Lion of the Blogosphere

Lamy Studio, a Bauhaus fountain pen


My Lamy Studio fountain pen sucked when I first bought it because it came with a lousy nib. After buying my second replacement nib (fine), I finally got it to work like it’s supposed to. Fountain pens are great when you have a good one, but QC and consistency on the nibs is very spotty. Even for much more expensive pens than a Lamy Studio.

The Lamy Studio is an interesting pen. On the one hand it’s sort of ugly, but it has an impressive German precision about it that makes you admire it (except for the inconsistent nibs). When I first got the pen, I spent a lot of time just looking at it and holding it trying to figure out the mystery of why it’s considered a “Bauhaus” design. I suppose the thing about Bauhaus is that it’s like Justice Stewart’s famous explanation of pornography, that you know it when you see it. Except that I’m not even sure that I know it when I see it. The only way to be sure that you have something with a Bauhaus design is to verify that the guy who designed it, in this case Hannes Wettstein, is known as a Bauhaus designer.

The tenets of Bauhaus are that (1) there should be no superfluous adornment or decoration; and (2) form follows function.

Indeed, the Studio has hardly any decorative design elements. What’s missing here that’s on just about every other pen is some kind of ring around either the end of the cap, or where the body meets the “section” (the area where you hold the pen). This ring is not really superfluous at all, because it’s a lot more difficult to manufacture a pen where the cap, when capped on the pen, is perfectly flush with the body, and that’s the case with the Lamy Studio (although you can’t see that in the photo above where the cap is posted on the top of the pen).

The unusual shaped clip, however, violates the rule of form follow function, because it works a lot less well for holding the pen in a shirt pocket than the clips found on even cheap $2 pens, and it also scratches the surface of the cap where it meets (which has bothered some people on internet pen forums although you don’t notice the scratch except on a very close inspection). Because this allegedly Bauhaus clip is actually less functional than the standard bourgeoisie clip on every other pen, this makes me wonder whether Bauhaus is just a big crock of b**s***.

In this official White House photo, Barrack Obama can be seen using a black Lamy Studio, perhaps confirming the viewpoint that Bauhaus designs are mostly preferred by people from the political left. However, Obama is using the ballpoint or rollerball version of the Studio because Obama does not write with fountain pens. He doesn’t even use fountain pens to sign or veto important laws.

Written by Lion of the Blogosphere

February 15, 2016 at 1:20 pm

Posted in Art

35 Responses

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  1. Fountain pens are definitely a high class hobby.

    Bauhaus and ikea minimalism seem almost one and the same.

    I personally prefer a mixture of ikea minmalism (a function of my own poverty?) and tudor design. More is more, no?


    February 15, 2016 at 1:50 pm

    • Not really. You can get a Pilot Metropolitan for around $15 at Jetpens, and a Kaweco Sport for around $25. A Conklin Duragraph can be had at places like Amazon or PenChalet for around $44.

      I do long, very long, drafts in longhand of various documents with a Fountain pen, and legal document. BTW, I use the excellent Pelikan Cartridges, the violet and the turquoise along with the blue are my favorites. This allows me to break the psychological barrier of the blank computer screen, and I don’t care about errors, grammatical infelicities, and the like. Better still, I can write on the go as I’m often all sorts of places (hence the emphasis on the cartridges). I don’t travel by air, though, so there is that.

      When I’m done, I put the RFP or whatever into Word form on one of my laptops. It allows me to edit the raw document as I’m typing things in, and that workflow does work well for me.

      The advantage of a fountain pen over say, a rollerball is that it can be much lighter, and easier to grasp for a long writing session. You can customize the inks you want, and there are many that work quite well. A liquid ink will always flow better than a paste (ball point) or a gel, or even a roller ball given that the simplicity of the fountain pen beats that little tiny roller ball.

      [OT, the Financial Times noted that China’s Xi Xinping gave an address where he told the nation that China could not produce the tiny metal ball in a roller ball pen or ball point pen — that had to be imported from Germany, Switzerland, or Japan because the precision and alloys were beyond Chinese manufacturers.]

      My pens are working pens. I don’t spend that much money on them, they look pretty and can be customized with all sorts of cool looking and legible inks. But you can write for long sessions with a fountain pen better than any other pen. No one as far as I know even notices that I’m using one.

      Nibs can be tricky though. Sometimes you have to take them out and clean them, dental floss and a toothbrush with lukewarm water works well.


      February 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

  2. Isn’t this all just goofy signaling? Are they really better than the super cheap Paper-Mate or Bic type pens? I have long used Paper-Mate erasable pens. The ink erases as well as pencil graphite.


