Goulet Q&A Episode 185: Next Level Flex, Inky Smells, and Not Smearing Ink!

In this episode, I talk about next level flex pens, inky smells, and how to keep the ink from smearing!

This week:

  • LOVED the QOTW responses from last week! Meat lovers pizza, chicken noodle soup, lamb kabobs, huevos rancheros, french fries, poutine, shrimp and grits! I got so hungry reading the comments…
  • Had lots of mic issues last week, I just got excited and rubbed the mic on my own shirt, sorry! I’ll try better today, dang
  • Monteverde ink deal with all MV/Conklin
  • Monteverde Monza
  • Monteverde Noir inks
  • Lamy Blue Safari gift set
  • Lamy 14k gold nibs
  • Edison Premiere – Bonfire
  • Going to restock some TWSBI Classic Turquoise and Whites
  • Some other new things in the works, look out for the next couple of weeks, some things I can’t mention yet!
  • TWSBI Gold Mini just announced, we’ll have that when it’s available, I think more towards the end of the month

1) liquidsword52- Instagram (7:18)

What is the next level after an Ahab pen? Is it Pilot Falcon? Or Pilot Custom Heritage FA Nib?
  • Noodler’s has several pens right around the same price/quality
  • Ahab doesn’t have an upgraded version to is like the Konrad (acrylic/ebonite), Neposet’s pretty different
  • The Falcon is generally considered an upgrade, but it’s pretty different than an Ahab
  • I don’t have a magnificent answer for you, because once you go out of the Noodler’s pens, you’re into stuff that’s in the Falcon price range or higher
  • Karas Kustoms titanium nib is an option, but it doesn’t flex quite as wide or as durably
  • the thing to keep in mind is flex is still a relatively recent resurgence, so there aren’t infinite options for these right now
2) nadyaaazerin- Instagram (15:54)I’m having a typical problem among fountain pen users – ink smear on my hands. I don’t mind this as much as I do my smudged notes on my Rhodia. I love using medium sized nibs on my Rhodia. My oh my they glide like butter , almost frictionless. Unfortunately they smudge whenever any moist from my fingers made contact with the written words. Is there any way for me to fix this? Should I just cease using my Rhodia?
  • ah yes, one of the legit drawbacks of fountain pens at times
  • slicker papers like these will have a tendency to smear more
  • often smoother papers are all like this
  • the ink makes a big difference, though it’s not always super easy to tell which will perform best which is where reviews and sampling come in
  • generally speaking, the less saturated and less lubricated the ink, the less it’ll smear
  • sheen and shimmer inks will smear bad, man permanent inks will before they dry fully
  • deeply saturated inks have a longer dry time
  • use finer nibs, that can help, it puts less ink down
  • ink blotter can help, but is tough to manage on the go (rocker blotter vs sheet)
  • Try to make it work, because the feel of that Rhodia is just awesome! But if you have to, consider Leuchtturm or Apica as an alternative
3) limonadebleu- Instagram (23:39)When cleaning pens where the nib and feed are friction fit, is it best practice to pull out the nib/feed or leave it in? I’m pretty new to fountain pens and I’ve found it easier to clean by fully disassembling the pen, but I’ve read sone posts where it said that this can damage the fit of the nib/feed to the pen if done too much. Thank you for the help!
  • for normal, everyday cleaning it’s generally best to leave it in there, in terms of the longevity of the pen parts
  • anything made of plastic will wear out faster if you’re taking it apart a lot, just a fact
  • if you’re switching colors with something close, or reinking, you can just do a quick job
  • some pens you may decide to go longer or not
  • it’s sort of like “how often should I clean my grill? Well, I know so people who never do! I personally have caught my grill on fire because I waited too long to clean it out, go figure
  • you want to clean it as thoroughly as you feel you need to
  • the VAST majority of the time, people are not cleaning them often or well enough, so it’s rare I see damage caused by someone caring TOO MUCH for their pens, so I wouldn’t sweat it too much
4) usafencer- Instagram (32:02)
Can you eye dropper convert a pilot parallel?
  • yes and no, mostly yes
  • take off the back, blow on it, see if you hear any air, and if not you’re good!
  • sometimes there’s a tiny hole where the indent is in the back of the pen, it’s random and sporadic
  • you can plug this up with a little 2-part epoxy if you’re so inclined
  • throw a little silicone grease on the threads, fill with eyedropper or syringe, and you’re good to go!
5) iburbey- Instagram (40:31)
Can you travel with multiple converters with different inks in them for switching colors? Do people even do that or do you need to wash the pen between color changes? Can you store a half-used cartridge?
  • eh….generally not. This is why cartridges exist, really
  • converters are all open-ended, so sealing them up is….challenging
  • technically, yeah, you can do it. I’ve heard of people resealing cartridge or converters with hot glue, that’s just so much trouble imho
  • yes, you do need to clean your pen in-between colors
  • I personally travel with one bottle of ink or a Visconti Traveling Inkwell, and I bring multiple pens pre-filled if I want different colors
  • I’ll use my bottle for the bulk of my writing, and the other pens for little random bits

