Friday, July 4, 2014

Goulet Q&A Episode 38, Open Forum

This week is Goulet Q&A Episode 38, an Open Forum. It's a special one because Rachel is here with me! We're in a rather punchy mood, too, so I suspect you'll get a kick out of this rather extended episode. Enjoy!

1) Edgar H.- Facebook (7:32):
We already know Brian's 5 Favorite fountain pen inks. What about Rachel's 5 favorite fountain pen inks? (Rachel appears on scene and let us know.) (It can work this time, right?)
2) Saul H.- Facebook (19:00):
I have a multi-part question for the next Goulet Q&A

1. Any chance of getting more of Pilot's offerings here in the US? (i.e. Custom Heritage 91, Custom Heritage 912, Elite 95S, or others that seem to be for sale in Japan but not here)

2. Any idea why the Pilot pens that _are_ for sale in the US are so much more expensive here than overseas? The Stargazer is $152 here in the US but the Japanese equivalent, the Stella 90S, can be found on amazon or ebay often for <$100. Same for the Custom Heritage 92--it seems to be about $100 cheaper if ordered through Japan (and presumably Pilot Japan) rather than Pilot USA.

Thanks so much--I love your videos and your shop. You guys are one of the best online retailers out there, regardless of genre. Keep up the awesome work!
  • We’ve talked with Pilot USA about bringing some other pens in
    • it’s not always straightforward why they aren’t in the US
    • sometimes it’s supply/demand issues
    • sometimes it’s other things and we’re never given reason
    • we are definitely letting them know what we hear that you want, and they are listening more now than ever before
    • we are well-respected by Pilot, absolutely
  • most of the overseas dealers you’re seeing are not authorized dealers
  • Pilot USA handles warranty issues in US, in Japan you have to ship it back (if even from an authorized dealer) if there’s any issue
  • of course, such a price discrepancy is really tempting, even at risk of warranty issues 

3) Carlos Q.- Facebook (31:25):
Hello Brian, I was just wondering if you are planing in the near future to work on another color of Noodler's ink, just like you did with Liberty's Elysium... Thank you so much for all you great work and for teaching us so many things!!!
  • We’ve been talking with Nathan about a new ink, but it’s still in the works. He’s really busy! 
  • we’re letting him focus on the Neponsets first
  • then catch up on inks

4) @wilsonbt34- Twitter (33:56):
My lamy studios nib squeaks with Noodler's Black. Will a lubricated ink curtail the squeaking problem? Any suggestions?
  • what nib size? we’ve seen this happen with some nibs, usually broads
  • ink can help it, sure
  • often it just needs to be honed with mylar paper or micro mesh 

5) Scott R.- Facebook (35:30):
Ink question: I have a bottle of the pre-reformulation J Herbin 1670 red. What if any special precautions or cleaning should I use with this ink?
  • they put a warning sticker on there, but we haven’t heard of any real issues
  • crusting on the nib if it dries out
  • cleans pretty well though, maybe light staining  

6) Scott R.- Facebook (37:11):
We all know about quill pens in the days of the Founders. But what kinds of pen would Lincoln and the Civil War generation used? Were fountain pens in use then?
  • it’s hard to say
  • fountain pens were just starting to come into their being in the mid-1800’s, though weren’t really being mass produced until late 1800’s

7) Bianca N.- Facebook (38:34):
Can you recommend a sketchbook for drawing with my fountain pen? I'm an illustrator and love to sketch concept art in my sketchbooks but get a lot of bleed through. Thanks!
  • don’t have a whole lot of experience with sketchbooks, honestly
  • Stillman & Birn, really good paper 

8) Jessica O.- Facebook (40:18):
Can we see a speed-up video of Joe doing his beautiful fountain pen sketches? I am very curious of the technique with the shading, texture, & smudging
  • that’s a cool idea, we’re thinking about that
  • Joe’s pretty private, but we’ll float the idea by him 

9) Matthew F.- Facebook (41:15):
Do gold nibs wear out faster because they are softer metal? More specifically, what kind of life expectancy would a Pilot Falcon soft-fine nib have? I know it's a broad question, but I'm more or less wondering if they are known to have shorter life span. Happy 4th to all at Goulet!!
  •  not really, the tipping takes most of the wear
  • the ‘life’ would more likely be based on how you treat it, how hard you flex it if you do that with the soft nib
  • many, many years life expectancy

10) Heath C.- Facebook (43:30):
In honor of the 4th, what is your favorite US made product that you sell? Also, what did a typical 4th look like for you guys growing up?
  • Not a lot of US-made products, honestly
  • US is not a huge FP culture, nor is it the manufacturing culture it used to be
  • US brands: Noodler’s (mostly), Edison, Aston Leather, Field Notes, Monteverde (sort of), Private Reserve (sort of), Nock, Quiver (sort of), Organics Studio, Sheaffer (sort of), Stillman & Birn (sort of), Goulet products
  • Fav product: Noodler’s Liberty’s Elysium, c'mon
  • Goulet 4th: nothing fancy
  • Goldman 4th: ?

11) Luis M.- Facebook (50:35):
I recently got a Namiki Falcon, I wonder what is the true purpose of the shaker inside the converter?? For starters, the pen itself goes through a lot of ink rapidly (at least myself), so ink won't remain there for a long period of time; the converter is small, so it won't carry enough ink for the purpose of a shaker; and lastly, the shaker must be taking precious ink volume! I just don't get it. (Brian, if Rachel makes an appearance, do let her answer this question) Thank you guys!

12) Nichole B.- Facebook (53:36):
Speaking of Noodlers, any chance that GPC will carry the broad non-flex Noodlers replacement nib or a #5 replacement nib (any brand) for the Nib Creaper?
  • we’d considered it
  • broads are by far the worst-selling nibs of any pen
  • cost was about 3 times the price of the fine/medium Noodler’s nib, due to increased amount of tipping material
  • we just couldn’t see the demand being there
  • Nib Creaper is actually #2, not #5
  • We’ve toyed with the idea of a #5 Goulet nib, it is possible through Jowo
  • We really don’t know if demand is there, we have huge quantities to buy up front, high reorder points

13) Jessica B.- Facebook (57:34):
Tangential to the cake or pie: hamburgers or hot dogs? Also: is it possible to do something like add an o-ring to Nib Creaper to keep it from drying out quite so much between uses? I've heard of the sponge in the cap trick but it's a demonstrator! (the following is commentary that doesn't need to be read if you do answer this: I am using it regularly, but not every single day. It goes through a lot of ink, possibly through evaporation. I love the pen and want to keep using it, I just don't want to have to dip my nib in water every time I use it. I guess I need excuses to write more often.)
  • Nib Creaper, the sponge has worked best
  • Keep in ziplock bag
  • Not as much a problem with newer Nib Creapers since air holes were removed from cap
  • Ahab seals better
  • don’t know how an o-ring would really fit on the Creaper 

14) Angel L.-email (1:02:02):
If you could learn any calligraphy script (Gothic, Copperplate, Foundational, etc.), what would it be and why? 

  • Probably Spencerian, or some blend version of it
  • just looks awesome 
  • Rachel- modern calligraphy, Pinterest stuff

15) @Maya
42646540- Twitter (1:03:35):
hi Brian i am thinking of buying a lamy 2000 my mom thinks its too much money. what do you think, what should i say to my mom
  • this might be a tough one, it is an expensive pen!
  • trust is huge, you need to prove you’re responsible to handle a pen of this cost
  • she probably fears you’ll lose it or someone will take it from you
  • negotiate a deal, you pay half and she matches
  • last resort, save up for it completely on your own

16) Dale Sharpe- Ink Nouveau (1:08:14):
I would like to hear about the ink Drop theme and ink selection process. Also any friendly in office competitions. Like maybe which employees favorite Ink Drop selection sells the best.
  • It’s an interesting process
  • early days, we’d come up with whatever we wanted, lots of options
  • big list of ideas, some seasonal, some not
  • look for prevalent seasons/events going on around the month we’re looking to do it
  • theme around names/colors/properties of inks
  • these days, we’re trying not to repeat, so we start by pulling a list of all the previously used colors and work around them
  • Ink Drop survey we just launched
    • how many responses, by percentage?
    • likely going to start repeating colors that were used 1+ year ago

17) GimmieCookiee- Ink Nouveau (1:11:35):
Do you have any insight on why pen companies don't make full flex nibs anymore? From the popularity of semi-flex pens such as the Pilot Falcon and the Noodlers' flex pens, I would have thought that there is a huge demand for modern gold flex nibs. 
  • worldwide demand
  • in our little world we think there is huge demand for flex nibs, but there isn’t in the big, big, big picture
  • designing whole new types of nibs takes a lot of resources and dedication, custom work
  • fountain pens at all are an afterthought for many companies, let alone flex nibs
  • of course, we’d LOVE to see more, and we’re trying to communicate that up to our manufacturers
  • it’s like diverting a river

18) Kate Dodge- YouTube (1:16:24):
So far I have only used Noodlers inks because I like the bulletproof aspect. I would like to try other brands, and I want to know what other inks have similar bulletproof properties. Mostly something fade and water resistant. Also I'm looking for a purple ink that meets this criteria. Any thoughts?  

19) Kevin L.- Facebook (1:20:30):
Are Lamy nibs being ground more precisely than in years past? They seem truer to their size designation with less wiggle room between Fine and Medium for instance.
  • We haven’t been told anything’s changed
  • it’s always possible
  • we have heard less about variation than in the past, especially about EF nibs which require the most hand-work 

20) Garth M.- Facebook (1:21:59):
Hi guys, lovin' the Q&A - I was wondering if you knew why we don't see more monotone gold plated nibs like the one on the Micarta. It seems that the only ones available are 2 tone.
  • yellow gold is not as trendy as it used to be, rhodium/silver is more popular
  • two-tone matches better with either yellow gold or rhodium trim, so it’s fewer nibs for a manufacturer to have to make
  • in solid gold nibs, it’s more common for solid yellow color, no plating involved
  • on stainless steel nibs, two-tone makes more sense because there’s already a ‘silver’ color base

21) Ranger Smith- Ink Nouveau (1:24:27):

I am a National Park Ranger stationed at Crater Lake National Park and am looking for an ink to match the stunning blue waters of the lake. Do you have any suggestions? Also, thank you for all the great work that you and your team do! 

22) GnaRocksTheWorld- YouTube (1:25:36):
Hey Brian, what are your top 5 favourite blue inks? 

Thanks to everyone who asked questions this past week! Sorry we weren't able to answer everything, but we'll be doing an Open Forum again next week so ask away. Be sure to check out any previous Q&A's you might have missed here. Have a happy 4th of July and a wonderful week!

Write On,
Brian Goulet


  1. “What sort of pens would Lincoln use” — rolled steel pens (what we would now call nibs) became mass produced in the early part of the 19th century and quickly drove out the quill as a writing implement in the western world. Steel pens existed before, but not of sufficient quality or at low enough cost to make them widely used. A reasonably good description (although it uses the term ‘fountain pen’ anachronistically here to describe a pen holder for a dip pen):


    There were a number of attempts to make steel dip pens hold more ink — which is why you see a variety of ‘reservoir attachments’, usually clips with a bunch of surface area and narrow spaces to hold ink via surface tension, on top of vintage and vintage-style pens (nibs). What _we_ consider fountain pens — comprising some form of large reservoir, nibs, and a feed system to regulate ink flow — became commercially viable at the end of the 19th century and rapidly evolved into the systems we see today — levers, plungers, vacuum fills, etc. There was a tremendous amount of patent litigation in the early part of the 20th century around fountain pen patents, especially in the US — Waterman was the Apple of its day fighting off potential infringers on its patents — and a number of the filling systems are engineered not for efficiency so much as to avoid existing patents (for example, Waterman had the lever BOX patented, which is why most other lever fillers of the 20th century had boxless levers rotating on pins through the pen body).

    I make a habit of pointing out when pens are anachronistic in movies — for example, I recently saw ‘Abe Lincoln, Vampire Hunter’ and he’s shown using a fountain pen that’s WAY too late for the Civil War. There were, if I recall correctly, a few other historical mistakes in that movie as well...

  2. The two of you should do videos together more often! I feel like I'm watching a fountain pen talk show. Great Q&A!

  3. Great information! Glass dip pens date back to the 16th century and are made today. The multiple spiral grooves around the tip hold quite a bit of ink allowing them to write for quite a while before being re-dipped. However, if they were dropped, they broke. Not sure how popular they were back then.

  4. For question 7)
    I use Canson 65lb sketchbooks (also the Strathmore ones). Although it is only 65 lbs, it works wonderfully...no bleedthrough and no ghosting except with one very, very wet ink that also had the same problem on Rhodia.

  5. @Maya42646540

    Here's another take on your mom's concerns: maybe she's afraid you'll spend all that money on a pen, but quickly grow bored with it and it'll sit unused in a desk drawer somewhere. (Since you've probably put some thought into this, I assume this won't be just the case—but your mom might think it is!)

    While I do agree with Brian and Rachel that you probably shouldn't take a Lamy 2000 to school, definitely emphasize that this pen will be used and loved—for example, for homework and/or personal writing projects.

    And, if you want to be really responsible, make sure to also budget for the cost of bottled ink and paper! Plus, maybe a pen case, if you're into that sort of thing.

    Good luck!

  6. Bianca: some might consider this fountain pen heresy, but for drawing with your fountain pen, I've found that you can't beat strathmore 400 (300 is dramatically lower quality) series sketch. It's way less expensive than Stillman & birn, it's available absolutely everywhere, it has a nice tooth to it, and the only time it's bled on me is when I've pushed the paper so far that it has shredded.

    Hope that helps.

  7. Question for next week's Q&A: I'm not a physically strong person, so having to take apart a pen is really tough for me; I always feel like I might break the pen because I find myself applying as much force as I can. Any tips on how to loosen pen parts (such as nib and feed, piston filler) to make it easier on myself to assemble and dissemble the pen? Thanks.

  8. Scott...I can also help with this as I've begun research to demonstrate period illustration as a Living History Interpreter..... An excellent resource is Cathy Johnson's Living History Drawing on the Past.
    On page 26 she writes: "...1872....The invention and general introduction of metallic pens has nearly driven quills out of common use." and "In 1810 a patent was granted in USA...for metallic writing pens." These "metallic pens" are what we today called nibs which insert into a holder. Cathy does Living History interpretation for years and has done A LOT of research. The book is full of her illustrations.

    Bianca: I draw with fountain pen filled with Platinum Carbon Black. Since I also use watercolor, I chose paper that is 140#. I agree with what others have written about sketchbooks. The cheapest and most easily found are Strathmore. You don't need 140# for just ink drawings, 90# is good enough and does not bleed through. Stillman & Birn are good. Alpha has a medium grain and is 150 gsm. Zeta is smooth and heavier, 270 gsm (or 180#). With my heavier watercolor washes, I only use Beta, which is 180# cold press.

    If you like Moleskine, the sketchbook has thick, slick paper. However, they've changed the line and I have not yet had a chance to test the new paper. What I've heard so far is not good but it may be OK for pen if the paper is still as heavy it won't bleed through.

    One of the best pen & ink sketch artists I know uses Bee Paper Aquabee Super Deluxe Sketchbooks http://www.cheapjoes.com/bee-paper-aquabee-super-deluxe-sketchbook.html They are only spiral bound.

  9. It would be great if you could test is the platinum blue+red do really mix well together to form a purple. Because ordering samples would take somewhere over a month to arrive for me, probably longer even. If it works, ordering the full bottles would take the same amount of time. So I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one who's international and would like to see sort of the color you would get out of the platinum pigmented ink. And as someone who has shortly seen the mix-free video with that nice brown, I'd strongly recommend Rachel do the mixing for not getting a brown 😄

  10. Rachel - at about 45:50 in the video did you say Tyler (of Organics Studios) is discontinuing the line?

  11. For your next noodler's exclusive ink: now that sailor epinard has been discontinued, how about creating a sailor epinard replacement w/ bulletproof properties, if possible?

  12. Lincoln pens - He used quill pens as a kid and even in the White House. One has been saved and you can see video here:

    Lincoln also used dip pens -separate steel point with wooden handle. At least three have survived, some info here:

  13. To take apart my Noodler's pens: I wrap the nib and feed with a piece of rubber cut from a thin rubber glove (nitrile). This gives more purchase to my fingers. If the parts are stuck, soaking them in soapy water for a while may help free them. Wet them by sucking up soapy water and expelling it a few times. Wiggling the nib and feed together as a unit, back and forth, may also help free them, particularly if they've been jammed into the pen section by a gorilla at the factory :-) The pen sections are not always perfectly round; if you experiment, you may find a place where the nib and feed go in & out easier. Can't use this trick on the Ahab, though, because the section has a specific cutout for the nib.

    For any screw joints, e.g. the black cap on the end of the Ahab piston filler stem, you could add a tiny dab of silicon grease (applied with a toothpick). Silicon grease can also be used on the threads between pen section and pen reservoir. Be careful to keep the grease off the nib and feed as contamination of these parts will decrease ink flow. Don't lube the piston by sticking a Q-tip with grease up the section, for same reason. Instead, unscrew the reservoir from the section first, then use the Q-tip. Hope this helps.

  14. This is great, thanks Brooks! I suspect that many people also trimmed their quill pens so they would better fit into their pen boxes, traveling cases, or desk drawers. Of course the ubiquitous pen knife was used to sharpen and slit the tips when they wore down.

  15. Rachel/Brian:

    I was hoping you would be able to confirm what was stated at 45:50 in your video. I placed an order with Organics Studio months ago but nothing has arrived. If he is closing the business that would explain why I haven't received anything.

    I'm not asking you for confidential information about a supplier, just confirmation of what was said in the video. Please reply privately if you prefer.



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