Since the beginning of time, humans have written on every worldly object imaginable – from rocks and tree bark to camel skin and fabrics. Now, we can be grateful for the invention of pen and paper, but there are so many uses of pens that you may not have considered before.
In this guide, we will travel through time to learn about the different types of pens, elaborate on the many uses of pens, and give you ideas for some creative activities.
How Many Types of Pens Are There?
There have been many variations of pens over the years – from a simple stick dipped in ink to a plastic tube that has a built-in refillable reservoir of ink. If that isn’t impressive enough, today we have a pen that requires no ink or paper but does everything a pen is capable of. Curious? Here are all the different types of pens explained.
The very first pen that has been recorded by history is the reed pen. It was invented in the 4th century BC in ancient Egypt. It consists of a bamboo stick and has a split nib. The reed pen is dipped into ink, the nib splits to hold it, and then it is used to sketch or write on paper.
Since bamboo is stiff by nature and weathers easily when hydrated with ink, the reed pen was replaced by quill pens. They are made of bird feathers and unlike the reed pen, the split nib works with the help of gravity.
Created in the 19th century, dip pens outweigh the pros of quill pens and employ metal nibs with splits in the tip. Like reed pens and quill pens, they are dipped in ink but will last a lifetime.
When calligraphy became popular for letter writing in East Asia, people took several sticks of bamboo, ivory, gold, and even silver to make the body of a pen and attached animal hair to the top, hence the name “ink brush.” It was lightweight, durable, and efficient.
Introduced in 1884, fountain pens quickly replaced dip pens for their efficient ink-filling mechanism. It consists of a built-in reservoir that holds ink and eliminates the need for constant dipping and reduces spillage. The body is durable, the nib is split for consistent ink flow, and it’s easy to use.
Also known as a felt-tip pen, a marker pen is made of a plastic or aluminum body with a built-in ink reservoir and has a felt tip that balances ink flow and draws out incredible sheen, shine, and color from the ink. It doesn’t dry out easily or bleed.
The most common modern pen, a ballpoint pen, is constructed of a metal ball at the very tip of the pen that dispenses ink onto the paper. This removes the risk of ink bleeds, does not require special paper to write on, and makes the pen glide smoothly. It comes with ink built-in.
Similar to a ballpoint pen in construction and durability, a rollerball pen is manufactured to broaden the variety of inks compatible with ballpoint-like pens. It uses gel and water-based ink so the ink flows consistently. The only disadvantage of the rollerball pen is that runnier inks smudge easily.
Also termed as a digital pen, the stylus is a pen-like instrument that has a metal nib attached. It does not have an ink reservoir because it actually works without ink. The metal nib is detected by touch-screen sensors, which helps ease navigation in electronic devices like laptops, mobile phones, tablets, and TVs.
One of the most innovative creations in the world of pens, the Space Pen utilizes the convenience of a ballpoint pen and adds a pressurized reservoir of ink in the barrel. It allows the Space Pen to work underwater, over oil, and even in space. The only downside is that it’s quite expensive.
What Are the Different Uses of Pens?
Now that you are familiar with all the different types of pens, here is a comprehensive description of almost everything that they are capable of. We’ve divided the pens into categories based on their uses.
Fountain pens are best used to write formal signatures, label high-end certificates, and stamp letters with information. They are for people that want writing to be a comfortable and fun experience. In many countries around the world, students are actually required by their academic authorities to use fountain pens for note-taking, homework, and essay writing.
Because they have an ergonomic grip, fountain pens are also recommended for people with hand fatigue, carpal tunnel syndrome, or general wrist pain.
Rollerball pens are best employed by people who want to improve their handwriting, do not want to spend a lot of money on ink, and don’t want to spend a lot of time choosing the right paper.
Using a rollerball pen requires the wrist to be relaxed, so it’s also recommended for people who tend to place considerable pressure on the pen. It helps ease heavy-handedness, saves energy, and helps you write faster.
Ballpoint pens are most popular for their convenience, so they are used practically everywhere. They are used in schools for note-taking, in tattoo parlors to sketch designs, in offices for professional use, and by sketch artists to draft portraits.
