Goulet Q&A Episode 187: Visconti Fails, Crusty Ink, and Brian’s Journal Collection

In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about Visconti fails, crusty inks, and he shows you his personal journal collection!

This week:

  • 80k subscribers on YouTube! Thank you!!!
  • Changed our blog platform!
  • Monteverde Monza‘s are in now, rolling back opinion on eyedropper converting them
  • Free Irozhizuku w/ any Pilot Custom 74 or Stargazer
  • TWSBI Mini AL Gold…may already be gone
  • Namiki Emperor Toryumon…let’s see what a $9600 pen looks like!
  • Lamy Aion and new Studios….still waiting, will be several more weeks I’m told
  • We’ll be introducing a new giveaway next week leading up to Fountain Pen Day (Friday Nov 3), it will be like nothing we’ve done before!
  • Also, Thanksgiveaway is coming around the corner…
  • Peilkan m605 White-Transparent should be coming in very soon
  • November is looking to stack up to be a month with a lot of new stuff coming, it will be very exciting!
  • Sign up for our email newsletter, $5 off your next order (over $50) when you sign up right now

Pens/Writing

1) Priwolfe- Instagram (18:33)
For myself as for many others the Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age is a grail pen. However, I’m disheartened to hear folks like Matt @penhabit have sworn off the brand for numerous q.c. issues regarding their nibs. As a retailer and representative of the Visconti brand what measures do you put into place to address these concerns? What pressures do you feel as a dealer of the brand? Given the steep price tag that comes with it is the H.S. still a good or safe purchase? Im not sure how much to value the rather negative publicity Visconti has received lately. While I love the aesthetics of their pens, but the one thing a pen must do is write.

  • firstly, I have huge respect for Matt and want to make sure everyone understands I think he’s honest and completely entitled to feel the way he does based on his own experiences
  • Visconti and other “premium” pen brands get into an interesting place
  • the expectations that sometimes come with pens in this price range make it difficult to live up to the “Holy Grail” hype
  • these are still tools, and there’s a law of diminishing returns on the price of any pen, for sure, Visconti’s not immune to that
  • all that said, Visconti attracts a lot of attention because of their palladium nibs, which are unique to them
  • these nibs are a double-edged sword, they’re very soft which makes them feel amazing
  • their softness also makes them a challenge to grind and polish, beyond steel or even gold nibs
  • the vast majority of these pens we see are wonderful, but the smaller percentage of ones that have flow issues are all that much more heartbreaking
  • combine the virality of the brand, excitement of the designs and hype around the brand with high expectations, high cost, it’s a lot to live up to
  • people naturally want to share negative feedback more than positive too (9 times more likely)
  • there are some legit issues though, that need to be addressed
  • Visconti’s last visit here, they admitted that and reiterated with me that they want to correct those
  • Dante’s not there anymore, there’s a new CEO who has a background in business process and quality control
  • this is something they want to improve, but it doesn’t happen overnight
  • in the meantime we’ll do everything we can to make it right, for sure
  • Visconti/Coles of London stand behind their products and will make things right
  • it’s all a matter of personal choice, in the end

Troubleshooting

2) Melissa H.- Facebook (27:54)
I have Diamine Ochre and I desperately want to use it again. However it made my nibs so crusty and gross I consider just throwing away the bottle :/ Is there anything I can add or do to keep this ink from getting gunky? I love the color, but it’s not worth the hassle.

  • this isn’t just a Diamine Ochre issue
  • I see this on several oranges, coppers, and reds
  • Diamine Ancient Copper, Pumpkin, Terra-cotta, Ochre, J. Herbin Rouge Hematite, and other inks too
  • it’s when you have a high concentration of dyes, perhaps even particular types or colors of dyes (as not all inks do it) that dry up and crystalize on the nib when the water evaporates
  • wiping it off or getting it wet again gets rid of it right away
  • it’s more aesthetic than anything
  • I haven’t done testing or honestly read anyone who’s tried this, but since it’s mainly an evaporation issue, I suspect if you dilute the ink it’ll lessen the problem
  • experiment in small batches first
  • dilute too much and it could impact the color/saturation of the ink

3) jcoletrain84- Instagram (31:53)
How often do pens need to be ‘re-greased’? I currently own a few piston fillers as well as some Noodler’s Charlie pens that I have had for at least 2 yrs. Should I lubricate them even though I’m not having any issues?

