Thursday, September 30, 2010

Explaining French-rule (séyès)

I threw together this little video because so many people asked me about French-ruled paper and how it works. It's pretty straightforward, really. Just watch the vid, it's only 5 minutes ;)

Link to YouTube for iPhones and full-screen viewing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Write Time at 9: September 28, 2010

Join us live every Tuesday night at 9pm EST for Write Time at 9! We talk pens, paper, ink, and random other things (writing related usually).

Link to Ustream for the vid!

This one stayed on track pretty well this week! Long story short, we covered the Pelikan Edelstein inks. They came in at the end of last week, and we've been swamped with all of the action around that. I posted an initial overview video reaction to my testing the inks with my new m800 italic, and the inks seemed a little dry. After more experimentation though, I've found the dryness was a pen issue, not an ink issue as I originally thought. After inking up Edelstein Sapphire in a Pelikano and a Script 1.0, I found it to be much more pleasurable!

The giveaway was a bottle of Noodler's Purple Martin, as I had one without an outer box (thanks to a bottle of Tienanmen breaking in transit).

After the giveaway, I got into a more detailed explanation about my 'most important video I've ever made'. After a lot of consideration from the feedback everyone's given, I have decided the best change I can make to free up some time for my family and for doing more reviews is to change the way I write my handwritten notes. Instead of doing elaborate notes on Triomphe paper with wax seals, I'm going to write shorter (but still personal) messages on invoices. Believe it or not, just this small change makes a huge difference in the time I have each day. Enough so that I'll be able to do a lot more reviews and videos!

This week's video is just a hair over an hour long.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Where it ALLLL began...

I've been cleaning out my workshop this past weekend, and I got to some serious reminiscing. Here's the story of how the Goulet Pen Company was born.

Just after graduating from Virginia Tech in 2006, Rachel and I were newly married and living in our first apartment, a nice little place with a big covered balcony.

I always had an interest in wood working, which was fed in large part to Norm Abram's New Yankee Workshop that I used to watch on our fuzzy tv (rabbit ears!) on Saturday afternoons.

I was itching to build stuff, but didn't have the room to build large antique replicas like Norm did. So I found something that I could do (on a covered balcony).....turn pens. It was cheap to get into (at least it SEEMED that way, haha), took up little space, was fun, and produced useful items! I knew absolutely nothing about fine writing, but after making my first pen I was hooked.

I made my first wood pens, and not 2 weeks later landed a corporate deal for 120 of them for Christmas. I had to learn FAST how to make nice pens!

Long story short, I got into fountain pens, which led me to ink and paper, and I've fallen so in love with ink and paper that the pen making is no longer a part of my life. However, my humble beginnings as an ignorant-yet-ambitious pen maker are still fresh in my memory and dear to my heart. Enjoy these pics of my very first 'workshop'.

Looking from the living room, you can see my main 'turning station', which consisted of a dinky Grizzly lathe and my dad's 'borrowed' disc/belt sander on a mechanic's chest.

You see my beat up old table saw (also 'borrowed' from my dad) that was noisy as a jet engine. It's a miracle we weren't evicted! What's the plastic all about? Dust control...and keeping wondering neighbors from seeing what's going on  (we were on the top floor apartment). That's a router table to the left there. And of course lounge chairs in the background there.....we never used them (where would we???), we still have them, and we still never use them! We don't 'lounge'....

Router table....the only thing that might have actually been louder than the table saw. Again, miracle we weren't evicted.

There was an outdoor closet on the balcony, which I took over as well. There's some pegboard for the 'hangy' stuff. You can see and hanging retractable light (that also had an electrical outlet) that I put in place of the light fixture in the closet. I had to set that up because there was no power on the balcony itself. I wonder why not? Haha!

I am seriously all about some pegboard.

Wood, finishing supplies, tool boxes...

Here's the whole balcony. Pretty big, huh? There was no electricity out there.

I had to drape electrical cords out of the window and hang flourescent lights so I could see at night! I've always been a night owl ;)

I had (and still do have) containers labeled with all of my small parts. They're resting on an old typewriter desk that I bought at an estate auction for $10!!

You can NEVER have too many clamps!

Bandsaw (borrowed from dad again!) and mac-daddy drill press (this was an upgrade, not my original POS one!). That drill press weighs more than my wife did when she was 9-months pregnant!

 My first little dinky lathe.

And the workhorse, the mini lathe. This was an upgrade, I started out with the little Grizzly.

That's a very fancy workbench made from an entertainment unit I chopped up and repurposed! And there's my little mitre saw hiding under it ;)

Artsy photo.......attempt :P

This whole setup was insane. I would work outside in 95+ degree heat with no wind (the balcony blocked it) and the mosquitoes would eat me alive while I was turning my little pens late at night. I was so into it and determined to learn the craft.

I think back to how ambitious, naive, and determined I was back then. Now I'm just as ambitious and determined, but thankfully I know a few more things!

It still amazes me to this day that:
  1. Rachel let me buy these tools
  2. Rachel let me take over the balcony like this
  3. We didn't get evicted with all of the noise I caused!!
I (and all of you) owe Rachel a great debt of gratitude, for if it wasn't for her patience and trust, my crazy little pen business idea would never have started and the Goulet Pen Company would never have existed. She constantly supports my crazy ideas and continues to put up with all of the stress and discomfort caused by being with me.

