Goulet Q&A Episode 189: Fancy Pens, Brands with Great QC, The Next Pen Trend

In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about fancy pens, which brands have the best QC, and what pen trend Brian sees on the horizon…

This week:

Pens/Writing

1) Meto N.- Facebook (14:20)
What do you think the next fountain pen trend will be?

  • it’s really impossible to tell! honestly, the fountain pen world just moves a lot slower than other retail industries
  • I see more manufacturers going towards smaller batches, not LE necessarily but more seasonal or special editions
  • bolder colors or patterns
  • manufacturers are trying to understand where the shift is right now in the market, some just don’t have a handle on it yet
  • testing
  • combining ink launches with pens
  • more affordable pens, though this is tricky to really pan out

2) Mike F.- Facebook (22:30)
Brian, is it possible to spray paint a nib?

  • possible? Sure, you can spray paint dang near anything
  • functional? Not really
  • spray paint is way too thick to coat a nib and still function properly
  • it honestly wouldn’t be durable enough either
  • electroplating, PVD, black oxide are the methods used currently to coat nibs
  • these are more involved, and will hold up way better

3) nick_conkling- Instagram (25:48)
In the pen community, we often seem to talk about quality control only if it’s poor. Flipping this on its head, what brand would you praise for excellent QC? Could you give an example of a company that typically sells pens under $100 and another typically over $100 that you feel deserves praise on the nib QC? Thank you!

  • this gives a nod back to the question in Q&A 187 about Visconti nibs
  • people have a tendency to want to spread negative information far more than positive information
  • I think the is and excellent question
  • there’s no question that the Japanese brands lead the way in terms of quality, it is woven deep into their culture and they take it very, very seriously
  • Pilot QC is phenomenal…not perfect, but given the amount they produce it’s pretty amazing
  • they cover the full range of prices, but their nib quality on the low end pens is particularly impressive
  • Platinum also deserves a nod, especially for the Preppy
  • German brands also take consistency and quality very seriously
  • Lamy is pretty dang consistent, they do get some flak for their steel nibs at times, but this is a very small percentage of their overall pens
  • Pelikan gets very high marks for quality, too, especially in the higher price ranges
  • Pilot/Namiki has to get a mention here in the $100+ range

4) @KayteeHello- Twitter (32:13)
What kind of fine nib pen is good for beginners?

  • getting something that slightly on the finer side is usually more ideal
  • for beginners who are likely using absorbent inkjet or legal paper
  • you want something that puts down a little less ink
  • none of these will be a huge shocker, because many of our “top pens for newbies” are there because they have great fine nibs for beginners
  • huge fan of the Pilot Metropolitan, Kakuno
  • Platinum Preppy fine for sure, very worthy pen
  • Goulet fine nibs, not just bias here, but we’re really proud of them (on a Jinhao, Ahab)
  • Lamy Safari fine…I’m a fan of the EF, but there is a little more variability in the line width of the EF

5) theflamedeluge- Instagram (36:11)
What’s the best starter “fancy” pen?

Personal

6) Daniel D.- Facebook (40:58)
I really enjoyed your breakdown of the Namiki Emperor Toryumon. In the video, you handled the pen with white gloves, since the pen is so expensive and was on loan to you from Pilot USA. So, my question is, if you owned this pen (or one or similar value), would you ever ink it up and write with it? Personally, I could not imagine buying a pen just to sit in a box or a display case, since even pens that double as works of art (like this Namiki Emperor) are still functional writing instruments. If the answer to the question is “no,” what’s the most expensive pen you could see yourself using?

  • oh, I’d 100% ink it up and write with it, no question
  • I don’t buy pens that I refuse to ink up
  • some I may wait a while and be conscientious of what I ink it with, but I never just story something in the box or display it
  • there’s no limit to the cost of a pen I’d use….if I could actually afford it and purchase it, I’d write with it

Business

7) sketch.stack- Instagram (45:32)
I have a business question: What are some reasons you’ve decided *not* to carry a product? In the past we’ve heard about “complicated” business relationships that eventually sour —but are there other reasons? Not enough room in your warehouse? Trying to avoid redundancies in your offerings? Concerns about vendor supply (as in, they won’t be able to provide enough to match sales volume)? Etc. Or to put the question another way: Why doesn’t the Goulet Pen Company carry every single ink/paper/pen under the sun?

