Fountain Pens Worth Replacing

With all the favorite pens lists from myself and others I decided to look at pens I really value. Not if they are a good value from a financial perspective, fountain pens that I value so much that I would replace with an exact copy it if I lost it. I’m not going to list all my pens, just my favorites and any others that make the cut into the replaceable category. If they aren’t listed here then they aren’t replaceable.

The question is simple: Would I replace the pen exactly as I got it for the same price that I paid? Fountain pen prices change, inflation happens and pens become unavailable. For simplicity I ignore all that. I also assume I only lost that one pen, it’s replacement competes with what I already own and every other fountain pen I could buy. So here goes:

Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age with Montblanc Ink BottleVisconti Homo Sapien Bronze Age: Hell yes, I’d sell a ~kidney~ as many pens as necessary to quickly replace the pen. I’d also pay full list price and any price increase if it was necessary.

Franklin-Christoph Model 66Franklin-Christoph Model 66: Yes, in a heartbeat. I have the basic black model with an extra fine nib. F-C has since released additional acrylics including Antique Glass (aka the Coke bottle pen) which was all the rage this year. Not for me, I’d stick with basic black. The pen is a workhorse and a fixture on my desk.

Sheaffer Balance Aspen with Sheaffer Skrip Gray Ink BottleSheaffer Balance Aspen LE: Yes, if I could. Availability would be a problem since mine was mint. But if I could I would. I have two other Balance IIs with similar nibs which would ease the pain of this loss and keep me from wanting to spend more than what I did pay, or to buy one that’s less than mint. Neither of those other Balance IIs would be automatically replaced if I lost one of them, I like the Aspen just a little more.

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo with medium left oblique nib and Pilot Blue ink (cartridge, not the bottle shown)Pilot Vanishing Points: Mostly yes. I’ll deal with these as a group. I would replace both my XXXF and left oblique nib units if they were lost or damaged. I’d also replace the Cherry Bamboo barrel (which is birchwood, not bamboo) if it was lost. I like the Maplewood but it was a Limited Edition and has a LE price. It was released before the Bamboo models so while I’d want to replace it I’d pick a less expensive variant with a wood barrel.

Edison Huron Grande Extra Fine Nib and R&K Blau-Schwarz LE inkEdison Huron Grande: Yes. This was a custom pen (Edison Signature Series) and I’d be tempted to replace it with different material. But after consideration I really like the red, white and blue flecks. It’s a nice contrast to my other desk pen, the F-C Model 66 in formal black. Plus it has a slight translucence so I can see the ink level.

Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe extra fine with R&K Blau-Schwarz LESailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe: Yes. This was a tough decision because it’s an expensive pen. I had a Sailor extra fine nib installed when I purchased the pen. This isn’t a factory option so replacement wouldn’t necessarily be easy. The nib would be a key in the pen replacement. It’s a fairly stiff nib that writes great and works well with the pen in my hand. This is one of the thinnest nibs that I have in a pen that I find suitable for very, very long writing sessions.

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann extra fine nib with Montblanc Bordeaux writing samplePelikan M805 Stresemann: Yes. This is a past member of my favorite 5 list. The nib got it kicked off the list. Even so, the M800/M805 size is perfect for me. I would check the secondary market and try to avoid paying the same price but eventually I would give in and replace it at the same price. As for the nib – I plan to have it slimmed down at a pen show in 2016. It’s not a bad nib so I think the best course of action is to have a discussion about it rather than send it off with instructions. Any replacement would probably get the same treatment. Another M805 design wouldn’t be a suitable replacement, this is it.

Edison Menlo Punp Filler with Montblanc Toffee Brown bottleEdison Menlo: Yes. This was another tough choice. I have to admit, if I actually lost his pen I may prove to be a liar and not replace it. It’s a Edison Signature Line pen with a unique filling system which means it’s pricey. But I like the large ink capacity and it’s a good size for my hand. So it made the list. Like the Huron Grande it’s a custom pen and I could change the acrylic. I’m more likely to do it with this pen but I do really like the cinnamon acrylic and would probably keep it.

Lamy 2000: No. I got this at a significant discount but did need to have the nib tuned. Even so, I still spent less than typical retail. I have a tendency to rotate this pen when writing (more than other pens) and this nib has a very small sweet spot. Sometimes I’m “in the zone” and it’s a great writing experience. Other times I find myself fighting with the pen. It’s those fights that would keep me from replacing the pen. I have too many other choices. I listed this one because it started off as a “yes” but then I realized that while I might replace it at the same low price that I originally paid, I wouldn’t go looking for it and I might skip the deal if I had my eyes on another pen or no money in the pen budget.

