The Living is in the Writing: Everything You Need to Know About Pens

The pen is one of the most mundane parts of our daily lives. Even at the advent of digital devices, we still rely on our good ‘ol pens and notepads to remind us of the things we’ve left to do or the important ideas and memories that we want to keep for when looking at things in retrospect. Pens are indispensable parts of our office and academic lives. Pens nowadays, especially those that are specifically designed to fulfill a promotional purpose, are so ubiquitous that we don’t seem to buy them anymore; they just get passed on from one person to another circulating and being of purpose to anyone who might need it at the moment.

But what is it with pens? How do they work, really? Aside from their original purpose, what other things could we do with this simple writing implement? If you want to know more about this simple, yet powerful instrument, read on, and remember that with knowledge comes… well, opportunities!

Pens and the History of Man

Pens are for writing, and writing is something that is natural to man. Early man developed the sharpened stone to be something with which he could draw pictures on the walls of caves with. The early cave man scratched pictures that represented events in his daily life: planting of crops, hunting, and starting a fire. Eventually, record-keepers developed systemized methods for their symbols; and this method differs for each part of the world–the origins of writing systems. The desire to express ourselves and record our experiences is something inherent in all of us. The history of writing, in a way, is the history of human civilization itself.

Writing is also a by-product of an economic necessity. It is a way to record surplus, which began in the advent of farming and animal domestication. Archeologists found that during the Mesopotamian period, people have begun to use writing as a way to transmit information, keep historical reports, and maintain financial accounts. The act of writing evolved to accommodate the growing needs of developing trade and commerce. Around the 4th millennium BC, the complexity of trade and politics transcended the capability of human memory, and writing became the go-to method when it comes to presenting transactions in a more reliable form. Writing, quite literally, set deals in stone.

Some of the earliest writing systems developed by man are by the Greeks. The Greeks employed a writing stylus, made of metal, bone, or ivory to carve marks upon wax-coated tablets. Eventually, the Chinese, thousands of miles away, invented and perfected writing with ink; something that was used by Egyptians, Romans, Greeks, and Hebrews as well. In 70 A.D., the iconic quill was invented–a writing implement taken from the five outer wing feathers of living birds. Goose-feather quills are common, while swan-feather quills were known to be expensive. Like modern-day pens, some quills were also purpose-specific: crow feathers were perfect for drawing fine lines; eagle, owl, hawk, and turkey quill feathers are cheaper options.

Another classic writing implement we all could recognize is the ink brush. The body of the brush could either be made from bamboo, or rarer materials such as sandalwood, glass, ivory, silver, and gold. The brush itself are often made from the hair of animals such as weasels, rabbits, deer, goats, pig, horse, and tigers. Time for a fun fact: it is a well-known tradition in Japan and in China to create ink brushes using the hair of a newborn; as a once-in-a-lifetime souvenir for the child. These ink brushes are the beginnings of the now-ubiquitous personalized pens!

In the modern times, there are a lot of different kinds of pens designed for specific purposes.

Modern Strokes

The fountain pen is reminiscent of style. It’s a nib pen, only the ink reservoir is inside the pen itself. The pen draws ink from the reservoir through a feed to the nib, and with the help of gravity and the ability of liquids to flow in narrow spaces (also called capillary action), deposits it smoothly on the paper. Fountain pens need little or no pressure to write. Fountain pens are considered to be luxury goods, and some fountain pens could cost as much as $1000. They are valuable collector’s items as well, and those who collect them treat them as precious works of art.

Ballpoint pens, on the other hand, are designed for more utilitarian purposes. They require little to no maintenance (just be careful not to drop them tip-first on to the ground and you’re good to go), and have a long ink life. They are developed a cleaner and more reliable alternative to quills and fountain pens. The first patent for the ball point pen was issued on October 30, 1888 to American inventor John J. Loud. It employs a small, rotating ball made of brass, steel, or tungsten carbide to dispense ink as one writes. The ball acts as a continuous cap that keeps the ink from drying. The ball is located in between the ink reservoir and the paper by a socket. The paste ink of the ballpoint pen is stickier than the water-based ink of the fountain pen.

Fiber tipped pens make for a smoother, brush-like writing feel. The first felt-tipped marking pen was patented in 1910 by Lee Newman. It consists of a glass tube of ink with a felt wink, often used for lettering, labeling and creating posters. Fiber tipped pens come in a lot of different tip sizes and widths. The fiber tipped pens is friendlier to left-handed writers since its ink dries very quickly, preventing smudges.

Rollerball pens are a curious combination of the mechanism seen in the ball point pen, and the water-based ink of the fountain pen. Water-based ink saturate more deeply into paper than other types of ink, making for more distinctive, wet-ink style strokes. Liquid ink roller ball pens flow extremely consistently and skip less than gel ink pens do. It also needs lesser pressure to write: you can hold it with less stress on the hand, saving energy and improving comfort; which can be translated to quicker writing speeds. The inks also have a greater ranger of colors due to the wider choice of suitable water-soluble dyes and to the use of pigments. However, strokes and expression is a bit more limited in roller ball pens since the ball in this kind of pen is fixed.

Gel pens, like roller ball pens employ the mechanism of the ball point pen and the water based ink of the fountain pen. The difference between the two, however, is in the ink: gel pen ink has a high viscosity, which supports a higher proportion of pigments in the medium. Gel pen ink is richer and more viscous; therefore writing with it is smoother. However, this makes the ink easier to smudge, and it tends to use more ink, leading to more frequent refills or replacements.

Did You Know

Before we dive in to the more random facts, did you know that in the good old days, pens were used to manually rewind cassette tapes? You just need a hexagonal pen, insert the pen through one of the cassette reel holes, and then slowly rotate the reel towards the center of the cassette. People do it to save power from their battery operated cassette players. Kids nowadays will never figure out the connection between pens and cassette tapes.

And now back to the fun facts:

-The quill pen holds the record for the longest-used writing instrument in history: it was prevalent for more than 1000 years.

– Ernest Hemingway wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls–one of the greatest American novels of all time–with a Parker pen.

-One third of the market pens in America is owned by BIC.

-The most expensive pen in existence is the Fulgor Nocturnus by Tibaldi. This fountain pen was sold for $8 million dollars in an auction in Shanghai, China in 2010. The pen is decorated with 945 black diamonds and 123 rubies.

-On average, a typical pen can write approximately 45,000 words.

-Offered with a new pen, 97% of all people will write their own name.

-One hundred twenty five ball point pens are sold in the world every second.

The pen is an indispensable part of our daily lives. It a necessity, even. With necessity comes opportunity. Check out the pen collection that we have at now!

Written by:

Mariah Shanice Basa

Photo Credits to : WikiHow
Wikipedia – Pens
How Does a Ball Point Pen Work?
A Brief History of Writing Instruments
Quick Guide to Pen Types
10 Facts About the Ball Point Pen

Share this page