Category Archives: Pens

A Long Wait for a Longer Wait

About a month ago I had to join a club to get a pen worked on. I joined the club figuring that I’d get work done in the future and joining the owners’ club would make it easier.

However, things got complicated after that.

After paying the fee I sent the pen in for repair and was told it would take them about a month to get it back to me.

Today, I got the package with my pen and I gleefully unwrapped the pen and was surprised to see a gold clip on a smaller pen. Nakaya had sent me the wrong pen. Instead of this pen, I’d received someone else’s briar version.

After a short bout of swearing I contacted Nakaya and, after a long wait, received instructions on how to return the pen COD in order to receive my pen.

However, Nakaya is about to take their annual vacation so part of the instructions were to schedule the pen to arrive on the 18th when they would be back in the office.

Now, I’m interested to know a few things: 1) did someone else get my pen, 2) how pissed off are they that they go the wrong pen, and 3) do they like my pen better than they like theirs and therefore they haven’t complained because “FREE PEN!” (Note: I am unimpressed with the briar Nakaya.)

I’ll send it out tomorrow and wait until mine arrives. I may try to score a free pen rest or a free pen case but I’ll be happy to have the pen back. Some day.

Whatever happens, the process won’t get started until August 18th.


Mistaken Not Wrong

As near as I can tell, as I was writing yesterday’s post, events were happening that, on first glance, appear to invalidate everything I wrote. However, as you will see, I may have been mistaken, but I was not wrong.

Two Facebook groups related to pens and stationery split into different factions.

In once case, the problem appears to have been related to the personality of one of the moderators. I personally had a strange message from him that may have been a result of the moderator being a non-native speaker of English rather than someone giving attitude. I had just joined the group and am now a member of a different group. I guess.

In another case, a group that had gathered to worship a particular brand of notebook, split over matters of style/taste.

One part of the group objected to the constant sell/trade posts even though the group was designated as a buy/sell group.

In another case, some one apparently posted pictures of an every day carry set that included pens, notebooks, and a firearm. This person then claims to have been subject to abuse from those who get queasy at the site of firearms.

Comments to the posts were stopped and then the firearm related posts were deleted and, as near as I can tell, such posts are permanently banned.

(Note: I never saw the posts, so this is what I’ve been able to gather from reactions to the banning. If anyone has more accurate information, please let me know and I’ll post another update.)

At about the same time, the group was changed from buy/sell to club.

In the former case, I’ve not been in the group long enough to know all the details, therefore I feel I have not been proven wrong.

The second group split over capitalism and firearms, not pens and stationery. Therefore I am still not wrong.

Pen People Are Not Like Knife People

I’m pretty sure today’s post will be less coherent than usual because there are a few mysteries of life I’ve been trying to solve for quite long time and I’m not sure if I’ve worked them all out:

1) Why do Japanese cellphone providers suck so bad at providing decent texting services?

2) Why do all great and popular pen makers make such crappy converters?

3) Why do pen people get along so well when knife people don’t?

The first two are mysteries that will never be solved (it will be easier to prove God’s existence than to explain number two), so instead I’ll focus on the last. One of the things I’ve noticed about the pen community is how friendly it is. At its worst, it’s nowhere close to the anger that can build in the knife community.

The pen community has some disagreements, but there are no angry rants or personal attacks from people who like handmade notebooks against people who say they like trendy notebooks (and vice versa). People who don’t like Nakaya fountain pens will get stern looks (if in person) and some discussion from Nakaya fans (if in a forum), but neither side will start hurling invective or ad hominem attacks. People who like Montblancs will get stern looks (if in person) and some discussion from every other pen addict (if in a forum), but even people not interested in buying a Montblanc can appreciate how well made they are and how attractive some of them can be.

By contrast, there seem to be gangs supporting every brand of knife produced. If you criticize a Bark River Gunny Hunter (which is a terrific knife) you will be attacked by dozens of BR fanboys who will call you lots of interesting names, provide you with a detailed list of your personal failings, and suggest you perform extremely difficult sexual acts. If you fail to show proper reverence to a Hinderer XM-18, you quickly learn that you are unworthy because you are not an operator so shut up.  In one case, a popular knife and gear podcaster who gave a popular knife a terrible review was directly challenged on his podcast by the owner of the knife company.

For example, if I say I’m not interested in The Well-Appointed Desk and Skylab LetterpressCol-o-Ring Ink Testing Books I’ll be met with a couple lists of their benefits rather than something like this:

Pen Community: Your and idiot.
Me: No, they look awesome, it’s just that I live in Japan and can find many similar things.
Pen Community: WTF does Japan no about stationery? Your and idiot.
Me: No, it’s just that the shipping would be too expensive.
Pen Community: You don’t make notebooks do you? BOOM mic drop.
Me: In my free time, yes.
Pen Community: Well you must suck at it.
Me: Well, yes I do, that’s why I don’t sell them. They’re just for personal use.
Pen Community: Your and Nazi.

