A Peek at the Pen Cup: The “I Am So Normal” Edition

pen cup with fountain pens

Oh yeah, look at this pen cup. I only have five fountain pens going, and it’s good.

Nothing intentional: I haven’t been using the pens much lately. That’s because my recent work has been mostly on the computer, and I am not good at writing letters, so lately I’ve been cleaning out pens and putting them away.

I have to say, with five pens, I feel so normal.

The most recently inked is my Pelikan M605 White Transparent, because the temperature is nicely frosty here, and this pen feels wintery. It’s inked with Papier Plume Bayou Nightfall, an absolutely wonderful ink in my opinion. Pen and ink make a perfect pair, and I keep coming back to ths combination. This makes me wish I had something to write.

All my other pens have been inked up for a while. But I managed to put together a suitably Christmassy trio.

pelikan lamy fountain pens

Such a happy sight. Malibu Barbie Christmas.

The green pen is my Pelikan M205 Olivine, filled with Pelikan Edelstein Olivine — another great combination. I do have to clean this one out, because it’s been inked since I got it.

The pink pen is my Lamy Al-Star Vibrant Pink. It’s still loaded with a cartridge of Lamy Blue, mainly to keep cleaning out the feed after my Vibrant Pink ink disaster. But Lamy Blue is actually a very nice ink with this pen’s extra-fine nib, and I always like a blue ink, so this is a good combination, too.

The two pens that have been inked and re-inked the longest are what have turned into my core users. One is my long-serving Lamy Safari Charcoal with fine nib and black ink (currently Taccia Kuro). The other is a pen I bought this year and haven’t taken out of rotation since: a Sailor Professional Gear Earth with extra-fine nib, inked with Papier Plume Da Blue ink. I use these two all the time, the Safari because I can take it anywhere without worry, and the Sailor because its amazing extra-fine nib writes tiny scribbles with perfect smoothness.

I’ve actually been very busy, but it just doesn’t involve much writing with pens and ink. And frankly that’s been kind of … restful. Fountain pens and inks aren’t a job for me, just things that add a dash of delight and interest to the everyday. And that’s enough. So if pens and inks aren’t centered in my life, right now, that works. My pens and inks are easy-going; they will wait their turn.

I guess I’m using them when I can. In fact, I had to move this out of the way to take the pen cup photo.

field notes lamy safari cookbook

I was using the Safari to take notes there, because I’ve finally found the time to get into something that I’ve always wanted to do: serious bread-making. (Because people always ask: not with a bread machine, but just flour, yeast, water and salt, worked by hand and set on the counter to rise over the course of the day before being shaped by hand, and then popped onto an improvised hearth in the oven.)

So I’ve been up to my elbows in different kinds of flour, and experiments with different pre-ferments. (This cuts down on my texting a lot, too.) But I am trying to refine my technique, which means I’ve been making a lot of loaves of a basic hearth bread, tweaking a few things here or there, learning inputs and outputs, and writing them down. It’s very absorbing for me, and it’s really delicious. Also I’ve become more popular with the family. Winter’s a good time to heat up the kitchen and make food for people.

Today I’ve been hovering over my brand new sourdough starter like it’s a new baby, searching for life and activity. I should know better, though. If it’s really like a baby, that sourdough won’t start bubbling and fussing until I try to take a shower, or start a movie, or go out to dinner. And as it grows, it’s going to do the opposite of what I want. As it should! So, grow big, little sourdough, and grow free, and grow as and how you will. In the meantime, I’ll just leave this here: I’m going to go walk the dog now, then I’m going to start a movie….

My 2018 Ohio Pen Show Haul

Ohio Pen Show 2018 Purchases

I know I’m late with this. But I’m always late. It’s the Follies.

And are we going to let being late deter us? No! As Bluto Blutarsky, our Churchill, says, “Nothing is over until we decide it is!”

So here’s my “Here’s my Haul!” report. And, because it’s almost Thanksgiving we’re going to garland the pen talk with holiday trimmings. We’re stuffing ourselves. I do love a theme.

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Adventures in Fountain Pen Repair and Restoration: Esterbrooks

Esterbrook J pens

Apologies for the lack of blogging, but since the Ohio Pen Show I’ve been extra busy with work — and the type of work that didn’t involve writing with pens.

But I have been working with vintage pens, a bit, because of my involvement with the Chicago Pen Show. Different vintage pens than usual. We all know that many vintage pens are rare, and many are gorgeous, and I love looking at those vintage pens. But that slice of the vintage market gets expensive. The pens I’ve been working with this month are mostly from the other end of the scale — they are vintage pens that are reasonably priced, and easy to find and get working again. Like Esterbrooks.