Pilot Custom 823: No. This is one of my favorite five modern fountain pens yet I wouldn’t replace it if I lost it. The pen is comfortable and I love the way it writes. But it’s expensive and I now have comparable pens that I find more aesthetically pleasing. I would consider a model with a different color and trim, if it existed.

History

I’ve only lost one fountain pen that I tried replacing. It was a Bexley Submariner (not the Grande) in a speckled orange acrylic that I lost years ago. I spent some time looking for a replacement because I really liked that pen but it was out of production by then. At the time I had far fewer fountain pens and wouldn’t buy one today if it became available (unless the price was right and a wave of nostalgia washed over me). I also misplaced (for a couple years) a yellow Lamy Safari. Since I had other Safaris I didn’t consider replacing it.

Wrapping Up

I was a bit surprised that I only came up with eight or nine fountain pens (depending whether or not the second VP nib unit counts as it’s own pen) that I would replace out of the 150 or so in my accumulation. I’m not sure what it means. Bad choices? Maybe, in some cases yes, but mostly I think not.

I hate repeating myself or doing things a second time, so buying the exact pen a second time goes against the grain. My tendency is to change things up, even just a little. So from that point of view finding as many as 8 surprised me a bit. I guess I’ve come up with my next favorites list or my core group of fountain pens. If I’m willing, even eager, to buy the exact same thing all over again I must like it.

Fountain Pen Contentment

Pens new to me in 2015 that upped my fountain pen enjoymentIf I had to pick one word to describe my feelings towards fountain pens as 2015 ended and 2016 kicked off it would be contentment. I am happy and satisfied with the fountain pens that I’ve been using. I see a lot of shiny new pens and my first impulse is to add them to my want list. Then I think about which of my currently inked pens it could replace (never mind all my un-inked ones). The answer is typically “none”. I began the year with thirteen fountain pens inked and there’s only one I don’t yearn to use every day, and even that one is pretty good.

My pen acquisitions have been trending down the last couple of years and only 11 fountain pens were added to my accumulation this year. Fifteen fountain pens left my accumulation, so not all pens contribute to my contentment and move on. But of the 11 I added, only two don’t make me smile when I use them. It’s a lot easier to avoid impulse purchases when I have so many good pens to chose from and can only use one fountain pen at a time. (Maybe I need to learn to write with both hands at once so I can use them twice as fast.)

The highlight of course (for regular readers) is my Visconti Homo Sapien Bronze age which I’ve used every day since it arrived. I’ve used it so much that it requires a weekly refill which is rare for me, even for a pen with a smallish capacity.

Pilot Vanishing Point Cherry Bamboo on my Roterfaden TaschenbegleiterI’ve always liked Pilot Vanishing Points but the wooden VPs brought them to a whole new level. The Maplewood was my first wooden Vanishing Point and this triggered a sell-off all but one of my metal VPs after it arrived last year. This year I picked up a second wooden VP, the Cherry Bamboo (made of birchwood despite the name). The pen is gorgeous. I took a leap and purchased it with a left oblique nib. A nib grind that I like and also seemed like a good choice for the VP based on how I grip it. I was right. While not an everyday writer for me (the nib is too wide for that) the nib and pen are a joy to use. It’s currently un-inked, but I miss it.

The Sailor Pro Gear Regency Stripe had the distinction of being on my want list for years. I finally pulled the trigger but again got a non-stock nib (stock for Sailor, but not for this pen). The Sailor extra fine nib is a thin, firm nib that I like. Another pen that makes me smile when I use it.

Pelikan Souverän M805 Stresemann Anthracite on a Pelle coverThe Pelikan M805 Stresemann caused a stir when it was announced although the excitement seems to have faded away and some quickly appeared on the secondary market. I’m still excited about it and love the appearance. I’m less enamored with the so-called extra fine nib. Ignoring the fact that it’s too wide for an extra fine it’s a great smooth writer and the perfect size for my hand. Another pen that makes me smile, although the smile will be bigger once I have the nib slimmed down at a pen show.

Two Franklin-Christoph Model 20s joined my accumulation. I like the vintage look and feel of the pens. While being nothing like my Esterbrooks they still remind me of the Esterbrooks. I place these just below the above four pens on my contentment scale. I really enjoy them but they are new so I realize they may grow less satisfying over time or be replaced by other fountain pens.

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As for the other additions to my acquisition this year – I like them all and only one isn’t a solid keeper. But they are interchangeable with other pens in my accumulation when it comes to picking a pen to ink up. They’ll see ink, but they don’t make me rush to write other pens dry so I can get to them.

