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The fountain pen is, even in its humblest expressions, a collection of parts.  If they’re in the wrong places, trouble can develop, and it’s a good idea to at least know all their names.

Section:  In very rough terms, the part of the pen ahead of the joint.  The joint, in a very circular definition, is the division between section and barrel– when there isn’t some kind of trim ring to act as a land-mark for the joint, you can generally find it as a thin gap between the upper and lower pen.

The section as a unit is made up of three parts:

  • point— the paper-contacting portion of the pen.
  • feed— the part that keeps the point supplied with ink.
  • grip— where you put your hand (in older pens, this was what was meant by the word “section”; developments force a bit of a change in usage).
  • nipple– depending on the sort of pen, this may not be present, and it may be an appendage of either the grip or the feed; it is a protrusion to which the reservoir is attached, when the reservoir is a discrete item.

Cap: Fairly self-explanatory; a removable top to protect the point and prevent the ink from drying out.  There’s a surprisingly large number of parts that go into a pen’s cap, so I’m going to give the part a more substantial examination.

Barrel:  The part of the pen below the joint.  In most pens, this is a very straight-forward tube with one end closed off, in which the pen’s filler is stowed. Sometimes the tail of the barrel is decorated to echo the trim of the cap, and depending on the filler type the aft portion of the barrel may be removeable (a “blind cap”) or turn to operate the filler (a “false blind cap”). The main differences from one barrel to another lies in the material from which they’re made.

Filler:  I was tempted to make this a sub-heading of the barrel’s description, but since the filler is sometimes attached to the back of the section, I thought it better to give it a separate head.

  • Mechanism is covered in the Applied Arts department under “Filling a Fountain Pen” in terms of function.  Since there is such diversity of parts involved, I’ve put together a little bit of a glossary to explain some of the terms I may through casually about elsewhere.
  • Reservoir: an impermeable container for the ink.  Frequently a sac (sometimes “bladder”) made of rubber, vinyl or silicon, but in some types of filler the barrel itself acts as the reservoir.  For a slightly longer contemplation of this part, have a look at this page.

For the ghouls in the audience, I have a page devoted entirely to dissections of various sorts of pen while you may find entertaining and informative.

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