How Do Fountain Pens Work

Will there ever be a period when handwriting is no longer used? This could happen! Most of us don’t write nearly as much as we used to: we laser print papers typed on our laptops and pay for products with the help of credit and debit cards. We even communicate mostly via mobile phones. In this article, we’ll discuss how fountain pens work below.

If you’re fortunate, you could still be receiving handwritten letters and greeting cards in the mail. If you’re really lucky, they could have been painstakingly scribbled using a fountain pen, which is undoubtedly the most unique and expressive tool for delivering written information to another person. How do fountain pens work? Let’s take a glance at it!

What is the Function of a Fountain Pen?

function of fountain pen

The fountain pen is the oldest writing tool still in use today, despite the countless styles and brands of pens available on the market. Going from a ballpoint pen to a fountain pen might be difficult. In this article, we’ll go through the mechanics of how fountain pens function in great depth.

How Does a Fountain Pen Function?

  • The quick explanation is that fountain pen ink passes through due to capillary action. 
  • Capillary motion, or the transfer of liquid in tight areas without the aid of gravity, transports ink from an inner reservoir via the feed mechanism to the nib. 
  • It stands apart from other writing instruments thanks to its unique nib design, feed system, and ink reservoir.
  • The fountain pen’s heavier weight and capillary action need less pressure to transmit ink to paper, rendering it excellent for people who write frequently in their personal or professional lives.

Fountain Pen Components:

The following are the main components of a fountain pen:

1. Ink Reservoir

The ink reservoir is placed within the pen’s body. 

2. Nib 

The nib is a little piece of metal at the end of the pen that is used to write on the paper. 

3. The Content of the Stream 

There is a plastic tube inside which joins the nib to the reservoir. 

4. The Accumulator

This is visible as a set of grooves beside the nib. There are a few additional non-essential items as well. 

5. The Cover

When the pen is not in use, the nib is hidden by a cover, which prevents ink from spilling into your coat. 

The cap of most pens has a clipping on it so that you may keep the pen safe in your pocket. 

6. The Barrel

The reservoir is protected by a protective outer shell known as the barrel, which is usually constructed of a very appealing material covered with lacquer and covers the reservoir on the other end. 

7. Reservoir

The reservoir is either a refillable plastic tube with a little piston/plunger mechanism within it or a disposable ink cartridge in most fountain pens.

What Are Fountain Pen Nibs and How Do They Work?

Take a glance into the structure and function of nibs: 

  • The metal tip attached to the feed system that handles the discharge of ink is known as the nib. 
  • It is the most recognizable part of the fountain pen. 
  • The “nib and feed” or nib collar is a type of nib that attaches to the feed to form a single unit. 

The ink reservoir is located inside the handle, which is the component of the pen that is held in the palm when writing. The nib and feed may clean or replace separately from the grip. A clean nib and supply are required for capillary action to promote ink flow.

The effectiveness of the nib is aided by several factors. See how the effectiveness of the nib is enhanced. 

  • The tines are parallel grooves on the surface that are fortified with an iridium metal alloy to keep the nib’s form and stability. 
  • A breather aperture and a tiny tunnel called the ink slits work together between the tines to keep an equal stream of ink flowing to the nib’s tip. The breather aperture draws air back into the pen when ink pours from the ink reservoir. 

The air that travels to the ink reservoir controls ink flow from the tip to the paper and maintains the pen’s inner pressure. Nibs come in a variety of sizes, shapes, and materials, allowing the user to tailor the fountain pen with their writing style.

What Kinds of Nibs Are There In Fountain Pens?

fountain pen nib

Fountain pen nibs come in a variety of shapes that change the width of written lines as the angle of a stroke is changed. So, what are some of the types of fountain pen nibs? 

1. Wide Nibs or Chisel-Edged Nibs

Wide nibs or chisel-edged nibs have a flat edge and produce thick parallel lines and narrow horizontal lines. Regardless of the force used when writing, they have no elasticity.

2. Pointed Nibs

Pointed nibs feature rounded tips that produce consistent lines regardless of direction or angle.  Applying downward pressure separates the tines of the pen, allowing more ink to flow into the ink slit and produce thicker printed lines.  

3. Calligraphy Nibs

Calligraphy nibs, also called stub nibs, feature broad and pointed nib qualities that affect the look of your handwriting.  Stub nibs are measured in millimeters, and the most common sizes include 0.9 mm. Although a 1.1 mm nib is close to a fine tip, a 1.5 mm nib produces thicker strokes. Their chiseled edge with rounded edges glides down the page and makes bolder lines with vertical strokes.

4. Music Nib

The music nib, just like the calligraphy nib, is a cross between wide and pointed nibs. The music nib is a wide nib with a smooth texture that glides all across the page, giving the writer more variety in the strokes. Its practical purpose is to produce larger horizontal lines and narrower vertical lines by rotating them at a 90-degree angle. 

The strokes required for recording music are created by holding the music nib at a steep angle on the paper. To allow for increased ink flow, most music nibs feature two ink holes and three tines, and the feed is custom-made to accommodate the nib.

What is the Difference Between an Ink Cartridge and a Toner Cartridge?

