeoff and landing where the greatest pressure variation occurs. This allows air flow into the pen. If the pen is pointed downward the pressure can push ink out of the pen. Once you are at cruising altitude you can safely take out your pen and use it.

Fountain Pen Myth 3 – Fountain Pens Can Shoot Ink and Squirt Your Friends

You may have seen a cartoon where one character shoots another using a fountain pen and drenches him in ink. Can fountain pens really shoot ink? The answer is yes and no. It depends on the fill device on the pen as to how much pressure the pen can generate to expel the ink quickly. The fill mechanisms however are designed to draw ink into the pen and not to expel it quickly. You may be able to get a small amount of ink to squirt out of the pen but fountain pens will not shoot ink at great distances and the will certainly not expel ink to drench your friend. There is not a clear path through the feed mechanism of the pen the ink pretty much just dribbles out. You would have to hold the pen right within an inch of them to even hit them with any ink. The only way this would be possible to modify your fountain pen with a high pressure syringe or other device.

Fountain Pen Myth 4 – If Someone Uses Your Fountain Pen it Damages the Nib

It is commonly thought that letting others use your fountain pens will alter the nib on the fountain pen. It is fact that over time a fountain pen nib will wear down and mold to your writing style. Fountain pen nibs, however, are made to last for decades and this process takes hours and hours of writing to even alter the nib in the slightest degree.  Letting someone borrow your pen to jot down a quick note will not change the nib configuration or ruin it. Simply letting another person write with your pen will not ruin the nib. Now if you have an expensive pen and you don’t want someone to walk away with it or damage it that is another issue.

Fountain Pen Myth 5 – Left Handers Cannot Use Fountain Pens

The issue with left handers and fountain pens is two fold. First, fountain pens with more flexible nibs can be challenging for leftys. Most modern fountain pens come with rigid nibs and some brands even develop nibs specifically designed for left handed writers such as the Sailor 1911 Lefty fountain pen. The second issue with left handed writers and fountain pens is the direction you write. For instance, English is written from left to right. This can cause left handed writers to drag through the drying ink with their hand. Some left handed writers use an “overwriter” writing style so their writing hand is above the drying ink. This keeps the hand out of the ink but the nib may need to be tuned for this writing style. You should also consider a faster drying ink such as the Sailor Kiwo-Guro black pigmented ink or the Sailor Sei-Boku blue/black pigment ink (also known as Nano inks).

Fountain Pen Myth 6 – Fountain Pens Make You Write Slower

There is nothing within the design of a fountain pen that makes it write slower than another type of pen. I do not notice that I write any slower or faster using a fountain pen as opposed to a ballpoint pen. It is possible however that some writers slow down and force themselves to write better when using a fountain pen which leads into the next myth on the list.

Fountain Pen Myth 7 – Fountain Pens Make You Write Better

There is no pen that will magically make your writing better. Regardless of the pen, you are still the one doing the writing. Because you do not have to wrestle with the pen your writing may slightly improve or if you use a calligraphy pen and know what you are doing your writing may be fancier. One pen may perform better than another pen. Depending on your writing style there may be different types of pens and inks that work better for you. All in all one pen to another will not improve your writing.

Fountain Pen Myth 8 – You Must Use the Same Ink Brand as Your Fountain Pen

The manufacturers ink is guaranteed to work with their pens without any issues but this doesn’t mean you have to use the same ink brand as your pen. There is a multitude of different ink brands and colors. They range in price as well as quality. Some inks flow better than others. Experiment and try different inks with your pen. Find a brand that you like, one that has the color selection, the writing quality and the price you can afford.

Fountain Pen Myth 9 – Fountain Pens Are Expensive

There are many fountain pens that are expensive. Some are limited edition pens, others are made from precious metals. There are also many fountain pens that are inexpensive and won’t break the bank. Even though these pens are a bit more than a disposable pen they are not more expensive over time. Fountain pens are meant to be used over and over again. As you refill the pens over time you re-coop the initial cost of the pen.

Here are some great starter fountain pens that are less expensive:

Fountain Pen Myth 10 – Fountain Pens Require Skill

Most fountain pens are designed for general writing and do not require any more skill than any other pen. Simply keep the shiny part of the nib up and don’t press too hard. You know how to write already and using a fountain pen is not that different.

Special nib pens, such as italic calligraphy nibs, are different and require some training. This is not the case with most fountain pens. Fountain pens do require a bit more maintenance but it is really not that difficult.

Conclusion to Top Fountain Pen Myths

There are other fountain pen myths and we have just covered some of the most common. Hopefully this article helped to dispel these fountain pen myths and help you realize anyone can use a fountain pen. Fountain pens are fun to write with and are unlike any other writing instrument. If you have never tried a fountain pen now is the time!

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Wes Schaeffer
8 years ago

Thank you for this post. I have an inexpensive Cross pen and every time I touch it there is “nib bleed” and I end up with more ink on my hands than on the paper. Is it just because it’s a cheap pen? How can I test a pen before I buy it? While I like writing with the pen I don’t like being covered in ink!!

5 years ago

Thank you for sharing Nice information about fountain pens.

William Terry
5 years ago

I beg to differ on allowing other people to write with your fountain pen. Some people tend to press hard when writing using ballpoints, rollerballs, and pencils and are not conscious of how much pressure they use. Some do so much that you can find indentations on the underlying sheet of paper. I definitely failed to adequately specify to use very light pressure (should probably have said no pressure) and ended up with a splayed nib. It’s simply that their point of reference for light pressure can be very different based on their muscle memory.