In the first Goulet Q&A episode of 2020, Brian talks about what will happen after he tries every single pen and ink we carry, his favorite discontinued pens, and the most polarizing products we sell. Enjoy!

The last few weeks:

Pens/Writing

1) oihanaguinaga- Instagram (10:57)

What happens when you finally try every single ink and pen? How to keep up the “penthusiasm”?

  • I guess I’ll retire! not
  • I’m taking this question in the spirit of Hans Gruber’s quote from Die Hard, “And when Alexander saw the breadth of his domain, he wept for there were no more worlds to conquer.” meaning that the “penthusiasm” is around trying new pens
  • I’ll take every pen SKU we have, which includes each variant of nib size, model, color, etc, some of these will be really similar to one another but the math is easier
  • Roughly 2,500 different pens
  • Ink is around 700 colors
  • Just experiencing one of each of these, then that’s 2,500 experiences (reusing some of the same ink in different pens, but still experiencing them all)
  • Say I am doing one new one per day, that’s close to 7 years with a new pen EVERY DAY, you gotta write with it for a bit, carry it around, etc
  • But there are new products coming out, too, we probably added around 800 pen and ink SKU’s last year
  • Conservatively, let’s say it’s 500/year we’re adding, well that’s more than 1/day, so shoot, I have to pick up the pace
  • Doing 1.37 SKU’s a day just to keep up with what’s new coming out, if I double and do two a day, it’ll take me 3,969 days or 10.87 years to get caught up (and then I’ll still have 1.37 SKU’s/day new coming out)
  • If we expand beyond the Goulet Pens catalog to other brands currently made, that number drastically increases (we don’t carry EVERYTHING), easily triple, quadruple, who knows
  • If you wanted to experience every pen and ink currently made in the world, it would easily become a full-time commitment
  • That’s just if you experience everything possible once, if you really wanna go nuts, let’s talk about possible combinations
  • 2500 pens x 7oo inks (not even new stuff)= 1,750,o00 combinations, or 3 combinations a day for 1,600 years….not possible, how about increasing then to 120 combinations a day every day for the next 40 years (working 14 hours a day, that’s one new combination every 7 minutes, I better clean my pens fast!!)
  • Factor in new products too, we’re probably talking a new combination every 3 minutes, 14 hours a day every day for 40 years…yeah, I think that would kill my penthusiasm!
  • Clearly, we’re outside the realm of possibility already, and when you consider other factors like brands not at Goulet, vintage pens and ink, custom nib grinds, and other factors like paper, it becomes effectively inconceivable (though I’m sure the math is workable)
  • all this to bring it back to the fact that the enjoyment of fountain pens is not solely based on just trying the next new thing, as exciting as that is, but rather it’s about enjoying whatever experience you are having
  • your interest in new pens will rise and fall, you’ll rediscover things with the products you’ve owned for a long time that will reignite with interest and passion, much like reading an old book or rewatching a movie you pick up new things from it
  • I think with as much time as I’ve spent over 10+ years in this as a full time+ job, I’m living proof that in all practicality, you are capable of achieving an entire lifetime of enjoyment of fountain pens without running out of options

2) Jackie O.- Facebook (22:13)

It puzzles me why so many mass-produced low end (and of course many high end) pens have ebonite feeds, but almost no mid-range pens do. Low end–I’m thinking primarily Indian made pens–have more malleable stamped steel nibs which might conform to a less precise ebonite feed. ABS feeds can be mass produced with great precision to match higher quality European nibs. Am I on to something, or am I over-thinking it?!”

  • I’ll start off by saying it has absolutely nothing to do with the nib conforming to the feed, you’re off the mark on that one
  • it’s the complete opposite of that, one of the ebonite feed’s main advantages is that it can be heat set to match right up to a nib
  • more expensive pens usually are made of gold, which are softer than steel nibs on less expensive pens and gold would be more likely to “conform” than steel, so I just had to ensure understanding around this nib/feed relationship
  • it’s really not THAT many pens that have ebonite feeds, it’s actually just a handful as most companies at all price points are using plastic feeds
  • you’re right in that there does seem to be a gap…you have some pens like Noodler’s and others like them that have ebonite feeds at the low-end, and Aurora, certain Namiki, Scribo, Montegrappa and others in the $500+ range, nothing in the $75-500 range has them that I can recall
  • it’s less about why they don’t have them in the middle range and more about why they do have them in the low range, I honestly don’t know how they do it
  • Noodler’s does because he basically breaks even on the pens, it’s very boutique, and Nathan Tardif isn’t driven by profits
  • Ebonite isn’t cheap, and the process for machining ebonite feeds is far more expensive than injection-molded plastic feeds
  • there’s a ton of waste in the process because it’s a natural material (at least 1/3 is wasted because of voids/defects in the manufacturing process)
  • they also can’t be injection-molded but have to be machined which takes way more time
  • the fact that any low-priced pens have these blows my mind

3) etavirp_40fejn- Instagram (35:39)

What was the first pen Brian inked up and the first pen Brian wrote with in 2020?

