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Monday, May 13, 2024

A Good Fountain Pen Lets You Enjoy the Finer Things in Life

There are very few tools most people think less about than pens. They seem to spring logoed and logoless from a kind of inexhaustible reserve in cups, drawers, and backpacks. Any of these pens—or most, given a bit of saliva—will do the job of inking up whatever you need. 

But when you consider your experience with a souvenir ballpoint from a web brand that may or may not have evaporated with the NFT market, you realize just how poor the pen really is. The ink is tacky and horrible, the struggle to roll across the page is palpable, and the tiny plastic shafts dig into your fingers and force your fingertips to slide.

This all changed for me when I got my first cheap fountain pen—I realized I could actually have fun with the physical act of writing. The first time you put a wet nib to the page, it feels like you’re in a Tolkien novel. Each occasion to use it became an event instead of a mundane chore. I felt like Bilbo Baggins, wrapping up There and Back Again in Bag-End, but instead of grand tales of adventure, I’d be writing a check to the IRS or addressing a letter to an accountant. 

I nabbed another fountain pen quickly after college and used it daily for a few years. But it was when I turned 30 that I found my pride and joy: the Lamy 2000.


Lamy 2000$202 at Amazon$202 at Blick

This black polycarbonate torpedo has been handmade in an identical fashion in Germany since the mid-1960s. A medium-tipped Lamy 2000 comes with a hooded, platinum-coated, 14-carat gold nib ground to the point that it surfs across the page, depositing gloriously thick lines of whatever ink you’ve sucked in via a perfectly hidden piston filler. Forget cartridges—this is a pen you put straight into the bottle. I pair it with this ink, and don’t worry, it’s never once leaked. 

I’ve used it to tackle to-do lists and journal my way through personal crises. I used it to write my wedding vows (which I admittedly then typed and printed for fear I’d be unable to read my own handwriting). It’s hard to describe just how fun it is to write with a tool that’s so well-engineered; I feel like Uma Thurman with the Hattori Hanzō katana from Kill Bill. It’s that empowering.

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The textured finish on a perfectly shaped barrel—innovations from German industrial designer Gerd A. Müller—means the pen fits great in my hand and provides perfect friction on my fingers, with a silvery metal section toward the nib that keeps them from slipping too low. There’s even a slightly clear section on the pen’s body, an easy way to tell if you need a refill. I love unscrewing the section at the top of the pen to suck in more ink with the piston-fill system.

As I’ve gotten older and more neurotic about my own mortality and place in the world, practiced more and more mindfulness, listened to more self-help podcasts, and looked deeply and more honestly into what actually makes me happy, I’ve come to realize that it isn’t the volume of experiences I have, but their quality.

I endeavor to only ever use my Lamy 2000 to write. It’s not that any other pen won’t do the job, or that I needed a $200 piece of midcentury design to fill a void inside my soul. I just like that every day I get to work with something so thoughtfully made, so genuinely fun to hold, and so timeless that I might pass it on to my kids someday. I’ve sure spent a lot more money on things that have made me much less happy. The Lamy 2000 makes daily life just a bit more fun.

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