In this episode I give my best advice for new pen users, if lower-end pens of a brand give a good indication of their higher-end pens, and what it takes to develop an exclusive ink. Enjoy!

This week:

Pens/Writing

1) Elizabeth D- Facebook 

Will the Montegrappa Elmos have metal threads from now on? Or are the new ones coming a kind of subset?

  • yes, that’s a change they decided to make recently
  • our purple ones still have resin threads, but the ones newer than that will be coming with metal
  • they really just wanted to assure longevity…not that they were having any issues with the threads as are, they’re robust and I anticipate no issues with them
  • they work a lot in metal, and over a long, long, long time metal will hold up better than resin, so I think that’s the only motivation
  • the cap is still resin threads, and they’re smooooooth, it feels great

2) @caraem3- Instagram 

Best 3 pieces of advice for new users?

  • this is tough to narrow down! I’ll do my best, it’ll end up being more principles/approaches than specific bits of advice
  • the journey is the reward, there is no one perfect pen for everyone, part of the experience is figuring out what’s right for YOU and you’re the only one that can determine what that looks like
  • think about the pen, ink, and paper together, it’s a trifecta that all works together and the more you learn about each one, the richer the experience you’ll have
  • learn as much as you can from others and engage/interact with other pen people, FP101, this YouTube channel, other pen bloggers like SBREBrown, Gourmet Pens, Figboot on Pens, Pen Habit, Pen Addict, Pen Boy Roy, and many others put out comprehensive, educational, entertaining content that you can learn a lot from, at any level of pen experience

3) @_inkskein_- Instagram

What pen part would you say is the unsung hero of great writing experience? (the feed?)

  • great question! The feed is definitely an unsung hero, the real working part of the ink delivery system that really determines so much
  • so much engineering goes into it, it has to perfectly balance the air/ink interchange to keep from drying up or leaking ink everywhere
  • the nib….nah, it’s a sung hero, it is for sure the most critical part of the pen but most everyone knows that and it’s also the most visibly distinguishable aspect of what makes a fountain pen a fountain pen
  • converter? could certainly argue this, as it is a total gamechanger for a cartridge pen…but it’s not universal to all fountain pens so I don’t know if outranks the feed
  • another part could be the inner cap seal…not that it is present on every pen or even is necessary to enjoy your writing experience, but a good cap seal can help the nib to stay wet for a long time
  • cap threads? It’s more of a delighter than a satisfier, if it’s particularly good it can really stand out, otherwise, people don’t think about it too much unless it’s not very functional
  • the grip is pretty important too, it can change the whole feel of it, but it’s more like a nib in that a lot of people think about it as being an important part of the pen
  • clip? nah, it matters but it’s less vital than other parts
  • I think the feed would have to win for me, it’s SO vital to how a pen functions, it’s hidden away and kind of mysterious (even to me) but is the workhorse of every single fountain pen in existence

4) @gershonbrooks- Instagram

Can you get a decent representation of a brand’s high-end pens when using it’s lower-end pens eg. comparing a Platinum Procyon with 3776. Obviously, they have different nib materials but do things like nib widths matchup?

  • this is a GREAT question, and I’m really glad you asked it!
  • the short answer is that it varies, and matters more with some brands than others
  • Using the Procyon and 3776 as an example, the Procyon has the slip-n-seal cap and gives a good sense of how that’ll work on a 3776
  • the nib is pretty different, stiffer steel nib but nib sizes do emulate the thinner Japanese nibs if you were wanting to get a sense of it compared to a Western nib
  • nibs are still different though, and the 14k gold nibs actually write a little wetter, compare in the Nib Nook, so it won’t be exactly the same…it’s close though
  • This is a general rule, compare Lamy Safari to a Lamy Studio, you can get a pretty decent sense, yes, nibs are the same (in steel, at least)
  • But a Safari to a LAMY 2000? Totally different pen
  • Pilot Varsity or Metropolitan to a Vanishing Point or Custom 823? Totally different
  • Metropolitan to a Prera? sure…same nib/feed
  • Namiki Yukari (relatively inexpensive Maki-e) to Emperor, yes, you get a good idea
  • Pelikan M200 to M800/M1000, yes, you can get a close enough idea, proportional to the price, I think
  • a lot of brands kind of do one or the other better though…few brands have a really solid, consistent line going from entry-level all the way through higher end
  • LAMY has great entry-level, fewer high end
  • Visconti, Aurora, Montegrappa have great high-end, fewer entry-level and they’re pretty different
  • Diplomat Magnum– great pen but entirely different from the Aero and Excellence
  • there’s definitely an uncanny valley between steel and gold nibs, there’s often quite a difference there
  • I’d honestly love to say that there is a great way to test higher-end pen experiences with lower-end pens in the same brand, but I can’t say it’s consistent enough to be a very reliable blanket statement
  • I think each pen, no matter the price range, pretty much needs to be evaluated on its own accord

