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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I Resist Not At All: the Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange

Pelikan M600 Vibrant Orange

It was only days ago that I heaped praise on Pelikan for making excellent quality pens, and supporting fountain pen fans, and suggested that all of us might consider supporting Pelikan in return, by buying one of their excellent pens before the next Hub.

I even suggested to a commentator that he make his next Pelikan pen purchase a “really special and splashy one.”

Well, now, Pelikan has come out with what to me the M600 Vibrant Orange. And I have taken my own advice. Which is not how this was supposed to work.

But I was never going to be able to resist the Vibrant Orange. It’s definitely my favorite type of fountain pen: fun. The Vibrant Orange looks to rival only the legendary M600 Pink in fun. It’s pedal-to-the-metal, absolute “I’m not a dork even though this is a fountain pen,” full-on fun. And in the M600 size.

The only thing that could have made this any better is if it were a Lamy Safari.

And/or not $440 in the United States.

Still, it’s the pen for me. As soon as I saw the earliest announcement from a European dealer, I ordered one from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith — before it was even up on anyone’s website, before I knew the US price. Oooh, pro-tip: if you have fountain pen dealers in your cellphone contacts, these things happen.

Candidly, I’ve been hoping for this pen for years, since I first saw a Pelikan M320 in this material.

I’m getting a broad nib. More seriously, I ordered from Dan because the Nibsmith is a US dealer, and he’ll grind the nib or just adjust the flow for free, which I appreciate. Plus he’s got a little pre-order package going, including free shipping. Plus he’s a friend of the blog. Plus, he’s in my cellphone contacts.

Though apparently, that is no mark of distinction, because his phone number is right at the top of his website. Hmph. On the other hand, opportunity missed. If I can order a pizza from Domino’s by texting 🍕 I should have just ordered this with 🍊✒️ 💸.

I will refine this by next year. Until then, no more pen purchases. 😇

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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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How to Resist Temptation

It’s not even the end of January, and I’ve already been tempted with a slew of new or upcoming pens, dangled in front of me, metaphorically, via the internet. And I don’t want pens, darn it. But the weather is terrible, and I’ve been inside a lot. Also, I’m weak.

On the other hand, because I have zero willpower, over the years I have developed some excellent coping mechanisms of my own, and jealously catalogued others. And I am going to share some of those here, in hopes of inspiring myself. Or, more realistically, in hopes of keeping my attention otherwise occupied, so I don’t buy anything. (See Number 4, below.)

1. The Fifties Popular Culture Method. This is my most-used, and most recommended, method of resisting temptation. It’s simple and effective, and can be summed up in one word: “Don’t.” Don’t resist at all. Give in, immediately. The key is to do so wholeheartedly. You don’t beat yourself up; instead, you congratulate yourself. You aren’t an undisciplined profligate; oh no. You are madcap, fun-filled and aglow with the love of life. You “seize the day.” You embody the mantra that “we only live once.” You never forget that “life is a banquet!”

Your spiritual home is a bar in the French Quarter of New Orleans. Your song is “Que Sera, Sera.”

2. Reason, Maturity and Proportion. This is where you stop yourself, take a deep breath, and really contemplate “why” you “need” this thing. Why, in a world so beautiful, in a lifetime that’s so short, where every breath you take could be seen as a miracle, where every sparrow’s fall is consequential — and where you already have more pens and inks than a person can use up in a lifetime — does acquiring another “thing” matter?

Your spiritual home is a gorgeous, mountain-side monastery, and your song is “Every Grain of Sand.” (This is not my usual method, but I do love that song.)

3. Delay. This is pretty easy, and especially suitable for those, like me, with a short attention span. Now what was I saying? Oh yes, delay.

Here’s how it works: something is announced and you see it on some social network site or other. Your perfectly normal reaction is, “Ooooh, shiny. Want!” You should absolutely feel free to start looking for it immediately. But I want you to attack that task with determination; I want you to give it your all. Spend a lot of time. Figure out who has it, what the price is, how much shipping would be, what nib size you want, what your friends think, what your “not really friends because they are mean to you about your choices” friends think, what other people (complete strangers using anonymous handles like “LuvFurPens”) think about it, what other stores have it, then whether the nib size you thought you wanted is really the right one, then whether there’s a converter that fits, then rethink the nib size and maybe reconsider the ideal color a few more times.

And then — and this is critical — next you have check how much it is at a store abroad. Keeping in mind that, wherever you happen to live, it will always be cheaper somewhere else.

