Fountain Pen Quest Trail Log – Atlanta Pen Show Edition

Spurred on by the Atlanta pen show running this weekend, I had a fountain pen heavy week. Not necessarily using them, but much of what I did was fountain pen centered. In fact, while they got daily use, my fountain pen usage was down from the previous week.

Some vintage Sheaffer that caught my attention when reviewing pens.The first and last one got nib work done at the show.

On Tuesday I spent the day cleaning the pens leaving the rotation, and inspecting my vintage Sheaffer pens. I water tested all the Sheaffers and found three that wouldn’t take in water. I already had two pens in the queue for new sacs, so I resaced those two. Seven that caught my attention are in the photo up top.

On Wednesday I tested the newly repaired pens, after letting them sit overnight to make sure the shellac is really dry. Then I moved on to inking up the pens I want in the rotation. I got caught up in playing with pens, and inked up more than expected. I wrote about my pen selections here.

Inked fountain pens – post show

I’m not a heavy watcher of videos, but I did watch the Pen Addict Twitch Live Stream on Wednesday. Well, watch may be a bit strong, I listened to it in the background. This week’s streams had a pen show theme.

Thursday was spent packing for the pen show and getting ready. Plus, doing the non-pen stuff that I had been putting off so I could have more pen time.

While it wasn’t my plan, having my hands on so many pens close to the show helped suppress my urge to buy every pen that caught my eye at the show.

The Atlanta Pen Show

I’ve been a nomad since mid-January, and was able to plan a stay that was local to the Atlanta Pen show. For reference, my past pens shows have been Long Island and The Commonwealth Pen Show (Boston), both of which are smaller shows. I’ve also been to the Washington DC show, which is huge. The Atlanta show website had 47 vendors listed on the vendor page.

I arrived at the hotel a little after 8am on Friday. I bought my weekend pass and then headed next door to have breakfast at Waffle House. I was back shortly after 9am, when the show floor officially opened for weekend pass holders.

I’ve never been to the Atlanta show in the past, so I can’t compare it to past shows. While larger than Long Island, it’s still a small show. I was surprised by the number of nib workers that were here. I was also surprised to see three of them from Colorado and California. I counted five, plus Pendleton Brown who’s a niche nib worker these days. Several vendors had what I would consider a significant trip. From my memory, Anderson Pens (Wisconsin) was the only non-local vendor I saw at the Long Island show. In this case, I define local as within a three hour drive.

Foot traffic seemed light on Friday. Talking to a couple vendors they said Friday was slower than past shows. One attributed it to the local offices being closed or having fewer people working in them. Saturday morning also seemed slow to me, although I left before lunch.

This show had a much bigger social aspect than the other shows that I attended. Washington had far more people and vendor volume which helps make that one social. But for a small show Atlanta was very friendly and social.

The show puts on a Friday evening cookout for weekend pass holders and vendors. This was a good time and I got to meet and talk with several folks. Later that evening a bunch of folks hung out around the bar and lounge, having drinks,talking about, and sharing pens.

The show itself was spread across three rooms, with Yafa having a table stretched out the length of the entrance hallway. My bad guess would be about 10 Yafa tables along that hallway. It seemed like this could get congested if it got crowded. Between folks looking at Yafa pens and people moving between the three rooms along that hallway in both directions, there wasn’t a lot of extra space, One of the rooms was small and cramped, and seemed to get a little warm as Friday went on. The other two rooms were much less cramped, making it easy to get around. It’s worth pointing out that many of those 47 vendors had multiple tables.

There were also three seminars on the schedule, although I did not attend any. They were: Fountain Pens 101, American Cursive Handwriting, and Copperplate Script.

I would certainly consider traveling to Atlanta for a future show. Although the last time I tried to budget for travel to several pen shows, including Atlanta, the pandemic hit.

Now on to the material aspects of the show.

Grinds

Going into the show I knew that my primary focus would be getting nib grinds. By the time I left late Saturday morning I had four nib grinds done, and purchased a new nib which I consider the fifth grind. Several nib workers had an option of making appointments through email, although I decided not to do this and wing it, despite want to get several done.