  • I’ve talked about this before when the question was phrased in the opposite way, about how I decide what to carry
  • I’ll focus on the follow up questions
  • the #1 thing going through my mind when deciding to carry a product or not is will our customers want this thing?
  • we’re a retailer, and at the end of the day, you vote with your dollars and we pay our team and keep our lights on when you buy stuff from us, so that has to be our #1 concern
  • demand is only part of the equation, and you touch on the other part, supply
  • demand has to be there, if there’s none, then there’s no point in even existing as a company
  • without natural demand it must be created, and that’s REALLY tough in a niche market like this
  • to match that, there has to be supply, and without adequate supply we’re scrambling
  • we often end up asking ourselves questions about both supply and demand when vetting our products to carry
  • we do frequently run into concerns about supply, but that’s not always a reason not to carry a particular product (especially if it’s a seasonal or limited production)
  • if an entire manufacturer or brand has limited capacity and we have concerns there, we’ll be hesitant
  • this is typically with startups and smaller brands
  • we don’t carry everything under the sun because not everything under the sun is in demand for our customers
  • the world is a very big place, and there are a lot of fountain pen products out there
  • logistics of acquiring/distributing certain products are cost-prohibitive
  • branding, education, product awareness takes an incredible amount of time and effort, and we don’t have the resources to carry everything, nor would everything sell
  • Pareto’s Principle comes into play, or the 80/20 rule as it’s known
  • the top 20% of our products will have 80% of the demand
  • likewise, the bottom 80% of our offering will only have 20% of the demand
  • the more and more and more products we carry, the more we’re putting disproportionately into that bottom 80%, which drains our cash and jeopardizes our health
  • plus, more is not always better, we essentially curate the products we carry, and constantly reevaluate them based on both supply and demand

QOTW: What kind of fountain pen gifts do you like to give around the holidays? (1:00:14)

Write On,
Brian Goulet

2017-11-03T15:40:09+00:00 November 3rd, 2017|Goulet Q&A|21 Comments
  • Dane

    QOTW: I have really pared my FP gifting because most of my recipients don’t appreciate them enough to put up with the added education and maintenance required. Now, my gifts consist of sets and packages with a theme: Correspondence set with envelopes and wax seal, notebooks with a specific purpose in mind, maybe a pen/ink prepackaged set or a note-taking/doodler idea for the youngsters.

  • Tom Johnson

    Back in 2013 I gave two ink sample packages to my brother and his wife who had been using fountain pens for not too long. Both are left handed. One package was Quick Drying Inks, the other was Waterproof Colors. I gave his wife a bottle of Iroshizuku Yama=budo ink, and him the wonderful TWSBI pencil (no longer in stocked). More recommendations: one of the Original Crown Mill Bi-Color A5 Correspondence Set (who would not love these wonderful colorful sets), a matching sealing wax color and maybe a seal if they don’t have one. And, if you cannot come up with specific pen, ink or paper item for someone already well into the fountain pen world, I think a Goulet Gift Card is a super gift!

    Great Q&A, I’m amazed that such good questions are still pouring in, with nearly 200 Q&A’s behind us. Great answers Brian.

  • Nelson

    Business-related question for Goulet Q&A

    Hi Brian —

    I don’t know if you saw, but Kirby Allison, owner of the Hanger Project, posted an online video last week on “How to Use a Fountain Pen” that included numerous shout-outs to you and The Goulet Pen Co. After watching this video, I have two semi-related business questions.

    First, as you look for new ways to fulfill one of your core missions of educating folks on fountain pens, have you thought about — sorry for the use of the word — “corporate synergy” and working with like-minded businesses on cross-pollinating communities that overlap, whether it’s with videos, promotional tie-ins or whatever?

    For example, you’ve regularly done videos and collaborations with fountain pen manufacturers, like Edison. Have you thought about taking that one step further and, say, working with a company that also has found its niche in a specialized market? So, I don’t mean doing a tie-in with, say, a major fast-food chain (free fountain pen with your meal!), but working with a smaller company in a completely different area that shares your company’s vision. In this case, the Hanger Project got its start specializing in, of all things, clothes hangers and then expanded to men’s clothing — not fashion, but style. Thinking way outside the box, since Kirby is talking about fountain pens, it’d be great to see you, someone who is a self-professed jeans and t-shirt guy, talking to Kirby and maybe getting fitted for bespoke shoes and talking about your shared interest in pens.

