Buyers Guide , Engraving Notes

Just call us on 01895 672537 9.00am til 5.00 pm. 

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'Fountain pens can be infuriating, some write too dry, some too wet, and some do not tolerate specific papers. However, we have thousands of customers who would claim that their most reliable tool is their fountain pen. I would include myself in that number.' MrPen

Note: Fountain pens start from as little as £6 but for a quality pen with a steel nib you will need to look at a price from £35, for pens with a solid gold nib the starting price is usually in excess of £100. Fountain pens have very special advantages not only do they improve handwriting but they bring an added unique interpretation and style to the written letter. We offer 50 different colours of writing ink thereby making your pen your personal trademark.

The flag symbols throughout the site represent the origins of the original manufacturer and not where the products are currently made. Makers have products made in their own factories and elsewhere. if you wish to know the origins of a specific product, please advise and we will do our best to give you an accurate answer.

What makes MrPen different than its competition?

  • We can engrave your pen or put a personalised plate on the gift case.
  • Next day delivery whether engraved or not.
  • Our stock holding is substantial, we are rarely out of stock.
  • We are here during business hours to answer your question by telephone or online.
  • We offer free gift wrapping.

GOLD NIBS Call us on 01895 672537.

  • Solid gold nibs are in 14ct or 18 ct gold, 18ct is the softer of the two.
  • Gold nibs are flexible and tend to show the characteristics of the handwriting. This is because the nib flexes giving width to certain strokes when slight pressure is applied.
  • Gold nibs are everlasting as long as the pen is cleaned and treated carefully.

STEEL NIBS Call us on 01895 672537.

  • Steel nibs either plated or unplated are less expensive than gold.
  • They have a harder feel but some users prefer this.
  • A quality steel nib is still long lasting and will give many years of service.
  • Ideal for figures and handwriting where flexibility is not the criteria.

NIB TYPES Call us on 01895 672537.

  • Nibs come in Medium (choice of 80% of customers), Fine and Broad. Some makers offer wider choices like Extra Fine, Italic, Stub and Oblique. We also have a tiny number of nibs which are double broad or even broader.
  • On most pens the rounded pellet on the tip of the nib is coated in alloy to facilitate a 'key' with the paper. This pellet writes with the same line width regardless of stroke provided the pen is being used without too much hand pressure. They also work well when used by both left or right handed users.
  • Italic nibs are blunt ended this gives thin and thick strokes but only a few makers offer this option. Sigma, Italix and Parker (Duofold). We may have the odd remaining nib in other models so it is best to telephone if you have a special requirement.
  • MrPen can grind a conventional nib to create an italic option. This is possible with most plated or stainless steel nibs and a minority of solid gold nibs. If you need advice on this free service offered when you make a purchase please call on 01895 672537.
  • We have obtained a small supply of 18ct Cross Century nibs Oblique, Double Broad, Medium and broad italic. These are the genuine Cross product.
  • Oblique nibs are cut away usually to the left hand of the nib tip and are favoured by left handed uses. Oblique pens write with same characteristics as the italic pen.
  • Stub nibs have a slight pellet at the tip of the nib giving an italic stroke but less pronounced.

THE ALTERNATIVE and COMPLIMENTARY  Call us on 01895 672537.

Quality ballpoint pens are refillable and will give long service between refill changes. Refills are inexpensive, about £2.  The design and quality construction of the refill makes it less likely to become blotchy when used for a prolonged period. Most models are twist action but some still use the one handed press button.

Rolling Ball pens.
Have a very 'liquid' ink in some respects giving the feel of a fountain pen without the stroke characteristics. The refill will be shorter lived than its ballpen counterpart. The pens of this type most often have caps rather than an action.

Porous Point, Plastic Tip or Fibre Tips.
A minority of makers offer this option the most prominent being A.T.Cross.