6) _jollygreenegiant- Instagram (46:11)

Why do some inks have a really distinct “inky” smell? I have a Noodler’s Turquoise that has a really distinct smell to it that none of my other inks have and I’m curious as to why that is and why some inks smell different than others. Thanks!
  • it’s usually the biocides used that cause the smell, sometimes other dyes or components that remain somewhat mysterious
  • yes, Noodler’s is known to have some of the most distinct smells
  • partly due to their dye saturation, partly because Nathan uses wizardry to create his inks, so there’s probably some eye of newt or some chicken teeth in there, who knows
  • how it smells really only affects you while you fill, it’s pretty rare you smell anything while you write, and certainly not once the ink is dry on the page
  • don’t sweat it too much at all


7) checoalexg- Instagram (49:27)

When should you consider to pay yourself when starting a business?
  • very simple answer, no sooner than you can afford it and no later than you can afford it
  • what I mean by that is you have to balance out the needs of the business to retain cash for operating funds and your own personal financial situation
  • one of the toughest things I think you see in most startup businesses is people that jump into it prematurely and haven’t prepared for their own personal financial situation or for the business to have a ramp up period
  • I’m a big fan of you should only get paid when the business is profitable and can afford to pay based on profits and cashflow
  • if you go out and get an SBA loan or venture capital and you’re burning through your cash before you have a profitable business in operation, you’re burning the candle at both ends
  • this is pretty common in the Silicone Valley kind of startup world, you fundraise and calculate your “burn rate”, basically how long until you die, and you work at 100% capacity to try to become profitable or sell the company before you hit that death date
  • that’s pretty stressful, and not the way most businesses that last operate
  • Rachel and I did the opposite, we waited until we had a profitable business, lived off our savings and only paid ourselves when GPC had the proper funds to do so
  • it’s not uncommon for it to take 3-5 years to get to this place, honestly
  • I made pens for 2.5 years before getting into fountain pens, and never drew a dime of salary from that, because it wasn’t profitable! I didn’t deserve it because I wasn’t adding enough value in the marketplace to warrant a salary
  • Once we got into fountain pen retailing, it was still about a year before we paid ourselves a dime
  • We even took out a small loan from my parents to stock up on some inventory and paid them back before we drew a salary
  • Rachel worked a second job (which was actually more of a full time job) so we could live personally while we put everything back into this business
  • This is the different mentality that comes from owning a business vs working for someone else
  • When you work for someone else, it’s often tempting to think about the business as this big entity that wants to take as much as it can and keep it, so you have to “get what’s yours” and extract as much as you can out of it
  • when you’re just getting a business off the ground, your own business, anything you “take” you’re ultimately taking from yourself, so you have to think way differently
  • Check out the book Simple Numbers, Straight Talk, Big Profits by Greg Crabtree, it explains this pretty well for small business owners
QOTW: If you could start any business venture and be guaranteed success for at least the first year, what would you start? (1:07:08)

Write On,
Brian Goulet
2017-10-12T13:29:00+00:00 October 6th, 2017|Goulet Q&A|26 Comments
  • CJ

    Brian: it is so nice of you to give small business advice to your CX base. 🙂

    All of your comments are spot on!

    I’d just add:
    *pretty much the biggest mistake people make in starting a small business is to not have enough startup capital….they don’t realize that you can go several YEARS without making a profit.
    *construction almost always goes over budget! whatever you think it will be, add at least another 25%
    *a small business is NOT a hobby. You must throw yourself into it 120% to even have a chance at succeeding. If you haven’t turned a corner (a self-supporting one) by the 5 year mark, you need to seriously consider continuing

    Love what you all do at GPC!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Great advice, CJ.

  • Robert Dašek

    What a great Q&A. Love watching these. Thank you Brian and everyone else involved!

    Just a comment to add to nadyaaazerin question regarding smearing ink: This can be a problem for me as well since I’m left handed. I grew up in Europe where kids learn to write cursive with fountain pens. Blotting paper would come standard with every notebook that we used. I was taught to lay the blotting paper sheet right above the area where I wrote, so that my hand would rest on the blotting paper as I wrote (I’m a lefty over-writer). Every few lines I’d move it down to cover the lines just written to avoid smearing the text, preventing my hand ever contacting the paper on which I wrote.
    So, whichever hand is smearing your pages, just rest it on the blotting paper. I’d rather continue doing that than giving up on writing on Clairefontaine/Rhodia paper.
    Additionally, I have found that if I use Noodler’s bulletproof inks, I very seldom need to use the blotting paper. Thanks Nathan!!!
    Hope this helps!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      That’s great feedback 🙂 Thanks for sharing

  • Lisa Vierra

    I have always wanted a book store. With a cat and a bay window.

    • Tom Johnson

      A cat in the bay window seems most fitting. Along with many a “quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore.” Sounds great to me, Lisa

      • Lisa Vierra

        He could be named Edgar.

  • Hey Brian and all in the office… I always assumed that Faber Castell was just the lazy way of saying Graf von Faber-Castell but now I’m getting into some art classes (and as we who love putting lines on paper are prone to doing buying ALL THE THING!) and I find that Gaber Castell is a popular name for some pretty high end art supplies but never see Graf von Faber-Castell anywhere but in mention of Fountain Pen inks…what gives….

    Honestly, because I ADORE my Faber-Castell inksd on every level, I’ve been buying as much of their art supplies as I can afford to (it’s OBSCENELY expensive compared to similar items but I’m a brand loyal girl) Is this two different companies or two arms of one company or truly just lazy typing by web designers?


    • Graf von Faber Castell = a line of writing instruments by Faber Castell https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graf_von_Faber-Castell

      All about Faber Castell: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faber-Castell

      As you go forward with your art you’ll probably start looking for specific qualities in your media, and be balancing those with price, and find yourself becoming brand diverse.

    • Tom Johnson

      Whoops, I should have read Liz’s great reply before I started this one! I had the same links too.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Hi, Jocelyn. That’s a great question. They are two branches of the same company. The Graf von Faber-Castell pens and inks are the higher end items and there is an additional line called Faber-Castell Design, which features some of the more affordable pens, like the Loom.

  • J. Boyd

    If I could have guaranteed success for a year, I would do pottery.

    Brian is so right about keeping the finances separate. As a hobby potter, I had a couple years were I made enough money from craft fairs, consignment sales and teaching, that my taxes got very, very complicated. I was teetering on the brink between hobby and small business. Thankfully, I had very good records for things like studio space and supplies, as well as good records for sales and commissions.

    After that, I made darn sure my hobby never showed a profit. It’s sort of self-supporting, now.

  • Lesley Schultz

    QOTW: I would freelance playing viola/have a music school. Overall though teaching for me is the way to go as I still get to teach what I love to do all day long.

    I do enough freelance playing that my taxes also are a bit complicated, but luckily the groups I play in are big enough and perform often enough that I get a 1099 from them which makes the taxes much easier, and is not too much record keeping on my part. The profit outweighs the tax complication by far. I know some freelancers though that their taxes are a wreck between groups and private lessons. All part of the music business.

    Here is a interesting question for Q and A at some point- What is the craziest, most unusual pen disaster story you have ever heard?

    • David L.

      I like that question. Hope it shows itself soon!

    • Tom Johnson

      Good one! I want to hear that question too.

  • Tom Johnson

    Brian, this is another great Q&A, such good questions and great answers. About ink drying in a pen, dried ink does not damage the pen at all, nor does it ruin it. Only carelessly disassembling the pen as you describe here is the threat. I’ve cleaned out old pens that have had ink dried in in them for decades with no problem at all. Pens cleaned up well without ever removing the nib and feed. Soaking in pen flush and repeated flushing out is all it took. Old Sheaffer and Parker pens on which I did not feel comfortable removing the nib and feed were cleaned out perfectly. On some I used an ultrasonic cleaner which greatly speeds things up, but the real key is to soak the pen in pen flush, then flush it out with something like a bulb syringe without ever trying to pull the nib and feed out. It may take several days of soaking and flushing. Once the old ink has been flushed out then think about removing the nib and feed, but you may not have to at all.

    QOTW: I’ve often thought about starting up a Museum of Unnatural History. I love natural history and museums of natural history, but I thought that a museum of unnatural history would be fun to put together. Probably not really a business as such.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Sounds like a fun museum idea, Tom. I like the spin on the normal museum type.

  • David L.

    Great Q&A! QOTW: Carpentry of some sort. I’ve enjoyed doing small things and plan to up it a little soon. Also, it has been in my family since before World War Two. We still have all the tools from my Great-Grandpa when he was a carpenter back then.

    Question #1: If you can find an Esterbrook pen and an Esterbrook flex nib, buy it! I just tried one out today, and it writes like a dream. I am definitely getting one soon. It’s handy having a little pen store that sells these cheaper-priced, vintage beauties in your state. If you don’t ,just try ebay, but make sure before buying that they have good nib shots and explain the condition of the sack and pressure bar.

  • Angel

    Enjoyed another great Q&A!! I look forward to trying an Ahab and the flex nib – on your website I think ink always looks so pretty in an Ahab! I’d like to try shimmering inks in one, too.

    I have a good friend who is a small business owner and have had the chance to see some of the behind-the-scenes. Wow, it’s a lot of work!! She takes a lot of time to provide products that she knows and trusts. I think that’s why I prefer to buy from small businesses.

    QOTW: I already have a small cottage business selling homemade Christmas caramels each year. I also enjoy baking and decorating cupcakes. If i decided to start a year-round business venture, I think it’d be a cupcake and candy store.

  • Johnathan Rhoades

    I love your Q&A’s. I’ve just been into fountain pens for the last couple months, but have already fallen a bit far down the rabbit hole, particularly where ink is concerned. And your videos have been helpful in learning a whole bunch about the wonderful world of pens.

