Comparing My Many Pen Cases, Because the Road to Wisdom is Excess

fountain pen cases

I was admiring my new pen case the other day, when I decided to compare it to the other pen case I have.

Okay, stop. I fell victim right there to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is “never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But nearly as well-known is “never check your pen things after you’ve bought something new.”

Because, when I pulled out “the other pen case I have,” I found more than one. I actually found pen case after pen case — a clown car of pen cases. At least one of which I swear I’ve never seen before.

Well. Some might ask “how” or “why.” But in the spirit of the age, I’d rather ask, “How can I rebrand a character flaw into something flattering?”

Oscar Wilde is the man for this: “Moderation is a fatal thing, Lady Hunstanton. Nothing succeeds like excess.”

Or the poet William Blake: “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.”

So what if Wilde died in exile after serving prison time, and Blake is synonymous with madness? All that means is that I have the sort of genius in pen-case ownership that isn’t recognized in its own time.

So I shall wisely compare my many pen cases.

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Liz Newton Pen Case

Liz Newton standing pen case velcro desktop wrap

I just got a really nice standup pen case, custom made by Elizabeth Newton, and I want to show you. Because it’s a great case, and it’s a really great value.

Elizabeth hand makes pen wraps and sells them at Liz Newton Designs. Here is a link to her website. I first saw her wraps at the 2017 Chicago Pen Show, but they sold so quickly that I didn’t get one. When she posted a photo of a standup case on Instagram a few days agao, and said they were on sale, I jumped to buy one.

I ordered mine in royal blue and red, the colors of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. A few days later, this beautiful case arrived. It’s called the velcro desktop wrap, and it holds five good-size pens.

Liz Newton standing pen case velcro desktop wrap

The coolest thing is that when you put your pens in the wrap and close it, the case stands up by itself. Wow.

Because many is the morning that I, a human, struggle with that. But here’s this case, made of a soft fabric, in pretty colors, and it stands up on its own. Every single time, without groaning or grabbing its knee or wishing for coffee.

I’m not the most scientific person, but I know how this works. Magic.

Liz Newton standing pen case velcro desktop wrap

I can review this case in two words: It’s awesome. It looks beautiful, and works well. The fabric is attractive and feels nice to the touch: silky rather than stiff or rough. I like that it stands up, because that keeps the pens nib upwards. And I like that it’s easy to open, but also closes securely with the velcro.

Liz Newton standing pen case velcro desktop wrap

And I like how it looks. Go Cubs, Go.

I have a lot of cases, but I probably use pen wraps and pen rolls the most overall, because they are a good combination of light weight and protective. I tend to use pen rolls like this to carry pens in my purse and such, while I save the sturdier cases for when pens need protection from being smushed by a laptop or books or something.

The size of this case seems ideal. Rolled up, it’s compact. But it seems to fit all but the largest pens, and I don’t have pens that large. I know it easily fits pens the size of a Lamy Safari, and a Montblanc LeGrand. I’ve got five pens in there now: Pelikan M600-size pens, a Pelikan M400 size pen, a Montblanc 146 and a Montblanc LeGrand.

Montblanc pens in pen case Liz Newton

In terms of price, it’s a great value, especially now, because Elizabeth is having a promotional sale. The price can vary, depending on whether the fabric you want is regular or a special order. Mine uses a regularly stocked fabric, so it normally costs $20 plus shipping. But because the wrap is on sale right now, mine was $15 plus shipping. Shipping to Chicago cost $3, and took two days.

That’s such a screaming deal, I’m almost embarrassed. A pen wrap that’s hand-crafted and hand-sewn, in the colors you choose, delivered to your door for $18. Even if the case didn’t stand up, that would be a great deal. But. It. Does.

I feel like we all should get one. In fact, I’m thinking of getting another. Maybe blue/yellow, for my alma mater. Maybe brown/light blue, to class things up. Or brown with cream, likewise. Someone suggested orange/black, which would be fun. It could be anything, Even a simple red and pink, for Valentine’s Day, and every day.

The possibilities are endless. But this one is great.

