I just received back the pens pens I sent out to Mike Masuyama. This was the first time I’ve sent pens out for work so I figured I’d recap the experience.
I’d recommend having nib work done at a pen show if at all possible before sending any through the mail. Nothing beats experiencing the work first hand and it will help you describe what you want done from long distance. I had several nibs done at shows before sending these out. I learned what types of questions were asked and what my answers should be to get the nib I wanted. It also helped me learn that the flow I liked was drier that any of the nibmeisters considered normal or how they would adjust it left to their own devices. Although this time out I’d be going for a wetter flow than I have in the past.
Since I’m unlikely to get to any pen show this year I decided to send out some pen. here’s the steps I took and these should work for most nibmeisters out there.
Pick the Pens to Send
Not every pen needs nib work. In my case I had three pens that needed adjustment for flow or nib issues. I knew I’d like the pens more after they were adjusted and I didn’t trust myself to do it. I actually also decided to get one of these problem pens ground to an ultra-fine. Another was a nib to which I wanted to add some character. The fifth was a pen I bought knowing I’d probably need to get the nib ground down but it was still worth the price.
Pick a Nibmeister
The website “And All Other Tasks” has a good article about differences in nibmeisters. If you can’t get to a show you can research nibmeisters in forums or on their website. If you’ve never used the specific nibmeister before start of by sending one pen just to be sure their work suits your writing style, even for a top tier nibmeister. When researching your choice, pay attention to the turn-around times. For some they can run into months.
I picked Mike Masuyama for this set of pens. I really liked his thin Franklin-Christoph nibs that I received. He also did a broad stub for me (at the Washington DC show) which I liked. The stub nib is a bit finicky in that it’s less forgiving of rotation or a lazy grip. That said, it’s an extremely nice writer. One of the pens is a broad nib I wanted stubbed. I considered not sending this to Mike and picking someone else to get some variety, but decided he’d get this pen too but it would be a wetter writer than the first one.
Contact The NibMeister
This is just good business practice even if they have a website that answered all your questions. Ask any questions you might have and verify your info such as pricing, turn around time, and shipping address is correct.
In my case Mike had the info on his website but I had a couple questions about the Balance II Aspen to be sure it was something he could look at. He also confirmed that I shouldn’t send the pens to arrive before he returned home.
Mike had a form on his website to print and fill out with the pen information and to describe the work. I filled it out and was specific about what I wanted. I wanted these pens to be wetter than I typically want so requested a flow of eight on a scale on one to ten. I also mentioned that I’m a righty with a light touch. For the Aspen I went into the detail and included that the pen would write OK for over a page before having the problem.
I’m a bit obsessive about packaging. The pens went into some pen cases I had available for protection. I included the converters but nothing else. Then these went into a plastic gallon bag to protect against water, along with a index card with my contact info. I also included a copy of the instructions for Mike in the plastic bag.Then all that went into the shipping box with lots of packing material. That was topped off with another card with my contact information and the instructions for Mike so they would be seen as soon as the box was opened.
Shipping – To Insure or Not
I sent my pens via USPS with signature confirmation so they wouldn’t be left on a porch. I debated insurance and decided to insure 4 of the 5 pens. It was relatively cheap and I figured at the very least they’d get better handling/tracking. I didn’t insure the fifth pen because I didn’t have a receipt for the purchase which would have been needed for a claim.
Arrival – Nib Work – Return
Mike let me know the pens arrived. I inquired about the turn around time. Since he had been traveling I hadn’t asked before shipping them. His estimate was close enough that I never had to follow up. But I’d encourage you to feel free to follow up if the estimates aren’t met.
He sent me the bill and I paid through PayPal and he shipped them back the next day which was just before the LA Pen Show and they arrived on Saturday. naturally, it was late in the day so I waited anxiously so I could sign for them and not have to wait until Tuesday when the post office reopened.
Despite having an assortment of inked pens I couldn’t resist. I inked them all up to see the results.
Sheaffer Balance II Aspen – I had sent this out to fix a flow problem that made the pen unusable. I liked the nib even though it was a medium, so there were no changes beyond the adjustment. The pen was filled with Montblanc Bordeaux ink and was used to write the draft of this article, which is about twice as much as it wrote before being sent off to Mike. So I call this one a success and have been using it enough that it should be my next pen review.
Lamy 2000 with a fine nib – This pen was new to me and suffered from a scratchy nib upon arrival. From what I read this isn’t all that uncommon. Rather then send it back I sent it out for adjustment. The result? OMG! The nib is now incredibly smooth and the pen has a nice flow letting me use a light touch. I need some more time with the pen but this could become one of my favorites and a regular in my rotation.
Pelikan M620 Shanghai with a broad nib – This was sent in to be stubbed. This is the second Pelikan broad nib that Mike has stubbed for me. I requested a wetter flow for this one. It’s got some nice variation. With a wide nib I’ll need to get used to the wetter flow, but it is what I asked for. Because it is a broad, wet nib it’s not one I’ll use for every day writing but it’s a nice addition to my fountain pen arsenal. As my tastes are changing I suspect this will be a nib I’ll use a lot in the future.
Omas 360 Vintage LE Turquoise – This was sent in to be ground down from a medium to a fine nib. This was a DC Pen Show purchase and a medium was all that I could find. The price was good enough so that even the cost of a nib grind would still make it a fair deal. Some mediums are OK for me but this was much too wet for me. So I had it ground down to a fine nib. There’s some nice flex left in the smooth nib and it’s still a wet writer, but now that it’s a fine it’s a pen I can use.
TWSBI Micarta with a medium nib – This pen was ground down to an ultra-fine. I absolutely hated the way this pen wrote, even though I like the industrial look of the Micarta. The result is a nice smooth ultra-fine. Although smooth is relative to the paper since the thin nib can stab the page or catch on fibers. Of all the nib work, this was the most expensive at $40. I’m glad I decided to invest in the pen rather than writing it off.
I shipped the pens out January 9th and got them back on February 15th, so they were away just over 5 weeks. It was well worth the wait and the price, in my opinion. I’m extremely happy with the results. The Sheaffer Balance Aspen writes problem free, worthy of its looks. The Lamy 2000 is absolutely incredible compared to how I first got it. Both are thanks to some “simple” adjustments made by an expert which was a bargain at $20 per pen.
The Omas 360 and TWSBI Micarta went from pens I’d rarely use to pens that I’ll use frequently. The Pelikan is another nice broad stub.
Like I said, I really like the results.