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.

Black Lives Matter

I try to stick to fountain pens on this site, and certainly try to avoid politics. But, that’s impossible these days, since even basic humanity becomes political. I suppose I could bring it around to fountain pens by saying I’ve been using them to record my thoughts about current events. Which is true. But that’s not the point. The point is black lives matter. Yes, all lives matter but when I hear the “all” these days the intent is to further marginalize a significant part of our population. So, black lives matter.

It’s impossible to not write something because a) I’m a middle-aged white guy who could be viewed (you know, based on appearance) as a core Trump supporter, and b) the guy who appearances might say I support, decided to use teargas and rubber bullets against a peaceful protest so he could stroll across the street for a photo op. Although, I suspect the teargas and rubber bullets were the point more than the photo op.

Before you say that the story was skewed and tear gas was justified: Virginia State Police pulled their officers out of D.C. after the event because it “… allowed our officers to be put in a compromising position that endangered their health and safety, and that of the people around them, for a purpose not worthy of our mutual aid obligations.”

I’ve got no great words of wisdom or solutions, but things have to change. For a good roundup of human reactions and thought out responses see Kopttle.org. That’s a home page link, since no one post stands out. Actually, this one does stand out.

I have this overwhelming urge to launch into a pages long screed, but to stay on point with the only three words that matter: Black Lives Matter.

[Off-Topic] Apple Magic Keyboard Review

The Apple Magic Keyboard isn’t a fountain pen (obviously), but it is a writing implement. So, not entirely off-topic. But the reality is, I got one recently, and I want to write about it. I’ve been an iPad user since the very first one, and an iPad Pro user since its initial release in 2015. I currently have the 2018 12.9″ iPad Pro (3rd Gen). I’ve used an external Bluetooth keyboard for as long as I can remember, certainly since 2015. It was only after the 2018 iPad Pro that a significant part of my writing was done on my iPad rather than my computer.

While the current situation (COVID-19 lockdowns, if you’re reading this in the distant future) has knocked my workflow for a loop, I tended to have three distinct keyboard scenarios with my iPad. The keyboard I currently use is a Keychron K2 mechanical keyboard with Gateron brown switches and double-shot PBT keycaps. It can connect with both my iPad and my laptop. It does have the ability for a third device, but I only have two paired with it. Switching between devices is easy.

While I did have a Smart Keyboard Cover with my first iPad Pro (that may not have been the exact name at that time), I never liked using it. Besides, that one was buggy, requiring two warranty replacements after complete failure. The third one had the intermittent Smart Connector problem, and I gave up on it rather than replace it. Even without all of the issues, I didn’t use it all that much. I just didn’t like the typing angle or the feel of the keyboard.

I do have a Brydge keyboard for my iPad Pro. The one without the trackpad. I liked the feel of it, although it had many of the issues I’ll mention below. Plus, it was hard to remove from the clips that held the iPad. The little rubber protectors became a pain to line up so the iPad would fit in the clips. Because I switch between keyboard use and tablet use several times a day, this became unworkable.

All this made me hesitant with the Magic Keyboard, but it did raise the iPad a little and promised easier removal.

Another item that might be important: I don’t use a case or cover of any sort on my iPad, which is my preference.

Work Office Setup

While I’m not using the office very much these days, when I was, I’d have my 16″ Macbook Pro sitting on a Nulaxy Laptop Stand. I use a Logitech MX Ergo Trackball that also connects to both the laptop and iPad. The iPad is on a simple Amazon Basics stand off to the side. I may use the keyboard and mouse to locate a reference doc, but it is rarely used. I’m more likely to pick the iPad up and use it as a tablet, with the pencil to read and markup documents.

The Apple Magic Keyboard doesn’t work at all in this scenario. It’s much easier to toggle the switch on the keyboard in front of me rather than contort my body to use the Apple keyboard. Plus, it doesn’t fit in where I like my iPad, so it’s not suitable as a stand either. I could re-arrange my desk, but to what benefit?

While removing the iPad is not difficult, it does require two hands, despite what the ads show. Yes, the base is heavy and stable, but using one hand to hold it down is needed. There may be some exact angle and force that works with one hand, but I never found it.

So, the bottom line is that the Apple Magic Keyboard is unsuitable for how my work office is set up. I can’t see me changing my workflow to accommodate it.

Home Office Setup

This setup is pretty much the same as before the lockdown. The big difference is that I’m using the iPad for typing at my desk much more than I expected. I like physical queues to help set my work mode. I considered this desk mostly analog, optimized for pens and paper. At most, the iPad would be there for reference, minimal typing. My laptop would never touch this desk.

That has changed, as I spend most of my day at the desk. I still minimize laptop use at the desk but use the iPad much more than I expected. I’m typing this post using the setup in this picture.

Photo of my home office iPad setup

I have ordered a stand to raise the laptop higher. My neck does complain a bit after an extended typing session with the current setup. Those Apple Watch stand reminders are essential since I do have to get up and stretch before those neck muscles tighten up.

As shown in the picture, I like the iPad placed away from the keyboard, and the keyboard near me. I do move the keyboard distance (closer/further) during or between typing sessions to move my muscles around. I’m still trying to figure out the best setup ergonomically. I did try the Apple Magic Keyboard and quickly determined that the typing/viewing angle that is required wasn’t suitable for me long term.

