I’m a fountain pen user; I just really like the experience. But the experience for me is mainly in the writing itself. The smoothness and ease of writing a fountain pen allows is wonderful in my opinion. But I know that it isn’t always the best way to write and has its detractors. There are quite a few problems that prevent the majority of people from using fountain pens, and prevent me from using them for all tasks. I still carry around a ballpoint with me every day for any writing tasks that I need, and I would say I write more with ballpoints than with fountain pens, and more with fountain pens than rollerballs.
So it seems strange to me that many of the things that I consider to be flaws with fountain pens are embraced, even loved, by the current fountain pen community. That’s not to say I think they’re wrong; I just find it odd. The first is not a particularly cared for phenomenon, but one that is tolerated more than I would think it would be, and that is nib creep. Nib creep is when ink escapes from the channel through the nib slit and onto the top of the nib due to flaws in the nib slit and lubricants in the ink. This ink, while it doesn’t really affect the performance of the writing instrument, can be unsightly, but even if people don’t mind the look, it is a sign that there is a flaw in the pen. With less expensive pens it’s understandable, but companies who make more expensive pens should know better.
Another thing is ink shading. I know I’m a bit boring when it comes to ink because I use black inks 85% of the time, but that’s because they provide the most consistent experience available. Many other colors of ink “shade” or become more concentrated in certain parts of the line due to a variety of factors, resulting in some parts of writing being dark and some being light. To me this is obviously an ink flaw that many companies have worked hard to get rid of, both in ballpoints, and in fountain pen companies’ main inks. Many pen companies’ inks, like Parker and Sheaffer, are made it seems specifically to eliminate this (and make them easy to clean up). I’ve never been partial to making my writing harder to read and unprofessional looking (again, my opinion) but many people seem to love it. It adds some amount of expression to writing that shows one is writing with a fountain pen (well, 95% likelihood). And it just happens more with the more colored inks that people like these days which also show some more expression and that they’re more than likely writing with a fountain pen. But I just like writing, and I like to make my writing as easy and consistent as possible, and shading just isn’t my thing.
Another thing I’m not a particular fan of is ink on my fingers. Now, unlike other people, it seems I can refill a pen without getting ink on me the majority of the time. I’m not really sure why that is, probably because I spend too long doing things and really don’t want ink on my fingers to rub off anywhere else. But I do know that fountain pens can be messy. And I do get ink on my hands from time to time. But I can effectively remove it the majority of the time using a variety of ways. And that has been what the majority of people have done for the better part of the fountain pen’s existence. I would certainly call it a flaw and an extra hassle. I’m not particularly a fan of broadcasting that one of my hobbies can make my hands look dirty, or bloody. But some people use it as an indication that they use fountain pens or as a badge to show what their hobby “costs” (That’s a bad way to phrase that, but I can’t think of a better one.)
Now, obviously none of these things are a deal breaker for me, and I’m not trying to insult people who enjoy (or don’t care about) them. But I’m just not quite sure why most people don’t consider these things flaws. As far as I can tell they obviously are. And people have spent lots of time trying to fix these things. But I guess if it can’t be gotten rid of, it might as well be looked at in a different light.