Since these photos were taken we moved twice, changed the whole scope of the business and had our son. This just goes to show how much can change in such a short period of time, and how you never know just where you can end up when you live by following your passion. A lot has changed for us since the 'workshop balcony' days, but I will always hold this time near and dear to my heart :)

Monday, September 27, 2010

First look at the Pelikan Edelstein inks in use

Since the Pelikan Edelstein inks landed in the US last week, there have been a lot of questions as to what these inks are like. There wasn't so much as a q-tip swab to indicate any of the 7 colors, so naturally everyone is curious!

I just recently decided to cut back on sending out hand-written notes with each order, and instead put my time to good use: inking up all of the Edelsteins, testing them, and recording this video for your enjoyment!

I'll give a brief synopsis here in case you don't have the time or ability to watch the video. I know there was a lot of mystery and buzz about how these inks would perform. Just from the marketing materials and the 'hopes' of fountain pen enthusiasts, I think everyone was expecting very vibrant, saturated colors that flow very wet from the pen. This is just not the case. This is what I was expecting, and when I inked up Sapphire for the first time I would be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed. It's not that the ink or the color is bad, just different than what I expected. Sort of like when you go to take a sip of your soda and it's actually iced tea....not that you don't like iced tea, it's just that you were expecting soda.

The inks are fairly dry writing, with the exception of Aventurine and Topaz. None of the colors are heavily saturated. They're advertised as a 'soft' ink, which I've now come to learn means not heavily saturated. The positive side of this is that the inks have incredible shading, which is highly desired with many fountain pen writing enthusiasts. The inks also perform extremely well on cheaper, more absorbent paper. So if you are forced to use 'crappy' paper at work, these inks will likely perform quite well.

I'm going to be doing a review of each Edelstein ink individually, but this is just a general overview 'reaction' video of my experience after playing with the 6 colors that are in (still waiting on Onyx). Let me know what you think!

Link to YouTube for iPhones and full-screen viewing. 11 minute video.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The most important video I've ever made

I've had a lot on my mind lately and put a lot of heart into this video. I would love to hear your thoughts and feedback.

*** Update as of 9/28/10**
 Thanks everyone for your awesome support. After a lot of thought and consideration I've decided not to leave out personal notes all together, just the elaborate ones I've been doing. I'll write short messages on invoices to let you know I'm still here and I still care about you, I just won't be doing the elaborate notes on Triomphe with the wax seals. Instead, I've already spent more of my time with my family and dabbling with inks and preparing videos for Ink Nouveau. Look to see a lot of good stuff from me in the future ;) 

Link to YouTube for iPhones and full-screen viewing.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

So I got an interesting phone call this afternoon...

I've been blogging a lot about the new Edelstein that's in, if you hadn't noticed. Well, apparently, it got the attention of the Webmaster for Chartpak (the Pelikan US distributor). She called me up yesterday afternoon and mentioned how I'd not received any Onyx Edelstein ink. For one reason or another, Chartpak hasn't received it yet from Pelikan, so there is literally not a single bottle of Onyx in the country.

Well, that's not exactly true. There is one bottle of Onyx. It belongs to the head shipping manager at Chartpak. It was part of the original set of inks sent from Pelikan in Germany, and since there seems to be a holdup of some kind of Onyx, the one that was in that sample set is the only one here.

And it's on it's way to me right now.

Yup! The webmaster was impressed with Ink Nouveau and the obvious passion and excitement I have, so she tracked down the only bottle of Onyx in the US and is sending it to me so I can play with it!!! I am most DEFINITELY going to post a review of it as soon as I get it in. In fact, I'm currently working on swabs and reviews of all of the Pelikan Edelstein inks. I've been, um, just a tad busy since they first arrived to me on 9/23, and it's most important to me to make sure I send out the inks to my customers that have ordered them. But as soon as I get any free time at all (which usually happens between 2-4am), I'll be inking up my m800 and getting together some reviews!

I was thinking about why Onyx might not be in the US yet (and this is nothing official, just my theory), but I'm guessing it has to do with the fact that black ink is much more popular in Asia than the US. Americans like blue, Asians like Black. That's just how it goes. So we'll just have to be a little patient, even large distributors get backordered! This whole Onyx not coming in is exactly why I don't pre-sell. I think about all of the retailers out there right now that sold the '8-pack' of Edelstein or individual Onyx blacks that are having to explain to their paying customers why the Onyx isn't in. I will continue to do it the way I do, which is that you can email me if you're interested in Onyx, and I'll let you know as I find out more. And in a few days, I'll be able to show it to you!!!!!

I'm super pumped.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Why no Edelstein Onyx?

Sorry if all of the rapid-fire posts in the last 24-hours are overwhelming! I promise to 'cool it' a bit after the craziness has died down from the Edelstein rush!

As you know from my previous post(s), I got in all the Edelstein but Onyx. I looked at other retailers (at least the ones that have it in stock) and they don't have it either. I called Chartpak (the Pelikan distributor in the US) about it, and apparently they didn't get any in. So you're not going to find any Onyx in the US, yet.

I don't know as of right now if it's an issue of the Onyx still being tied up in customs for some reason, or whether Pelikan in Germany just didn't send any to the US (that's entirely possible). Either way, I have it on order and when I get it in, I'll blog/tweet/email/Facebook it! ;)

Thanks for being so patient. I just checked as of this morning, (9/24/10), and in addition to Onyx not coming in, I've since sold out of Sapphire and Topaz. I have more on order, so it'll be yet another waiting game for it to come in!!