    February 15, 2016 at 2:18 pm

    • Fountain pens, if you have a good one, are much more elegant writing instruments and are a lot easier to use for long writing sessions, and they give a different look to your writing.

      Cheap ball point pens are the worst. At least buy a Uniball Jetstream.

      To the extent that FPs are signalling, they are relatively affordable signalling as long as you don’t get carried away and buy a lot of ridiculously expensive pens.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 15, 2016 at 2:25 pm

      • Using a fountain pen is quite messy to say the least, not to mention, writing with heavy pens add strain to your wrist.


        February 15, 2016 at 2:35 pm

      • Wrong, fountain pens are very light, especially featherweight pens like the Pelikan M200 or Pilot Prera. The Studio, although on the bigger and heavier end of pens, is still a lot lighter than it looks. It’s very thin metal.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 15, 2016 at 2:42 pm

      • Who the heck has a “long writing session” longhand? Why would you do that? Nobody sends personal letters these days – it’s all email. Are you writing to a grandparent who doesn’t know how to use email?


        February 16, 2016 at 7:07 am

      • Admittedly I don’t personally write very much any more. But it doesn’t hurt to be prepared in case of a zombie apocalypse.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 16, 2016 at 8:27 am

    • They are nice, but with hard use, the cartridges can burst and make a mess. I used a fountain pen in elementary school circa 1998.

      tom ferris

      February 15, 2016 at 2:40 pm

      • I haven’t had that happen, and I recommend using the converter and bottled ink, not cartridges.

        Lion of the Blogosphere

        February 15, 2016 at 2:44 pm

      • “the cartridges can burst and make a mess”

        When writing letters to the editor, mainly. I hear the traditional choice is to use green ink.

        I’ve used a fairly inexpensive Lamy with cartridges recently rather than my customary Pelikan. It’s been surprisingly easy to change the cartridges, though of course one doesn’t have to do that very often. Haven’t had one burst or crack yet, knock on wood.

        The worst accidents have been when I left the cap off or poorly screwed on and had the nib rub on some clothing for a while. The ink keeps flowing, it seems.


        February 15, 2016 at 4:52 pm

    • Unless you have one of these vintage pens, the run in the mill Papermate is prole.


      February 15, 2016 at 8:29 pm

  3. Try this. It’s a good intro to the social patterns that spurred this sort of stuff on.

    Basically, the Industrial Revolution gave people the amazing feeling of being able to have things. And, for a picture of just why that would be so utterly intoxicating, try these two books:

    However, by the 1910s and certainly by the 1920s that had come to feel cluttered and stultifying. So you get a necessary counterbalance to an aesthetic that was both more streamlined, and less parochial/more universal. That’s where you get the Bauhaus. It’s always been noted about these kinds of movements, however, almost always produce goods that don’t seem to take their users into account. The first houses that the largely anti-industrial Arts and Crafts movement designed, for instance, lacked things like kitchens.

    The increasingly frenetic nature and pace of industrialization meant that this cycled out come the 1930s. People hated the buildings. They wanted items that reflected and respected both their individuality and their being part of a wider, unique culture and society. Which is where you get the English cultural/folk revival of the 1930s and beyond as seen in the first link,

    It’s easy to make fun of pretentious things like this, but they make more sense when you consider the context. If you think of cultural trends as being like flying a plane, using often minute adjustments to the left right (universalist, localist…) in order to keep on course.


    February 15, 2016 at 2:49 pm

  4. If the pen is good and the inkflow (proper nib) in “harmony” with your writing speed and style an ink pen is usually the least tiring/straining way of writing because you need almost no pressure. The handwriting also looks nicer and more personal.

    There may be good ballpoints now but 25-30 years ago when I had to do a lot of handwriting in high school, a decent/standard cartridge pen (as kids we usually used premade cartridges which are a lot less accident-prone) was better than all ballpoints because with the latter you had to press stronger. In elementary school and up to a certain grade in middle school we were simply forbidden to use ballpoints (and even later on it was frowned upon. Sounds quaint, but this was early/mid 1980s West Germany.

    nomen nescio

    February 15, 2016 at 3:44 pm

  5. It might be more interesting to write what you think the market for FP’s is, and whether any money can be made at it, seeing as how many people under 40 don’t even know how to write script anymore. The other day on the lawyer call-in show a guy said he’d lost his vote with the local authorities because he can only print his name and they have a rule against printing for ID.


    February 15, 2016 at 3:59 pm

    • In the U.S., the market for fountain pens is small. If you want to become rich, opening a fountain pen business, either retail or manufacturing, is not what I would recommend.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 15, 2016 at 4:11 pm

      • Perhaps for self actualization purposes? A pen lover would find joy owning a pen shop that caters to a small niche of conspicuous collectors.


