Pelikan Hubs 2017: Chicago

Pelikan Hubs Chicago

Pelikan Hubs are volunteer-run gatherings in cities around the world, held once a year, on the same Saturday night. Anyone can sign up during the sign-up period to attend. A “Hub master” organizes and runs it in each city, but Pelikan handles enrollment and even provides gifts for attendees. This year Pelikan gave attendees in Chicago a bottle of Smoky Quartz, the 2017 Edelestein Ink of the Year.

The social media buzz around the Hubs has grown each year, and so has attendance. Our Chicago Hub last year was a small, but excellent, gathering, and this year’s was a lot bigger and just as excellent.

I’m sure every Hub is different, but at Chicago we’re encouraged to bring pens and inks to show, and, if we want, inks to share. Most of what I brought is in the photo above. I also brought a bottle of Robert Oster ink, and my pal Karl brought a different Oster ink. The tables were full of inks and ink samples generously shared. I even saw a Lamy Petrol sample in there. In addition, Pelikan kindly provides the Hub master with a bottle of each of the Pelikan Edelstein inks for attendees to try.

It’s fun to see everyone’s pens. In the photo below, the pens on the bottom are from Hana’s collection. Hana likes green pens, as you can see, and also green inks, which you could probably guess. This is a great example of how satisfying a focused collection can be.

Pelikan Hubs Chicago

The Chicago Hub was especially lucky, because Pierre from Desiderata Pens is a Chicagoan, and he came with some of his own handmade Desiderata pens, which are bulb fillers that take Zebra dip pen nibs. I loved the attractive but reasonably priced designs. My favorite was a sleek, slim and minimalist Delrin pen.

So there my wish list began.

Speaking of minimalism, I was happy that people loved using my Venvstas Carbon T fountain pen. The Carbon T is minimalist, and cool-looking, but there’s also something perfect about writing with it, and that’s what everyone else noticed, too. It is a very slim pen, so you don’t necessarily expect it to feel so comfortable when you write with it.

By the way, the Carbon T was inked up with Pelikan Edelstein Garnet, the 2014 Ink of the Year, which everyone really liked. So if Pelikan ever wants to bring back an ink of the year, that would be a nice choice.

Now look at this small pen case.

Pelikan Hubs Chicago

Good things come in small packages, right? In that little Nock Co. case, owned by Jordan, is a Sailor (nice!), a Nakaya Neo-Standard (nice!) and a Conid Bulkfiller (unicorn nice!).

I was excited to try my first Neo-Standard. And very relieved to confirm it’s too large for me, so I don’t need to put that on my list. As for the Conid, I’d never even seen a Conid in person, so that was super cool to try, as well. Both these pens had outstanding nibs.

Sailor pens I have loved forever, but Jordan’s Sailor was a Realo, which I’d never held, so that was awesome, too. Actually, I think Jordan had two different Realos. Nice.

I also got to see Carlos’s Pelikan M400 Stresemann, confirming that this is a pen I’d love to own at some point. So, back on the wish list for that.

We all went gaga over Michael’s amazing Shawn Newton pen made with a stunning Jonathon Brooks material. In my role as Chicago Pen Show carnival barker, I couldn’t help pointing out that we’re going to have Shawn and Jonathon both at the 2018 Chicago Pen Show next May. And then we all got excited again remembering that Kanilea will be there, too. (Oh look, I mentioned it again.)

By this point, my wish list is getting long.

But this is an appropriate time to point out that most of the pens at the Hub weren’t bank-breakers. The Desiderata is reasonable, so is the Carbon T. And there were Pilots, Conklins, Pelikan M205s and inexpensive (but awesome) vintage Kawecos as well. There was much to ooh and ahh over, in every price range.

Pelikan Hubs Chicago

I liked to hear what pens and inks everyone was interested in. Happily, the Lamy Safari has a lot of fans — as it should. Well, this was a gathering of educated and civilized people with great taste, so.

In the pricier range, the upcoming Pelikan M605 generated a lot of discussion. Feelings were mostly extremely positive: a lot of us were crushing on the M605, though a couple weren’t as enamored of an all-white pen.

I think the most popular Pelikan that I saw at the Chicago Hub was the M400 White Tortoise; a lot of us brought ours, and a lot of the others had the White Tortoise on the wish list. I also saw a fair of M200s and M205s, and an M800 or maybe two. I didn’t see anyone bring M600s, other than me, and I saw no M1000s (though of course I didn’t see every pen there). I wonder if this is a decent approximation of the distribution of Pelikan fountain pen sales in the US: mostly the M200 and M400 size, then the M800, then the M600, then the M1000.

As for the inks that took people’s fancy, I’d say it was heavily Sailor and Robert Oster this year. A lot of us had tried many of the Robert Oster blue-green, green and blue inks, and we’ve all been impressed by both the inks and the sheer number of slightly different ones he keeps bringing out.

Also, it became apparent that many people use purple ink.

On purpose.

I don’t pretend to understand that. I’m a reporter, not a therapist.

Oh, everyone adored Papier Plume Red Beans and Rice. And we all thought it looked exactly like red beans and rice. Because it does.