***UPDATE!! Later in the morning of 9/24, I received additional Sapphire and Topaz, so it's back!! But I don't know how long it will last. They've both been extremely popular!

I'll be posting reviews of the inks as soon as I have a half-a-second to play with the inks. Things are understandably a little nuts around the Goulet household here, so be patient and I'll show you the good stuff!

Video reaction to my opening Edelstein for the very first time

This has been a much anticipated ink for everyone, but me personally as I've been waiting to ink up my new Pelikan pen until the Edelstein came in! I'm like a kid a Christmas, and I wanted to share the first time I laid eyes on the Pelikan inks as I unpack them. Enjoy!

Update!!! As of 9/24, I sold out of Sapphire and Topaz, but got more in already! It's back up, but I don't know for how long. I'm going to work to try to keep it in stock, but it seems a lot of folks want to try this ink!

Pelikan Edelstein inks are available at GouletPens.com.

Link to YouTube for iPhones and full-screen viewing.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Edelstein is FINALLY HERE!!!!!!!!!

It's true! I have it in my hands! I am out of Sapphire and never got in any Onyx. C'est la vie!

But it's here, and it's nice! I have it for sale for $19 a bottle at GouletPens.com.

It was unexpected that it came today, and very exciting! I took pictures and some video. Here are the pics, the video will have to come later ;)

Yup, that's a freight truck alright! I bit overkill I think for those small boxes....

It's FINALLY HERE!!! That's when I realized it was the Edelstein ink ;)

6 boxes? But there are 7 inks....ah crap. They didn't send me any Onyx. Oh well!

YAY!! Stocked shelf!!!

Well, except Onyx.

At long last! There will be PLENTY more pictures, video, reviews, and more coming. This is just what I could throw up this afternoon! After all, the ink did just come in about an hour and a half ago!!!!
Get it here.

Is it weird that GouletPens.com doesn't sell pens?

The Goulet Pen Company is actually more than 3 years old, since Rachel let me buy my lathe and let me start turning pens. We built our whole business on selling nothing but pens, for almost 2 1/2 years! It's funny to think of that now, as we've completely flip-flopped our business now to focus entirely on fountain pen ink and paper.

The only thing is, we built our entire business/brand/reputation on being 'The Goulet Pen Company' with the GouletPens.com website! I'm actually surprised that we don't get asked more often why we have a pen company name but don't sell pens. Actually, we do sell pens..... J. Herbin glass dip pens, and the Creapen. But that's it (and they don't really count!). And the 4.5 ounce Noodler's inks come with free pens, so 'technically' we do carry those :P

I think it's not such a big deal because we're still selling pen related stuff. I think if we were maybe selling car mufflers or muffins or mittens or something like that people would ask more questions. So is our name weird, or does it not really bother you?

We're not changing it, but if we did, what would you name us?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Edelstein, could you finally be coming?

I just got confirmation today that Edelstein started shipping out! Of course at this point, I want to see them IN MY HANDS before I say anything! So many retailers have been caught with their pants down lately because of all of the delays from these inks. I'm not pre-selling, but I am taking 'reservations' if you email me ahead of time. I will see how many I get in (and when) before I do anything with the inks, but it should now be only a matter of a day or two.....hopefully!

Write Time at 9: September 21, 2010

Join us live every Tuesday night at 9pm EST for Write Time at 9! We talk pens, paper, ink, and random other things (writing related usually).

Link to Ustream for the video.

Tonight we talked about the Noodler's ink colors that I just got in (not new colors, just ones that were on backorder for me for a while), dip pens to use for testing ink samples, and Pelikan Edelstein. I tested out the Brause calligraphy 6-nib dip pen set, which actually worked amazingly well for testing fountain pen inks (if you use it with the reservoir!), so I will likely begin to carry those soon. Ink Drop members will be thrilled!

We had a 'special guest' pop in as well, Stephanie from BiffyBeans.com. You probably already know her blog, which is a great resource of ink and notebook reviews, but in case you don't, we're going to work to fix that! Nothing firm yet, but we're going to look to set up a 'call in' interview with her on the next Write Time at 9 if she's available. She is a tremendous resource for the writing community, and will undoubtedly have a lot of great insight to share! Look for a post on that more specifically to be coming soon.

We had a giveaway tonight.....actually two....you see we did the first one but there was some confusion about the question asked (totally my bad), so we did a second one. The first one was for a Rhodia No. 16 dotpad, with the correct answer to the question 'How many different sizes of top-staplebound Rhodias are there?'. Well, we didn't realize before asking the question that there are actually several sizes printed on the back of the Rhodia pads of notepads not imported in the US...we were going for the answer to how many were in the US, and that answer was 12 (No. 8, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 16, 18, 19, 38, and Le Carré which is in two sizes). Congrats Patrick!

Since the question was confusing, we did a second giveaway, by popular demand, for the Pelikan Pink in cartridges! We had passively mentioned that there were 18 Noodler's colors that we had yet to load into the Swab Shop, and when asked for that number (nearly an hour later), the winner guessed it right on (congrats Mike!).

And of course, last but not least, we announce the theme for October's Ink Drop!!! The theme will be 'Autumn Leaves'. We explain how we wavered back and forth between Halloween colors, Autumn Leaves, and Edelstein but eventually settled on the leaves. Edelstein STILL isn't out of customs yet, so there's no way we'll get it in time for the drop, and Halloween would be fun because of some interesting colors like Noodler's Blue Ghost and Heart of Darkness, but ultimately we wanted to go for more of a seasonal color theme than just one holiday (plus Rachel and I aren't big on Halloween). We have some really nice colors picked out that we think you'll enjoy.

The video is on the long side but well worth it, 1hr 20min of pure inky fun!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Rebekah Goldman Guest Post- Wax Seal Struggles

My sister-in-law, Rebekah Goldman, has had fine writing thrust upon her as a lifestyle simply by being related to me ;) No seriously though, she's a photographer who wanted to include classy, handwritten notes to her clients. She told me about some of her struggles getting started with wax seals, and it was perfect to share with all of you. Many of you know I'm seriously afflicted with the wax seal addiction, having done some 1,300+ seals by now (since I started in April). Rebekah brings to light some of the 'struggles' a wax seal newbie can face! All of the mistakes she made here are fixable, so I think a 'wax seal salvage' video may be in my future! Oh, and a shameless plug, check out her blog and definitely hire her if you're in need of a wedding/family photographer in the DC Metro area! ;) ~ Brian Goulet

I'm always finding ways to stand out to my clients, do something different and personal.  I'm a professional photographer and few days ago one of my engagement couples ordered some prints from me.  I don't sell prints as often as I'd like so I really wanted to roll out the red carpet for them.  After "accidentally" eating the lollypop the printing company sent, I realized I needed to do something special.  I had just purchased some fancy G. Lalo paper and envelopes for writing letters, as well as a few sticks of wax and a brass seal with a fancy letter "R" from my brother-in-law.  You might have heard of him, probably not - his name is Brian.  Anyway, I had just finished up a great run with Diamine Marine (probably my favorite color) and decided to go PINK with a sample of Caran d'Ache Sunset.  I was ready to write my thank you letter to my client.

After getting my pen all set up, I tested the ink to make sure it was running smoothly (I'm still really messy at that) and began to write my note.  I started small at the top and it went something like this:

Katie and Alex,
I had a wonderful time with you guys the other weekend.  I hope you enjoy your prints!  Please let me know if there is anything else I can do for you!

That's it?  I had barely filled up a quarter of the page!  Maybe I need to write bigger next time.  I added my signature at the bottom as big as I could without it being too obvious that I was just trying to fill space to look cool.  I grabbed an envelope, wrote their names of the front, and proceeded downstairs to find a lighter.

I went everywhere and couldn't find one anywhere.  Although Brian told me not to, I attempted to use a match.  Luckily I didn't burn any fingers off, but after holding it there for the duration of the light, I barely got one drop of wax.  After more searching, I finally found the cool clicky lighter thing and began to heat up my wax.  I waited... waited... and finally it began dripping.  I had practiced this before, doing demonstrations at the DC Supershow, so I felt like a pro.  I made sure the brass seal was clean, and even blew on it like I've seen Brian do.  I watched the wax drip... drip... drip.  Finally, I felt like there was enough, put the lighter down, and began swirling.  I was confident this was the perfect amount of wax - I had even centered the drippings right in the middle of the envelope fold and was ready to seal.  I put the lighter and the wax down, grabbed the seal handle, and pressed firmly in the middle.  I beamed as I witnessed wax spreading all around the brass seal - I knew this was a good one.  I couldn't wait to see the finished result.  I slowly pulled the seal away and...

...it was upside down.  How could I have missed this?  I spent so much time preparing and making sure every detail was accounted for, and I forgot so little as to LOOK at the brass seal before I pressed it down?  How stupid can I be?

After failing to pull the previous wax seal off, I went to my room to grab another G. Lalo envelope.  Sigh... these things are expensive.  But, being the perfectionist I am, I had to get it right.  I went back for round two, made sure everything was set up correctly, and even placed my seal handle in a position that I would grab it right-side-up.  I started up the lighter, watched the wax drip, drip, drip... and began swirling.  As I grabbed for my seal I double and triple checked that it would be right-side-up.  I pushed the seal into the wax and... nothing.  The wax didn't move.  It didn't do that cool thingy where it comes oozing out the sides.  Did I mess up again?  I pulled the seal away only to reveal that I had not used enough wax.

Again?  Ugh.  To some people, this could be acceptable, but I'm going for a 16th century look - I want a real, genuine wax seal.  I had to try one more time.

Each step I took up the stairs to my room to grab yet another G. Lalo envelope felt like ripping dollar bills out of my wallet.  These things are expensive, and yet I was so determined to get it right.  I went back for round three, made sure there was PLENTY of wax, did the seal, and BAM!  Perfection.

I couldn't be happier.  I can't believe it took me this long, but I guess having the pressure of a real letter inside that envelope made me forget to check all the details.  Wax seals are fun - I love playing with fire and melting things, and using it in a cool-looking way is such a bonus.  I guess it could've been worse - I easily could have burnt a hole in my letter or even burnt myself.  Although I made mistakes, no one was hurt during the making of this seal... only a slightly crushed ego.

Take it from me - all you need to do is use plenty of wax and check the seal to make sure it isn't upside down.  That way, you won't burn through three G. Lalo envelopes for a tiny little client letter!