Propelling Pencils.
Pencils use a thinner lead these days, usually 0.5mm or 0.7mm. A minority of makers like Laban still offer 0.9mm leads. Makers are offering fewer propelling pencils and some are discontinuing models. If you prefer to use a pencil now is a good time to buy. Most are pump action, some are twist and pump and a tiny number are still the traditional twist. The advantage of a propelling pencil over the conventional woodcase pencil is the consistency of the writing line and the facility to rub out errors. Still a great choice for the daily crossword or for note taking.

We can engrave on most pens, but some surfaces like metal give a superior result.  If there is no panel for you to insert your engraving requirement at the point of order then assume it is not offered on that particular pen. However we may still be able to attempt an engraving but there may be drawbacks, if you telephone we can advise you on the pros and cons.  For technical reasons on specific pens we may only be able to engrave lightly, this may be because the undersurface of the pen may show through and spoil the effect. We use a diamond engraver similar to the jewellery trade, this cuts the surface but leaves it plain. We also utilise our new system controlled impact engraver which is very versatile.  We do not print pens or laser engrave, however we can colour fill some engravings. We can in certain circumstances engrave your company or organisation logo on the pen, please telephone for assistance.

Telephone 01895 672537.
We encourage our customers to telephone us because such a large pen site as MrPen with so many products can be very confusing for the first time buyer or gift customer. We list products by maker and model but because it would be difficult to have sub listings by price, filling system, nib type, etc. a telephone conversation can help to clarify your potential choice.

  • It is not essential to be sitting in front of your computer when you call as we can always tell you where to find the product on the site for later reference.
  • If you have a budget let us know so that we can point you in the direction of the pens that represent the best value. We have more pen offers than practically anyone else on the internet due to our special relationships with manufacturers and substantial buying power.
  • No question is too trivial we are happy to give you all the time you need.

We are based in the UK but supply world-wide therefore prices are shown without VAT. The website will calculate VAT at checkout but if you are window shopping add 17.5%. You will also need to add £6 for delivery of pens. All pens are sent 'Special Delivery' no other postal method ensures next day delivery in the UK and it includes insurance as well. We are able to track Special Delivery parcels so in the unlikely event they do not arrive at the guaranteed time we can tell you exactly where they are. Some of our competitors use 'Recorded Delivery' this does not guarantee delivery nor is it traceable, if a Recorded Delivery package gets lost it could be weeks before the supplier can facilitate a replacement we on the other hand can instigate a replacement immediately.

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Engraving Notes

MrPen offers three styles of engraving.

It is important to note the following before choosing the style of engraving.

Not all styles are suitable for all pens or brass plates.

Free block lettering is very plain and is ideal for slim pens as it can be clearly read. It is also perfect for all engraving but the results are very plain a good choice where identification is the most important factor.

'Shadowed' (£3) the effect depends on which engraving machine we use. These days we try wherever possible to use our computer controlled engraver which gives consistently good results, in which case we select the style 'Casper Open' if the manual engraved is used we use block letter style and move the letters slightly then engrave a second time, to produce the effect.

Script (£3) is the most popular style but on very slim pens it can be indistinct.  These days we try wherever possible to use our computer controlled engraver which gives consistently good results, in which case we select the style 'Fine Hand'  if the manual engraved is used we use a script style which we would classify as a Regency style.

Old English can be very striking but is less suitable for slim pens and certain surfaces. It is ideal for just initials (but not on slim pens) or on brass plates which are fixed to pen cases, even then long sentences are not advised, if used for a name or initials only, the results are excellent. Please note this style features letters like 'H' which can appear as an enlarged lower case letter, this is normal and is not an engraving error.

Block lettering is £3, Script £3 per pen and Old English a supplement of £5 per pen.

We will engrave as instructed so please be careful with spelling, punctuation and the use of upper and lower case letters. Some pens are not suitable for engraving either because the surface is of certain type of acrylic or a metal which is not stable enough to accept and engraving. However with our new additional engraving machines we are able to offer good results on most surfaces. Polished surfaces like chrome, silver and gold plate engrave the best because of their reflective finish. Pens with a skinned surface like Waterman Expert also engrave well as the brass liner shows through the engraving. All pens are different when it comes down to engraving, please telephone if you would like advice on the best surface for engraving.

