Ask The Desk: Smudge-Free Writing (of particular concern to Lefties)

Ask The Desk Header
Reader Jorge asks:

I was wondering whether you had come across any ‘solutions’ to stop left handed writers from smudging their writing as they/we rub across our hand.

I love ink and fountain pens but I remember I used to make an incredible mess of my work – the only solution was to crook my wrist to avoid the rubbing of the side of my palm.

There are a few solutions for lefties and ink drag. The first is quick-drying inks. Noodler’s Bernanke series is designed to dry quickly. I think Private Reserve has a few quick-dry versions of their inks as well. I find that finer nibs  help since they don’t tend to put down as much ink at one time.

Paper can be a factor as well. High quality papers like Rhodia and Tomoe River let the ink stand up on the paper keeping the inks from feathering or bleeding but making dry times much longer. I am less inclined to reccomend these papers to leftie for this reason.  Seek out a good mid-range paper. I like the paper in the Piccadilly notebooks for being a sweet spot between too thin (bleed and show through) and too fancy (takes forever to dry). They are also quite inexpensive so if I can only use one side of the paper, I don’t feel as bad about it. There are other options for paper as well. I find Moleskine too absorbent and the Clairefontaine (Rhodia, Quo Vadis, etc) paper takes too long to dry for me. I’m sure every writer will have slightly different criteria and you may find the a notebook from a big box office supply store is the perfect one for you.

And sadly, the last option is to try to alter your writing position so that your hand is below your writing. As an overhanded left-hander, I find this option awkward and uncomfortable. But there are many folks who claim this is the best option. If you have left-handed children just learning to write, you may want to try to get them to write in the under writer position to spare them from the challenges that we over-writers have had to face. The UK-based Anything Left-Handed site has a lot of resources for writing left-handed and so many other things!

Left-handed: Overwritingimage

Above is what over-writing looks like. It looks wonky but it is how I learned to write and so its comfortable to me.

Lefthanded: Under writingLeft-handed : Under writing

This is what under-writing looks like. It looks more like the position that right handed writers use. While it looks more graceful, I find it awkward but many lefties employ this technique and it eliminates a lot of smearing issues.

I hope this helps.

Paul South: Lefty Notepad

Paul South Notepad

The Write Notepads & Co. is a Baltimore-based notebook manufacturer. Their notebooks feature a heavy kraft card stock cover that it letterpress printed with their logo on the standard edition or with their own creation, the Paul South figure on the specially made left-handed edition that features the spiral rings on the right-hand side.

Letterpress, locally-made, fountain pen friendly and lefty-centric? What’s not to love?

Both versions of the notebook are available in a small, 3.5×5.5″ pocket size and a larger 5.5×8.5″ A5-ish size. All versions come with either lined or plain paper. Prices are $8 for a small and $16 for a large and include a Write Notepads-printed, oversized rubber band to hold the book closed.

(tip o’ the hat to Inkdependence. Check out their post for a detailed review as well.)

Esterbrook 2442 Falcon Nib


Reader Cliff offered to send me an Esterbrook Falcon nib and I gladly accepted. What I didn’t realize until it arrived is that it is the same number as my favorite Esterbrook nibs — the #2442. It turns out that the #2442 is also called a Falcon nib or a Fine Stub. Needless to say, I was thrilled to have a second one as I have far more Esterbrook pen bodies than I do nibs but first, I needed to do a little research about what exactly made a nib a “falcon” nib.

a handful of Esties

As best I could glean from the Internet is that a Falcon nib was also a term used to describe a left-leaning italic nib which is also sometimes considered a left-handed italic. This does not mean only left handed writers can use it but that it does seem to benefit lefties who tend to write leaning a bit to the left.

Esterbrook 2442 side-by-side

At close inspection, the two 2442 nibs look a little different. The one on the left is the one I’ve had for some time and my go-to pen. The cleaner one on the right is the one that Cliff sent me and the tines seem tighter and the angled tip looks a bit sharper in the corners.

Easterbrook 2442 writing samples

When I put them to paper side-by-side, a mysterious and slightly unsettling thing occurred. My older 2442 wrote like butter, like it was made for my hand. With the feathery-lightest of touches, it applied ink to the page. No scritchy noises, no snags or skips. When I put Cliff’s shiny, new 2442 to paper it revolted against me. It skipped, stuttered and  behaved most uncivilized. How could this be the same nib? One would think the new nib would behave well and the old nib would be grumpy and fussy but no. It was the other way around. How could this be?

I pouted for days and grumbled and wondered. My instinct is that the new nib needs a little tuning to match my writing angle, to smooth the end for my somewhat wonky writing angle. It requires some pampering and adjustment to grow up to be as fabulous and flaw-free as the older 2442.

