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I grew up in Germany, where we were required to write in fountain pen from second grade on (fourth grade for math). I do dip-pen calligraphy and various kinds of ink-based artwork, as well as writing. I like fountain pens and am reasonably familiar with their functioning, and I have an assortment of them at home. I will list out first what I am looking for in a pen (and in response to this feel free to suggest pens). Then I will list out the pens I have, and what their struggles are (in response to this feel free to give me troubleshooting suggestions).

I. What I'm looking for:

  1. a pen with a fine nib (no need for extra-fine; but not wide)

  2. a pen that writes fluidly

  3. a pen that can sit for several weeks, even in winter (by winter I mainly mean low-moisture conditions created by indoor heating), without requiring a rescue operation to return it to fluid writing

  4. a pen that is portable -- not interested in one I have to keep at my desk, so it needs to handle being carried about and joggled a bit without leaking or otherwise misbehaving

  5. a pen that is reasonably inexpensive so that if I were to lose it, it would not be catastrophic

  6. a pen that can be replenished reasonably inexpensively, preferably in an array of colors (brown, black, blue, and gray are my favorites)

  7. a pen with a nib that has a tiny bit of give -- not the firmest thing out there

Does anyone know of a fountain pen that does these things, or should I just stick with throwaway rollerball and felt-tipped pens?

II. What I have:

  1. An old Lamy school pen that meets all the criteria except that it has a nib that is a little too broad for me.

  2. Two new low-end, plastic-barreled Lamy pens that write at the width I want and meet all the other criteria but whenever I go to use them (even, it seems to me, when I am using them frequently) they are dry (though the cartridge is full) and they either require extensive coaxing before they write fluidly, or never really get there.

  3. an array of Esterbrook pens that do fabulously on sentimental value (they're what my mom grew up using) and on vintage coolness, and well also on fineness, but not very well on several of the other criteria -- they dry out easily, their sacs degrade easily, and they do not reliably handle travel well (and I'm talking ground travel, walking or driving)

  4. a 1920s Moore pen with a lever-refill sac like Esterbrooks that is delightfully fine, has excellent fluidity, and has the most flexible nib I've ever seen on a fountain pen; but unfortunately, the plastic is simply starting to break down and recently the barrel cracked in a way I'm not sure is repairable

Does anyone know how to troubleshoot any of these?

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    A small clarifying question, since we're a global community: what conditions do you mean by "winter"? High moisture? Low moisture? Extreme cold? – Galastel supports GoFundMonica Jul 29 '19 at 9:12
  • Edited! I mean low-moisture conditions created by indoor heating. – Stephanie Jul 30 '19 at 21:07
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I've always had good experiences with my Pilot Capless as something of an infrequent user (since I only use my fountain pens for pleasure writing rather than work) I've often gone several weeks without using it and always found that it "just worked" as they say. You can use it with pilot cartridges or you can fill it from bottle.

As for jostling/portability this is specifically what I got it for - it's my grab-and-go fountain pen and it's not leaked on me once.

Not sure on the winter conditions in your part of the world but mine has coped well through British winters.

As for how it writes I've always found it to be excellent - it's only a mid-range pen in terms of cost but in my opinion it punches well above it's weight so to speak. The nib is gold which gives a nice fluid feel and is just soft enough that there's no harshness to it on the page.

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  • This. Just be sure to also carry a bottle if you plan to write a lot, as the converter is tiny. (But on the other hand, you take the nib out of the casing before filling it, so there's no need to wipe the pen clean after a refill.) The only real drawback is the button which easily scratches with use. – aniline Jul 30 '19 at 12:20
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    @aniline yeah the converter is a bit on the tiny side! To be honest if I'm on the go I tend to make sure I've got a spare cartridge handy so I can swap to that if the converter runs out. – motosubatsu Jul 30 '19 at 12:34
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After successfully using disposable fountain pens for nearly two years, I switch to a dip pen. When you consume a pen a week, the main reason was a question of costs and pollution.

A dip pen has the advantage that the ink is in a separate container, which can be properly sealed, and shaken to life when needed. Also, you can add both thickeners and thinners, should it change consistency. The dip pens are also easier to clean, and you can adjust the tip according to your needs and feeling. The disadvantage is that dipping forces a very specific pace to the writing, typically slower compared to any other pen. You need to select your tip according to the pace you are willing to endure.

As for your pens:

An old Lamy school pen that meets all the criteria except that it has a nib that is a little too broad for me.

Sadly, little can be easily done in this case.

Two new low-end, plastic-barreled Lamy pens that write at the width I want and meet all the other criteria but whenever I go to use them (even, it seems to me, when I am using them frequently) they are dry (though the cartridge is full) and they either require extensive coaxing before they write fluidly, or never really get there.

Two possible issues here:

  • the cap is not sealing well, leaving the pens basically exposed to a constant flux of air. A possible solution is to close the pens in a plastic bag, or put tape inside the cap to improve the sealing.

  • the ink is not correct. You may be using ink designed for other pens, but which dries too quickly on these Lamy. If you refill the cartridge yourself you could consider adding a small amount of thinner.

an array of Esterbrook pens that do fabulously on sentimental value (they're what my mom grew up using) and on vintage coolness, and well also on fineness, but not very well on several of the other criteria -- they dry out easily, their sacs degrade easily, and they do not reliably handle travel well (and I'm talking ground travel, walking or driving)

They may fare better if you place them in a small padded case, with a piece of rough cotton cloth nearby. Also remember to clean the tips well after each use: dry ink is a pen-killer.

a 1920s Moore pen with a lever-refill sac like Esterbrooks that is delightfully fine, has excellent fluidity, and has the most flexible nib I've ever seen on a fountain pen; but unfortunately, the plastic is simply starting to break down and recently the barrel cracked in a way I'm not sure is repairable

Epoxy resin may help you here. It is a very strong and hard resin. You can apply a coat on the barrel and it should hold it together for much longer.

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