  • honestly, I think it was a Jinhao Shark pen for my daughter, but I’m not 100% certain
  • I inked it with Lamy Crystal Azurite, the dark purple, but I don’t know that I actually wrote with it though, maybe a couple of scribbles just to make sure it was flowing after inking
  • The first pen I wrote with was my Homo Sapiens Skylight, which I’ve been carrying around for a bit now, with Robert Oster Blue Water Ice
  • I’ve been doing a slew of pen cleaning, Nib Nooking, and sampling other pens, it’s been kind of a blur since I’ve been back in the office this week!
  • None of my stuff was significant or related to it being a new year, I’m using pens constantly and these just happened to be the ones I was working with when the decade turned!

4) brian.degayner.repair- Instagram (38:09)

Do you have any favorite discontinued fountain pens? or brands?

  • There are SO many things I could lump into this! What a hard question!
  • Lots of old old vintage stuff I could mention, like all “wet noodle” vintage nibs
  • Parker 51, cool as heck
  • Sheaffer Snorkel, love the engineering
  • I also am a huge fan of the Pilot m90 with its integrated nib into the steel body
  • if I stay a little more current, I do really miss Omas, the Ogiva and 360 were just really cool pens and they went under just as we were starting to carry them
  • Delta had some great stuff too, we were never super heavily involved with them either, it was sort of another Omas situation
  • Lamy Dark Lilac Safari (and ink) were great, I hope Lamy can bring those back
  • I really loved Visconti’s Homo Sapiens London Fog
  • Lamy 2000 Bauhaus, just weren’t enough of them, I wish we could offer them regularly
  • for the most part though, most of the pens that are discontinued are that way for a reason, they either run their course or they were limited for a reason so of course we’d miss them!
  • The great thing is, new stuff is still coming out all the time, and there will be more new and exciting things to come

Business

5) Bradthebear1- Instagram (45:03)

What do you think is the most polarizing fountain pen, ink, and paper that Goulet Pens sells?

  • well clearly this question is polarizing in and of itself, and I may have people that debate me, ha! I’m curious what others think about this
  • Pens:
    • pretty much any flex nib from any brand, that’ll get the fire stoked! The more affordable, the more it stirs things up because it gets more pens in people’s hands.
    • Noodler’s Flex pens dominated the polarization for years, now OmniFlex gets in there pretty good, too
  • Ink:
    • Noodler’s has long been one of the most polarizing brands, and that’s been Nathan’s whole mission behind his company, to encourage writing and prompt (specifically political) discussion
    • Interestingly enough, as the political landscape has become a hotbed on all sides, he’s toned down his messages a bit, so he’s not stirred up that pot quite as much in recent years
    • Still, with the convention-pushing properties and high level of saturation and permanence, there’s active debate to this day about his ink even within the manufacturers and nibmeisters, and all throughout the community
    • Baystate Blue has long been the poster child for this, from the theme around taxation and the extreme bright color and unique properties of the ink, it keeps people talking
    • Other highly saturated inks like Organics Studio Nitrogen, various shimmer inks also spark debate, but none quite so emphatically and individually as Baystate Blue has done for many years
  • Paper:
    • in general people tend to be a little less fired up about paper
    • Tomoé River probably takes the prize, because it’s rather unique, sheens heavily and is so thin, it gets a lot of hype (and thus refuting of said hype)

Personal

6) @_juanikiki- Twitter (52:58)

Are you inspired to write and have a pen or do you get inspired because you have a pen?

  • both, really
  • sometimes one is the catalyst for the other
  • it’s like having an instrument, sometimes you want to play or sing a specific song, so you pick up the instrument to accomplish that goal
  • other times, you just have the notion to pick it up and feel inspired to play or sing something
  • it’s the same with writing for me, I do love my pens and will often look for ways to write more in my life
  • I’m currently reading Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport (Author of Deep Work), and thinking a lot about the intentionality of the tools we use (digital and otherwise)
  • I always enjoy the tactile writing process, and pens to me help keep me singularly focused and in my own thoughts, a sense of solitude and reflection
  • So sometimes I’m inspired just by the activity of picking up a pen, other times I pick up a pen because I’m inspired, it’s really both

7) Dayna L.- Facebook (58:25)

I recently discovered Q&A at episode 256. I went back and watched them all from the beginning and noticed early on you referred to both yourself and Rachel as introverts. By episode 170 you mentioned you were more of an extrovert and more recently went so far to say you get jazzed up from talking to people. What do you believe was the biggest factor(s) to that change from introvert to extrovert?

  • increased self-awareness and education
  • I took the Myers-Briggs test (along with several others like DISC, StrengthsFinder, Enneagram, Languages of Appreciation) and I do lean pretty definitively towards Extrovert (75% on the scale)
  • I’m also more task than people-driven, so I’m somewhat of a complex flavor of extrovert
  • I grew up with a very extroverted sister and father with a very introverted mother, so I always associated myself more on the introverted side
  • as Rachel and I have learned more about ourselves, gone to counseling, done personality testing, and been speaking more about it with others, we have better perspective on ourselves
  • Rachel is introverted, she’s drained after spending time around people and needs to retreat to recouperate
  • I gain energy from being around others (to a point), and think and talk out loud as part of my daily activities
  • I don’t know how much we’ve each actually changed, I think it’d just that we have more self-awareness and comfort in being who we actually are!

Question of the week: If money and practicality were not a factor, how often would you want to acquire a new pen or ink? Are you driven by the pursuit of “new”, or do you think you’d settle into a sweet spot after X number of acquisitions? (1:07:25)

Write On,
Brian Goulet