We use engraving machines similar to that used by the jewellery trade, the engraving is cut into the surface there is usually no colour fill, however a wax fill can be used in certain circumstances. We add a colour fill to some engraving but the depth of engraving is only slight therefore the colour will not last long, however it enhances the look of the engraving which is useful if the pen is for a gift or presentation. We do not print pens or offer lasering. The 'Elmer' manual engraving equipment can only operate using the three fonts so logos or special type styles are not offered. MrPen also has computer controlled impact engraving, this is offered for brass plate engraving for the pen gift case and increasingly on the pens themselves. The computer impact engraver is used on pens where it is suitable to engrave on the barrel rather than the cap. In the case of the impact diamond engraver the selection of the typestyle is much larger, we can also engrave logos and images. It should be noted that images and logos are not recommended for the actual pen unless the logo is of style that suits an along the barrel engraving, our machines engrave along pens not around them.

Some of the product options on the site do not offer engraving, that is because engraving is either not possible on that particular pen or the result is potentially of an indifferent quality. However we are happy to discuss the possibility of engraving on any pen but the potential result is best outlined on the telephone or by email first.

Please do not select the engraving option if you are unsure of your choice of pen, engraved pens cannot be returned for refund or exchange. Remember you can always return the pen for engraving later.


Mr Pen can engrave pens and brass plates instantly.

Unlike our competition we engrave in-house using our own engraving machines like the German made 'Elma' engraving machine above. We also use system controlled impact engraving machinery for plate engraving, this can also engrave logos and images, click 'More Images'.

Place your order by 12.00 Noon any weekday for next day delivery. If orders are placed later in the day we will still endeavour to complete on day of order. 

Engraved Plate for the Gift Case

Make your Gift or Presentation really special.

Engraved Plate for the Pen Case.
Note: Available only when purchased with a pen.

Tastefully engraved gilt plate .

  • Wide choice of typestyles. Click blue square, above right, to view styles.
  • Various sizes.
  • Logo or symbol can be included.
  • Fixed to the inside or outside of the manufacturer's gift case.
  • Free option of stock image for seasonal and special occasions * Click blue square, above right, to view stock images.

You can put so much more on a plate than just the recipient's name, for example:
"On the occasion of your graduation"  "Enjoy your retirement from all at Charles Farnsbarns Ltd"  "Dr. Margaret Brown from a grateful patient"  " Robert Smith Best Man, John and Wendy, 26th July 2008" "Edwin Trubshaw Golf Club Captain, 2007 to 2008"

* We have thousands of additional images, so if you require something special, please just ask.

Email Image (Your logo, symbol or cote of arms etc) info@mrpen.co.uk

Prices exclude VAT.


Engraved Logos

We can also engrave logos and designs

Italic Pens

We have them!

Our rather odd headline is because many manufacturers have discontinued pens with italic nibs. Sheaffer and Cross have both made an exit from this niche market. Having said niche probably 10% of our customers prefer the italic as their first choice. It is stated that there is no demand for italic pens anymore, why then do we sell them every day? It comes down to lazy retailers who simply want to minimise their investment in stock. After Sheaffer stopped offering the italic option on its excellent Prelude range we commissioned our own brand 'Italix' and we offer 15 low cost nib options for the range, at £49.50 plus VAT they come close to the Prelude pricing. Two models are offered by Italix, 'Original' and 'Pocketo'. Sigma have supported us with an excellent Italic and Oblique options for their 'Style' models. Parker continue to offer the Sonnet and Duofold with italic options as do Waterman. We now offer the plated nib Sonnets also with an italic option.

We are, in certain circumstances able to regrind a manufacturer's nib to italic and tip it with alloy. If you are determined to have a Cross or Sheaffer italic pen we will endevour to assist. Please see panel below.

