In this Goulet Q&A episode, Brian talks about ideal pen weights, how product reviews affect new product hype, and unusual vendor origin stories. Enjoy!

This week:

Pens/Writing

1) ayesha_0222- Instagram (7:40)

What are pens at either side of the weight spectrum? What’s Brian’s sweet spot?

  • Our pens range from Platinum Carbon Desk Pen (9g) to the Jinhao Dragon (99g), in total weight (body and cap)
  • Technically not everyone writes posted, so you’d maybe have to factor out the cap weight in that case
  • Body weight only: Diplomat Magnum (5g), Kaweco Classic Sports (6g), Pilot Explorer and Parallel (6g)  up to Jinhao Dragon (60g), Visconti Il Magnifico, Kaweco Supra (42g)
  • These are the extremes, for sure, and I think everyone’s sweet spot will vary for sure
  • I tend not to like pens that are too light, personally
  • In terms of total pens we have, the most bountiful offerings we have (which somewhat speaks to popularity) are in descending order: 10-19g, 20-29g, 30-39g, 40-49g, 50-59g, 60-69g, and just a couple others
  • My sweet spot falls in that 20-29g range in my hand (which could be posted or unposted)
  • I don’t mind something a little heavier for a desk pen, lighter for a pocket pen, but largely I am somewhat size/weigh agnostic as I’m testing and carrying so many pens all the time

2) @growe_home- Twitter (13:10)

In video pen reviews, they often comment on the pen’s ability to reverse write. Why would anyone ever do this?

  • I know what you mean, and I get it, it’s something kind of interesting to talk about
  • We have done some videos specifically on this (and here I’m speaking about it again!), but don’t include this as a regular part of a pen review
  • Flipping over the nib can be handy when writing on cheap paper to decrease the line width/ink flow, but it’s not designed to be written with that way, basically; it’s a hack
  • I’m willing to bet the reason most reviewers do it is because if they don’t, inevitably they’re going to get asked about it on every review
  • it’s actually the same for eyedropper conversions, and kind of an inside joke in the pen community (or at least in our company and our suppliers) because we know, with every pen, we’re going to get asked about it!
  • That completely makes sense as a blogger/reviewer, because they’re reviewing that one pen they’re using
  • I know that reverse writing isn’t something that’s consistent or honestly even considered from most manufacturers, so we hardly talk about it here because it is a hack…it’s not something we can promise or predict on a given pen
  • Personally, I almost never flip my nib in practical writing, but then I get to choose what paper I write on the vast majority of the time!
  • But yes, this has a purpose but isn’t something universally used in the writing world, it’s just something kind of quirky and interesting to show as a reviewer

3) @Archimage- Twitter (19:39)

Is there a common thread pitch for the section/barrel? I know they are different, but can one replace the section of one pen with the barrel of another across manufacturers? Tnx.

  • There’s nothing common, even within a manufacturer, it’s all over the place
  • there are a lot of small details that will determine if a given threaded part will fit into one pen or another’s barrel or grip, but basically none of them are standard
  • It’s going to be super rare to be able to swap parts on a pen, and even if you can you have to worry about things like cap fit, grip/nib length if you were to swap between one brand and another…these are engineered to work with themselves and aren’t standard across manufacturers in nearly any way, with the exception of nib units (which is still a minority)

Troubleshooting

4) @NancyRHM- Twitter (23:30)

I’ve turned a Preppy into an eyedropper pen using your technique (silicone grease + O-ring). I’ve noticed some ink in the thread area. Is this normal? It’s not leaking.

  • yup! totally normal, especially if you go light on the grease or skip it altogether and only use the o-ring
  • if it’s not leaking, you’re good!
  • it’s also normal to have ink showing between the feed and the grip on a demo pen like the Preppy

Business

5) oftenanomad- Instagram (26:21)

Will Goulet Pens ever have an in-house nib grinder or calligrapher?

  • Calligrapher? No, that’d be cool for content creation maybe, but calligraphy as a trade make sense more with commissioned art which isn’t in our wheelhouse, so no, collaborating or freelancing would make more sense
  • Nib Grinder…Ever? I hope so! Soon? Likely not, it’s more complicated than you’d think
  • One HUGE factor is actually getting the blessing from our manufacturers
  • When we’re grinding a nib, we’re essentially voiding the warranty on that nib, which some manufacturers really, really don’t want us to do, so we would have to offer it strategically with the blessings of each manufacturer since we’re an authorized retailer
  • This is why we started with Mark Bacas and Visconti, because we got the green light from them to do this
  • When you’re sending a pen to a nib grinder, you’re doing that “after market”, which is also voiding the nib warranty at the manufacturer, but that’s you as the customer choosing to do so, it’s a little different (in the eyes of the manufacturers at least) if we’re offering it “new” this way…but I’m working to help them see the difference, and have proper disclaimers and the like
  • Assuming we have a path to offering customer grinds though…
  • Partly it requires specialized knowledge and training that is hard to come by
  • I did get some training, Drew’s had some training, and we know enough of the fundamentals to have a pretty solid foundation for troubleshooting, inspection, adjustments, and giving feedback to manufacturers
  • But offering in-house grinds would be a step deeper than than, and I’ve practiced it myself quite a bit but it’s like any other trade craft, you have to pay your dues to get good
  • We have two options, train someone internally, or hire someone with experience
  • Hiring someone is basically impossible, there are a handful of people that do it, I know pretty much everyone who has the experience and capacity to do it full time, and none of them have the interest or ability to relocate here (though hey, I could always be surprised)
  • Training internally could happen and will basically be the route we need to go, but that will take a long, long time to do
  • In the meantime we’re offering Mark Bacas grinds as we can, and I am exploring expanding this soon, but even that’s taking a lot of time because the logistics behind it
  • I’m super curious, what custom nib grinds do you all want to see? on what pens?

