“Always Listen to Your Mother”: I Go to the San Francisco Pen Show

Why was I at the show? Dan Smith, the Nibsmith, needed some table help. He brought Tim Hofmann of The Coffee Mess to help, and also me. I know: bringing me was a tremendous lapse in judgment on his part. But it was so fun.

Except, wait: fun is not what this blog is about. We want pens. Reel it in.

Another pen.

vintage Conway Stewart fountain pen

This pen is also from Chicago. It belongs to my friend Rich, who is in my pen club and who reads this blog. I recently decided to re-name him Dave. Because Dave is a name I can remember, apparently. And isn’t the pen a beauty? It’s a Conway Stewart and commemorates his recent trip to London. Enjoy that pen, Dave.

Okay, enough pens already. Back to the San Francisco Pen Show.

The very best thing at the show happened before it even started. It was Thursday night, and the three of us, Dan, Tim and I, were standing in a Target in San Mateo County, a few hours after getting to town. Tim had brought one suitcase packed wall-to-wall with coffee bean bags. When he zipped it open, it looked like a scene from Sicario or Ocean’s Eleven. (My crew, ride or die.) The next step in our caper would require a coffee pot and grinder — hence, Target.

Now, being lazy, or practical, I had suggested we try Amazon Prime same-day delivery. But there we found ourselves, at Target, standing in front of two shelves of slightly forlorn-looking coffee makers. Underwhelmed by the selection, Dan said something like, “We should have tried Amazon Prime! I bet they’d have same-day delivery.”

At which point I fixed him with the required side glance, and said something like, “Great idea. And remember when I said that back at the hotel?”

Dan, flabbergasted, said something like, “No way! I guess I didn’t hear you.”

Very typical male-female conversation.

But then! A woman who was also looking at the coffee pots turned to Dan and Tim and said, triumphantly, “You see: always listen to your mother.”

“Exactly!” I said. And I was not even laughing. Because it was true!

Sure I was laughing once she left. Since they aren’t actually my children. And since my real children are age-appropriately at least a dozen years younger. But heck, I’ll take it. It’s not like she said “listen to your grandmother.”

Greatest pen show kickoff ever.

Okay, fun’s over. Now it’s time for pens. Here’s what I got at San Francisco:

San Francisco Pen Show purchases

I bought four bottles of ink: Robert Oster Pacific Ocean Teal from the San Francisco Pen Posse (very nice people), and three Japanese-made inks that Taccia is bringing out later this year. Also some paper and a notebook from Yamamoto Paper of Japan.

You can also see a T-shirt that says San Francisco Pen Show — thanks, Fred. There’s a Jim Rouse pin in there, which is lovely, and two stickers, one of which says “Nudie Banana,” which I like way too much. And special ink samples from my friend Jon. Thanks, Jon. There is also a pen: I finally got the Lamy Safari in all-black for 2018.

The pen show was wonderful. As everyone always says, the best part of pen shows is the people. If you’ve never been to one, you should go, and try to stay for the weekend.

I met the nicest people at San Francisco, tied only with the people I met at the Chicago Pen Show. I won’t name people, because length. But a special shoutout to John, blog reader extraordinaire whose email address I unfortunately did not get. Because my brain is bad. So, John, if you read this, can you email me at the Contact-Me menu at the top of the page? (Everyone else can, too, of course! That’s why it’s there.)

And then there was Jon: I finally met him and Mary in person, which was wonderful.

The best part was that I don’t run this pen show, so I could stay up late and just enjoy it. Some of us closed down the hotel bar one night, which sounds pretty hardcore, except, it really wasn’t. I’m almost embarrassed to say that the bar closed at 12:30 or 1 in the morning. In Chicago, a lot of bars have 4 am closing times.

And okay, maybe Chicago’s bar closing times sound a little unhealthy. But consider instead that it totally rules.

Anyway, I had a blast. I only wish I had more hours to spend at pen shows.

Alright. Actual Pen Content.

Jonathon Brooks Carolina Pen Company pens

Here’s a tiny corner of Jonathon Brooks’s Carolina Pen Company table, very early Friday, before he was totally bought out. Do you see that sparkly orange one? That was calling my name, though I had to refrain. Except, this is so cool: I know and like the person who ended up buying it, which is perfect. As the show went on, I met people who bought a number of these, which was fun. We need to have a club or something.

It was fun working Dan’s Nibsmith table. I have to say, of all his pens, the one that probably attracted the most notice was the Pilot Custom Urushi, which is so oversized that it looked like that one kid in third grade who was already six feet tall and 160 pounds. Thanks to that pen, I got to say, “Look at the size of this nib” an awful lot.

Dan didn’t bring TWSBIs to this show, but the TWSBI GO got a lot of attention generally. It’s reasonably priced at $20, and I’d never heard of it, so I was intrigued. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about the looks, but at that price I was going to get one just for the heck of it. Until I remembered that I am over-penned.

Yes, I am also over-inked. As a teenager I live with would say, “I’m not listening.”

I’ll post later about the paper I bought and the inks, all of which deserve posts of their own.

I did hear that Sailor’s new fountain pen color for the US will be in the 1911 line and a yellow-green. If that turns out to be the case, I’m really going to want one. With that, and rumors of an upcoming orange Pelikan M600, I’m afraid this fall may be just a little too wonderful.