- Rebekah Goldman
Rebekah Goldman Photography

Monday, September 20, 2010

I made an ink decision (for my m800)

I posted about my new blue m800 with a 1.5mm italic nib that just came in a couple of days ago, here. I have been really contemplating the first ink I'm going to use in this 'Holy Grail' pen of mine. Here are some new pics:

I got word that the Pelikan Edelstein inks are finally clearing through customs and are expected (unless there are further delays, which is not only possible, but likely) to start shipping out to retailers as early as Monday or Tuesday.

I decided my first ink in my new pen will be Pelikan Edelstein Sapphire.

I've been waiting for the Edelsteins right along with all of you, and now I'm putting my own skin in it. I'm going to hold off from inking up my grail pen until the Edelstein comes in. It simply can't come soon enough!!!! I wasn't expecting for this scenario to happen, after all, I thought by now I'd have the inks, and I don't, and that I wouldn't get this pen until November, but here it is!

So alas, I will be waiting along with all of your for these new inks. I mean, I was already waiting, but now I'm REALLY going to be antsy. After all, I've waiting this long, what's another few days?

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The 'Goulet' way to find that perfect ink

Here are the steps I have set up to help you find your perfect fountain pen ink:
  1. Swab Shop- compare color-adjusted swabs of all the inks I have. I have groups set up for basic guidelines, and you can swap out individual swabs across brands to see what colors interest you.
  2. Ink Samples- once you narrow down the general colors you like, you can get samples of all of them for a small investment to try a whole variety of inks. This way you can see how the ink performs in your favorite pen(s), on your favorite paper. If you hate it, no biggie, it's just a sample. You can also join Ink Drop, my monthly sample club to get 5 colors sent to you automatically every month.
  3. Full Bottle- Once you've done (1) and (2), you can be confident you're purchasing a full bottle of an ink you're going to love. 
There's no worse feeling (in terms of writing, anyway) than purchasing a full bottle of ink on speculation, only to find it looks different than you thought or that you just flat out don't like it. I have several 'ghost bottles' of inks I know I'll never use, but I feel too guilty to get rid of them. I have a whole ink 'graveyard', and it's sad to see (and it's expensive too). I hope to help eliminate this problem for you and make it so you only get the inks you're really going to love.

Weekend Reads 9/19/10

Sorry this is a little late this weekend. Normally I post Weekend Reads on Saturday. My bad! There's a lot of fluff going on right now in the blog world, seems we're all a little busy for the hardcore in-depth reviews you like to see. Sorry for that, but if you're looking to just cruise around and waste some time checking some writing links, here you go. ~Brian Goulet


Noodler's Heart of Darkness- The Harmless Dilettante


Rhodia Perfection- Scriblets

Fountain Pens and Post-its 2- Quo Vadis blog

Karl Rove doesn't like Moleskines- Notebook Stories

Clairefontaine Roadbook- Whatever


My New Pen- Rhodia Drive

Snake Clips!- Edison Pen Co.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The latest on Edelstein

There's been a lot of waiting for the new Pelikan Edelstein ink, on everyone's part.

I just got word that it's in US customs and could be shipping out to retailers as soon as Monday or Tuesday next week.

I do want to address an issue about the Edelsteins of which some of you are aware. There is at least one retailer (who shall remain nameless) who has listed the Edelstein inks for sale for several weeks, but has not had it in stock. They still don't have it in stock, for sure. They're taking preorders, holding your money, and they'll ship it when they get it in (whenever that is).

I know for a fact that a few of my customers have purchased from at least one retailer because of their 'availability' of the Edelstein inks, but it's not in yet. It's still tied up in customs....think about it. Small glass bottles in large quantities filled with liquid, it's understandable why it would get tied up. But they're in customs, it's supposed to be here, and it'll be here soon. Trust me, I'll blog the MINUTE I know more.

I don't like to do pre-orders....I don't believe in taking your money before I know I have the product in hand. Other retailers do that, I choose not to. I don't believe it's right, and it's risky on my part because it would be easy to oversell and I would be pissing of my customers by holding their money without shipping the product!

I do what I do, other retailers do what they do, and you will choose to 'vote with your dollars' the way you best support and I don't fault anyone for that. But just to clear up, no one has Edelstein yet.

Update on J. Herbin SITB issue

Okay, so right off the bat, SITB means 'stuff in the bottle'. Just clearing that up.

I posted last week about a problem with Éclat de Saphir, and there have been isolated incidents of problems with Violette Pensée, Vert Empire, and Vert Olive as well. The reports have been some kind of stringy sludge in the inks, which are unmistakable as bad inks. I don't like to say it's mold, because all of the reports I've seen of other ink brands that have mold have it growing on top of the ink, this sludge in the J. Herbin appears on the bottom. I have been in close talks with Exaclair about what could be causing this phenomenon, and we're all mystified as nothing like this has ever appeared in the inks before.

The randomness of accounts and relatively few reports of problems with the inks don't point towards large 'batch' problems from the factory, or problems with any one particular retailer (storage issues). I have even had into consideration the vials I use for my ink samples as a factor, but there are no consistent problems, and the only inks with the issues are ones that also have issues in the full bottles as well. If I believed in any way that my vials were a factor negatively affecting the inks, I'd stop using them immediately. I (and Exaclair) are just looking to be very proactive with the issue.

