Saturday, June 29, 2013

June Ink Drop Reveal!

We did something a little different for the June 2013 Ink Drop - we kept the colors a secret and asked you to guess what they were! Now it's time for the big reveal.

First, a little background. We called this theme "What's in a Name?" because we originally wanted to pick colors whose names didn't necessarily match up with what you'd expect. Sometimes when shopping, you might skip over an ink if its actual color doesn't match what you'd expect from the name, whereas the color might be really nice in its own right! By taking it a step further and intentionally keeping it a secret, it removes all preconceived ideas. Forget color name, forget brand... just try the ink and see if you like it!

So without further adieu, here are the June 2013 Ink Drop colors:
Ink #1: Diamine Dark Brown
Ink #2: Monteverde Purple
Ink #3: Noodler's Burgundy
Ink #4: Private Reserve Blue Suede
Ink #5: Stipula Deep Blue
We had quite a few guesses in our contest, and we randomly selected winners from those who guessed correctly. We had correct guesses for all but one of the ink colors - no one guessed the Stipula! The winners of $15 GouletPens.com gift certificates are Stephanie B., Justine H., Jonathan S., and Sam K. You'll be getting your gift certificate in your email shortly!

Thanks to everyone for participating - hope you enjoyed this month's Ink Drop! We'll have the full bottles on sale for members an extra month to make up for the wait time. ;)

July's Ink Drop is shipping out on Monday. It'll be back to normal, where you'll know the colors as soon as you receive your shipment. Get ready.... the theme is: America!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Goulet Loupe Tutorial

  • Why do you need a loupe? (0:39)
  • Details of the Goulet Loupe (1:39)
  • How to hold the loupe (4:27)
  • Aligning your nib tines (7:27) 

If you want to do any kind of tinkering with your fountain pen nibs, the first thing you're going to need is a good loupe. A loupe is essentially a high-powered magnifying glass, to allow you to inspect your nib in detail. You won't get very far with your nib inspection if you can't see what you're doing! Oftentimes a scratchy fountain pen nib is simply a matter of misaligned tines, and a loupe will make your life much easier when you try to aligned them.

There are a variety of different loupes out there, especially for photographers, graphic designers, and jewelers. Really, anything that magnifies will do the trick, but some loupes are easier to use than others. When looking for the right type of loupe to consider for fountain pen enthusiasts, I relied on my own personal experience and preferences when looking for just the right one. The result, the Goulet Loupe, is one that I'm proud enough to put my own name on.

Goulet Loupe Features

Goulet Loupe, 15x magnifying glass with LED lights.

One of the most important features it has is a wide viewing field which is great for those with little experience viewing their fountain pen nib under magnification. There are stronger powered loupes out there, but this one strikes a nice balance between high magnification (15x) and ease of use.

Magnification allows for easier inspection of your fountain pen nib.

It's really important to me that Goulet offers a loupe that is a really good value. Loupes can get really expensive, and if you're a professional jeweler inspecting diamonds worth 1/2 million dollars, it's probably worth it to spend $100 or much more on a loupe. Normally I feel that you should always 'save up and buy the best' when it comes to tools (this is something my dad drilled into me from an early age), but in this case I just don't see the benefit of buying an expensive loupe for the vast majority of fountain pen users. For the enthusiast, this loupe will be well-suited for casual inspection of your pens and nibs. I think you'll find that it's a great value for what you're paying.

Loupes are critical for inspecting the alignment of your nib tines. 

It also features built-in LED's, which can be handy in certain low-light situations. This isn't a critical part of the loupe as you can certainly get by just fine without it if you are in a well-lit room, but it's always nice to have the option to flip on the LED's and hit light directly on the area you're inspecting. The loupe takes 3 AAA batteries, which aren't included. I would run into funny customs/shipping challenges shipping batteries, so I opted to leave them out.

Built-in LED lights assist in low-light conditions.

The Goulet Loupe is priced reasonably at $12.50, and is just one of the latest nib tuning tools we've developed along with Brass Sheets, Micromesh, and Mylar Paper. We're also offering these all together as a nib tuning kit. We're on a campaign to empower the everyday user to get more function out of their pens, so look for more videos to come soon.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Monday, June 24, 2013

Mailbox Monday #51

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

I just received my order from GP today and I'm so HAPPY except I think I already did something wrong to my brand new TWISBI vac 700. Not sure if someone can help me (Brian, please?) FYI I'm a TOTAL newbie to fountain pens and am disheartened I can't fill my new pen up with ink. I followed Brian's "dance" video on the Vac700 overview and took the mechanism out of the pen barrel with the wrench (did so so I could learn about the pen and use the silicon grease) and now the part that slides back and forth is now "stuck" up into the the black cap part and I no longer have access the the notch where the wrench goes. And it won't unscrew. I have no idea what I did wrong.

OH MY GOSH, WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???? Haha, jk. Don't worry, you haven't done anything permanent. The knob screws onto the back of the rod, and the rod screws into the pen. If you grab the part of the rod that has the threads exposed with your fingers, and turn the knob counter-clockwise, it should unscrew and reveal the notch that you need to put it back into the pen. Depending on how tight the knob is screwed on it may be a little tough to do, but that's what needs to happen. 

TWSBI Vac-700 assembly, with the filler knob twisted stuck and covering the notch for the wrench.

For years I've used the Koh-i-Noor line of Rapidograph pens and Rapiddraw or Universal Inks for drawing. The #0/.35mm, #1/.50mm & #2/.60 tips on the Rapidograph produce line widths which suit my needs. But, the clogging properties of those pens finally induced me to try a few old fountain pens I have on hand using Higgins Fountain Pen India Ink. The one which clogs the least using Higgins Fountain Pen India is a Shaeffer Medium steel tip. The problem is that it doesn't have a converter, so I've tried filling old Shaeffer Skrip ink cartridges with Higgins, but they leak. Also on hand is a set of old Osmiroid drawing pens with fine, medium and broad points, but the Higgins ink doesn't easily flow.

