In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about gifting to experienced pen friends, best way to get into the pen business, and finding writing inspiration. Enjoy!

This week:

Pens/Writing

1) akbajaj- Instagram (12:38)

While traveling to a different country – Can we prefill our pens with ink or carry our ink and fill it there ? Which is the best solution and if any advantages or disadvantages of doing any of these thing ?

  • as far as I’m aware, there are no international restrictions on flying with pens, inked or not
  • I’ve personally flown internationally twice with all kinds of pens, and it’s not been an issue
  • of course, check with whatever airline and governing body in your traveling path, as this could vary
  • flying with filled pens is more convenient, unless they leak! But minimize air in the pens and you’ll probably be okay
  • disadvantages? just the leaking really

2) devnnluu- Instagram (15:58)

In last week’s Q&A, you gave suggestions on what to gift beginner fountain pen users. Do you have any thoughts on what to gift a fountain pen veteran? I realize that personal tastes will come into play, but I would appreciate any suggestions. Thanks in advance for considering my question!

  • yeah, this gets a little tougher, for a couple of reasons
  • 1) their tastes get more specific (colors, materials, nib size, brand, etc)
  • 2) their tastes (may) get more costly
  • 3) they already have more pen stuff, so risk of duplication is greater
  • If you can do any reconnaissance, that’s always helpful
  • they probably love to talk about their pens, and you can slip into the conversation “what do you have your eye on right now?” or specifics about what pens they already have that they love and try to get them something similar
  • getting something that’s LE/SE might be appealing, just because it’s cool to have something harder to get, even if it’s not their exact preference
  • see if they have a wishlist! Maybe they’d be cool sharing it with you and you can have an idea what to pick
  • a nice notebook or ink that’s a color you know they love can be cool
  • gift credit is always an option, if you just don’t really have a clue

3) floridafour- Instagram (20:38)

Is it best to express air out of twsbi eco/580 as ink is used, or just leave the air pocket? Seems like a dumb question, but I recently heard that the twist knob has a pressure lock at the full position…

  • leave it. That’s really not necessary to do express air out with any pen, the ink should flow through without encouragement, and the air inside doesn’t really impact the writing of the pen
  • yes, when you have the piston in the full “fill” position, the knob grabs onto the back of the pen body with friction, which makes it more stable (especially if you’re posting the 580)

4) golytely123- Instagram (25:25)

Hey Brian, I’m looking for a great work pen that is gold nib, large ink capacity, ideally piston fill. Pilot custom 823 vs Pelikan m800 is what I was thinking. Any other suggestions? If not, between those two what would you suggest?

  • Lamy 2000 is in the mix, doesn’t have a “huge” ink capacity, but it’s decent
  • Pelikan has m400/m600/m1000 size options apart from the m800, depends on your hand size and budget, m600 is most popular, m800 next I’d say
  • Visconti Homo Sapiens (power filler), Opera Master
  • Aurora 88/Optima
  • 823 and m800 are both great choices! Oh this is tough between the two
  • Custom 823 is a vacuum filler, so just have to call that out and distinguish the differences
  • Pelikan has more color options, but is more expensive
  • Pilot’s finer nibs are finer, so that’s something
  • It’ll largely come down to personal preference, but 823’s are more popular with us (likely due to the more accessible price)

5) crueltyfreemusings- Instagram (32:24)

Do you recommend that fountain pen newbies try a variety of nib sizes? How would you recommend balancing the various considerations of price, quality, and not knowing yet what you like? For example, I’m considering a Faber Castell Loom in broad because I’ve heard they’re particularly nice broad nibs, but in general my wishlist is a giant list of fine and extra- fine nibs because I never know what pens would be good to try with broader nibs.

  • heck yeah I recommend trying different nibs! You never know what you’re going to like
  • knowing exactly which nibs to try can be a little tricky, because honestly, there are subtle differences with a lot of different pen companies’ nibs
  • there really isn’t a good, super cheap way to try all the different nib sizes, at least not in one pen model/brand
  • Jinhao Shark $4 (extra-fine), TWSBI GO $19 (fine), Pilot Varsity $4 (medium), Diplomat Magnum $22 (broad), Pilot Plumix $10 (1.0mm stub), Noodler’s Nib Creaper $14 (flex)…..option to replace Shark, GO, and Creaper with Monteverde Monza 3 set for $24
  • That’s about the least expensive way I can get you there, or you can go Jinhao x450/750 $10 with variety of Goulet replacement nibs $15 each (skip medium, because that comes in the Jinhao), but that only gets you one writing pen at a time
  • Lamy also has a variety of replaceable nibs, that’s an option
  • the Loom DOES have a nice broad nib, as does Lamy, TWSBI, and Diplomat