In terms of paper, as in every fountain pen gathering I’ve ever attended, or even any email or text discussion, everyone’s favorite was Tomoe River. That’s a shock, I know. You never hear anyone mention that paper, do you?

But, also, Michael and I both brought the new Field Notes Dime Novel. And, because I like you, dear reader, I want to show you the kind of things Michael has been doing with his Dime Novel.

Pelikan Hubs Chicago

Wow, huh? I wish I had taken photos of every page. He’s amazing.

Michael and I both like the Dime Novel’s paper, too. Which causes me to say: I may have been a bit too hard a grader when I pronounced it average in my review. I may revise that to say “slightly better than average,” albeit, not like Tomoe River, Rhodia or Claireontaine. Both Michael and I saw a small amount of feathering, with ink and pen combinations that tend to feather, but it’s really not that much.

In fact, in the dim light of the restaurant, I could hardly see the feathering. Which brings up an important point that I don’t think I’ve seen considered much in a paper review: Where do we want to spend more time anyway? A harshly lit office, or a dimly lit restaurant?


Now, back to pens. I think it was Hana who brought to the Hub that obscure object of desire, at least of mine, which is a pen with a Sailor extra-fine nib. I love Sailor nibs, which are very fine, very firm and very precise. But I’ve never known if I should get go to 11 and get the extra-fine. So it was awesome to get to try one finally, and I loved it. But, yeah, now a Sailor extra-fine is on my wishlist.

So there we are, with a wishlist that is very long, at the end of a very nice evening. The Pelikan Hub was a great experience, as you’d expect of any get-together with very nice people who (for once) share your quirky interest in fountain pens. Thanks to Pelikan for thinking of the Hubs concept, and continuing to support it, and thanks to all the volunteer Hub masters for putting in all the work to host these (especially Chicago’s). A Pelikan Hub brings fountain pen people together, and that’s worth applauding.

24 thoughts on “Pelikan Hubs 2017: Chicago

  1. This was a great read, thank you! And I’m jealous. Also, sometimes I think I must be the only fountain pen fan who has never even tried Tomoe River paper. As I’m a fan of lined notebooks, that have to lay as flat as a freshly pressed pancake, would you have any recommendations?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      Paul, I have a (perhaps mistaken) impression that Wonder Pens sells paper from Tomoe River. Maybe that could be a source? Otherwise, in terms of lined notebooks that use Tomoe River, I’m far from an expert, but the one I know is the journal-sized “Writer” from Nanami. That is made in Japan and sold by a US guy. Jetpens has always been my source for unlined looseleaf Tomoe River (I buy the off-white, not the white). I believe other stores sell the looseleaf paper, too. (And I hope Wonder Pens is among them, since the stores I know are in the US.)

      I’ve actually got a few posts on this blog about The Writer from Nanami. I’m not sure I’d say it opens “flat as a pancake,” but it opens pretty flat, especially if you rest your hand on the page as you write, as I do. There are some photos in these two posts: here and here.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. A most excellent write-up. Your singing words capture the exuberance of the experience and the multi-faceted experience that happens at gatherings like this. Good to have you back writing again!

    Liked by 1 person

          1. I’d sign on for that, too.

            And I wasn’t really serious about trying to fix it either. 🙂 “Maybe I can [do something] sometime” is me pretty much (1) having an idea, and, at the exact same time, (2) realizing it’s too much effort. 🙂


  3. Excellent review and breakdown of the hub! I wish I could have made it to one. Chicago would have been closest to me, and it’s like 7 hours away. Boo.

    I love purple ink, btw. I don’t like any other purple things, but I have a ton of purple ink and use it all the time. Is that weird?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seven hours? Oof. You are excused. But next year, you’ll have more time to plan…. 🙂

      No, sorry, I was kidding about the purple ink. 🙂 Liking purple ink makes *you* normal. 🙂 I’m the oddball. 🙂

      See, purple is such a popular ink color, but for some reason I don’t like most purple ink. That can make me feel like a misfit among fountain pen people — as can my love for Lamy Safaris, extra-fine nibs, nibs that don’t flex, and Field Notes. I’m very not on-trend. Sigh. So of course everyone at the Hub loved purple inks. That sort of thing delights me, because, of course. 🙂 And if I couldn’t at myself, what would I have to laugh about? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I definitely hope to make it next year!

        Haha, I’m just picking on you. People like what they like, and there’s nothing wrong with that! That’s why I love how much variety exists within fountain pens. There’s something for everyone!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I also like purple ink. I especially like the Lamy-Dark Lilac. You don’t even like dark purple that sheens? Don’t feel bad about what you like. I am usually in a minority on some of my tastes as well. As far as ink my interests are very wide. About the only ink I don’t really use much is a true red. Most other inks I have on hand. I do have Diamine-Wild Strawberry. (30ml only) I like Red Dragon a lot, but don’t have it. I thought purple ink is something most people don’t use much. I like it, but I don’t use it all the time.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank you. 🙂

          Well, I think Dark Lilac was nice enough, although you’re right: I never used it. I had a box of cartridges, and I gave away all of them except the one I used when I first got the pen. (I’m not really into sheen that much.) But I do like Papier Plume’s Mardi Gras Indians, which is a dark purple — and I’ve been using that this summer. So maybe I’m learning. 🙂


  4. This sounds a perfect evening, in good company and with a wonderful bottle of ink to take home too. I enjoyed reading about your Chicago hub. It is a good idea making notes (mental or written) of what pens you saw, what you liked and what to add the wish list. At the London hub I loved hearing about other people’s pens and getfing to try them. The evening sped by and was over all too soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Unfortunately I didn’t think to make written notes, or even take photos, because I was having way too much fun. 🙂 And, as you say, the evening passed by in the blink of an eye, which is the mark of a good time. 🙂 What were the pens you saw that you liked the most?