At which point, you absolutely need to do some more sleuthing, but this time, at online merchants in other countries. Translate some words from languages you do not speak, do the currency conversion, figure out international shipping costs, do the currency conversion on that, too, then figure out if you can add a few things to justify the international shipping, then figure out if you can add a few more things beyond that, so you have enough to qualify for free international shipping. Now, with your cart full of $150, or €75 or £50 worth of items — now, and only now — you can pause. In fact, you must. This is now not just buying some small item that caught your fancy. It is now a Bigger Deal. You need to give yourself time to think. You started out looking for a $20 pen or a $15 bottle of ink; now you’ve got €150 in your cart.

Better start all over again. At a minimum, is it really cheaper when I buy everything? Maybe some of those things are cheaper elsewhere, so the whole basket would be cheaper from another merchant. Or, maybe I should just buy it in my own country and pay the slightly more expensive $20 price, but only get that one item. And maybe I need to compare a few stores right here.

But then, once you’ve settled on a source in your own country, and you’ve got it in your cart — well, of course, now, once again, you should pause.

If it all worked properly, you now have at least two carts full, with merchants in at least two different countries. And, by this point, the minutes have ticked past, perhaps bled into hours. Uh oh. You probably have to do some real work, or make dinner or do chores, or maybe you’re slated to have some actual in-person interaction pretty soon. And maybe, if everything took a good long time, you now feel disenchanted with the stupid item anyway. It cost you all that time, after all, and you still don’t have it. Stupid pen/ink/notebook. Now you’re behind on everything, just because of that stupid thing. And wait, do you really like the color burnt orange? Or a medium nib? Who wants a medium nib? Just forget it. You can go back tomorrow.

And probably, the next day, you won’t even remember that you had to have that thing. Or, if you do remember, you’ll think, meh, it’s not such a big deal anyway. I’m pretty sure I hate the color burnt orange. Maybe I’ll see it in my next club meeting/pen show/trip out of the house. And then I can decide.

Your spiritual home is the internet, and your song is “Lost in the Supermarket.”

4. Deflect and Distract. You can’t buy something if you do something else. Clean your desk (ugh, me lately, and okay this stinks — forget I mentioned it). Better is to read a book. Listen to music. Open the Poetry Foundation’s website: start with the poem of the day, then explore. Talk to a friend. Email an old friend. Find a new recipe to make for dinner tomorrow. Figure out the movie schedules this weekend. Invite a nearby friend over, or out for coffee. Turn on the tv (maybe the Blackhawks are playing). Do laundry. Clean the basement or a closet. Go to the library. Take a walk. Read a blog. Write a blog. Write a comment on a blog! Ah, that’s excellent. Life is beautiful.

Your spiritual home is a seashore at sunset, and your song is (Sittin’ On) the Dock of the Bay.

5. Self-Discipline. In which you look at all the pens and inks you already own, and realize you should just use those instead of buying something new.

Your spiritual home is a cabin somewhere off the grid, not connected to the internet, and you have no song, because that would require electricity. I find you inhuman.

What I Bought in 2017: Inks

2017 inks purchased

I bought 10 different bottles of ink in 2017 — one is not pictured, because I forgot it.

Buying only 10 bottles is pretty good for me. If I can be immodest, I slayed. Okay, sure, if I cast a critical eye, I could have done without four of them. Unsurprisingly, all four of those were inks I bought without sampling first. But you can’t be too strict, or you’ll never have any fun. Leave room for serendipity and surprise. Also, cut yourself some slack, because no one else will.

I did much better than in 2016, when I bought 20 bottles, and 2015, when I bought 30 bottles. If this trend continues, I will buy zero bottles in 2018. Now, that may be because I’ve been hit by a bus, but nothing lasts forever.

Here are the inks I purchased in 2017, by brand.

KWZ: (2) I bought both Chicago Blue, the 2017 Chicago Pen Show ink, and Confederation Brown, the 2017 Toronto Pen Show (Scriptus) ink. I have very limited interests, obviously.

I really love Chicago Blue, and I use it constantly.

Now, Confederation Brown in an ink I haven’t used myself, but I have seen a lot of photos online. It’s a green-brown sort of color. Everyone I know likes it. I trust it will behave, because it’s a KWZ Ink.

You know, though, ink color is a personal thing. Many people apparently can’t get enough green-brown. But I’ve realized, as I stare at my bottle of Confederation Brown, that I feel pretty “set” when it comes to green-brown inks. And I think I would have been just as happy with a sample of this.