I’m not sure why this is, but I think some of it stems from the fact that knives, in their various forms, are seen as a primal tool whereas pens are not. Yes there are cave drawings here and there, but to my knowledge we’ve never found a pen in an ancient archaeological dig (note: my office/variety room does not count as a dig even though digging is often involved to find things) but early knives are found all the time. A fountain pen can help earn you some money, but it’s not a survival tool and no one recommends you include one in all your survival kits. (Even though you totally could.)

Because of this, there’s a level of machismo and posing in the knife community that doesn’t exist in the pen community. There are no backyard pen users, but there do seem to be an awful lot of backyard commandos.

In the knife community you’ll quickly learn what knife is carried by Special Forces soldiers or DEVGRU and if you are not at least a member of the Army Compartmented Element (if it exists) then your opinion is garbage if you don’t like the knives. You are not an operator and therefore cannot disagree so shut up. You may only like the knives or GTFO.

You also learn, quite quickly, that you are not a knife maker if you criticize knives from popular makers. If you are a knife maker then, clearly, you suck at it to hold such an opinion so no one will ever buy your knives which have never been carried in combat anyway so they must suck. A similar happening in the pen community might be:

Me: Wow, why do Sailor, Pilot, and Platinum make great pens but crappy converters?
Pen Community: Your and idiot. Do you make converters?
Me: No.
Pen Community: Than your and Nazi so shutup.

In the pen community, perhaps because it is smaller, the disagreements are friendlier. If a popular YouTuber seems underwhelmed by Nakayas for being little more than a cartridge/converter pen (and remember, all converters are crap), Nakaya fans will at least hear them out before killing them with knives, er, sorry, wrong forum, offering a defense of Nakayas. (Verbally, not violently.)

I know people who don’t understand why cheap Bic pens or slightly more expensive gel ink pens are not enough for anyone (heck, even the Pen Addict himself used to express that opinion) but they are not as vitriolic as people who don’t understand why someone would pay $300 for a handmade knife when they could get a Victorinox Swiss Army knife (complete with toothpick, corkscrew and knobby hook thing) for around $30.

(Note: My solution is to get both.)

The closest we’ve seen to this level of vitriol in the pen community is some issues between an economist and a fountain pen forum moderator over Montblanc related news and exposes of questionable products (such as this and this) from other sources.

There are a couple smaller knife fora that are a real treat because they have moderators who crack down on personal attacks. They are more like the pen community, so I frequent those.


No Good Sale Goes Unpunished

I’ve been in this odd cycle of watching American Pickers and selling pens. I’m not sure how the two are connected, but since they both involve people selling bits of their collections, one may be serving as inspiration for the other.

I bring this up only because I’ve now sold my seventh pen. This is both good and bad.

It’s good because the most valuable pens sold at good prices but it’s bad because I’m left with the secondary set of pens. They are nice, but less desirable to others and will cause me more effort to part with. Also, because some of them are cheap whilst shipping is expensive (Japan post eliminated it’s cheapest fast option some time ago) I have to convince people to buy more than one pen at a time.

The other problem is that the ones I sold were the ones I wouldn’t have minded getting stuck with. The others, with a couple exceptions, are not ones I’m interested in using again.

I suspect this means there will be a big bundle offered in the future.

The goal of all this is to pare down the collection to ten pens that I use, in some form or another regularly. (Note: Those of you who think ten pens is outrageous should realize that to serious addicts ten pens counts as a collection starter kit, not an actual collection.)

I’m also approaching the point where the pens I have inked are pens I like a lot. Storing any will make it harder to buy new pens as I’ve been sticking, or at least attempting to stick to a one in/one out rule.

Then again, that may be a good thing. Maybe.

Sell and Wait and Sell

It seems, the last couple nights, as if I’m always closing but not actually getting close.

Last night I had bites on a couple pens I’ve been trying to sell and I stayed up late answering questions. In one case, the deal is done pending payment, and I’ve even managed to upsell a couple things (pending payment).

With the other, things seemed to finish quickly after I lowered the price slightly, but once we got to the payment part, communications ceased and payment has not been made. (Note: nothing ships until I’ve been payed.)

Now I’m probably going to have to stay up late and see if I have more questions to answer or a box to pack.