Liz Newton standing pen case velcro desktop wrap


Chicago Pen Show 2017 “Haul”

Chicago Pen Show 2017 purchases

We’re supposed to post our pen show pickups, so here are mine from last weekend’s Chicago Pen Show.

Seeing it all splayed out there is daunting. But magnificent. It takes a truck.

What did I buy? Two pens. One new, which is my first Franklin-Christoph. And one vintage, which is my second PFM I. Both pens are blue, which is my favorite color. I also bought five bottles of Papier Plume inks (my first). Three bottles of KWZ Chicago Blue. My first bottle of Robert Oster — Tranquility, recommended by blog readers. And a really cool notebook called the Zequenz roll up journal.

Zequenz roll up journal

In terms of gifts, Papier Plume threw in a stick of gold sealing wax, with which I intend to seal my many important proclamations, like “don’t put empty boxes back in the pantry.”

A friend gave me that empty Akkerman bottle. Someone else gave me a leather case (already in use). And I got a pin for a cool fountain pen blog, Of Quill Alchemy, from three amazingly talented students at the University of Chicago who run it.

The best present isn’t up there. It was finally meeting my dear friend Lou. We’ve known each other for years through fountain pens, but only via emails and letters, because we live so far away. Lou was in the area with his wife and brother for a family event, so they hung out with me on Thursday, the show’s first day.

That Thursday also happened to be my birthday. Now, of course turning 29 (once again) doesn’t phase me. I’ve gotten blasé about that, it happens so often. But finally meeting Lou and his family made for the best birthday ever.

pen wrap with opal

Lou made and gave me that gorgeous pen wrap. He knows me, however, so he handed it to me with the caution, “be careful.” The closure is opal. Which … okay, I’m fairly sure I’ll be googling “opal glue” before I turn 29 next year.

Inside, Lou stuck a few bookmarks, to remind me of some very important things. The last was, “remember to write me every once in a while.” He said that with a smile, because we’re both terrible at that. Not that it matters. Friends stay in each other’s hearts.

pen wrap interior

Along those lines, people in the US fountain pen community know that right after the pen show we unexpectedly lost Susan Wirth, a pen show mainstay and a great personality.

We always assume there will be a next time. But of course that’s not always true. So I’m going to try to remember to take more time for myself and other people. Rush around less, hang around more.

Problem Solving, With the Very Large Array

pen cups

There are good problems to have, of course, and having too many fountain pens inked is probably one of them. I’ve been looking at a lot of new-to-me inks, so I can’t complain if that requires a lot of pens. And in there is one awesome Platinum pen I’m going to be giving away. But I still had the small issue of where to put all those pens.

Last time I confronted this, I went for a temporary solution: I ejected a rollerball from the pen cup, and moved the fountain pens around like puzzle pieces until they all fit. Not ideal, but a workable quick fix. “You go, girl.”

However, one new ink led to another, and another led to a third, and so on. Before you could say “J. Herbin,” I was over-penned once again. This time, there were no more squeezes possible, and nothing to do but add another pen cup to the lineup. And not a pretty one, either. “Le sigh.”

But it’s all in how you look at things, right?  So I shall look at my pen cuppage not as excess, but as a small tribute to the Very Large Array, which uses 27 movable radio telescopes to explore the universe.

And I mean, even the number 27 is inspiring.  When I think how many pens would fit into 27 pen cups….

“You go, girl!”

Looking at the Five KWZ Azure Inks

KWZ Azure #1, #2, #3, #4 and #5 ink swabs

I have used and reviewed all five of the KWZ dye-based Azure inks, and I like the whole family, but I think we could use a sort of cheat sheet.

Here are links to the full reviews:

Together the five Azure comprise a nice range of blue inks that are low-maintenance and nicely saturated. Azure #1 kicks things off as KWZ’s traditional or standard blue, and it is the lightest and least saturated of the five. Azure #2 is a darker blue but still in the standard range. With the next three Azures, we get more fun, offbeat and vibrant shades of blue.

My quick summary goes something like this:

Most standard: Azure #1.

Most serious: Azure #2.

Most lively: Azure #3 wins by a whisker. But Azure #4 and Azure #5 also have a great kick.

Most uncommon shade of blue: Azure #4.

