Posted in Pens, Stories

Fountain Pen 101 Primer – How Does a Fountain Pen Work

It is interesting or shall I say surprising to me the number of people I’ve handed a fountain pen, encouraging them to give it a try, they either decline or stumble along. The initial look of fear, then confusion, followed by the exasperation “I don’t know how.” They are at a loss – how to use the pen. Thus the inspiration for a series of Fountain Pen 101 primers.

The workings of a fountain pen can be described simply as a controlled leak.

Major Fountain pen components

  • The nib. The pointed metal end that transfers ink to the paper and is the most recognized or iconic part of a fountain pen.
  • The feed. Sits under the nib and supplies ink from inside the pen to the nib. It often contains a visible set of grooves or fins which collect ink flowing from the reservoir and regulates ink flow.
  • The reservoir. Where the ink is stored in the pen’s barrel.

Take notice of the nib, there is a slit from the nib tip running half the length, terminated at the “breather” hole. The slit is placed above a similar groove along the dorsal side of the feed. The breather hole has two purposes, it acts as a means of “stress-relief” preventing the slit from growing and it allows air to enter the ink channel.

How does it works

How does the ink get from the reservoir onto the paper?

In part, gravity, but mostly through capillary action – the process by which liquids travel along the surface of a solid material because of attraction. Think how water spreads out across a paper towel to soak up a spill.

The feed of a fountain pen consists of one big channel with small groves or channels (usually 3) cut into the channel bottom. Ink flows along the small channels while air flows through the space above. This arrangement allows air to flow into the ink reservoir and simultaneously allows ink to flow towards the paper at a controlled rate. Capillary action along with gravity keep the channel filled thus preventing ink from escaping the fountain pen because air can’t get into the reservoir to displace ink.

The fins of the feed act as a temporary reservoir regulating the flow of ink. They fill with ink that is drawn across the top of the feed and the ventral side of the nib by capillary action.

A quick note on Fountain Pen Ink

Ink is water with dyes and other chemicals required for proper functioning. The chemicals create the properties of the ink, including the surface tension or viscosity (wettability). While the saturation of the dyes provides the color. Also, present are anti-bacterial chemicals so your ink does develop a life of its own in the bottle. Mold does bad things to your pen!

The ink also needs to be the right viscosity for capillary action to pull it through the feed. This is why it’s so important to only use fountain pen inks in a fountain pen.

The Ink Reservoir

The ink reservoir stores ink and can be a simple ink cartridge to a complex filling mechanism that’s capable of drawing in and storing the ink. Contemporary pens primarily use one of 4 types of ink storage; converter, piston, cartridge, or eyedropper, all located inside the handle.

A cartridge is the most common of the reservoirs. Each comes pre-filled with ink, making it easy to replace. Simply buy a new cartridge and replace the old one.

Converter and Piston reservoirs function by twisting the filling mechanism at the end of the pen. To operate, submerge the nib or opening of the converter into a bottle of ink twist the mechanism, and ink is drawn into the reservoir. Converter reservoirs are similar to the ink cartridge in that they can be removed. While Pistons are non-removable converters that come built into the fountain pen.

Eyedropper ink storage is more popular in regions that experience year-round heat and humidity (like in Asia). The filling process is considered cumbersome and potentially messy. The process is not that bad, simply remove the section, use an eyedropper (I use a straw) to draw ink from a bottle. Insert the eyedropper into the barrel, give it a squeeze, and you are done. These pens hold considerably more ink but due care is needed when filling them.

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Posted in Pens, Restoration, Reviews

Handmade Mottle Ebonite Pen

“The mottled ebonite eyedropper fountain pen is resplendent of the magnificence of Indian craftsmanship for a reason … the hand turning of fountain pens is elevated to a form of fine art

Independent artisans working with a small lathe machine in a small apartment, produce high-quality handmade fountain pens that are sold all over the world. It takes between one to four days to make a single pen.