  • WAY less often than most people probably think
  • I hear this more with TWSBI pens than anything
  • let the pen tell you when it needs grease
  • the main sign is when the piston starts to drag or feel really hard to move
  • if you are completely disassembling the pen to clean it and wipe off the existing grease from the seal/barrel, then regrease it
  • in normal circumstances you don’t need to do it more than once a year, at most
  • Charlie pens are different, that’s an eyedropper pen, that should ideally see some grease on those threads ever time you refill it

Ink

4) Debra B.- Facebook (36:29)
Are the plastic sample vial holders stackable? What suggestions do you have to show the ink color on the TOP of the sample ink vials?

  • you can stack them, but I don’t know that I feel comfortable calling them stackable just because they don’t lock into place
  • there are all kinds of cool tricks I’ve seen for people labeling the tops of the vials
  • my favorite has to be using paper hole reinforcers, they fit perfectly and look really cool

Personal

5) Francisco L.- Facebook (40:14)
Hey Brian! In this last Q&A you spoke about your journals. I would love to see your own personal journal collection!

  • my collection is…eclectic
  • I test a bunch of different ones, which makes using/storing/referencing them pretty hard, especially bc I’m not super organized as is!
  • lots of Rhodia/Leuchtturm, couple of Traveler’s Notebooks for portability
  • Some Lines A Day, been using daily for 5 months now
  • I have TONS of other sample notebooks that I hang onto for reference
  • more than anything, I get samples that just don’t cut the mustard (paper quality)

Business

6) Priwolfe- Instagram (52:27)
One of your competitors has really ramped up their social media presence as of late. Especially bringing “pen celebs” into their Instagram world. Competition is what makes the market work, how do you engage in that competition intentionally? How do you respond or re-examine and evaluate your own online presence in light of what others are doing? Really love all the work and team @gouletpens! Thank you for all that you guys do for the pen community and all that you have done in fostering my own pen addiction.

  • I honestly don’t spend much time at all observing or thinking about my competition or what they do
  • I have awareness about what goes on in general, as I have to make sure I have a pulse on the “marketplace”
  • being this engaged with the community and our customers, you’ll tell us everything we’re doing right or wrong, for better or worse!
  • if someone else is doing something really engaging and amazing, we’re told about it if it’s important or relevant, otherwise I don’t really care
  • in today’s business world, especially in retail, especially online, if you’re not ramping up your social media presence and trying new and exciting things, you’re in trouble
  • it’s not just a wow factor anymore, it’s becoming permission-to-play for staying in business
  • competition in a niche like fountain pens looks a little different too
  • I truly, truly believe that the rising tide raises all ships in the fountain pen world
  • the biggest competition we ALL face as fountain pen retailers is obsolescence, and nothing would make me happier than to see every single pen retailer start absolutely CRUSHING IT on social media because it would create more awareness, excitement, and demand for the pens we love so dearly, and that will help us all out
  • lastly, this year has been hard for us
  • we’ve lost two experienced people from our media team this year, we were distracted with our move, and we’ve been hiring covering the missed work for months now
  • we’re in a rebuilding phase, so don’t think we’ve gone dormant, we’re going to continue to evaluate what we’re doing and innovate

7) Jeffrey H.- YouTube (59:39)
Do you ever do shifts as another role in your company to identify unmet needs of your employees, resolve inefficiencies in process, and “leading from the front”? (For example, working to fulfill orders or answering the customer service line.)

  • yes, at times
  • I have served in many of the roles in our company at some point
  • does that mean it’s wise to continue to do so? Not often, but at times when it’s needed I’ll jump in and help, especially if there’s a particular challenge or process issue we’re working through
  • with 41 (soon to be 43) people, if I covered for any given role when it was needed I’d never do anything else, so we plan for redundancy within the teams we’ve built here so that I don’t often get put in that position
  • right now, we don’t have a videographer, so I’m editing these Q&A’s temporarily because it’s pretty straightforward and it’s not as easily covered by someone else
  • Fulfilling orders is rare for me now, we have such a solid team in place there, I’ll sometimes get looped in or just observe how things have changed periodically to see if there’s anything I can challenge
  • Customer service I handle some escalated things, but the team is really solid there too
  • I’m a little more hands on in marketing efforts, especially being more involved in videos and as the face of our brand
  • I believe in focusing on doing the things that only I can do as often as possible
  • I think I understand where you’re coming from with “leading from the front”, and I do understand that…I think given my very hands-on nature and tendency to do rather than lead, it’s actually more beneficial for me to be a little more hands off, and spend time doing the work that only I’m able to do
  • Things like vision-setting, key vendor relationships, making strategic and financial decisions, celebrating the work of my team and reinforcing our company values, these are all things that better serve my team in terms of leadership than me doing their jobs