6) jhns.kiotms- Instagram (42:49)

As someone who has converted from pen making to pen selling (i’m talking about you Brian), which one in your opinion the best way to get into the business of pens. I heard that the owner of the Carolina pen company and Pennsler got into making pens out of learning with the lathe themselves or you who converted to retailing (also second question, why did you decide retailing over pen making?) Thanks a lot if you answer this🙏🙏

  • that’s going to depend on what “business” you want to be in!
  • Starting any business is going to a mixture of identifying your passion, talents, and your “why”, and matching that up with realistic opportunities available to you
  • if you want to retail like I have, don’t start making pens first as a path to that because it’s very different and not enough knowledge will transfer
  • you’re honestly better off selling stuff on eBay or Etsy first, as there’s a lot related to ecommerce that you’ll have to learn to be a retailer
  • the pen retailing space is a little crowded, there’s not as much “air” there for up and comers, it’s a rather mature market
  • you’re going to have to create your own market, and if you’re doing that, it’s easier to make your own product than to try to sell what everyone else is already selling
  • if you want to build a pen brand, then you should definitely start pen making, as you’ll connect more with suppliers, other retailers/distributors, etc
  • being a pen maker selling direct, you’re getting the entire vertical distribution chain, so there’s more opportunity for margin there
  • it’s a little easier to start here right now, in my opinion, IF you have the skillset to make pens, and that’s a big if
  • There honestly weren’t that many pen makers like Carolina or Pennsler when I started, I was doing it in 2007
  • All I was aware of for independent pen makers then was Bexley and Edison, and they all seemed so “big time” to me
  • I honestly just came to the realization that my passion wasn’t in manufacturing pens, I loved wood working and being a craftsman, but the changes I’d need to make to productionize pen making was outside of my skillset and had too steep of a learning curve (and capital investment) for me
  • really, it was a strictly personal, gut decision and not one thought out well in advance, it was really a process of discovery for me
  • I can’t say I’d recommend doing things exactly the way I did it because really, I shouldn’t have been all that successful, I really had odds against me
  • I also have the x-factor of Rachel, and there’s NO WAY I’d have been able to make Goulet Pens even get off the ground without her
  • bottom line, there’s no true blue ocean in the pen industry as it’s a mature, niche, passion-driven industry, and you’re doing to have to be top of your game to break through, but if you can cross that chasm, it’s a heck of a lot of fun! It’s all about using your gifts and meeting customers’ needs.
  • “There’s plenty of room at the top, but not enough to sit down.” -Zig Ziglar

Personal

7) arakune_b- Instagram (57:42)

Do you ever lose inspiration to write? If so, how do you get back on the said horse.

  • who ME??
  • Sure. I mean, pens are my life and I’ve been going the fountain pen thing for 10 years, making pens before that, even
  • I don’t have times where I am truly SICK of pens, that’s never happened for me
  • I do have times where there are certain aspects of the work related to pens feels more like work, that’s natural I think
  • I personally probably don’t write by inspiration as much as you might think, I’m actually a much more utilitarian writer
  • I’m using pens in my daily life, making lists, brainstorming, doodling, etc
  • I’m not doing any daily handwriting practice, even daily journaling I don’t stick with, but that’s less about writing itself and more of discipline issue
  • I think it depends what your goals are. If you’re writing to produce actual writing like an author would, then it’s a craft, a discipline, you just get your butt in the chair and write no matter what, inspiration be darned. You just write every day and that’s it, even if you hate it, you push through.
  • If it’s more casual for you, then you clearly have more options
  • I personally will take a break sometimes from messing with my own pens sometimes and I’ll see what others are doing (like on Instagram)
  • I’m inspired seeing what others do, and it might prompt me to pick them up and try something new
  • also sometimes a break helps me miss them, and I’ll be excited to get back into it
  • I’ll also spend time cleaning, cataloging, organizing, or sometimes just taking apart or inspecting my pens, not actually writing with them
  • sometimes just being around them and spending other “quality” time with my pens makes me want to write with them again
  • it may ebb and flow for you, but the bottom line is this is meant to be something enjoyable and life-giving, so don’t beat yourself up if some of the spark dies out at times, but I’m proof that you can have 10 years of full-time plus immersion into the pen world and still really love it, so hang in there 😉

QOTW: What’s the longest you’ve ever gone in between writing with a fountain pen? What brought you back to it? (01:04:37)

Write On,
Brian Goulet