Penspiration! One man’s love for fun fountain pens

Rakshak Adhikari

Staff writer

While some students might think the English department is just full of stuffy old books, it might be surprising for them to learn that interesting collections find their way among the literature. 

Students who find themselves in Michael Orlofsky’s class have first-hand experience with fascinating collections, as their graded work is corrected by unusual pens. 

Orlofsky, a professor of English, uses fountain pens to grade his papers rather than the ubiquitous ball point pens, and his markings often have a calligraphic touch, on top of the fact that the ink he uses varies every week.

“Writing with a fountain pen is organic — the drying ink is like a living thing, like blue or purple hemoglobin (a protein in blood), and it’s a little magical,” Orlofsky said. 

According to him, some writers use various nibs to create calligraphic-like effects, producing italic script or serifs on the tips of their letters like you see in ancient Roman monuments.

“I bought my first fountain pen — an inexpensive blue Sheaffer fine point that I still have — about 47 years ago as a sophomore in college,” Orlofsky said.

According to him, back in 1972, fountain pen use was much more common than it is these days, so pen selection, ink cartridges, and bottled ink were readily available in many stores. 

Students, too, can also be found around campus with interesting personal collections.

Garrett Davies, a junior computer science major from Robertsdale, was first drawn into fountain pens after he was exposed to his friend’s collection. Over time he developed an appreciation for the variations and details of them, as well as how the different attributes, regardless of price, made them good or bad.

“Fountain pens — they aren’t disposable,” Davies said. “These days everything that people buy seems to be so cheap and easy to toss in the trash. 

“Fountain pens can be used for life and become heirlooms. My aforementioned friend has a Parker Sonnet from his grandmother that is still in perfect condition.”

According to Orlofsky, fountain pens can be as cheap or as expensive as a person wants them to be. Frankly, some of his most reliable pens are the Pilot Varsity, which sell for about $2 each on Amazon.

If you or someone you know – be it friend, family or professor – has an interesting collection that you want to share with the Tropolitan, send in a picture and a story about the collection to 

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