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How I got started with fountain pens

Being a Xennial, I would say I have been a pen and paper guy for as long as I can remember. Maybe more so than the average person – in grade school, I was the 10-year old nerd who had the Trapper Keeper with the ready-cut 1/4 and 1/2 sheets of paper – cross- and length-wise. By high school, I gravitated towards an all-steel parker ball point. I only ever took exams with that pen through my 4 years of high school, and my über extended undergraduate years.

As far as my love affair with fountain pens is concerned, I’m a late bloomer of sorts. I was in graduate school, living in Tokyo. I had wondered for a while what it would feel like to write with a plume. The idea titillated me: writing under the dim light of a desk lamp, with an inkwell and some antique pen in my hand. It seemed a perfect time to try a new pen – I was in school, full time, once again, and taking copious notes. Numerous inexpensive pens were available everywhere online. Also, living in Tokyo, it meant free, dependable shipping.

My first pen was a nondescript Chinese-made plastic barrel with an embedded steel nib, and converter cartridge. Barely 5 cm of steel can be seen from the tip. I regret not having taken photos of it, but it served me well. Very well, if I took into account how much it cost – JPY 700, at an exchange rate of PHP 0.42 per JPY 1.00 at the time. The sound the nib made when it scratched the surface of my notebook was hypnotic. It’s was like humming, and it was more melodious with the long strokes of cursive writing.

“What a good buy,” I thought. The ink was kind of pricey, but I won’t be able to finish it in a year. “This is actually more economical,” I lied to myself. And then I bought myself a Pilot Prera, and it was practically downhill from there. I won’t get into my entire collection now, but after the pens I have also gifted friends, I am now at 25 pens in my safekeeping. I always have at least 2 or 3 inked pens with me (of course, I need multiple ink colors on me), and with some pens, I have sign pen / ball point doppelgangers to lend to clients or friends.

I am still learning more about the pens, and working my way to my grail pen. But one thing’s for sure: I won’t ever buy into the lie that “this will be my last pen purchase” again.

David Sta. Maria is one of the primary contributors for this humble space for pen noobs.

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