In spite of my love for fountain pens, I have a habit of picking up many of the more standard pens that catch my fancy. Add to this the seductive charms of Jetpens.com, and I have a ridiculous number of gel / ballpoint / roller ball pens in cups and drawers around the house.
Some of my recently used composition books
Lately I've been using composition books for my journals (despite their dubious archival qualities). When I'm writing consistently (which doesn't happen consistently), I go through about one a month as a general rule. Most are either Staples bagasse paper (bagasse=sugar cane waste) or "Made in Brazil" Norcom comp books from Wal-mart, which have the additional charm of costing just a quarter apiece at some points in the year. These two types both have very fountain pen friendly paper; i.e. ink doesn't feather like crazy or soak into the paper and through the other side as a general rule. However, I have a few composition books of poorer quality paper, at least where fountain pens are concerned: a few of the last "Made in the USA" Meads, and some Staples brand comp books with nice sturdy covers but rather porous paper. I've been shuffling these aside for a few years now, but this month, I set myself a sort of experiment. I've been using one of the Staples comp books, and restricting myself to the myriad of non-fountain pen writing instruments I have around.
The damage so far: in my current not-quite-full notebook (and a small amount of writing at work) I have used up
1 Zebra Sarasa gel pen
2 Pilot G2 gel pens
Approximately 5 Pentel Wow! Gel pens and counting (they're cheap, but they literally only last me about a day and a half)
1 Uniball Jetstream and a portion of another
1 Zebra Surari "emulsion ink" pen
Just *some* of the carnage!
For standard ballpoints (the Jetstream and Surari are not really typical ballpoints), I've briefly used a Zebra F-701, a Bic Cristal, and a Fisher bullet pen; but I didn't stick with them for long. Ballpoints make my hand ache too much, and the the not-really-blackness of the black ink bugs me. The black Jetstreams and Surari are better in this regard: more vivid. For other ballpoints, I'd be better off with blue--any shade of blue is still blue.
I've also used a certain amount of pencil. In the grand scheme of things, pencil is probably the most cost-efficient writing instrument out there, and in many ways, I prefer it to ballpoint. It feels better. My only real quibble with it is that I can't seem to avoid a certain amount of transfer from one page to another, so everything ends up a little messy looking.
You know what else fascinates me? If I take the whole notebook and flip through the pages like a flip book, the ballpoint-written pages with their rather embossed text make a loud crackling sound, the gel and pencil pages a softer, whispery crackling sound, and a few experimental fountain pen pages make no sound at all.
I am easily entertained.
It's freeing to use these things up. I think I've also proven, however, that fountain pens, while perhaps not as cost efficient as pencil, are far more cost efficient than most of the other alternatives. Even the very cheapest gel pens are typically at least seventy-five cents or a dollar apiece, and obviously, the very cheapest gel pens don't last very long--only ten or eleven comp book pages in the case of those Pentels. On the other hand, a tiny sip of bottled ink in my Lamy 2000 will write for thirty to forty pages, and a ten dollar bottle will last...at least a year or two? Suddenly the bargain gel pens don't seem like such a bargain, do they?
I don't know exactly how long an ink bottle will last since I have yet to really use one start to finish. I've had a bad habit of buying more colors. I'm working on simplifying and using up rather than making any more purchases of any kind, and I probably have enough ink to last me a decade or two. (And enough notebooks to last me at least two or three years...truth be told). But based on how very little the level of ink in the bottle of Aircorp Blue-Black has dropped in the year I've been using it fairly steadily (though by no means exclusively), it's obvious ink lasts a good while. For the frugal, a basic fountain pen (especially one with a fine nib) and a single bottle of something like Noodler's Black would break down to a much, much cheaper overall cost than buying the equivalent gel pens or rollers or likely even most ballpoints.
Ah, the lengths we go to to justify our addictions!
Trying to show how little ink is gone by holding the bottle of AC BB to the light. And yes, that is a freaky label, isn't it?
The current experiment will continue for a few more months until I use up the bad comp books (and most of the excess "cheap" pens), and then I'll go back to fountain pens. Hm...the next experiment could be to see how long a bottle of ink lasts.... Of course, this is all terribly unscientific. There are so many unquantified variables: the size of my handwriting, the number of pages I write a day, the width of the pen, whether or not a particular ink is absorbed by a particular paper.... It still fascinates me, though.