    I have two questions for you guys. Don’t know if this is the best place for them, but whatever. Would it be feasible to do 3mL samples? I find myself wanting to buy samples from you all as I love your contributions to knowledge in the community, your business model, and you all being a local company, but I keep gravitating toward the retailers that offer 3mL sample sizes. I obviously don’t know what profit/loss margins are or anything on samples, but the extra mL gives the consumer almost another entire converter fill. (Also, sad face that you guys can’t sell sailor inks. They have quickly become some of my favorites)

    Also, I was watching #165 from April, and there was a question about Tomoe River notebooks. Did anything ever come from that? I know that Squishyink’s Hipponoto kickstarter exploded this spring/summer (I have two on the way), but did you all ever come to a conclusion on whether to pursue that avenue or not? It just seems to be an untapped market. She managed to raise about 80,000 dollars to support that effort…

    QOTW: I am currently working with a couple friends to start a Web Design/Development company and am loving it. So I don’t know what else I WOULD want to do, but I am enjoying starting a web development company. Success would always be nice, of course 🙂

  • Uniotter

    Great Q&A, Brian. Does anyone have experience with those Lamy gold nibs? Are they noticeably better than the steel?

    QOTW: I’ve always wanted to be a writer, so selling my writing would be my business. In fact I’m starting to do that in a small way now….guess I better heed your advice and keep good track of my profits/expenses!

  • Thanks for all of the effort you put in Brian, it’s appreciated. Question for you, as if you don’t get enough already:

    So, I occasionally have to sign documents. I learned quickly that random fountain pen ink was not a good choice for this, after my son had to bring back a school form that got wet, and my signature washed right off. So I’ve switched to putting Noodler’s Black in one pen for signing, but I don’t use that pen very often. So, depending on the pen, when I go to use it, it’s not always ready to write. I know some manufacturers, like Pelikan, claim very long idle times with the cap on, and I’m wondering if there are any low-end pens that you can recommend with long ready times, while sitting idle, nib-up and the cap on. I mention low-end since I would hope that any high-end pen could accomplish this.

    Thanks again.

    • Brooks Martin

      I live in dry-air Montana. Ink in feed and nib will evaporate, leaving gunky ink residue. To keep my Noodler pens ready to go, I keep them inked and in a sealable sandwich box. I put a small piece of wet paper towel in the box, and re-wet it when it dries out. This keeps the humidity high enough in the box so that the ink in the feed and section don’t dry out as fast.

      I also suck the ink back into the reservoir when I am done writing (monthly checks, mostly). This leaves less ink in the fins and section; the film of ink left in the fins eventually gets thick and gunky and thus pens require cleaning, even if stored in the sandwich box..say every 2 years or so….I can hear the Gasps from Brian right now 🙂

      When I am ready to use a pen, I position it over the waste bin and gently force ink into the section and and fins with the reservoir plunger (Ahab) or twist knob (Konrad and Creeper). Be careful, the ink can squirt out, even with gentle movement of the plunger, thus my holding the nib&feed in the bin before refilling the section&feed. With the Ahab, I pull (sucking motion) before pushing (expelling motion). If the Ahab has set unused for a long time, the plunger tends to stick, and I found if I pushed hard enough to free it, it would jump and squirt out ink. By pulling plunger first, I ensure that I just suck air rather than squirting ink when plunger gets free.

      Hope this helps

      • Wow. I think if I had to go to that much effort I’d just use a rollerball. Still, with claims from companies like Pelikan and Platinum, I wonder if they would survive in your environment. I’m in Canada, and the inside air over the winter with forced-air heating can get pretty dry without a humidifier. Still, I haven’t had to go to those lengths.

        • Brooks Martin

          What effort ? *grin* You got to store your pens someplace, why not in a sandwich box. If you write frequently, you don’t have to suck the ink out of the section and fins. If you write on fountain pen friendly paper, you don’t have to dilute your inks.

          Now, I’m a calligrapher, so I will go to greater lengths to get the results I want, to be sure. And I’m a retired scientist, so I enjoy experimentation, finding out what works best, and so on. So I don’t begrudge the time. But I always remind myself that fountain pens were replaced by ballpoints and rollerballs for a reason. They do work well at what they do. I just like old technology, and I like Copperplate hand, so I take the effort to make my flex Noodlers work for me. btw, all the merchants in town know me by my “pretty writing checks”, so fame is fun too 🙂