    Second, have you done any analysis of who, exactly, makes up your customer base, especially outside the usual suspects of calligraphers, artists, bullet journalers? Before watching Kirby’s video, I wouldn’t have really thought of folks who spend literally thousands of dollars on a pair of shoes and hundreds on clothes hangers as having the same kind of passion for fountain pens, except as a status symbol.

    Thanks!
    Nelson

  • bunce56

    Hi Brian,

    Can you recommend a journal and day planner to use with a fountain pen. I’m currently using a Moleskine Daily Planner, but even with my Sailor 1911 Fine nib bleeds through (a bit) to the back of the page. Thanks, Vernon

    • Tom Johnson

      Vernon, look at the notebooks and planners on Goulet Pens. They do not carry any products that are not fountain pen friendly. Moleskine is super cheap paper, suitable for ball point pens and pancils. Any of the planners and notebooks at Goulet Pens is much better quality paper. Look at the Leuchtturm1917 products for a start, but they stock a lot of others.

      • bunce56

        Tom, thanks! Moleskin touts itself as a premium brand, but their products are made in China. I will look into Leuchtturm as an alternative to the Moleskin planner I’m now using.

        • Tom Johnson

          Vernon, some one posted on the web (I think it was Fountain Pen Network) that they loved their Moleskin notebooks because they are the same notebooks that the masters used in the past. WRONG, Moleskin started in the 1980’s. The paper may have been quality to start with, but the manufacturing was soon moved to China using very low quality paper, only good for ballpoints. They are grossly overpriced compared to the notebooks you can get that are made in France, Germany, Taiwan, Japan, Italy, etc. made with very high quality paper. Browse the notebooks Goulet carries and you won’t find any made with cheap quality paper, because Brian won’t sell them.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Hi, Vernon. Check out our selection of planners on our site. https://www.gouletpens.com/planners/c/18 -Lydia

    • Lez Cartwright

      Sorry for a really slow reply. I have the Rhodiarama XL soft cover books as my journals. Recommend you consider those. Sorry to just jump in with this but I’ve used moleskine and leuchtturm books which do not support ink usage and as much as folks like the brand they are only good for bics and gels in my humble opinion.
      Best wishes to all pen people.
      LeZc
      @@

  • Lisa Vierra

    Both of my children and godchild receive a Lamy in their stocking, usually in one of the seasonal or limited colors. One year it was a Waterman Phileas though. Plus, they receive a bottle of ink or a stock of cartridges. My mother is given a mid-range pen and a bottle of ink. My mother’s stocking is also stuffed with nice Florentine writing paper. I did get them all a Waterman pen and ink set one year. The trouble with that is it is fixed, unless it’s like the deal with your recent Vanishing Point deal where you could choose any color. That is much more attractive than a set with a standard color. The main thing is the pen. The ink is just so I haven’t given them a gift they can’t use. As for myself, I point the family in the direction of a pen I would be less likely to buy for myself, but isn’t off-puttingly extravagant. Thus I drop serious, though no doubt subtle, hints about Visconti Van Goghs, a nice Pilot, a Franklin-Christoph anything. In other words nice but under $300. Hedging my bets I make a bit of noise about some attractive mid-range pens

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Sounds like the perfect stocking stuffers! I like your idea about dropping hints about the pens too. It’s great that your family and you can share the fountain pen hobby together.

  • Kak_arctic

    QOTW: I don’t give pen gifts to my friends per se, because not all of my friend are big fountain pen fans. As a matter of fact, only one of my friend uses fountain pens.
    I do give pen related gifts to my friends. Especially nice notebooks. Fountain pen is not something everybody enjoys but nice notebook is something almost anyone who writes can appreciate. Last year, I gave one of my friends a nice traveler’s notebook set and gave another friend of mine a Leuchtturm notebook. Both notebooks went with a platinum preppy. I don’t think either of those friends are using the preppy that much but they both loved the notebook.
    I think a notebook with a relative cheap pen would be a very nice combo, and that is probably what I am going to go with this year as well.

    • Lydia At Goulet Pens

      Great idea!

