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Fountain Pens & Dip Pens to Lessen Plastic Waste

Updated: Apr 20

Here I share my small collection of fountain pens and dip pens I use for drawing and writing.

I initially started looking into fountain pens because I wanted to lessen the amount of plastic I throw away. Here in the Byron Shire of Australia, they cannot recycle plastics smaller than the size of a credit card (nor any soft plastics!), and they would simply sit in landfill... Even refillable gel pens available from brands such as Muji, produce thin plastic tube you have to throw away when the ink runs out.

Not only it is gentler to the Earth to use fountain pens, there is just something about owning and using fountain pens. It feels like a little luxury, a treat, especially to someone who gets attached to stationery and art materials.

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Are All Fountain Pens Refillable?

Most of them are, though some of the cheapest options may only be refillable by changing the ink cartridge, which is plastic. But for most of them, you can purchase a fountain pen converter and fountain pen ink to only refill the ink over and over without having to throw out any plastic.

Fountain Pen Ink Converter
Fountain Pen Ink Converter

To refill, you simply dip the nib into the ink and twist the top of the converter.
To refill, you simply dip the nib into the ink and twist the top of the converter.

Mid to high price range fountain pens come with their own refilling system as part of the design, so you do not need a converter. Like my TWSBIs. I do not have a large collection of fountain pens, so I will only talk about the ones I own. Please note I usually spend some time reading and deciding products that might best match my wants and needs within my budget.

My Fountain Pens -in order of purchase

TWSBI fountain pens are affordable quality pens that can be disassembled to keep clean or swap nibs. I first bought TWSBI Eco because it was cheaper than others for its quality according to reviews. I chose medium nib because that was was TWSBI recommended if your writing is normal size. I also purchased Pelikan Fountain Pen Ink since the pen does not come with ink. It turned out that medium nib writes a little too thickly for my liking. You can also just get a TWSBI replacement nib, but I thought I may need to use different size nibs when drawing so I decided to get a different fine nib pen.

Of course TWSBI was the most affordable for its features and quality. Vac Mini was a little more expensive than Eco, but upon receiving, I immediately felt that I was happy with my decision. It fits so nicely in my hand, the barrel seem to have more weight to it than that of Eco's, and seemed better quality. I like to use my pens posted, so I don't lose the lid, and Vac Mini feels just right when posted. I bought TWSBI's Vac20A Ink Bottle for refilling purpose, and with it, you can refill the pen to the max.

Writing with TWSBIs is very nice and smooth. Not scratchy. I do enjoy both smooth and semi-scratcy (with audible sound of writing) experience, but not too scratchy.

TWSBI Customer Service

I need to mention TWSBI's customer service here, because I've had the best customer service experiences with them. Maybe it was just me not understanding how to use the pen, but the pen kept going dry. Also I have noticed tiny little cracks appearing on the grooves of the barrel. I feared it will get worse and ink will leak, so I contacted customer service with my photos. Now, they are based in China. I am in Australia. I was expecting not to hear back from them. But they promptly responded with explanation that I had to use the end of the pen slightly unscrewed, and offered a replacement barrel for FREE providing that I pay shipping, which was very small. A week later, I had a new barrel, and all my problems with the pen solved!

When I last went to Japan, I of course visited MUJI. Muji has been around since 1980, and they have always been a maker of simple and user-friendly stationery. When I saw this fountain pen for about ¥1500, I could not resist. It came with an ink cartridge, and I bought 2 boxes of ink cartridges that was displayed right next to the pen.

Writing with this pen is scratchier than TWSBIs and very fine, even finer than Vac Mini Fine Nib. If you are after quality, don't buy the Muji Fountain Pen. Sadly, when it came time to replace the ink cartridge, the spares I bought (2boxes!) did not fit. It seems these cardridges were for the other Muji Fountain Pen. I was disappointed in them for displaying the Aluminum pen and the cartridge together. If anyone purchase the Polycarbonate pen, I'll give you the ink cartridges. Really. Contact me.

