When you think about it, online fountain pen forums are a surprising phenomenon. There aren’t all that many fountain pen fanciers in the world, and yet the subject has a considerable internet presence, a real tribute to the enthusiasm of fountain pen people.
Perhaps the oldest web forum still existing is Pentrace. Great pens, superb photography and a family atmosphere. Like most families, they have the odd entertainingly heated squabble. There’s sound scholarship here, but it’s worn lightly.
The Big Dog among pen forums is, of course, The Fountain Pen Network. It’s broad in scope in every sense – some very knowledgeable people, lots of novices and every stage in between. All types of fountain pen are discussed, though nowadays the balance has swung towards new pens. The standard of discourse is, shall we say, varied! If you ask for pen repair advice there, wait until a few have answered. Some of the first rapid-fire responses could be disastrous if acted upon, but sooner or later one of the more experienced people will give better advice. FPN is a tolerant, easy-going place. Yes, you can get kicked out, but you really have to work at it!
Several of the other pen forums arose as a result of disagreements or dissatisfaction with FPN. Lion & Pen was, I think, the first, beginning in 2005 if I remember aright. Intended as a scholarly forum, mostly on older pens, it more than fulfilled its potential for a few years, then was allowed, deliberately I fear, to wither on the vine. It has seen little activity in the last few years but I believe there are plans to resurrect it in the near future. I hope they are successful. The archive there is invaluable.
The Fountain Pen Board is almost a re-run of Lion & Pen, though with (mostly) different personalities. Like L&P, its major failing is that it is somewhat narrowly American, but given the wealth of knowledge there it has great potential. Early days yet.
The Fountain Pen Community is the project of another exile from FPN. It flourished briefly, but having no special direction of its own has gradually died away. There are very few posts there now.
The most recent forum is Fountain Pen Geeks, who assure us that they’re cool! Again, there seems little to differentiate this group from others, and the frequency of posts is not high. It hasn’t been around long, though, and may yet develop a new direction that will attract active membership.
Pen forums are, I believe, an invaluable resource. They can be a repository of knowledge and wisdom about pens. The fact that they’re on the web gives them immediacy, and those that archive posts (not all do) remain an excellent resource. I would much rather see the information made freely available in this way rather than squirrelled away in some expensive, glossy magazine. The pens cost money but the information should be free, I believe.
FPN hardly needs my good wishes – it goes from strength to strength. I would like to see the other forums – and many more – flourish too. There’s more than one approach to the study of the fountain pen, and the wider the discussion the more we all benefit.
Fountain Pen Network: http://www.fountainpennetwork.com/forum/
Lion & Pen: http://kamakurapens.invisionzone.com/
Fountain Pen Community: http://thefountainpencommunity.activeboard.com/
Fountain Pen Geeks: http://fpgeeks.com/forum/forum.php