This brings us to my pen, unbranded, hand turned on a lathe from solid tan and brown mottled ebonite. The pen is in good shape, there is a small scratch on the barrel and ink stains on the cap around each air hole. The pen has a faint odor, this is common with ebonite, especially with indie pens from India. Hey, the pen is made from hard rubber and all rubber smells, it will fade with time. The feed is handmade from ebonite. There is a partial channel running along the ventral side of the feed, I’m not sure what function this serves.

The nib is a “Butterfly” brand medium nib, not a butterfly nib. Butterfly nibs are super cheap, they were popular in the early 20th century. They are missing tips at the end of the tines. Instead, each tine is bent under forming a writing surface. This nib has “Butterfly Medium” and the letters “PPM” in an oval engraved on it. The nib shoulders bet so that they form a tight fit around the feed much like a Lamy.

The pen is made entirely of lathe-turned mottled ebonite. You can just make out the lathe marks on the section. The cap has a single ring cut into it and a silver plate clip. The clip has pyramided rectangle boxes running the length of the clip. The clip is attached to a silver-plated ring and held in place by a blind cap.

I was able to remove the ink stains from the cap with a Sunshine cloth, and cleaned the insides; purple was the past ink of choice.

Time to give it a try, I got out the Serenity Blue and filled the barrel. Had to prime the nib, but once it got started no problems. I stored it nib up for hours, introduced it to paper and ink flowed without missing a beat.

Now for the scary part, I’m going to lay the capped pen on my desk in the hope it doesn’t leak.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 128mm,
  • Uncapped length 112mm,
  • Barrel diameter 11mm,
  • Cap diameter 13mm,
  • Inside barrel diameter 7mm,
  • Inside barrel depth 61mm,
  • Pen weighs in at 13g.

Geek alert! For giggles, doing the math (yes I cheated and used an online calculator) but the volume of the inside of the barrel (less the section) is nearly 9,300 cubic mm. This pen can hold just north of 9ml of ink.

The Verdict

I have a thing for mottled pens let’s focus on the pink elephant, I was leery of the nib. Image my surprise when it wrote so well. Once upon a time, I was a fan of fine-tipped nibs (to compensate for cheap paper) and this pen writes closed to fine than to medium making this a great choice. The nib is firm, bordering extra firm – ok it is so firm you could use it in a game of darts, which may not be agreeable to all. The pen did not leak when left lying horizontally but it did have an issue after the weekend. When I tried to use it after it lay horizontally over a weekend nothing, no ink. I applied the nib to the paper with a bit more force than normal and a gusher ensued.

Final thoughts, this pen is not elegant, it’s not fancy, it’s simply functional. With the huge ink reservoir, I’ve filled it with as much Serenity Blue ink as I dare, now let’s see how long it lasts. Kudos to the Indian artisan who made this pen.

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Posted in Pens, Restoration

Really, The Dog Ate My Pen

(Originally posted on 6 April 2021.)

In the spirit of TBT and the ghosts of Christmas past, I thought I’d reblog this post with updates. I’m sure everyone was good last year and Santa brought you lots of nice things. Did you put those nice things away? Are they out of reach of the dog? Yes, there is a lesson or two to be learned.

The Backstory

The Esterbrook Purse or Pastel pen was produced with women in mind, they were smaller, dainty, and designed to fit in a purse. The initial pens were made between 1954 and 1957. These Pastel pens were constructed using a much softer plastic, today they are usually found with cracks in the cap, and their color is faded. The pen in this tale was “cherry” when I got it, so I gave it to my wife as a Christmas present along with a sweet bullet journal (160gsm paper) so she could use a fountain pen, markers, etc without the bleed-through associated with the cheap stuff we call paper. This is where the trouble begins, the pen was stored in a cute little bag that somehow ended up on the floor (I blame the cats) and our dog thought she would try it out as a new chew toy. Fortunately, she wasn’t impressed.

CYA announcement

Do not do as I do, but if you choose to ignore my warning please don’t do it with a pen of value.

