Goulet Q&A Episode 177: Brown Paper Bagging Your Nibs, If Flipping Your Nib Over Destroys It, and If Goulet Pens Started Over


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 whether you should or shouldn’t use a brown paper bag to smooth your nibs, writing with your nib flipped over will ruin it, and what I’d do differently if I could start my business over!

This week:


New/Upcoming Products – (3:17)
Pens/Writing – (8:33)
1) sammiethesammer- Instagram – (8:39)
I see people use fountain pens and even dip pens for drawing and art pieces. What are the best pens/ nibs to use for these applications? Are there specific nibs that work better for different types of art work?
  • pens are tools, and different artists prefer different tools!
  • I’ve seen artists use dang near every pen, though obviously lower-priced pens are more typical
  • Lamy Joy is popular (swappable nibs, good balance)
  • Noodler’s pens (flex, variation in line width)
  • Platinum Desk Pen (very fine nib, good balance)
  • Waterbrush pens (for ink washing)
  • Pilot Metropolitans (thin fine nib)
Ink – (13:22)
2) transmanaaron- Instagram – (13:23)
Can you recommend a sheening ink as brilliant green/turquoise as Emerald of Chivor but without the gold sparkle? I’d love a more everyday version of this color.
Troubleshooting – (14:29)
3) eraye9- Instagram – (14:32)
Where do you weigh in on the brown paper bag trick to remedy a scratchy nib? Some say yes always, others say no never.
  • I fall in the middle
  • it’s definitely not an always thing
  • the bag acts as an abrasive
  • anytime you’re using an abrasive, you’re changing the factory finish on that nib
  • brown bag is pretty darn tame though
  • i personally have no problem with it…perhaps I’m ignorant of some long-term effect of doing it regularly or something, but I’ve never heard of anyone having a problem ruining their nib because of brown bags
  • the worst you may experience is fibers getting in the slit, which you can clean out
  • smoothing is faster and easier with micro mesh and mylar

4) disamistade- Instagram – (20:44)

Does reverse writing ruin the nib of a fountain pen? (I’m not sure if reverse writing is the correct term when one writes on the “wrong” side of a pen.)
  • it can, if you’re writing with heavy pressure
  • there’s a lot less give on the nib, and the feed back against it restricts its movement under pressure
  • otherwise, it’s not too harmful though
  • not all pen manufacturers tune them on the flip side so be aware you may get one that doesn’t write smoothly
  • it’s a personal choice, I do it at times, but I wouldn’t want to for all my writing


Business – (26:25)

5) Leilani K.- Facebook – (26:47)
While FPs are already a great idea for those of us trying to reduce, reuse, and recycle, are there any particular products or companies that are more “green”? Conscientious material sourcing, minimal waste or packaging, charity linked, etc.?

6) Ted S.- Facebook – (32:52)

I have been wondering if, when different users visit your website, are we being presented with different deals or prices anywhere on your pages? For example, do different users all see the same specials prices and items? Can we all see them at the same time? Or are items and prices being filtered for different people at different times? Thanks.

  • this is called differential pricing, and is used by a lot of companies online, mainly larger ones
  • airlines, insurance, and e-commerce all use it, albeit quietly because it’s a sticky issue
  • it’s my understanding the intention from a business standpoint is to want to incentivize people that they can predict are not likely to buy, using discounts
  • these systems get pretty sophisticated, and many times 3rd party firms that develop algorithms to track this get bought up by companies like Facebook, Google, Amazon, etc
  • it’s differentiated by geography, visit frequency, browsing patterns, device type and other demographics
  • we do not use differential pricing, what you see is what others are seeing
  • one exception is with certain brands we’re not allowed to advertise below a certain price, so you have to be logged into your GouletPens account to see our “best price”, but anyone buying it would be paying the same price
  • with coupons and discounts, we can incentivize certain purchases, and that’s been going on since the dawn of commerce
  • serving up different prices to different people is something that’s a touchy subject, but is a fact of life in e-commerce, no doubt you’re shopping somewhere that it’s being used
  • one thing we have started doing is paid ads, which we haven’t done much before
  • I used to be prideful about never doing paid ads, I’ve changed my tune on that recently
  • we have a 3rd party (Criteo) that will serve up ads to you for things you’ve browsed on our site, since you’ve expressed interest in them
  • it’s all anonymized data, nothing personal, and it’s not being sold
  • it’s just serving up displays for you in areas where there would normally be other (less relevant) ads there, you’re probably just noticing them a lot because it’s stuff you like/care about!
  • you can opt out, there’s a blue x in the corner you can click, it’s “learning” right now and will go away if you never click on it
  • we want to be really intentional about any marketing we do, we want it to be invited and welcomed, and we’re taking a pretty conservative approach to it (you can even opt out)
7) Corinne L.- Facebook – (43:55)
If you knew back when you first started with the business what you know now, what would you do differently?
  • i won’t give a cop-out answer
  • I spent several years searching in my business to find fountain pens in the first place, I’d have just gone right for it
  • i would have defined my “why”, company values and whatnot sooner
  • I would have just thought bigger than what I initially did, especially in regards to space and people

