Made In America

One of my first jobs was as a computer network tech and one customer was Sikorsky, the helicopter maker. It was cool walking down the factory floor watching the helicopters come together in my own backyard. While fountain pens can be made in smaller factories I still have an affinity for ones made in my home country. There’s not a lot to choose from but I like the options.

While several pen companies are U.S. based or have a U.S. headquarters only a few manufacture here. These are the U.S. made pens I’ve accumulated.

Bexley Pen (www.bexleypen.com)

Photo of the Bexley Pen 2007 Owner's Club pen
Bexley Pen – 2007 Owner’s Club in Mahogany

Bexley is oftern described as the last U.S. manufacturer of fountain pens. As we’ll see, that’s not entirely true, although they may be the only one that can be described as a major manufacturer.

I bought my first Bexley pen in October of 2005, a orange Bexley Submariner. Unfortunately it’s one of two fountain pen I’ve ever lost (The other being a Lamy Safari). At the time I lost it, it was my favorite pen and it always had ink in it.

The Bexley Imperial I added in July is the fifth Bexley in my current accumulation. I like most of the Bexley designs and the pens have held up well. Three of them are ebonite/hard rubber pens which is a particular weakness of mine. I have two of the 2007 owner’s club pens (both hard rubber), in addition to an ebonite Imperial, an Intrepid and a Poseidon.

Franklin-Christoph (www.franklin-christoph.com)

Photo of the Franklin-Christoph Model 25
Franklin-Christoph Model 25

While their website doesn’t specifically say all their pens are made in the U.S., the ones I’ve accumulated have been. They also have a manufacturing facility in Houston, TX according to their website.

While I just learned of F-C this year, I’ve already added four of their pens to my accumulation. The workmanship has been great and they feel solidly built. But with less than six months experience I can’t speak to their long term durability, but my expectations are high. Especially since they offer a lifetime warranty.

Edison Pen Co. (edisonpen.com)

Photo of the Edison Collier pen
Edison Pen Co – Collier in Antique Marble

Edison is another brand that is new to me this year. It’s a one man operation, but since the guy is in Ohio they are certainly American made. Like the other pens I’ve mentioned, the workmanship and quality is great. I haven’t had them long enough to know their durability, but my expectations are high. I have the Collier, Herald, Nouveau Premiere and a Pearl.

Gate City Pen

Photo of The Belmont Pen
Gate City Pen – The Belmont Pen

Gate City Pen is a brand created by Richard Binder. Their tagline is “Modern Pens, Vintage Flair”. The three Gate City pens I have were clearly made by Bexley although the designs were unique (I assume Richard does all the design and Bexley manufactures). I have the New Dunn Pen, the New Postal Senior, and the Belmont. All Gate City Pens have unique fill systems. Well, unique to modern pens since they’ve vintage inspired.

Wrapping Up

It’s nice to see quality pens made in my home country. I’ve no complaints about the quality and don’t regret any of the acquisitions. But that last sentence can also be said about many non-US made pens.

Any other American manufacturers out there? Anyone else have an affinity for fountain pens made in their home country?

Ink Notes: J. Herbin Lie De The

Photo of a Lie De The ink bottle
J. Herbin Lie De The Ink Bottle

I like brown inks and the first time I saw J. Herbin Lie De The ink I thought it was destined to become my standard brown ink and one of my overall favorites, even though Google translate says the name is “Dregs of Tea” in english. The ink hasn’t met this expectations in my own use.

The ink doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. The color varied widely across the two pens I used and different types of paper. Sometimes the ink looks like yellow mud and other times it’s a nice brown. Some uses may benefit from the variation (drawing, calligraphy) but not the standard writing that I do.

With my preference for fine nibs I don’t expect a lot of shading in the line. While I do get variation, it’s not shading. The variation is in the color the ink decides to be at the time. Even though I’ve been disappointed so far I did get a full bottle after using up the sample. Part of me hopes I had a bad sample or matched it with a poor choice of pens. Or screwed up some other way. I will say in the short time I’ve used the ink from the bottle it has been consistent.

Pens Used

So far I used the ink on two pens, both with fine nibs.

Edison Collier w/fine nib: Wrote a thin line that was more yellow that I like. Also frequently wrote a thin line that looked like thin yellow mud, which wasn’t easy or pleasant to read. Other times it was a good looking brown ink. I’m not sure why there was a difference since the paper type was often the same. Maybe room temperature or humidity affected it. This pen used an ink sample which may explain the differences between this pen and the others, which were from a full bottle.

Franklin-Christoph Model 29 w/fine nib: The ink has been consistent within paper brands. Unlike the Edison Collier, this pen was consistent on each type of paper. It did vary across paper. The ink has a very yellow tinge on Rhodia paper and is more brown on Field Notes and Doane paper. Nothing exciting, but no complaints either.

The ink may grow on me if it can avoid the look of mud. I’m looking forward to trying the ink in some wider nibs where the ink may get to show off its shading.

Additional Reading

FPGeeks Inkcyclopedia

Fountain Pen Networ Review

The Pen Addict (Great drawings with the ink)

Photo of a pen resting on a J. Herbin ink bottle
The J. Herbin pen bottles have a built in pen rest.