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A Literary Crawl Through the World of Nakaya Fountain Pens

Nakaya Decapod Shiro Tamenuri

A Tale of Three Nakayas.

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the end of the summer. It was the beginning of fall. It was when I had the chance to use three Nakayas.

Nakaya Number One was a devastatingly attractive Decapod I got at DC, almost on a lark. It had only one issue: the nib. Yes, the nib was wonderful, but it was a very crisp oblique italic, so it was wonderful for someone who wasn’t me.

I sold it at San Francisco to an awesome person with artistic talent and great handwriting. It was meant for him. And I felt good about seeing it go to him. But I did love that pen. So I felt a twinge of … self-sacrifice, maybe? However, I knew that “It is a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done before.”

Then Nakayas Number Two and Three arrived, bringing us to …

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The 2019 Lamy Safari is Announced, and I Just Cannot Even

IMG_0122

My Lamy Safari-hating friend just sent me this, which, courtesy of the nice folks at Goulet Pens, is apparently what Lamy has cooked up for the 2019 Safari special edition.

😱

It’s taken me a few hours to figure out a nice way of conveying my reaction more subtly than just using “Munch’s The Scream” emoji, above.

If you know the television show The Good Place, you will understand my first reaction to this photo, which was a quote from the show: “Holy mother forking shirtballs.”

It’s fair to say that the Pastels are not my bag. I don’t really like the look, with that pen, because the color scheme doesn’t fit with the design, in my view. But that’s fine. Maybe they are better in person, and at least they are different, and not black. But my disappointment is more general. I’ve been a Lamy Safari fan since the first year of the Safari. And it’s as a fan that I say this, sadly: the annual editions have been more lackluster than not, for a while now.

This is just the capper. It seems like two out of three years I’ve been wondering the same thing: Is this where I stop, and give up collecting Safaris?

There was the tossed-off Neon Trio. Then the “Dark Materials” Trio of Dark Lilac, Petrol and All-Black, an obvious attempt to extend the market with Safaris for those who hate Safaris. Now comes the Pastel trio. I don’t know precisely which group the Pastel is meant to appeal to, but I’d bet that the genesis of those colors is a market study.

And then, not even one Pastel, but three at once. Why limit your bottom-line by putting out only one annual edition, when you can potentially triple revenues by putting out three? Which of course is reversed for consumers, as Slightly Unnerved, in the comment below, politely brings up.

That issue is much worse for those of us in the US, where a Safari, without converter, retails at just under $30 each.

I don’t know if there’s been new ownership or management at Lamy, and that’s what’s behind this — but I suspect so. But it does seem rather obvious that the annual Safari, and probably the Safari as a whole, is now seen as a cash cow. I think that’s understandable from a business perspective. I would never tell a business not to maximize profit. It’s just not the same, from the fan perspective.

The Safari used to be a quirky pen that a few of us loved. And you had to actually love it, to withstand the slings and arrows, because the fountain pen world was full of people who loved to put the Safari down. The Safari appealed to a very small subset of adults — those who liked contemporary design and fountain pens. And I think the Safari reflected what the Lamy company was — a home for risky products, designed products, that didn’t appeal to everyone, but were well-built and well-priced. Modern design plus affordability plus quality.

The new Lamy is obviously different. And the new Lamy is certainly reflected in the last five to seven years of annual Safaris. That’s fine — and I don’t own the company. But, as a fan, I think they’ve essentially lost what made me a fan. Or not so much “lost” as “abandoned.” I think now whoever runs Lamy has pivoted to squeezing out as much profit as possible. Which on an intellectual level I understand. The Golden Goose, and all. I do I wish Lamy well, and hope they don’t end up killing that Golden Goose. But I think, however, that I’m not really a fan any more.

Pen of the Day: Nakaya Piccolo in Polished Shu with Nick Stewart Randall Ink

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib with Nick Stewart Randall ink

Nakaya Piccolo in Polished Shu with fine nib. We’ve had a rainy and gray fall here, but this little pen has just added a shot of color. It’s a Piccolo in Polished Shu with a fine nib.

I really, really like the Polished Shu finish, and I especially like where you can see the darker underlayer showing through.

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib

This particular fine nib is very fine and it writes on the dry side, so it’s very precise. I chose to get a smoother writing experience, instead of the thinnest possible line, by matching this nib with an ink sample that’s very wet-writing, and very lubricated, and also new-to-me. It’s called “Randall” from Nick Stewart, and it’s made by Diamine. I got this sample from my friend Jon. Thanks, Jon!

Nakaya Piccolo Polished Shu nib with Nick Stewart Randall ink