As a consequence of the above, I researched and found the Noodler's Ahab Flex Nib #6, and on your site found the line width for that pen. The width is broader than that produced by the Rapidograph #0/.35mm, #1/.50mm & #2/.60mm pens described above and is even perhaps broader than the Shaeffer Medium steel nib as well. for that reason the Ahab #6 is not a good choice for me, even though I like the description of the pen's properties. Question: Given the above parameters, can you suggest an economical non-clogging alternative which can use dense black ink?

I think the bigger problem you're having is actually the ink, not the pen. Higgins is a shellac-based ink, which is made more for dip pens than fountain pens. Fountain pen ink is water-based, and will flow MUCH better in your pen than your India Ink will. You will want to stop using India Ink in any fountain pen you use from here on out. The problem with shellac-based inks is that they're thicker than water-based ones, so they will clog. If they dry up in the pen, the only way to remove shellac is with alcohol, which also melts plastic, which is what most modern fountain pens use to make their feeds (and other pen parts), so if you try to clean the shellac out of your feed with alcohol, you will literally melt and dissolve it, which will obviously ruin the pen. I would immediately stop using that ink in your pen, flush it thoroughly with clean water, and try it with a water-based fountain pen ink (every ink we sell is water-based). If your pen is already clogging, it may just be because of the ink, but realize that if the ink has dried up in the pen at all, it may not be salvageable moving forward.

All that said, if you're using the right type of ink, you'll find you have a lot of options for pens since none of them will clog like your pen does now with the India Ink. If you want a really dark black to use in your fountain pen, I recommend Noodler's Black, Heart of Darkness, or X-feather. As for a pen, most fountain pens usually equate in their nib width to something like: fine = 0.4mm, medium = 0.6mm, broad = 0.8mm, so I would say you should stick to an extra-fine or fine nib. Fountain pens will write a little broader even with the same tip width as your Radiographs, because the ink used is more fluid and will absorb into the paper more. So it's not an even swap for tip sizes, you'll want to go as fine as you can with fountain pen nibs. The Ahab has a flexible nib, which is really a whole other situation, and would probably write much broader than you want. If you'd like to just try a solid inexpensive fountain pen, I'd recommend you start with the Pilot Metropolitan, it's a great pen and you can get the basics of fountain pen use/maintenance down with it before investing heavily into anything else. 

(A continuation from the previous email)
1) It's clear from your description of shellac-based inks that using them in a fountain pen is a recipe for frustration and damage to the pen. My use of India ink originated with its incisive visual appeal and supposed archival quality. As as artist, I'm aware of the possibility of degradation over time of the materials I use and generally research them to avoid fading etc.

2) Since Noodler's is a very highly regarded brand, I'm likely to be persuaded that it is a good replacement for what I have been using. But since it is water-based do I need to worry about so-called archival concerns? I see that the Noodler's blacks you recommend are all water-resistant, but how do they compare in density and depth with India?

3) I looked up the Pilot Metropolitan on your website and found that the nib size for all pens on the page is medium. Is the Metropolitan offered somewhere on your site with a fine nib?

4) Finally, I spoke with your excellent telephone receptionist yesterday and explored options for the Ahab Flex Nib #6 because of its broad point. She suggested that I consider buying the Ahab Flex and a Goulet #6 Fine Nib which evidently is easily swappable with the Flex Nib.

5) In summary, it looks as though my choice for a workable alternative to my present practice is between the Metropolitan and the Ahab plus a Goulet nib using one of your recommended Noodler's blacks? If the Metropolitan medium nib is greater than .60mm, it may be broader than I like.

1) You won't have to worry about that with Noodler's permanent inks. They are made to bond permanently to the paper. You can actually see the detailed breakdown of the archival and permanent properties of every Noodler's ink in this spreadsheet we put together, so you can be sure what you're looking at will be what you need. All three of the blacks we've discussed here are going to outlast you and me many times over.

2) I think you'll find these three blacks to be as dark (or maybe darker) than your India Ink. One point of distinction though is the way the inks work...India Ink dries on top of the paper, and Noodler's ink absorbs into it. So if you have very absorbent paper, the ink might look a little lighter or washed out because it's soaking more into it. Another alternative for you might be Platinum Carbon Black. This is a pigmented ink that acts similarly to the India Ink in that it dries on the page instead of into it, and it is safer for fountain pens. It's water-based, but gets its permanence from fine pigments in the ink instead of dyes. It will be more resistant to UV-fading, the only downside is you have to be a little more diligent about keeping your pen clean (though, not nearly to the degree that you're used to with your India Ink now!).

3) It only comes in a medium nib, unfortunately. But it's a Japenese brand, and they grind their nibs a little finer than Western pen companies. You can compare it to some other pens in the Nib Nook, it'll write like most fine nibs.

4) That must have been Katy, she's great! Yes, the Goulet nibs are swappable with the flex nibs on the Ahab and the Konrad, I have a video showing how to do that here.

5) I think you would be happy with the Metropolitan even though it has a medium nib. I don't know the exact width, but I'd say it's around a .5mm. X-feather or Platinum Carbon Black would be a good ink choice for you.   

OK, here's a question for you, maybe one you've already answered, or maybe one so elementary that no one else will be interested, but ...... When I only had one fountain pen (so far back I can't now remember those bygone days) I just kept it lying flat on my desk, along with a pencil, gel pen and ballpoint, for easy access and quick grabbing. Now that I have -- ahem -- a few fountain pens, I need a better way to keep them from scattering everywhere, knocked onto the floor by my cats, and taking up space on my admittedly cluttered desk.

I've seen a nice zippable leather pen case in some of your videos. I'm not sure I want my pens strapped down, but I would consider that as a nice tidy solution. But my real question here is, is it better to store (filled) fountain pens flat, or are they ok stored upright, as in some kind of cup-like container? FYI I live in a very dry climate, and although pens are kept capped, there may be some drying-out factor possible in the upright position. How strong is the capillary action that feeds ink to the nib?