She managed to miss the nib, the cap clip, the cap ring, and both jewels. And, she didn’t put any holes completely through the plastic. I’ve read in numerous blogs, where people have used hairdryers to loosen the nib section from the barrel, knowing this plastic is a lot softer and more pliable maybe it could be leveraged to soften the plastic and remove the teeth marks.

Restoration

Beginning with the damage to the barrel at the lever, this type of pen uses a snap ring system to hold the fill lever mechanism in place. When the lever is engaged it will actuate a J-bar which compresses the ink sac thus when released ink is drawn into the sac.

Let’s start by removing and inspecting the nib section, confirming there is no damage to the section, nib, or ink sac. Using forceps I easily removed the J-bar, and now it is time to focus on the lever. Remember, there is a bite mark that appears to have grazed the mechanism and partially displace the snap ring. Normally, a lever is removed by raising it 45-degree then pushing forward, but in this case, that wasn’t possible. I managed to manipulate the lever until it and the snap ring came out, everything looks good.

Using the crafting hairdryer, I started intermittently applying medium heat to the barrel. After a couple minutes the plastic felt hot, so I inserted a dental instrument into the barrel. At the damaged area, I began rotating the tool so that the curved side of the instrument would press against the indentation. This I did until I succeeded in pushing out the tooth-mark. Next, I sanded the barrel removing the residual mark. The process is progressive, starting with 1000 grit paper, which will remove significant damage then progressing to 2000, 3000, 5000, and finally, 7000 grit paper leaving a perfectly smooth surface. The process removed all evidence of bite marks and scratches. Looking good!

Now feeling empowered and overly confident, I moved on to the pen cap. The cap has a hard plastic insert that seals the cap to the section preventing ink leakage. One of the bites made a dent protruding through the insert. This will require more heat, more effort, and more attention. Using the same basic principle I began applying high heat to the pen cap. Using a wax carving tool to apply pressure to the damaged area of the hard plastic insert while simultaneously applying pressure to the outside – it’s working!

This is when my overconfidence got the better of me, I applied too much heat plus I took my eye off the cap for just a split second. The tapered end of the pen cap opened up like a budding flower allowing the jewel and clip to fall out. Oh shit! Shit, shit, shit, shit! Now, what am I going to do? I was already patting myself on the back for a job well done.

Wait I have an idea! (Oh no, not again)

To Be Continued…

Posted in Collection, Pens, Reviews, Stories

The (Wish) List

I usually acquire pens based on impulse and circumstance (i.e. dumb luck), which has introduced me to a variety of odd pens. Some contemporary, some vintage, but all speak to me. The pens on this list are not pens to finish my collection. Nope, these are pens that have caught my eye, struck my fancy, and now I have a penchant for owning them. Oh and BTW, I love lists. Without further ado, in alphabetical order, let’s start the new year with a wish list ….

Benu – Silver Skull

“Silver Skull Fountain Pen is inspired by our childhood dreams of piracy and adventures. Rebellion and daring design is created for those who share the same ideals. Skillfully crafted by hand from glossy resin with its hand-friendly shape and shining decorative ring the Silver Skull Pen is a stylish accessory and a real pleasure to use.” – Benu Pen.com

I just thought this pen is the coolest. Why? Well I have a fondness for black pens, plus I have a fascination for Día de Muertos and who doesn’t like pirates. There are many “skull” pens on the market but this is the one for me.

Benu Silver Skull

Irish Pens – Black Carbon Fiber

“At 66 grams, Rhodium and Titanium wrapped in Black Carbon Fiber and with a Peter Bock nib at the business end this is a serious fountain pen, a fountain pen that will feel at home in the most exclusive boardroom, business setting or in your personal writing space, its gravitas will not go unnoticed whenever it is used. When the written words really matter! this is the fountain pen to use.” – Irish Pens.ie

Irish Pens, an Irish indie pen company specializing in pens made in County Cavan, Ireland of Irish native woods. I originally was drawn to their pens made from bog oak, but I saw this one! You have to admit, it takes your breath away. No surprise, this pen is the most expensive on the list.