The main suspect right now is temperature. All of the problems seemed to have appeared with inks that arrived to Exaclair from France in July, which was a month of record-breaking heat. J. Herbin inks are natural inks with a vegetable oil base, and they use no preservatives (similar to the way organic food compares to other 'engineered' foods). This makes J. Herbin inks remarkably safe in your pens, however, they are more susceptible to extreme high temperature and storage issues. What we suspect is that there were some inks that became unstable due to the extremely high heat experienced during shipping via cargo container in that July shipment. However, not all inks appear to have been affected, and none of the inks tested since then appear to have been affected at all. The problem seems to be minimal (and also unpredictable), which is a very good thing.

So what now? Well, until Exaclair can get back the bad inks to analyze exactly what the problem is, we will have no answers. That's where I need your help! If you have any bad J. Herbin ink, please don't dump it! Send it to Exaclair. They firmly stand behind their products, and they will send you a replacement (plus probably an extra notebook or something for the trouble). They really need your help on this, because I haven't been able to find any problems with any of my inks I have on hand (that's a good thing though!!!).

If you DO have any bad J. Herbin ink with this sludge/slime in it, send it to:

Christine Nusse
Exaclair, Inc./Quo Vadis Planners
143 West 29th Street
Suite 1000
New York, NY 10001

If you check your ink and everything appears fine, then continue using it as normal. However, if you check it and it seems questionable, you can either send it to Exaclair or shoot me an email and I'll talk to you more about it. The main thing to keep in mind here is that this is an issue that does not appear to be widespread, so you shouldn't go dumping all of your J. Herbin and swearing it off forever. If there's one area where Exaclair is head and shoulders above any other importer, it's that they stand behind their products and care a great deal about the end customer (YOU!). So please, if you have any issues at all, let me or Christine know.

Thanks for keeping on your toes on this one, J. Herbin is a fabulous ink and it breaks my heart to see that an issue like this could affect their sterling reputation. Hopefully you will continue to give the brand the benefit of the doubt.

Pelikan Highlighter Ink is here (no pens though)

Well, out of nowhere I got 9 bottles of Pelikan m205 Duo Highlighter ink. Okay, so it wasn't out of nowhere, I had ordered them, but they just showed up on my doorstep two days ago, along with my m800 (the one that was supposed to arrive in November!). No m205 pens, though. Hurmph.

I've talked before a little bit about my frustration with some of the Pelikan dates. They seem to give rather ambiguous dates for when things will arrive, then they usually arrive a month or two off. It's incredibly frustrating for a retailer like myself who works to keep you all informed. But there's really nothing I can do about it.

The most anticipated Pelikan products coming right now are the Edelstein inks, and I was told they'd be here in 'September'. I see them up everywhere on European websites, but here in the US we're all just twiddling our thumbs. It's likely I could get them in tomorrow, or December. Who the heck knows. My Pelikan rep tells me that the original arrival date for the Edelstein inks was June of last year. So there you go. I have no clue when they'll be in, really, but as soon as I know anything more than I know now, I will let the world know.

If you want to get yourself some m205 Duo Highlighter ink, I have some. I'm selling it in limited quantities (as it's a limited edition ink) for $14.50 in a 30ml bottle at GouletPens.com.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How do you decide your first color for a new pen?

Everyone has a 'Holy Grail' pen. It may be a vintage flex nib pen, or a special limited edition pen that has a theme that really speaks to you. For me, it was a brand new release pen, the Pelikan m800 Souverän 1.5mm Italic Nib pen in blue. I am a huge lover of italic nibs, and this pen caught my eye when I first heard it was going to be released. I knew I wanted it, and I also knew it would be a terrific pen for testing out the wet-writing/italic nib pen category for future ink reviews.

It was a sacrifice to get it....it lists for more than 10 times any new pen I've ever owned ($500). Granted, I didn't pay that (seeing how I'm a Pelikan retailer, perks of the job!). Still, it was quite a bite for a self-employed young father. I was told the pen would be here in November, but lo and behold, it arrived to me today with no warning! A happy surprise indeed!

We all have our pens that we hope and save up and hope to one day get, and now I have mine. The first thing I did was pull it out and take tons of pictures before I dropped the thing and scratched it all up! Here's a teaser:

But this isn't meant to be a 'brag' post (well, maybe a little, haha). I got the pen, and my first thought (after 'what cool pictures can I take for the blog') was what is the first ink I'm going to put into this pen? I've been using cheap pens that are more or less disposable so far (except for a lovable Sheaffer 300), so I've never put so much thought into the pen, it's been more about the ink for me. But this pen has been my most anticipated, and the idea of the 'first ink' in the pen is somehow very important to me! Maybe it's silly, and it's surely ridiculous since I'm obviously going to be using many inks in this pen over the years. But it really has me thinking!

I'm enamored with some of the new Diamine colors....and it's also not going to be long before the Pelikan Edelsteins come in. Should I wait for them? Should I try a new ink? Should I go with a classic favorite like Poussière de Lune? I don't know!! Help!

How about you? Do you think about the first ink you put in your special pens?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Write Time at 9: September 14, 2010

Join us live every Tuesday night at 9pm EST for Write Time at 9! We talk pens, paper, ink, and random other things (writing related usually).

Link to Ustream for the video.

