Pelikan M320 Ruby Red photo by Halsted M. Bernard

Pelikan M320 Ruby Red photo by Halsted M. Bernard

It has come to this: my passion for fountain pens, ink, and other analog tools requires its own page.

I don’t know when it began. From a very early age, I was fascinated with stationery, particularly office supplies. As a child, I learned calligraphy, so I must have owned my first fountain pen then. It didn’t turn into a full-blown passion until 2003, and I’m still not sure why.

Despite all this, I am not snooty about writing instruments; I appreciate any pen that provides a compelling tactile experience. I love to talk pens with people, and sometimes I even write about them.

Fountain pens

I have been collecting fountain pens for a while now, and have some recommendations. Soon I’ll write short blurbs next to each pen explaining why I recommend it. And I’ll add some photos, too.

Starter pens

Although these are considered starter pens, I love them and recommend them to anyone curious about fountain pens. They both have smooth nibs and good ink capacity.

  • TWSBI Eco
  • Pilot Metropolitan

Best pens under $100

Both of these are pocket pens, which makes them ultra portable. I also like them because they turn into full-sized pens when posted.

  • TWSBI Diamond Mini Classic
  • Kaweco Sport

Pinnacle pens

When considering a pinnacle pen purchase, I always recommend that you visit a local pen shop to try before you buy. And then sleep on it. I’ve been burned by an impulse purchase of a Stipula Ventidue while on holiday, and ended up with a gorgeous yet hopelessly busted pen.

  • Lamy 2000
  • Pilot Vanishing Point
  • Esterbrook Estie

Grail pens

I don’t own these … yet. It’s good to yearn for a “grail” pen or two.

Other writing instruments

Although I primarily use fountain pens, I use and recommend these other writing instruments.

  • Fisher Space Pen: The ballpoint pen that writes upside-down and through butter. I have the matte black bullet, which fits in a small pocket, and has written the first time, every time, for decades. (With refills, of course.)
  • Blackwing Pencils: FunkyPlaid turned me on to these fancy pencils. I don’t use them often, but whenever I do, I enjoy the experience.
  • Ferris Wheel Press makes a rollerball pen called the Roundabout with a converter so you can use fountain pen ink in it.
  • A friend gave me a set of uni-ball EMOTT fineliner markers, which have 0.4mm tips and water-based, water resistant ink. These are brilliant pens for paper planners!


One of the best parts of using fountain pens is getting to play with all the beautiful inks! My ink collection is catalogued at Fountain Pen Companion. Goulet Pens' Swab Shop is my online reference for ink swabs; in person, I go to Oblation Papers & Press and use their ink swatch book.

I am currently intrigued by pale-hued shaders like Sailor Manyo Nekoyanagi and Troublemaker Inks Petrichor.

The inks I use the most for daily use are:

  • De Atramentis Charles Dickens
  • Kaweco Summer Purple
  • Pilot Iroshizuku Ku-Jaku

Don’t know where to start? Email me and I’ll happily recommend some inks to you.

To blot or not to blot

Different inks have varying drying times on various paper types. Some people let their pages air-dry; I can be impatient so I use blotter sheets. These A5 blotter sheets from Nanami Paper are especially good at soaking up excess ink and being sturdy enough to use for many months.

Paper and notebooks

Pen people tend to fuss about paper because it’s a huge bummer to break out a beautiful pen filled with gorgeous ink and watch it feather and bleed all over the place.

You’ll hear a lot about Tomoe River paper because it has unique properties that allow for almost no ghosting or bleed-through, and it can unlock some truly gorgeous shading and hue changes in sheening inks. As a long-time user of Tomoe River paper, I can confirm that it lives up to the hype. (Read “Tomoe River: The Full Story” for more.)

The planners, notebooks, and covers I use daily and recommend are: