I’m not sure how many articles I read about being left handed and using a fountain pen when I started to get interested. Some of them were good, and a very few excellent ones have come up since then. But I have always missed a good guide. This is my crack at providing it.
People that write with their right hand are lucky enough to pull their hand away from what they write, this gives them the advantage of having the time they use to write a whole line for the ink to dry. That combined with being the majority seems like a pretty sweet deal.
Being left handed can be difficult for a number of reasons. Writing on a blackboard or whiteboard is very difficult, you have three options: smudge what you write as you go, learn to under or over write or try to write without stabilising your arm.
My biggest annoyance with most of the articles about using fountain pens left handed is that most of them take the “just use this and this” route.
Let me start with the problem left handed writers meet when they try to write with either a fountain pen or any “wet” pen: you start writing and you mess it up by dragging your hand over it.
There are two different ways you can solve this problem, either by limiting the time what you write with takes to dry or by learning a few techniques. The techniques takes a while to get a handle on, you don’t need to learn them, but I recommend it because there are always situations where you need them. They are called over and under writing. The basic principle is that you place your hand in a angle where it instead of dragging over your current line drag either above or below it. I’m not very good at either, but I know how to do both. I prefer overwriting, but underwriting is a must if you have to write on a blackboard or a whiteboard.
Dry time. There are a few factors that plays a role in how long time it take for what you write or draw to dry:
- Paper: some kinds of paper absorb the ink faster than others. This is a very complicated topic. I usually go after the rule that thick paper in general absorb ink faster, but there are exceptions, like Rhodia’s paper. Most good paper give you a short dry time, without bleed through or feathering. While cheap thick paper can give you should dry time, but often also a lot of feathering and some bleed through. Going for a paper that gives you a minimal dry time is something I think is a very good idea in the beginning.
- Ink: some inks dry faster than others, and there are a lot of reasons for it. Some brands are made to have very short dry time, some inks have a okay dry time, while some inks have a dry time that makes them almost unusable for left handed writers. Both Goulet and JetPens tell you on the product page if it is a fast drying ink. Going for a ink that dries fast is useful in the beginning. But you should not be discouraged to stay away from a ink just because it has a little bit longer dry time. What is a struggle in a beginning is not a problem at all once you learn to handle it.
- Pen & Nib. Some fountain pens are wetter than others, this means that it lays down more ink on the page. One prime example of this is the Lamy 2000. The same goes for nibs, thinner nib means less ink. I’m not a huge fan of fine nibs. I love to write with a very wet and broad nib, because of how smooth the writing process, and how my writing looks. While others I know prefer a rougher nib because it lets them control their writing more. Go for the kind of nib and line width you prefer, but remember, the dry time is considerably shorter if you go for a finer nib because it puts way less ink on the page.
Before you get discouraged. You can probably learn how to write without smudging any kind of ink with any kind of pen and nib on any type of paper in not too long if you put your mind to it. The trick is to learn how to under and over writing. There are of course combinations that are more tricky than others, for example a very slow drying ink on the paper Rhdoia uses.
I have some very precise advice when it comes down to what to buy at not to buy, at least in the beginning.
First of all, stay away from the Lamy Safari and any Lamy and other pen that have a moulded grip section. They are made to learn right handed writers how to properly hold their pen. I have one, and I never use it for the reason that it is a pain in the ass to find a way to hold it that is comfortable.
Go for a fast drying ink in the beginning. My advice is to go for the Noodlers Bernanke black or blue is a excellent choice. It dries more or less right away on most paper that aren’t known for long dry time, and the only times I smudged with it was when I was trying to do just that.
Paper is a topic I’m not going to cover to a large extent here. I used to just go to a local book store and pick up anything with thick paper in the beginning, and that usually gave me paper that gave me either immediate dry time, or paper that dried fast enough for me to only smudge here and there. Leuchtturm1917, Midori Travelers Notebook refills and Field Notes have all given me very fast dry time.
I have one neat trick when it comes to notebooks. I have become a huge fan of narrow notebooks over the years. The two notebooks I used to most compared to when I started to use them are Field Notes and Midori Travelers Notebook. The thing that is great about a narrow notebook, is that you can learn how to write without moving your hand much. And that limits smudging a lot. The other thing that I think is great about narrow notebook is that you can, if you want to limit how much space and paper you waste. A empty line in a MTN refill is around half the amount of paper you waste in a regular A4 sized notebook.
How to get started? Just order a pen, the TWSBI Eco or Pilot Metropolitan are good choices and remember to get a converter to the Metropolitan so that you can use ink from a bottle. Get a bottle of Bernanke blue or black, I prefer the black. And just start writing a lot with it. There will be some smudging in the beginning, it is like that for everyone, especially lefties. The important thing is to try to learn how to under and over write.
I remember that I got two bottles of ink when I got my Lamy 2000, one Bernanke Black and one with the Lamy black ink. The latter was absolutely useless for me in the beginning. But the Noodler Bernanke had such a short dry time that I almost never smudged anything, and I had learned the proper technique by the time that bottle was empty. I don’t even think much about dry time and so on these days.