A Brief History of Early Fine Ink Pens

If you have ever sat down to write an old fashioned letter, address formal envelopes or write a speech, you probably have an appreciation of the artistic qualities of fine pen. Fine writing pens offer an authentic, nostalgic communication experience that typing or emailing simply cannot. It has been said that when people express their thoughts with fine ink pens as opposed to other forms of writing, they invoke a more emotional response from their reader. This is because unlike fine pens, online and typed messages lack the essence of the writer’s personality.

The first fine pens were made with mass produced pen points that were stamped out of sheet metal and molded into various shapes to suit different styles of writing. To use, writers selected a pen point, fitted it onto a holder, dipped the tip in ink and began writing. Although innovations to the design of the instrument began in the latter part of the 19th century, this remained a popular format for fine writing pens until as late as the 1950s.

In an effort to eliminate the need to carry around an ink well and continuously dip the pen point, a portable fine pen that could carry its own refillable ink supply became necessary. Thus the fountain pen was born. A fine pen that featured a three channel feed was developed in the 1870s by L.E. Waterman. This design allowed for a smooth, controlled flow of ink via a pumping action, wherein the pen point snapped back and forth from an interior ink sac.

The next generation of fine pens used what is known as the self-filling system. They were also referred to as “eyedropper” pens because in order to fill them, users had to unscrew them and pour the ink supply in through a long dropper. Unfortunately, the fit between the cap and the barrel was not always secure and leaking was a common side effect. Therefore a model was invented in which the point was retracted into the barrel with a twisting motion, similar to a tube of lipstick. Theses were called safety pens.

Other variations on self-filling fine pens debuted throughout the years, including the blow filler, the sleeve filler, the button filler, the level filler, the pneumatic filler, the piston filler and the plunger filler. These represented the standard in fine writing pens until the invention of the cartridge pen in the 1930s, which is similar to the pens that are most commonly used today. They contained a glass ink cartridge (now made of plastic) that was intended to be disposable rather than refillable.

Early fine pens offer a glimpse into our communication history and as such have become a popular collectors’ hobby. If you interested in learning more about fine pens online retailers can offer a wealth of knowledge as well as unique items to start your collection.

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