In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about nib tipping alloys, Noodler’s Charlie Pens, and Goulet Bottom Shelf. Enjoy!

This week:

Pens/Writing

1) @ashutoshthakurr- Twitter (12:08)

Why is there a price difference between Music Nib and other nibs of Platinum 3776 century? You have been to Platinum factory while touring in Japan, you can definitely shed some light on it.

  • unfortunately the pricing of the nibs wasn’t something we specifically went over at the Platinum factory
  • I did get to see just how many steps it takes and how much handwork it is
  • largely, it’s labor, the music nibs are harder to make and require more specialized skill
  • more skill and time, higher price, it’s supply and demand. it’s pretty much that simple

2) @JeanMassumiHara- Twitter (15:47)

What is the REAL function of the iridium? I have pens here(that I regrinded by myself)writing perfectly smooth, juicy and uniform without any reamining iridium tip..

  • yeah, you can grind and polish untipped nibs to be just as smooth and uniform as a tipped nib, it’s a matter of longevity
  • Iridium is an interesting metal, and needs some explaining
  • first discovered in 1803, very dense
  • second densest metal on earth next to osmium
  • 9th rarest stable element in earth’s crust, platinum is 10 times more abundant
  • only 3 tons are mined and used a year, globally
  • present much higher in meteorites, so it’s likely not native to earth but came here from space
  • it’s incredibly durable (6.5 on Moh’s hardness scale), harder than titanium
  • stainless steel is around 5.5, depending on the components
  • iridium is used mostly for smelting crucibles because of its high heat resistance, spark plug contacts, and in electronics
  • these days, because of the rarity and difficulty working iridium, it’s not used much if at all in tipping
  • you may see an alloy of iridium, osmium, rhodium, chromium, or other hard metals
  • the basic idea is that you’re using metals that are harder wearing than stainless steel, so it’ll last longer
  • you can still use and enjoy stainless steel nibs with no tipping, they just won’t last quite as long
  • heck, most stainless steel stubs have no tipping! But they have a greater surface area and aren’t going to wear but so quickly
  • modern stainless steel is much better than vintage, which is part of why gold nibs were always so revered
  • with an EF or F nib, you might see signs of wear on an untipped nib in a couple of years with regular use as opposed to a decade or more with a tipped nib
  • whenever you’re grinding, you want to keep that tipping on there, no question

3) goldman._- Instagram (26:01)

Is the pilot 74 durable? It seems like it is plastic so I’m hesitant to drop $150 on it. Brian seems to swear by it, but can I drop it?

  • it is plastic! but most pens are, and it’s going to be a nicer grade of plastic than what you see on less expensive pens, though it’s arguably still plastic!
  • I love it for the way it writes, and that’s a lot of what you’re paying for (the nib)
  • it’s not the most durable pen, and dollar for dollar, you could go with a polycarbonate like the Lamy 2000 and have more durability
  • it’s completely up to you…the Japanese tend to prefer lighter pens, so lighter resins like these are really appealing to them
  • in the US, we tend to like things bigger and heavier, especially when we’re associating quality and cost
  • I won’t try to hard convince you one way or another, but I’ll just say I was and a still surprised at how much I like writing with the Custom 74

4) @askforCharon- Twitter (30:12)

I have Noodler’s Charlie that I got as the free pen with a bottle of ink…but I can’t find any information about it anywhere. It looks similar to a Nib Creaper, but it’s eyedropper-only with a non-flex nib. Any idea where I can go for info about it?

  • it’s not a widely available pen so you’re not going to find a ton out there about it
  • It’s an incredibly simple pen
  • eyedropper fill only, clear body and black/rainbow cap
  • about the size of a Noodler’s Nib Creaper
  • ebonite feed and stainless steel nib
  • it comes free with Noodler’s 4.5 ounce inks
  • will it write perfectly? Maybe, it’s still a really, really inexpensively made pen, but for what it is, it’s not bad
  • some people hate them and throw them out immediately
  • others have told me it’s their favorite pen! Go figure
  • it’s worth at least trying if you already wanted one of the 4.5 ounce inks, but not worth buying it just to get the pen

5) thegreenteacat- Instagram (35:24)

Hi Brian! I have several nice fountain pens, and I absolutely love them, but I’ve been having a hard time using them because I’m afraid I’m going to break them! I feel like there’s so much to look out for when using fountain pens to make sure they last a long time, and so I’m constantly worried about making a serious mistake. Do you have any suggestions for getting over this fear? I really want to not be afraid of using my pens. Thanks for all you do for the fountain pen community!

  • this is going to be a personal comfort thing, and everyone has a different threshold
  • I know pen people that will buy and daily carry a Namiki Emperor in their shirt pocket without thinking twice about it
  • others are hesitant to even buy a pen over a couple dozen dollars because they swear they’ll lose or break them!
  • the comfort level will differ for everyone
  • some pens are slightly more delicate and should be handled with special consideration, but most pens are made to be written with
  • I wouldn’t carry them with no case in your jeans pocket with your keys, or maybe don’t mow the lawn or go cliff diving with them
  • but if you’re just doing normal office things and running errands, your pens will be okay with normal use
  • PLEASE use your pens, start with the more durable, more replaceable ones and just try them
  • they’re made to be written with! please enjoy them.

Business

6) Sarah M- Facebook (42:16)

How do pens end up on your Bottom Shelf? Are they pens that you guys tested, or returns, or something else?

  • this is good timing, because just in the last two weeks we’ve been having meetings about our bottom shelf
  • originally, the bottom shelf was created before we even sold pens! It was a place for us to sell cosmetically flawed but still functional products like notebooks with dented corners or bent spines, usually happening in transit to us
  • once we started to get into pens, we already had the bottom shelf as a place for “non-new” items, so we put them in there
  • it’s not all that often we’re receiving cosmetically flawed pens because they’re in boxes and protected
  • so most of the pens in there usually end up being ones we’ve used ourselves for videos, photos, etc, or fully inspected returns from a customer
  • oftentimes, the pens you see on there that we have listed as gently used are truly not even noticeably used, and we’ve inspected and tested them so we feel pretty confident about them
  • the term “bottom shelf” is probably not a fair term for these pens, as they often don’t have a single thing “wrong” with them, it’s just that we don’t want to sell anything as new that’s been sold before
  • we always try to describe exactly what shape they’re in, and if there is any specific flaw, we’ll describe it and discount accordingly
  • we’re actively debating about if we should split them out
  • we could call them “open box”, “pre-owned”, or something of that nature, but then it’s two places to go to check these non-new items, instead of just bottom shelf
  • or we could keep as one place, and just rename the bottom shelf altogether to something else!
  • this is where I’d really love your feedback, both in terms of the name “bottom shelf” and what it means to you, and if you’d rather see these gently used pens separated out from the cosmetically flawed items

QOTW: If you were offered a pen that allowed you to write out premonitions of the future, but you couldn’t control what it wrote, would you want it? (53:31)

Writing Prompt: Write about the best accomplishment you’ve had so far in 2019. (54:44)

Write On,
Brian Goulet