QOTW: What’s the most interesting conversation you’ve ever had with a stranger that was prompted by a fountain pen? – (52:46)

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
2017-10-11T14:03:25+00:00 July 14th, 2017|Goulet Q&A|29 Comments
  • torrilin

    For drawing, if it makes a mark you can draw with it. Sticks work even.

    My Lamys tend to unscrew while I’m drawing. Not sure why. And ink can dry out in them really quick. So I like em but they aren’t always the best.

    My pilot metropolitan is too heavy to be comfortable. I also don’t find the line to be notably finer than my other nibs. It’s about the same as an average German xf or Japanese f. And I have two German xf nibs that are unusually fine, so.

    Platinum Preppys can feel a little scratchy, but are nice and light and they don’t dry out if you look at them funny. And they can use Platinum Carbon Black carts. And the line will be a nice fine one.

    I have 2 twsbi and the ink capacity is very nice. And the ink doesn’t dry out in the pen easily. And the xf nibs are nice. Just don’t press too hard, they’re more variable than any other nib I have. Including getting really fine. So be gentle.

  • Ted A

    That’s not the worst.
    Early on I believed someone who said the brown paper bag worked well.
    I ripped the tipping right off one tine. End of nib.

  • In response to what pen as an artist is best: nib variation (stubs are my go-to0, good ink supply, no fuss (you want to fool with it or draw with it?), and comfort. We sketch on different paper, and extra fine nibs on cold press (slightly stubbly texture) can be vexing.

    My favorite pens are the workhorses, the Platinum Carbon. Cartridges that last forever, waterproof on all paper (and don’t count on that with all inks!) I have two that travel with me in the two nibs sizes, and if they did a stub I’d be in heaven. I tried the Pilot version and do not recommend. I am now trying them with a converter and have no news on that yet but when I do I will finish my post on favorite pens on my blog.

    Comfortable in your hand is very important. And it is surprising what fits different people. My husband has larger hands but he finds pens I love too heavy for his comfort! I don’t like Lamy Safari — I have had bad luck with the pens clogging and so forth — yet I LOVE the Al-Star and I like the Joy. One huge selling point for me about Lamy is the ease of nib changing. Pen line is important to an artist — do you want a minimal presence (extra fine) or do you want to make variable marks (stubs) or fat marks? I like being able to pack nibs that are easy to change so when the impulse strikes, I have the right nib, and they have a good converter that carries a lot of ink. That all works nicely for me with Lamy… And Al-Stars are gorgeous.

    I love the Metropolitans, don’t find them heavy, but must get the better converter. That squishy rubber thang is useless for laying down ink. And no nib changing… sigh.

    Preppies used to be a very good and inexpensive pen to hit the road with, but the new models with the colorful nibs are failing within a year, yet I have three year old pens that keep working… So I am now not saying YAY about Preppies. But for their price, it is nice to have a cheap pen inked with several colors. I recommend the 05 or 03 not the extra fines — dang things clog immediately!
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/63d312ac21692f346be5de9b2e36fdcd0a2a6977b86aa5bb396c2ebe972213e0.jpg https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/098a885c99ff9f6e689076cc8facc5555f91c9e8cb587f7f13d67bcd48fbdfd8.jpg !

  • Kate B

    I’ve drawn with pens for over 5 years. Which pen you like depends on so many variables: your style; the paper you use; studio or on location. I mostly draw on location using watercolor paper (some hot press, some cold press). I use a Lamy EF nib and a Platinum desk pen whose nib is even finer. I draw exclusively with Platinum Carbon Black (because it dries FAST on these papers). The cold press watercolor paper has more tooth than writing paper. I don’t find either pen to be too scratchy, even on the wc paper. Hot press is smoother and perhaps better suited to drawing with pen. If you’re not going to watercolor over the drawing, then you have a wider choice of paper and thus a wider choice of pens.

