i’m an american living in america who uses the celsius scale to tell temperature. i don’t like the feeling of shirt cuffs being around my wrists, but feel naked without my watch.
but there’s one thing i’ve gotten into this year which is weirder than most things given my position as a technologist: fountain pens.
what this is all about
i really enjoy writing. the deliberate physical act of writing helps me remember ideas and conversations more than typing on auto-pilot ever could. for a long time, i had used a mechanical pencil to do my writing—largely because of the ease of erasing mistakes and having the ability to shade certain shapes without ink bleeding through paper. however, i was finding while writing through my field notes books that there was still graphite transfer from writing on the reverse sides of pages. being a tinkerer, i looked for a different way.
my friend josh brought up the idea to me originally. he was living and working in europe at the time and had dipped a toe into the fountain pen culture. my interest was immediately piqued. i needed to get a pen, and ink, and even new notebooks. field notes, although being an amazing company, had relatively thin paper stock which i knew wouldn’t work well with a fountain pen. i had my requirements. time to put this into action.
the pen was going to be important because, as my vehicle for delivering ink to paper, i was going to be holding it and looking at it for a large part of my meeting-filled days. having and quite enjoying my waterman ballpoint pen previously, i decided to shop around and see what options were available in the fountain variety. i settled on the hémisphére, matte black, with a fine nib. it’s elegant but not gaudy, and slim enough to fit in as good in my messenger bag as merely sitting on my desk.
a good fountain pen is nothing without good ink, and the ink was the perfect opportunity to let my weirdness shine. while the pen would travel with me wherever i went, my writing would stay behind—a very visible reminder of my impact on the world (or at the very least, my impact on a sheet of paper). having purchased a waterman pen, i decided to keep it in the family and choose a waterman ink. across all the many colors—including four different shades of blue—i found the one which called my name the loudest: brun absolu. only available in an ink bottle, absolute brown has a mixture of old-timey feel and new-timey panache.
the paper, however, is the most important component of all. the stock has to be hearty to prevent the ink from feathering and bleeding, and—unless you’re some type of barbarian—must be dot-ruled. i love the small pocket style of field notes brand books and would recommend the company to anyone… but my new journey into the world of fountain pens and fancy inks demanded a larger surface and more space for ideas to take shape. that’s where the baron fig vanguard came into play. soft cover, well-sized, and available in dot-ruled paper. perfect for carrying throughout the day, writing in during calls and meetings, and stowing away in my bag at night.
a bit after using and enjoying my new pen, i decided to switch inks for variety. i gave myself a new perspective and a fresh look by choosing an ink from the j. herbin 1670 collection. (it hardly gets more old-school than that.) i was looking for something different enough from the absolute brown ink i was using to give that new feel, while at the same time choosing an ink bold enough to make a statement. it was pretty easy to select emeraude de chivor: “an elegant emerald green ink with flecks of gold”.
if that were all, it would be enough—yet i didn’t stop there. surely two inks required two pens; one pen for each color. i decided on another of the waterman line, this time the carène in the marine amber style, also with a fine nib.
although my handwriting is still terrible, i still find immense enjoyment over my analog note taking setup. even refilling my pens when the time arises has become a source of relaxation for me. zen and the art of fountain pen maintenance.
yes, i’m weird.
and i love it.