Irish Pens Carbon Black

Kaweco – Student Pen

“Nostalgic fountain pen in soft green with golden details made of precious resin. The Student 60’s Swing impresses with a soft and organic green. The combination of green and golden elements is harmonious and underlines the series’s nostalgic, bulky shape. It matches the motto of the Swinging Sixties: Harmony and peace. The Student fountain pen with its curved pen body made of high-quality resin guarantees a haptic and visual writing pleasure.” – Kaweco Pen.com

Germans are known for their over engineering not for their simplicity, this this pen is the exception. The design, aesthetics, complimentary colors of ivory and green – beauty in simplicity. I do wish the section was not gold, but rather the same color as the cap.

Kaweco Student

Parker – 51

“When it introduced the “51” in 1941, the George S. Parker Company knew it had a winner. The pen was stylish but not flashy, durable but not clunky, and reliable but not overengineered. Over the next 31 years, the pen proved itself immensely popular. Tales are told of people who, unable to afford a whole pen, would purchase only a cap to clip in a pocket, giving the appearance of a complete pen.“ – Richards Pens.com

Parker 51 is the one vintage pen everyone should own, or so I have been told. After reading tons of accolades, this pen is worthy of the distinction. It is an attractive pen, unique in design. I am looking for an acceptable 1941 pen but they are not common. I fancy the Cedar Blue color but as mentioned I’m sure dumb luck will prevail and I’ll get what I get.

Parker 51

**** Update, a 1941 or maybe it’s a 1944 (more on this at a later time) is in the mail and of course it is not Cedar Blue.

Scrikss – Heritage Black GT

“Launched in 2014 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Scrikss company, the Heritage range is intended to be emblematic, a flagship of the brand Scrikss. The painstaking design is a combination between traditional and modernism, having as inspiration the aqueducts model that surrounded the old city of Istanbul in the past. It is created by the Turkish designer Kunter Sekercioglu.” – Scrikss Pen.com.tr

I stumbled on this pen after I bought a Scrikss 419. A lovely metal pen, with laser etched scrollwork. I feel like there is an elegance inspired by Instanbul. I have not found a US dealer as yet.

Scrikss Heritage GT

Posted in Pens, Stories

My Favorite Quote: Handwritten (Happy New Year)

Let’s have some fun, what’s your favorite quote, saying, or wish for the new year. Write it down and share with the world. It doesn’t matter if you use a fountain pen, ballpoint pen or a #2 pencil – write it down. Typing is so blah and impersonal, enjoy the effort and create something worth sharing. And don’t worry about your handwriting, mine’s atrocious.

Pens:

  • Esterbrook SJ, 9556 Firm Fine nib
  • American Pencil Co #1156, Esterbrook Drawlet nibs #3 & #5
  • Hero 395, Fine nib
  • Conklin All America, Medium nib

Inks:

  • De Atramentis – Fog Grey
  • Scribo – Chianti Red
  • Waterman – Serenity Blue
  • Pelican – 4001 Black

Posted in Pens, Reviews

The Hero 395

Company Backstory

The Shanghai Hero Pen Company has been manufacturing high-quality fountain pens since 1931. They began as Wolff Pens but changed their name to Hero in 1966. Hero pens are popular with users in China and India.

My Pen

This is not my first Hero pen, I was impressed by the Kaigelu 316A (which resembles the Parker Duofold Centennial). As a general rule, the Chinese do a good job imitating American and European products – including pens. Often these imitations have a tacky appearance and suffer for quality. This pen however is a legitimate original design with some interesting aesthetic considerations.

The pen has a metal barrel and cap, heavily patterned, copper or brown in color with a very subtle lacquer or antique finish. The pattern is either imprinted or acid etched and is intended to make the pen look aged.

