Fountain Pen Quest Year-end Roundup

The past year was a bit weird for me with my fountain pen hobby. I went into 2020 with a substantial fountain pen budget, which included travel to pen shows. Then the pandemic came around. That was my first and last pen show of the year.

I made it to the Long Island Pen Show in March. That coincided with the Pandemics’ arrival, but shutdowns weren’t happening yet, so the show went on, and I attended. I did buy a pen at the show, which kicked off this year’s buying spree.

By the end of March, COVID was taking hold, and it was becoming apparent that the pen shows I was considering attending wouldn’t be happening. Or, if they did, I wouldn’t be attending. It probably doesn’t need to be said, but for the future record, some shows may have slipped in before March, but if effect, pen show season was over. I put my travel budget to use buying pens.

Additional purchases quickly followed, and I bought more pens in 2020 than I did in any year since 2013. It was the second-highest number of new (to me) fountain pens in any year.

2020 By the Numbers

Fountain Pen Arrivals: 25 (1 still in transit – I hope)
Fountain Pen Departures: 11 (4 of which were purchased this year)
Blog Posts: 73
Website Views: 83k (based on WordPress stats)
Website Visitors: 33.5k (based on WordPress stats)

Favorite Fountain Pen in 2020

Photo of my favorite new fountain pen of 2020 - The Sailor KOP Royal Tangerine.

The Sailor King of Pen Royal Tangerine, with a medium, left oblique nib, was my favorite new fountain pen in 2020. This hugely overpriced pen is comfortable in my hand and has my favorite nib style. I can use the pen comfortably for hours, and the nib is natural for the way I hold the pen. The color clinched it. My theme this year seems to have been The Year of the Bent Nib, so I did have to send this out to Mark Bacus to have the nib straightened.

photo of the Kanilea Kona Cherry fountain pen.

Runner-up: Kanilea Pen Co. Kona Cherry. It took a while for this pen and I to bond. Now it’s always inked with my favorite ink – Montblanc Bordeaux.

Most Disappointing Fountain Pen in 2020

Photo of the Sailor Pro Gear British Racing Green - my most disappointing new fountain pen of 2020

Through no fault of its own, the Sailor Pro Gear British Racing Green was my biggest disappointment. You’d think it would be one of my catch and release fountain pens, but it wasn’t. For me, disappointment is based entirely on expectations. I had convinced myself that this Pro Gear would be different, and one that I could use for hours and hours while admiring its great looks.

But no, when my hand is already tired (such as from typing all day) it can be uncomfortable to use. It’s a small pen. The added weight of the Regency Stripe version makes it more comfortable for me. I had convinced myself the Racing Green would be the same.

Still, I love the looks of the pen and will be keeping it.

Misc Notes

This year was the first time I had Mark Bacas grind any nibs for me, and I’m quite happy with his work. I also had him repair a bent nib. He has another of my pens for a nib repair, and I have a third that I’ll eventually send off to him.

Photo of the repaired oblique medium nob on my King of pen.

As the above implies, it seems that 2020 was The Year of the Bent Nib for me. I managed to bend three nibs this year. All are on pens worth saving.

I moved this website to a new host after Christmas. (This is the first post since the move.)

Plans for 2021

I bought a lot of pens in 2020. I had budgeted for both fountain pens and pen show travel. The one pen show I got to was local, so travel expenses were minimal, and I only bought one pen at that show. The pen shows I had been considering were early in the year. It soon became obvious that I wouldn’t be attending, even before the shows were officially canceled, freeing up the travel money. I put the travel money towards pens. Sure, I could have saved it for 2021, but years in Corporate America taught me to treat budgets with the rule – Use it or lose it, even if the budget is totally under my control.

In 2021 I’ll budget enough for a good fountain pen or two, but no travel. Most pen shows I consider are early in the year, so they either won’t happen or will be before I’m ready to go. I’m holding out hope for the Commonwealth Pen Show (Boston) on Sept. 12, 2021. I’ll budget for a vacation, and if there’s an opportunity, I could vacation at a pen show. It will be interesting to see if some early shows can reschedule for later in the year.

The quantity of new pens that I kept (20 or 21, depending on my long lost in transit pen) means none have gotten much use. I’ll concentrate on enjoying them, and my older fountain pens, in 2021.

2 thoughts on “Fountain Pen Quest Year-end Roundup”

  1. Do you think a thrifty fountain pen user like me should bother getting a nib ground and fine tuned? I am using Lamy as my everday workhorse. Is it overkill

    Reply
    • Hi Arthur,

      I don’t think the price of the pen matters. Lamy is a good quality pen so it is going to last (unless your experience is different). It’s a pen you like, so why not have a nib you like? I recently had a $50 nib grind put on a $19 TWSBI Go. It was a bit of an experimental grind for me. While no one likes to waste money, I was curious and wanted to try it. I didn’t want to have a more expensive pen I wouldn’t use because I didn’t like the grind. So I picked an inexpensive pen.

      Many Lamy pens (except the 2000) use the same nib, and replacement nibs are inexpensive, about $15, so they seem ideal to start with. This does assume you would prefer a different grind that the pen has. In my experience, Lamy nibs are great out of the box and wouldn’t benefit from tuning (except the 2000 I got, which did have to have its terrible nib tuned).

      The problem is – which grind? I made a mistake early on and experimented with nibs by buying multiple pens (mostlySailor, which has many nib styles). I figured I could learn to use the nibs. I didn’t. That was expensive. I did eventually sell the pens. It was still a waste of money, but I didn’t know any better. After those mistakes I learned about pen shows and I was lucky in that my first custom grinds were done at a pen show where I could talk to the nibmeister. I’d recommend this, if at all possible when pen shows return. Even with inexpensive Lamy nibs, you don’t want to get grinds you won’t like.

      Mark Bacas has some helpful videos on his site(http://www.nibgrinder.com/videos), and I’m sure others are out there on You Tube to see what other grinds are like.

      Thanks for reading,
      Ray

      Reply

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