Ink Notes: Rohrer & Klingner Limited Edition Blau-Schwarz

Photo of a Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz bottle
A bottle of Rohrer & Klingner Blau-Schwarz

The Rohrer & Klingner Schreibtinte Limited Edition Blau-Schwarz is a blue-black released, as the name implies, in a limited edition. One thousand numbered bottles were distributed. To be honest, I have no idea if 1,000 bottle is a small, medium or large batch. The numbering of the bottles seems to be unique for inks. I have #132 and #140. While the box is “special” for the ink it’s interesting, but nothing special. I’ve read the the design actually damaged some of the bottle labels during shipping but mine were fine.

So far I’ve only run the ink through three pens, although only two got extensive use. Two Franklin-Christoph pens saw the extensive use – a Model 29 with a fine nib and a Model 66 with an extra fine nib. The third pen is the Bexley 2007 Owner’s Club with a stub nib. Pen specific notes are listed below.

The ink is great and I suspect it will always be available in at least one of my pens until my supply runs out. What I like:

  • A nice dark blue-back with good saturation, Not too much, what I would consider perfect.
  • Flow has bee great in the pens. It does not evaporate quickly off the nib. I can lay the uncapped pen by the pad for several minutes and it’s ready to write when I pick it up.
  • Easy to clean. So far all any pen has needed is a couple flushes with the ear syringe and all traces of the ink are gone. Unlike so other inks which take multiple flushes to remove any trace of the ink.
  • No feathering or bleed-through on most of the papers I’ve tried (Doane, Rhodia, generic copy paper). A little bleed through using the stub nib on a Field Notes Memo Book.
  • The ink could be mistaken for a black. Considering I like black inks, but not blues, I consider this a benefit.

What I don’t like:

  • It’s expensive. I couldn’t say whether the added cost is justified to amortize the cost of making the ink over just 1,000 bottles or if the price is inflated. It cost a 66% premium over the typical R&K ink price ($20 compared to $12). Still, I wouldn’t return it if I could and wouldn’t sell the second bottle for twice the amount. Blue-black inks run the gamut, but for me this would be the perfect blue-black ink.

Pens Used

Franklin-Christoph Model 66 Desk pen w/extra-fine nib: No skipping, no false starts. I left the pen uncapped 5 minutes and it wrote immediately when I picked it up. The ink drys in about 2 seconds.

[Updated: March 1, 2014] I converted the Model 66 to an eyedrop filler in November 2012. The R&K Blau-Schwarz LE has been in the inkl from that time until February 27, 2014 when it went empty and I decided to clean it out rather than refill. The pen was used consistently during that time, maybe sitting unused for two weeks at most, but usually used several times a week. I simply refilled it when needed.

There was never a problem writing, no hard starts or skipping. When it cam time to clean the pen after more than a year of constant inking it cleaned easily, with no signs of staining. (Although I must admit, due to the color any stains deep inside the barrel might be hard to see.)

A very well behaved ink I wish was not a limited edition.

Franklin-Christoph Model 29 w/fine nib: No skipping, no false starts. I left the pen uncapped and it wrote immediately. The ink drys in about 2 seconds.

Bexley 2007 Owner’s Club w/stub nib: Numerous false starts but this may be the pen since the ink flows well with the fine nibs. The ink takes 20 – 25 seconds to dry enough to avoid smudges.

Additional Reading

Ink Review on the FPN

This Week’s Ink – Sept. 16, 2012

Photo of this week's carry
This week’s daily carry

It’s another Sunday and time to pick some pens and ink for the week ahead.

Only three pens are held over from last week. Another three are new pens that arrived last week. So from left to right the pens are:

  1. Edison Nouveau Premiere LE is an ebonite pen. It’s got a fine steel nib and Diamine Ancient Copper ink. Another holdover from last week.
  2. Caran D Ache Ivanhoe is another holdover from last week. It has a fine 18kt gold, rhodium plated nib and is filled with J. Herbin Violette Pensee ink.
  3. Franklin-Christoph Model 25 Eclipse. This is a new pen that arrived last week. It’s got a .9mm stub nib and is filled with Aurora Black ink.
  4. Franklin-Christoph Model 02 Intrinsic also arrived last week. It’s got a medium italic nib and Waterman blue-black ink.
  5. Stipula Model T. The third new pen. It’s filled with Montblanc Bordeaux.
  6. Conway Stewart Marlborough Vintage with a medium nib. It’s filled with Diamine Ancient Copper.
  7. Pilot Vanishing Point Charcoal Marble 2012 LE with a fine 18k gold, rhodium plated nib. It’s filled with Mont Blanc Racing Green ink. This is my pocket pen.

I had some problems with the Franklin-Christoph Model 02. But I have to admit I didn’t clean the new pen first so that may have had something to do with it, rather than the De Atramentis Black Edition Green ink or the pen itself. I flushed it out and refilled with Waterman Blue-Black and it’s been fine.

These are my daily carries but I’ve got some additional pens inked up too, the complete list is below.

List of currently inked pens
Samples of my currently inked pens