Tuesday, March 10th, 2015

Tuesday Talk Back: Pencil, Pen, or Other? Which do you choose? 


Sailor 1911 SSmith

When offered a choice of writing implements,  which would you select first? A pencil, a pen, or something else?

I have been in a pencil phase for quite some time, with a preference towards mechanical drafting pencils- though I have been known to work with pretty much any graphite delivery device close at hand. When I first started journaling about ten years ago, I was working exclusively with fountain pens and drawing pens because they allowed me to write for long periods of time with little hand/wrist fatigue.

Why the switch from pen to pencil? I honestly can’t say for certain. I may have grown weary of cleaning my fountain pens – as it wasn’t uncommon for me to have 10 different pens filled with 10 different inks at any given time. (Which when neglected, means a lot of dried ink to flush out of a pen.) 

I just thought of something… Did I ever mention that I quit smoking? I stopped in August of 2010. Prior to that time, one of my relaxation rituals was to sit on the porch and flush my pens while smoking. (I didn’t smoke in the house) These days, cleaning my pens feels more like a chore. How interesting…

Since that time, I’ve only had one pen stay inked and never dry out. (Run out yes, but dry out no.) It’s my full sized Sailor 1911 that I got from Ryan Roossinck. (A partial trade for my Lamy 2000.) There is black ink in that pen, but I’m not sure which kind. it might be Perle Noire, Sailor black, or Noodler’s Bulletproof Black as all are in my ink drawer. It’s an EF nib (Which Mr. Nagahara tweaked in person when he was at Art Brown a few years ago.) whose convertor never seems to run out of ink.

10 thoughts on “Tuesday Talk Back: Pencil, Pen, or Other? Which do you choose? 

  1. Fountain pen first for everyday writing. If I need to work out story structure, nothing but a good (Lamy, Pelikan, Faber-Castell) mechanical pencil will do. Lamy is my favorite for the job because of the grip and weight. Oddly, I find that same grip to be annoying with the fountain pen.
    I use colored pencils for, well, coloring. The same for gels. I will tolerate rollerballs and ballpoints for quick notes if that’s all I can find but my already-messy handwriting is horrendous with either of those pens.

    I too keep multiple pens inked, but I write a lot every day so the pens typically run out before they have an opportunity to dry up.

  2. My choices are usually about the utility of any given tool. There is a lot of line in a pencil, they can be used upside down, provide various weights of marks and are erasable. I’ve black Ticonderogas all over the place, since they’re so inexpensive. My Boston Ranger sharpener makes short work of achieving a needle point. I’ve recently added a Faber Castell Perfect Pencil Cap/Extender/Sharpener to my arsenal, the plastic version, that allows me to use a pencil that is only 2 inches long. My other go-to is a Pentel GraphGear 1000 mechanical pencil, which has a retractable tip, since a bent lead sleeve turns a mechanical into junk. Lead holders tended to disintegrate due to the heavy spring in them.

    My pen history started with ballpoints, which leaked on flights. Then I moved onto fountain pens and Radiographs, which I didn’t take on flights. I love those Radiographs, they’re like using a hose to transfer perfect ebony ink to the paper. I let them go because I don’t really need to use them nowadays. The fountain pens I’ve had would wear down, because they were cheap, which destroyed the experience. I have enjoyed calligraphy and dip pens, as well. After much practice with a ledger point dip pen (really narrow and flexible) on toothy paper, I have developed the ability to use extremely light writing pressure. I limit my felt tip experiences to Sharpie that hardly ever gets used. I have a Fisher Space Pen Bullet in my pants pocket because it’s never leaked on a flight. When I’m sitting at my desk, though, I the Fisher stays put. I endeavor to use only permanent ink because of the sadness that water can bring to the other inks. Please don’t hate me, but I’m enjoying the heck out of BIC fountain pens for writing. Their whole barrel is filled with ink, not just a cartridge, and I don’t need to treat them like they’re precious.

    So my answer is pencil, please.