The Space Pen is most utilized by NASA, mainly because it is too expensive for an average person. They are also used in sub-zero temperatures for signatures, form-filling, and journaling accounts of Siberian living.
Although this pen originated in ancient times, dip pens are still used today for illustration, calligraphy, and comic art. This is generally because they can be used with several different types of inks, which a fountain pen does not allow. Dip pens are also used for wedding invitations and letter writing.
Even older than dip pens, quill pens aren’t commonly used nowadays – mainly due to the availability of better options. Quill pens have extremely fine-pointed nibs that give scribes and calligraphers an unmatched drafting experience. Not to mention, quill pens work well as plectrums (a strumming tool for stringed instruments).
Almost extinct today, reed pens were used to write on papyrus and stamp down important details for later. In the same vein, reed pens were pressed into clay to “write” addresses, signatures, and names.
A traditional tool in the artist’s kit, the ink brush is used mainly for painting and ancient calligraphy. It varies the contrast between thick and thin lines by gliding across the paper. It is mostly used for Chinese calligraphy but is also used by Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese artists.
A marker or felt-tip pen is used to add color and increase the vibrancy of projects. Artists use marker pens to draft outlines of their sketches or add color in portraits. Cartoonists also use these pens to illustrate comics. Children can also use these pens for sensory play. Some marker pens are washable too.
A stylus is used in pottery to mark designs and create engravings. Today, an electronic stylus can be used by illustrators to digitally sketch a cartoon, comic, or manga. They are weather-resistant too, which enables artists to write or draw no matter the conditions. A stylus also works as a digital finger that helps navigate and accurately manipulate the screen.
What Are Some Alternative Uses of Pens?
They say necessity is the mother of invention but so is boredom. Besides the normal, obvious uses, pens are capable of so much more. Here is a list of some of the most unexpected uses for a pen.
Unlock a Jammed Bike Lock
Kryptonite locks can be a pain to unlock if they get jammed. Luckily, with just a simple ballpoint pen, it can be opened. Simply twist the pen in the lock, pressing it hard inside but holding it steady so it doesn’t break. It will take a strong grip, but the pen will definitely unlock a kryptonite lock.
Safe Hiding Space
Pens are incredible hiding spaces to keep secret messages from a friend and to keep toothpicks or matchsticks away from water on a camping trip. Simply take out the nib of a ballpoint pen, discharge the ink cartridge, twist the nib back on top, and use the empty tube as a safe hiding space.
Challenge a Pen Spin
As we said, boredom creates invention. A simple pen (make sure it’s not an ink pen that could bleed easily) can initiate a challenging game between friends. Place the pen between your ring finger and middle finger and start flicking it in between your fingers. Whoever can go the longest is the winner. If this hobby becomes a passion, try enrolling in the World Tournament.
Rewind Cassette Tapes
When your cassette tapes need a rewind, take a ballpoint pen, place it in the left gear on the front of the cassette, and twist in a clockwise direction.
Emergency Fishing Lure
This is a clever hack for fishermen. A pen works as an excellent lure for fish. To make a fishing lure out of a pen, you’ll need the outer shell of a pen, some durable stainless steel wire, and a piece of foam.
Construct a Model Rocket
The perfect experiment to try out with children, a pen rocket is made with basic items that are normally available in a kid-friendly household or can be easily sourced like glue, pencils, and cardboard.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do pens stay good for?
It depends on the type of pen, how good the construction is, the way it is stored, and what ink it uses. Ballpoint pens and markers last until the ink is emptied out while refillable cartridges like fountain pens last for a lifetime if they are well taken care of.
What can you do with a pen without ink?
A dead pen can be revived easily by switching out the ink cartridge and adding a fresh one. This is especially helpful for fountain pens, ballpoint pens, gel, and rollerball pens. For felt-tip pens and quill pens, try dipping it in acetone or nail polish remover. It helps remove gunk and restarts ink flow.
The uses of pens are plenty. Some may say that pens are going extinct in this age of technology, but with innovations like the stylus and Space Pen, it’s clear that pens aren’t going anywhere. It’s incredible how something as simple as ink in a stick can benefit the world.