This week was the first official Ink Drop Write Time at 9 broadcast. The whole theme was on September's ink colors: J. Herbin Violette Pensée, Diamine Sapphire Blue, Caran d'Ache Amazon, Sheaffer Skrip Red,  and Private Reserve Chartreuse (highlighter).

I wrote samples of each ink in a Pelikan Script 1.0 pen on 4 different types of paper: Office Max 20lb Multipurpose Paper (example of 'cheap' office paper), a Quo Vadis Habana, Rhodia Webnotebook, and Moleskine Notebook. I have taken pictures and I'm in the process of editing them for Ink Nouveau. It's a total pain b/c any pictures you take with multiple inks need to be CRAZY color adjusted, so I'm having to do a lot of manual color adjustments that are very time consuming. I'll have them up soon though.

This week was sort of a test to see if it would work well for the Ink Drop theme, and it did. However, starting next month we're actually going to have the Ink Drop ink color broadcast be the 3rd Tuesday of the month (that would be October 19th). This gives everyone more time to play around with their inks, and it will also be good timing to announce the following month's theme ;) We're going to be announcing the October Ink Drop theme live during next week's broadcast! (Sept. 21st)

The giveaway this week was a full bottle of one of the Ink Drop September colors to whomever could guess how many full different full ink bottle products we have listed on GouletPens.com. The answer (as of right now) is 303!

This is a long video, over an hour and fifteen minutes. But it was fun because we had quite a few people in the chat. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Ink Drop colors reviewed live tonight!

Every week I do a live show on Ustream called Write Time at 9, which is where me and a bunch of other crazed fountain pen folks show up and talk writing stuff. It takes place every Tuesday at 9pm EST, and there's a live chatroom you can join to be able to converse with me (and others) while I broadcast. Tonight we're going to focus on the 5 ink colors used for September's Ink Drop club.

The five colors are:
  • Sheaffer Red
  • Diamine Sapphire Blue
  • J. Herbin Violette Pensée
  • Caran d'Ache Amazon
  • Private Reserve Chartreuse

I'll be inking up the pens and testing them out on all kinds of paper. This will be one inky broadcast tonight, so be sure to stop by Write Time at 9 and join in the chat to talk with me live! I'll also be doing a free giveaway trivia contest, with the prize of a free bottle of one of September's inks! Winner's choice!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Let's talk Amazon

Let's talk Amazon. Not the Caran d'Ache ink....I'm talking about Amazon.com, the 'Walmart' of the online retailing world. This blog is one I've spent a great deal of time writing and revising, so it's worth reading even if it's a bit 'wordy'.

We've had Amazon.com's commercial department contact us about setting up an Amazon store, and we've considered it for a few weeks now. But wait, we already have a good thing going with Gouletpens.com, right? Yes, we do. We're working that hard and enjoying it, and we've considered Amazon as 'another leg on the stool'.

I do have some very major concerns that are keeping me from pulling the Amazon trigger. I'll start small and get bigger as I go here.

Setting up an Amazon store is a whole other store, a diversion from our normal mode of operation at GouletPens.com. It's more web work for my incredibly overworked wife, a separate set of inventory, and a whole different merchant account and sales process that's almost like opening up a second store and running two businesses at the same time. I'm seriously concerned that juggling both GouletPens.com and 'The Goulet Pen Company on Amazon' would be difficult to manage at best. At worst it would consume our lives and deteriorate the great customer service we're known for.

A little bit bigger picture concerns where I see the potential for Amazon in the writing paraphernalia world as a whole. Let me explain a little bit about the goal I see from Amazon's point of view.

Amazon finds a niche retailer like me to give them money to sell on their site. It's almost no work for them, as I set it all up and then pay them fees. Okay, that's great for them.

Say I do well and sell a lot of things.....in order to provide 'better service' and faster shipping, they will want me to utilize their own distribution process called FBA (fulfillment by Amazon). With FBA, I have my products shipped from my distributors directly to them and they ship it to the customer (you). I never touch the product. This process isn't theoretical, this is already happening. Whenever you buy something that's 'Amazon Prime', it's coming from their distribution center via FBA. Every product on Amazon's website that's 'Free supersaver shipping' or Amazon Prime 2-day shipping eligible is coming from Amazon's 10 million square feet of warehouse space around the world.

So what role then do I, the retailer, play if I have my products hosted on Amazon and shipped via FBA? What's my value if they house my products, and they do all the shipping and customer interaction? None. Amazon then begins selling those products themselves, making me obsolete. Amazon has ingeniously found a way to get individual retailers like me to take the risk in finding valuable products, build the niche, direct loyal customers to Amazon (and pay them in the process), get all of the small online companies to compete with each other then squeeze small retailers (like me) out of the market by offering FBA products with faster shipping and lower prices.

It's like Walmart has done to mom-and-pops all over the country, except in the online world. Once Amazon learns what products sell, they purchase those products directly from distributors at bulk prices and sell at prices so low they can eliminate any smaller competition, creating a monopoly on their website. They can become the largest retailer for whatever niche distributor there is for the given product and then begin dictating what products are imported by putting pressure on the distributor. It's sort of a scary thought, really. But since Amazon alone represents 20% of all online sales, they have the power to do things like this. Reading in forums I've heard of other niche online sellers that have experienced this for themselves firsthand, and I see the same potential for it to happen with fountain pens (and related writing products).