Vendors were sparse Friday morning, but Mike Masuyama was grinding away, so I got on his list and had my first nib grind done a short time later. I had him thin one of my Lamy factory oblique medium gold nib down to an oblique fine, but with the same oblique angle.

My second nib grind was done by Damien Alomar on Friday afternoon. I’d never come across him before. I think he said that he is from Delaware, but my memory could be faulty. I had a fine nib ground to a needlepoint. The result was a nib that put down a thin line and was a lot smoother than I expected. By their nature, I expect needlepoint nibs to have more feedback (or catch on paper fibers) than a wider nib. This one was nice and smooth. I may notice more feedback as I use it on different types of paper, but kudos on the smoothness. According to his website, Damien has also done events at Betram’s inkwell in Rockville, MD. So it seems possible to have him do nib work without going to a pen show or sending him pens through the mail.

While not a grind I had done there, the Esterbrook _Needlepoint _ nib arrived late Friday afternoon and I picked one up. They are a bit expensive, but I wanted one to keep up with the Esterbrook nib collaborations. They’re $90, and also available on their website. If you figure a typical nib unit cost is $25, that leaves $65 for the grind. The needlepoint nib is done by Kirk Speer, who was also at the Atlanta show. Kirk lists a $50 price for a custom Needlepoint grind. This isn’t a complaint, just an observation. I imagine it has to do with limiting nib-only purchases (like I did) so that they are available to sell with pens. Plus, I’m sure it’s a pain in the butt stocking and tracking the nib. Generally, when included in the pen sale, the collab nibs have had a price bump in line with the cost of a custom grind, roughly $50. Direct from Kenro may be slightly more since they don’t want to undercut their retailers.

That was it for my nib work on Friday.

I headed down to the show floor early Saturday morning to get on a couple of lists for nib work. My timing was right and Matthew Chen was able to do the work right away. I had him put a left oblique on my vintage Sheaffer Marine Green Oversize Balance. I showed him my Diplomat Oblique as an example that I really liked. The result was nice and smooth, with just enough angle, which I like. I haven’t inked up this pen (or the next) because I simply have too many inked, so it’s only been dip tested.

My final nib work was done by Kirk Speer of Pen Realm and it was also for a left oblique on a vintage Grey Marble Sheaffer Balance Oversize. I showed him the same Diplomat Aero example. While I haven’t inked this one up either, it feels smooth and cut at the right angle.

I brought along the Diplomat as an example because it’s one I really like, but it has a rather shallow angle. Obliques can be open to interpretation. I like the nib because of the way it sits naturally in my hand. I’ve found that I’m a very visual person when writing with a fountain pen, and use the nib to orient the pen. I tend to naturally rotate the nib slightly. I’m not using an oblique as a way to get a lot of line variation, so more obliqueness is not better for me.

I haven’t inked up either of the vintage pens. But they are in the queue to be inked and I look forward to a comparison between them.

Pendleton Brown was there also, but his BLS nib just isn’t a nib for me.

Mark Bacas was there also. I actually added myself to his list, but then soon crossed my name off. He’s done all my pandemic nibs, so I have several examples of his work. He does great work, but I wanted to try some new (at least to me) nib grinders.

I think that covers all the nib workers that were at the show. I now have examples of all their work, except for Pendleton Brown, who’s BLS nib is not my jam.

The Pens

One unexpected benefit of bringing so many pens to the show with me is that it as easier to avoid buying new pens. If I was tempted by a pen I could open my pen case and ask Which one would this replace? But as Friday rolled on I decided I wanted an Atlanta Pen Show pen.

I ended up picking up an Opus 88 Demo Red from Droomgle’s. It’s a translucent red body with black end caps and clip. I generally don’t like translucent colors, but this one wasn’t too translucent. It didn’t look cheap, with is my main complaint with translucent colors. It was a toss up between this one and a clear version.

Opus 88 Demo Red fountain pen

This pen didn’t make a good first impression when I inked it up. It’s a Japanese-style eyedropper filler, meaning it has a valve that can be closed to seal the pen. My particular copy doesn’t seem to require the valve to seal it shut. I filled about 1/2 the barrel and put the section back onto the body and the ink is slow to reach the feed (as in hours, with some assistance). The slit between the tines seems a little too narrow, but I’ll do some other troubleshooting steps first. I did the obvious first step if flushing/cleaning the section, but the rest will have to wait until later in the week. My lesson learned (or re-learned) is that even new pens need to be checked, especially when in such an easy environment to do so. Instead I waited until I left the show.

