MY PERSONAL PREFERENCES

This might be a bit unconventional, but in light of one of my earlier posts about personal preference and reviewer bias, I think listing (most of) my personal preferences and some of my favourite brands can be helpful for you, as a guideline to know what I like and don't like about fountain pens, paper, inks,... It'll help you to give an idea of how my opinion might differ from your own, which in turn, will help you put my reviews in perspective.

Fountain pens 

Fountain pens are by far the most personal writing instruments you can think of, which means that everyone will have a different opinion on what's good and what's not. Here's my thought: 
  • I prefer larger pens, even oversized, but I can just as easily like smaller pens. You could say I'm undecisive about this, but I can just get away with both. I adapt my grip according to the size of the pen, so I'll hold larger pens higher up, and shorter pens closer to the nib.
  • Comfort is key. Threads are usually not too much of an issue for me, but I don't like sharp step from section to barrel. Related to the previous point, if I use larger pens, I usually hold them higher up, which sometimes avoids holding it at that transition from section to barrel, which in turn makes it less of an issue. I like slightly concave shaped sections, or sections that flare out towards the nib. 
  • The broader the better. This is probably an area where my opinion will vary from others' opinion. I like wide nibs. I use fine and even occasionally extra fine nibs for taking notes or when I know I have to use crappy paper. But wider (Broad, BB, occasionally stubs), smooth nibs with a rather wet ink flow are my soft spot. If I want to really enjoy the writing experience, and get the most from a pretty ink, I'll reach for a wide nib. 
  • I don't care about the filling system. I don't think vacuum, or piston filler pens are superior. They are fun to use, and if you really really need a high ink capacity they are useful. But a cartridge/converter system can be equally good and I don't think it deters from the quality of the pen. If anything, I like converters better because I can change inks faster, and they hold plenty of ink to get through the day if they need to.
  • Simple, clean aesthetics. I like minimal design, when properly executed it can be as beautiful as anything. With more 'classical' pens, I also like to keep it simple, no elaborate laquer finishes, overlays or multiple flashy materials combined into one pen. 
  • My favourite brandsPelikan (probably my favourite pens, great smooth, juicy nibs and classic but unique designs), Lamy (the one that started my pen addiction, again great nibs, at decent prices, minimal and industrial designs).

Inks

Fountain pens are one thing, but inks are half the fun. Here's what I like about inks
  • Wet, smooth flow. You might not expect it, but inks can drastically change the way a fountain pen performs. I like my inks to have a good flow, and a slightly lubricated feel. 
  • No Feathering. Quite an obvious preference. Some inks tend to feather more than others, which is a complete no-go in my book. I like inks that leave a crisp line. On the other hand, I'm not bothered too much by showthrough on the other side of the page, but obviously it shouldn't bleed though. These properties are obviously also affected by the paper.
  • Sheen and Shading. Good shading can make or break an ink, and adds a lovely depth to writing. Same goes for sheen, although if I had to choose I'd go for an ink with impressive shading.
  • No particles please. I'm convinced that a good ink doesn't need particles to shine. I think it's mostly hype, entertaining for a while but little to no practical value. I'd rather have some nice shading ink.
  • My favourite brands: Diamine (a classic, a bunch of choices, and generally very high quality), Montblanc (excellent quality ink, the special editions are often gorgeous), KWZ Ink (an interesting new(er) brand, I like their non-iron-gall inks, they have some rather unique colors), Robert Oster Signature (Another newcomer, again very fascinating colors, especially the earthy browns and gold colors, performance seems good, but only time will tell if they hold up), Sailor (very smooth and lubricated inks with saturated colors)

Ballpoint / rollerball pens

I only occasionally use ballpoint or rollerball pens, but when I do these are the things I look for: 

  • Not too skinny. Especially ballpoints often have a very narrow grip section, which is a no-go for me. I like a wider (nothing outrageous) pen that offers a comfortable grip without feeling cramped.
  • Good refills. Obviously. Rollerball refills often don't play well with me, but schmidt rollerball refills are my favourite. I like ballpoint/rollerball refills how I like my fountain pens: they should lay down a decent, saturated line of ink, so I don't have the intention to put more pressure in my writing.
  • My favourite brandsKarasKustoms (Cool, rugged metal pens, recogniseable design and wide refill compatibility), Diplomat (underrated brand that makes classy, elegant pens, their ballpoint refills that come with their pens are my favourite)

Paper

Paper plays a huge role in the writing experience with fountain pens. Ballpoint pens and other types of writing utensils are affected less by the paper. What I like with paper is quite simple: it has to be able to hold up to fountain pen use. I like wider nibs, so I'm quite picky when it comes to paper. If I review paper products and say that the paper quality could be better, keep in mind that that probably refers to performance with fountain pens. If you primarily use ballpoint pens, pencils or rollerballs, the performance will probably be less of an issue.

  • My favourite brands: Leuchtturm 1917 (well-made notebooks with fountain pen friendly paper that shows off shading inks very well), Rhodia (the benchmark paper, reliable, affordable and excellent for fountain pens), Tomoe River (I said I like inks with sheen and shading, this paper displays those properties like none other!)

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