In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about expanding rollerball selection, making a nib less wet, and pricing trends in fountain pens. Enjoy!

This week:

Pens/Writing

1) @LightlyFluffy- Twitter (6:50)

Hello! My question is: Have you ever considered carrying rollerball pens from brands you already carry (Lamy, Pilot, Pelikan, Kaweco, etc. Most of them offer RB versions of FP models they make)? With Retro51, do you see a bigger RB market opening up?

  • we have carried them, actually!
  • Lamy Safari, Al-Star, and Pilot Metropolitan rollerballs
  • Pilot G2’s
  • they didn’t sell! We are the only account to return G2 rollerballs!
  • Retro 51 was a bit of a gamble for us, Atlanta show 2018 convinced us
  • It’s really hard to say if we have an opening there, we are just SO known for fountain pens
  • Mission: “To provide fountain pen enthusiasts with the most personal online shopping experience through comprehensive education, exemplary service, and products we believe in.”
  • the key is fountain pen enthusiasts, we actually changed that from writing enthusiasts in 2015 after we carried then dropped rollerballs
  • what convinced us was hardcore pen show-going fountain pen users saying that Retro 51 was pretty much the only rollerball they’d use, or that they buy it for the people in their life that just won’t use a fountain pen, as a “gateway”

2) Gabriel S- Facebook (15:32)

I have a new Homo Sapiens, and love everything about it – except cleaning. Is there an easy way to speed up the process? How do you know when it’s fully clean?

  • I feel ya! I hardly change ink in mine because I don’t like cleaning it
  • keep in mind, this is the same for ALL vacuum fillers, they’re just a pain
  • you basically flush and fill over and over
  • shaking when full of water helps
  • the nib can be removed, but I don’t recommend doing that every time, only for when it’s dried out and needs a deep cleaning
  • fully clean is usually when you can touch the nib to a paper towel and it’s perfectly clear water that comes out, no color/ink absorbs

3) Ryan F- Facebook (24:20)

Why aren’t there more economical vacuum fillers available?

  • the TWSBI Vac700R is the most economical I know
  • I don’t know exactly why that’s the cheapest, and by far
  • I suspect it’s just more complicated to make, and requires a lot of precision to get it right

4) @apostrophobic_- Twitter (27:08)

What do you do when your nib is too wet? This might be sacrilege but i was wondering if there was a way i could tweak and adjust the nib so it’s less of a gusher. I don’t have many inks to choose from and i use mainly watercolor paper for when i draw with pens.

  • it can be done, but it may or may not be something everyone’s comfortable with
  • we’re into disclaimer territory here, try at your own risk
  • sometimes you’re just writing with a nib size that’s broader than what you want, and you’ll only get it to write but so much drier
  • if you tighten up the tines too much you can choke the flow and it’ll stop, or at least flow poorly, there is a limit
  • that in mind here’s how you do it, there are several techniques but I’ll show the one that’s simplest
  • hold the pen with the nib face towards you, feed away from you
  • press down on one tine until it “clicks” under the other one
  • repeat on the other side
  • go back and forth, testing the line width each time you complete a set
  • check alignment for smoothness, and you should be good!
  • if you go too far, just bend them back up by pressing the nib with some moderate pressure on the page to spread the tines a bit

Troubleshooting

5) @robbob74- Twitter (35:00)

What does it mean if you have a nib that repeatedly get fibers stuck in it?

  • it means you’ve been using your pen!
  • this can happen for a couple of reasons
  • you’re using really fibrous paper
  • your nib is scratching the paper and gathering fibers (misalignment or burr)
  • you’re pressing too hard
  • the fibers will gather up and do one of two things, either act like a wick/felt tip and make it gush (for a while), or block the flow and dry it up
  • brass sheet is made just for this purpose, floss that jank!
  • cleaning the pen can help, but often it requires physical flossing, then you should be good to go

Business

6) Charles K- Facebook (40:25)

Will you carry Pilot VPs with stainless nibs?

  • unfortunately not, in the foreseeable future
  • this has been a Japan-only offering, from what I understand
  • we’ve asked about it, it hasn’t been an option, so we just ask periodically and wait
  • this isn’t unusual with pretty much all the Japanese brands
  • I’ve never tried one for myself, if any out there has, leave a comment!

7) Christopher M- Facebook (42:35)

Have you seen price trends relating directly to the popularity of fountain pens (supply/demand) or more to factors such as the manufacturer location with given import taxation, pen nib and component material? What do you see as the most influential and governing cohort for pen pricing?

Oh, would you be providing a review of the Monteverde Regatta Sport Allura any time soon? Just purchased from you folks but nothing online about this fabulous looking pen!

  • There may be some factor of popularity, and that can affect it in different ways
  • It really depends on the individual product and manufacturer
  • Some products are hard to produce and there are limited ones, so increased demand with a shortage of supply could drive up price
  • with many manufacturers, the more they sell, the more these fixed costs get spread out over time, and the costs can actually drive down
  • this was the case with Pilot Iroshizuku ink, the bottles themselves were expensive to produce (by hand), but as the volume increased, they were able to invest in equipment to more automate it and drive down costs, so it actually lowered in price because it was more popular
  • Being in a niche, generally there are R&D, marketing, and overhead costs with adding new SKU’s or designs, so pens are often more expensive when they’re new
  • there are factors of currency fluctuations, taxes, duties, tariffs, shipping, etc that can all make prices fluctuate that have nothing to do with popularity
  • a lot of times what I see is more incidental factors at play, like a shortage of a certain material, part, labor issue or whatever that drives up costs or affects supply of a certain product
  • For the most part I’m not seeing companies raising prices just because they “can”, but it really is just a case-by-case basis
  • Let’s take a look at the Regatta Sport Allura!

QOTW: Do you hold your pen at a high (above 45) angle, 45, or low (below 45)? (53:50)

Write On,
Brian Goulet