I did make a video on storing fountain pens, and you can see my own cluttered desk there :) Honestly, you do whatever works best for you. I find that storing pens upright with the nib pointed up dries out pens, especially in a dry climate. So it'll probably be best for you to store them horizontally or vertically with the nib pointed down. Your pens will probably tell you which they like better! Just as a side note, the length of time that a pen will stay wet will vary, I've used some that need to be cleaned out if I'm not using them for a week, others can go months. A lot of it depends on the pen design and how well the cap seals. I personally store just about everything horizontally and I find that works for me. About the capillary action, it's quite strong. If ink is touching the feed, it will draw up to the nib, even upside down…however, if there's any air in your ink reservoir at all, then it will go to the top when you have the pen stored nib-up, so except maybe immediately after filling your pen, the ink won't actually come in contact with the feed if it's stored nib-up.

I was looking for Rhodia No 18 Top Spiral Bound Dot Grid pads today (on Goulet Pens, of course ;) and couldn’t get a return on my search. So I went back to an old order where I had purchased them and point/clicked on them and got the message "Item No Longer Available”. I’m OCD so I wanted more information. I searched my Goulet Communiqués and didn’t find anything about them (maybe I didn’t look far enough or good enough, huh? If there isn’t any information available on your site do you have any other information stored in that brilliant head of yours? ‘No Longer Available’ — from Goulet’s? (So the Goulet’s are the problem, huh? Smile here.)

‘No Longer Available’ — anywhere? Is it ‘not available’ or ‘no longer in production’?. So I have searched for two hours on the internet and can’t find anything available — and worse yet, anyone asking about this specific item. Am I the only person who ever used them? (Rhetorical.)

THEN, I found this blog/blurb at Rhodia Drive from January 13th of this year and it gave me some hope. This verbiage makes it sound like these will ‘eventually’ be made/distributed/imported again, but no ETA? Is that how you read it? Is that accurate from what you know? Anything you could share would be helpful. It would sure be nice if Companies would maintain “Discontinued” or “Pending” or some kind of Lists for their customers who can’t find something on which they are willing/eager to spend money?

It's good you emailed me, I actually know what's up here :) They came out with top-wirebound dotpads, and the dots were different than the other ones. They were fat and faded purple, instead of the small gray dots on the top-staplebound ones. Apparently, this was unintentional, and once Rhodia realized this is how they were going out, they stopped producing them (this was around mid-last year, I don't know exactly when). So it's possible some of these notebooks could be on retailers' shelves, but not likely since they weren't out that long and it's kind of been a while since they were stopped. I was told at the time they stopped making them that they planned to bring them back, but this wouldn't be an overnight thing. I wasn't given a timeline, so at this point there's just no eta for when they're coming back. I personally like them and miss them, but I actually haven't had gobs of people asking about them either...perhaps because they weren't available all that long.

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling more emails into my next Mailbox Monday post!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Friday, June 21, 2013

Lamy Al-Star Black is here!

Back in early May, I blogged about the limited edition Lamy Al-Star in Black that was to be released. This pen has been available overseas for some time now, but the first shipment of them has finally arrived to the US and we just received ours at Gouletpens.com and have them available right now for $37.60 (list price is $47). I already posted a video on it, and you can see that here. UPDATE: The Lamy Al-Star Black is now available as a regular color option!

These are really exciting, because it's a nice matte black color, which is hot hot hot. The natural smoky translucent grip of the Al-Star is perfectly suited to make this one stealthy pen. Throw a black Lamy nib on it and you're practically James Bond you're so classy and stealthy.

Lamy Al-Star Black, slick, right? 

Black pen, black trim, black nib. Stealthy! Italic nibs are only available in steel though, unfortunately!

The Lamy Al-Star comes with a blue ink cartridge (no converter though, that's separate!). The pen accepts either the Z24 converter (shown) or Z26.

Check out some of the other good Lamy videos I made here:

  • Lamy Al-Star Black here
  • Differences between the Lamy Al-Star, Vista, and Safari here 
  • How to swap Lamy nibs here
  • Installing a Lamy cartridge here
  • Lamy converters here
  • Safely replacing a Lamy feed here
Write On,
Brian Goulet

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Reddit Shoutout

If you've been watching Gouletpens.com or get our newsletter, you'll know that we were planning to shut down our site today so we could do our quarterly physical inventory. Well, we came in all gung-ho and ready to count every single product we have in our warehouse, only to find out that we've been mentioned in a thread that's worked its way to the front page of Reddit.com. A very pleasant surprise!

Here's the thread, titled What is an item you decided to spend a little bit more on and now you can't possibly go back to an inferior product? which was started by Reddit user MetaDingus, and in it the conversation about nicer ballpoint pens comes up. Well, mikevalstar sets the conversation straight by mentioning that if you really want a nice writing experience, that fountain pens are the way to go! Sassychupacabra then responds with a  glowing comment about Gouletpens.com and mentions several great starter pens like the Lamy Safari and Pilot Metropolitan, and goes on to help educate the Reddit readers about what fountain pens are all about (something we are real into!).

Needless to say, we're seeing a lot of new folks interested in pens coming to our site today, and it would be a terrible idea for us to shut down our site, today of all days! So we're going to reschedule our physical inventory for a later date. This is just an exercise in our of our company's core principles of "Work Hard, Be Honest, Be Flexible"….the latter being the one our whole company is living out today!

So we decided to put out this video as a thanks, and also as a place for new folks to learn a little bit more about us and about fountain pen use. We've been driving hard to educate anyone interested in the fountain pen hobby for over three and a half years now, posting literally hundreds of videos and blog posts covering all kinds of products and useful tips. For anyone new, Fountain Pen 101 will be the first thing you want to check out, as it'll set you up with a solid foundation and get you into the hobby with a great basis of knowledge. If you have a Reddit account and want to contribute to the conversation, we would love it if you could jump over to the thread and share your fountain pen love.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Goulet Brass Sheet Tutorial

You might be asking yourself why in the world you need sheets of metal for your fountain pen, and the answer is, usually you don't. But thin Brass Sheets like the new ones we just started offering at Gouletpens.com can be helpful to clear out the slit of your nib or the ink channel in your feed if you find your pen isn't flowing well as it should.

The video covers:

  • Why do I need it? (0:42)
  • How do I use it? (3:05)
  • Using it with a nib removed from the pen (4:44)
  • How long will it last? (5:29)

Why do I need brass sheet?

