Fountains of joy

Cross, Parker, Waterman: finely balanced pens

Cross, Parker, Waterman: finely balanced pens

I mentioned fountain pens in passing when I was talking about my tools of scribbling many moons ago, but mainly to notes that I didn’t really use them any more since I was mostly writing with Jetstream ball pens.

This is something in my scribblious life which has changed recently, and it’s changed because of the pen I didn’t mention last time.

The First* Fountain Pen

Before I bought the Waterman or was given the Cross, I owned a Parker fountain pen. I don’t remember when I bought it, but I certainly had it twenty years ago – it was reliable, and didn’t blotch, and it wrote fluidly. The only things really wrong with it were that the pen is a little too narrow to use for long periods of time, and it wasn’t quite as easy for me to get cartridges for it after I moved to the US (that is, WHSmith in Britain carried Parker cartridges whereas Office Depot in the US, at least in Beaverton, OR,  did not).

The other two pens I own are beautiful writing implements in their own right, but each came with their own problems.

The Waterman wouldn’t write smoothly. It would write half a line and then I would have to shake it or squeeze the cartridge to get the ink flowing again. It was not the beautiful writing experience that its looks promised, and I was sad.

And apparently it was me – when I had my sister look at the pen (she is an artist who loves pens like this too) she found that it wrote smoothly for her. So there was something about the way that I was using the pen which stopped it working as well as it could.

So I stopped using that pen.

The Cross – a delightful wedding present from my parents – was, by contrast, a wonderful writer when I first received it. It wrote smoothly and fluidly and fitted my hand like an extra finger. I used it as an everyday writing tool for months, until its fatal flaw became too much to deal with: it simply lays down too much ink. The kinds of notebooks I get for work have serviceable but thin paper, and the Cross drops so much ink that it is impossible to write on both sides of the sheet.

So I stopped using that pen too, then the same arty sister introduced me to the Jetstreams and that was the end of the discussion.

But every now and then I would clean the Waterman and the Cross and load up a fresh cartridge, usually using black in the Cross and blue in the Waterman. The irony with both of these pens is that their previous writing properties reversed: the Cross now writes haltingly and the Waterman fluidly. But still I would go back to the Jetstreams and the fountain pens would dry out.

Back to the Beginning

A few weeks ago while on another errand I looked idly for Parker cartridges in another office store and actually found some! I cleaned the Parker and put in a fresh cartridge and it wrote as smoothly as it ever had before – it was reborn!

And so my everyday pen is back to being a fountain pen, and the Jetstreams – lovely writers as they are – have been relegated to secondary importance.


The problem is finding cartridges. Fountain pens are not mainstream writing implements in Anglo countries these days and so finding the cartridges, convenient as they are, is tougher than it once was. Mail order is of course the way to go, but requires more forward planning than I am usually capable of.

I already have ink converters for the Waterman and the Cross which came with them, but I have not had a Parker ink converter in years – the last one I had was a rubber squeeze-bulb one which tended to leak and eventually perished away. So, I’ve used the power of the Internet to purchase a converter for the Parker so hopefully I will not be embarrassed by the need to find the right kind of cartridge again.

Some ink is on the way too – Parker Quink in black, and Waterman in blue.

I am also hoping that drawing the ink up through the nib will help the Cross to actually write properly again, because it is a beautiful pen – as long as it does not throw a fit over being filled with Parker ink, of course.

What favourite writing implements do you have? Have you got a rescue story?

[*] first adult fountain pen, that is. We were required to use fountain pens at school to encourage more flowing writing.

Leave a Reply