  • Ink can purchase in a bottled form or as a cartridge. These ink cartridges supply a predetermined amount of ink in a glass jar. A cartridge usually holds about 1ml of ink. When contrasted to a bottle of ink, which can range from 30ml to 80ml, this is a significant saving.
  • Cartridges also differ from one brand to the next, and many pens will only accept the same company’s set cartridge. However, some pens will utilize a universal cartridge. The cartridge will slide into the barrel and insert into the feed.

What is an Ink Converter, and How Does it Work?

Bottled ink is significantly more cost-effective, and how the ink gets into the pen is dependent on the pen specifically. The ink will sit inside the barrel if it is a demonstration pen. Most pens, however, cannot accept ink straight into the barrel, so you’ll need an adapter to use bottled ink with a fountain pen.

The converter works similarly to a reusable ink cartridge in the sense that it inserts into the feed within the barrel. On the other hand, the plunger permits ink to pull into the converter. This is accomplished by dipping the pen into a bottle of ink.

Nib Sizes for Fountain Pens

What are the different nib sizes of fountain pens? The different sizes are given below:

  1. Extremely Fine (EF)
  2. Fine (F)
  3. Medium (M)
  4. Wide 

Because Asian letters are more complicated than the Western alphabet, the nibs of Japanese fountain pens have narrower tips than Western fountain pens. 

What are Larger Nibs used for?

  • Larger nibs transmit more ink to the page, so they’re excellent for people who write with larger strokes. 
  • This allows for smoother writing work, although on low-quality paper, the ink may feather.

What are Smaller Nibs used for? 

  • Because they produce less ink, smaller nibs are excellent for writers who write with thinner, more delicate strokes. 
  • These nibs produce narrow lines akin to a gel or ball pen.

Nib Material for Fountain Pens

Metal nibs, most typically steel or gold, are used in modern fountain pens. Let’s have a look at the features of all the nibs. 

Gold Nibs

  • Gold nibs are more flexible than steel and promote the ability of a liquid to stick to a solid. 
  • Softer gold nibs reduce surface tension between both the tip and the paper, letting ink flow more easily and thickening the lines. 

Other Nibs

  • Tungsten, iridium, or manganese oxide are stronger metal alloys for nib tips. 
  • Minute defects in these coated tips induce scratchiness or other problems. 

The Flexibility of the Nibs

The width of lines may change by applying pressure; however, nibs were not designed to resist large force. When you press down on the nib while writing, you risk damaging or breaking it. 

Semi-flexible nibs help the writer generate thicker lines by applying pressure. Vintage fountain pens have more flexible nibs, which were once utilized in school handwriting training, whereas current fountain pens have firmer nibs with fewer line variations being produced. 

Feed for Fountain Pen

Let us find out more about the feed of a fountain pen. 

  • The feed is a rubber or plastic tube that links the reservoir to the ink slit, which uses capillary action to transfer ink to the nib. 
  • The feed also prevents leaking by allowing air back into the ink reservoir. 
  • Fins, or grooves within the grip capture surplus ink before it reaches the nib, which reduces blotting. 
  • Many current designs conceal the feed within the grip, making it invisible to the human eye.

What is the Best Way to Fill a Fountain Pen?

best writing with fountain pen
  • The ink reservoir of a fountain pen holds fluid or liquid ink that travels via the feed to the nib. 
  • Ink reservoirs come in a variety of shapes and sizes but typically fall into one of two categories: refillable cylinders or bottled ink. 
  • Disposable ink cartridges come filled with ink, but if cleaned correctly, they may refill with bottled ink. 
  • To extract ink from the container into the reservoir, converters utilize a twisting or pressure mechanism. Some cartridges and adapters are only compatible with certain types of pens. Information on which refills and converters suit various fountain pens may be found on the manufacturer’s website and in user manuals.
  • When force is exerted and released, fountain pens with an ink reservoir, also known as an ink sac, fill with stored ink. 
  • Some ink reservoirs are constructed in the design of the pen, with mechanics that replenish the ink reservoir using minimal pressure. 
  • Fountain pens that do not have a cartridge, converter, or sac hold ink in the barrel of the pen, which is sealed with silicone lubricant to prevent leakage.

Advantages of a Fountain Pen

There are several advantages of fountain pens. Let’s get an insight into some of these advantages. 

  • The elements of a fountain pen work together via capillary action to keep the ink flowing smoothly without leaking. 
  • Fountain pens may be more expensive upfront, but they are less expensive over time and generate less trash than disposable pens.

When opposed to a disposable pen, working with a fountain pen has several other advantages. These have been enlisted below. 

  • Fountain pens write with little effort, allowing you to use them for extended periods. 
  • Ballpoint pen tenosynovitis, sometimes known as “writer’s cramp,” occurs when disposable pen, gel, and felt tip pens require pressure to induce ink flow. 
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, a painful illness that may need medical treatment or surgery, is caused by relentless pressure on the fingers and palms by the use of a ball pen. 
  • The use of fountain pens requires less pressure, which is why they are preferable. 


That’s it! You have come to the end of our comprehensive guide about how fountain pens work. We hope that this article on how fountain pens work is going to help you in some ways, even if it is not a life-changing one. Indeed, writing with a fountain pen can be a fun experience, but knowing about it can be fun too. That is exactly what we have tried to prove to you with this article!

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