I also got a TWSBI Swipe in Pear. This isn’t so much a new pen, as it is a replacement for my current Swipe since it’s green. I haven’t inked it up yet. I’ll write my current Swipe dry first since it’s almost empty.

The Inks

I had wanted some Sheaffer Red and Waterman Mysterious Blue (Blue-Black) bottles. I also wanted a wider variety of ink cartridges. With my traveling, bottles are inconvenient and a potential mess if one breaks. I don’t have a lot of variety among international cartridges.

But, I only got two boxes of cartridges, Kaweco Sunrise Orange and Herbin Lierre Sauvage (They dropped the “J” from the labels.)

I ended up with 5 bottles of ink, 4 of which are new to me. Maybe all 5 are new to me. I wanted to see the new Sheaffer bottle and intended to get Sheaffer Red. When that wasn’t at the show (new or old ink) I got Sheaffer Very Verde. Sheaffer, now owned by Cross, is slowly rolling out new Sheaffer inks and packaging. The packaging doesn’t call it “Strip” anymore and I’ve seen websites that call it “reformulated.” The bottle is smaller (now 30ml, was 50ml) and the new bottle is a couple of bucks more.

When I couldn’t find Sheaffer Red I went looking for a replacement. Something along the lines of fire engine red. As is my way, I couldn’t decide and ended up with two, Montblanc Modena Red and Diplomat Red. Based upon online ink tools (easier for me than flipping through swabs), both are close to the red that I want.

I haven’t used the Diplomat yet. The Modena Red is in the problem Opus 88, so I’m withholding judgement.

I also got Herbin Bleu Mysosotis, which is a lovely purple and I’m enjoying with my oblique fine Lamy nib in the Savannah Safari.

I also got another green ink. It’s a boutique ink made by Karen Anderson under the Anderillium Inks name. I picked up a nice bright green called Spirula Green. I matched it with my green Fisher of Pens Hermes. It’s nice and bright, even with the new needlepoint nib.

Current Reads, Watches & Listens

Reading: The Escape by David Baldacci. This is volume 3 of his Puller series. For some reason, the second volume had over 30 holds at my library (for two copies) so I skipped it and took volume 3 which was available immediately. It’s been slow progress on this one. There have been days I haven’t touched it. It’s time for me to take a Baldacci break and switch to another author after I finish this book.

Out of Rotation

  1. The Esterbrook (Kenro) Estie Oversized, Scarlet (Scribe) was inked up back on January 7, 2022 with Rohrer & Klingner Alt-Goldgrün. It’s already inked back up.
  2. The *Esterbrook (Kenro) Estie Oversized, Maraschino (Steel Journaler) was inked up back on January 7, 2022 with Sheaffer Red ink. It’s already inked back up.

Into Rotation

See my currently inked post for a full list of my inked pens. Here are the pens inked or changed at the Atlanta Show.

  1. Lamy Petrol Safari (oblique fine) and Herbin Bleu Myosotis ink
  2. Fisher of Pens Hermes (needlepoint) and Anderillium Spiral Green
  3. Esterbrook (Kenro) Estie Oversized Seaglass (Needlepoint) and Waterman Mysterious Blue
  4. Opus 88 Red Demo and Montblanc Modena Red ink

I now have 18 inked pens. Although, to be honest I need to verify that. I’ve been lax in recording my ink and pen pairings during the pen show. This means I have to use three a day if I want to have each pen used at least once a week. I get anxious so many inked pens I want to write some dry This causes an internal argument: Use many pens a day to see ink moving, or use a pen until it’s dry in order to make room in the pen roll. This unnecessary, self-inflicted angst is why I don’t like having more than six or seven pens inked.

Links

See this earlier links post for most of this week’s links. Like I said in that post, I was tired and making mistakes. Here are couple more links that should have been included.

Enough is Too Many is Just Right — The Pen Addict // I hyperventilate just looking at this. I tried a few active notebooks at once and it drove me nuts. Now I have a journal, which is deskbound 98% of the times and a catch-all notebook for everything else.

