The 2016 Washington DC Pen Show is now history. After missing the last two years I was able to get there this year. The biggest change from three years ago is that the show is more social since Brad Dowdy (aka the Pen Addict) and Carey (Fountain Pen Day) started attending. Both bring their own communities to the show which got together at a meet-up one evening. This also brings a lot of pen and stationery bloggers to the show so I’ll start with some of their stuff that gives a better flavor of the show than I could:
And many, many photos: Instagram – #dcpenshow2016
Now on to my experience. I had the weekend trader pass but wasn’t able to be there at all on Thursday, which is the day anyone with a Trader Pass can setup half a table to sell pens. That could have provided an interesting selection of pens and conversations about them. I arrived Thursday evening so I was able to get a full day in on Friday. I do hope to get some time in on Thursday the next time I go.
As usual I had my budget. I’ve only bought one pen all year and I’d sold several others so my budget was pretty significant, at least for me. I had a couple pens on my wanted list that I intended to see, but mainly I was browsing and looking for something to catch my eye. Vintage Parker Vacumatics and vintage Sheaffer Balances were among pens I wanted to see on the vintage side. On the modern side my interest was much more general and I wanted to see them all. I also wanted to visit the various custom pen makers at the show.
Friday was more crowded than I remember from three years ago, but it was still easy to move around and see the pens and talk to the sellers.
I signed up for nib work by Mike Masuyama which resulted in my only disappointment of the show. Even though it was only about 8:30, his list was already long and he never got to me.
The two pens that topped my wanted list were the Montblanc LeGrand Ultra Black and the Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen (KOP), and were both carried by Anderson Pens so I headed there early Friday. Plus, I had a ink pre-order with them.
The Montblanc LeGrand Ultras Black is a gorgeous pen if you like black & silver, which I do. The metal finial/piston knob doesn’t ruin the balance of the pen and doesn’t make the pen too heavy, at least in my opinion. I won’t rule out a future purchase since I do like the look, but it moved down on my wanted list and I decided it wouldn’t be a show purchase. I was a little concerned about the finish being prone to scratches and the pen in general didn’t reach out and pull me in. I knew I was comfortable with this decision because I never returned to look at it again.
On the other hand the Sailor Pro Gear King of Pen kept calling to me. It wasn’t an immediate purchase but I did get it before lunch on Friday. The short version is that I’m thrilled with my choice. More info is in my “This Just In” post for the pen.
I also picked up my Montblanc Ultra Black ink pre-order when I first looked at the KOP. I did the pre-order because I knew it was the only ink I wanted and I didn’t want it to be sold out. As it turned out they had it in stock at least through Sunday morning. It’s in my Visconti Homo Sapien and my first impression is good, but I haven’t used it very much.
In the afternoon I returned to Sarj Minhas’s table and ended up getting a Sheaffer Balance Oversize that I had seen earlier in the day. It’s a c.1934–35 Sheaffer Balance Oversize in a pearl grey celluloid that has red veins running though it. I love the material and it’s in pristine condition. It’s a fine nib that I should enjoy. Sarj’s prices are on the high side but the quality of his pens makes it worth it, in my opinion although I do consider it a bit of an indulgence. More information and my first impressions is in my “This Just In” post for this pen.
Sometime during the day (it all kind of runs together) I picked up three bottles of KWZ ink from Vanness Pens. I got two bottles of Gummiberry, one is the iron gall (IG) version and the other is the non-IG version. The third bottle was non-IG Green #2. I used both of the non-IG inks at the show. I noticed they had a bit of a smell (not scented, probably from the chemicals or dyes). It was neither good or bad, just there. It was most noticeable in my hotel room and it’s been less noticeable now that I’m home but I still catch it at times. The two KWZ IG inks that I have don’t have the odor. I do really like the non-IG Gummiberry and Green #2. See my forthcoming “This Just In” posts for the Sailor KOP and Fisher of Pens Hermes for writing samples of each ink.
Late in the day on Friday I realized I didn’t have any good paper to use with my new pens. So I stopped by the Franklin-Christoph table and bought a softcover A5 dot ruled pad. I’ve never used that paper and wanted to give it a try.
