Fountain Pen Design

Function, Development, Construction and Fabrication

Welcome to Fountain Pen Design.

… a collection of stories about my adventures developing a fountain pen in the late seventies

It was in the middle of the year 1978 when a fountain pen model landed on my desk in my laboratory.  Actually, they were two models of the same pen, each made from a solid piece of painted Perspex and wires.  One showed the pen as it would look with the cap on and the other one without a cap, an appearance model we call it in the trade.

It took almost three years for the “penwright” (me, the ingeneer) to not only fill the pen’s interior to make it write but also, to circumnavigate the design (shape) hurdles the designer (shaper) had placed on its path, hindering completion; of course not intentionally but by naif ignorance. At your leisure, I recommend your lecture of the book about the Lorelei sitting on a rock in the middle of the fast-flowing River Rhine. Just like that.

There is a reason for this spelling of ingeneer

Before I rattle on, in the sidebar (right) the second item from the top is the google translator.  I tried the German translation, and it turned out quite readable.  Therefore, if reading English causes you to stumble a bit, try it.


Let’s begin the journey.  What is so special about Fountain Pens?  As you keep on reading along, you will discover, it’s a miracle that they work at all. Building something on such aloof grounds was a big hurdle to jump for an ingeneer who likes rising from a solid foundation. Did it work out?  Have a read, and you will find out.  (It sure did; who wants to write about something which didn’t?)

Now, about this site:  No stress!  You won’t find long tables of test results but information you will find helpful for understanding fountain pens’ function.  Each topic unravels in a similar way.  After introducing you to some general information, I continue with providing enough scientific background so that you can follow my explanations on the technical and quality details of form and function, as well as the production of the components pertaining to this topic.  Finally, a chapter will be rounded off, with a bit of discussion.

A good starting step for a novice would be from this page: Components of a Fountain Pen (PS: coloured bold, italic text indicates a link to a place on this site if not mentioned otherwise, Wikipedia, quite often.)

Otherwise, go wild and click on any title in the Table of Content ⇒⇒

How does magic enter into the design of a pen?  I love my work, am passionate about it and I highly care about the user of my product. And for now, it is my wish that you get much pleasure from reading and discovering.



Amadeus W.

29 July 2014

How this site came to exist? Click on How this Site was initiated.

Your participation helps to improve this site and make it grow.  The easiest way is to write to me through my Contact Page.  For sure, my enthusiasm increases proportionally with your level of interest.

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17 thoughts on “Welcome to Fountain Pen Design.

  1. This design is incredible! You obviously know how to keep a reader entertained. Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my own blog (well, almost…HaHa!) Great job. I really enjoyed what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it. Too cool!


    • Thanks for your words. Websites/blogs are not that difficult. Give it a go, it’s fun. I am not getting paid for advertising WordPress! Ha ha ha


  2. I feel free to ask another question because of such a splendid opportunity:
    The Safari is a very good writer, feed-wise alone, and my respect for that.
    But if you have a look at a Lamy 2000s feed, it seems even more complex in a way. Does that mean it does its job, functions better and spreads ink more evenly on paper – in that regard, nib unconsidered? Or is it only because to handle bigger volume of ink?
    Please be truthful! 😉

    Thank you very much and all the best,



    • Hmmm, being truthful… The 2000 is still very successful. As ingeneer, I don’t like to comment on an other’s work. I can say that it works ok. Spreading of ink on paper has more to do with the chemical composition of the ink and the paper itself. As long as there is an adequate amount and consistency of ink supply the feed’s job is done.
      The amount of ink needed depends on the nib. The 2000 nib is very stiff (a nail!), therefore, the amount of ink required does not vary much at all and the feed does not need to handle a bigger volume of ink.
      Hope that helps.
      PS: tells me that your email address cannot be found. I suggest you contact me via my contact page


      • OK will do so, as soon as there should appear more interesting fields.
        Question behind all that was simply: More complex feed – better feed?, featured at example.