If you're maintaining your pens regularly like I laid out in this video, chances are you won't need brass sheet. But if you have any pen that just isn't flowing properly, there's a fighting chance that it could be due to an obstruction in the nib or the feed. Often a liquid like water or pen flush can clean these out, but for the most stubborn offenders a physical tool like this brass sheet will make sure that everything is free and clear. I use it as a practice for any new pen that I'm using personally, to make sure that any small burrs left over from the pen manufacturer in the nib slit are removed.

How do I use it? 

To use a brass sheet on a nib that's installed on a pen, insert the corner of the brass into the slit of the nib on the opposite end of the tip. For most nibs, there will be a hole in the middle of the nib face where you'll insert it, but some nibs don't have a hole (like Lamy, for example). Slowly and gently drag the brass sheet towards the tip of the nib, making sure to keep the brass between the tines as you go. 

Carefully insert brass sheet in between nib tines, and pull towards the tip.

Be careful not to jam the brass too far down into the nib, as you will hit the feed if you do that. Try to keep the brass pretty shallow in the nib. Once you've reached the tip, the brass will be tighter in the nib as nibs are designed to touch at the tip. Once you've pulled the brass all the way down through the slit, you are all set. You're welcome to repeat it as many times as you feel necessary. You can do this with an inked or uninked pen, but in general it's best to floss your nib during your pen cleaning process, and flush it out after flossing. 

To use brass sheet in a nib that isn't installed in a pen, do the exact same method as above, but on the underside of the nib instead of on top. Flossing with brass sheet is also a good practice if you're doing any kind of nib smoothing, to remove any small metal particles from the nib.

Using brass sheet on a standalone nib is much easier, you insert the brass in from the bottom and pull towards the tip.

How long will it last? 

The 1"x2" brass sheets should be enough to last you quite some time if you're careful. The brass is incredibly thin at 0.002" thick, and it is soft and can be bent fairly easily. When that happens you can use a pair of household scissors and cut a small sliver off the end to reveal a fresh new edge to your brass. 

The reason the brass is so thin is so that it will easily fit between your tines without causing any pressure that would misalign the tines. Brass is the ideal material used for flossing nibs because it's softer than any other metal used for making fountain pen nibs, so it won't cause your nibs functional harm. There is a potential for the brass to scratch the surface of a nib with a colored coating on it (such as the Lamy or Monteverde Black nibs), so be careful when you're using it on nibs like these that you don't touch the brass to the nib surface.

These Goulet Brass Sheets come in a twin set of 1"x2" sheets for $3.95 and are just one of the many new nib tuning tools we've developed at Gouletpens.com. If you have any further questions about how to use it, just ask me in the comments and I'm happy to answer.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Goulet Nib Tuning Supplies

You've been asking us for this for some time now, and we've finally delivered. We've been working diligently for months now to source out and develop the most useful nib tuning supplies that we could for the fountain pen enthusiast. These are tools that you can use to smooth and clean your nib to get it operating to your liking.

DISCLAIMER: Of course, I have to have a disclaimer here...doing anything to modify/smooth your nib will pretty much void all pen manufacturer's warranties, so make sure you understand what you are doing and you must be willing to accept responsibility for any wrongdoing during your smoothing process. You're basically going 'rogue' for most pen companies here, so make sure that you're only smoothing nibs on pens that are either out of warranty or that you feel confident enough that you'll never need to use the warranty. Don't blame me if you screw up your nib :) 

Okay, all that said, the stuff we have here isn't really all that scary, if you are cautious and study up the correct way to use them. I will be posting videos showing how to use each one of these over the next week or so, to help you understand just that. But I wanted to make this post for those of you who already know how to use these, to let you know you can now get them all at Gouletpens.com.

So here are the new nib tuning supplies we have available:

Goulet Loupe, $12.50

This little guy is quite handy, and essential for checking the alignment of your nib tines and inspecting it more closely than you can with your naked eye. We sifted through gobs of different loupes out there and found that the ease of use and affordability of this little LED-powered 15x loupe give just about any level of fountain pen enthusiast the ability to see what's going on with their nib.

Goulet Loupe, 15x power with built-in LED's

Goulet Loupe, allows you to inspect your nib for proper tine alignment easily

Goulet MicroMesh, $4.95

This 12,000 grit abrasive is the most aggressive approach you should take towards smoothing your nib, and you'll want to be really careful when you use it. It's used for smoothing out a scratchy nib. Basically, don't use it unless you know what you're doing. I'll definitely put out a video on this one.

Goulet Micromesh, an abrasive sheet to smooth scratchy nibs

Goulet Mylar Paper, $4.95

This is a less aggressive approach to nib smoothing than Micromesh. There are two grits, 1-micron and 0.3 Micron, and they're used to take a nib from pretty smooth to super-smooth, if you're so inclined.

Goulet Mylar Paper, used to take a pretty smooth nib and make it glassy smooth

Goulet Brass Sheets, $3.95

These are really more of a cleaning/maintenance tool, used to floss your nib to keep it clear and flowing smoothly.

Goulet Brass Sheet, used to floss the tines of your nib to keep ink flowing smoothly

These products have been a huge effort of mine in recent months, and I really feel that they are great tools for the avid fountain pen enthusiast to keep their pens at optimal performance. I will be posting in-depth video tutorials on how to use each of these products. They are also all available as a nib tuning package set for $21.95.

I'd love to hear what you think! Leave me a comment below and we'll chat.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Monday, June 17, 2013

Mailbox Monday #50 (wow, really?)