The cap clip has a wave to it and attaches to the cap with the company floral logo imprinted on it. The barrel ring has “395,” “Doctor,” the company floral logo, and Chinese characters etched on it. The blind caps as well as the clip and barrel ring are finished to appear as “aged” metal. I assume they are made of stainless that has been treated to appear aged. Vinegar or a chemical wash or heat staining are options to age stainless. I can’t put my finger on it but the quirky end of the pen is very aesthetically …. well …. pleasing.

The pen comes with the stiff press bar converter filling mechanism – hated by many. I agree it is stiff, and with my fat fingers, depressing the bar is a challenge, but I managed.

The stainless nib has a gold plate center, with scrollwork etching including the company flower logo. Put nib to paper and ink begins flowing without delay. The nib is not a flex nib, or is it stiff – it is semi-flex if there is such a thing. I like it better than any flex nib I’ve ever run into.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 133mm,
  • Uncapped length 122mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 12mm,
  • The cap diameter is 12mm,
  • Pen weighs in at 29g.

Cons

My biggest complaint has nothing to do with the pen. As always, I bought it used. The previous owner must have loved it, the dark antique finish on the barrel is worn to a light color while the cap retained the original coloration. Then there is the filler mechanism, it is a PITA if you have fat fingers but it can be replaced.

Opinion

I am impressed by this pen, it is a great pen and at a mere $14 it is a steal, but wait, the same pen is on eBay now for $11 and the antique finish is not worn off on the barrel.

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Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

It’s a new month, what’s in your pen cup?

Wow, a new month upon us again heralding the last month of the year. This month I thought I’d give the Ambassador a-go. If you remember the pen impressed me when I completed the refurbishment so now it gets the opportunity to prove me right.

Just did a quick check and I have 6 pens inked up, about twice the norm. Which ones you ask, well there is the Duofold, Esterbrook SJ, the “fluffy” Conklin All American, Airmail Wality 69LG, and Lady Sheaffer Skripsert VI. It’s good to have options.

So what are you writing with this month?


Posted in Pens, Uncategorized

Eco-Friendly Stationery, Pens & Pencils

Going green has not only become a hip trend, it is a way of life for many. Regardless of the politics, today I am focusing on environmentally conscious options relating to paper and notebooks. I sorta feel this is an underserved topic/community. With the gift buying frenzy upon us, I thought it is appropriate to mention the options. Never know who may be looking for unique or special eco-friendly gifts.

Disclaimer: For transparency, I have no relationships with any of the vendors listed nor have I tried their products. I was interested in the topic and found their products or websites interesting to me. I have no idea if any of the paper, stationery, or notebooks are fountain pen friendly. Also, I am relying on others so if the statistics are wrong or unagreeable, sorry I’m restating the claims of others – don’t shoot the messenger. Sounds like a potential future blog topic.

Eco-friendly stationery is way more than just notebooks and paper stock made of recycled newspapers. Going green now includes sustainable stationery, zero-waste (fully recyclable), eco-friendly pens and pencils, ethical stationery made from ethically produced materials like sustainably managed timber. So much for buying notebooks or paper stock based on paper weight (gsm), lined vs dot vs grid print, hard vs soft covers and pretty artwork.

Fun fact: traditional pens are not recyclable because they contain an assortment of metals, plastics, and chemicals so they can’t be recycled. Well, unfortunately neither can eco-friendly pens. Annually, 1.6 billion pen make it to the landfills, so next time someone smugly asks “why do you write with a FOUNTAIN PEN?” Now you have THE answer for them – “Fountain pens are a lifetime investment and won’t be joining their 1.6 billion cousins any time soon.”

I never knew! – Click each picture for purchase information

Eco-friendly pens and pencils: available in a variety of materials often tree-free and biodegradable, no polymers toxic-free. Often made of recycled paper, bamboo or other organics. Eco-Fountain pens like the Zenzoi (made from bamboo) while others are sustainably harvested wood from 70% certified PEFC forests.

Recycled paper pencils have no splinters, sharpen easily and come in cool colors, plus their erasers are latex-free and PVC-free. I even found an eco-friendly pencil called Sprouts, instead of recycling it stick the stub into a pot of soil and watch it grow into a plant. Available on Amazon.

