an ode to cheap pens: faber-castell grip fountain pen
Hum of the coffee machine fills the air, followed by the sweet smell. The line in front of you seems to have stopped completely while a pair tries to order. They seem to have no idea about what they want, asking about milk and syrup options. The coffee machine whirrs again, frothing some milk for another patron in dire need of their cappuccino. A busy morning for everyone; baristas working non-stop, people talking on the phone, computers opening up and slamming shut. Yet, the line stands still.
I grew up collecting mechanical pencils and sticking my face to the shop windows of Montblanc. Pencils were pretty accessible, not very expensive and handy to have throughout school. I rarely lose stuff, so as long as the pencil continued writing, I continued using. The stationery store nearby pretty much only carried Faber-Castell mechanical pencils, fancy Japanese brands like Tombow or Pentel were unheard of. In those rows of Faber Castell’s, the ones with the squishy grip were my favourite to combat getting calloused fingers. Then there were the “Grip” ones with raised dots on them. These were the most popular ones in our elementary school & middle school. Guarded carefully among students, never lent out. Sometimes they were even labelled as “exam pencils” to be never used during regular class. It was the most expensive pen/pencil we owned at 11. Personally, I never liked the triangular shape with the raised dots.
Faber-Castell is easily accessible and their lineup is consistent no matter the writing instrument. Of course, “Grip with the raised dots” has a fountain pen cousin. This is the pen I wish I had when I was younger. I wish this was my first fountain pen when I was in elementary school. The soft rubber grip is very comfortable to hold, especially if your fingers fit into the regular triangular shape like Lamy Safari’s section. This is less pronounced, as it follows the rounded triangular body shape of the pen itself. I still don’t love the raised dots on the body, but due to this marvellous soft grip, they are far enough back that they don’t get in the way. I almost never get callouses anymore -since I switched almost all of my writing to fountain pens- but I would’ve loved the soft grip as a kid, it would’ve been a game changer for me. In fact, I do like it still.
I generally try to refrain from talking about prices as what’s expensive is relative to the person doing the shopping. Nowadays, as a university student though, I’m always looking for cheap fountain pens to take to school with me. At 15€, this pen is cheaper than the Lamy Safari. This is a huge thing. Safari is pretty much the cheapest consistent fountain pen you can find in here, and this “Grip” breaks through that 20€ price tag. And what’s more, it does this with a pretty awesome nib. I only have Ambition -nice pun there- as my only other Faber-Castell fountain pen. The nib on it is a super smooth, wet, lovely medium. I got the Grip in fine to change things up. The nib looks smaller to me, but the performance is just as good. It’s comparable to other Western fine nibs, with a touch more feedback than I was expecting. The most interesting thing is that this nib sings, like my Sailor nib. It’s smoother than a Sailor fine nib, but has that same “writing noise” like from the cartoons.
This pen spent the last few weeks tumbling in my backpack and the only mark it got was a scuff towards the end, where I put it into the Galen Leather notebook case and stuffed a notebook with rings in the said case. The rings rubbed off to the pen, resulting in a faint black line. Tiny scratches seem to just disappear into the pearlescent finish, never to be seen again. It’s quite awesome. I was a little cautious about ordering this pen in the beginning, but it repeatedly exceeded my expectations.
It arrived with a regular blue cartridge, but I filled it up with Graf von Faber Castell’s Electric Pink. The colour does not match the pen perfectly, it’s a bright pink, but I love that ink. I have mentioned before that I was on a pink-kick lately for some reason, and this ink was just feeding it. It also made seeing underlined text much easier when I’m leafing through a book. Now, it’s inked with Kaweco Paradise Blue, a bright turquoise with a tad more green. It’s a well-flowing ink, though it does not get much use. My turquoise heart will always belong to Rohrer & Klingner Blu Mare. It’s still very visible on the book pages! Also makes for fun reading notes.
I will only have one word of caution. After the pen spent a long day tumbling around in my bag, I yanked the cap open too fast and tiny drops of ink splattered everywhere. I’m generally much gentler with caps and this never happened before or since with this pen. It doesn’t have a particularly tight snap cap too and never necessitates a display of such brute force. I don’t know what pushed me to do such a thing, but I learned to be gentle with caps by ruining a page of notes. Also, don’t forget your pens clipped to the cover of books. This is a slightly lighter pen than I’m used to, and I forgot it clipped to stuff a couple of times. Ah, the wonders of getting a new pen and trying to get used to it…
In the end, I think I really like this pen. The looks aren’t my style, but with fun colours and an amazing nib, it’s a solid pen. I will keep it for now to carry around to school. Probably until a friend or their sibling gets a dire need for a fountain pen to try out.
Thank you for reading. Tomorrow, I will be attending my first pen show: the Dutch Pen Show! I’m generally a little shy, but if you come and say hi, I’d love to chat!