What should I look for when buying a fountain pen?

Want a fountain pen but don't know where to start? Here are some things to consider…

Fountain pen
(Image credit: Getty)

Fountain pens have been in use for a very long time, with the first patent registered all the way back in 1827. With the invention of word processors, writing has changed a lot since then but one thing remains the same – fountain pens are still the preferred medium for people who prefer craftsmanship and penmanship.

The whole experience of writing with one of the best fountain pens is rewarding – purchasing one can be a luxury experience, unpacking it is exciting, and writing with it is quite unlike anything else. For a start, they require less pressure, so can reduce hand fatigue, but they also offer a smoother writing experience that's still unmatched by any other writing instrument – including Apple's butterfly keyboard.

Fountain pens are also much better from an ecological point of view, reducing waste that goes to landfill, and they’re great if you have messy handwriting – as they force you to slow down and focus on your hand movements.

So, if you’ve been sold on a fountain pen but are unsure where to start – we’re here to help with everything you need to look out for when buying a fountain pen.

Fountain pen: Design, Size and Weight

A quality fountain pen makes a real style statement in the same way a high-end watch does – so you want to make sure you’re happy with how it looks. Just like a watch or jewellery, your choice of pen says a lot about you. Are you an 18ct gold kind of person? Or unstated black or blue. While the basic concept of a fountain pen might seem pretty straightforward, there are actually a lot of cool variations to choose from. There are barrels made from a variety of materials and tip options can be tailored to suit your writing style.

You’ll also want to keep an eye on weight and dimensions when you’re searching for a fountain pen. If you’re planning on doing a lot of writing with it, you’ll want to make sure it’s comfortable to hold for long stretches of time.

You’ll also want to take durability into account when choosing a fountain pen. These are objects that can be passed down through generations, so sometimes it’s worth spending the extra money to make sure it’ll last.

Fountain pen: Nib

Next up, it’s time to choose the pointy bit – the nib – to use the official term. There are super fine nibs that range from XF through to broader options right up to 2B. The former is a good bet for finer, small handwriting while the latter is suitable for a more flamboyant style.

Most fountain pens come fitted with a medium grade nib from the manufacturer, and for most people, this is an ideal thickness.

Nibs also come in a range of different materials, depending on the cost of the pen and how long you want it to last. Two of the most common nib materials are steel and gold. 

Steel nibs tend to, obviously, be more affordable, although that certainly doesn’t mean they lack quality. 

For added luxury, however, you want a gold nib. These tend to be of superior quality and will feel softer, more comfortable and more expressive.

Fountain pen: Brand

One of your first introductions to fountain pens is probably with Parker – one of the go-to brands when it comes to affordable options. It's a great place to start, especially if you want to test the waters before investing in a premium model.

You can then start exploring more brands. Some of the biggest names include Caran d'Ache, Montblanc and Cross.

Trying out a number of different brands means you can find a fountain pen that suits not only your style but one that also fits in terms of ergonomics.

Liked this? Now take your newfound knowledge and check out T3's best fountain pen guide.

Spencer Hart
Style and Travel Editor

As the Style and Travel Editor at T3, Spencer covers everything from clothes to cars and watches to hotels. Everything that's cool, stylish, and interesting, basically. He's been a part of T3 for over seven years, and in that time covered every industry event known to man, from CES and MWC to the Geneva Motorshow and Baselworld. When he's driving up and down the country in search of the greatest driving roads, he can be found messing around on an electric scooter, playing with luxury watches, or testing the latest fragrances.