Being a lefty

I see it a lot on forums. People new to fountain pens asking which pens or inks they should buy because they’re a lefty; thinking they need special nibs. Old hands exchanging tips for the fastest-drying inks to avoid smudging.

To be honest, I’ve never had that much of a problem being a left-handed writer, and I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.

Most of the time I’m an “overwriter” — that means I curl or hook my hand way above the line.

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(Here writing with Platinum 3776 with music nib and Sailor Kiwa-Guro on Rhodia)

When I’m overwriting, my wrist and hand are so far above the line that I’m actually writing that there’s plenty of time for the ink to dry before I get down to it.

When I’m in a tight space, or using a flex pen, I adopt an “underwriting” grip (which is nothing to do with insurance).

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(Here writing with Pilot 912 with Falcon nib and KWZ Gummiberry)

Underwriting lets me keep my elbow tight in to my body (essential in aeroplane seats and at conferences) and flex the nib on the downstroke as nature intended. But I find underwriting quite uncomfortable over long periods.

Sure, I end up with an inky hand every now and again, and the occasional smudge, too. But rather than rotate the page, contort my hand or restrict myself only to fast-drying inks, I’ve taken simply to using a sheet of Herbin blotting paper as a page marker. I rest my hand on that when I’m writing, and use it to blot the page before shutting the notebook. Problem solved.

I’ve never had an issue with nibs, so I’ve seen no need to buy the special left-handed nibs that companies like Lamy offer. And believe me, I’ve tried every kind of nib — from a sharp-edged Esterbrook relief to a Japanese fine; from an extra-broad Music nib to your bog-standard steel medium. I guess the secret is that I write with a light touch, on good paper, so I don’t have to worry about nibs digging in.

The only other issue? Stub and italic nibs don’t give the desired effect. Depending on how I’m holding the pen, I may be at 90 or 180 degrees from how a right-handed writer would be holding it — or anywhere in between. Instead of the thin horizontal lines and thick verticals, I might get the opposite, thick diagonals, or a mixture. I’ve seen quite a few bloggers investigating the Hebrew or Architect grind for their nibs, which is like a stub rotated 90 degrees. I may invest in one in 2017 to see what effect it has on my writing!


3 thoughts on “Being a lefty

  1. I’m an over-writer. I’ve tried writing the way you describe, with the elbow close to my body, but I find it way too uncomfortable … I get all stiff and tense. Will try the blotting paper method.

    Tomoé River paper has long drying times, so I tend to choose pen/ink combinations carefully. Rohrer & Klingner works most of the time.


    • I completely agree – overwriting and sidewriting are much more comfortable than contorting into underwriting… I only endure the pain when I want to use a flex nib! I’ve only got one R&K ink, and love it – any you recommend in particular?


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