The Three-Pen Collection for $1,000

Anthony, of UK Fountain Pens, recently published a thought-exercise: The three-pen collection for £1,000. This led me down a long and winding (but fun) path last Sunday. When I thought I was done I had instead created something closer to an update to my Perfect Penvelope post from 2017. I jettisoned the three pen limit early on in the process, and the number of pens grew. Eventually I turned that winding path into a circle, got back to beginning, and kept the three pen constraint.

The three pen constraint was interesting, and made things harder. I also made the budget an even $1,000 rather than converting the £1,000 to $1,382.94 (Sunday’s exchange rate per Google). I might have made different choices with the higher cap. There would have been room for a Sailor King of Pen. But with the lower limit the other two pens would have to have been cheap Chinese pen bought on eBay, so the KOP wasn’t an option. (One less thing to think about.) To be honest, it probably still wouldn’t have made the list.

I have no complaints about Anthony’s choices. The Lamy 2000 is not a pen for me, but I can’t argue against it’s inclusion. For my choices, all dollar amounts are regular retail prices, rounded up to the next $10 increment, to make math easy. I limited my choices to pens available as new from authorized US retailers, not eBay, Amazon or other grey-market resellers.

The Pens

Here are my choices…

The Three Pen Collection: Kanilea Kona Cherry, Esterbrook OS Estie and Lamy Aion
The Three Pen Collection for $1000

My first choice is the most expensive of the three. A Kanilea Kona Cherry, with an extra-fine nib. The fountain pen is $400. I’d go with the Classic profile and silver for the medallion and nib. I’m well under budget and lack a gold nib among my three pens. I could splurge and go with a gold nib, while remaining under the cap. I have this pen now, with a steel nib, and it’s perfect. So I don’t see the point of a gold nib.

Alternatives: None that I considered. I’d probably pick a different acrylic if the Kona Cherry went away.

My second choice is the Esterbrook OS Estie with a Journaler nib ($240). The Oversize Estie is comfortable in my hand and I enjoy the Journaler nib. There’s a nice selection of acrylics, and a growing number of custom nibs for the OS Estie. Even with a custom acrylic, and custom nib the Estie Oversize tops out at $360, although the higher price versions don’t appeal to me. This does exclude the announced, but as yet unavailable Accutron Limited Edition, which is a collaboration with the watch company, and costs $600. It’s not just the price that keeps me from including that pen, so my budget cap is safe.

Alternatives: None. Availability, and finding a nice design, shouldn’t be problems.

My third choice is the workhorse of the bunch, and only $80, the Lamy Aion with an extra-fine nib. It’s an all-metal pen that’s built like a tank (although the cap on some models may spin a little too freely). Any Aion will qualify, but I love, love, love the Dark Green model. The nib is a contender as the best extra-fine nib that I have.

Alternatives: The Dark Green is limited in a sense, it’s a 2021 Special Edition. They’ll make them for a while (maybe stopped already) and once they sell through the channel they’ll be unavailable. Earlier Special Editions took about 2 years to become scarce. I really like the Dark Green. If the Dark Green was unavailable I’d consider other finishes.

The total cost of my three pens is $720. I do luck out a bit. I don’t like the more expensive Estie models very much so, I don’t feel compelled to spend more.

Other Considerations

While I like extra-fine nibs, I’m not pleased with having two out of the three being extra-fines. The Lamy Aion is locked in because it’s my workhorse pen. I’d consider getting a fine nib for the Kanilea, then getting a custom left-oblique grind. I’d still be under the cap. But that would only be if I was starting from scratch with these three pens. Since I use the Kanilea at my desk, with proper posture (mostly), it’s well suited to the oblique grind, which is my favorite custom grind. I do like variety in my nibs.

In the beginning, the Pilot Custom 823 seemed to be a solid choice as one of the three I’d be picking. It’s a great writer that I can use forever without my hand getting tired. But, I absolutely hate the aesthetics. I don’t like gold trim and I don’t like colored demonstrators. While there is a clear version in Japan, it still has gold trim. Then I realized the Lamy Aion is another thin-nibbed pen that’s a great writer and I can use forever without my hand getting fatigued. In this case, I love, love, love the aesthetics.

A wooden Pilot Vanishing Point (aka Capless) was also on my list for a long time. It’s practical, and nib swaps are simple. But they’re no longer available here in the United States. I could easily order one from a European retailer, and it would cost less than the Kanilea. There’s no U.S. Customs charges and European pen retailers have very reasonable shipping rates to the U.S., unless Covid changed that. Although, with the Vanishing Point, I would cheat and add additional nib units & custom grinds, while technically respecting the three pen limit. I figure the budget would allow an additional two nibs/grinds. It would be a tempting change if there weren’t artificial constraints. The practical side of my brain would want the Vanishing Point, the rest of me would want the Kanilea.

I really like the look of many Visconti and Leonardo fountain pens. But I found that I eventually get bored with their designs and wanted to move on. None of their pens were seriously considered for the collection.

At one point my list had two Pilot fountain pens (Custom 823 and wooden Vanishing Point). Both were eventually cut from the list. I do like Pilot nibs.

If I had converted the £1,000 to US Dollars (about $1,380) I might have made different choices. For one, there would be room to consider a Sailor King of Pen. Consider, but not necessarily pick. I refuse to spend more time thinking about this, but my gut tells me that the KOP wouldn’t replace one of the others, even if the budget allowed.

What are your three fountain pens for $1,000 (or £1,000)? Be careful, it could be said I wasted far too much time on that simple question.

Pens For Sale

I’ve picked another group of fountain pens to put up for sale. I find I like turnover and variety, so I’m selling some off to fund future purchases. Full detail, and more pictures are on the sale page. A representative selection is shown below. EMail me at ray@fpquest.com to buy a pen. The first firm “I want it” gets the pen. Questions are welcome, but will not hold the pen.

The form that was previously on the sales page was broken. If you used it recently, I did not receive the info. Please send me an email. I apologize for the inconvenience.

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.