Relying heavily on the American stationary blog post (included in the reference material) on this topic let’s walk through what eco-friendly stationery options are available.

Recycled paper: much like it sounds, recycled paper from 10% to 100% recycled materials. Using recycled stationery means less wasted energy, water usage, and landfill space.

Renewable energy paper: is paper manufactured from wind power and other renewable energy sources. This reduces air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants released into the atmosphere.

Chlorine-free paper: White paper is often made with chlorine as the primary bleaching agent, this paper is made from only environmentally friendly bleaching processes.

Sustainable Forestry Initiative certified papers: this paper is made solely from practicing sustainable forestry and land management. This is a direct response to the issues that face North American forests.

Tree-free paper: this paper is made completely free of trees. Instead of chopping down trees, other sources of fiber are found like cotton fiber and other non-wood fiber materials. This saves trees and prevents the demolition of forests.

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Posted in Pens, Reviews, Stories

Airmail Wality 69LG Eyedropper

Company Back Story

Airmail Pen Company (Est. in 1951) is one of the oldest pen companies in India. Renown for producing the best Indian fountain pens. They market pens under 2 brands – Wality and Airmail both manufactured in Mumbai. Wality Pens are generally not readily found in the northern part of India. Surprisingly, even in Mumbai the availability of the pen is limited to select areas of the city.

Initially, Airmail manufactured completely lathe turned ebonite pens, thus continuing with tradition, the 69 is a completely lathe turned pen made of swirled Acrylic. The feed is made of ebonite and requires heat setting of the nib for proper ink flow. The quality of the acrylic used in this pen is far better than the other Wality pens, which are known to omit a pungent odor.

My Pen

My interest in Indian pens came about by accident. I was intrigued in eyedropper filling systems after I acquired the 2 Gold Starry pens. But my focus was now on Mabie Todd Black Bird eyedropper pens. Research on the eyedropper filling system quickly leads to inks and the necessity of eyedropper fillers because of the impact of weather (heat and humidity) on inks, then to Asian pens.

I paid $14 for the pen, which is a normal price for this pen. First impression, the pen felt solid, it’s a big pen but not too thick – just right. The section is made of the same acrylic as is the cap and the barrel. There is a large gold plate band on the cap with “Airmail Regd” engraved on it.

The clip is gold plate, with pyramided rectangle boxes running the length of the clip. The clip is attached to a gold plated ring and held in place by a blind cap.

It is an eyedropper pen. When I unscrewed the section it took 9 full turns to remove it from the barrel and the cap took 2 complete turn to remove. To prevent ink leakage, the threads on the section need a small amount of silicone grease to seal the pen or maybe the addition of a small O-ring.

It is called an “eyedropper” because you use an eyedropper to fill the reservoir in the barrel. If you don’t have one, a pipette or a straw if you are really cheap (wink-wink) will also work.

Generally the Wality nibs are known for bad behavior but this one writes well but needs to be heat set – ink drops form under the feed. But it still writes fine.

Vital Statistics

  • Capped length 148mm,
  • Barrel diameter is 13mm,
  • The cap diameter is 15mm,
  • Pen weighs in at 18g.

Cons

My only complaint which is not uncommon is how wet the pen writes – I need to heat set the nib. It is possible my ink flow issue is caused by the ink viscosity. This is expected at this price point. The tins on the nib are aligned and it writes well. Manually adding ink via an eyedropper (ok a straw who am I kidding) takes a bit of getting use to. I was hyper focused on keeping the open barrel facing up at all times while filling the pen. This takes some getting used to it, plus there is the fear of wearing the ink if a mishap occurs.

Opinion

For this price, you can’t beat this pen. It is attractive, feels solid, writes well. Readily available on eBay in a variety of cool colors. And of course, it is wallet friendly!