33 thoughts on ““Always Listen to Your Mother”: I Go to the San Francisco Pen Show

  1. :: gasp :: The RO ink!
    Also, I love how you describe your pen show adventures! You almost make it sound more fun to do the pen show adjacent things 😂
    I hope I’ll make it to Chicago Pen Show again next year so we can hang out again! I’m sure my teal pen collection will have grown 😅

    Liked by 1 person

    1. OMG, I hope so! And I can give you some of that Oster.

      Your collection is stunning! Did you get the Kumpoo?! When I was using it, I thought of you. It’s been quite the summer for teal: the Ocean, too, though that’s a different feel.


  2. Great show and super nice to have met you and Tim. (Dan, not so much. Just kidding. He’s great. But I’d already met him last year.) Thanks for the kind shout out in the post above. Hope to stay in touch. After all, it’s good to know there are others out there who spurn certain inks for political as well as practical reasons. By the way, next year, you guys are welcome to borrow one of my many coffee making devices for the weekend.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I think this one is at least 50-50, because I’ve heard it twice in the last nine months, but you never know. The European dealers are the only source, because they get it directly from Pelikan. But it could be anything, or nothing.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. OK. After my first foray with an M400, an M600 seems like a good next step. I’m not a huge fan of the stock colours and the current crop of white limited editions don’t quite do it for me either. I’m also a sucker for orange pens, hence my interest. 😀

        Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right! It’s in almost perfect condition, and has a relatively rare nib. When I saw it at a meetup … 🤩

      But then I have Lamy Safaris, so….


  3. Love reading your posts — the humor and seeing a bit about pens, even.

    Just wanted to say: AEROPRESS. It’s how I’ve made my morning coffee for years now. (I make my brew strong, then add a wee bit of water to it so it doesn’t remove the remaining enamel from my teeth.)

    Annnd bonus: it travels well! (I don’t travel east of the Cascades without it. Or south of Portland. My starting point is Seattle.)

    One day I’ll get to a pen show, Aeropress and all. Meanwhile, I’ll lurk and enjoy them vicariously through your posts. 🙂

    – Ashley
    But you can call me Dave.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!

      And you are so right about Aeropress, Dave. I should remember that for Ohio. Actually, Tim did bring an Aeropress, along with a hand-crank grinder, for himself. And my actual, real-life son has both of those, too, funnily enough. The Target coffee maker and grinder were to make coffee for all the other people at the show: the 8-12 cup capacity was key. 😀

      Okay, you should totally come to the Chicago Pen Show next May. So much to do and so many people to see, but fewer crowds than DC or (I’ve heard) LA, so you can really chill and talk. Get there early, see all the tables, snag your pick of pens; do some seminars; attend the pizza party Thursday night and the regular Saturday party. Go to our Friday night auction, if you like. Get some nibs ground. Then spend a few days afterwards staying in the city and doing all the amazing tourist things. Great museums, architecture, theater, music and restaurants. Bars that stay open. Cubs and White Sox. Field Notes!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I was pleasantly surprised to see my Conway Stewart pen in your report about the San Francisco Pen Show, but I know you’re smitten with it so I knew it would show up somewhere. Because I know that your father’s name is Rich, I’m guessing that you’re using the Dave moniker as a secret shout out to the “real” Dave.

    Sounds like San Francisco was a lot of fun, I can’t wait to hear all the stories.

    Rich / Dave

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dan Smith is so nice! So is Tim Hofmann! It has to be said: my husband and I did an amazing job raising those boys…. 😆

      Yes, I’ll be reviewing all three Taccia inks. They are nice! Maybe I should do an initial post about them, before the official review? I usually try to use an ink very thoroughly before writing a review, because when a person buys a bottle of ink, they live with it for a long while, so I think it’s helpful to know more about it. Unfortunately that makes me slow. 😊 And I’m slow anyway with blog matters right now, because of work and life. 😊

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Take your time! I love your in-depth reviews of inks. And you’re right, it is good to use an ink (and stationery in general) for a while before reviewing it. Things can change after the first impressions. Like I found that the Lamy Vibrant Pink ink clogged up my pen after a month :/

        Liked by 1 person

        1. ZOMG, I am literally just writing a post about that! I just cleaned out my Al-Star (late, okay) only to discover that this is something of a high maintenance ink. And I was using the converter version. Extremely surprising.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. What a fantastic time you’ve had! I like your little haul, and I admire your restraint. Your blog always shines with your witty humor on top of everything else. Bravo!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Sounds a great weekend. Sorry that the orange pen went to a different home but you showed admirable restraint and good grace. And we are pen twins again, with the Safari All Black. I put black ink in mine at first but too matchy matchy…far happier now with Lamy blue black.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Thank goodness.

    Of course, I have been waiting *minutes* on end for this blog post to appear. Everyone always waits and waits and waits for their favorite blogger to weigh in on their most recent pen show experience. All the backstories, all the heretofore unknown details. The witticisms and criticisms. It just *feels* like it is taking forever.

    That’s just on this side of the glass, though: the blogperson has a life, yanno? I’m just glad Your Life allowed you a bit of a break to come out to SF. I know that people were happy to see and meet you, and all signs point to this being an annual event. Which means that people from out here will now need to trek to Chicago to balance the universe in these matters. There could be worse things to do.

    So, thanks for the report. Let’s do it again. Except next time, when you do the report, less pen photos and more photos of pen people in compromising positions and situations. Because.

    Your Brother from Another Mother.

    Liked by 4 people

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.