QOTW: Is there social media activity you see other pen retailers or companies doing that you would like to see at GouletPens? What do you feel we could be doing that we aren’t now? (1:05:47)

Write On,
Brian Goulet

2017-10-23T20:05:28+00:00 October 20th, 2017|Goulet Q&A|29 Comments
  • mulrich1

    I think the bullet point “Peilkan m605 White Tortoises should be coming in very soon” should have said “White Transparent” and not “Tortoise”.

    • Bethany

      White Tortoise sounds like a color of Metropolitan! Tortoise pattern might not be super distinguishable from the crocodile pattern, though.

    • Tom Johnson

      I did a search and found web sites that called the pen “tortoise white” and some that called it “white tortoise”. None used “transparent” in the pen’s name.

      • mulrich1

        There is a Pelikan White Tortoise but that’s not the pen being discussed in the video. The Tortoise has yellowish stripes, this pen is pure white.
        It looks like the bullet point I mentioned has been corrected.

  • Carlos Quiñones

    GREAT to see a Q&A (at work!!! lunch hour!!) one month after Hurricane Maria!!! at least I have power and internet at work!!!

  • peter hofmann

    Great to see that Pilot Emperor pen, makes the Pilot Custom 823 look so very affordable.
    I can attest to Goulet Pens standing behind the Visconti products, in fact they took care of an issue I had right in the middle of their move, talk about commitment!

  • Tom Johnson

    Brian, this is a great Q&A. The Pilot Emperor Pen looks like something from an art museum, a very elite museum. Love you showing it to us. Looking forward to the upcoming give-a-way and another Thanksgiveway.

    Q#1 – Great answer you gave. I’ve seen people posting that they would never buy a TWSBI because of all the cracking problems. Like you said these sites are focus points for problems that only affect a small % of owners. No problems with my 4 TWSBIs in several years. Always remember there are a significant number of people who feel that all threaded things need to be given an extra tightening when closing. Source of a lot of cracking in pens right there. Same with over maintenance, like thinking you need to lube a piston every so often. I leave them alone until I have problems. My piston pens don’t get extra lube until the piston gets cranky, and that may take several years or more.

    QOTW – I can’t give an answer because I don’t look at other pen retailers and I am not on social media. I’ve never seen anyone with the quality photos, reviews, super videos, communications, etc. as Goulet Pens has. Maybe someday some other retailer will have something you don’t carry or can’t get but I want, but in over 4 years it has not happened yet! I get everything I want from Goulet Pens, including near instant notifications of items back in stock and announcements of upcoming new products, and updates like you did in today’s Q&A.

  • Shaavazul

    QOTW:
    I know that a blog serves a different function and has a different rhythm of connecting to people than other social media platforms (Instagram/fb/Twitter) and as such there will be more and different kinds of activity in each. However, I feel like the GPC blog is just acting as a catalog/reservoir of events rather than as fully part of the conversation. For example FB and Instagram get cute photos and questions that people only viewing the blog will never see, sometimes even giveaways. I feel a bit left out as an individual that choose one life experience (no use of other social media platforms, for privacy concerns) and as such don’t get to partake in all that the GPC puts out into the world.

    One thing that could be done is integrating the other platforms into the blog, like a running feed sidebar. Of course, this is totally just my opinion and it may not be something that GPC feels would better serve the community.

    • Shaavazul

      On a separate matter, I’d like to see some measure of water-resistance when searching for ink. I know this is tricky to do, but maybe it could be based on reviews submitted by customers. Or we set up an external measure, a gradient, with examples of different levels of water-resistance and then inks can be evaluated on that. I know it doesn’t matter to a lot of people, but it would greatly improve my quality of life.