Usage Patterns

This year I tried to make a concentrated effort to use a fountain pen until I wrote it dry. I stuck to it successfully. I didn’t want to suffer through a bad writing experience just to meet an arbitrary goal, so there were a few exceptions for pens & inks that didn’t work well together. But the vast majority of pens stayed inked until they went dry.

This did affect my selection of fountain pens. I inked fewer pens at the same time. With fewer fountain pens inked up I picked pens & ink that I knew I would enjoy over time. After all, it’s easier to write a pen dry when I enjoy writing with it.

This does cause a couple of dilemmas for 2016. First, I can see myself gravitating to a core five or six fountain pens. This leaves another 140 or so pens competing for just a couple other slots each month. Clearly a lot of fountain pens in my accumulation will go unused over the course of the year. The second dilemma is that I enjoy having all these pens to choose from, yet I occasionally feel guilty if I stick with a select few. I suspect my days of inking up so many pens at one time and writing them dry are numbered. We’ll see how it goes.

The Year Ahead.

I do have an Edison Extended Mina coming my way, but that could be all for the year in the way of brand new new pens. The only thing on my fountain pen wish list is a wish for a custom pen that can take Esterbrook nibs. The Esterbrook J is a little too thin and light for me to use comfortably for a long writing session, but I sure do like the nibs. There’s no existing or announced fountain pen that appeals to me as something that would enhance my accumulation.

It looks like 2016 will be a year of pen shows for me, with four potential shows on my calendar. So while there aren’t any new pens on my wish list I suspect at least a couple will find their way home with me from the shows. Atlanta and Washington DC will be the two big shows for me. Atlanta may not be big when compared to Washington DC or LA, but it will be a Pen Addict party which will attract a lot of folks and opportunities to meet, greet and learn. I’ve already made the hotel reservations. (FYI – I was able to get a better rate than what was advertised as the show rate.).

The big show, by anyone’s definition, will be Washington DC in August. I haven’t been to that one in a couple of years, so it’s time to go back. It’s too early to make specific plans, but I’m looking forward to going.

Then there’s a couple of smaller local shows, Long Island in March and Boston in September. Both are easy day trips for me so I can usually go.

If I add a pen to my accumulation this year it has to provide something I don’t have or I need to have a reasonable expectation it can become a regular in my rotation. This makes pen shows the perfect opportunity to try before I buy. Being content with the pens I have could make pen shows even more enjoyable since I won’t be equating success with acquisitions. While I don’t have any specific plans to reduce my accumulation it will probably be a good idea to sell of a few pens to finance my pen show trips. I’ll have to see where that leads, I hate parting with my pens.

But mainly, I’ll just enjoy using my fountain pens.

The Year In Numbers

As the year ends I thought it would be fun (at least for me) to look as some numbers for the past year.

The Blog

WordPress kicked off this idea by sending the annual report. I had over a quarter million views and about 80,000 visitors. Thanks to you all and I hope you found the site informative and useful. Both visitors and views are considerably higher than 2014 but views per visitor stayed at 3.21 year-over-year.

This will be my 177th post of the year. It’s 10 more than last year and more than I would have guessed, especially when I think of it as nearly one post every other day.

A thanks to my top referrers:

  1. The Pen Addict
  2. The Well-Appointed Desk
  3. Pennaquod.net

Also in the top five were Twitter and a Tumblr I run called Fountain Pen Links which is just firehose of pen related links, some of which end up in my Sunday Notes and Links.

The Pens

I added 11 fountain pens to my accumulation in 2015 and I have one more (Edison Pens group buy) paid for and due in early 2016. This continues the downward trend from last year. I never want to actually do the math to total up how much I spent, but while the number of new pens was lower this year I have to believe this year had the highest average cost per pen.

I sold or gave away 15 pens so there was a net decline in my accumulation.

I cleaned out a fountain pen 59 times during the year and have 13 inked up as I enter 2011. Most pens were cleaned after being written dry although a couple went early due to problems or extended non-use. Some fountain pens got multiple fills before being cleaned.

The Inks

I did not do a good job of keeping track of my inks. There are 156 in my spreadsheet but I suspect a few are missing.

I managed to use two bottles of ink enough to empty them – Montblanc Bordeaux (I still have more) and Montblanc Corn Poppy Red. (Yes, I like Montblanc ink.) The Bordeaux was opened last year while the Corn Poppy Red lost some to evaporation as it spent a year in an inkwell.

Number of Montblanc Bordeaux bottles that are still unopened (the most important number of all): 3

The Notebooks

This is the first year in recent memory that I used a notebook or planner for an entire year. I just wrote about that book – the Hobonichi Planner.

Doane Paper is still my most used paper brand. I filled three Large Jotters this year. Mainly work related and other notes taken while working at my desk. I also went through uncountable large writing tablets.