Ink

5) @sixwingstudios- Twitter

Is there a fountain pen ink that will adhere to glossy paper, say magazine or catalog? Hoping there are inks that will not only dry to glossy but actually adhere, not just wipe off. Field Notes Expedition waterproof synthetic “paper” would be the extreme example I hope for.

  • ehhh…..not really
  • the ink that works best on these glossier papers are often solvent-based, which would NOT be great for a fountain pen
  • the best inks would be pigment-based inks like Platinum Carbon Black, Pigmented Blue, Sailor “Nano” inks, and ones like them (not De Atramentis Documents)
  • Noodler’s Waterase might work okay, but would easily smudge off
  • it’s really just not the right medium, so sadly no, there isn’t really anything good for this

Business

6) Mark H- Facebook

Why or how do ink manufacturers work with an ink retailer to develop an exclusive only available through that retailer?

  • Why? Because it’s fun, interesting
  • a brand can get some extra love and attention in the community with a retailer exclusive
  • brand can try out something more bold that wouldn’t appeal to its global following
  • theme around it can be more specific, targeted (thinking about Noodler’s nation-exclusives)
  • How, it’s pretty simple and varies a bit depending on the parties involved
  • Largely it involves a manufacturer having the capabilities in their own bandwidth, creative resources, and willingness to consider it
  • there’s often a typical batch size they need to make everything in, so that’s often the minimum order quantity, could be several hundred to many thousands of bottles
  • smaller boutique ink makers make things in smaller batches and they’re a little more nimble, so you see more exclusives there, Noodler’s having done more than anyone, Diamine, Robert Oster, and a few others
  • manufacturer may have a color already in their line that can just be repackaged (this is up for debate about being exclusive, if it’s just the theming/packaging that’s different but the ink is exactly the same as an existing color)
  • manufacturer may have tested out a new color or variation on an existing color but hasn’t done anything with it yet
  • retailer may want something specific and propose it to the manufacturer, they see if they can work it out
  • name, theme, artwork could be done by either party, it depends on their resources and what they agree to
  • pricing, packaging, shipment, terms of payment, all these details are negotiable but need to be settled on
  • bottom line, it’s actually quite a bit of work and a lot of details to do an exclusive, and a lot of times, it just doesn’t work out
  • but it’s a lot of fun and interesting to do, so you’ll certainly seem more of them come out from time to time for those willing to put in that work

Personal

7) Adam W- Facebook 

I just want to know your thoughts about travel. Before November of 2017 you had never been outside of the country. Since then you’ve been to Germany, Japan, and Italy. How has this been a change for you?

  • yes, it has been a very eye-opening couple of years for me!
  • it’s been fascinating for me, truly, and I can’t express how grateful I am to have been able to experience this travel thanks to the work that I’m in
  • for me, it’s the absolute perfect way for me to travel
  • I’m not a detailed planner, I will get myself on the right plane on the right day and show up where I need to, but I basically never plan out meals, where I’m staying (that much), etc, and traveling for work, I often have more experienced people I’m traveling with who already know good places to go, stay, eat, visit, etc
  • I have a friend of mine who’s an engineer for major industrial equipment, and his travel takes him into very off-the-beaten-path places in deserts, very rural and not incredibly fascinating places
  • getting to travel to romantic and historically relevant places in the world like Tokyo, Florence, Naples, Heidelberg, have been a joy for me
  • I not only get to see some of the most iconic pen companies with their own rich histories, but I also get to visit these places with established cultures that I can immerse myself in while I’m there
  • I’ve been able to get perspective on the pen industry as a whole, their local economy, government, taxes, etc that all impact their decisions, what markets in the world are relevant to them
  • I’ve been extremely humbled, seeing just how big of a place the world really is
  • Yet also, how common elements such as passion for writing, family, quality, legacy, service, trust, history, art, passion, etc there is across all these cultures
  • There is far more that makes us all similar than there are that make us different
  • That said, as much as I can appreciate every culture for what it is, I’m always SO glad to be home, there really is no place like home

QOTW: Where was the first place you traveled internationally? If you haven’t, where would you want to go? 

Write On,

Brian Goulet