      • Lydia At Goulet Pens

        That’s an interesting suggestion, We’ll have to think more on that

      • Tom Johnson

        This is a simple test I did with Noodler’s inked and Diamine, Lamy, & J. Herbin inks. Tomoe River paper, the sheet on the left soaked 5 minutes (light rubbing on inked surface). Sheet on right is not soaked. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/7e8851d233f4a5a173e30814229c20513de49ef88b824d2318feb43eb32ae1ed.jpg

        • Shaavazul

          Ooh, thank you! I’m really impressed by Lexington Gray. And General of the Armies really transforms!

  • The new blog design has painfully small fonts on my mobile version. Please reconsider. Yes, I can pinch and zoom to read but I shouldn’t have to. I value accessibility in the sites I visit. I hope you do too.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      I have passed this along and we will definitely look into it. Sorry for the inconvenience on this.

  • David L.

    Thanks for another outstanding Q&A! QOTW: I only do the blog and the Youtube videos. Nothing else. I have no desire to join social media for the same reason as Shaavazul. Therefore, I cannot say what should be done or changed.

    Question 1. I enjoy watching Matt’s videos, and he is the main reason why I have lost some interest in the Homo Sapiens. Thank you for clarifying!

    Worst case scenario happens (it won’t) and the G.P.C. collapses. What will you do? Will you try to pick it back up? Or will you decide to do something else? What would that be?

  • Karl

    I look forward to each Friday’s Q&A and watch a section at a time over a period of days. This is a good way for me to learn about new pens, inks, stationery and maintenance tips. You might bring in a guest occasionally for a 10-min appearance to talk about a new pen design, new paper, ink or whatever. You might even be able to do a video with a pen designer and then air it during your Q&A. I limit myself to your blogs and facebook but nothing else. Too confusing and time-consuming. I do find the Monday mix/match with its Disqus confusing technically. You have wonderful artists doing it, and it is a good challenge for me. Could you simplify it? I am not even sure if my entries even get considered or posted in the right place. Keep up the great work and service. I know you just finished the major move and you are filling key positions. You have a excellent team!

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Thanks, Karl. What would make the Monday Matchup entry easier for you? How do you think it could be better simplified?

  • John Taylor

    As always, good commentary. However, while the quality control discussion (Visconti, in this case) seemed well intentioned it didn’t give a whole lot of assurance that the mail order buyer won’t get stuck with a lemon, or have to go through the hassle of sending it back one or multiple times. “We, the importer, and manufacturer stand behind the product” doesn’t seem like the whole answer. I “get” that problems within a particular product line can get blown out of proportion but there’s a big piece missing in the answer from position of the potential buyer perspective.

    Funny – I have been thinking the same thing as this questioner regarding the Lamy 2000 which (unlike other Lamy pens) has had reported nib issues. I don’t want to make a mistake.

    For the premium pens, why not check them out with a loupe and quick test drive before sending them out. It’s an extra step, but it would take some of the worry out of the transaction. A thought…

    • Tom Johnson

      John, this is the situation whenever you ever purchase any product online or by mail order – there are no products that are 100% perfect, and problems occur sometimes. In a previous video Brian and Drew addressed the reports of nib problems in Lamy 2000 pens and reported that of the many 2000’s they sold, only several needed to be replaced. You have to handle a pen in person and write with it to know for sure you are not getting a lemon, just like any product. Even then problems can occur later.

      • John Taylor

        Completely fair comment and understood.

  • Uniotter

    A great Q&A, and thanks for letting look at the Namiki Emperor Toryumon! It truly is a work of art and it’s exciting to be able to see something I would never otherwise have a chance to look at.

    Re: your QOTW, I can’t think of anything other people are doing that you aren’t already doing some version of. I was going to suggest something similar to the “How do you like me now?” or “Fountain pen shoot out,” but you revisiting old Q&As and giving more current answers sort of fulfills the first one. And occasionally you compare products (usually in response to people’s inquiries), which sort of fulfills the second. So just keep up the good work! 🙂

    • Shaavazul

      Yes, I second this! Please revisit old posts! Though some are just great gold as they are, like the fountain pen 101 series.

  • Maybe this isn’t the right place to ask but it’s where makes sense to me at 2 am on a Sunday night: I know Organics Studio has been a very up and down brand (I got a bit burned in their 2012 shutdown myself) but they seem to have rebounded and have been a going concern for I think over a year now. They’re also starting to do some interesting things with their more recent releases. Any plans to welcome them back?

