Ask The Desk: Left-Handed Pen Questions


Sean asks:

I have never owned a fountain pen before and I want to know which is a good medium priced ($30 or so?) pen that won’t require a lot of maintenance and easy to master.

At the $30 or lower price point, I would probably recommend a Pilot Metropolitan or a Kaweco Sport with an extra fine or  fine nib to start with (Jet Pens stocks a wide array of these). The Pilot nibs are going to be finer overall, even with the same marking on them, so if you know you prefer a wider point but would like to try the Pilot Metropolitan, I recommend starting with a medium nib. The Kaweco Sports are smaller, pocket pens but the nibs are statistically excellent for the price point and are screw-in so if you find you like the experience but would like a wider or narrower nib, a replacement nib unit is about $10-$15.

Pilot, Kaweco and Faber-Castell Grip ($20) all use cartridges or converters that make them easy to fill and clean.

Overall, I find that most fountain pens that have smooth grip areas are left-handed compatible. The biggest issues tend to relate to writing hand position and whether you are inclined to smudge ink. These issues can be resolved with quicker drying inks like Noodlers Bernanke line or a finer nib that lays down less ink as you write. Paper stock can affect this as well. Rhodia or Tomoe River is great paper for fountain pens as the ink does not bleed or feather but it can often increase dry time. Leuchtturm1917 paper is a good alternative. Most ink dries fairly quickly on Leuchtturm paper and has minimal show through and bleed through.

You may want to check out the article I wrote for The Cramped about fountain pens for lefties and the article I wrote for On Fountain Pens about my favorite fountain pens for lefties.

I received an email from Anurag asking about left-handed writers and flex nib pens.

I just found your website recently and its great! I notice that your a lefty. Have you tried any flex pens yet? I am hesitant on buying a flex pen due to this being a very new hobby for me.  I’m a lefty over-writer( very similar to your style) and would love to hear about your experience. Thanks!

The key to writing with a flex pen is being able to make wide down strokes and thin upstrokes to get the look we are most accustomed to seeing. Unfortunately, if you overwrite, this is not going to work with a flex pen if you are writing left to right. So you have a couple of options. You can learn to flex write from below the baseline, or underwrite. Its hard but this is the technique I’ve learned as its the most natural adaptation and easiest to expand to other types of calligraphy.

Master Penman John DiCollibus demonstrates some various angles for holding a flexible dip pen in this video which might help in showing some options to help you in getting started with flex nibs.

There are lots of other videos on YouTube showing how other left-handed calligraphers overcome our inconveniences of writing in the same direction that the English/Roman languages are written so its definitely worth exploring to see how others tackle the problem.

If you happen to make it to a pen show in the US, Deborah Basel is often teaching calligraphy workshops and is an excellent left-handed calligrapher and a fabulous resource. I highly recommend seeking out her classes.

Matt Vergotis, a left-handed calligrapher, relies more heavily on a brush pen rather than flex nibs that allow him to come at his work from the side rather than the top. Felt-tip brush pens are a bit more forgiving than flex nibs and can give some similar results with thicks and thins. You might want to check out some of his videos on YouTube or on Instagram. You might also consider enrolling in his lettering class on SkillShare where he shares a lot of his left-handed tips.

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3 comments / Add your comment below

  1. I own a number of fountain pens and have written with them for over 40 years. The Kaweco Sport is a good starter pen. Although the plastic case feels a little light, even against my Lamy Safari and definitely versus my Mont Blanc, it still writes well.

    Another advantage for a new user is that its small size means you are more likely to carry with you (the reason I bought it) and so get used to using a fountain pen.

    1. Very good point about the small pen being more likely to be carried. The newer Brass Kaweco would add weight if the plastic barrels seem too light but it also adds cost and I was trying to find inexpensive entry options. I have the Aluminum version of the Sport which is a little less expensive but still considerably pricier than the plastic Sport models.

      1. Didn’t know it came in brass. Another advantage of the plastic is it isn’t that expensive and so not as bad if you happen to lose it. I was ready to kick myself when one of my Lamy go lost somewhere over Honduras (open door helicopters were the fashion there) at the beginning of my tour. Had to live for next 10 months without fountain pen.

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