Friday night brought the Pen Addict / Fountain Pen Day meet-up. In addition to meeting people I won a engraved Rhodia Webnotebook. It was engraved and donated by Vanness Pens who also donated many of the other door prizes. I like winning stuff that I wouldn’t normally buy. While this notebook is well liked by others it’s not something I thought I would have a use for, so I never got one. I don’t have a lot of use for this type of notebook (hardcover) but I’ve already started using this one for drafts of my pen show articles.
Saturday was another day. It was closer to 9am when I got to the show floor and Mike Masuyama’s list was already long, so I didn’t sign up. I eventually found Dan Smith (he had relocated from Friday) and signed up with him. I was pretty far down the list since the show had been open about an hour, so I knew it wouldn’t be soon, if at all.
I did a lot of browsing and talking to custom pen makers on Saturday morning but spent the crowded lunchtime and afternoon playing with my new pens and ink, and went for a walk outside to get some air. I only made two small purchases. A bottle of vintage (1980–90’s) Sheaffer Peacock Blue, the yellow box/label. It goes with the dark red box/label version I have. It’s the only turquoise ink I like. (I generally avoid blues.) There’s a writing sample in my forthcoming “This Just In” post for my Sheaffer Balance Oversize. At first glance I don’t like this one as much, there was less variation from the ink pooling although this could be the pen or paper, both of which are new to me. The ink seems fine so I don’t blame it’s age.
Matt from The Pen Habit has some new Inky Fingers notebooks. I picked up one of the “Currently Inked” editions. I like it. The paper is nice. It’s not super-smooth like Rhodia or Tomoe River, but it’s fountain pen friendly. It absorbs the ink nicely (without bleed-through or feathering) so it dries quickly. I considered buying a second one to avoid shipping on a future purchase but I decided not to because I need to see if I stick with using it. I made one attempt to use a similar ink log a few years ago and just didn’t stick with it. I give myself a better than even chance of sticking with this one. It’s a larger book, Traveler sized, and each entry has plenty of space without getting lost in the details. If I didn’t have so many unused pocket notebooks I would have picked up several of his. The paper seems ideal for a pocket notebook – fountain pen friendly but quicker drying than slick Tomoe River paper.
As Saturday came to a close I still hadn’t had my nibs done so I decided to get my Sheaffer Balance II nibs tuned if someone was available. Joshua Lax was available, so I had him look at them. I’d never had Joshua work on any nibs before but these would be relatively simple – no grinding. He didn’t find any issues with the first one, and as I wrote with it I couldn’t either. Maybe it had some paper fibers in it or I swapped it with the identical nib without noticing. The second Sheaffer II needed a little tweaking which he did and now it’s nice and smooth. It’s noticeably, if only slightly better. I haven’t used either since the show since I have so many new pens to use. But I will ink them up soon.
As an aside, Joshua and a couple other nib workers and pen makers were missing from my nib worker, pen restorer and custom pen maker directory so I’ve added those that came to my attention recently.
I didn’t get called by Dan on Friday, but unlike Mike Masuyama he carries over his list so my turn came up Sunday morning. I had Dan work on two pens. My Pelikan M800 Stresemann extra fine was ground down to an extra fine. (I meant what I wrote, that was one wide factory extra fine from Pelikan.) And my favorite Visconti Homo Sapien was tweaked to make it just a little better. It was very good but skipped on occasion and the flow would sometimes vary slightly for no reason. I haven’t used them much since the show but the Visconti is inked and the M800 is waiting for a slot to open.
I knew Sunday would be a dangerous day. I had money left in the budget (meaning cash burning a hole in my pocket). I was susceptible to buying pens that aren’t on my wanted list.
Ryan Krusac has a new pen design, The Legend, and that was a purchase early Sunday morning. He makes pens with organic materials (most of the time) and his wood pens have interested me in the past. Mine is black walnut burl wood with an ebonite section and an extra fine nib. I’ve always thought his pens looked good, but there was always something that kept me from buying one. The designs just didn’t grab me and the ones that I’ve held have been heavy and I didn’t find them very comfortable. This was was a simple design, light and comfortable. It’s smaller than his usual pens, but big enough for me and comfortable in my hand. He probably has many designs that I’ve never seen, but this one struck me as completely different than all his other pens and is easily my favorite. I’ll have more in my “This Just In” post for the pen.
