If 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.
I’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.
The 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.
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.
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.