I’m quite sure, however, that I’ll eventually sell or trade this bottle to someone who loves it, so I don’t totally regret the expenditure. Also, supporting KWZ Ink and Scriptus is good. As is supporting the Chicago Pen Show, by the way.

Lamy: (1) I actually forgot that I had this one — Lamy Petrol. I bought it months ago, and I guess the ink wan’t very memorable. It’s not even in the photo.

I do like it. Lamy Petrol is a very dark teal, a perfectly good ink. But I like it for a reason that will not resonate with many people: I like because it’s not spectacular. It is business-like and easy-to-read. It’s a nice blue- or black-ink substitute.

Lamy Petrol was very hard to get in the US. I bought my bottle from a European dealer, just to make sure I had it for our Chicago Pen Show Ink Testing Station. That was wise, since Petrol didn’t arrive at US retailers until after our show, and then only in small quantities. US buyers didn’t really get a fair crack at Lamy Petrol. Artificial scarcity like that irks me.

I bought four inks this year without sampling first — Lamy Petrol is the only one where I’d still have bought the bottle if I’d sampled it.

However, I didn’t like it enough to pop for a second bottle at regular retail, when I could have. Therefore, I did a double-take, a few hours ago, when I read that this ink is selling for multiples of the original price on the US secondary market. Guffaw.

Seriously, don’t.

Papier Plume: (5) The ones I bought were Pecan, Oyster Grey and Moss Green. Plus the limited edition Chicago Pen Show inks Lake Michigan Summer and Ivy 108, because, you’ll remember, I have very limited interests.

These are excellent inks, well-behaved, easy-to-clean, in beautiful, sophisticated colors, from a small boutique with wonderful customer service, run by great people. They are reasonably priced. I use these inks frequently. I will buy more when they run out.

Pelikan: (1) Pelikan Edelstein Smoky Quartz. I use, like and recommend Pelikan inks. If you like this one, go for it.

Now, for me, this one is …. Well, it’s brown. I enjoy brown inks as much as the next person, but I don’t use brown inks as much as blue or black inks. And this one costs $28 a bottle, and I, well, I…. Um.

I guess the best thing to say in this situation is, Wow, that’s something.

Smoky Quartz is an ink I bought without sampling first. In retrospect, that was a mistake. Especially because, as luck would have it, Pelikan very generously gave Pelikan Hubs attendees a free bottle of Smoky Quartz. So I now have two bottles.

Wow, that’s something.

Robert Oster: (1). Robert Oster Tranquility is an ink I bought at the Chicago Pen Show. I just took a stab, and bought a bottle I’d never tried.

In retrospect, this was a mistake on one level, because Robert Oster makes so many other colors that I had tried, and already knew I liked. However, everyone loves Robert Oster inks, so I’ve nearly emptied the bottle giving samples to others. Whereas, if I’d bought an Oster I loved, that bottle would still be 95% full, nearly wasted on my shelf. So, this has turned out to be a very successful purchase. It hopefully brought pleasure to many.

All’s well that ends well.

Ms. Fountain Pen Manners: How to Respond to Someone’s Vile New Pen You Absolutely Hate, And More

It being Black Friday weekend, and the kickoff of the holiday buying season, there are a lot of new pens floating around social media. Pen makers and dealers are posting them, your friends are posting them, and every Instagram account or fountain pen forum has people posting them.

As this time is upon us, I shall now put on my “Ms. Fountain Pen Manners” hat. This is how a person with good manners responds to someone’s vile new pen they absolutely hate, or someone’s attractive new pen that comes in a box they don’t like, or whatever tricky situation arises.

1. A new pen arrives in dealers’ hands and hits Instagram. The color repels you; the material is garish. It’s awful. But your friends go gaga for it.

You want to say, “What’s wrong with you?! Are you high? That is molten aqua/orange/violet nightmare-fuel.”

Readers, that’s probably a tad harsh. Instead, try to dial it back, with the non-committal “Wow.” Or, the honest “Colorful!” Or, the trying-to-be-positive “I love the rhodium trim.” Or, if you think you can get away with it, “Bless its heart.” The latter is a favorite of Ms. Fountain Pen Manners, because Ms Fountain Pen Manners delights in throwing shade.

2. A company issues a pink pen, in a tacky box, targeted at women. You, being a person who hates pink, is of obviously superior intelligence and thus has appointed herself the Queen of What Every Other Person Should Like, object to the pink pen’s existence.

You feel you have to say, “This pen demeans and insults women. Why do companies think women like pink? It’s an outrage.”