I recently found my Apple Magic Trackpad, and it became part of my home office iPad setup. Before this, the Logitech trackball would travel, now I’ll just leave it in the office.

Coffee Shops

Obviously, I haven’t been able to take the iPad to a coffee shop, but I can make some informed assumptions based on my history. This mode is where I would benefit most from the Apple Magic Keyboard. Currently, or most recently, when I could, I would often work at a coffee shop or the library for an hour or two, just to change things up. Typically I would take my laptop, since it was easier than packing the iPad, external keyboard, and a stand.

With the Apple Magic Keyboard, it’s a safe bet that I would take the iPad rather than the laptop. Since the form factor is similar and I never type long enough for it to be a problem for me.

The Apple Magic Keyboard Itself

I sent the keyboard back because it didn’t fit in with my workflow. I wasn’t surprised, since having a keyboard attached to the iPad never really worked for me. If the Apple stores had been open, I would have gone in to see it in real life. Although honestly, I may have bought one anyway to get a hands-on look. Some other impressions of the keyboard, in no particular order:

  • The keyboard is heavy, but that didn’t bother me. It uses the weight to provide stability.
  • While the keyboard does seem solidly built, I do have concerns about long term durability. The material on the top of the keyboard feels a bit like plastic, while other surfaces are like felt and will collect dirt. I also would be concerned about the ability of the magnets to keep their strength and for the hinge to remain tight. They may be durable, only time will tell.
  • I didn’t mind the size of the trackpad, although its operation annoyed me a bit. It’s a mechanical trackpad. While it’s subjective, the sound annoyed me and sounded cheap, like plastic blocks snapping into place. While the trackpad is small, I find it very usable. I intensely disliked the click, but otherwise, the trackpad worked fine.
  • Despite being heavy, I didn’t find the keyboard lapable. To be fair, I don’t like using any computer on my lap. I can use my Macbook Pro that way, but I don’t like it. The iPad with the Apple Magic Keyboard wouldn’t balance on my lap and was unusable.
  • The typing experience was enjoyable. While not as good as my mechanical keyboard, it certainly better than any iPad keyboard I’ve tried.
  • When Apple changes the iPad design, this keyboard will become obsolete. The main concern would be the location of the smart connector. There may be a way to change the design, which Apple likes to do, while still fitting on the Magic Keyboard. But, no guarantees.

Wrapping Up

I returned the Apple Magic Keyboard to Apple. It didn’t fit in with my workflow. While it was nice, the best iPad attached keyboard I’ve used, I couldn’t justify the $350 price. Especially considering that I already had a working setup that I liked. My current setup is not as portable as I’d like, but I won’t be doing a lot of traveling in the near future.

Now that I’ve had my hands on the Magic Keyboard, I’ll be able to decide if it’s suitable should my situation change. I could then get another one, although that’s not likely to happen. It’s more likely a Gen 2 version, or some accessories will make the keyboard a better fit for me. In a weird twist, the more I use the iPad for productivity, the less suitable the Apple Magic Keyboard becomes.

For Sale: A Pair of Edisons & A Pair of Franklin-Christophs

I’m nearing the end of my fountain pen decluttering and it’s time to pass the final few onto better homes. These final four appeal to me, but my (lack of) usage history says they don’t cut it.

I purchased all the pens new and list the month I bought the pen just in case there were any changes during production that I’m unaware of. Boxes, paperwork, and converters are not included unless mentioned in the listing. These pens all have steel nibs.

Give me a firm I want it and I’ll reserve the pen for you and send a PayPal invoice. Contact me at ray[@]fpquest[dot]com or use the contact form here.

U.S shipping is $7.90 for USPS priority mail which includes insurance and signature confirmation.

International shipping has been a nightmare for me (and the recipient) thanks to the USPS east coast international mail terminal. I’ve had numerous issues with them and require insurance and tracking. There’s also a 3% surcharge on the international postage to partially cover the fees I can’t roll into the price of the pen but are significant.

Click photos for full-size images.

Four pens for sale #

Pens are listed in the same order as the photos (L->R).

Franklin-Christoph Model 02 Intrinsic (2nd Gen) (Medium Stub) – Amber-Orange & Cinnamaroon: Purchased in August 2015, this is the 2nd gen Intrinsic. I eyedropper filled this pen although there are no signs of ink stains. Excellent condition. No converter, box or paperwork. – $90 (SOLD)

Franklin-Christoph Model 03 Iterum (Extra Fine) – Smoke w/Maroon Cap Jewel w/Rhodium clip: Purchased in May 2014. Excellent condition. Includes converter. No box or paperwork. – $90 (SOLD)

Edison Collier (Extra FIne) – Antique Marble: Purchase March 2012. A large pen that does not post. Converter Included. No box or paperwork. – $90 (Withdrawn)

Edison Pearl 2012 Limited Edition (Extra Fine) – Black/Beige Swirl Ebonite: This was an FPN Group Buy in 2012. I purchased the pen as part of the group buy in May 2012. It’s number 8 of 79. The material is ebonite, No converter$90 (SOLD)