    As far a pens for drawing on location (Urban Sketching), I prefer less expensive ones. I’ve dropped or lost pens so I don’t want to be out a lot of money. The Preppy F and EF is a great pen for location drawing for that reason. But your style might lead you to a M or even B nib.

    I’m taking a workshop this weekend in which we’re going to draw with sharpened sticks! So like Brian said, anything goes.

  • Lesley Schultz

    QOTW- I’ve not had any yet. I hope to soon.

    Potential question for next weeks blog and again, I apologize if it’s been covered, I may or may not get through all the episodes.

    I traveled with two of my pens to the gulf coast the past week, which as we all know this time of year is very hot and humid. I noticed it took forever for my ink to dry on my TN Goulet Notebook. This resulted in more smearing than I have encountered yet. So my question is does weather change the standard drying time of inks? Can I expect ink to dry faster in the winter when it is bone dry? What about things like altitude? I am traveling again to the east coast at the end of the month and want to be prepared.

    • JuaSaysHi

      Two biggest things that affect evaporation are heat and humidity. Heat speeds up evaporation, humidity slows it down. So hot and dry and breezy (to move the dampness away) is most ideal, speedwise. Think hairdryer. The opposite extreme is of course cold and damp. Think fog. Cold & dry vs hot but humid is a sliding scale of “it depends.”

    • Tom Johnson

      JustSaysHi is write on. I’ll add that paper picks up (and gives up) moisture content, so in a humid environment the paper has more moisture than usual and that can increase bleed through and feathering. Higher altitude means lower air pressure, and moisture evaporates faster under lower pressure. Though, I doubt that altitude changes we usually see would be noticeable compared with temperature and humidity.

  • David L.

    QOTW: I’ve never had a conversation with a total stranger that was prompted by a fountain pen. I’ve got some looks from people when I whipped out a fountain pen to sign various documents, but no conversations.

    Question 1: I do not use my pens for art. I just use pencils. If I want color, I may add colored pencils to a shopping list and buy some when I go out. I’ll put in a photo of some of my art below.

    Question 2: I was wondering this myself. I do wish that J. Herbin would make inks just like their 1670 line, just without the shimmer. I love Emerald of Chivor, but the shimmer is not always desired. Monteverde California Teal looked similar, but I saw no sheen in the swab. Does it sheen?

    Question 5: The great respect I had for Nathan of Noodler’s (sorry, I do not know how to spell his last name, so I won’t make the attampt and possibly offend him) was just tripled by what I just heard. I never got one of the Preppies that he modified, but I may do that when I get one. I would be getting it to eyedropper convert it anyway. A Karas Kustoms Fountain K will be coming to my collection after one or two Edisons. The Pearlette in Sonoran Sunset and the Collier in Blue Steel. Okay, maybe a third before the Karas Kustoms. That Bordeaux Flake Beaumont has my name written all over it.

    Were there audio issues there, or is it just my computer speaker?

    Here’s the drawing. I tend to draw birds mostly. I plan to branch out farther soon. 🙂 I’m currently re-drawing this one since it was misplaced, hence the wrinkles.
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/2c381059f733985055d922f2e2b9023f9a7959e75e50e607d6574aceb1d805c4.jpg

  • MP

    The most I get is that my students say, “Cool pen.”

  • Tom Johnson

    Another great Q&A. I never considered using brown paper to smooth nibs. I’ve seen a paper mill where brown paper was made, and in this mill the brown paper was made from old recycled corrugated boxes. Large bundles of flattened boxes (covered with dirt, grit, dust, who knows what they had contained) were tossed in the pulper and the pulp fed to the paper machines, So the abrasiveness of the resulting paper would be all over the map. I followed Brian’s tutorials on usng Micro Mesh and Mylar for smoothing with great results. Never had a problem. Taking shortcuts can be risky.

    One short conversation with a stranger was while going through an airport security check in 2005. In the whole trip only one checker ever questioned my Pilot Vanishing Point in the personal items tray going into x-ray. She asked what it was, and I told her, extended the nib for her to see. She just said “Never heard of that before”. A co-worker asked about my Monteverde Charisma pen he saw me using (he ended up getting one, some Kaweco Sports, and a Phileas). He said my pen reminded him of their family doctor many years ago. He remembered watching their doctor sitting behind a desk and unscrewing the cap off a fountain pen and writing with it. His childhood memory prompted him to purchase a Charisma just like mine and he started using fountain pens at work.

