“Do you have any left-handed fountain pens?”
I want to say, go fish. I want to say, do you have any left-handed sunglasses, any left-handed smartphones, any left-handed automobiles? Such things may exist, but aren’t necessary. So it is with the left-handed fountain pen. They exist, much in the same way the rusty, raggedy, probably tetanus-infested left-handed scissors existed in the first grade. It exists, but why would you want to use it?
There are two components to a pen that might make it left-handed. Number one: the grip. Shaped grips for left- and right-handed use are very popular…on pens for children. Or adults who have no idea how to hold a pen. If your left-handed friend likes bright, fun colors or has expressed interest specifically in a grip shaped for left-handed use, then buy away. Otherwise, pass on this often gimmicky left-handed feature.
The second left-handable feature: the nib. This is more pointless than the shaped grip; it makes the undoubtedly right-handed presumption that all lefties write in exactly the same perverse and monstrous fashion, such that a special nib is required to overcome this malignancy and successfully convey ink onto paper for all left-handed persons. Not only is a left-handed nib unnecessary, it may even make it harder to write. I know my left-handed Lamy nib is a huge pain whenever I try to use it. But I’m an overwriter. When I write, it looks like this:
Your lefty may be different, but the fundamentals remain the same no matter which hand you use (and possibly even if you use feet): you grasp the pen. You gently touch nib to paper. Capillary action and gravity work together to draw ink from the pen onto the page. And unless you’ve bought a totally misaligned pile of steel crap, the whole experience should flow like smooth butter. When using something like a ballpoint, most lefties have to push the pen across the page in some fashion, which takes a lot more effort. Giving them a fountain pen is to give them the gift of near effortless writing.
So what should you actually consider when buying, besides how the pen looks? In no particular order, I suggest you consider the following:
Does your lefty like to hold their pens close to the tip? If so, consider getting a fountain pen with a hooded nib, especially if they’ve never had a fountain pen before. Otherwise they’re in danger of holding onto the nib or feed, and getting ink all over their hands. If they don’t grip way down toward the tip, then it won’t matter.
Does your lefty like pens with round grips, or do they like pens where the grip has some guidance to it? Look at how your lefty holds a non-fountain pen. If you’ve got a shaped grip, try to picture if that grip would line up with the way their fingers fall. If you’re not sure, a round grip might be a safer option.
Does your lefty like to write very fine? Very broad? People with small handwriting styles are usually better served by a finer nib, whereas those whose writing takes up about a third of the page per line need a broad nib whose ink output can keep up with those grandiose strokes. Or does your lefty seem to like all kinds of nib sizes? If that’s the case, your best bet might be the kind of pen with interchangeable nibs.
Finally, how much, in an approximate dollar amount, do you love your lefty? There are great pens to be had at all price points, and especially a lot of good first pens around and under $30. If you can, I’d recommend you try the pen yourself to make sure it writes nicely (make sure to wash off any ink afterwards, if necessary) before you buy it / inflict it on another person. While there are plenty of other factors to consider, these guidelines are enough to make a wise choice. And make sure you give them ink to go with the pen. Yes, cartridges are just fine. And make sure they have some decent fountain pen paper (no, Moleskine is not remotely decent fountain pen paper, just in case you were unaware). Your lefty will thank you.