Budget price italic pens are still offered from Sheaffer and Parker both as individual pens and in excellent sets.

Italic Nibs

Italic Nibs, Nib Grinding and aftersales.

Manufacturers like Waterman, Parker and Sigma still offer italic nibs within parts of their ranges. Our own brand 'Italix' is dedicated to italic pens. MrPen will also custom grind nibs for models that do not incorporate italic versions within their offering. Straight italic, and oblique, both right and left handed can be produced.

Grinding nibs will remove some of the iridium tip (where iridium has been used by the maker) however enough should remain to give the nib a long life. In certain circumstances we may use silver solder as a tipping agent if retipping is needed. In further cases the nib may be left without any tipping material at all.

An original standard medium or broad nib is used as the component to be ground. We will grind the nib pellet flat (The pellet is the tip of the nib)  and then hand finish it to shape required. Sometimes we remove the pellet altogether and grind the tines (the tines are the split point of the nib) this may leave the nib shorter than the manufacturer's original. Nibs are individually polished but may still take a while to 'run in' .

It should be understood that custom ground nibs may not be covered by the original manufacturer's guarantee. This service is only offered on new pens that are sold by MrPen, the service is not offered for customer's existing fountain pens.

If you accidently damage the nib (a short drop on the point for example) we may be able to straighten it for you. If the nib has fractured then straightening it back to a perfect state is unlikely and a chargeable replacement may be the only solution.  Again we only support the pens we have sold, such a service is often offered as a free service to those who are our patrons.

Footnote dated 29th June 09: We have just acquired a small number of Cross 18ct gold nib units in italic, oblique and double broad. These fit the Century ll series of Cross Pens.

Nibs the definitive

Customers sometimes dispute our nib descriptions.

  • No.1 is an oblique, sometimes called a left foot
  • No. 2 is a reverse oblique, sometimes called a right foot. 
  • No. 3 A straight for people who can hold the nib at a constant angle.
  • Standard nib with a rounded pellet for use by everyone.
  • A cursive nib has a rounded tip (not shown) and will give an italic effect but is less likely to dig the paper, however the thick line will be reduced in comparison to a straight.

Important: If you Google this subject you will get all kinds of conflicting descriptions. Some of these are based on a misunderstanding, because the nib in such cases is being viewed from the back.

Many years ago a knowledgeable lady at Sheaffer wrote to me the definitive:

"You should look at the back of the nib where the feed is. A left oblique will slant downwards from left to right and is for the right handed person.

A right oblique will slant downwards from right to left and is for a left handed person."

Oblique slants can also be a feature of a conventional nib with a pellet. Just to confuse the issue even further, we tend to sell a lot of reverse oblique nibs for the left handed because this can often apply more nib surface to the paper. Cursive nibs can also be useful, this is where the nib point is rounded at the edges but the italic effect will be reduced. If you want advice just telephone 01895 672537, or use 'Online Help'. You have a thirty day free nib exchange with MrPen so if you make the wrong choice it will not prove to be a problem.

There is no standard for nib widths, they vary from maker to maker and model to model. Ink flow, type of paper and brand of ink used, can alter the line width characteristics on the paper.

Do I need an oblique nib?

Some people can find that an oblique nib can help the writing process. How do you know if you need an oblique?

When buying a pen from an expert, they will often ask to see you writing before offering advice as to a suitable nib choice. Many customers assume that they are looking at the actual writing and because of that assumption we are often sent writing samples, these are useless as they do not tell much about the grip used. This is how you can tell whether an oblique nib will assist you.

  • Write a line of script, watch the end of the pen (the opposite end to the nib), if using an italic and your down line is usually the thin line, then observe whether the end of the pen leans towards the writer, if yes, you need a left foot oblique. If the pen leans away from you, a right foot oblique.
  • If the thin line is your cross stroke, then if the tip leans to the right, you need a right foot oblique, if it leans to the left then a left foot oblique should be chosen.
  • Non italic oblique is more of a grey area, as a standard ball tip medium, broad or fine should accommodate most writers. However if the grip leans to the extreme, an oblique slant to the tip may assist.