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Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Building a Collection of Pens & When to Say Enough

Earlier this month, I was in a meeting with my work colleagues where I diligently took notes. Throughout the meeting I got odd looks …. as I was writing with my 1928 Duofold. The discussion eventually turned to my pen. I gladly passed the pen around for each to examine and use. None could believe the pen was 90+ years old. I explained that collecting and refurbishment of vintage fountain pens is a hobby of mine. That I bought this pen, restored it and since it was personalized researched the original owner.

My collection, to the amusement of myself, “is not a collection” as I don’t collect pens (lying to myself). Initially, I would not admit to collecting pens, but as fountain pen people know, they have a way of accumulating – it just happens. My collection generally hovers around 40 pens after periodic culling. So how did it all begin?

Glad you ask and truth be told, I do not know how it happened. At first, I owned a couple inexpensive Waterman and all was perfect. A decade later, I inherited a couple inoperative Esterbrooks, taught myself how to repair and restore them. BAM, I was hooked. Magically, my interest expanded to include French, and English pens now most recently, Turkish, Chinese and Indian pens.

There are three primary types of pens: 1) dip pens which are dipped into an inkwell, 2) fountain pens with a self-contained ink reservoir, and 3) ballpoint pens with a little ball that allows ink to flow out when the pen is put to paper. All three types are available as contemporary or vintage pens. Vintage pens are highly collectible and come in a wide variety of colors and styles, ranging from those with elaborate gold casings to simple plastic cigar-shaped designs. Contemporary pens are readily available with lazer etched designs, amazing color schemes, custom designs or simple plastic designs.

Vintage, Modern or Both

Keep in mind, collecting pens is not a good investment, I do this for fun. The people who collect vintage pens tend to be history nerds or enjoy nostalgia, which is why my wife calls me a “loser.” There is nothing stopping you from including both vintage and contemporary pens in your collection.

How does one make a decision and not break the bank. For starters, I focused on pens a little off the beaten path, something odd just like me. Do not let anyone tell you what you should or should not like. When you’re first starting off or simply focusing on a small collection – every choice counts, and to me I’d think twice before looking at “boring” pens because someone told me I “had to have it” in my collection.

To me dip pens are interesting, ballpoint pens are boring – I primarily focus on fountain pens. A couple pointers that may help you skinny down that list of potential pens:

  • Aesthetically pleasing or unique
  • Something with everyday comfort
  • Something fancy and shiny
  • Cool filler system
  • And always consider the nib

Acquiring Pens

Let me begin with once you find and acquire pen #1 it’s not long before you find another one to lust after. Even worse, you develop FOMO (fear of missing out). With that warning in mind, contemporary pens are readily available at Amazon, Jetpens, Pen Boutique, Vanness, Etsy, even Kickstarter plus the better stationary stores – the internet provides many options. Vintage pens are more for the individuals who enjoy the chase. A good place to search for fountain pens is at flea markets and some antique shops. Be aware some dealers may expect a premium that is not justified by quality. eBay is also a popular destination, the pen will most likely not be functional and don’t forget the ever present “buyer beware.” As with contemporary pens, the internet is a good place to acquire refurbished quality vintage pens, like David Nishimura’s VintagePen.com, and Tim’s Vintage Pens. A fun option is a pen show, where both contemporary and vintage pens are available.

Not so much about acquisition, but look for a local pen enthusiast group. Most often they can be found on Facebook. These groups are an invaluable source of information and support.

How Much Should This Cost?

Chinese pens can cost as little as $5 while premium pens can sell for over a $1,000. I do not buy expensive pens, I enjoy the challenge of finding inexpensive pens that write well, so 90% of my pens cost under $50. I recommend before making any purchase, take the time to research selling prices. And lastly, always stay within your budget.

Final Thoughts

Our expectations disappoint us, not our collections. There is obviously nothing wrong with having goals and dreams but don’t expect to achieve them quickly or reach those goals within a small or specific amount of time. – New-Lune.com

I’d rather buy a variety of inexpensive pens than a single expensive pen. This allows me the flexibility to explore options without feeling guilty and to enjoy myself. Also, it is easy to sell inexpensive pens. So be yourself and have fun.

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