10 alternative section shapes to find the most comfortable pen for you

I believe that the shape of a pen’s section is probably the single biggest determinant in whether the pen is comfortable for you or not.

Other major factors include the length of the nib and the weight/balance of the pen, but ultimately the section is where your fingers sit. If it’s too small, too wide, too short, too tapered, you’ll feel it, and if your grip isn’t comfortable there, it’ll affect how you feel about the rest of the pen, too.

On most pens the section is just, you know, there.

It probably narrows a little towards the nib. It’s maybe slightly concave in profile, perhaps has a slight flare or ridge by the nib. It will be sized proportionate to the overall size of the pen, with cap threads behind and nib in front.

This describes everything from the Pilot 912 to the Platinum 3776, Montblanc 146 to Visconti Homo Sapiens, Lamy Studio to Visconti Van Gogh, Esterbrook Estie to Parker Duofold.


Montblanc 149


Conid Kingsize


Visconti London Fog

That may work for most people, but what if you’re not most people? Here are a few different kinds of sections that you can look for, and some manufacturers and models that use them.

I’ve had a go at grouping a few. And I’ve taken standardised shots of my pens so you can see for yourself.

1: Ski-slope: Aurora

Aurora’s sections are very long (especially relative to the overall size of the pen), have a pronounced taper, and a significant flare, for a concave profile. The extra finger space keeps your skin away from the cap threads and lets you find the right grip for you.

There are plenty of similar models out there if Aurora doesn’t take your fancy: Desiderata Soubriquet, Karas Starliner, Namisu Ixion, Yard o Led Grand Viceroy….


Aurora Optima


Desiderata Soubriquet

2: Triangular: Lamy Safari and AL-Star

The long sections of common Lamys like the Safari, Al-Star and Nexx has a triangular shape; TWSBI has followed suit with its Eco. The shape should promote a consistent grip; others, often lefties, find it uncomfortable.


Lamy Al-Star

3: Seamless bullet: Lamy 2000

On pens like the Lamy 2000, the barrel takes a torpedo shape with the nib on the end. There are no steps and often no threads to interrupt the taper all the way from the barrel to the end of the section. In theory this means you get a nice broad section wherever you choose to hold on, with no irritating sharp bits.

The list of pens that take this approach is huge. Think of the Sheaffer Legacy, Waterman Carene, Pilot Myu, Esterbrook Phaeton, Conid Minimalistica, Lamy Aion, or Pilot Vanishing Point (if you can excuse the clip).


Pilot Vanishing Point (faceted)


Sheaffer Legacy


Lamy 2000


4: End threads: Ancora

Several manufacturers have released pens with the cap screwthreads at the end of the section, between you and the nib. This helps set your fingers further back away from the page and means you don’t have to worry about sharp threads under your fingers.

Think here of many Franklin-Christoph models, the Oldwin Art Deco and Classic, Montblanc Heritage series 1912 and Rouge et Noir, and probably many others. The one I’m thinking of here is the unusual Ancora Cielo, which not only has end threads but a steep taper before them, locking your fingers in right by the threads.


Ancora Cielo


Oldwin Art Deco

5: Short: Pelikan

Relative to the length of the pen and the diameter of the section, Pelikan grips are short. It’s undeniable. They’re about half the length of Aurora’s sections. If you like the extra purchase you get from holding the threads, or if you like to grip right down by the nib, Pelikans are for you.

I’ve found that many Kawecos — principally the Sport — have similarly short sections.


Pelikan M805

6: Mid-section step-down: Leonardo

Pens like the Momento Zero have a sudden slope down to a slimmer plateau toward the nib. I’ve not handled many pens with this kind of section shape, and it shouldn’t be comfortable — but in my experience, it is.


Leonardo Momento Zero

7: Skinny: Graf Classic

Some pens take their inspiration from pencils. The Graf Classic, for example. It has a very long, skinny section. There are plenty of pens with thin sections — like the Kaweco Lilliput — but few that are so skinny relative to their length, rather than just being small pens overall.

8: Straight: Montblanc 1912

Unlike the ‘bullet’ pens described above, there’s a whole bunch of pens that are straight (or nearly straight) all the way from the barrel to the nib. The Montblanc 1912 is a great example: you can hold it more or less anywhere down the length and it’ll feel the same. The Graf Intuition is similar (although there’s a slightly concave indentation where the ‘expected’ hold would be). The Muji aluminium fountain pen is straight from grip to barrel, albeit with knurling. And the Lamy Dialog 3 is perhaps the zenith of this design approach.


Muji aluminium


Montblanc 1912

9: Deep curve: Conid Regular

Some pens go beyond the usual subtle waist of the section, or a simple flare on the end. They design in a clear and irresistible concave profile, and your fingers will fall into it no matter what you do about it. The Conid Regular Bulkfiller is one example from my collection. The Faber-Castell Ondoro also springs to mind, the Pineider La Grande Bellezza, or even the Karas Ink.


Conid Regular

10: The long taper: Lamy Imporium

Finally, these pens have a step-down from the barrel, then a long section that noticeably narrows to the tip — importantly, with no flare. These often aim to have grippy sections. The ribbed Lamy Imporium is one example; the ridged Tactile Turn Gist is another. Then there are those with plainer textures: the Diplomat Aero or ystudio portable.