An exciting new start for ukfountainpens.com | UK fountain pens // Good to see that the old posts will remain online and there will be new posts in the future.

Long Island Pen Show 2017

The Long Island Pen Show is happening this weekend. While this is as close as it gets to a local show for me, I unfortunately won’t be able to make it this year.

There will be a calligraphy workshop on Sunday, which is new this year. The cost is $25, which covers materials, including nibs and holders. The workshop runs 10am to 2pm.

The website also lists a Playing with Your Letters workshop on Sunday that runs an hour on Sunday and is free (space may be a limiting factor).

Richard Binder missed last year but is returning this year and will join several others for nib work and pen repairs.

The weather forecast calls for rain through Saturday morning but then precipitation free for the rest of the weekend.

Fountain Pen Show Season Is Here

Delta Vintage Green with Fine Nib
My first ever pen show purchase

This year’s pen show season is already well underway with Philadelphia and Arkansas, along with the Eastern Pen Show in the UK, already part of history. Although for me it begins (and may end) with the Long Island Pen Show coming March 14th and 15th. I’ve only been to four pen shows (Long Island twice, Boston and Washington DC) so I’m far from an expert, but here’s my pen show strategy.

Pre-Show Prep

  • Check the pen show’s website or Facebook page, if they exist, to see who’ll be at the show and any workshops that may be available.
  • I keep a wishlist of pens I’m interested in buying. If it’s not updated I research typical prices and what I’m willing to pay. Plus any other info about the pen such as finishes or nib sizes I’m interested in. When I was collecting Esterbrook nibs I kept a list of the ones I didn’t have along with what they were generally selling for if they became available along which which ones were on the rare side.
  • I make of a list of pens or brands I want to see even if I’m not particularly interested in purchasing one of them. For example, when considering Pelikan M800 and M1000 I took a look at several samples at a show and was able to write with one of each. This let me know that the M800 was more my type of pen, but I wasn’t ready to buy until recently.
  • Set a budget. It’s easy to go crazy at a pen show so I set a budget. This also forces me to be more careful about what I buy. I don’t want to hit my limit and then find something I really want.
  • Generally, pen shows are more vintage than modern, although Washington DC is big enough so almost all brands and models of modern pens are represented. Smaller shows, like Long Island may not have a lot of modern brands. So adjust your expectations accordingly.

Part of the pen show fun is finding and learning about new things so I certainly don’t limit myself to these lists.

Esterbrook Dollar Bandless with 9555 nib
My first ever vintage purchase was at a pen show.

Things to Bring

  • Bottled water and energy bars/snacks. Most shows (if not all) have some sort of restaurant or cafeteria at the show so this is optional but it does make it easier to stay in the show if you’re pressed for time.
  • A loupe to examine nibs.
  • A pen case to hold any pen purchases, especially used pens which may not have a case.
  • A bag or backpack to carry any purchases. Many vendors will have bags so this is optional and also depends on how much you could potentially buy.
  • A vial of water. It can be used to test vintage pens for leaks. It’s not a bad idea but I admit I’ve never used it and didn’t bring one my last show. Some vendors will allow you to dip pens. But always ask before filling with water or ink.
  • A pocket notebook and pen to make any notes.
  • Cell phone. You’ll probably already have this just because you carry it all the time. But it can be used to take pictures of things you want to remember. You might be considering a pen but decide to move on and see what else is available. Take a picture of it and the table it’s at. This can also replace your pocket notebook, but where’s the fun in that?

At the show

CS Marlborough with Binder Stub Nib
My first nibmeister visit – also at a pen show
  • If I want nib work done the first thing I do is find the nibmeister I want to do the work and get on their list. Maybe not all of them maintain a list, but the three I’ve been to at nib shows did. While it may vary by person, if all you need is a nib tuning it’s probably OK to be inked, but if it’s going to be ground to a new point it should be empty. It never hurts to bring the pen empty since they’ll have ink to test it with. Richard Binder has a pen show FAQ, while specific to him it will give you a general idea of what to expect from anyone else.
  • Either first (if I don’t look for the nibmeister) or second (if I do) I make a pass around the entire show to get a general lay of the land pen show. Unless there’s something I want and it’s rare or a really good price I won’t do any actual shopping yet.
  • Enjoy the rest my time at the show.
  • I usually buy ink and paper when I’m getting ready to leave (unless, of course, it’s a bottle of Montblanc Bordeaux for $10) so I don’t have to carry around the heavier items.

