As an artisan who has designed and crafted hundreds of writing instruments for various individuals, including many Hollywood celebrities, I can authoritatively say that when it comes to writing instruments one size does not fit all.
Many people still cling to that “one size fits all” belief. That’s like saying one type of contact lenses will fit everyone.
The trouble is we’re all used to grabbing a 10-cent pen we got at a trade show and use it daily. We then wonder why our hands get so stiff after a long period of writing.
Many people attribute this discomfort to arthritis or a strain suffered from a gym workout. In some cases that’s true but with most people it’s due to the way they hold a generic-sized writing instrument for long periods of time. And, if you subscribe to the “one size fits all” theory......??? So, what determines the best type of pen for you?
Well, lots of things.
Each individual’s hands are shaped differently. Some are large; some are thin; some are quite muscular and some are not. Consequently, some people prefer a bold, beefy type of pen with a lot of heft to it while others prefer a slim and lightweight pen.
Even how we hold a writing instrument varies. Some clutch it tightly as if it were going to run away if they didn’t. Others have a gentle grip and prefer to deftly guide it as glides across the paper.
Writing styles differ, too. Some write boldly and press hard on a pen while others have a gentle touch and write slower and more precisely--and usually with beautiful penmanship.
As you can see, each person’s physical attributes and writing style differ. When you combine different physical characteristics with different writing styles the combinations become almost endless. A generic-sized writing instrument simply cannot satisfy everyone’s needs.
What makes each pen different and how do I determine which is best for me?
When “push comes to shove” all writing instruments share, in one form or another, the same components. Outside of the quality of the materials and the exactness of their fabrication, it’s the customization that sets them apart from one another and what makes them “fit like a glove” to the user.
Let’s look at the components and the process of crafting a ballpoint pen. We start with a chunk of wood or acrylic to clad the barrel and combine it with all the interior components. These components include a brass tube(s), the refill, spring, tip, clip and the cap and finial.
The crafting process of a writing instrument, whether it be a ballpoint, rollerball or fountain pen (my favorite), is all the same:
- a chunk of wood or acrylic--we in the industry refer to this as a pen blank--is cut to size and a hole is drilled lengthwise through it to accommodate a brass tube;
- the brass tube(s) is filled with Play-Doh (I’m not joking) from both ends, coated with cyanoacrylate glue (also known as superglue) and then inserted into the pen blank;
- when dried the Play-Doh is removed and the ends of the blank are sanded square;
- specific-sized bushings and blanks are slipped onto a long rod called a mandrel along which is then put on a lathe;
- Using a lathe chisel the blank(s) are then turned down to the profile of the pen, sanded smooth and coated with cyanoacrylate to protect the pen during use. The final step is a micro-polishing wax which brings up the luster of the material and gives it added depth and protection;
- the blanks are removed from the lathe and the various components are then press-fitted together to form the pen.
Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it? Well, sort of.
People say I design writing instruments but, truth be told, I don’t. The client is the actual designer because only he/she knows what colors and materials they like, what shape/profile appeals to them as well as whether they prefer a ballpoint, rollerball or fountain pen.
As an artisan I employ my expertise and attempt to follow the designer’s instructions. Sometimes, that’s not always easy.
Occasionally a client will instruct me to just make a rollerball in green and leave the design up to me. To coin a phrase, “That ain’t gonna cut it,” especially if they want a pen with which they can write effortlessly for hours.
At this point I apply a bit of reverse-psychology to get him or her started in the design process. I will suggest some outlandish green material that I know will provoke an almost instant reaction.
“Yuck! That’s an awful shade of green! Besides, that material is way too bizarre! What about this one, instead?”
This usually gets the ball rolling. If the client’s design process stumbles a bit, I can still revert to the same approach with the size or shape criteria, too.
So, if I haven’t already confused you enough, you’re probably wondering “What type of pen is really best for me?”
Well, that really depends on your tastes, writing style and how you will use your pen.
For example, if you really bear down on your pen or if you routinely write on multi-carbon forms, it goes without saying that a fountain pen is not for you. Otherwise, it becomes a rather expensive way to drip ink.
Fountain pens do not appeal to everyone. They hearken back to an era (think Jules Verne) prior to iPads, laptops, desktops, rollerballs and ballpoint pens. Some consider them quaint or old-fashioned and not in keeping with the times.
Someone once likened them to being more of a recreational type of pen and used only where speed/time was not of the essence. That may or may not be true but throughout my career I have seen several business people use them in numerous business settings.
Ballpoint pens have become the most popular writing instrument of today. They’re rugged, can write on virtually any surface and come in all sorts of shapes, sizes and colors. Because they can be manufactured so quickly and cheaply, they even function as an advertising medium.
Rollerball pens bridge the gap between the fountain pen and the ballpoint. You can write on almost any type of surface with them. While not as rugged as a ballpoint, they will accept a great deal of writing pressure from their user. Despite this ruggedness, they allow ink to flow so fluidly that they seem to almost rival a fountain pen.
As you can see, many factors determine what is the best type of writing instrument for each individual. So how do you choose?
Initially, it may seem an overly complex decision. In my experience, when choosing from numerous preferences it’s almost always best to go with the first answer that comes to mind. Invariably it’s a question your mind answered long ago so it is able to answer it so quickly.