Saturday, 27 August 2016

Now it's got personal

I have had a horrible three weeks - wheelchaired back to my partner's place in France thanks to the good services of Eurostar (I couldn't actually walk on to the train - they got me through all the controls, lifted me to the train, got me off and into a taxi the other end, and were wonderful, throughout), and after one night of misery, stretchered into hospital unable to move.

That's not about fountain pens? Well, it's Rheumatoid Arthritis. Which hits all joints, whenever it feels like it. That gives a lot of people problems using pens, and a desire to find more ergonomic and comfortable pens to use.

I've done a bit of browsing through the available options on the web, and there are a few useful threads on FPN, too. One thing stands out.

You can have a nice pen. Or you can have one you can write with. But not (often) both.

For instance the Rotring Skynn, one of the ugliest pens going, is fantastically ergonomic.But horrid. Some pretty pens like the Sheaffer Fashion and Targa are so slim they are painful to use.

There are some good fountain pen options for arthritic users and collectors. Generally, the following characteristics seem to be important;
  • a reasonable amount of girth at the grip,
  • a non-slip grip, whether that's textured, soft rubber, wood, matte ebony,
  • a taper to the section helping the fingers maintain place,
  • light weight, enabling a relaxed writing style (release the grip of death!)
  • good, nib-end-heavy balance,
  • a nib that's smooth and wet and consequently not requiring much pressure to write.
A slight turn-up to the nib might help (as in fude and Waverley nibs) by enabling the section to be fatter without forcing a higher writing angle.

The Laban Mento and Edison Collier fit the bill for fat-but-light well, and I like Edison's style and production values, so there may be more coming along if my pen budget is up to it. Equally, my fatter Indian ebonite and acrylic pens will remain favourites - light, girthy, and good (and I'm wondering how much a bakul grip helps over a polished one. I may be about to find out, as I've a matte demonstrator coming.) But no one seems to have set out to design a beautiful fountain pen specifically for arthritis and other hand pain sufferers (like those with Carpal Tunnel syndrome); it's just that there are certain 'regular' pens that fit the bill.

So, while I've been confined to hospital, I've been thinking, and doodling, and wondering if this might be the thing that gets me into actually making fountain pens.... because there are a lot of us out there (I'm surprised to have found out, now, just how many of my friends have some form of arthritis or RSI), and a lot of us who want fountain pens that are both comfortable and beautiful. And well made.

So please, FP lovers with hand pain - let me know what works and what doesn't. And I'll be adding more on this subject as I find out which pens in my collection make the cut, and which will be heading to eBay or the classifieds.

Fortunately, I've never collected Slimline Targas.