Unfortunately, I have none of these right now!

So, dear reader: what kinds of sections work for you?

8 thoughts on “10 alternative section shapes to find the most comfortable pen for you

  1. Great post. It’s remarkable how many of these you actually have to try for yourself before you realise what works for you. I always though I held the pen far back enough to prefer Franklin-Christophs end-of-section block-threads, for example, but, no, can’t stand them.

    That said, it’s the really prescriptive designs that are the most problematic – the triangle grips and the deep curves (I’m looking at you, Edison Collier). Most of the rest are more forgiving.


  2. Put me in the “pretty much holding the barrel” group. No pens come to mind that actually put the section squarely in my tip-to-hand distance. For that reason I am fond of my Myu.


  3. Very interesting – thankyou. Deciding what pens you like is one thing, understanding why is another. It is an original idea, to group pens according to section type.
    It is good to find ways of using pens and overcoming their shortcomings. You are not one to post your caps, but this is one solution to an uncomfortable section as you make the pen longer, hold it further back and hopefully it doesn’t end up to heavy or unbalanced. I used to avoid slippery plated sections but I can cope with them provided that I can rest my thumb on the barrel (assuming it is resin or lacquered and not slippery like the Cross Bailey medalist). There are just a few pens that I gave up using as I could not hold them and control my writing. The Lamy aion was one.
    Holding high up, I do not like pronounced steps if sharp.
    Finding a pen that is comfortable in all respects and with a great nib, is what it is all about!


  4. Excellent and relevant post. Thank you. Regarding pens naturally drawn to, I especially like those that write with minimal or no hesitation after sitting for long (days–2weeks+) periods of time. Both inexpensive and higher grade models. Was/is surprising and unpredictable.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. “Just There” is actually about my favorite.

    More examples of each:
    Ski Jump: Fountain Pen Revolution Himalaya. I love this pen, especially in ebonite.

    Triangular: Also include Lamy Nexx, a number of school pens by Online, Sheaffer Prelude, Pelikan Pelikano and Twist, Jinhao 599, Hero 359.

    Seamless Bullet: Parker 45, 51 and 61, Hero 616 and hooded 51A, Sheaffer pens with the Triumph conical nib.

    Short: Many Sheaffer Balance II fountain pens were also short in the section. They also had the deep curve of the Conid Regular.

    Mid-section Step-Down: Dollar 717i, Stipula Splash (look at those two side by side), and Noodler’s Ahab.

    Skinny: Pilot 78G and MR/ Metropolitan/ Cocoon, Lamy CP-1, Parker Vector.

    Straight: Noodler’s Konrad, Platinum Preppy and Plaisir, Hero 51A with open nib, Lamy Logo (well, okay, that one’s corrugated).

    As long as there’s enough girth, I’m happy with “Just There,” Ski Jump, and Short. I have yet to try a Deep Curve (unless the Nemosine Singularity counts, in which case it’s okay). I hold Seamless Bullets way back; for example, I hold my Hero 616s right on the clutch ring, and that works for me. Those, along with straight, are my second-tier of section shapes. I don’t like Triangular, Skinny, or Mid-Section Step Down.

    @JRichardT: Platinum is your brand. My wife ignores her Plaisir for months at a time (still on the original cartridge some 4 years later) and it always writes on the first stroke. I haven’t had quite as much luck with mine, using undiluted Noodler’s Purple.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Great post, it made me look more closely at my pens to decide what it is that makes them enjoyable to use. First consideration is grip: I have a three-finger grip and I often hold my pens high up the section – so smooth threads and no big steps between section and barrel are the most important considerations for me. (I love the look of pens with seamless caps such as the Ranga Model 4C but if this means a big step then I’ve learnt to be wary of buying it without trying it first.)

    Then it’s size as much as shape – triangular/faceted sections (Lamy nexx, Pilot Kakuno) are fine if not too skinny (Diplomat Magnum); long sections without steps (Parket 25 -slight taper) or long sections with small steps (Birmingham Model A – slight flare) are good, as are small sections with no step: (Kaweco Sport – slightly concave, Nemosine Singularity – more concave, Esterbrook SJ – slight flare, Mabie Todd Swan – more pronounced flare). I also like seamless bullets (Kaco Retro, Wing Sung 601A) but not straights – all that I have come across so far have been on thin pens and whilst I don’t mind this on a gel or rollerball, I prefer my fountain pens thicker.

    Having said all that, I do like slightly concave sections or ones with a flare or lip at the end to stop my fingers sliding down towards the nib (especially if the section is on the skinny side) but shape is less important overall than how it meets the barrel.

    I too like the Leonardo Momento Zero mid section step down (small step) and the FPR Himalaya ski jump (no step). I need to try a Franklin-Christoph, those threads at the nib look intriguing and also on my experiment list are metal sections – material is another consideration again!

    Thank you for this article – not only did it made me stop and really think about sections but it gave me some terminology to use too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Starting a conversation about a vocabulary was part of my intention — we talk about ‘cigar-shaped’ pens but that’s about as far as it goes! I hope that someone takes it further to develop an interactive pen recommendation engine based on your preferences and grip style…


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