Normally when I am looking for a fountain pen I head to Bromfield Pen Shop in Boston, my local pen group and/or a pen show. Recently I’ve come across fountain pens in unexpected places. During a recent stroll along Charles Street in the Beacon Hill section of Boston we came across a very nice shop selling stationary and cards amongst other things. In need of a birthday card I started looking thru the selection when something caught my eye. It was a small selection of Ooly fountain pens. I had never heard of this brand and there they were in 3 colors – green, blue and red. Each pen came with 3 cartridges that matched the color of the pen. And the price - $5.95! I bought a green one and have enjoyed writing with it ever since. Earlier in the year I was in Logan airport waiting for a flight when I saw a very nice bookstore. While looking thru the books I bumped into a Lamy display. There were pens and pads at the display so you could try them yourself without needing help from anyone. And hey, if you are about to board a plane and forgot to bring a fountain pen – a Lamy Safari makes a great companion. Have you come across fountain pens in unexpected places? Please do let me know.
I recently had the good fortune to take a business trip to Shanghai. We went a few days early to do some site seeing and discovered Fuzhou street which has numerous stationary and book stores that sell fountain pens. The pens range from inexpensive cartridge/converter models to some fairly high end models. I did buy a 10 pack of Hero 616’s which was turned out to be about $2 per pen. Don’t let the price fool you – the Hero 616 is a very good replica of the aerometric Parker 51. In another shop I bought a bottle of Hero blue-black ink. I immediately inked up one of the Hero 616s and wrote in my journal. We also stumbled upon a Parker store, check out the pic with yours truly. While shopping for pens in the US has mostly been relegated to the internet, brick and mortar shops selling pens in Shanghai are plentiful. All in all it was a fun shopping experience in an amazing city.
Every once and a while I see a period tv show or movie with people using vintage fountain pens. It’s fun to try to identify those pens. Sometimes mistakes are made. For example, a couple of years ago I watched a series called Mr Selfridge on PBS. It’s the story of an American businessman who went to London in the early part of the 20th century and opened a department store. In one of the seasons, during the opening credits, someone was placing what should have been a Parker Duofold of the era in a case. Unfortunately the Parker Duofold shown was a modern one! Recently I started watching the Crown on Netflix and just about every episode has someone using a vintage fountain pen. I think I spotted a Parker 51 in 1 scene. I would love to hear from anyone else that watches the show and has ideas about the identification of some of the other pens. The pen police are busy these days spotting mistakes in other media as well. For example, in a recent issue of a very well respected pen journal there was an advertisement for a pen shop with a photo of a Parker Sonnet. Unfortunately the text was for a Parker Duofold. I am deputizing all readers of this blog to be on the look out for pen mistakes.
Caution – this topic may be more controversial than last year’s election! OK, now that I have your attention I have a simple question. Do you use bottled ink or cartridges in your fountain pens? One can make arguments for both sides. On the one hand there are many, many choices of bottled ink. Visit any pen store and you will be amazed at the choices of colors from a variety of manufacturers. On the other hand if you travel, particularly by plane, it may not be so convenient to carry bottles of ink in your luggage. In that case cartridges might be a better choice. On a recent trip to Bromfield Pen Shop in Boston I was pleasantly surprised by the many choices of cartridges. I realize most vintage pens and some modern ones only fill from a bottle. That being said, there are many pens available today that can go either way. What do you prefer? Please share your thoughts.
Time was a fountain pen or a fountain pen and pencil set was a traditional Christmas present. I’ve seen old print advertisements with folks beaming as they unwrap a Parker Vacumatic set. What about giving a fountain pen for Christmas 2017? We need to consider the recipient of the gift. Does the person currently write with a fountain pen? If so, do they like vintage or modern pens? If they have never used a fountain pen before then maybe a modern pen like a Lamy Safari or a Pilot Metropolitan might be a good place to start. These pens are easy to use, very durable and relatively inexpensive. If the person currently uses fountain pens and you think they may be ready for a vintage pen I would recommend a Parker 51. The Parker 51 is relatively indestructible and although it might cost a bit more, nice 51s can be found at reasonable prices. Just like back in the day the person will be beaming when they unwrap the pen on Christmas morning! Oh – don’t forget the ink and paper!