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! At least I've felt compelled enough to share it with you 50 times so far!  I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

I have received my first two Noodler's inks from you (Nikita and Heart of Darkness). Both with an eyedropper. That makes your responsible in me liking this "technology" :D. Both pens are OK, but the nib is too small for me (I am the medium to broad guy) and the quality also isn't the best. I love the ink in the pen body and how it moves there back and forth. The capacity is not that important for me as I plan to use them only in the office with the ink bottles in my drawer. I know I can have this effect also with an piston filler, but it doesn't feel the same (I know, I'm weird). Can you give me some tips which pens are the pest for an eyedropper conversion. The pen has to be a clear demonstrator as I want to see the ink and the colors. It should have the "classic style" nib (TWSBI style and not Lamy or Preppy style) and be available in different sizes (mainly M). The nib should be very smooth of course. I do not want to convert an expensive pen, so I think, the price limit should be EUR 50,00 (ca 65 - 70 USD). Do you think you can point me in the right direction?
Yeah, the free pens that come with those inks are okay, nothing to get too excited about (except watching that ink slosh!). You can see all of the eyedropper-convertible pens we have here. It sounds like you want something with a clear body though, and that narrows the search quite a bit. I think the pen that would have pretty much everything you want would be to get a Noodler's Clear Ahab which comes with a flexible nib. Converting it to eyedropper is easy, I have a video on that here. You should then get a Goulet nib of your choice, and put that in the pen instead of the flex nib. It's easy to replace, video here. That would give you a clear pen with a beautiful ink-sloshing body, with a reliable conventional nib for a total investment of $35. 

Currently using Rhodia A5 lined. Would like to move up to A4 lined or anything as close to 8.5 X 11 as possible Got all excited about Habana until I saw it was only available in "blank" 1) Would prefer cream and not white paper with narrower rules that wider 2) Also like the pockets in the back of the Rhodia. Looking at the Apica Premium but not sure Maybe too much to askfor in one journal but willing to compromise, of course,. Whatever you can suggest. Thanks
The Habana A4 in blank is currently the only A4 bound notebook from Clairefontaine/Rhodia/Quo Vadis in the US. There is an A4 Rhodia Webnotebook in France, but they're not imported into the US. We looked into it, but the minimum quantities are too high for us, and the notebooks would cost around $45 each! So currently, there is no Rhodia A4 in the US, the Habana is only in blank, and Apica doesn't have a pocket. There is always the Leuchtturm1917 Master, that might meet all your criteria. The paper isn't quite as good as the other brands I just mentioned, so that's a compromise. 

Any advice on an elegant way to fill a cartridge converter from that narrow opening in the Noodler's 4.5oz bottle lids? I'm thinking of using a syringe and just injecting ink into the converter. Also, what do you do with the eyedropper to keep them from making an inky mess when you set them down?
Well, there's pretty much two ways you can go about it. One is the ink syringe like you mentioned, and I have a video on how to do that here. The other way to do it would be to take something like an ink sample vial and fill that with your eyedropper, then fill your pen from that. The neat thing about this method is 1) you don't need an ink syringe, so you have having to clean that out or even buy it in the first place, and 2) you can fit a lot more ink the sample vial than you'll use on one pen filling, so you can use and reuse that one vial to fill your pen, so you're having to open up your bottle less. Whenever you're working from a large bottle of ink, it's never a bad idea to use a smaller vial or bottle to fill from more regularly, so that you're keeping the large bottle 'contaminated' as little as possible. That's one advantage, but the more tangible benefit is that you will only have to use the eyedropper to fill your vial once, and you'll be able to fill your pen probably 10 times from that vial before you need to refill it.

As for the dropper itself, if you're filling a separate vial, then you won't ever have to set it down...problem solved! Otherwise, there's nothing magical, you'll just need to put something like wax paper, a thick wad of paper towel, or something else to keep the ink from getting on whatever you set it down upon. 

How do you flush the Platinum Preppy with a marker tip or highlighter tip or do you just use the tip until it is unusable and replace with a new tip?
Well, it's sort of a felt material so it won't flush out like a fountain pen will. The pen itself can be, but the tip won't clean so easily as a fountain pen nib. It won't be as easy to change colors like a fountai pen, you'll pretty much have to change tips. One thing you can try is to soak the tip in water (or maybe a 10% bleach in water solution) to clean it overnight. 

Brian, is there a package of ink samples in the color black that are a mixture of water based and waterproof ink? As an artist the difference is crucial and very important. I am looking for a package like so on the site but, have not come across one. If not, what are some conventional inks would you recommend, this will minimize straining my brain looking for a particular one in this abundance of inks.
We don't have a sampler pack of both waterproof and non-waterproof black, I'm sorry to say. We have one just of waterproof, so you can look at those and see what is most appealing, then I can recommend some conventional ones if you'd like. Or, if you want to search for yourself, you can go here to see all the black inks we have, go here for water resistant ones, and you can then deduce which inks aren't water resistant. Many artists revere Platinum Carbon Black as the best black in to use if you want waterproofness. Some good conventional blacks would be J. Herbin Perle Noire, Monteverde Black, Lamy Black, Aurora Black, and Pelikan Edelstein Onyx

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling more emails into my next Mailbox Monday post!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Comparing the Lamy Al-Star, Safari, and Vista

It's a common question, what's the difference between the Lamy Vista, Safari, and Al-Star? I remember asking the same thing in my early fountain pen days, because I would read about these popular pens all the time. These are all staple pens in the fountain pen community with a loyal following. This video is intended to clarify exactly what each pen offers and what sets them apart from each other.

Here are the main differences:
  • The Safari and Vista are the exact same pen, except the Vista is clear
  • The Safari and Al-Star are (essentially) the same dimensions, the Al-Star is a hair bigger in diameter but not noticeably
  • The Al-Star is made of aluminum and the Safari is made of plastic, the aluminum tends to dent and scratch a little easier than the plastic
  • The grips on the Safari and Vista match the rest of the pen, the Al-Stars all have smoky translucent grips regardless of color
  • The Al-Star is slightly heavier (22g) than the Safari and Vista (17g)
  • The Vista only has a silver clip, the Safari and Al-Star both have silver and black clips, depending on the color of the pen (the clips are not interchangeable)
  • All Lamy pens (except the Lamy 2000) have interchangeable Lamy nibs in EF, F, M, B (both steel and black) and 1.1mm, 1.5mm, 1.9mm italics (steel only)
  • Both the Safari and Al-Star come in a range of colors, and Lamy releases limited edition colors for both on a regular basis
  • All three pens accept both the Z24 and Z26 Lamy converters, as well as proprietary Lamy ink cartridges
  • The Safari and Vista both sell for $37 (list, US) and the Al-Star sells for $47 (list, US)

This should help to clear things up! If I missed anything, let me know in the comments.