  3. In the dim and distant past when I was at school, ballpoint pens were banned and pencils were only for drawing diagrams. Even the labels on the diagrams had to be ink. For about 20 years afterwards I favoured fountain pens, though I was never a collector or an ink afficionado. It was a mid range Parker or Sheaffer and Quink or Skrip in blue. I also kept a half decent Parker ballpoint since a lot of the time I was using carbon paper or those carbonless copies.
    I never really took to rollerbals or gel pens. They always seemed too slippery. Remember those papermate nylon tipped pens? I never got on with them either. I did try them out because I wanted colours and I didn’t want half a dozen fountain pens on the go.
    Then I started to make a living out of words, writing articles, advertising copy, and presentations. Word processors were still new, cumbersome and expensive so typing was still the final product.
    But drafts I wrote longhand. Fountain pens were too slow and ballpoints got illegible at speed.
    Now drafts, journals and notes are all in pencil. Wooden pencils are best as I kep breaking fine leads in mechanical pencils and they dig into the paper.
    Rohdia pencils are good but Uniball’s HiUni pencils from Japan are the best. Oddly enough I seldom erase – I prefer to see what I had down first and often go back to it.
    The only snag is paper. You need the right paper for graphite as much as for fountain pens. Otherwise you get pale thin lines or thick smeary writing.
    And did you know that graphite writing survives dry cleaning? I left a draft speech in a jacket pocket. It was a bit pale and the paper was fragile but it was all there. Graphite doesn’t fade in the sun either.

  4. In order of prefernce:
    1. Fountain pen.
    2. Mechanical pencil.
    3. Various felt tips.
    4. Microballs.

  5. When offered a choice of writing instruments, I select the fountain pen first, which is why I like Rhodia paper so much. I use them for much the same reasons that you did, namely that I can write for long periods of time without suffering wrist fatigue or really bad handwriting that seems to result anytime I use a ballpoint or even rollerball pen. Interestingly, I actually grew weary not too long ago of constantly flushing out pens. When I first started using fountain pens I had one pen and a favorite blue and black ink. Then I gradually started adding more and more pens and more and more inks to my collection until one day I was drowning in pen and ink choices.

    I eventually grew weary of constantly alternating pens and inks and almost abandoned fountain pens in favor of more conventional pens. What had begun as a joy had morphed into a frustrating, time consuming chore, most often driven by the attempt to find the best pen, best ink, and best paper. So I used a ballpoint pen for about a week, then tried gel and rollerball pens, and actually tried pencils too. None of them matched the writing experience of a fountain pen, be that for journaling or daily work. What was I to do?

    Actually I went back to square one. I officially acknowledged that although a given fountain pen and ink might not be perfect, it offers me a better writing experience than alternative platforms. My goal then became to choose a pen and ink that worked well for a given task (mainly two pens and two inks: one for work, one for journaling or letter writing). I lined up the almost 40 brands and colors of inks I had and selected one blue and two blacks and sold or gave away the others. I then put away all but two of my fountain pens and decided that I wasn’t going to buy or use any other pens or ink unless these ones broke or I ran out of ink. That was about 8 months ago and I could not be happier! Now I’m back to enjoying the writing experience of a fountain pen without the hassle of constantly changing inks and pens. I also selected inks that flow well and don’t need to be cleaned out but every so often (see http://richardspens.com/?page=ref/care/inks.htm for a good discussion of ink characteristics and their varying maintenance needs).

    Pencils are actually a good choice for a writing instrument and I would take one over a ballpoint if forced into such a decision. I personally don’t use them much because I manage to get pencil lead all over my hand and then everywhere else, and I like the permanence of inks. Pens are often mandated for paperwork at work.

  6. Writing, I’m fountain pen all the way. But when I’m mind-mapping, plotting, setting up beat sheets, I use a 6B pencil along with an eraser that say “Delete”. Hey, it makes me smile 😎 the 6Bs are so smooth they glide & free my mind to create. Did I mention no. 38 dot pads with those pencils? Bliss!

  7. For the last five or so years, I’ve leaned heavily to pencils. Old fashioned, woodcased pencils. But in the last year I bought some mechanical pencils, and lately I’ve been eyeing up some technical pens and brush pens. In the end, the woodcased pencils win out because of the full experience–when they dance on the paper, they make the most beautiful sound.

  8. My preference depends upon what I am writing. For most situations such as taking notes and doodling, I use a fountain pen. However, when I am creating plans or doing computations, for Work, hobbies, or around the House, I tend toward a mechanicl pencil–too many years of engineering for anything else to feel comfortable in those situtations.

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