Happy Holidays and Happy Collecting!
I just finished reading the October 2017 issue of Pen World magazine and there was a nice reminder about Fountain Pen Day which is the first Friday in November. Now, one could say everyday is Fountain Pen Day for those of us who carry and write with fountain pens on a daily basis. I for one am glad that fountain pens are in fashion and are getting their special day. How will you celebrate? Will you attend a meeting of your local fountain pen club? Will you go shopping for a new or vintage pen to add to your collection? Will you ink up a pen you haven’t used in a while? Perhaps some will share the joys of fountain pens with a younger generation. No matter what it will be a fun day. Now, isn’t Fountain Pen Day the day with turkey and all the trimmings? It’s not? Well, it should be!
A few months ago I was going thru my pen collection flushing pens with water and got to thinking, “Hmmm, I haven’t used this pen in a while, or that one, or that one!” This went on for a while and I realized there was a small group of pens that I had been using while the rest of the collection sat in the pen cabinet. Then I started to feel bad for those pens. It was at that moment I decided to create a pen rotation. It’s really very straight forward. I carry 2-4 pens with me at given time so I go thru the drawers of the pen cabinet selecting different types of pens. I use them for 1 -2 weeks, flush them out and select again. The experience has reminded me of why I enjoy collecting vintage fountain pens and the pleasure I get from writing with them!
With a summer full of pen shows I got to thinking about how you can get the most out of a pen show. A fair amount has been written on this subject so this is my approach. Here are the things I think about:
1. Check the show website for the vendor list. Hopefully there will be some familiar faces as well as new folks to meet.
2. Think about what you are looking for at the show, whether it’s a specific pen you would like to add to your collection or perhaps you are starting a new collection. Shows offer a variety of ink and other pen accessories as well.
3. Set a budget. Like any hobby, it’s easy to get carried away so set a limit on how much you want to spend. Bring cash as some vendors are not set up to accept credit cards.
4. Once you arrive take stock in all of the exhibits and vendors. It’s easy to spot something of interest at the first table and there goes your budget, so take the time to survey the show floor. Often times there are folks who do repairs and nib adjustment so bring along something that needs repair.
5. Have fun! Pen shows are a great place to network and make new friends.
We look forward to seeing you at the Commonwealth Pen Show on September 10th at the Holiday Inn Bunker Hill in Somerville, MA.
After a typical winter and a cool wet spring in the northeast part of the United States summer is finally here! Long warm days with lots of sunshine make me yearn for a trip. Whether it’s a road trip or a flight to faraway places, summer means vacation. If you are like me that means packing pens, ink and a nice fountain pen friendly journal. That got me thinking – do you look for pens while on vacation? Once my wife and I decide where we are going, I scour the internet looking for pen shops in and around our destination. Sadly, we’ve noticed a number of pens shops have closed recently. For example, Paradise Pen was chain that had locations throughout the United States and now they are all gone. Whenever we go to London I go to Penfriend and earlier this year they announced that they closed their stores and will conduct business only on-line. In addition to the dedicated pen shops we have been seeking out antique shops which can be a great source of vintage pens and accessories. So, for those of you who do look for pens while on vacation – where do you look for your treasures? We would love to hear from you!
Happy Summer and Happy Collecting!
(Photo courtesy of the Fountain Pen Network.)
Green beer, green bagels and green pens? I can do without the green beer and what flavor is a green bagel anyway? Now, a green pen peaks my interest. I went into my home office and began going thru the drawers of my pen cabinet and found that I have a number of green pens. There is a Parker Vacumatic , a Parker Slimfold, a Parker Duofold Junior, a Moore Fingertip, an Esterbrook J series, a Recife, a Sheaffer Snorkel (love the Snorkel), a Sheaffer Lifetime Flat Top and a Sheaffer Lifetime Balance. Not pictured is a Parker 51 Nassau Green fountain pen and pencil set and no, it’s not for sale! So instead of green ice cream I think I will have some corned beef and cabbage while I pen some notes with one of my green pens.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day and Happy Collecting!
Neil and Vicky Lander are happy to share their thoughts and news here!