It's the sort of pen that flies under the radar a bit, unless you've experienced one. It's not a known pen, if you see what I mean. You don't? That's OK. I'll attempt to explain.
The Fountain Pentel, also known as the JM20 Stylo, is a… um… well, it's a pen; I'm just at a loss to describe it properly.
It's not a felt tip, and it's not a fountain pen; it's something in between. The ink flows as if it were a felt tip, but the tip has a degree of flex as if it were a fountain pen. The tip is not fibre, but it's not a nib either. It uses liquid ink, but in the body of the pen and can't be topped up from a bottle. But it does have a cap, which is common to both felt tips and fountain pens. Well, a lot of pens actually.
It was developed by Noburu Yoshimura and Daisaburo Azuma in response to a challenge: to create 'a fountain pen that anyone could easily use'. In the 1970s, when the gauntlet was thrown down, fountain pens were considered a bit pricey, so in order for such a pen to appeal to the masses, it had to be affordable as well. So the possibility of a metal nib was discarded in favour of a plastic one - but it's pretty special. It's delta-shaped, to start with, and has a longer rigid support on one side than the other, which means that writing on one side will give a firm response, and writing on the other will lend a degree of flexibility.
It finally became available in 1979 so it's been around for 40 years. That's a pretty long time (unless you're a red sea urchin, in which case you might (if you've been lucky on the predator front) just be emerging - be-spiked and belligerent - from your teenage years) and Pentel have marked the occasion in two ways. Firstly they introduced 3 new colours to join the dependable black: navy blue, sepia and dark grey. Excellent colours for using on all occasions, from a message in a birthday card (or indeed a bottle) to signing something with a flourish, without causing raised eyebrows (no green, pink or orange here, useful though those colours may be).
The second was by inviting Fountain Pentel users to tell them why they love it so much. Comments such as these say it all, really: 'I fell in love at first stroke' and 'I'm sure I'll still be using it 40 years from now'; and this (slightly odd) one: 'they're actually quite popular among my colleagues in the pathology department.' The unique tip has also made it rather good at producing art, as evidenced by these fans: 'I can change lines in a single stroke'; 'the pen helps me sketch detailed and hard black lines'; 'I give some of these pens away as gifts for artist friends.' But this is my favourite: 'I love it so much that I have not lost my pencil case since I started keeping it there.' Brilliant.
So - what is it, if it's not a felt tip and it's not a fountain pen? Does it matter? Probably not. But what I will say is that it's the Fountain Pentel, a lovable, radar-skimming, quietly dependable… pen.
12 November 2019