Holding your Fountain Pen


The pen nib should be at a 40 - 55 degree angle with the paper.

Holding a pen

The pen rests in the hand, laying in the space between the finger and the thumb resting on the next finger in the hand. The fingers help to guide the nib and and not support the entire weight of the pen. If your grasp your pen with your fingers at the bottom, the pen will write, but you may experience writing fatique sooner! 

It is all about the angle

If the nib does not glide across the paper correctly, it is can be a bad writing experience

Lately I see so many Instagram photos where the writter is holding the pen straight up in a clenched fist. Oh my. Not good. Some of this comes from the sad decision of schools to eliminate writing from the school courses.

I think I learned the old way. When I was in school, we moved from pencil to pen in grade four and the pen we moved to was a fountain pen. Although we still had the desks with the circle where the ink bottle would sit, the ink bottles and dip pens had just been elminated!

The key aspect of writing with a fountain pen is that the pen, the nib, glides across the paper. Your hand guides its movement and the shaping of the lines that form the words.

I recall talking to lawyers and judges were commonly write with fountain pens, and they would describe how lightly they hold the pen and how it slides the paper with relatively little effort.

The pen should rest in the hand and be at a 40 to 55-degree angle to the paper. You will find as you write with a fountain pen, there will be a sweet spot.

If you look at a nib, you will notice there is a small ball on the reverse side of the nib. There are some exceptions, but the basic structure of the nib is to have an irridium tipped point on the underside side the nib. The shape of this tip is one of the factors that forms the line the nib creates.

Steel nibs, especially stub steel nibs, will not have a tip. With these nibs the cut of the nib itself determins the shape of the writing line. But in any event, it is the bottom of the nib that glides across the paper, not the actualy tip or end of the nib.

Guide the pen, don't press it through the paper

The pleasant experience of writing with a fountain pen comes down to the ease it glides across the paper. You don’t need to press down hard to get the ink to flow like you do with a ballpoint pen. Sometimes you may have to lightly press the nib to the paper, it pushes the nib up from the feed, and this can help to start the flow down the feed to the nib.

If you press two hard the nib tines open, and the feed will be incapable of feeding enough ink to the nib. Now there are some special flex nibs where as you press down you will see the tines open and a greater amount of ink flows. The flex nibs are specifically made for the tines to spring open, and close as part of the up, down and across writing motion.

Your hand and arm are joined for a purpose

I watch people writing with a fountain pen, and many of them have all the writing action take place in their fingers. Use your hand and in fact your arm to write.

The Italian pen company OMAS made a wonderful pen, the 360, which had a triangle nib section so that you could only hold the pen and the nib in one way. The nib was at a 45 degree angle to the paper. Many did not like the pen because of that feature, however, it kept the nib in the absolutely correct alignment to the paper.