Fountain Pens

January 1, 2015

In the current age of mass-manufactured products, the reality is that everything you use on a daily basis can be easily and cheaply replaced. While the environmental implications of this phenomenon has been repeated ad infinitum, we overlook another insidious consequence arising from the practice: the normalization of disposabililty.

Planned obsolesce has become ingrained in the modern psyche, infecting our behavior, identity, and social relationships with others. By addressing the attitude from the daily things we use, we can improve the quality of our lives and relationships.

Eco-Friendly/Reusability

Through the formative years of my academic life, I’ve gone through various pens- as I’m sure we all can relate- from rollerballs, blotters, gel pens, etc. At the end of the day, those trusty tools that kept us company through grueling assignments simply ended up in a landfill.

The main advantage of fountain pens is reusability.

When a fountain pen runs dry, it is a trivial matter to simply fill its ink converter with more ink. With other pens, refilling entails getting a new pen altogether or buying additional “refills”, plastic sticks with metal endings that end up in the trash when they’re empty- not a sustainable prospect.

For the fountain pen, the only consumable is ink, drawn from tasteful glass bottles that are re-used for years to come.

Quality/Permanence

Due to the fancy ink mechanisms and their intended reusability, good fountain pens aren’t exactly cheap when compared to conventional pens. They are solidly built to last and the timeless designs are made for the ages. A quick search on Ebay reveals the fact that not only have they lasted for generations, but have actually increased in value over time. You simply can’t say the same for that Bic!

Ritual/Ceremony

Fountain pens were largely phased out after the introduction of ballpoints due to the convenience of use, among many other reasons. To be fair, there is no additional steps involved- just pick up a ballpoint and write!

With fountain pens, there are far more steps involved: One must take care to regularly flush the pen out to get rid of any dried/accumulated ink residue that may impede performance. Depending on the ink filling mechanism, regular applications of silicone grease may be required to lubricate moving parts and maintain seals.

Filling the pen with ink is an artful act that is a ritual in itself, from opening a bottle of ink to operating the filling mechanism. At the very end, wiping the excess off of the brilliant, engraved surface of the nib to create blossoms of color on the blotting paper, prepares the mind for the task ahead.

Performing extra chores for simply having the ability to write may seem like a hassle, but there’s a certain degree of satisfaction in going through the motions of maintaining and preparing not simply a pen, but a writing instrument.

© 2019 Robert J. Chen