      1. I liked the M600 size as had not handled one before. That is on the wish list! Then there was the Conid Bulkfiller which was interesting for its filling system but I need to give thst one some more thought. Katherine of showed me a Nakaya Piccolo which had quite a soft nib although I was too excited to write down properly which one it was. I have since looked on Iguana sell and read about urushi lacquer. I was a bit shocked to see how expensive they are. But then I inked up my Campo Marzio Ambassador, a brown flake marble resin pen of similar chubby shape to the Nakaya Piccolo but with a steel nib, with my Smoky Quartz hub swag ink, and was content with that.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Oh, I want to try a Piccolo some day. I hope it’s too small, like the Neo-Standard was too big. 🙂 I actually owned a Nakaya Writer for a while. That was a great size for me, but I just didn’t love the pen enough to justify the price (for me). I learned an important, albeit fraught, lesson from that: to never buy an expensive pen I haven’t seen in person first. Boy, I still cringe when I think of that. But it was a valuable lesson.

          I like the M600 size, too. It’s my favorite. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh the White Tortie. It’s destined to be my white whale. Anytime I find one, it’s out of my price range. Let Sigh.

    This sounds like so much fun! Sadly, the hubs could not be pursuaded to drive us to Chicago on a work night, I would’ve been able to show off my teal/turquoise collection.

    @tealosaurus_nyx on Instagram 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Seriously, we had a great couple from Indiana, and one of these years I’ll get my friend from Iowa to come in, so it’s worth thinking about making a trip of it. 🙂 There was a Murakami exhibit at the MCA…. Not to mention the Cubs! (Our the reigning World Series champions — maybe I’ve mentioned that?) There is preseason Chicago Blackhawks hockey (only for the dedicated, I know, but that would be me.) And I shouldn’t even mention the Bears, because they are so terrible, except tickets would be cheap, and the team did mark the Hub weekend with an unanticipated, if not shocking, victory — and lest you think that means Hell had frozen over, we were actually in the midst of a string of 90 degree days so that’s unlikely.

      We have beautiful beaches, great architecture, many restaurants, great theater, a great music scene, some of the best art museums in the world, and super nice people. Also: Field Notes, too! It’s a great city to visit. Also, not for nothing, there’s the Chicago Pen Show in May 2018 that will be absolute fire, which while technically not *in* the city would be another nice opportunity to visit us, and then spend a few extra days in the city. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh I know all about Chicago’s fabulousness. I grew up there! A six hour drive for a one night event that I didn’t hear about until the day before just isn’t in the cards haha

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Six hours is very long. But … you grew up here?! So cool! And you know the secret Chicago way to pronounce the name of these streets: Paulina and Devon Avenue. And you know what the Edens, the Kennedy and the Ryan are. And you say, “gym shoes.” As one does. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  6. I enjoyed hearing about this event. I wish we had something like that around here. I don’t own a Pelikan pen. I hope to get one some day, or at least try one. The one I’d really like to see is the Brown Tortoiseshell 400. As soon as that was released I’ve drooled over it. I still want an Aurora Optima. For cheaper pens I would like a Boston Safety Pen by Noodler’s, and a Lamy-Aion. I’d like to hold an Aion if possible though.

    I had someone send me samples, and I sent them some. I haven’t had samples in ages so this was great. I just started using one of them and it was the Pelikan Dark Green. I just put it on my wish list. My wish list just keeps growing. If I could try more inks I could discount some. But then again by trying them, more get added to the wish list too. I did get to try my first iron gall ink. (Platinum Classic-Forest Green) I like it a lot. This is a sample and I just refilled my pen with the Forest Green again. I would like to try the other Platinum Classic colors too eventually.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Oh, yes, I think someone had the latest (current) M400 Tortoise Brown at our Hub. Lot of people love that!

      If I can make a suggestion, there have been a number of Pelikans in the 400 size in brown tortoise over the years, dating back to the original (now vintage) 400, 400nn and 400n in tortoise shell, and running through various limited/special editions over the years, up to this current one. Have you considered going used, or even better, vintage, for a tortoise? Vintage is much cheaper; I think the vintage tortoise bindes are more attractive; and many people prefer the vintage nibs.


      1. Laura, I would consider that in the future. Thanks for suggesting it. I have not had good luck with getting vintage pens though. I have a friend who knows about old pens. The problem is he wants the same one I do!

        Liked by 1 person

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