Can lefties use fountain pens?

There are a lot of factors that influence how good or bad an experience a left hander has with fountain pens.  This article will try to address some of them for you.

Firstly Some interesting trivia about left handers.

Left-handers are generally more capable of using their right hand for tasks than right-handers are using their left hand.  Also males are 30% more likely to be left-handed than females.

A list of famous left handers:

  • Leonardo Da Vinci – renowned for keeping a notebook with all his inventions
  • Lewis Carroll
  • Bill Bryson
  • Matt Groening
  • Sir Paul McCartney
  • Albert Einstein
  • Winston Churchill

leonardo sketch

Leonardo Da Vinci sketch

There are so many types of left handed writers out there with their own style, I am going to concentrate on two main types of left handed writers, the over writer and the under writer.

Over Writers

The over writers tend to write with their hand at a sharp angle over the top of the line of writing and drag their hand through the wet ink leading to ink on palms and shirt cuffs.  If you are one of these left handers don’t despair there is help for you. If you are happy with this style of writing my tip for you would be to try to position the pen so that there is a space between the bottom of your palm and the wet ink.  This gives the ink time and space to dry.  The following image is one of Barack Obama doing just that positioning the pen so that there is a space between the bottom of his palm and the wet ink.

Barack left handed

 

Under writers

Or if you really want to change your style you could practice underwriting.  Underwriting is basically a mirror image of how a right hander positions their hand to write. Underwriters don’t tend to have a problem with smudging the ink but they tend to hold the pen at a sharper angle and because they are pushing the pen across the page they are more likely to tear the paper with the nib.  A tip that is useful for this type of writer is to decrease the angle of the pen to about 45 degrees and also consider tilting your head away from your writing hand to get a better view of what you have written.  The following image is a picture of an underwriting left hander.

Underwriting left hander

When it comes to fountain pens, it doesn’t matter which hand you use a fountain pen works best if the end of the nib is making full contact with the paper.  If they aren’t making the right contact they will not write well at all. This is fixed by as mentioned, correcting the angle you are holding your pen and also changing the angle the paper is laying at, either left or right so as your hand gets at the right place for full contact of the nib.

underwriter
pen angle

 

There are other things you can do to minimise the smudging if your a leftie.  The first most obvious is the type of paper you use. The problem with most fountain pen friendly paper, for a leftie, is that it isn’t very absorbent. So the ink takes longer to dry on top of the paper instead of sinking in.  Normal copy paper or cheaper more absorbent notebooks may be a better option for you if you are having this problem. It’s a matter of experimenting with brands to find what looks the best to you.

The next thing you can do to minimise smudging is to change your nib size.  The theory is that there is less ink on the paper to then have to dry, but there is also a trade off with smoothness.  Fine nibs have a tendency to feel scratchy even for a right hander let alone when you add pushing the nib and not pulling it like it was intended to do.  This will then lead you to whether you choose a soft or a more rigid nib. Soft nibs by their nature separate to allow line variation but when you factor in the nib is being pushed instead of pulled you may end up with line variation in odd places. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can get left handed nibs made for your pen also.  I would only recommend this if all other tips and tricks have failed as it can be expensive and from reviews I have read they don’t tend to make much difference than a standard nib.

nib size comparison

The final thing to consider is inks.  Some inks have faster drying times than others.  My recommendations would be the Pilot Iroshizuku range of inks and also the Noodler inks as first ports of call when finding a fast drying ink.  Also have a look at this blog Mountain of Ink for reviews about fast drying inks.

iroshizuku ink

 

 noodlers legal blue

 

So that is about all the information I have for left handed fountain pen users.  I hope you have found this post helpful in some way on your fountain pen journey and remember use your good stationery all the time not just for good.

Lee Saul

Comments

Lee Saul

Great article Lee. As a lefty I get nervous about using calligraphy pens (even though I’m an underwriter). When I do use my fountain pen I find changing the angle of the paper works for me. Love reading your blog.

Lee Saul

Thanks for the article Lee, your blogs and links are great. I’m a leftie and usually write underhand style, but can write from the top too, depending on the angle of the paper. I love the Pilot MR3 medium nib fountain pen that I got from you. I have to watch my angle sometimes as I can lay the pen too low. My writing is so much neater with the fountain pen, especially on the Rhodia notepad paper. Keep your blogs coming. :)

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