If I don’t hear soon, I’ll have to declare it’s still available and see what happens. Oddly, I know at least one person who will not be happy if the pen becomes available because they are interested in it and have been hoping it sells to someone else.

New Place New Rules

I posted the sale pens and sold three of them fairly quickly. Since then things have been silent at the usual place.

Posting the pens violates all kinds of collector/hoarder sensibilities. I can think of dozens of excuses why I shouldn’t post just yet. Two of my oldest pens sold first and think, symbolically, that’s a useful thing. Normally, like George Carlin, I prefer to leave symbols to the symbol-minded, but this time, because the pens are two of my most sentimental, it’s only right they are the first to go.

To break the silence, I’ve looked into other places to post the pens but those places have different rules. You can sell things but not very often. You can only post fountain pen related items. You can’t be a commercial venture. You can’t be icky. (Well, something like that.)

Because I’ve got a couple non-fountain pens in the sale and because I also have a lot of ink to move, I wrote the manager of a fountain pen related Facebook group to ask a few questions. I’m waiting for a response (mostly about ink which is kind of/sort of a commercial venture) but even if I haven’t heard back I’ll post the pens on a Facebook group tomorrow and hope for the best. (I will also offer to send a link about the ink.)

Luckily I have lots of time next week to pack and ship. Hopefully I’ll have more stuff to ship. If I manage to follow the rules, I should be okay. Probably.


ensso Piuma Super Minimal Aluminum Fountain Pen–Initial Impressions

The ensso Piuma is a great pen for three years ago. In 2017, though, I’m not sure how it fits into the market.

The Piuma came in padded black cardboard box with the ensso name stamped on the top. The pen was packed tight enough that I had a hard time getting it out of the foam. (Not a good initial impression, but the pen was definitely secure in the box.)

The ensso logo a decent look at the pan’s finish.

The Piuma is a good looking pen. I chose the black aluminum version with a black steel nib and every one who’s seen it likes the black on black look. In keeping with the “Super Minimal” concept It is a basic cigar shape with no clip. It is 140 mm (5.51 inches) long when capped and 128 mm (5.03 inches) long when uncapped. Because the pen is designed not to post, it is right at the edge of too small to be comfortable for my taste, but my budding pen addict colleague liked how it felt and wrote.

The ensso Piuma.

The Bock #6 nib is smooth and well tuned and although the pen’s black finish is quite slippery, which my colleague also noted, I like the lip at the end of the section. The shaped section puts it ahead of my Namisu Nova Minimal fountain pen which had a fairly fat and slippery section.

Detail of the Bock nib and the lip at the end of the section. The discoloration is the remains of leaked LAMY Petrol.

It is also a very light pen for its size: 1.12 ounces (32 grams) capped and .83 ounces (23 grams) uncapped. I imagine that once the slippery finish breaks in a bit it will be a good pen for longer writing sessions.

The only issue I’ve had, besides getting it out of the packaging, is that in the jostling of my morning commute it leaked ink all over section giving me LAMY Petrol fingers when I started to write with it. I checked the tightness of the feed and nib unit and the problem wasn’t repeated on the commute home.

My other problem at this point is where to put this pen in the market. It is of a style of machined pen that was a big deal a few years ago, but now seems almost retro. Even dubbing it as “minimal” reminds me of pens I already own including one that is nearly identical to the Piuma.

A pen configured the same as mine sells for $79 retail on the ensso website. This seems to me to put it in an odd spot in the market. It is too expensive to be a starter fountain pen and there are cheaper options–TWSBI 580s for example–with more ink capacity for people interested in taking the next step down the fountain pen rabbit hole.

I got mine via a Kickstarter campaign for US $45 (not including shipping) and that seems to be a better price point for a pen of this kind. It looks cool and is comfortable to write with and it does turn heads, but it may be out of date.

That said, these are just initial impressions and the Piuma is now part of my pen testing rotation. I’ll give it a proper review in six months or so once we’ve had the time to get to know each other better.



Cleaning and Refilling and Retiring

Not a lot happened today (although that will change tomorrow). Spent part of today cleaning pens and deciding which ones to retire. In the end I chose the cheapest because they were the most high maintenance.

One pen got refilled with the same ink (which I count as “cleaning” the pen) and another got retired. A third got refilled with an ink I’ve had for a while but haven’t actually tried.

The pen that got retired was one of my Noodler’s Ahab pens. I like the pen, but find Noodler’s pens to be too high maintenance for my taste.

I also discovered an ink sample I got a long time ago and filled one of my cheap pens with it.

Along the way I took and processed some photos for future reviews on this site. Couldn’t be bothered to write them yet, though.


