In celebration of Fountain Pen Day, I decided to collect a few links about related to one of my favorite subjects: fountain pens. I personally never saw myself getting into fountain pens (even though Joe Buhlig & David Sparks have been trying to get me hooked for years). I’m a tech guy, and fountain pens were inefficient. Not only that, they’re messy and require maintenance.
To say I had no interest in fountain pens is overstating it a ton. I could not understand why would anyone choose to use an expensive pen with so many compromises when you can get most of the benefits of handwritten notes (plus the storage and ability to search provided by digital tools) using an app like GoodNotes on the iPad.
But then I saw the light.
My Intro to Fountain Pens
Last August I had the privilege of taking part in the Relay FM 5th Anniversary Live Show in San Francisco. All of the Relay hosts that could make it were split into teams and we played Family Feud, hosted by Jason Snell. It was a ton of fun, and I met a bunch of really cool people.
One of those people was Brad Dowdy, host of The Pen Addict podcast (which is hosted on Relay FM).
I was waiting the lobby of the hotel to get a ride to the venue for the event, and Brad & I were making small talk. The kind of thing that happens when you meet someone for the first time. My recollection of the interaction goes something like this:
BRAD: Hey, I’m Brad Dowdy.
ME: Hey, I’m Mike Schmitz. Nice to meet you.
BRAD: Where you from, Mike?
ME: Some town in Wisconsin that you’ve probably never heard of called Appleton.
BRAD: Oh yeah, Anderson Pens! Brian & Lisa are awesome.
I decided right then that when I got back I would have to go check out what the fuss was about. I walked out with my first fountain pen, and haven’t looked back. Over the last several months, I’ve dialed in my preferences and ended up with a pen and paper system that I thoroughly enjoy.
Honestly, I can’t see myself ever going back to a purely digital productivity system. Yes, using pen and paper is more inefficient. But that’s offset by an increase in intentionality. I don’t need to manage 100,000 tasks – I simply need to make sure that I work on the right thing at the right time. And for me, my fancy notebook and fountain pen are essential kit for making that happen.
If you’re interested in hearing more about my descent into the depths of fountain pen obsessiveness, here are a couple of links from my journey:
- Focused #102: Analog Productivity with Brad Dowdy – Brad and David are very much responsible for my entry into the fountain pen world. Brad is basically THE guy for this, and it was a blast to have him on the Focused podcast to talk about how he gets work done.
- Building My Bullet-Journal-Based Hybrid Productivity System – When the pandemic hit in March, I rethought my entire productivity system. This article details how I reconstructed everything around my fountain pens and fancy paper, and I still follow this system every single day.
- Pen & Paper Webinar on AnalogJoe.com – I am 100% responsible for my Bookworm co-host Joe Buhlig purchasing this domain. Fortunately, he had me on for a webinar to talk about my hybrid system and the use of my analog tools.
- Bookworm #102: The Bullet Journal Method – This is where I first started entertaining the idea of using a hybrid productivity system. While I can’t honestly call what I do a true bullet journal, this is where things really started picking up steam.
- Focused #107: The Bullet Journal Method, with Ryder Carroll – Speaking of the Bullet Journal Method, David & I got to talk to the creator on the Focused podcast awhile back. While we didn’t get into the system much, it was a great conversation about intentionality and focus.
Some Fountain Pen Resources
If you want to learn more about fountain pens yourself, here’s a couple of great resources:
- The Pen Addict (podcast) – Hosted by Brad Dowdy and Myke Hurley, this podcast has cost me quite a bit of money over the last 12 months. Always entertaining, this one is firmly entrenched in my regular podcast rotation. I’ve learned a lot from listening to this podcast.
- The Pen Addict (blog) – Brad Dowdy also run a blog at penaddict.com, though there are several people that contribute (including Jeff Abbott, who helps us with edits over at The Sweet Setup).
- Tokyo Inklings podcast – Japan is home to some of the best fountain pen makers in the world (Sailor, Pilot, and Platinum, to name a few). This podcast is hosted by a couple of “Tokyoites” who really know their stuff.
If you’re looking to purchase a fountain pen, here’s a couple of places I’d recommend:
- Anderson Pens – I may be biased, but this is actually a pretty incredible physical store if you’re into this stuff. It’s also pretty amazing that it happens to be a block from my coworking space. They carry some of the best stuff in the world, and they do a lot of internet orders too.
- Pen Chalet – I first heard about Pen Chalet as a sponsor on The Pen Addict podcast. They frequently have the best prices available, and you can find some pretty cool stuff in the Special section of their website.
- Goulet Pens – Another standard online pen store, but they will occasionally have exclusive special items and their YouTube videos are very well done. If you’re brand new to fountain pens, I recommend the Fountain Pen 101 series.
- Franklin-Christoph – Franklin-Christoph has been around producing beautiful fountain pens for a very long time. They have an in-house nib master (Michael Masuyama) if you want a specialty grind, and they frequently do special editions that they sell at pen shows. With COVID-19 shutting down pen shows this year, they’ve done a couple of online pen shows with limited numbers of small batch special editions.
Speaking of specialty grinds, there are two other places I would point you if you want a grind done:
- Nib Grinder – The Nib Grinder is Mark Bacas, an incredibly nice guy who does a phenomenal job with nib grinds. I have a hybrid grind from Mark, which is an Architect grind which writes as an XXF when you turn the pen over (write upside down). At some point, I will get a Blade grind from Mark as well. I actually have a pile of pens that I hope to send to Mark in the near future.
- The Nibsmith – My first custom grind was from The Nibsmith – an Architect grind on a Platinum 3776 Carnelian. The cool thing about ordering from The Nibsmith is that the custom grind is actually included for free on more expensive pens.
If you want to dip your toe into the fountain pen waters but aren’t sure where to start, I recommend you look at this post on The Pen Addict blog. Brad does a great job recommending different pens and inks in different categories and price points. He’s way more knowledgable about this stuff then I am. But if you were really going to press me to give you a first pen recommendation, I’d go with either a TWSBI 580AL or a TWSBI ECO. They both come in a variety of colors and are piston-fillers, so you’ll need a bottle of ink to go with it.