Using and collecting fountain pens is a very rewarding and enjoyable experience, but the amount of terminology can be overwhelming. In an attempt to clarify what some of these terms mean, I’ve put together a visual glossary to illustrate many of the most common fountain pen terms.
A Visual Glossary For Fountain Pens
Aerometric Filler – A filling system where a metal bar is squeezed by hand to compress the sac, thus sucking ink into it. It is contained inside the barrel of the fountain pen, which means it is not accessible from the outside of the pen.
Breather Hole – The part of a nib located at the intersection of the tines. This allows air to enter the pen to replace ink that has flowed out. It also helps to relieve stresses on the nib during writing. They come in a variety of shapes and sizes.
Clip – A metal bar found on the upper portion of the pen cap. The clip helps the pen sit upright in a pocket. It also helps prevent a round pen from rolling away. It is also a decorative part of a pen. Not all fountain pens have clips.
Crescent Filler – A unique filling system, named after the crescent that protrudes from the barrel. When squeezed, the crescent depresses a metal bar, which squeezes the ink sac. The round piece under the crescent can be rotated to allow or stop the crescent from being depressed.
Demonstrator – A clear fountain pen that shows the internal workings of the pen and the ink it’s filled with. They used to be used by salespeople to demonstrate how a pen worked. Now they are sold directly to consumers by many pen companies.
Discoloration – The color changing of a fountain pen. This can be caused by exposure to sunlight, gasses from an ink sac or other environmental factors. Usually found on hard rubber, but can happen to any fountain pen.
Fading – Discoloration caused by exposure to sunlight. You will often find the part of the pen underneath the cap is not discolored, as it was covered and not exposed to light. Fading is very prevalent on hard rubber pens, but can be found on most pen materials.
Feed – The material underneath the nib. Feeds channel ink from the supply to the nib, regulate the flow of ink and prevent it from running out of a pen too quickly. Older feeds are typically flat on the bottom while more modern feeds have a visible “comb” pattern consisting of a series of fins.
Flex – Fountain pens nibs have varying degrees of flex, which results in line-width variations when writing. Some have no flex at all (sometimes referred to as “nails”), while others have unusually high amounts of flex (referred to as “wet noodles”). Gold nibs are usually more flexible than steel nibs.
Imprint – Typically found on the barrel of fountain pens, the imprint might have the manufacturers name, model number, patent number and even a small logo. Some pens also have a model number imprinted on the end of the barrel.
Lever – Part of a lever-fill fountain pen that is found on the pen body. When pulled away from the body, the lever depresses a metal bar, which compresses the ink sac. When decompressed, ink is drawn into the pen.
Nib – The part of a fountain pen that transfers ink to paper. At the most basic level, the nib is the actual writing part of a fountain pen, while the rest of the pen is used for ink storage, ergonomics and decoration.
Ring Top – Instead of having a clip, some fountain pens have a ring top. This is usually found on smaller pens and was originally intended to be used with a ribbon or necklace so the pen could be worn around the user’s neck.
Sac – A soft bladder that stores ink inside of a fountain pen. The sac is squeezed, expelling the air inside of it, causing ink to be sucked in when the sac returns to its original shape. The sac attaches to the back of the section.
Shading – A quality of ink characterized by color variation in writing. Some inks exhibit extreme shading while others exhibit no shading. Can also be influenced by the shape and flexibility of the nib.
Snorkel – A type of filling system that is unique to some Sheaffer fountain pens. The snorkel extends from underneath the nib, allowing a pen to be filled without dipping the nib into ink, resulting in easy cleanup.