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      I will pass this question along 🙂

  • _s_s_miles

    I have no thoughts on the QOTW, but I do have a question and a plea:

    Q- Would you consider something similar to a lay-a-way purchasing plan for some of your pricier pens? An Emperor (not the one you showed today, but still) is my ultimate “I can die a happy man now” grail pen, and I WILL have one some fine day, but I cannot pony up $12K (or even $9,600 w/ the discount). I also refuse (much like your ethos for GPC) to go into debt with a credit card. But if I could pay in $800/month for a year and then have the pen shipped, I’d be much more likely to be able to procure one. Any thoughts?

    P- PLEASE please please consider adding paper to the Education section of your site!!! You have done wonderful things with 2/3rds of the FP trifecta with pen pics/nibs and ink swabs. But what about the 3rd third? Paper is just as important, yet you don’t have any educational materials on how different brands of paper respond to bleedthrough, drying times, feathering, sheen refraction, etc… I think this is the last gaping hole in what has become the single best online source of honest, straight forward, empirical data on FP info.

  • Angel

    Thank you for another great Q&A! I now look forward to Friday night dishes, when I get a chance to listen to these. 🙂

    It was a real treat to see a Namiki Emperor Toryumon! Wow, such beauty and artistry.

    As far as the QOTW, I really can’t think of anything. I’ve been so impressed with Goulet Pens as a business, including how they handle social media. And Brian’s videos are the reason I even tried a fountain pen in the first place, so when I buy a fountain pen, it’s going to be from him!

  • ec

    QOTW: I’ve slacked off on social media this year, so I have nothing to suggest. I’d just say keep up the good work as always. Your videos rock!

    Re Visconti: My personal experience with the brand is not so good. Of three Visconti pens, two do or did not write satisfactorily; one is excellent. My daughter bought me an Anniversary edition of the Van Gogh, M nib, while she was in Italy and it is the excellent writer. She also bought herself a Rembrandt B nib, and despite thorough cleanings and trying several brands of inks, it still leaves a lot to be desired. It skips and sometimes has hard starts. I later bought a Michelangelo Venus which would consistently refuse to write at all after several sentences. I returned it, and the retailer get it to write after some tweaks, so I just got a refund. I love my Van Gogh, both for sentimental reasons and because it’s a beautiful pen that writes well. However, I’m otherwise through with the brand. Two fails out of three, especially at their prices, just doesn’t make it. These expensive (for me) pens don’t even have gold nibs, but their beautiful pen bodies pretty much make up for that imo. But when a Pilot Metropolitan or Plumix, along with many other inexpensive pens, even Jinhaos, write consistently well right out of the box, there is NO excuse for an expensive Visconti to not write. My two cents worth from my own experiences.

  • CorinneLitchfield

    Catching up on Q&A today. As someone who does social media management – and has worked on social media for pen shows, a B&M shop and a distributor – I agree with Brian on his comments. Goulet Pens’ content has definitely inspired my work and served as a starting point for content creation, curation & strategy. Each player in the pen industry brings something different to the table and we all learn from each other – that’s most evident when attending a big pen show and seeing/overhearing the conversations that happen among vendors. If GP’s content stirs up other retailers’ competitive streak, then that means more pen-related content on social media, which means more eyeballs all around. We’re all on the same #TeamFountainPens. 🙂

  • vinniekowalski

    Reading the answer to the last question, I’ve noticed that at times you use some lingo that verges on office-speak (e.g., celebrating my team, reinforcing our values, etc.). Terms that everyone can agree on are a necessary evil, and there are usually good intentions (or at least benign intentions) behind these sorts of buzzwords (consider this article from The Atlantic on office speak: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/04/business-speak/361135/). It’s also super common across many industries (e.g., Southwest’s fun-luvving corporate culture, Zappos’ radical emphasis on creating fun and a little weirdness).

    Still, I can imagine a new person coming on feeling like they’re stepping into a cult if there’s a lot of euphemistically holy buzzwords being used. Do you think there’s a way to get the same communal buy-in to a company culture without the use of buzzwords? Or is this just an automatic part of the paradigm-shifting, disruptive relentless focus on our customer and our people (see what I did there)?