        February 15, 2016 at 8:21 pm

  6. I imagine Obama doesn’t use fountain pens because for lefties they are much more smudge-prone versus a fast drying rollerball?


    February 15, 2016 at 4:26 pm

  7. $60.87 for a pen — the lion is either:

    a) loaded
    b) not jewish
    c) trying to impress maryk
    d) hanging around too many hipsters in brooklyn

    my guess is C.


    February 15, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    • This stereotype of Jews being cheap is no longer valid. My grandparents were very cheap, but they grew up poor in the early part of the 20th century and survived the depression. Being cheap under those circumstances was common sense. Young Jews today are just as spendthrift as young gentiles.

      One doesn’t have to be especially rich to afford a $61 pen.

      Lion of the Blogosphere

      February 15, 2016 at 5:10 pm

      • “One doesn’t have to be especially rich to afford a $61 pen.”

        no, of course not, but it does mean something, right?

        okay, more options:

        e) you were bored
        f) you are doing amazon affiliate
        g) you wanted to write your first novel the “old-fashioned way”
        h) you got worried you were turning prole eating at all those chain restaurants


        February 15, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    • I doubt Lion would ever do anything to try to impress me. That would indicate that he wants to earn my respect, which he clearly already has since I read his blog almost religiously and have praised him to no end time and time again. He and I probably feel the same way about each other – each of us finds the other perplexing and yet intriguing at the same time. I’m perplexed at why Lion is so obsessed with status, since so much of it seems like a pointless “chase your own tail” quest. He’s probably perplexed at how someone so intelligent could be happy being a prole and is fine with being an Italian-American despite guidos.


      February 15, 2016 at 10:21 pm

  8. for people with bad handwritting in a country where it is important to have a good one (me vs France), Lamy is the best pen i know. I sign sometimes with expensive pens, but when i want to have the best handwritting i can, there is no other than Lamy.

    Bruno from Paris

    February 15, 2016 at 5:04 pm

  9. “Because this allegedly Bauhaus clip is actually less functional than the standard bourgeoisie clip on every other pen, this makes me wonder whether Bauhaus is just a big crock of b**s***.”

    ha! that was funny.


    February 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm

    • “When I first got the pen, I spent a lot of time just looking at it and holding it trying to figure out the mystery of why it’s considered a ‘Bauhaus’ design. I suppose the thing about Bauhaus is that it’s like Justice Stewart’s famous explanation of pornography, that you know it when you see it. Except that I’m not even sure that I know it when I see it.”

      also very funny.


      February 15, 2016 at 5:28 pm

  10. LotB: Obama does not write with fountain pens. He doesn’t even use fountain pens to sign or veto important laws.

    Obama saves the fountain pens for executive orders and felon pardons.

    E. Rekshun

    February 15, 2016 at 5:27 pm

  11. I use Waterman.


    February 15, 2016 at 5:34 pm

  12. When I was a kid back in school in the 1960s, when we were first allowed to use a pen, our teacher made us use a fountain pen (Parker, I believe) rather than ball point pens. I guess the belief was that we would adopt better penmanship with a fountain pen. All this accomplished were a lot of stained shirts, goofing of with flinging ink at our classmates and other foolish mischief. I never adopted good penmanship.


    February 15, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    • Pen snobs who refuse to write with cheap plastic for mundane purposes, would use a Parker Jotter.


      February 15, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    • I started school in 1960. I think we just used pencils for the first few years. By 1963 we had ball point pens that looked like this:

      The wooden desks we used still had ink wells. We used them to hold our glue bottle.


      February 15, 2016 at 10:38 pm

  13. The part of the country in which people pronounce “pen” and “pin” the same way is nearly identical to the part of the country in which Southern influence is strong.
    BTW, never clip a pen into your shirt pocket. You might as well hang a sign around your neck reading “I am a Beta.”



    February 15, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    • or a doctor


      February 18, 2016 at 8:25 pm

  14. The cost of the pen is beyond the point of diminishing returns. I’d prefer a pen with a wooden outer portion, which feels warmer and grippier and looks better than a cold piece of metal that looks like a surgical tool.


    February 15, 2016 at 10:29 pm

  15. […] comment to my post about the Lamy Studio fountain pen asked whether you can buy fountain pens in regular stores. The answer is pretty much “no,” […]

  16. […] test the fountain-pen-friendliness of the paper, I wrote a line of text with my fine-nibbed Lamy Studio filled with Waterman Florida Blue ink. Pass. No bleed-through. And now that I’ve broken it in by […]

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