Fude means "brush," and Mannen is "fountain" (of "fountain pen," it does not literally mean fountain, but it means "hundreds of years") in Japanese. So it is meant to replicate brush strokes. There are 40 degree and 55 degree angled nibs available. Probably because of the quality of the casing, it is very affordable. But I do not mind, as the colors and the design of the casing makes it look more expensive than it is. And mine somehow did not have the large golden branding on its body! so it's even better. It comes with a replaceable cartridge, and Sailor also has converters available separately.

Above writing example is terrible, as I was writing on a textured hard surface. It actually writes a lot smoother than this photo, and it's a fun pen. I like to write with it, and draw with it, though I currently have the Pilot fountain pen ink which is water soluble, so it may not be the best ink to draw with. More on inks below. It is cheap and uncomplicated (TWSBI pens have so many little pieces though that's one of their selling point) so I find myself using it more freely.

  • The pen I bought for my kids - PILOT Kakuno Fountain Pen

They are cute, they are affordable, and there are many colors to choose from. But I can not recommend this pen to anyone. Nib feels very stiff and so it does not write smoothly, as you can see above. Also, among my two children, they have 3. Because one of the 2 pens I initially bought, started leaking ink and now it does not even write at all. So I bought anther one, and it's doing the same as you can see in this photo. This one is still usable, but my child ends up with black fingers when she uses it. There are other choices within the same price range.

My Dip Pens

I use dip pens for mainly drawing. With interchangeable nibs, they can create interesting lines. It is easy to get hooked on dip pens since they are affordable, and all sorts of ink colors are available to play with. The inks for dip pens are generally not water-soluble I don't think (?) so you need to use rubbing alcohol to clean the nibs.

I recommend starting from the simple plastic dip pen available from art shops. It is super affordable and it does a good job it could be the only one you need. As you can see, you can even get a stick and use it as a dip pen! I remember shaving a chopstick and dipping it in sumi ink to draw in primary school in Japan. Glass pens though... they are something you cannot substitute with other types of pens.

  • BORTOLETTI Dip Pen & Glass Nibs

Apologies for my typo. It's Bortoletti, not Bortolotti. I bought a Bortoletti Calligraphy Pen Set online because I wanted to try glass pens but was worried how long it would be until I broke it.. When I saw that Bortoletti offered just the glass tips, I was sold on purchasing the set that included ink, a beautiful wooden dip pen, several metallic nibs and an adapter for nibs, then bought the clear and green glass tips.

The glass pen writing experience is like no other. Not only it's visually beautiful, it is smooth and delicate, though the green one seems to have a sharper tip that I can feel a little resistance. Perhaps a little sanding of the tip should fix that. The green one writes wider, and it may also have something to do with its shape being narrower, making the ink run faster than the clear nib.


From left: Pelican Fountain Pen Ink in Twsbi Vac Ink Bottle, Pelican Fountain Pen Ink, de Atramentis Document Ink (Permanent), Windsor & Newton India Ink (Permanent)

Winsor & Newton Inks are fun because of their packaging!

I mainly use black inks only. I haven't had many chances to use colored inks, but I do like its colors and drawing with dip pens beats drawing with ordinary pens that creates consistent lines. For fountain pens, I use the Pelikan Fountain Pen Ink, and for drawing with dip pens, I use the Winsor & Newton India Ink. De Atramentis permanent ink was part of the set with Sailor Fude de Mannen Fountain Pen along with the Sailor converter. I have yet to try the ink.

A Little Extra

  • OHTO Sharp Pencil

My favorite stationery to write or draw with, the one tool to carry around everywhere, is this mechanical pencil. I bought my first one on and loved it so much I carried it everywhere, and lose it every now and then. When I saw them in Japan, for a fraction of the price I bought in Australia, I had to get 2 more. Most mechanical pencil is plastic or metal. This one is meant to look like a pencil, and the main body is made of wood just like a pencil. Of course there is a plastic inner tube for the lead, but the feel in my hand is so much better than ordinary mechanical pencil. And how cute is it?




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