Write On,
Brian Goulet 

Monday, June 10, 2013

Mailbox Monday #49

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

I watched your Youtube video for filling the Namiki vanishing point pen in hopes I could get info on removing a stuck converter. I have never removed the original converter since purchasing the pen and was actually unaware that it was removable. Unfortunately, my converter will not come out of the nib body. I have been soaking it in warm/hot water thinking maybe that will loosen it up but have had no luck so far. Do you know if these pens were also produced with a permanent Nib/Converter body?
I'm sorry you're having trouble with your converter! I am not aware that Pilot has ever made a non-removable converter for their nib units, all of the ones I've ever seen are removable. However, it's always tough the first time you go to pull it out. I don't know why it's so tough, but after you remove it the first time it's much easier after that. As simple as it sounds, you really just need to pull hard! It'll come out, I promise. I don't think soaking or anything like that will make much of a difference, it just needs a forceful tug.

Brian I have two questions. First, is there a package of ink samples in the color black that are a mixture of water based and waterproof ink? As an artist the difference is crucial and very important. I am looking for a package like so on the site but, have not come across one. Second, when will you have the NOODLE'S Konrad brush pen - black/ tortoise? Would love to get that to.
We don't have a sampler pack of both waterproof and non-waterproof black, I'm sorry to say. We have one just of waterproof blacks, so you can look at those and see what is most appealing, then I can recommend some conventional ones if you'd like. Or, if you want to search for yourself, you can go here to see all the black inks we have, go here for water resistant ones, and you can then deduce which inks aren't water resistant. Many artists revere Platinum Carbon Black as the best black in to use if you want waterproofness. 
The Noodler's brush pen is apparently being redesigned or something, we've been out of them for months. I haven't heard anything about if/when they're going to be available again. I know as much as you do!

I'm interested in finding inks that provide some nice variation when used with stub nibs. Do any that you carry come to mind? I've looked at the swab section and the Rohrer and Klingner  Alt-goldgrun seems interesting as a cross between gold and green, but I'm interested in something useable in the office.
There are a variety of inks that have color variation, that's a term typically called 'shading'. Usually, it's just a variation of light to dark within the same color (light blue to dark blue in a given blue ink, for example). Do you have any particular shade of color you want? Some of the best inks that come to mind for shading are Noodler's Black Swan in Australian Roses, Noodler's Apache Sunset, De Atramentis Robert Louis Stevenson, De Atramentis Steel Blue, Diamine Ancient Copper, Noodler's Kiowa Pecan, Diamine Marine, Lamy Turquoise....to name a few. 

I noticed in your Nighthawk video you mentioned that the Monteverde ink was a lubricated ink. Are all of their inks lubricated? I think you should mention this characteristic in your descriptions of the ink. Otherwise, how would I know? I decided that I wanted to stick to lubricated inks as much as possible because they are kinder to the pens. I want a nice brown ink. I notice that Monteverde has one. Is it lubricated? I find that brown inks are dry. I used several browns in my Nouveau Encore LE, and they were all dry. I am using Waterman Serenity Blue now and it has made a difference...but I want a nice brown. What do you think?
Yes, apparently Monteverde's inks are lubricated. They only advertise the inks with some mysterious "ITF Technology", apparently that somehow incorporates increased lubrication, from what I understand talking to my Monteverde rep. It's their whole line, and so far I've used their black ink and it does flow well and feel smooth. I know our descriptions are a little lacking, we'll try to work on that. I haven't used the Monteverde Brown personally, but if it's anything like the Black I bet you'd like it. The reviews of the brown look good, and seem to indicate it's as lubricated feeling as the black is. I'd recommend you at least try a sample of it if you're looking for a lubricated brown.

When making a wax seal, is it standard practice to use the last name initial or if it is to be used only by me for my correspondence is it proper to use the initial of my first name or is it up to the individual?
I don't know that anything with a wax seal is 'standard practice' these days! ;) But in general, if it's a single letter, I think most folks tend to use the first letter of their last name. But honestly, I know plenty of people that use the first letter of their first name, it's really up to you, whatever you prefer! I doubt that anyone that receives a letter from you with a wax seal will be too worried what letter you use, just the fact you use one will be impressive.

Did you or Youtube do something to the videos so they can't be downloaded? Normally Realplayer Downloader sees them and I just click Download but now instead of getting a multi-megabyte file it shows only 916k. It downloads an .mp4 that won't work. Other times it is a 1.7Mb file that won't work either.
YouTube changed the channel layout (it was a forced change), and perhaps the RealPlayer Downloader needs to update something to account for this change? I don't know, honestly, that kind of stuff is completely outside of my control. All I know is that there isn't an option for me to enable/disable the downloading/recording of videos from my YouTube channel. As an alternative though, I have an Ink Nouveau podcast on iTunes where you can download all my videos.

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling more emails into my next Mailbox Monday post!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Friday, June 7, 2013

Goulet Pen Flush Tutorial

Sometimes water just isn't enough when it comes time to clean your fountain pens. That's where a pen flush can really help out, and at GouletPens.com we've developed our own Goulet Pen Flush to help you give your pen a thorough cleaning. We've formulated a gentle yet effective solution to help loosen any residual ink hanging out in your pen.

Normally, cleaning your pen just with water is fine, and I talk about the proper way to maintain your pens in my Fountain Pen 101 video on Pen Cleaning and Maintenance. But when you need an extra cleaning boost, that's where pen flush can really help.

Goulet Pen Flush comes in an 8 fl. oz. bottle in "Goulet Blue" with a twist-cap, as well as a small vial.

Here are some scenarios where a pen flush can help you clean your pen better than water alone:
  • When you have a new pen. It helps to clean it with a flush because residual oils left over from manufacturing equipment can impede your ink flow, even if the pen is brand new out of the box. Pens in all price ranges can have oils and debris left over from manufacturing, so it's good to clean it before using it for the first time to make sure your pen is in tip-top shape.
  • When you have an old pen. If you have a friend or relative that had a fountain pen sitting in a desk drawer for 10 years and gives it to you because they know 'you're into them', chances are that pen wasn't properly cleaned and stored. Before just sticking that old pen in your ink bottle (and possibly contaminating the ink),  and before sending the pen off for repair, it's a good idea to try to get it as clean as you can before taking any more drastic measures. If the pen had ink in it and it's all dried up, you may want to resort to soaking it in the flush for a day or two to loosen up the old ink.
  • When you let your pens dry out with ink in them. If you're like me, you are addicted to pens and want to continually add to your collection. Combine this with a love for trying many different ink colors and a natural inclination for procrastinating cleaning your pens, and what you'll end up with is dozens of pens that have been left to sit with ink drying out in them. I'm not proud of it but I do this a lot. Using a flush helps to cut through that dried ink and get the pen back in working order faster than water alone.
  • When you are cleaning out a stubborn ink. There are a host of different pen inks around, and they all have different properties. Some of the most magnificent inks come with a drawback of being a bit of a pain to clean out of the pen. Pen flush will help to move those inks out of there so you can get on to your next ink color.
  • When your pen just isn't flowing like it used to. Even with regular flushing with water, paper fibers and dust can work their way into your need and your nib slit and build up over time. If you use the same pen regularly and seem to remember that it used to write a lot wetter than it does now, it may be time to use a flush to break down that built up stuff in there to get it flowing smoothly again.

Part of our motivation for designing Goulet Pen Flush was the delivery system. We use a LOT of flush ourselves, and we also ship and store a lot of things. All of the pen flush we've seen offered before is in glass bottles. And while we like the heft and aesthetics of a glass bottle, we ultimately decided that it wasn't as practical for the use of a flush as we felt we could design. We wanted a bottle that was more durable than glass, and would also be able to work with the method of using the flush that I most preferred. What I personally was doing with my own pen cleaning regimen was to decant a small amount of pen flush into an ink sample vial using an ink syringe, and I would clean my pens from this vial. When the vial of flush looked too gross for my liking, I would just empty it and fill it again with clean flush from my larger bottle. This would keep my bottle clean, and allow me to use clean flush on a regular basis.

We decided to incorporate my method into the Goulet Pen Flush system. You can use the twist-top cap on the big bottle to easily refill your small vial without having to use a syringe or eyedropper. You can keep the vial and use it as many times as you want, emptying the pen flush whenever you feel it is getting too dirty for your liking. Of course, you can always flush directly into the bottle if you feel it's a better method, that's completely your preference.

The Goulet Pen Flush bottle is designed to make decanting flush into a smaller (included) vial easy.
You can flush your pen as many times as you want in the vial, and empty it when you want to put clean flush in.
The 0.5" diameter vial is large enough to accommodate all but the biggest of pens, for those you can just use a small cup of your choice for flushing.

Using pen flush is easy, especially if you're incorporating it into your regular pen maintenance. Essentially, you just remember water-flush-water. What that means is that you use water to clean the ink out of your pen just like you normally would. Try to get out as much as you can. Then, use the pen flush, cleaning your pen in exactly the same manner as you did with your water. Depending on just how dirty your pen is, you may only need a few fill-flush cycles, or you may need to actually let it sit in the pen for a little bit. You'll have to use your own best judgement depending on the severity of your pen's condition. Once your flushing is done, then you do a few quick fill-flush cycles with clean water again to remove all the flush, use a paper towel to draw the remaining water from your nib/feed, and you're good to go!

If you are using a clear demonstrator pen and you have a particularly stubborn ink, it may be to your advantage to actually take the pen apart (as much as you're able/comfortable) and physically scrub the inky pen parts with a toothbrush or Q-tip soaked in pen flush. You'll have to use your judgement about the best method for your individual pens. Just remember to always rinse your pen with clean water as a final step before you ink it up.

Now for the disclaimer stuff. This is a cleaning solution, and should be treated with the same care that you would any other household cleaner. Do not drink this or get it in your eyes, it is an irritant and you'll find it quite unpleasant. Keep it out of reach of your kids or your pets. Don’t soak aluminum pens in the flush as the main cleaning ingredient (ammonium hydroxide) will eventually react with aluminum if left on it for a prolonged period of time. It'll be okay if it gets on aluminum and you wipe it off, you just don't want to soak it for days/weeks in the flush. Also, don't mix it with bleach! This formula does not contain any alcohol, so it will be safe for use in celluloid and celluloid-derivative pens.

Instructions, ingredients, and warning are all on the bottle of Goulet Pen Flush.

Goulet Pen Flush comes in a blue plastic 8 fl. oz. bottle in Goulet Blue with a twist cap, and one empty ink vial for easy decanting. This system costs $11, and should last you quite a while, especially if you're reusing the vial of flush. If you already have spare vials left over from ink samples, you can reuse them to fill with flush to keep at both home and work, or around multiple sinks so you don't have to always go looking for your flush bottle. We're also offering it as part of a package set with a pair of ink syringes and bulb syringe to help with all of your ink filling and cleaning needs. I do hope that you find our flush something that allows you to get more enjoyment out of your pens. Let me know if you have any questions in the comments below!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

"What's in a Name?" Ink Drop Contest!

We had a bit of fun with the June Ink Drop this month. Normally we pick five colors related to a theme and explain why we chose each color. This month, we've chosen to keep the identity of the five colors a secret, at least for a little while!

We want YOU to guess what the colors are. Take away all your preconceived notions about brands and names, and just try it for what it is. Sometimes the color looks nothing like the name implies! We promise that all of these inks are conventional inks, without any crazy properties.

So once you've spent a bit of time playing with the inks, come back here and enter our contest. It's okay if you don't know all five, just guess as many as you can. We'll need the brand and color name (i.e. "Aurora Black"). For each ink, we'll randomly select a winner from among the correct guesses to win a $15 GouletPens.com gift certificate. That's up to five chances to win! Hint: you can use our Swab Shop as a helpful guide in identifying what the colors may possibly be.

You have until 11:59pm EDT on Friday, June 28th to submit your guesses. Just vote once, please. We'll reveal what the colors were, along with the winners, a few days after that. And once the colors are revealed, you can write in the correct name on the blank labels we provided with the Ink Drop and purchase the full bottles at the usual 10% discount on our site.

If you have any questions, feel free to post in the comments below. Just don't give away your guesses! ;)

Monday, June 3, 2013

Mailbox Monday #48

My email inbox gets a plethora of interesting pen related questions, and I spend a good deal of time crafting thoughtful responses to each person who writes to me. A lot of times, the questions I get are good ones that I feel are worth sharing with you! I'll be posting highlights of some of my more interesting email questions every Mailbox Monday. These are some emails of mine from the past week or so:

Brian - I received a Vanishing Point pen as a gift and watched your YouTube video on how it works. I want to change out the Twist Converter for the cartridge and based on the video it looks like it just slides out from the nib unit. I can’t get mine to move and am not sure what to do. Is there a trick to getting the Twist Converter out? Do I need to go back to the gym?
It shouldn't be that hard...are you sure you're holding on to the right parts? The unit splits apart where you see in this picture. If you have a firm grip on the nib unit, and a firm grip on the metal band on the converter, and twist while you pull them apart, it will give in.
Pilot Con-50, broken apart

I recently purchased a Pilot Metal Falcon, and it is an awesome pen, however I ordered it with the Extra-Fine nib. I like it for practicing, or just writing for fun, because the of character of writing it produces is fantastic with the relatively wide variation, however I do not like it as a daily writer because it can be a bit scratchy/temperamental. So then I'd like to ask you if you could special order me an additional nib. I know that the medium sized nib is very smooth as I have demoed it before, however I'd like to know in your opinion how the regular fine feels too? I would like to order one of the two individual nib units, but would like your thoughts on them first.

Just for reference I also have a Lamy Vista in Fine, and once had an Al-Star in Extra Fine. So I went to the Nib Nook to compare the Lamy EF to the Falcon nibs, and as best as my eyes can see it looks as if the Falcon SM might be almost as fine as the Lamy EF. Which is impressive, but makes sense to me, since I was once told that Japanese pens are usually cut finer across the whole range than American or European pens. In your opinion would you say that my impression of that comparison is accurate? If so, the SM nib would most likely be my choice.
I'm glad you like your Metal Falcon, that EF nib is sweet, isn't it? I completely agree with your assessment though, I love the nib but it's really not ideal for a daily writer. We can special order nibs...it's actually the whole front grip section with the nib, we've special ordered them before.

As far as which nib you should get, that's a bit tough. It might help to see a video I made where I wrote with all 4 PMF nib sizes, here. The EF you have gives the best line variation, at the expense of smoothness. The F is smoother, but still not glassy. It still gives good variation but doesn't have the same bite as the EF. The M is much smoother, more like what you'd expect a non-flexible nib to feel like. It still gives some good variation, not as much as the EF or F clearly, but given that you already have an EF I would say you'd probably be happiest with the way the M feels on the page. Given that you have an EF, I would say the M would probably be your best option to maximize your pen's versatility. You can keep the M on there as a daily carry, and whip out the EF when you want to get fancy.

What you mentioned about the nib sizes is generally a pretty safe assumption, but I've found that it's more true for the EF and F nibs than for the M and B nibs. Generally, the Japanese EF and F are much finer than Western nibs, the M is usually pretty close to a Western M (perhaps a bit thinner, but not a full size thinner, usually), and the B is pretty much the same as Western B's. If you're looking for something close to a Lamy EF, then you would want to go with the Falcon SF, the SM is broader, more like the Lamy M when unflexed:

I still think you should go with the M nib, because it's going to give you the most versatility apart from your EF nib.

Does Noodler's Heart of Darkness dry faster than Noodler's Black? Does HoD have any advantages over Black, or is Black the clear winner?
There isn't really a clear winner....most folks debate between the two as to which is better. Black is more popular, I can say that, but HoD is only available in a 4.5 ounce so that may be part of the reason why....some folks surely don't want to buy a 4.5 ounce bottle. Honestly, I love both inks, and they perform pretty similarly. In some pens and on some papers, one may dry a little faster, look a little darker, or resist feathering a little better than the other, but it's a real tight race with no clear winner. The best I can say is try a sample of both, and see which you prefer for yourself.

If you can believe it, my 7 year old son enjoys watching your ink and pen reviews with me! He’s tried out one of my older Cross fountain pens and now he wants one of his own. Of course, that means my daughter wants one too. What would you recommend for a first pen? I’d like something that uses a converter and cartridges. The Pilot Metropolitan and Pelikan Pelicano look like they may work?
That's great that your kids are getting into fountain pens, they're a lot of fun for them! The Pilot Metropolitan is a great pen, it writes well and doesn't break the bank. I highly recommend that one. It does come with a converter and a single cartridge, and it takes Pilot/Namiki proprietary cartridges. The Pelikano is also worth considering...it's a little more expensive and doesn't come with a converter, but it writes well and it does take a more universal Standard International cartridge/converter, so that's a benefit. The Pelikano Jr is also worth a look, it's more affordable than the Pelikano. Another pen you may want to consider is the Lamy Nexx, it's designed similarly to the Pelikano, but there are much great nib choices for that pen. Lamy also has proprietary cartridges and a converter (not included). 

I'm going to buy the LAMY Safari Apple Green pen from you if it's not the same as the (discontinued) Lime Green. Please let me know if these are different pens or the same. I ask because most websites just have them listed as "green." One was even tagged "Lime Green" and said something in the description like "This pen has that great Apple Green color." It's very confusing, but I really like both those colors and have the Lime Green. If they really are two separate pen colors, then I really want the Apple Green too.
Well, I don't have a Lime Green on me to compare, but here is a great blog post from Rants of the Archer that shows both. They're definitely different colors. I love the Apple Green, I think it's a bit more pleasant than the Lime. That's just my opinion though. The Lime Green was a limited edition color a couple of years back, and the Apple Green is a limited edition from last year (and should be going away soon, actually). I'd definitely pick one up if you find it appealing (haha, that was an unintended pun!). 

Thanks for taking the time to read my emails! I'd love to hear what you think in the comments. I'll be compiling this coming week's emails into next week's Mailbox Monday post!

Write On,
Brian Goulet

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