The whole idea of it quite honestly makes me feel sick to my stomach because Amazon markets this service as such a 'benefit' to retailers. And retailers are tripping over each other to get their stuff on there! I won't name names, but I know several of the larger fountain pen retailers (that have been around for years) are rushing to build their Amazon stores. The problem I see is that they will become more or less faceless entities through the Amazon mask, until eventually their only distinguishing characteristic will be price, which they will ultimately lose out to Amazon once Amazon begins to carry those products in their own warehouses (competing with the very retailers that generated interest in those products). That or the retailers will become so busy fulfilling Amazon orders (for pitiful margins) that their customer service will crater and they'll implode.

So okay, enough of being a Debbie Downer about the whole thing here. It's pretty obvious I'm talking myself out of selling through Amazon as I type this. But what is it that's going to make me different where I will outshine Amazon (and other competitors) in the fountain pen paraphernalia world?

It's service and education (aka, value). That's what I'm all about. I've been striving since day one to know my products better than anyone else, share the knowledge I gain, talk with the writing community every step of the way, and get constant feedback (and more importantly, make changes as I get that feedback).

I have this blog, I do video and pictorial reviews, I have the Ink Drop club, the Swab Shop, GPC newsletters, live weekly broadcasts (we call it Write Time), and an Ink Nouveau Podcast. Where I want to shine is to do the work that a large company like Amazon simply can't do, which is to have a personal and intimate connection with the products I sell. It's the very same connection that you have with your pens, ink, and paper when you're spilling your soul while you write. Having that passion makes a difference.

The part I love most about running GouletPens.com and working specifically in the fountain pen paraphernalia business is the incredible people and loyal customers and fans I interact with on a daily basis. Though many large companies view customer interactions as time consuming distractions, I view every order I receive as a customer with a passion and a story behind why they love to write. I value every person that follows my blog, watches my videos, and purchases from my website, and it would kill me to give up the interaction like I would have to do if I sold on Amazon.

So while many other retailers will look at Amazon as a great way to get more customers or sell depersonalized commodities in greater volume, I'm doing the opposite. I'm going to turn away from going to Amazon to bring customers to me, and look to spend more time reviewing products and educating the writing world through blogs, videos, and pictorial reviews. That is where I see myself best serving the writing community and where I feel will benefit my 'mom-and-pop' website in the long run. I am of the philosophy that if I put sharing product knowledge, insane customer service, and crazy fast shipping as my top priorities that your shared enthusiasm for what I do will help to spread the word about me more than any other website could.

Here are a couple of online articles too that explain the mentality of Amazon's fullfillment services: 10 Crazy Rules That'll Get You Fired From Amazon, and Inside The Lives of Amazon Employees

Any thoughts?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sample Vials: From Good to Awesome!

There's nothing like taking a good thing and making it better. The sample vials I've been using for ink samples at GouletPens.com and the Ink Drop were always good. They're light, durable, have a wide mouth to fit most pens into, and best of all they're the same vials that Fountain Pen Network members have been using for years so the writing community is very familiar with them. So why change? If it ain't broke, don't fix it, right?

Even though the old vials were good, I was told about some that were even better. I called the company, got some samples, and tested them out for myself. They rock! They're a bit more expensive than the old ones, but totally worth it, in my opinion.

Here's a side-by-side of the two, old on the left, new on the right:

Here's the breakdown of the old ones:
  • They're clear, but somewhat hazy. You can see if there's ink in them, but it's sometimes hard to tell the color. There are no markings of any kind on the bottle.
  • The bottom is flat, so you have to tilt it and hold it to get your nib down in the corner for the last few drops of ink.
  • The opening is 14.3mm.
  • The cap is a half-twist lock, which is okay, but can loosen up over time, especially in shipping.
  • There are no markings of any kind on the bottle. It holds 7ml topped off (GP samples are 2ml).
Here's the breakdown of the new ones:
  • They are remarkably clear, making it easier to tell the color (though I always label them, you may choose to reuse them after you get them from me).
  • The bottom is conical. This helps specifically for the use of filling a fountain pen because the nib gets all the way down into the ink.
  • The opening is 14.3mm, exactly the same as the old ones.
  • The cap locks tighter and is threaded in such a way that it's much more secure, especially in transit. It's much easier to open and close with less effort.
  • There are markings by the ml on the side for easy measuring. It holds 7ml topped off (GP samples are 2ml).

It's pretty obvious what the differences are just from looking at the pictures. My favorite feature (since I usually have to ink up a few hundred of these at a time!) is that the cap go on, and more importantly stays on, much better. You can tell the difference in the threads:

Check out the bottom close up:

When you go to fill your pen, it'll be even nicer now than it was before. Here's a pic with ink in the bottle:

Pretty cool, huh? I know how big of a deal conical bottoms are in the fountain pen world, so this feature alone will excite a lot of people. But the most exciting part? Even though they're more expensive I'm keeping the prices on all my ink samples the same. I'm absorbing the cost increase and switching to these better bottles simply because I'm an avid fountain pen user and I recognize the value of a better sample bottle.

We are transitioning to these new bottles. We plan to standardize on these for all of the new samples we do (including Ink Drop), but we still have a lot of the old style already made up. So for a while, you can expect to see a mixture of the two when you order samples from GouletPens.com. It's not a mistake, don't be concerned. It's simply going to take some time for the old bottles to 'flush out' (pun intended!).

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