Glossary

Band: a ring larger than the other rings on the fountain pen and located at the base of the cap. It is often engraved with the name of the brand and sometimes the date of the company creation.

Base: the back of the nib, inserted into the section. 

Body (of the fountain pen): the longest part of the fountain pen which houses the reservoir (converter, cartridge or built-in piston).

Body (of the nib): the part of the nib between the base and the shoulders on which the engravings (brand name or logo, nib size, gold purity, etc.) are located.

Breather hole: round, heart-shaped or teardrop-shaped hole located at the end of the slit and which participates in the flow of ink (ink-air exchange).

Built-in piston: a piston integral with the body of the fountain pen and is activated by screwing and unscrewing the top of the body. Some pistons are pushed/pulled after unscrewing the top of the barrel (Pilot Custom 823).

Cap: the top part of the fountain pen that covers the nib and is attached to the barrel by screwing or snapping it on to close the fountain pen.

Cartridge: a plastic cylinder containing ink that is attached to the top of the section. There are two sizes: short and long. Some fountain pens from brands that manufacture their own inks only accept cartridges from that brand. The ink manufacturers (Diamine) produce so-called “standard international format” cartridges that fit all fountain pens whose manufacturers do not sell ink. The first cartridge, which was created at the end of the 19th century, was made of glass.

Celluloid: a plastic polymer made from cellulose nitrate to which camphor has been added. It was the first plastic material to be invented (mid-19th century).

Cellulose acetate: a material obtained by chemical modification of a natural polymer – cellulose – which is one of the most common organic substances in nature. Cellulose acetate is the first injection-moulded plastic and is one of the cellulosic resins.

Clip: a small, long, thin piece of stainless steel, sometimes plated with a precious metal, which is attached to the cap and is used not only to add a decorative touch to the fountain pen, but also to attach it to a notebook or jacket pocket.

Converter: a cylinder made of plastic and metal containing a piston, which is filled with ink and attached to the top of the section by gently pushing it. At Montegrappa, the converter is screwed on. A converter can be filled with any brand of ink.

Demonstrator: a transparent fountain pen, coloured or not, made of resin. It allows the owner of the fountain pen to admire the internal mechanism and appreciate the level of ink.

Ebonite: black or red vulcanised rubber to which 30% to 50% sulphur is added in the process.

Feeder: an inconspicuous but central part of the fountain pen for its proper functioning. Made of ebonite or plastic, it is attached to the lower part of the section and supports the nib. It allows a continuous flow of ink from the reservoir to the nib: as the ink flows by capillary action along the grooves, the volume it releases fills with an equal amount of air that enters through the nib and rises to the reservoir through the feeder. The balance between the quantity of air and the quantity of ink thus maintained allows a regular flow. The American Lewis Edson Waterman was the inventor.

Filigree: an ornament made of metal threads (often precious) that surrounds the fountain pen, while revealing the barrel and cap.

Finial: the decorative part at the top of the cap, usually displaying the brand’s logo (Sailor’s anchor, Pelikan’s pelican) or the year of the firm creation (1912 at Montegrappa).

Flexible (or Soft) nib: a very flexible nib that allows the thickness of the line to be varied according to the variation in pressure. The two sides of the nib spread further apart than on a standard nib to allow a greater flow of ink. This nib can be used for calligraphy. It is sometimes cut on both sides of the nib to make it more flexible (Nakaya calls it an “elastic nib”).

Hooded nib: a nib that is largely inserted into the section. Only a small part is visible (Esterbrook Phaeton, Parker 51 by Parker). Ideal for quick note-taking as it dries more slowly and keeps the fingers clean.

Italic nib (IT)it has the same characteristics as the Stub, but its flattened tip and angular ends will provide less flexibility in writing. It is used in calligraphy, but is less convenient for everyday writing, as it is advisable not to write too quickly so as not to tear the paper. The “cursive italic” variant will have the edges of its point slightly rounded (not as much as the Stub, however) to avoid this pitfall.

Music nib (MS): Stub nib with two slots (except for Sailor), the parts of the tine of which open out sharply to allow a greater flow of ink. This increases fluidity and makes writing more humid. Its great flexibility makes it an ideal nib for calligraphy.

Nib: the noble part of the fountain pen made of stainless steel – gold/palladium plated or not – or gold (14, 18 or 21 carats, sometimes 24 carats). The latter can be rhodium or ruthenium plated. It is towards the nib that the ink will flow in order to allow writing.

Oblique nib (O): broad tip slanted to the right (right oblique) or to the left (left oblique) which is designed for people who tilt their wrist slightly when holding their fountain pen; the right oblique (also called LH – left-hander) is suitable for left-handed people; the left oblique will come in OM (oblique medium), OB (oblique broad), OBB (oblique extra-broad) and O3B (oblique extra extra-broad). It is a rare nib today.

O-ring: a rubber seal on the thread of the section that prevents ink leakage.

Palladium: a precious metal of the platinum family.

Post: the action of putting the cap to the top of the fountain pen barrel. This not only allows a better grip if the model is small, but also affects the balance of the fountain pen.

Resin: a natural or synthetic polymer product that is a basic material for the manufacture of plastics (among others).

Retractable nib: located on capless fountain pens, it extends out of the body of the fountain pen and retracts into it by means of a push button (Pilot’s Capless) located at the top of the body or a twist of the upper half of the body (Lamy’s Dialog).

Ring: a decorative ring, of varying width, found in several places on the fountain pen, both on the barrel and on the cap.

Rhodium: a precious metal of the platinum family.

Screw-cap: a cap with a screw thread that allows the fountain pen to be opened/closed by unscrewing/screwing it.

Section: the part of the fountain pen that is held when writing. Its upper part is connected to the barrel by a thread. The nib is attached or set into the other end.

Shoulders: the two widest sides of the nib, between the body and the tine.

Slit: a very fine cut from the nib to the breather hole to allow the ink to flow from the feeder to the nib.

Snap-cap: a cap that is pulled off to open the fountain pen or pushed on to close it (a “click” is heard).

Stub nib: a nib with a wider than tall tip that allows you to make thick vertical strokes and thin horizontal strokes, more commonly known as full and loose. Compared to the Italic nib, its edges are rounded for smoother writing.

Tine (teeth): the front part of the nib to which the tip is soldered. On flexible nibs, the two parts of the tine spread further apart to allow more ink to flow through (these nibs are ideal for calligraphy).

Tip: the end of the nib to which a tiny amount of iridium (a platinum group metal) has been soldered, to ensure its longevity. After soldering, this small round tip is flattened and then hand-ground into its final shape. Some manufacturers prefer to use an alloy of osmium and iridium (osmiridium). Other brands use an alloy of precious metals whose composition remains confidential.

Trims: all parts of the fountain pen used for decoration (rings, clip, filigree). Usually made of stainless steel, they are sometimes plated with a precious metal (gold, platinum, etc.).

Urushi lacquer: a resin that comes from the (toxic) sap of the Lacquer tree (a tree that grows only in East Asian countries) and has been used for 2000 years as a protective coating once it has been applied to objects, dried and hardened. Resistant to corrosion, scratches and impacts, it gives fountain pens an incomparable shine and luster and extends their life.

Zoom nib (Z): a broad nib that allows the width of the line to be varied according to the angle at which the nib is tilted.

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