Nearly everything I’ve taught or written in the past several years has been handwritten with a fountain pen before it was reduced to pixels for the purposes of editing and publication. As a result, I’ve owned more than a dozen different pens, scores of notebooks, and many ounces of ink. Many of my students have asked me where to start when it comes to writing utensils. And so, in case you’re interested in moving toward renewing the discipline of writing by hand, here are my personal favorite notebooks, inks, and writing utensils.
Pencils and Fountain Pens
Some fountain pen enthusiasts prefer multi-hundred-dollar—or even multi-thousand-dollar—pens.
I’m not in that category.
For me, pens are tools, not collectors’ items, and I have no interest in purchasing a writing utensil that’s worth more than my car. And, honestly, I’ve tried many pens that cost five hundred dollars or more in the store, trying to convince myself they might be worth it, and I’ve found their writing quality to be little better than the pens I’m recommending here.
- Nemosine Neutrino: There is no better fountain pen for the money than the Nemosine Neutrino. It has an iridium-tipped German nib, and it’s available in some of the most elegant finishes—polished gunmetal, for example—that I’ve seen on any pen with a sticker price under $100. You can usually pick up one of these pens for less than thirty dollars. The Neutrino with a fine or medium nib is the pen that I carry with me most of the time.
- Sheaffer Sagaris: I have smaller hands and prefer a heavier pen. For me, this pen is perfectly balanced and—with a fine or medium nib—lays down rich and vivid lines, allowing me to employ a lot of flourishes as I write. This is my creative writing pen, and you can usually find one for around fifty dollars. For some strange reason, Sheaffer also makes a ballpoint pen that they refer to by the same name; so, be certain that you’re purchasing the Sagaris fountain pen, not the ballpoint pen.
- Pilot Vanishing Point: I probably would not have purchased this particular pen for myself—it exceeds my usual price limit for fountain pens—but I received this one as a gift. It’s become my favorite writing instrument whenever I travel, because there is no cap to lose and the inkflow doesn’t seem to be affected by pressurization and depressurization in airplanes. If your budget for pens is higher than my maximum or if you have people in your life who purchase gifts in this price range, this is one of the best pens I’ve used.
- Palomino Blackwing and Blackwing 602, with Blackwing long point sharpener: When I am taking notes in a dark theater or when I’m writing while riding in a car, I frequently use a pencil—but not just any pencil! The lead in the classic Blackwing is soft and dark and smooth—a delight for writing—while the 602 lead is greyer but beautifully glossy on the page. Blackwing pencils do require a two-stage long point sharpener to get the most out of these fine graphite-and-cedar cylinders.
I’ve tried Sailor, Waterman, Noodler, Lamy, and Diamine inks, and I keep returning to Sailor inks as the best balance between cost and quality. My favorite shades at the moment are Yama-Dori (blue-green), Tokiwa-Matsu (pine green), and Oku-Yama (golden pomegranate).
As far back as I can remember, my heart has raced whenever the opportunity presented itself to purchase a new notebook. I looked forward to new school supplies in the fall every bit as much as I looked forward to Christmas. (I know, I know, I was a strange child.) To me, a notebook has never been merely a bundle of paper and pulp; every new notebook represents a new opportunity to shape new ideas and to create new worlds. The gradual unfolding and organizing of ideas in a notebook is the primary way that I seek to fulfill the creation mandate by cultivating a God-given garden of knowledge (Genesis 1:28-31). And so, here are my favorite tools for this purpose:
- Rhodia Webnotebook: A Rhodia Webnotebook—or “Webbie”—is such a delight that I find myself making excuses to write things down, simply to have the opportunity to slide a pen tip across such perfect paper. These notebooks are packed with Clairefontaine paper that is silky smooth and weighs in at a sturdy 90 grams per square meter. They’re available in landscape or portrait, black or orange, in leatherette covers. This is by far my favorite notebook in the world, reserved for creative thinking and the writing of books.
- Leuchtturm 1917 Whitelines Link: Leuchtturm crafts a solid all-around notebook with some clever features, such as integration with an iPhone application that allows you to capture your work and to file it easily in Evernote or other similar applications. The 80-grams-per-square-meter paper in this notebook is light grey with white lines and provides a welcome break from typical white paper with dark lines.
- Moleskine: The paper in most Moleskine notebooks weighs in at 70 grams per square meter—not as sturdy or as smooth as what you will find in a Rhodia notebook but still adequate for fountain pens and excellent for pencils. Where Moleskine notebooks shine is in the vast selection of bindings that range from simple sturdiness to sheer whimsy! Recent Star Wars editions have included paintings in the inside front and back covers, and the Batman notebook that I bought for my daughter had a cityscape of Gotham City printed inside the cover. One Moleskine notebook even integrates with Evernote. Best of all—as you can see in the video below—the word “Moleskine” is quite enjoyable to say and to listen to persons from other nations say.
If you’re ready to head down the pathway toward excellence in writing, call or visit Edgar’s Gift Emporium to get started.
Discuss in the Comments:
The gradual unfolding and organizing of ideas in written form is one way to fulfill the creation mandate in Genesis by tending a God-given garden of knowledge and cultivating new possibilities (Genesis 1:28-31). What are your favorite tools for writing and communication?