        Nonetheless, much appreciate your work.!


      • Ah, got it, now. And the answer is simple, too. No, there is no correlation between good function and the level of complexity. It all depends on the ingeneer and their understanding of what’s going on inside that small black thing called the feed. And philosophically: “complexity is in the eye of the beholder.”


  3. Hello Amadeus W
    Please can you tell me – do you still remember if the tipping of Lamys steel nibs had been Iridium as well those days – and not just extra hardened steel as the nib in principle?
    For today, you supposely cannot say for sure, but there’s a debate on fountainpennetwork and elsewhere about that question which (naturally) left things open. So would you give us a clue?

    Thanks in advance,



    • Hi Alfred
      In Germany, we called it Wolfram which is tungsten.  The biggest problem was its high melting point.  Iridium-platinum-blends are easier to process.  
      I believe its more about company tradition which material a manufacturer prefers.  Tungsten is the more durable material but when you consider the time frame it does not matter, really.

      Ich hoffe, das ist hilfreich



      • Danke vielmals. Ganz wunderbar erläutert.
        Unter uns: Ich schreibe hier – thematisch bezogen – ebenfalls in Englisch, um eine größere Breite von Leuten zu erreichen (obwohl Deutscher von Geburt, wie aufgefallen sein müsste.) Dafür sollten meine Kenntnisse dieser Sprache genügen.
        Ansonsten ist/war Lamy (das alte Lamy jedenfalls soweit es sich in seinen Produkten bis in die heutige Zeit erhalten hat) meine Lieblingsfirma und ich selbst kreativer Vielschreiber – Hobbyschriftsteller. Das erklärt manches.

        Grüsse vom verregneten Olfen nach Australien!


  4. This is a really good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very accurate info… Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!


  5. Thank you for this excellent document. Especially the part about the surface treatment of the feeder is fascinating.


    • Thanks, Daniel, I am glad you like it


      • I recently bought a few Chinese pens that did not work properly. I took them apart and noticed that the mechanism is made out of cheap plastic with zero wettability. I tried a plasma cleaner, but it didn’t help (maybe not long enough, maybe not enough penetration). I am sure a chromic acid etch would have done it, but not worth dealing with dangerous chemicals. I never thought of the PEG treatment, a very interesting idea.

        Sometimes I wonder how the progress in nanotechnology could improve a fountain pen. There have been so many interesting new materials, e.g. superhydrophilic coatings, new metal alloys etc. Inks don’t seem to have improved much beyond novelty inks.

        Btw., I am still using a Herlitz Kolbenfüller and a Pelikan GO fountain pen from school. Even though it is not the prettiest pen, nothing I ever bought has reached the nib quality of the Pelikan GO (early 90s). I think someone gave it to me at a Christmas party, and it immediately replaced my much cooler transparent piston filler. Amazing how much better the quality of the old fountain pens is compared to the new China pens.

        I am sure a lot of people are still using the pens that you designed. Nothing beats a pen that was polished writing hundreds of pages.


      • Like with many other items, the Chinese learn fast. As you know, the information on my my site is from the time when I worked in the field of fountain pens, 40 years ago; therefore, I am sure that there are materials or material coating, which could make any surface hydrophilic. Thanks for you contribution, Daniel.


  6. Your website is fantastic! I have been reading with avarice, as I don’t know how long I’ll have access to this extremely valuable information. Thank you for the time and effort put into this site, I still have a lot to read as I’m just a few pages in. If nothing else, just maintain this web presence, it only costs like $10a year, $30 max (inflation by the time or read this, I dunno). And I also assume that there are plenty of readers who don’t take the time to pay like I am, so multiply me.


  7. I’m impressed, I have to admit. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and amusing, and let me tell you, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is an issue that too few men and women are speaking intelligently about. I’m very happy I found this in my hunt for something regarding this.


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