Where it ALLLL began…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I am seriously all about some pegboard.

Wood, finishing supplies, tool boxes…

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

I had to drape electrical cords out of the window and hang flourescent lights so I could see at night! I’ve always been a night owl πŸ˜‰

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

You can NEVER have too many clamps!

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

 My first little dinky lathe.

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

That’s a very fancy workbench made from an entertainment unit I chopped up and repurposed! And there’s my little mitre saw hiding under it πŸ˜‰

Artsy photo…….attempt πŸ˜›

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

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

It still amazes me to this day that:

  1. Rachel let me buy these tools
  2. Rachel let me take over the balcony like this
  3. We didn’t get evicted with all of the noise I caused!!

I (and all of you) owe Rachel a great debt of gratitude, for if it wasn’t for her patience and trust, my crazy little pen business idea would never have started and the Goulet Pen Company would never have existed. She constantly supports my crazy ideas and continues to put up with all of the stress and discomfort caused by being with me.

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

2017-10-11T13:35:26+00:00 September 28th, 2010|A Goulet Life|13 Comments
  • Anonymous

    And now back to making time to get those Pelikan Edelstein Swab Shop samples posted.

    Somehow I had always pictured Brian as being a young exec downsized from the corporate rat race who then decided to pursue a hobby passion with the hopes that it might actually turn a modest profit. Now I see he bypassed step #1 altogether.

    Good on 'ya Rachel for supporting the passion and helping get it off the ground. And for being the family breadwinner in the lean times I suspect.

  • kvka

    Nice read! I never imagined that pen turning started your business (: It seems to be such a small part of it now, that I keep forgetting about it. It's always a surprise when I notice the pen section on your website again, despite the company's name. And I always thought your love of ink and paper probably started very early in your life, since you've gotten so far with it at such a young age. It's lovely learning about the history of The Goulet Pen Company!

  • Lance

    Awesome. Good to see how things start small. Gives my business plan some hope. Kudos to you for finding a good wife that supports your passion. πŸ™‚ They are extremely rare and if your like me at the end of the day you can't believe they support the craziness. lol

  • I love this flashback! It's crazy to think all this happened in just a few years. I never would have thought the pen-making would turn into what your business is now (no pun intended ha). And you're right, Rachel is pretty awesome. I have to say that because she's my sister, but even if we weren't related at all, I'd still think you guys are the bees-knees.

    Thanks for the reminder of humble beginnings. Like Lance, your story inspires me in my business and gives me the courage and motivation to keep pressing on, even when the beginning "dip" can be rough. If it weren't for the Goulet Pen Company, I'm honestly not even sure I'd have the guts to pursue my passions the way I am now. Thanks for the awesome example and letting me be part of your journey.

  • kvka

    Nice read! I never imagined that pen turning started your business (: It seems to be such a small part of it now, that I keep forgetting about it. It's always a surprise when I notice the pen section on your website again, despite the company's name. And I always thought your love of ink and paper probably started very early in your life, since you've gotten so far with it at such a young age. It's lovely learning about the history of The Goulet Pen Company!

  • Thank your wife from all of us! We'd be lost without Goulet Pens πŸ™‚

  • I did bypass the whole corporate scene! I did one 6-week internship that was required for my degree, and that's all I could stand. πŸ˜‰

  • Yeah, I don't think that penturning leads to many career opportunities in normal circumstances! I think the magic ingredient to starting GPC was about 3,000-4,000 hours of unpaid work to get it off the ground πŸ˜‰

  • Rachel has supported me through some seemingly insane ideas….some that worked out and many that didn't! The important part is that even if she thinks my ideas are crazy, she always believes in me. That's everything!

  • And it's even crazier to think where we've gone since I first posted this, too! It was just over a year ago, and since then we've moved to a commercial space and we have 5 employees. It's crazy awesome and we're just having a blast every day. We work really, really hard but we love it so it doesn't really seem like work πŸ˜‰

  • Definitely! Haha…I try to help make navigating the world of fountain pens a little easier. It's a really fun and rewarding hobby, and I love that what we're doing is helping out fountain pen lovers : )

  • Breck Breckenridge

    I am still exploring this website! I just now found this essay on how you got started being a crazy person. Great "bootstraps" story.

  • Thanks πŸ™‚ Yeah, it's been a long road since we started out. And since I wrote this blog post i have even more craziness to add to it!