Most like Parker Penman Sapphire: Azure #3. Not a clone, though. Azure #5 has something of the PPS feel, too.

Best on poor paper:  Azure #2 and Azure #5.

Most dry: Azure #2 and Azure #3.

Most wet: Azure #4 and Azure #5.

Best shading: Azure #4.

Best sheen: Azure #4.

Easiest to clean: They all clean out wonderfully easily.

Most water resistant:  Azure #2. With a big “but.” On normal paper they’ll all soak in sufficiently. On fountain-pen friendly paper, none is actually water-resistant, but Azure #2 seems to survive the best of the five.

Best for a Lamy Safari: Azure #4. This is a category of interest to exactly one person in the entire world. But that would be me.

Most swoon-worthy: Azure #3 (more dry) and Azure #5 (more wet).

I think they are all excellent. I received samples of Azure #2 and Azure #3 from KWZ to do those reviews.

Aurora Optimas: What Do We Say to the God of Fountain Pen Problems? Not Today.

Aurora Optima fountain pens in box

Well, Fountain Pen Follies did not enjoy a great start to the week, what with finding yucky stuff in some ink. However, let’s put that drear aside. Fountain pens are supposed to be fun. And here’s what I got yesterday from a very nice friend: this fantastic Aurora box.

Look at that gorgeous thing. Even the sun is happy to see it.

The box is wood on the outside and soft fabric on the inside. It’s like a luxury hotel room for fountain pens. And here are my Optimas, all moved in.

Aurora Optima fountain pens

From left to right, that’s the 365, the Sole, the Emerald Green Auroloide, the Blue Auroloide with gold, the Demonstrator with chrome, the Demonstrator with red, the Burgundy Auroloide, the Nero Perla and the Blue Auroloide with chrome.

I am waiting for the Monviso, which should come out in a few weeks.

And after that, I’ll still have ten spots to fill. It’s going to be fun. So check back in ten years.  Just calendar that in now.

A Peek at the Pen Cups


My pen cup runneth over.  Both of them. And they show what’s going on here for the next week or two.


I’ve got four Kaweco Sports inked right now.  Three of them contain inks I’m going to be reviewing, or might be reviewing or really thought I’d already have finished reviewing.  Those pens are blue, clear and purple, respectively.

The other is my new AL-Sport.  Which is new.  I am not sure I expressed that clearly enough.  I meant, new!  Well, actually, newest.  Newest!


Does that photo up above look sufficiently dark and mysterious?  Good.  There are two pens there that I think are going to be pens of the week this very week, so I don’t want to give away too much now.  I hope it’s just like Pretty Little Liars here, in terms of suspense.  So you can tune in tomorrow, when I reveal “A.”

Fountain Pen Favorites for February 2016


We have an extra day this February, which means I’m celebrating with an extra post.  Sorry, readers!  But let’s do an Oscars theme, in honor of yesterday’s Academy Awards.

The “Mad Max: Fury Road Sweeping All Categories” Award goes to KWZ Ink.  I’ve only reviewed four KWZ inks this month, I think, but I’ve got at least two more in pens right now.  This mighty little brand continues to impress me: beautiful inks, different styles, all so easy on my pens.

The “Gosh, That ‘Room’ Kid Has Gorgeous Parents, Too” Award goes to MY63’s beautiful leather pen cups. Here and here. Put them next to his wonderful leather pen cases, and the whole family is beautiful.

The “Chris Rock Rocks” Award goes to Lamy, a company that certainly could diversify past the color green, but at least is finally making its fans happy with a forthcoming purple Safari.  Now on preorder, by the way. I’ve seen a lot of people excited about that purple Safari, and about the Charged Green Al-Star that arrived this month. It’s nice to see people excited about pens.

A Pen Case Just for Kaweco Sports


What is that interesting bit of red and black up there? It’s the coolest leather pen case/pen cup. Michael at MY63 Leather made it just to fit four Kaweco Sports.

Kaweco Sports are mini-pens, smaller than normal when capped, and then normal size when you post them to write with.  But because they are shorter capped, when you put them in a regular pen case or pen cup, they tend to get a little lost in there.

So Michael decided to make a cup or case that fits Kaweco Sports exactly.

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