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  • Nicolas Huber

Ballpoint vs Fountain Pens

By Nicolas Huber 


Looking around the classroom trying to copy answers, some may notice that the vast majority of students are using either ballpoint or fountain pens. That begs the question: “Which one is better?” To answer, we will be looking at the following criteria: Smoothness, colour and depth, lifetime, line quality, comfort, and convenience.  


To start off, let us clarify how both pens even work. Ballpoint pens are usually made up of 3 basic parts: A barrel, an ink cartridge, and a thrust device. The barrel is the outside part that you hold to write with the pen, the ink cartridge holds the ink, and the thrust device enables the nib of the pen to be pushed out and retracted, if the pen features the mechanism. Ballpoint pens get their name from the little ball at the tip of the nib of the pen. As the writer holds the pen downward, gravity pulls the ink onto the side of the ball, opposite the paper. As the writer moves the pen, the ink stuck on the ball is transferred onto the paper, while the ball takes on more ink. Ballpoint pens use a thick, alcohol-based ink that dries quickly. 

The Fountain pen is usually made up of a barrel, holding the converter, the section that contains the feeder and the cap that features a nib. It works similarly to a ballpoint pen, having the ink in the converter be fed by gravity into the feeder and then the metal nib that then lays the ink onto the paper. Fountain pens nibs feed the ink in between two flexible metal tines, that guide the ink onto the paper. As more force is applied, these tines separate, and thus create more space for more ink to flow. Fountain pens use a thinner, slower drying ink for smoother writing. 


Other than the ink, both pens have their differences. For instance, the fine tines on the end of the fountain pen can be more easily damaged, in comparison to the ballpoint, especially on rough and uneven surfaces. Not to forget is the fact that thanks to the ball, ballpoint pens can write in any direction, while fountain pens can only be written in one. To change direction, you would have to change the position of the whole pen. Next up is the price. Fountain pens will run you from at least £10 while ballpoint pens can be purchased from the low price of 50p. 


Now that that is all out of the way, let us look at the comparisons:  

Representing the fountain pens is the Lamy AL-Star Fountain pen. In the other corner stands the BIC 4 Colours shine Ball Pen. Keep in mind that the Lamy pen was £30, and the BIC pen was £4. For this I will be using my own opinions, so do not take these for granted. 

Smoothness: While both pens were relatively smooth, I preferred the fountain pen as it was just that little bit smoother and had less resistance 

Colour and depth: Comparing the blues from both pens, the fountain pens blue is a lot deeper and more vivid than the ballpoint pen. 

Lifetime: A fountain pen cartridge lasts me around a month, with expected schoolwork, while I have also used a ballpoint pen that lasted me around 4 months! 

Line quality: Both pens impressed me in this category, but I will have to give the edge to the fountain pen, as I can quickly change the thickness of the line. 

Comfort: The fountain pen undoubtedly wins this one. It is more comfortable to hold, and you have more control over your writing, as it forces you to hold it closer to the nib. 

Convenience: Ballpoint pens win this for me for a multitude of reasons. First off, I have never had a ballpoint leak on me, while it has happened with the fountain pen. I have also noticed that my finger gets blue when writing with the fountain pen, but that may just be my writing style. Finally, as ballpoint pens last longer, you will have to change the ink cartridge a lot less often. 


In conclusion, the fountain pen wins for me, but ballpoint pens are a great budget friendly option that barely falls short for me. 



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