I came back from the Ohio Pen Show with several new pens, but my favorite is from Mike Allen at Woodshed Pen Co.
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musing about fountain pens, inks and the like
Gather round, folks, for a Thanksgiving story. It does not involve Pilgrims, or Native Americans or Abraham Lincoln. Nor does it directly involve fountain pens. But it relates to the latter, in a roundabout way. Also, it’s vegetarian, which is unusual for Thanksgiving.
I warn you, however: this is a dull story. But there is a wedding, some pie, and a happy ending. So I’d only need to tweak a few things to have a great screenplay. And if you soldier on to the end, I will play a completely unrelated song I like.
Today is Thanksgiving, and I’ve been planning and cooking much of the week, because there’s a lot of food to make, and it’s more enjoyable this way. Also necessary. For instance, I happen to have a pie crust recipe that is fantastic but which takes two days to reach perfect flakiness. (While I am instantly flaky. Puzzling that a pie crust is more work than a person.)
As I was doing Thanksgiving things, I was reminded of last Thanksgiving. When a little plastic piece popped off my Cuisinart food processor, right in the midst of apple-slicing or cranberry chopping or some other crucial task. This was a little plastic tab that held the cover on the bowl of the Cuisinart. Without it, the Cuisinart would not work. So this was a dramatic development.
Daughter of pioneers that I am, I duct-taped that sucker together and sped onward to culinary triumph and gustatory delight. But after Thanksgiving, I had to figure out what to do.
Our Cuisinart was a classic. Literally: the Cuisinart Classic. It was a much-appreciated wedding present, and has proved itself a stalwart machine and faithful kitchen helper. We’d named it (“the Cuisi”). And it never cut off anyone’s fingers. Last Thanksgiving was the first problem we’d had with it in more than 23 years.
My attachment to the Cuisi is, therefore, equal parts practical and sentimental. It didn’t cut off my fingers, and it had been a wedding present. We’d used it a lot. We’d moved with it into three homes. It was older than our kids. We’d grown accustomed to its face.
Also, I have the typical old person’s conviction that anything from my time is just better than anything available today. (Rationally, this is irrational. But it’s something everyone comes to believe.) “Sure this PS4 is snazzy, but back when I was a kid, we had Pong and then Atari, and those were really something. We didn’t need fancy graphics. We used our imaginations.”
Still, even putting delusions of the good old days aside, this was an objectively excellent food processor, and I did not want to replace it. So I looked at the Cuisinart website for a replacement bowl. I wasn’t sure what would fit. I wasn’t sure if I could get by with just the bowl or needed to spring for the whole bowl-cover-sleeve setup, at which point, maybe it would be cheaper to just buy a new Cuisinart. So I called Cuisinart to ask.
And first, how great for a company, in this day and age, to have a customer service number you can call, with people on staff to answer questions?
I talked to a very nice person who understood exactly what had happened to the little tab. She told me they did have a new bowl that would fit, but she added, “But your current cover and pusher sleeve won’t fit on that, because we’ve redesigned the whole thing for safety.”
Ugh. I began to silently rue my fate: safety always means expense. But I didn’t even have time to venture anything like, “I can make do. I’m not that attached to my hands.” No, she continued, it was okay. They would send me the new cover and pusher sleeve for free. It was Cuisinart that had redesigned these parts, so that was their policy.
And how great is that?
She took my order for the bowl, added the cover and pusher sleeve, and had it mailed to me immediately. At which point I had a mostly new Cuisi for Christmas cooking and all the days of our lives, once again. Which I remember happily every time I use the Cuisi. Including right now, as I cook Thanksgiving and carefully watch my fingers — which I don’t even need to worry about any more, probably, because of the enhanced safety of that excellent new bowl.
And ever since, when I have had to buy a new small appliance, I buy a Cuisinart. New coffee maker. New hand blender slash new-finger-chopper. All Cuisinart. And I will continue. Not just because they make very good machines. But because you can call a person, get help, and buy replacement parts — even for a machine that’s more than two decades old. Because they provide excellent customer service. Because they build things to last.
And that’s where fountain pens come in, in a roundabout way.
We are all different, with different budgets and needs, and we all occasionally succumb to impulse purchases. But I’ll tell you an adage we old people have learned the hard way: buy quality, buy once; buy cheap, buy twice. In the long run, that’s good for your budget and probably for the planet.
So along those lines, here is my personal opinions of four pen brands that in my experience have excellent quality, but also have provided me with the very best service and response if there’s ever been an issue with a pen. Edison, Lamy, Montblanc and Pelikan.
Now, thank you for listening to my Thanksgiving story, and for reading this entire year. Happy Thanksgiving, America. Here is something good:
Edison Custom Herald with medium nib. Here’s an old favorite pen of mine, a custom Herald by Edison in a gorgeous green-brown ebonite, with silver-colored clip and nib.
This custom Herald has a medium 18k nib, set to Edison’s usual juicy flow, which really shows off any ink. Right now I’m using it with a new-to-me ink, KWZ Hunter Green.
Hunter Green is khaki, but it’s fairly saturated, and with a wetter writer like this Edison, Hunter Green can look very dark indeed. Which I like. But the color is, of course, lighter in pens with less ink flow.
Shading is minimal. Here’s a writing sample of Hunter Green.
It is pure chaos right now at Fountain Pen Follies. That cup is so full of pens I was sure I couldn’t fit even one more.
But I needed to, because, unable to bear the suspense any longer, I opened the world’s best ink bottle and filled a Pelikan with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue.
So imagine one more Pelikan, jammed into the last empty spot, right in front.
This pen cup is now filled wall-to-wall.
What’s taking up all the room? There’s a rollerball. Also the Parker 51 and the charcoal Lamy Safari that are my everyday pens. Every other pen in there is for an ink review or other ink post that I’m working on. Except the pen that’s in there for a pen review I’m working on.
A bunch of Pelikans. A bunch of Lamy Safaris and a Vista. An Edison. Two Montblancs. A Platinum. All fantastic. Except, this is so overstuffed. I need to go on a pen diet. Or start cranking out content faster.
Or I suppose I could just move the rollerball….
Edison Hakumin Urushi Mina with extra-fine nib. This is a custom urushi pen from Brian Gray at Edison Pens and Ernest Shin at Hakumin Urushi Kobo. I am very lucky.
The pen is just gorgeous. The finish is Ki-tamenuri, which has a brown finishing coat and a yellow under-layer, which is easiest to see on the section threads.
The wonderful nib was customized as well. Brian sent it off to Mike Masuyama to be ground extra-fine. I asked for the equivalent of a Sailor fine.
KWZ Maroon is the ink. Also wonderful.
Custom Edison with medium nib. Brian Gray made me this Edison in tortoise lucite in a clipless cigar style. It features one of Edison’s excellent gold nibs in medium, which is positively cushy.
I love the material.
It’s inked with a sample from a friend of Diamine Racing Green. Made by Diamine exclusively for Missing Pen, a German eBay dealer, Diamine Racing Green is based on the discontinued Montblanc Racing Green ink.
I’ve never used the original Racing Green, but I’ve seen it in letters. This Diamine version looks lighter and greener, but it’s still a nice color, with a lot of shading, and I feel very lucky I’ve gotten to try it. I might mix some with a bit of black, to see how that looks.