Fountain pens and other pens with similarly designed nibs, such as dip pens or quill pens, often have a similar look in terms of mechanics, along with the shape and design of the nibs. It’s only reasonable that there are those out there who wonder whether or not they can be used interchangeably.
You certainly could dip a fountain pen in ink, for all the good it would do you and the mess that it would make. Fountain pen nibs aren’t designed to hold ink in that way. There’s no reservoir to hold the small capacity of ink you get from dipping nibs that are designed for it.
That doesn’t mean that you couldn’t do it in a pinch, however, it would probably be more of a mess than it’s worth and then you would have to clean your fountain pen nib pretty thoroughly.
That’s also not accounting for the fact that dipping inks aren’t the same inks as the kinds you will find in fountain pens.
Table of Contents
How Do Fountain Pens Work Versus Dipping Pens
Calligraphy writing nibs and quill pens are the pens that you want for dipping. That doesn’t mean that you can’t engage in some levels of calligraphy design with a fountain pen, because you certainly can. However, you just can’t dip your fountain pen.
Fountain pens work via the gravitational flow of ink and capillary action. When you turn the nib facing downward, gravity works to pull the ink downwards, towards the nib, however, that’s where gravity stops and capillary action takes over.
Once gravity has done its job, the ink flow faces an obstacle and the obstacle is nowhere to flow until pressure is placed on the nib. When you press the tip of the nib onto a piece of paper to start writing, this pressure separates the two tines that form the nib.
The tine separation opens up the flow of ink so that it can travel down and through the nib channel and to the tip of the nib. Since this method of ink flow works for fountain pens, they lack the concave curvature that you would find in the nib of a quill pen or a standard calligraphy pen.
Dip Calligraphy Pens
As mentioned above, calligraphy pens have a concave curvature that is part of the nib’s design, this curvature allows the pen to hold a small reservoir of ink in the nib whenever you dip it into the ink bottle.
There really isn’t any “reservoir” to speak of, just the tiniest pocket that happens to hold a little bit of ink when you dip the pen. When you dip the pen in an ink bottle, you are supposed to dip it just above the small hole that is located in the center of the nib.
When you withdraw the nib from the ink bottle, you have to gently shake off any excess ink that remains on the tip of the nib. If you don’t, you are likely to get a gigantic blob of ink on the paper when you first touch the nib down.
Can You Dip Calligraphy Pens in Fountain Pen Ink?
Knowing that fountain pens aren’t qualified for dipping, or that you shouldn’t use a fountain pen to dip in ink, doesn’t mean that the process can’t be reversed.
The fact is, you can use fountain pen ink to dip your pen in as much as you want, however, it will be a little more difficult to write, as fountain pen ink is not the same kind of ink that you normally purchase for dipping pens.
Fountain pen ink is a lot thinner than dipping inks as it needs to flow properly through the forces that we discussed above. Thick ink isn’t as compatible with fountain pens and would only clog them up or cause other problems, such as leaks, blotting, bleed-through, and more.
Fountain Pen Ink Design
Fountain pen ink designs are primarily water-based inks that have added pigments so that you have a large variety in color choices. These inks are designed for smooth writing because the ink is thinner, flowing freely from the converter, piston-filler, or cartridge.
Fountain pen inks are manufactured by a large variety of retailers and include just about the entire spectrum of colors available. If you are trying to use a dipping pen with fountain pen ink, it will certainly work but it will be more of a struggle to get the dark bolds that you want on paper.
The tiny reservoir pocket behind a dipping pen’s nib will also have trouble holding the thinner inks used for fountain pens.
Dipping Calligraphy Pen Ink Design
Many dip inks are designed to be waterproof, which is another reason that they should never be used with a fountain pen because fountain pens are cleaned using water and any dried ink, such as India ink, will not come off of a fountain pen.
Dipping pen inks are traditionally thicker than what you will find with fountain pens and, rather than water-based, they are often oil-based, which contributes to the thicker viscosity level.
Because these inks are thicker, they remain on the nib a little longer and hold their place in the little pocket behind the dipping pen’s nib. That pocket doesn’t have as much trouble holding onto the thick inks used for calligraphy in dipping pens.
You will often find that dipping inks are made from shellac, which is a resin that comes primarily from the Laccifer Lacca insects of the world. Like any good paint, it’s the resin that helps it bind to the surface on which it is applied.
In the case of dipping inks, this shellac resin binds the ink to the paper in an exceptional way and is, therefore, one of the more popular inks available for calligraphy enthusiasts today.
While you can dip a fountain pen in ink, it’s not really advisable, as there is no concrete advantage from doing so. The most likely result will involve a lot of cleaning and possibly a damaged fountain pen.
Dipping inks should always go with dipping pens while fountain pen inks are the best inks for fountain pens.