In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about the best broad nibs, testing pens you can’t hold, and best gripped pens under $50. Enjoy!

The last couple of weeks:

Pens/Writing

1. @RadicalxEdward- Twitter (10:36)

I have similar issues with oily hands and small / smooth / tapered pens as Brian does, what are his recommendations for budget (sub $50) fountain pens with grips he likes.

2. cat.jeanie- Instagram (17:25)

Between the TWSBI Eco and the 700/R, which do you think is easier to disassemble? Which is sturdier and least likely to crack?

  • they’re both about the same to disassemble
  • but REASSEMBLY is easier on the Vac700R
  • both pens are quite sturdy, I can recommend both easily

3. peterbhay- Instagram (21:20)

Why are 90% of pens the same length? Did the length of shirt pockets dictate pen length? Really want this riddle solved!

  • I don’t know if I’d quite say 90%, but most pens tend to be in the 5-6″ length, for sure
  • I doubt it’s dictated by shirt pockets, I think it has to do with what feels comfortable in most people’s hands, and what pen users prefer (thus buy)
  • there have been pens of all kinds of lengths and sizes over the years, and what you see is manufacturers trying to cater to the widest group of potential purchasers as possible, so they go for a universally appealing size
  • there’s no hard and fast rule, but pens that are too small or too big tend to be less popular, so there’s a bell curve of pen sizes

4. ashley.beck.718- Instagram (26.08)

What fountain pen would you recommend for cycle touring/ commuting (stored in a pannier)?

  • honestly, you could probably use just about anything
  • I’d go with something durable, so if you happen to drop it it’s not the end of the world
  • Lamy Safari, TWSBI GO or Eco, Diplomat Magnum, Traveler’s Pen, Kaweco Liliput or Supra, something along these lines
  • I’d probably stick with something with converter or cartridges, as they will be less likely to leak when getting jarred
  • Cycling with a pen is honestly something I haven’t tried yet!

5. Matthew W- Facebook (29:23)

I think a lot of beginner fp users start with fine and extra-fine nibs because they are working with lousy paper. I know I did. But now I’m fascinated by ink and I’d love to buy some broad nibs. Do you (or Broad Queen Rachel) have specific recommendations for makes and models that have great broad nibs?

6. Donna J- Facebook (31:50)

If a person lives in an area where hands on trying the next and higher level of fountain pens at a pen show or a brick and mortar store isn’t an option, what recommendations would you give to help a person take that leap?

  • I get it! This was really tough for me when starting out
  • research, ask the community (and they’ll give you a zillion answers), see if there’s a local pen meetup (or start one), read reviews, try to swap/trade with other pen people, reach out to retailers (like us) to ask, verify return policy to minimize impact of any return if you need it
  • try the most popular pens, they’re that way for a reason
  • this will be a challenge if you can’t ever see them before you buy them, that’s why we try to help you as much as we can in advance!
  • I would love to figure out a practical way to offer a try-before-you-buy solution, I just haven’t been able to find one yet…

Ink

7. Lisa M- Facebook (36:24)

It’s the strangest thing. My Noodler’s Berning Red was once a brighter red. Now as I head towards the bottom of the bottle, it’s much darker, and, sadly, a bit ugly, like dried blood. I am certain it didn’t get another ink mixed in it. What can account for a color shifting to dark as it ages? I’m sure this question could spawn some political jokes…but honestly, that’s not my intention.

  • I don’t know if this is specific to Berning Red, that’s not a wildly popular ink so I haven’t heard about a lot of people getting to the bottom of the bottle
  • there could be a couple of things going on
  • Noodler’s saturates their ink with dye, to capacity, which can settle out into the bottom of the bottle with some colors (reds in particular, it seems)
  • unless you’re shaking the ink before each fill, dye could be settling in the bottom, you’re inking from the top, so over time more dye is sitting at the bottom thus making the ink darker as you go
  • another explanation could be the ink had some water evaporate out of the bottle, which would leave more concentrated dye towards the end, a similar effect
  • this wouldn’t likely  happen just in normal filling, but more if you were leaving the ink sitting uncapped for significant periods of time
  • these are the two suspects I have…contamination is also possible but I’ll take your word this isn’t the case
  • you may want to try diluting the ink with distilled water, it may bring it back to life! do it in very small increments, and maybe experiment with just a few ml of ink to start

Troubleshooting

8. Tessa M- Facebook (42:30)

How do you get a nib out of a pen that will not come out with the Goulet nib grip. Is the only way for it to come out with knock out nib punch?

  • you have a couple of options, one is just to keep pulling/pull harder, sometimes that works!
  • clean it, soak it, make sure dried ink isn’t acting like glue holding it in
  • make sure the nib is actually removable! Verify
  • the grip really is about all you’re going to need, as a casual pen user
  • a nib knock out punch goes a bit beyond what I would expect anyone to do with normal pen maintenance, but yes, that’s an option
  • it requires specialized tools which really only make sense if you’re restoring pens regularly
  • pentooling.com, no affiliation but they have specialized pen tools you may be interested in, including knock out blocks

QOTW: Do you find you tend to use pens of a similar length, or do you mix it up? (54:31)

Write On,
Brian Goulet