  • Uniotter

    QOTW: In the past I’ve given “starter” pens (most are no longer available so won’t mention brands), but only one person out of many continued on…the rest weren’t up to the maintenance required. For the friends who are into it, I am considering some of the new sparkling inks, journals and writing paper, or wax seals. I think all of those would go over well. 🙂

  • _s_s_miles

    QOTW – I tend to really try (even if I don’t always succeed) to buy meaningful gifts for my friends & family, and only some of them are FP lovers. That being said, I did buy every (writing age appropriate) person at our traditional huge family gathering (35-ish people) a Pilot Metropolitan for their stocking several years ago just to see how that went… More specifically, my wife LOVES the Lamy Al-Stars, so she gets the new color every Xmas (she’s also a XF nib user, so I special ordered 12 XF nibs when I heard Lamy was cutting off their supply to the US) and when applicable a matching ink. My bestest friend is a total ink slut, so I get him an affordable demonstrator (TWSBI Eco lately) & 4 bottles of ink (he’s also really likes seasons) that I theme for the upcoming year.

    2 Questions piggybacking on Daniel D’s (#6) query – 1) Do you have any pens that are either SO expensive or personally important) that, while you use them, you don’t carry or travel with them?

  • simonoid

    QOTW: I purchased a 2018 leuchtturm planner for my wife. No fountain pen…yet.But it’s nice to share brands that I enjoy with the people I love.
    as for a gift for myself. I am planning on either a Vanishing Point or a Kaweco Sport.

  • Lesley Schultz

    QOTW: I’m new to fountain pens this year, so not planning on any gifting. If I did I would probably gift paper and notebooks first, because a lot of people appreciate good stationary still.

  • Angel

    Thank you for another great Q & A!! I always enjoy them. 🙂 My family knows that I listen to “that pen guy” on Friday nights.

    Most of my family wouldn’t be interested in fountain pens for Christmas gifts. On the other hand, they know that I would love a new pen for Christmas. 🙂 Also, for the new year I’m planning on buying another Leuchtturm notebook for bullet journaling. It’s so hard to decide on a color! Right now I’m leaning toward a gold one.

  • Lez Cartwright

    Your business question about stocking everything… I agree with you,
    too much of a good thing isnt good for you. There is SO much choice it
    causes paralysis.
    I use Rhodiarama XL books as journals, I had
    already decided to try a dot page set up for a change from the usual
    lines. The COLOUR to get took over an hour..eg,,,
    ” Ive got a
    purple, I got two, a turquoise – like turquoise, should I get another?
    well the elastic is a bit of a contrast and well the Yellow is too
    bright, tangerine, thats nice but the elastic blends with the soft cover
    and what about” ….etc ??? In the end I asked my wife on two colours
    I made my mind up on…Tangerine won, but you see what I mean, with all
    the other wonderful stuff in the pen obsession available the choice
    could cause you to end up on Valium.
    Gifts season, I agree with
    other commentators, paper. A nice writing set from Original Crown Mills
    was purchased for myself recently and because Im getting into pointed
    pen writing which Jake Weidmann makes to look SO easy, Im buying
    Clairfontaine Troimphe…
    Its about 4 quid in the UK for 50 sheets of
    a wonderful paper which if I become any good with pointed pens is a
    paper that is SO smooth for the needle pointed nibs… After trying
    pointed pens on other papers with yack results, to practice on the paper
    Im going to write on seemed the choice…in the end.
    Dont skimp on
    cheap paper, after all you will introduce a variable which will let your
    style down and who doesn’t want to create a good impression with the
    fountain pens, ink, paper.
    Best wishes to all pen people
    LeZc
    @@

  • Kimy

    QOTW: Normally, when gifting fountain pens, I start with the Pilot Metropolitan (gold and silver at holiday time). The Metropolitan comes in so many great colors, but gold and silver are staples. I make sure to give a box of Pilot cartridges with the pen, too (as well as a note pointing them to Goulet Pens for refills and tutorials). I also have given the Pilot Varsity as stocking stuffers.

    I don’t often give fountain pens as gifts any more, though, because people just don’t want something with which they are not familiar. More often than not, the pens will sit around unused.

    When I was working, however, I had lots of people comment on my pens (I use fountain pens exclusively), and I did give nice pens as gifts to my team one year. My team was comprised of armed forces vets, and I tailored the pens to their branch of service; i.e., I gave the Edison Beaumont in Bedrock Flake to my Army guy, and he loved it, even though he’d never thought before of owning a fountain pen.

    I cannot do this type of giving any more, unfortunately, so now, I gift to myself when I can. I missed out on the Crimson Sunset vanishing point (my very favorite pen style), but that’s ok. I have several vanishing points I love to use and satisfy my “needs.” I’m eyeing that Conklin Durograph in forest green, right now.