Anything suggestions or anything I missed?

Additional Reading

I wrote about my first pen show and the Washington DC show.

2014 Atlanta Pen Show – The Pen Addict

2014 Commonwealth Pen Show (Boston) – Modern Stationer

2014 Long Island Pen Show – EDJelley.com

Commonwealth Pen Show Recap

I visited the Commonwealth Pen Show earlier today. I didn’t take any pictures and didn’t leave with a large (or even medium) haul but it’s worth a recap.
While there was a Boston Pen Show last year the 2014 show is put together by different organizers and is outside Boston. The show was at the Somerville Holiday Inn and in a relatively small ballroom. I heard there were 18 vendors and that seemed about right (I’m terrible at estimating these things). The venue was nice, I really appreciated the free parking right at the hotel. It’s also about a half-mile from the local MBTA station. The room was well lit and didn’t feel congested. Even though 18 vendors is on the small side the room was obviously sold out as there wasn’t any more room for tables without making things feel cramped for the sellers or attendees. There was enough room to walk around and browse, at least when I was there from about 10 to 11:30 am.
Most of the pens were vintage. Richard Binder and Paradise Pens were the only vendors I saw that had primarily new pens, so the brands were limited. Richard Binder was also doing nib work. Also, I think it was Jim Baer I also saw doing pen repairs or nib work.
Jay Potter from PaperForFountainPens.com was also there with pads made from Tomoe River paper. I made my only purchase of the day from Jay. A hard cover notebook of white, blank Tomoe River paper. A review of the notebook was done by The Unroyal Warrant. Jay had only brought seconds to the show so the price was only $20 (regularly $29). I couldn’t tell what the defect was, if I had to guess I’d say it’s because the paper is ever so slightly misaligned where it’s glued into the covers.
A couple Sheaffers caught my eye but I resisted buying them. There were a lot of flex pens being sold, at least they claimed to flex. Since flex is lost on me I skipped those. There was a lot of variety among the vintage pens. I’m not familiar enough with pricing to know if there were good deals or not, but there did seem to be a lot interest in the pens that were there. If I had gone there wanting to buy a pen, rather than show restraint and wait for a perfect pen, I could easily have found one.
The small show size worked in my favor since I had to leave by noon. There was enough time for me to see everything and visit with a few people. I could be wrong, but I would guess that it would get busier after lunch but there seemed to be a good turnout when I was there. Hopefully there were enough attendees and sales to bring the show back next year.

Pen Show Weekend

Wow, looks like there’s three fountain pen shows going on this weekend.
The east coast (of the U.S.) has the Commonwealth Pen Show, just outside of Boston in Somerville, MA. It’s one day only, just Sunday September 28th from 9am to 5pm. I’m hoping to make it to this show.
It’s not exactly the west coast but it is the other side of the Mississippi, the Dallas Pen Show started today and also runs on Saturday. No Sunday show according to their site. {Update: Chris posted in the comments that the show does run on Sunday too – it was a last minute change].
There’s also the Tilburg Pen Show in Holland (aka The Netherlands). I couldn’t find a website for the show but it’s on Saturday. This FPN thread has details.
I put together my pen show list, although my pen budget (aka my PayPal account) is low at the moment.

  • A extra fine nib for my Pelikan M620(s) – I really like the look of all three of that I have but don’t use them enough because of their wide nibs. OR Get my Pelikan M620 medium nib ground down. It seems a waste of gold tipping to get a medium nib ground to an extra fine, but it would be cheaper than a new nib.
  • Sheaffer Crest (modern) Ultramarine Blue or Cadium Yellow – my current obsession is the modern Sheaffer Crest. While there were more variations I’m looking to get all four that have the Nova pattern. I’m half-way there.
  • Any Esterbrook nibs I don’t already have.
  • Any Esterbrooks or Sheaffers at bargain prices.
  • Just browse any Sheaffers or Esterbrook eye candy that may be there.

Anyone else visiting a pen show this weekend?