Posted in Collection, Pens, Stories

Pen Organization in a Digital World

I bet you thought this was going to be a different topic. I keep track of my pens, nibs, and ink usage using software called Airtable. This is the first of three posts discussing how I use Airtable to manage my collection of pens, inks, etc. I don’t have a large collection of pens or inks but I enjoy the organization, plus it will be helpful with insurance claims if the house burns to the ground.

The most common use software is Fountain Pen Companion. So what is Airtable, welp it is an easy way to create your own organizational databases (for dummies, like me). I can create my own base, or copy preconfigured examples. Each base has tables that contain fields.

I know sounds geeky and complicated, but it’s really not and you can decide what fields (information) are essential. The hardest part is deciding what to include. The good news is that you can add a new field or change an existing one even after records (pen information) are added.

And did I mention it is FREE. It is well established I am a sucker for FREE. Granted FREE means only 1,200 records and 2GB of space. I’m pretty sure that if I have 1,200 pens plus ink I will be divorced and probably homeless.


*** Click any picture to display a better-quality enlargement.***

I have created 8 tables (Pens, Mfr, Nibs, Project, Vendors, Supplies, Inked Up, Inks) with Pens as the main table. Some of the fields on this main table are linked to the Mfr, Nibs, and Project tables.

I have created a View to group the pens by the manufacturer. The first column is the key, which is the pen name or model. I added a picture of the pen because I sometimes forget what the pen looks like (duh). I added a field linked to the Mfr table, description, and other information. I purchase vintage pens primarily, thus I added a Rating field, which is the topic that started me down this rabbit hole. I can delete or change any column at any time except the Key column.

The Mfr table is very basic, as pens are assigned they appear automagically in the Pen column. I can click the pen and the complete record of that pen is displayed. I can also change that record if desired.

The Nibs table is primarily home to Esterbrook nibs since I have so many. I also include a damaged column as many of the vintage pens arrive with a nib that is in need of TLC.

The columns of every table are assigned a basis or field type. Airtable support provides examples explaining the options and functionality of most field types, including videos. In this example, I choose the option limiting the available options to a predefined list. The list is modifiable at any time.

I have saved the best for last. Airtable provides dozens of fully configured Bases to explore and copy as your own. And they are FREE! They do all the hard work, you delete the records, change descriptions of columns, table, lists, and you are done.

Predefined Base Template Categories

Next, I will discuss my interest in rating my pens (the actual reason we started down this rabbit hole).

Reference Material


Posted in Collection, Stories

A Journal of Pens, For Pens, About Pens

I never intended to write this post. I started writing a different but ancillary post; however, as I got into the details I felt there was a back story to be told first. As I began work on the back story, it became evident that the back story had a back story. Yes, I got to chasing that rabbit and down the hole… where is Alice when you need her? An example of my suffering from BSO syndrome (Bright Shiny Object). Anyway….

“And if you go chasing rabbits
And you know you’re going to fall
Tell ’em a hookah-smoking caterpillar
Has given you the call
Call Alice
When she was just small

—Grace Slick

Let’s begin with a question, do you keep track of your pens? You know, like in a list, or a catalog? Maybe you are using Excel, journals, index cards, or the ever favorite – nothing at all? Thus starts the first of 4 posts about my struggles with pen collection management.

At one point I considered keeping a journal, one with letter indexes – there are plenty available on Amazon. But no. Instead, I opted for a simple journal. Borrowing from bullet-journal discipline, I created an index so I knew what pens I had and the page detailing each. As pens were sold I simply crossed that pen off the index.

The journal came with some benefits, it allowed me to use my pens, plus I could be creative. It also came with the advantage of I could add information as needed, make use of various colors, and maybe add some doodles.

Journals by their nature are flexible, easy to use and enjoyable as long as you don’t take them too seriously. In this case, the page is clearly titled identifying the pen. I’ve added statistics, who I bought the pen from, when, and how much. A section detailing repairs, servicing, and general observations seemed like a good idea. Each page does not need to contain the same data.

I originally, set aside 15 pages for each of the popular pen manufacturers. Deciding this was dumb, I switched things up, adding the index. The index eliminates the need to dedicate a specific number of pages to the letter “P.” Simply find the pen in the index, get the page number, and ta-dah.

Alternatively, I’ve also tried using a journal based on my modified version of the Cornell Note-Taking methodology. The left side or column is usually dedicated to cues, keywords, or comments, instead, I listed the pen and manufacturer. The note section (the right column) associated with that pen contains a paragraph or two detailing the pen.

Since that journal did not contain an index it was difficult to find a specific pen, that solution was short-lived. Yup, long gone into the recycling bin it went. I found the picture above to help illustrate the principle. Do you keep track of your pens, and ink options, if so what means do you manage them?

Next, I will discuss my digital solution transformation (back story #2).