My pocket-sized notebook usage is way down this year. I don’t recall finishing off any of them although I have several in various stages of use.

Happy New Year

I wish you all the best for 2016. It has potential since there’s an extra day which means more fountain pen usage.

 

Giveaway Winner

Sheaffer 300 capped on clothIt took a little while but I just picked a winner in the Fountain Pen Day Sheaffer 300 giveaway. The Sheaffer 300 is going to Jeffrey in Ohio. Jeffrey write in using a Bexley “58” with a broad nib and De Atrementis Royal Blue ink. A nib size and ink color that would rarely make it into my rotation. But his writing is far better than mine so it looked good.

Jeffrey, I e-mailed you but already have your shipping address so I’ll be sending out the pen this coming week. This also means there won’t be a make-up drawing for an unclaimed prize.

I put the entries in a stack (there were 37 of them), in no particular order then I used random.org to pick a number and pulled that entry from the stack.

The winning number

Thanks to all of you who entered. I’ve yet to read all the entries but I will, starting after I post this.

 

Gift Guides

Ugly Sweater Retro 51 and Field Notes Workshop Companion GardeningI’m not a huge fan of holiday gift guides. On he other hand they do provide fodder for blogs that have been silent more often than they should.

The Pen Addict Podcast had their gift guide episode which I enjoyed a lot.

I think it was Ana (from The Well Appointed Desk) who mentioned splitting up a Field Notes package as a gift. I don’t know many people who would appreciate a Field Notes subscription or even a three pack, but last year I split apart a Workshop Companion Edition and gave individual books to people who would appreciate the theme.

While not a fountain pen, I agree with the recommendation of a Retro 51 as a introduction to nice pens. You can find many of the regular Retro 51 Tornados in many office and stationery stores. Goldspot Pens has a Coffee Themed Retro 51 for the coffee fanatic on your list. This is a Goldspot exclusive, but not a limited edition. Unfortunately it may not arrive before Christmas, Anderson Pens has a TeraByte Tornado for the computer geek on your list. This year’s holiday Retro 51 doesn’t do much for me but others on your list may like it and it’s probably more appropriate for year round use than the last year’s ugly sweater holiday pen (pictured above). This is a limited edition but with a relatively large run of 1,225 pens.

They also mentioned Dudek Modern Goods which I whole heartily endorse. I have several of his pen holders and wouldn’t hesitate to give one to anyone on my list that needs pen storage. Since they are hand made they aren’t a last minute gift and the website gives December 1st as the last order date to be sure of Christmas delivery.

Brad mentioned Keep Fresh, Stay Rad postcards from Princeton Architectural Press. I already bought a box, but for me not a gift. (Self gifting?) Unfortunately I already but some Connecticut themed (my home state) postcards and will run through those before I get to the these.

I don’t propose giving a fountain pen to a non-fountain pen user just because you like them and hope they will. But if you know someone that is interested in a good fountain pen, Ana matched up the Pilot Retro Pop Metropolitan with inks. She also recommends a matching Rhodiarama notebook. I think the Pilot Metropolitan is a great gift or first pen since the quality is high. I would add a recommendation to get a box of Pilot ink cartridges in case the person may not want to fiddle with bottled ink all the time or don’t want to use the colored ink. Unfortunately they are proprietary cartridges.

I often see a Lamy Safari recommended as a gift. I wouldn’t recommend it as a first fountain pen since some people don’t like the grip, plus I’ve found the nibs to be inconsistent.

Ed Jelley has published his gift guide which I would consider more traditional and, unlike the Pen Addict list, targeted to fountain pen users as the recipient.

If you’re into giving matched sets, Goulet Pens has put together 10 of them, each with a theme and a discount for the package.

Here in the U.S. the holiday shopping season kicks off in full force with tomorrows Thanksgiving holiday. I’ll be sitting home enjoying my fountain pens, rather than fighting the crowds. But if you’ll be shopping the Pen Addict, Well-Appointed Desk, Ed Jelley and Goulet Pens have good lists to get you going.

Giveaway Reminder & Happy Thanksgiving

Current giveaway entriesThere’s less than a week left to get your giveaway entry in. It’s probably too late (but maybe not) for those outside the US to get their entry in by Monday, but there’s still time for those in the US. I’ve received 27 entries so far, seven of them from outside the US.

I’ve been bad and have yet to rad any of the entries but plan to do so in the next few days. I also got some postcards and plan to send a reply back to you all. Postcards are small, but it’s more than I usually do and hopefully it’ll be a stepping stone to full blown letters.

To those of you in the US (or anywhere else that celebrates it) – Happy Thanksgiving!