6) Steven G.- Email (38:33)

Without getting into proprietary info/sales numbers, I was wondering if you’d be able to discuss how/to what extent/IF the customer reviews on the site effect hype, demand, sales, etc. Sometimes I’ll see posts like “I ordered this Kon-peki, but I don’t like blue ink! I only like red! Zero stars!” and it’s pretty obvious the writer is just a crank. But I’ve also seen times where a string of seemingly-legit bad reviews *appear* to derail a highly-anticipated launch.

  • Product reviews are great, and a huge asset to you as a customer shopping on our site, we totally get that
  • The short answer is yes, they do impact sales to a degree, though exactly how much is very difficult to say
  • Yes, some people leave less-than-helpful reviews, and we try to do what we can (in a very ethical way) to filter out those that aren’t helpful
  • Sometimes people use that as kind of a five-alarm bell to get attention towards getting customer service, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” so to speak
  • this isn’t necessary with us, but it’s not uncommon with other ecommerce (outside of the pen world) so sometimes people just go to this tactic
  • We definitely don’t scrape bad reviews as a way to make a product seem better than it is…that’s not only unethical but it’s against our core value of “Be Honest”, but we do look to try to get to the core of the issue
  • From a customer service standpoint we do monitor our reviews and get notified when we have bad ones, and we’ll engage with those individuals as a way to help troubleshoot or replace a defect
  • In terms of affecting hype, a lot of hype happens before a product is released, so there really aren’t any reviews to be had (that are legit and not just speculation)
  • Surely it can tank the interest in a product after a release, if the product truly isn’t beloved by those who bought it, and as long as that’s the actual sentiment, well then that’s fine!
  • we’re not just here to sell stuff and break dance all the way to the bank, we’re trying to bring products we believe in to the pen community
  • we want your honest feedback (good and bad) reflected in your reviews, because that helps others, helps us learn more, helps our manufacturers understand your sentiment, too
  • reviews obviously mean more if there are more of them, the law of averages will reflect more what the true sentiment is, so take that into account
  • but basically, we want you all to leave a lot of reviews, it helps us!

7) Lee S- Facebook (52:53)

What’s the most unusual vendor relationship you’ve needed to strike up in order to bring excellent products to us? It might be a pen or an ink company, but I’m thinking there has to be a great story about some repair tool or accessory you’ve sourced creatively. Tell us a good true story. 🙂

  • most are pretty straightforward, they have some kind of challenging/nerdy logistical issues around them that would be mildly interesting to the right people, but mostly not what I’d call a “great story”
  • there are a ton of really fascinating people we get to know and sell their products like Nathan Tardif and Dante Del Vecchio
  • one great story is our backstory with Edison pens
  • Edison is technically our longest standing vendor relationship, because I knew Brian back in my pen making days in 2009 before we were retailing fountain pen stuff ourselves
  • I was aware of him because of his reputation in the pen community, and was largely looking to do the exact same thing he was doing (making pens)
  • The only problem was, he was already doing it! I was literally envisioning the same path for myself, then when I discovered him, I was like “well I’m just gonna seem like a copycat here, this is ridiculous”
  • Side note: I personally have always wanted to take the road less traveled, and direct competition does not motivate me, I am driven by innovation through iterative improvements
  • Nothing that Brian did prompted this in particular, but just the way I’m wired made me completely disinterested to manufacture machined pens because Brian Gray was already doing it (well, I might add)
  • Without him there doing what I already envisioned, I surely would have gone down that path
  • Instead, I did a 360 and looked at every direction I could go, found that retailing others’ products was more of an unmet need, and ran with it, thus, Goulet Pens was born in its current form
  • It gets better…I was not 100% clear on this path at first, and was retailing ink and paper in order to get awareness around my own handmade pens
  • I actually bought a bunch of JoWo nibs from Brian to install on my own pens, I’m not even sure I ever sold any with them on there as I actually sunsetted my pens in mid-2010
  • When I worked the DC pen show, I had worked out with Brian to return all my unused nibs to him for a refund, sort of admitting defeat on my own brand of pens
  • Brian was so cool about it, and was such a great guy to work with, and literally the only pens I’d sold in that late 2009-early 2010 timeframe were the ones I’d made…but Brian didn’t view me as a competitor, he was kind and helpful and supportive
  • I so appreciated the way he treated me as a “competitor” (/customer?) of his, that when we later expanded to start selling other brands’ pens in late 2010, I immediately approached him about retailing his pens
  • he’d never sold to another retailer before, he’d always sold direct
  • we co-designed the Premiere and released it in early 2011, and we called it the Premiere because it was our first pen we’d ever designed, and his first he’d ever wholesaled, and here we are some 20-versions later on the Premiere and both of our companies have grown so much!
  • We’re not only business associates but we’re also friends, and we’ve developed a meaningful personal relationship over the years, so this has definitely become a great story for us both

QOTW: What is the most recent pen you used and what ink is in it? Like literally the last one you just put down. (1:12:03)

Write On,
Brian Goulet