I had just gotten to my hotel room to relax and play with pens when I saw a Instagram post from Fisher of Pens showing all his green pens. All that green, I had to run right back down there. He says they were all there since Friday and I’m sure they were. The bright green ones were nice but all could have been tweaked for my personal preference. And since he’s a custom pen maker I would rather have had him make one than get one of these. I had actually intended to do this, especially since an eta was November (depending on any other orders he might get before mine). But there was one dark green (actually dark black with a green web design) in the back of the photo. If I had noticed that one on Friday I would have gotten it then. My own custom pen order probably would have been a different model but there wasn’t anything about this one that I didn’t like. The vintage celluloid material is gorgeous. More info is in the “This Just In” post for the Fisher of Pens Hermes.
I finished up my Sunday (and pen show) shopping with three bottles of ink from Anderson Pens. Montblanc Lavender Purple will fill-out my collection of regular production Montblanc inks. While the other two are from ink brands that are new to me.
Papier Plume is a stationery shop in New Orleans that bottles there own ink. (No info on who makes it, their website says it’s French, or if the formulas are unique to them.) Also, there’s no quantity on the bottle but my guess is about 50ml. Like Sailor ink bottles, it’s short and stout so larger nibs may have a problem, even when the bottle is full. I bought the burgundy ink and have really like it so far in the Ryan Krusac pen. You can see a writing sample in the “This Just In” post for the pen. which should be out if the next few days. The flow is good and it’s dark enough for the EF nib. It seems to dry fast enough since I’ve avoid smudges so far.
Bookbinder in an Australian stationery web shop (no B&M store) that sells pen and paper related items. They brand their fountain pen ink as Snake Ink with color names coming from various snakes. It’s a 30ml bottle in rather unique packaging, a brown hessian bag with draw string. I had to look up hessian, it’s a strong, coarse fabric made from hemp or jute, used for sacks. I got the Ground Rattler which is grey. Grey may not be the best color to introduce a new ink brand, but I like grey and decided to give it a try. I’ve yet to load a pen with it.
There were some things at the show that I looked at but didn’t get. The Diplomat Aero is a pen that’s gotten good reviews. I tried one and really liked it, especially the brown version. I ended up passing because it wasn’t different enough from my current pens and I probably wouldn’t use it much.
I looked at several Omas pens and really liked the material. I passed for the same reason, I didn’t think I’d use them enough to justify the price.
The Franklin-Christoph booth was buzzing all weekend. I like their leather cases and they had some nice prototype pens. I really like F-C pens but I’ve sold off several that just don’t get used. Although I may start treating them like a subscription service – buy one and use it for a year then sell it and pick up a new design at the next show.
Sailor had some samples of their upcoming inks. Since none were available I didn’t need any willpower and there were a couple colors I like.
Kobe was also there with their line of inks. Kobe ink is from the Nagasawa Pen Shop located in Kobe Japan and made by Sailor. I didn’t buy any, but there was a lot of activity at their table and several colors sold out.
People kept buying the Visconti Homo Sapien London Fog which is a gorgeous pen that I had wanted to see. It became harder and harder to resist buying one as I saw three of them being sold along with a couple others in show & tell. I managed to resist by telling myself I didn’t see it getting a regular spot in my rotation unless I kicked a pen out, which I couldn’t do. Since each one is slightly different I can now resist it by telling myself I’d want to see it first. Although honestly, I did not see one I wouldn’t keep.
While there were a lot of vintage dealers there seemed to be less vintage activity than my visit three years ago. It was generally easy to get to the vintage sellers even during the busy Saturday, while the modern pen sellers always seemed to be busy.
This post is already approaching 3,000 words so I’ll wrap it up here. I had more in my written draft of the post so maybe there will be a follow-up, but probably not. At the end of the weekend I was tired, had ink on my fingers, and considered the show to be time and money well spent.
There were many other pen & stationery bloggers there. You may find additional recaps on their sites. In addition to the previously linked sites near the top, and knowing I will leave someone out (my apologies) there was: From the Pen Cup, Gorgeous Ink, The Purl Bug, My Coffee Pot, and Inkdependence.
For those on the other coast, the San Fransisco Pen Show is August 26–28th.