Readers, this situation is one step more difficult. Because, first, you have to get your head out of your ass. Only then can you trot out the “Wow.” Or, “Colorful!” Or even, “Bless its heart.” Or, if you absolutely must register your objection to a pen that is pink, try something honest but respectful, like, “I’m not a fan of pink, myself, but it’s nice to see something different.”

See how easy that is.

3. Someone you know, perhaps Ms. Fountain Pen Manners herself, has bought two gorgeous pens, but both are white.

You want to say, “What’s wrong with you? You know they make pens in colors now, right? Why two white pens? Do you have two favorite white inks?”

Readers, this appears challenging, but it’s actually pretty easy. No, you can’t go with “wow” or “colorful” here. But try, “How refreshing.” Or, “You don’t see that every day.” Or, “So useful: that would work with any ink color.” Turn a negative into a positive; that’s the essence of good fountain pen manners.

4. Everyone you know hates the Lamy Safari, and loves saying so, over and over. Online, in blog comments, in personal emails, in texts, and right to your face in personal conversations.

You just want to say, “Oh shove it up your patootey.”

Well, readers, I’ve considered that fully, over the course of many long years. And I have finally reached a ruling. It is okay, in this one situation. Alternatively, you could go with, “You are wrong, and your taste is bad.” Either would be perfectly appropriate.

It Is a Very Good Thing I’m Off Pens

Okay, I was supposed to be enabling everyone else last week. So what the heck? How is it fair, or right, for people yesterday to start enabling me? That is not how this is supposed to work. I am officially “off pens.”

But if that happened, hypothetically, and those very bad people did that, it’s possible I ended up buying another pen yesterday. But that probably would be okay, right? Because it’s totally their fault.

And then, if you think about it, I actually saved someone else from having to buy it. I mean, looked at a certain way, that’s helping others. Maybe, and I’m just going to say it, maybe I am a hero.

Which means, and again we’re talking hypothetically, if there were two pens, I’d be twice as good, right?

Well (and maybe don’t listen to this part) but what if there was a mechanical pencil, too? That’s a little harder to just glide over, perhaps. Maybe we’re on shaky ground when we come home with three writing instruments, when we are “off pens.” But if the pencil was included, say, in a set, then maybe it shouldn’t even count. I didn’t seek it; I had to take it. Also, looked at a certain way, I kept a family together; I did something good. Really, I’m seeing similarities to Clive Owen in Children of Men. And Pongo and Missis when they escaped with all the puppies, not just their own.

Well, wow. Good for me! Some people would reward themselves with a pen. But I’m not like that.

Deep Thoughts, of Pelikans, Lamy and Kaweco

Pelikan M605 White

1. To buy or not to buy, that is the question. For the first time in a long time, I am tempted by this new Pelikan, the M605 in white, that’s coming out in mid-October in the US.

I’ve been on the fence a bit. On the positive side, as an M605, it’s my favorite Pelikan size and my favorite rhodium trim. I like the silvery look of the stripes. The pen looks like a cross between a demonstrator and a pinstriped suit.

On the negative side, well, it is a fountain pen, and I have way too many of those already. I’d have to sell something to buy it. And it’s very white. Do I like white pens? I don’t. Though, strictly speaking, the cap and section of this “white” Pelikan are off-white, the same as on the M600 Pink and the M400 White Tortoise. It’s still going to lack any color, which those two pens have.

But I like it when I see the photo. It’s frosty.

Normally, I like to wait to see Pelikans in person before buying, because sometimes the pens look different in person. A number of excellent European stores are offering tempting prices, but without US warranty. And I’d have to buy without seeing it first.

On the other hand, I just found out from Dan Smith, the Nibsmith, that the MSRP in the US will be $475. Which means it will sell for $380 with the standard dealer discount.I think that’s still a bit more than the European price, but it comes with a US warranty. That’s incredibly tempting. Heck, that’s lower than the price of a standard green striped M600. Maybe we should all buy one quickly, before Pelikan changes its mind.

It’s a special edition, too, so not available forever.

Hmmm. Anyone else have any thoughts on this pen? Anyone else tempted?

2. Can you keep a secret? Someone I know is going to become a Kaweco and Lamy pen dealer. And I’m just super excited. Those are the two pen brands that I use all the time. The Lamy Safari is my favorite pen, and has been since it first came out. I love Lamy so much if I were seven years old some other kid would say, “you love Lamy so much why don’t you marry it?!” and everyone including me would laugh. But my laugh would be different; my laugh would be thoughtful. Because I would think it’s a pretty good idea.