Should an oblique be used in all cases shown above, the answer has to be no. Many people change their grip rather than making the pen adapt to their existing grip.

Italix brand pens have a thirty day nib exchange, so all is not lost if your initial choice proves incorrect.

Nib writing guidance

Nib size guidance. The styles are representative and not actual writing samples.

We are often asked for writing samples, sorry we do not provide them. Paper, writing pressure and personal writing styles will change the appearance of the way a nib writes. Manufacturers also vary in their interpretation of standard nib sizes. Our illustration using standard type styles is our view of how an 'Italix' brand pen writes. From the top we show:

Fine Italic

Medium Italic

Broad Italic

Standard Medium

Cursive nibs reduce the thick and thin line definition.

Click Here for  nib review by Stephen Brown

Taking care of your new pen

Look after your new pen and it will last several lifetimes.

The basics: Use good quality fountain pen ink or cartridges. Try to avoid own brand inks that do not identify the maker, quality inks for example Sheaffer, Diamine, Waterman or Caran d'Ache are best for your new pen. Never use drawing inks or Indian inks in a fountain pen, look specifically for 'fountain pen ink' on the label. If you do not plan to use your pen for a while rinse it out with cold water and leave it unfilled until you wish to use it once again. Resist using 'old' ink that you have kept for sometime, the spirit in ink causes some evaporation making it too concentrated and more likely to leave harmful deposits on the feed. If you utilise registrar's ink, rinse it out after each day's usage and only refill on the day you wish to reuse the pen. As mentioned modern inks have spirit as part of their formulation, this helps the ink to dry quickly on the paper. However the spirit also dries on the nib feed (the black comb like structure behind the nib) of the pen and will leave deposits that will, in the fullness of time restrict the flow of ink. Regular rinsing will help prevent future flow problems. Keep the cap on when not using the pen for even a few minutes, the cap in place enables the nib to remain moist and ready for immediate use. If you are using a convertor to bottle fill your pen replace it every two or three years, this should prevent unexpected leaks.

Do not screw an ink cartridge in place, better to push it. Screwing can make the opening too large, more leaks. Sheaffer cartridges can be dropped into the barrel end, when the barrel is screwed back it will pierce the cartridge perfectly. Do not take a filled pen on an air journey as the pen could flood with the change in air pressure, This does not apply to the Waterman Edson which incorporates a design to eliminate this. If you are flying take cartridges and load your pen when the plane has climbed to full height. Do not use cartridges that are an incorrect design for your particular pen even if they appear to fit. For example a cartridge may fit but could be slightly too long, when the pen is screwed back together the cartridge may displace the feed, more leaks.  Clean barrel and cap with a dry cloth, do not use solvents or strong detergents. Acrylic pens will lose their lustre if you clean incorrectly.

Some customers complain that when using cartridges for the first time in their new fountain pen it is difficult to get the first flow of ink. If you have a bottle of ink, dip the nib first (to wet the feed) then switch to a cartridge. The same tip applies when the pen has been out of use for some time.

Like a quality mechanical wristwatch, fountain pens work best when used regularly. Use your pen, everyday as your first choice writing instrument.

Patina. In my view customers buy fountain pens either because they want to use them or because they are collectors, some do both of course. Pens that are used everyday will eventually lose their newness, they may develop fine scratching or other forms of wear. For many years i did not enjoy using pens as much as I should because I was afraid they would start to show signs of wear. Now I accept the developing patina as a consequence of enjoying a fine pen. I have met customers who have an 'old favourite'  barrel all scratched, clip bent, nib looking a bit tired but they are often heard to say that it is one of their most dependable possessions. Enjoy your fountain pen do not keep it in cotton wool in a drawer. 

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