My takeaway from the experience is that not every nib, even from the same manufacturer, is going to be perfect, or perfect for me. We, as pen lovers, can either choose to pass it on to someone else who it might be perfect for, or tweak it, tune it or manipulate it to work with our needs. This is not the first pen that did not perform as I anticipated. I’ve had a vintage Parker that were actually broken and leaked like a sieve. I have had brand new pens from manufacturers respected for their craftsmanship fall short of my expectations (one due to an inherent flaw and one to do a user flaw). Over time though, I’ve learned not to let these experiences sour me on fountain pens. Each is a learning experience and what may be a jewel to you may not be for me. That’s part of what makes the world of pens and fountain pens so wonderful.

Feel free to share your own pen experiences in the comments, for better or for worse.

(Nib sent to by reader Cliff, aka Caleath. Thank you for your kindness. I will make this work!)

Pilot Prera Re-Review

Two Preras are better than one

When I spotted the Pilot Prera in its slimy-limey green plastic, I knew I had to buy one. And as someone with a huge preference towards fine, fine lines, I purchased the F nib. I wrote a review about how incredibly fine this pen is but after I wrote the review, I found that I had issues using the pen but couldn’t figure out why.

Over the past year I’ve pulled this pen out occasionally. I clean it, fill it with different inks and then test it on different papers hoping to find the magic combination. It wasn’t until I started thinking about the issues of left-handed writers for the Pen Addict Podcast that it dawned on me that I might be the problem.

In an effort to not dismiss the legendarily loved Prera as being a faulty pen, I purchased the exact same pen body with a medium nib to compare. These Prera nibs are the finest of the fine nibs so even the medium turned out to be not very broad but it also set me on the path to figure out why the F was giving me such pains.

Pilot Prera F and M

The F is a razor fine point that can be flummoxed by dry inks, thready paper and wonky writing styles. I can’t even imagine how fine the EF would be.

Pilot Prera Writing samples

When I finally tested to the two nibs side-by-sdie, I also figured out that my overwriting style was causing issues with the F nib as well. Pushing it on the paper was constricting the tines even more for even less ink flow. The M nib was able to withstand my normal over-writing hand position with no issues.

When I wrote with an underwriting position, I got a lot more ink flow out of both pens but the difference of line weight and ink density on the M nib was far less dramatic than the F nib. Clearly, the fineness of the Prera F is more pronounced than other pens, even other F nib pens from Pilot. Clearly, all nibs are not created equally, not even from the same manufacturer.

Pilot Prera smaples close-up

I am much happier with the results I am getting from the M nib Prera and it has restored my faith in Pilot. I think the line weight on the  Prera M is finer than the Metropolitan but wider than the F nib on the Cocoon. Oh, pens! How you confound me!

Out of this experiment, I feel compelled to attempt to tune the nib on the Prera with the F nib since it is clearly unusable for me in its current state. Let the pen tweaking begin!

The Pilot Prera is available through Jet Pens in both the Fine and Medium nib for $49.50.

Left-Handers Day Giveaway!

In honor of Left-Handers Day, and because our fine friends at JetPens also care for the lefties among us, I’ve decided to host a lefty-centric giveaway this month. This is for all the lefties out there though I won’t exclude lefty-lovers from entering as well.

Tell me what your greatest lefty challenge is in the comments below and enter to win a $25 gift certificate. All you non-lefties have to say something nice about the lefty/lefties in your life in the comments to be entered to win. Maybe there’s the perfect product for your “lefticentricities” or those of a loved one at JetPens. I love composition and perfect bound notebooks like a Kokuyo Campus, Field Notes or Pelle Journal because I don’t have to rest my hands across wirebound rings or, heaven-forbid the giant rings of a 3-ring binder!

The drawing will be held on Monday, August 13, 2012 — Left Handers Day, at 10pm CST.

U.S. President Barack Obama signs his first act as president, a proclamation, after being sworn in as the 44th President of the United States during the inauguration ceremony in Washington January 20, 2009. REUTERS/Molly Riley (UNITED STATES)

FINE PRINT: All entries must be submitted by 10pm CST on Monday, August 13, 2012. All entries must be submitted at, not Twitter, Tumblr or Facebook, okay? Winner will be announced on Tuesday. Winner will be select by random number generator from entries that played by the rules (see above). Please include your email address in the comment form so that I can contact you if you win. I will not save email addresses or sell them to anyone — pinky swear. Shipping via USPS first class is covered. Additional shipping options or insurance will have to be paid by the winner. We are generous but we’re not made of money.

Lefty Pencil Sharpener

Lefty Pencil Sharpener

As a left-hander, I’ve always been intrigued by the idea of owning a left-handed pencil sharpener. Over the years, there’s only ever been “the other kind” available so I made do. But thanks to the fine folks at Pencil Things, I was able to purchase my first lefty sharpener. For you right-handers out there, I bet you didn’t know that when a left-hander uses a pencil sharpener, we have to twist the pencil towards us, which is not always a smooth motion and can result in broken or unevenly sharpened pencils. Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that the Lefty Sharpener let me twist “out” for the first time in my life. So much easier motion. I didn’t know what I was missing.

Lefty Pencil Sharpener

A smoothly sharpened pencil with the Lefty Sharpener. $8.25.

Other models are available.