Monteverde Impressa–Initial Impressions

Note: The Monteverde Impressa receiving initial impressions today was kindly donated by Pen Chalet. It’s arrival in Japan prompted the following conversation with She Who Must Be Obeyed:

SWMBO–Here’s your package. What is it?
Me–It’s a fountain pen! (Ode to Joy plays from out of nowhere.)
SWMBO–How much money did it cost?
Me–Nothing! (Ta-Da! sound.) It was donated by Pen Chalet. It only cost me my soul.
SWMBO–Good. As long it wasn’t charged to our credit card.

Something like that.

The Monteverde Impressa (Pearl Silver with Blue Trim) I received today is the first Monteverde pen I’ve ever tried. I’ve only used it for a few hours, but I already like it.

It’s not the style of pen I’d choose for myself, especially because I’m still coming to terms with the square cap on the round body, but the the pearl silver looks great and hides finger prints well. I also like the metallic, cobalt blue furniture.

The Monteverde Impressa. Great color, but not sure about that squarish cap.

There were some odd issues when I tried to fill it the first time–I usually fill with the nib and converter attached–but that may be a testament to Sailor’s crappy new ink bottles rather than than the pen itself. In the end had to fill the converter and then attach it to the feed.

The steel F nib is smooth with a bit of tooth. At 42 grams  (1.5 ounces) it is a rather heavy pen, especially when posted, but it’s still comfortable to use. Unposted, it’s as long as my TWSBI Diamond 580, but a portion of that is the larger nib which make the body and section shorter.

The section is 9 mm wide, which puts it right at the edge of too thin for my taste, but I like the ridge around the bottom of the section. It provides a bit of girth and keeps my fingers from gripping the nib.

Although it is a metal pen covered in some sort of enamel paint, it doesn’t feel cold or slippery.

Detail of the nib and feed, next a small writing sample on an Inky Fingers Currently Inked notebook.

My only issues at this point are aesthetic. Although the nib writes well, I’m not sure it needs “MONTEVERDE” printed twice on it. Also, the pearl silver finish has a couple marks that look like scratches, but may actually be flaws in the finish.

Then there’s that square cap. (More on that and the overall look in a future review.)

The hinged clip is terrific, but I’m not sure about the metal screw I can see inside the cap. Since fountain pens tend to leak into the cap in some form or another, I’m worried about corrosion.

The pen seems to be targeted at people interested in trying a fountain pen for the first time and I was pleased to see it came with a converter as well as two small international cartridges. This allows the new user to try the pen and then move on to bottled ink/inky fingers without having to buy more stuff for the pen. The box it came with was also impressive, but seems to be overkill for a $27 pen. I say get rid of the box and make it a sub $25 pen.

The Impressa is now in my rotation and I’ll do a long term review in six months or so. Until then, thanks again to Pen Chalet for their generous donation.


Fear of Missing Out on Cash

I’ve heard it argued, from many sources, that one of the reasons people become pen addicts is the inability to resist the Fear of Missing Out (FOMO).

A new product comes available, probably via Kickstarter, and you rush to get it. Then another one comes out and you rush to get that, too. You’re afraid you won’t have something that people you’ve never met have and are talking about on podcasts. If it’s a fountain pen, you need ink, so you rush to get the newest ink. (If it’s Kingdom Note ink, then you’ve probably acquired that from me, their unofficial global distributor.)

Suddenly you find you’ve got more pens and ink than you can use and you’ve also figured out which ones you don’t like and they’ve ended up in pen cases and boxes while you acquire new pens that you actually use, at least for a short time.

Eventually, though, you have to get rid of stuff and that’s when things get complicated. You know, for example, you don’t like the clear Kaweco Classic Sport you bought and used a couple times, but you suddenly can’t part with it because you’re not sure how much you should charge for it.

You’re not only afraid that no one will want it if you put it up for sale, which is kind of embarrassing, you’re also afraid you’ll miss out on one or two dollars if you charge less than it’s worth which will make  you feel foolish.

Intellectually you understand that any loss you take between what you paid and what you sell for counts as a kind of “rental fee” for the time you used the pen, but the emotional part of you is afraid of missing out. You want your money back and you’d rather have nothing for the pen than miss out on getting what the pen is worth.

In my case, I’ve got fifteen pens to sell, including an OMAS Ogiva, a couple Pilot vanishing points (including one from 1964 and a couple “faceted” versions) and a few others, but now I’m stuck on figuring out what to charge. Or, more accurately, I’m stuck on not actually wanting to get rid of them even if I don’t use them and I’m using price as an excuse.

That is part of addiction: knowing the right thing to do and then not doing it.  And then acquiring another pen because of the fear of missing out, even though it’s the wrong thing to do.