  • David L.

    I noticed something wrong on your site. I went to the Clairefontaine top wirebound page and there was a Pelikan M405 Stressmann there. I was a little surprised and humored by this. 🙂

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Whoops! Thanks, David. We’ll fix that now.

  • Pete Azouz

    So, brown bags are not just for lunches, well I learned something new today, thanks for another great Q & A Brian, always some good and thought provoking stuff.

    QoTW – Ok, so I live in Florida, so most of our residents here can remember what they are, I’ll bet some of them can probably remember quill pens too. Unfortunately you’d think that this would prompt some good conversations, but they usually rapidly degenerate into a lengthy description of their medical issues. With that said, it can be fun too and I understand the cathartic relief of telling personal secrets to a complete stranger, but when, as happened to me some weeks back, the conversation starts “Oh, nice pen, my psychiatrist uses one of those…” run as fast as you can.

  • JuaSaysHi

    QotW: Chatting with a stranger at the library, I dug in my bag for a pen to write down something, but all I had on me was a 6mm wide Pilot Parallel pen, so I used the corner, which writes an acceptably thin line. He had never heard of Parallel pens. We ended up talking about writing tool history, different kinds of ink and he told me about his experiments with making feather quill pens.

    • Tom Johnson

      I’ve found sites on YouTube showing how to make and heat harden quill pens for use. Plus videos of writing with them. Neat encounter you had!

      • David L.

        I’ve got a big Turkey feather. Maybe I should do that.

        • JuaSaysHi

          Don’t leave out the heat-hardening part, or you might as well try writing with a damp twig.

      • JuaSaysHi

        Oo, I hadn’t thought of youtube for that! I’ve got this great elderberry ink that’s too acid for metal nibs, but I’ve never mastered curing quills properly. I’ll have to check it out! Thanks!

        • Tom Johnson

          One of the techniques I’ve seen is to put a container of table salt in the oven at a certain temperature (don’t remember what it was). When the salt is hot enough it is removed and the tip of the quill is buried in the hot salt heating it to the proper temperature to make it hard. I don’t see why you can’t use clean sand. You’ll find articles on this as well as videos.

          • JuaSaysHi

            Y’know, there was a time in my life when a bag of clean sand was far easier to come by than a bag of salt. Now it’s the other way ’round. My life, what a world.

  • Starchix

    QOTW Mostly people don’t notice when I pull out a fountain pen in public. My piano students love my pens, and I have started including cheap disposable pens in my ‘prize box’ because certain students want them. I even had one mom email me for advice on what kind of pen and ink to buy her daughter for Christmas. One funny remark I got was not about pens exactly, but related. A woman standing behind me in line at the bank pointed to my bare arm, resting on the teller window and said, “that looks like a cancerous mole!” I took a look and then laughed — “actually, that’s ink. I somehow spilled it on my arm when filling my pen this morning.” LOL

  • Katherine Stewart

    I have an ink question, Ink Mold, how to prevent it, how to spot it and what if anything can be done to salvage inks afflicted with it. Also what is the difference between ink mold and ink jelling. Thanks!

  • Katherine Stewart

    As far as my most interesting conversation, almost every time I use my Schrade tactical pen people comment on how wicked the nib looks! One friend even asked if I had ever stabbed anyone with that pen. I told her I had not because it would damage the nib. Always keep them guessing! heh heh heh

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Sounds about right 😉 Not worth ruining the pen hehehe

      • Katherine Stewart

        Right! Especially since Schrade doesn’t make them anymore! Funny thing is, I have other pens with a #6 nib and that’s the only pen that elicits that response.

  • CorinneLitchfield

    Thrilled to have another question selected for a Q&A! I especially liked the part where Brian mentions the goals he & Rachel had once they had baby #2 and how much that changed. Isn’t it fascinating how things shift? Goulet Pens really tapped into a market that was hungry for knowledge about pens. If I hadn’t found your site via Reddit, I would have never tapped into my own new market for business: social media promotion & consulting for pen shows & companies. So thank you! 🙂 Hope to see Brian & Rachel at the DC show – I will be there all weekend helping out a distributor.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      How great, Corinne! Sounds like a fun job 🙂