I bought an Esterbrook fountain pen and a Gregg nib (#1555).  In installed the nib on the pen easily. The outlines I write with it are very clear; but the point scratches.  Also, even though the pen has been reconditioned, and its bladder has been replaced, it seems not to hold much ink.  I must refill it after writing only a few pages.  In contrast, the Sheaffer I use for longhand writing has a medium point, which writes smoothly.  The pen has an excellent ink capacity, and the ink flows from it very smoothly.  Unfortunately, small circles and hooks written with the medium point tend to fill in.
I have tried using a cheap ballpoint and have found it quite satisfactory.   I wonder, however, whether using it will lead me into writing sloppy outlines.  I assume that Dupraw and others who counseled writers to use fountain pens did so for good reasons.

(by Bruce
for group greggshorthand)

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17 comments Add yours
  1. When I was in college we were taught to use a good ballpoint pen. No one ever told us to use a fountain pen. The texts that I have talk about pencils, but our teachers said that pencils were not a good idea.

  2. Mr. Dupraw sort of clarified this when he was interviewed by the New York Times at the age of 90:
    I use a ballpoint pen. At one time I used a fountain pen. I was sponsored by the Schaeffer Pen Company. I used their pens, and I endorsed them. Now I use a ball-point pen, any kind that comes along. . . . All I have is a notebook and a ball-point pen. But the ballpoint pen didn't really begin to hit mass production levels until around the mid-40s. Until then, it was mostly a choice between the fountain pen and the pencil, and there appears to have been a strong consensus in favor of the former by the early 20th century.

    With that backdrop in mind, Schaeffer was sponsoring Mr. Dupraw—also a good rea$on for endorsing their product.

  3. It could be that the nib needs smoothing. Also, the 1555 series is not as smooth as the 9555 in Esterbrook nibs. The Fountain Pen Network has many Esterbrook fans who can be of help.

    Sheaffer nibs are known for their smoothness. I am among those who find that nothing writes like a Sheaffer.

    In general, the broader the nib, the smooth it writes. There are exceptions, of course.

    Also, in vintage pens I only use Sheaffer Skrip ink, or Waterman, or vintage Sheaffer Skrip.

    Again, the folks at the Fountain Pen Network can be of tremendous help.

    I have two Esterbrook pens, Model SJ, and they don't hold much ink. I use finer nibs than the 1555/9555 series, and so get more writing out of one fill.

    In pens less than thirty years old, I use modern Sheaffer Skrip, Waterman, Herbin, Pelikan, and Diamine.

    Hope this helps a bi†.

  4. Thanks.
    I am using Sheaffer Skrip, which I ordered online. (I don't remember from whom I ordered it.). A Paradise Pen shop is located in a nearby Mall. I'll pick up a bottle of Private Reserve ink and see if it works better.

  5. I see two issues here.

    1. The nib is not supposed to scratch. If it scratches too much, the nib is bad. With some pens you can position it so that the nib will write smoothly. You may try rotating the pen slightly to see what's the sweet spot of the nib.

    2. What ink are you using? If you are using cheap ink, it will not last, as it runs out of the pen easily. Cheap inks are very thin. The old fountain pens were designed with a thicker ink in mind. I have had great success with Private Reserve inks. They are available in many colors (I like their "Ultra Black" and their "Tanzanite", which is a purple). They work well in my old Sheaffers and Esterbrooks. The Private Reserve inks are thicker than normal, so they won't run out of the nib. They sell them at Paradise Pen, with stores all over the country. They are pricier, but you're getting good quality. Be aware that every time you write with these inks, you need to get the old ink out and replace it with new ink to achieve smoothness.

    I still love my fountain pens, but I'm not writing with them as much as I used to.

  6. The ink would feel a little thicker. I was thinking that perhaps the nib would slide better when you try writing. You may not notice the difference until you actually fill the pen with ink and write. They may let you test with one of their fountain pens.

  7. The "big blue book" is the Gregg Shorthand Reporting Course by Charles L. Swem. (Actually, my copy has wine colored boards.) The first part of the book has some recommendations about pens and notebooks, and other subjects. He mentions that a slight scratch on the nib will go away with use.

  8. i suspect one of the reasons they didn't like ballpoints was the quality at the time, especially back when they were building speed. According to Wikipedia, the first patent on a ballpoint pen was back in 1888, but it was suitable for leather, not paper. (It was invented by a tanner.). Biro patented one in 1938, which was improved over several years. By then, many of the high speed writers had already chosen their favorite pens.

    I'm happy enough with the smoother brands of ballpoints. Some of the cheap ones are pretty good, and some of the expensive ones are horrible. Yes, they're not as smooth as a good fountain pen, but they're good right out of the box and easy to care for. They also work reasonably well on a variety of papers.

    Sometimes I use pencil. A 0.3mm lead breaks if pressed too hard. Thin markers and roller ball pens, or the Pilot V series, will show if you write too slowly, however they can bleed into the paper too much and get frustrating.

  9. I have an old Lindy pen from my grandparents' house. It writes about half an inch at a time, and needs about 2-3 years to recover between times, so yes, I can see the problem with the old ballpoints.

    I've been trying out the Sharpie pen for a few days. As advertised, it doesn't bleed through. The feel is a bit like a pencil. If you use much pressure at all it drags on the paper, a good incentive to write lightly.

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