One of the most common things that I get questions about when in the store is fountain pens and ink.  What is it? How do they work?  Where can I buy the ink?   In fact, we often have to rescue our pens from children (and parents) who try in vain to make an empty pen write. By the 1940’s and even into the 1950’s, the fountain pen dominated the pen market.  By WWII the fountain pen had been sold, albeit often unsuccessfully for almost 100 years.  Manufacturers such as Parker, Sheaffer, Pelikan, Waterman, and Mont-Blanc had perfected the fountain pen with a number of modern technologies.  The “new” ballpoint pens, on the other hand, were still prone to leaks and inconsistent ink-flow. The nib on a fountain pen is very different from a ballpoint.  Prior to WWII, nibs were flexible and can easily be destroyed by writing with the same pressure that we use today.  During the war, due the increased use of carbon, lifetime warrantees, and rationing, flexible nibs were phased out and replaced with more durable nibs in the United States.  UK and German pens tend to still have a more flexible nib. In fact, it is often cautioned that a fountain pen’s nib can be “broken in” to your hand, and it is often said that you shouldn’t let anyone else write with your pen.   It takes many years to break in a pen, and this is more of a concern with older pens. However, a good quality nib can last a lifetime and many vintage pens still have useable nibs. Fountain pens can only use certain inks.  Many of the brands popular during the war for their V-Mail formulas are still in production today, and useable for your fountain pen.   Do not use any ink that is not specifically fountain pen ink.  It will clog your pen. Side note about fountain pens – don’t fly with them full of ink!  This may explain why the AAF used a lot of grease pencils.   Fountain pens fill using pressurization.  Pressure shifts (even in a pressurized cabin) can cause your pen to leak. Dip pens, i.e. pens without a “fountain” or ink reservoir  appear in the QM catalog, and were used along side of their fountain counter parts during the war.  These pens were (and are) relatively inexpensive, and usually appear with nibs of varying sizes and lengths.  Dip pens are used primarily with india ink or iron gall ink (especially true in Germany), and still today popular with artists.  I think of the dip pen as a little bit like our modern disposable ballpoint pens.  The bank would have a dip pen, a hotel, a store, any place that you’d sign your name in public. Speaking of signing your name, during the 1940’s, chances are, you would have written in cursive script, which was considered the correct handwriting for correspondence.   In addition, if you’ve ever written with a fountain pen, you’ll soon discover that it is much easier to write in cursive than print with a nib. Vintage 1940’s fountain pens can be quite valuable.  We don’t recommend you use your vintage fountain pens at events.  Instead, we offer a modern, 1940’s style fountain pen in a variety of colors for your reenacting and prop needs. WWII Soldier Fountain Pens

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