In part one, we examined the history of the pen and what type of writing implements are currently available for purchase. Today, we’re going to be looking at how to pick out the ideal pen for your hand, plus revealing some answers to frequently asked questions on the topic of pens.
If you haven’t done so already, I recommend starting out by reading the first part of the article to help you understand some of the topics involved in choosing your first luxury pen.
Picking out a pen
Deciding between pen types is an extremely personal decision. The best place to start your journey is at a local specialist pen store; you can often find these in large towns and cities, plus you may also discover manufacturers retailing their product lines at counters within bigger department stores. Here you’ll be given advice and recommendations based on your style of handwriting, budget and general requirements.
Upon arrival, don’t be afraid to spend a little time trying the various products on offer; a luxury pen can last decades, so don’t rush this part of the process. Get a feel for the various weights, sizes and balance. Through a system of trial and error, you’ll soon realize which pens are either too large or too small for your natural handgrip. If you aren’t sure about a pen after half an hour, it’s unlikely to be the model for you.
You’ll find, regardless of tip design, you’ll have a whole cacophony of ink refill choices to consider too. These typically come in the form of replaceable or refillable cartridges, and it’s worthwhile spending a moment or two examining how these re-inking processes work. Piston-based fountain pens, for example, require an inkbottle when topping up – not a very practical solution if you’re constantly travelling by airplane.
I also recommend using original manufacturer’s cartridges and refills wherever possible. This way you can always be guaranteed top quality ink with a constant, even tone. Cheaper off-brand inks can provide inadequate viscosity, presenting an unwelcome ‘liquidy’ result.
Another factor up for consideration is the warranty and guarantee programs offered by the manufacturer. Many companies give standard one and two-year warrantees, although the more expensive pens, created using high grade components, may come with lifetime ownership pledges; it may be worth investing a little more money upfront, safe in the knowledge your pen is covered if the nib bends or breaks a decade down the line.
In a similar vein, it’s worth remembering while bargains can be had all over the internet, it’s probably best restricting your online purchasing power to authorized dealers only. There are two reasons behind this: Firstly, convincing fakes are everywhere and are incredibly difficult to spot; spending hundreds or thousands on cheap imitations is not unheard of.
Secondly, you may find the replacement program or guarantee is only applicable if you originally purchased the pen at a certified dealership. Therefore, buying an unseen import may lead you to inadvertently void your warranty before you’ve even begun.
Lastly, if you’re considering the purchase as a financial investment, be careful not to be bewildered by buzzwords and phrases like “deluxe collection”. While “special edition” pens may be worth more generally, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re more valuable: for instance, a ‘limited edition’ may have a production run of 100,000 units or more! If it’s exclusivity you’re after, search for ‘numbered limited editions’ where each unit is specifically marked with its production rank (e.g. #12 of 1,000).
Here are several frequently asked questions to get you thinking about the sort of thing you may want to ask someone yourself whilst buying a new luxury pen.
Q. I want to buy a pen as a gift. All things considered, is this a good idea?
A. Luxury pens can be an excellent present for all sorts of occasions. Big birthdays, such as a twenty-first, or graduations are particularly apt events to celebrate with a gorgeous writing implement, not to mention retirements and promotions.
However, whilst they’re a fantastic gift, it’s probably best not to offer one up as a surprise. Pens can be very personal implements, especially those who have trouble with handwriting generally; remember, even stationary stores provide blocks of paper for users to test cheap, disposable pens upon!
It’s a much safer bet to take the recipient with you, so they can choose a tool that will suit their hand. Alternatively, gift cards and vouchers may be a better way to ensure they receive the present of your choosing.
Q. How much should I be spending on my luxury pen?
A. It’s a question akin to ‘how long’s a piece of string’. You can get excellent value from pens starting at just a few hundred or so dollars, or alternatively ‘splash the cash’ on super sumptuous special editions starting in the thousands: The Graf Von Faber-Castell ‘Pen of the Year’, for example, can easily fetch upward of $3,000/£2,000/€2,250.
While you’ll find fountain pens can cost slightly more on average than, say, an equivalent rollerball or ballpoint, don’t assume you’ll be receiving a pen of lesser or greater quality; any extra outlay in these cases is purely down to the cost of production and materials.
Q. What sort of brands should I be thinking about?
A. You’ll find names like Mont Blanc, Parker, Graf Von Faber-Castell, Cross, Sheaffer, Conway Stewart and Pelikan are well known to the luxury pen world. Don’t be afraid to go further afield though; brands like Cartier and Louis Vuitton also offer high-priced pens matching the stature of their designer clothes.
Q. Are there any common buying mistakes I should be weary of?
A. There’s a couple you should beware of. Firstly, be careful not to buy too big or chunky. Many younger guys are attracted to the ‘presence’ a larger pen bestows, without considering the impact it’ll have on their penmanship first; just as with luxury watches, you should be finding a style that suits you. If you’re after something more refined, it may be worth remembering most brands offer up slim-line ranges, not to mention potential variants of their most popular product lines.
Secondly, while there’s nothing wrong with going vintage, note some older pens require a little more care and attention. You may find worn nibs and weak ink sacs are lacking readily available replacement parts, or even make for very costly repairs in excess of the value of the pen itself.
Q. What should I avoid at all costs?
A. Novelty pens emblazoned with cartoon characters and zany logos are rarely a good idea. It sends the message you value madcap over refinement. It’s an unattractive prospect in most regards, so take a similar approach to avoiding these trinkets as you would a novelty necktie or pair of socks.
Q. Where can I go to find out more about pen-types?
A. There are plenty of online web resources and forums with a huge range of informational topics on all sorts of pens. Here are just a few to get you started on your way: