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Friday, January 6, 2017

Goulet Q&A Episode 150, Open Forum



Goulet Q&A is now available as an audio podcast! Click here  for the RSS feed to use in your podcast app of choice, or click here for a direct download.

In this episode, I talk about fountain pens in space, the toughest part of the early Goulet Pens days, and what fountain pens mean to me on a personal level.

This week:
  • Episode 150!! It's a milestone! And that's all I have to celebrate, the timing was just terrible to plan something special!
  • Christmas/New Years- really wonderful Goulet family time
  • due date for our lost child (Hannah Grace), very tough week for us
  • Brian interview with Dr. Jonathan Weisz's podcast, perfect for Q&A fans
New/Upcoming Products - (4:47)
  • Robert Oster ink coming soon, we're very excited! 30+ colors at launch
  • other new products in consideration, more on those as the month goes on
  • this month is NaJoWriMo- National Journal Writer's Month
    • encourages journaling for 30 days, 4 months a year
    • sign up email for tips, writing prompts, and info about enriching your life through journaling
    • I only recently discovered it and will give it a go myself
    • it's a little less pressure than InCoWriMo (next month) or NaNoWriMo (November)

Pens/Writing - (7:20)

1) @Archimage- Twitter - (7:22)
Does a fountain pen work in space? 
  • yes, for the most part
  • they flow with capillary action, so upside down, sideways, you name it
  • as long as there's ink in the feed, it'll flow down
  • where it'll fail is in the ink chamber, as it gets used, no gravity means the ink won't continue to make contact with the feed
  • a C/C pen can be screwed down to make contact, but that can be kind of annoying
  • if fountain pens were very practical, they would be using them in space (but they don't as far as I know)

2) Sara H.- Facebook - (11:42)
I understand the thought process behind an Waverly nib, but I still can't quite figure it out. When (or why) would you suggest using an Waverly nib?
  • the tip of the nib is bent up a bit
  • it's ideal for those who like to hold their pens at a very steep angle
  • you can get some slight line variation if you hold it steep-to-shallow, but it's subtle

3) Anne P.- Facebook - (16:16)
I got my first flex pen, a Noodler's Ahab Navajo for Christmas--YAY! Even more beautiful than in pictures!--but I'm a bit hesitant. I've finally stopped using tons of pressure on my regular fountain pens, so my question is 2-fold: How much pressure is too much? I feel like the tines are barely opening up even when I'm pressing down pretty hard? And over time, do Noodler's flex nibs become flexier with more use?

  • typically with fountain pens you do want to take it easy on the pressure
  • flex pens are an exception, they're made to handle the pressure! 
  • traditionally flex nibs are gold, and much more sensitive to pressure
  • Noodler's was pretty innovative designing a steel flex nib
  • you really have to mash it down pretty good to flex it out
  • make sure your pen angle is lower, around 45 degrees
  • like any metal, it can break in more over time, but it's going to take a while because steel is really tough

4) jag3848- Instagram - (21:01)
I ordered a TWSBI Eco in fine but I've been contemplating ordering a 580 or Mini replacement extra fine nib and pulling the nib and feed out of the housing. Would this work?

  • TWSBI doesn't offer a replacement nib for the Eco, unfortunately
  • it's #4 size if that matters to you (we don't carry any spare #4 nibs besides the Mini/Vac Mini)
  • technically, yes, you can replace the nib from the Mini or Vac Mini with the Eco
  • it's a little complicated though
  • the feeds are very soft, and it's easy to bend/break fins on the feed
  • you want to keep the feed intact, and keep the feed together with the nib when you swap


Troubleshooting - (26:14)

5) Ciaran M.- Facebook - (26:17)
Hi Brian, any advice for filling from an ink sample using a vacuum filler? I recently got a TWSBI Vac Mini and it's struggling to get any of the ink up.

  • this is tough, especially to get a full fill!
  • I have 3 methods
  • 1) tilt the vial, and give it your best shot
  • 2) unscrew the nib unit, and try to pour the ink into the pen (which can be tough with the seal right at the opening); use a small funnel if you can
  • 3) use an ink syringe, this is definitely the most controlled method!


Business - (35:22)

6) Lee G.- Facebook - (35:26)
Hey brain. Back in the olden days lf Goulet pens you created custom pens, What are some tips you could give new hobbyist about creating pens or turning it into a business?

  • I'm not going to sugar coat it, you have an uphill road ahead of you
  • I gave it 3 full years and couldn't make it a viable business, but I did learn some things
  • there are a couple of guys out there that have made viable businesses starting out like this
  • kit pens are a losing game, the kits are too expensive to make a profitable product
  • the market is flooded with kitschy trinket kit pens done by retirees who have no interest in profit
  • if you stick with kits, you need to really, really have something unique about your pens and hit on an awesome theme for your pens
  • kit makers watch places like PenTurners.org and the individual hobbyists that make cool things like circuit board pens, inlay wood kits, bullet casing pens, etc, and copy them if they start to become popular
  • if you want to really be successful, going the route of craft shows will not get you far
  • I was never able to find a show type that yielded any more than paying back a booth fee
  • fountain pen shows may be a little better, IF you know what the heck you're doing with fountain pens AND have a really unique/artistic product
  • fountain pen people will require a lot more out of you, such as nib quality/tuning, non-kit parts and custom designs, unique resins/designs
  • getting away from kits is key, like Bexley, Edison, and Franklin-Christoph
  • get into unique pen body materials or designs like Shawn Newton or Jonathan Brooks
  • really interesting art like Ryan Crusak or Kanilea Pen Co
  • just making a nice pen won't cut it, you will need something really spectacular in the way of quality, style, art, theming, or material
  • You will need to be able to charge (and justify) pens in the $250+ price point
  • marketing will be super critical, and knowing the pen community will be permission-to-play
  • have fun!

7) lateeps- Instagram - (49:05)
Happy New Year! What were the two biggest hurdles in years one-two that ultimately led to the success of your company?

  • it depends how you define year 1-2, as there were kind of two phases to Goulet Pens
  • first phase was the pen making days (which I just talked about), and that lasted 3 years
  • overall, from there the two biggest hurdles I had were:
    • 1) finding a viable product people would buy and 
    • 2) just figuring out my foot from my elbow when it comes to running a business
  • once we actually got onto a viable business model (the fountain pen retailing), it became:
    • 1) learning what the heck fountain pens were and how to use them (comprehensive education)
    • 2) learning to engage, listen, and communicate directly with the customers we served (exemplary service)
  • of course there are able a zillion things to learn when starting a business, but these two things really set us on the right path to figuring everything else out

Personal - (54:59)

8) Korey K.- Facebook - (55:02)
I was wondering how you personally feel about limited edition pens. I know some people don't care, but there are others that are obsessed with this feature. I enjoy limited edition pens, but dislike how much more they cost because of it. Anyways, I just want to know your thoughts.

  • LE pens are not for everyone...literally! They're designed to only be for a select group of people
  • you can look at it two ways, from the manufacturer/retailer and as a customer
  • Manufacturer- LE pens are an economic roll-of-the-dice for pen brands, to have a limited batch of pens with the same R&D, marketing, and distribution costs of other mass-produced pens and with a higher price point because these fixed costs are spread across fewer total pens. 
    • It could pay off, but only if you get the theme, marketing, and a host of other things right. 
    • The fun part about is that is keeps things fresh and interesting for people in the "pen business", and provide a creative outlet to keep the passion flowing
    • exciting LE pens might not sell enough to really sustain a pen brand, even with the increased price
    • but it brings credibility, awareness, interest, and attention to the brand, which is really important today when there's so much noise taking our attention away
    • I don't see a whole lot of companies making slight changes and putting a number on something and increasing the price drastically, that's more the exception
    • my experience has been the hight price is often within a justifiable range given the increased costs of design/manufacturing
  • Customer- these pens are usually themed pretty heavily and will be hit or miss, often miss, for the vast majority. 
    • most pens will seem way off the mark or at least way out of price reach for what we'd want
    • UNTIL the manufacturer hits on just the right thing that appeals to YOU, in which case all logic goes completely out the window and you are willing to sell your childhood baseball card collection on eBay to get it
    • LE's as a rule will basically always seem less appealing to you in general because they're not made to be mass appealing
    • but those 1-of-100 of them that speaks directly to you makes you understand why companies keep doing it, because it's really a lot of fun to hit the mark
  • I personally enjoy a lot of LE pens...not just because they're LE, but because I can appreciate probably even more than most when manufacturers are truly trying to come up with something new, exciting, and special, and I want to support and be a part of that


9) @Archimage- Twitter  - (01:01:50)
What's your favorite pen for the weirdest reason?

  • Edison Nouveau Premiere Macassar LE, version 1
  • I love it because it's incredibly unique, the only pen like this in the world
  • it was essentially a mistake, which I love because I learned a lot in the process
  • working with Edison/Brian Gray I've gotten to learn a lot about pen manufacturing, materials, and supplies because he's incredibly generous with his knowledge
  • he had linked up with a new manufacturer of ebonite at the time (late 2013)
  • We wanted to offer the pen as a numbered LE, partly because the material was expensive and Brian needed to know how much material to order
  • this pen was a sample of one of the ebonite colors, and I immediately loved it because it looked like Macassar Ebony, a wood that I loved working with back when I made pens
  • we photographed it, put it on our site, and took preorders
  • when Brian got in the shipment of ebonite for the full order, it was NOT the same color! It was inverted, with the majority being light instead of dark brown
  • we were dumbfounded, and reached out to the manufacturer
  • essentially, what happened was the extrusion process that's used to make the ebonite rods have variation in color at the very beginning of the process before the colors mix properly, and we'd received a sample of this odd mix
  • it was basically a freak occurrence, and the color we'd originally received was not even possible for them to make (on purpose)
  • we had no choice but to explain what happened, offer refunds to anyone who changed their minds, and we even offered a choice of trim/nib options to suit individual preferences
  • it was kind of a mess, but the kind that's actually a little exciting because it gives you a chance to prove how much you're willing to "make it right" for your customers
  • this pen is not only uniquely special to me because it really is unique and reminds me of macassar ebony, but it also is a reminder to me of one of the hard knocks I took and learned from in business

10) Hillary J.- Facebook - (01:07:58)
What do fountain pens mean to you on a personal level?

  • there are a lot of reasons to really love fountain pens, and I connect with a lot of them on a personal level
  • artistry, craftsmanship, history, legacy, technology, design, inspiration, connection to the written word, the passion of the community, and lots more reasons
  • for me, they've given me my livelihood, my passion for business, validation that my crazy ideas are really not so crazy around the right group of people
  • fountain pens have given me independence, a vehicle for increasing my leadership and vision-setting skills, and a personal lifestyle that enhances my appreciation for craftsmanship, trade, writing, passion, and communication on a daily basis
  • I have had and do have many passions in my life, but fountain pens at this point have been the single most intense and enduring passion in my career and will forever define a major portion of who I am

QOTW: What's one thing you really wish Goulet Pens would begin offering this year? Individual products, services, you name it. Go nuts.  - (01:13:42)

Thanks so much for joining us this week! You can catch up on any old Q&A videos you missed here.

Write On,
Brian Goulet

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