A farewell to spheres of tungsten carbide


in Oxford, Writing

When I saw fountain pens on sale for the price of a pint at Smiths, I decided it was time to try and improve the elegance of my correspondence. It was with some success that I made my initial foray into the world of non-ballpoint pens: writing a thank-you note to Sarah’s parents and a short letter to Meghan. My printing is more geared towards being able to copy extensive notes during a lecture than producing perfectly formed letters, but it would be nice to be able to do the latter, when the necessity arises.

One unexpected aspect of fountain pen use if that it feels better to write. No pressure is required in order to deposit ink, so there is a feeling that the pen is just gliding across paper. While you might expect that to lead to many errors, even my earliest experiments are at least as legible, on average, as my ballpoint printing. Taken up with the novelty of a new type of writing instrument, as well as the familiarity of writing to friends, I wrote short letters to Viktoria Prokhorova, Meaghan Beattie, and Kate Dillon. There is something exceptionally satisfying both about writing and receiving handwritten letters. Regardless of the level of care or energy you put into an email, it doesn’t usually manage to have the same significance.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Meghan March 21, 2006 at 6:29 pm

I live in hope that your penmanship will someday improve. When a TA can’t read your midterm to mark it, improvement is necessary…I’m sure you can’t go wrong with a fountain pen.

Milan March 21, 2006 at 8:02 pm

I think it was more a matter of choosing not to read the midterm, though improvement is always welcome. The professor apparently had no trouble reading my writing, and when you ask people to write for a frantic two and a half hours straight, you can’t expect it to be a work of calligraphic beauty that results.

B March 21, 2006 at 8:21 pm

Once you’re done practicing your handwriting, do you think maybe we could braid each other’s hair?

Ben March 22, 2006 at 3:31 pm

I got so fed up of ball-points/biros I’ve switched to gel pens, which also have the pressure-less glide factor – although they are quite expensive and don’t last long.

Worth considering what you’ll use for your exam!

Milan March 22, 2006 at 3:55 pm

The biggest problem with all non-ballpoint pens, including gel pens and fountain pens, is that they tend to soak through sheets of paper. Especially cheap lined looseleaf paper, or magazine pages.

Anonymous March 22, 2006 at 4:23 pm

Apparently, tungsten carbide balls have been used in ballpoint pens since 1957.

What sort of fountain pen did you buy?

Milan August 12, 2006 at 3:44 pm

My fountain pen is a Parker Frontier: with a translucent blue body with stainless steel cap, nib and trim

I also have two Cross Classic Century ballpoint pens: one with gold plating that was a high school graduation gift and one with chrome finish that I bought along with Tristan and Meghan for common use in our Honours Milton class (they were on sale for a very low price).

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