Fountain Pen Magic

Function and Fabrication of Fountain Pens . . . shared by an insider

Components of Fountain Pens`

It’s always good to start with definitions, it assures us that we are on solid and common grounds. This is what I found on the internet:

– A pen with a reservoir filled with ink that automatically feeds the writing point.

– A pen that is supplied with ink from a reservoir in its barrel.

– A mechanism that is composed of three main parts. The nib, which has the contact with the paper. The feed or black part under the nib controls the ink flow from the reservoir to the nib. The round barrel that holds the nib and feed on the writing end protects the ink reservoir internally. The part close to the nib is the part that you grip while writing.

– All pens contain an internal reservoir for ink.

I would like to go more in depth with my elaborations, without repeating what I already have or intend to write about the components in their individual chapters. Here is my proposed overview.

As a guide for the introduction, I would like to use the German word Füllfederhalter. It’s a long, good, solid word. Meaning a fillable nib holder. In German, the most important word in a collated word is the one at the end. The holder, it’s also the largest part of a fountain pen.

The explanations are quite elaborate and substantial.  You might feel back at school.  The explanations are structured, starting with general information and ideas, followed by scientific background and later technical and quality details.  When you tackle a topic, I would highly recommend, start at the beginning and make your way down.  The drop down menu in the header can be your guide.

This may sound daunting; however, I enjoyed putting it all together, for you, with the hope that you get at least as much enjoyment from reading and discovering.

The articles on titles in blue are completed
Clicking on the title gets you there


The barrel it is called in New German, sorry, English. It is also the largest part. Inside the front end, the grip section, the ink feed is housed.  Right behind it, further towards the other end of the barrel, is the location of the tank or cartridge.

In the case of a tank version of a fountain pen, there is a turntable section at the side or back of the barrel, assisting in filling the tank. In a cartridge design, the barrel can be taken apart, usually just behind the grip section, to gain access to the cartridge for its replacement.


A component much undervalued because most of the time it only clutters your desk space. It has several important functions. Firstly and obviously, it protects the nib while the fountain pen is carried around.

It prevents the exposed nib from soiling things. It also reduces the rate of drying out the nib, which prolongs the time for the pen to be available. For the latter in particular, the cap contains an inner, softer part that seals the area around the nib from the atmosphere around, thus, reducing drying of the ink on the nib.

Some caps are screwed on some others clip on, on some you may find a small hole hidden under the clip. Unfortunately, the clip on has become more fashionable. Why I say this? I tell you more in the specific chapter.


Elastic – flexible – spring loaded

The clip is attached to the cap, causing quite a dilemma, because, if you pull on the barrel while you want to engage the clip somewhere for storing the pen, generally, the holding force, holding the clip to the barrel is lower than the force required for the clip to engage with something.


(in process)

It is the least understood component of a fountain pen. In my early days of trying to work out what it does, I drew up a flowchart of function, interaction and feedback loops.

Having arrived from computer and process control design, I believed, that only a microprocessor could fulfil this complex task. When I suggested it to management, they looked at me as if I had newly arrived from Mars, just a second or two ago.

With a bit of help from the miracle side of our world, I managed to design a feed without a microprocessor.  Last but not least, I had to, because they at the time of my work they had been still too large to fit inside a pen.

Seriously, today, with microchips being cheap as chips and being so small, and nanotechnology around, I wonder, why not anyone has taken it on this task.

Grip or Section

An introduction to ergonomics


Even it is the significant component of writing, designers and engineers neglect it, often. I spent some time in studying rheology, fluid statics and dynamics and developing reliable test methods. Without this, my fountain pen would be long forgotten.

Ink Reservoir

It holds the ink. It sounds very simple, and therefore it is an undervalued, ignored component with a significant impact on the feed and nib design and the overall quality of function of the fountain pen.

There are several styles of reservoirs. Here, I only add them up without going into much detail. The oldest version is the bladder with various forms of filling it. Historically next followed the tank with a piston and finally, the cheapest version, the cartridge, invented by marketing, because it gave them a reason to sell ink at a higher price.

The converter converts a fountain pen designed to house a cartridge back to one with a tank, either bladder or piston. The marketing excuse was to give people who do not have access to buying cartridges still the opportunity to use such a fountain pen.


It is probably the most significant part of a fountain pen. It is there, where it all happens. The ink is transferred to the paper. The nib determines the characteristics of writing. The width of line alters in response to the pressure the writer applies to the nib, providing the writer with an additional form of expression, only surpassed by the brush.

Quality Control

An attitude


Amadeus W. Penmacher

11 October 2014

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