Katherine: This pen looks SO cool. Franz has the Italian Ice version (a special edition-ish material F-C makes some pens in) with a 14k gold Medium Masuyama CI. To me there are two elements to this pen — the Italian ice material and the shape. Realistically, both are pretty darned cool looking to me. I love the rounded shape of the 66 and the flat side means I don’t have to worry about it rolling away. I also love the Italian Ice material, the purple hues are subtle but give the material complexity. I think this is an unpopular opinion — but I like the Italian Ice more then I like the Antique Glass. Yep, I said it.
Pam: Franklin-Christoph knows how to tease! This material is pretty unique as its mysteries are revealed with some sunlight. The clear to purple tint is like a wonderful little insider secret to those fortunate enough to have seen the pen in the sun. The Original Ice, Italian Ice or Antique glass material greatly compliments the shape and aesthetics of the model 66. The Original and Italian Ice reminds me of a frosty glass and icicles for the upcoming winter season, respectively. The Antique Glass reminds me of the glass apothecary/pharmacy bottles of yore, filled with ingredients and medicines. All three materials would really show off the beauty of sloshing ink if filled as an eye dropper. The Model 66 is almost seamless when capped and post-able when it’s not, aka, practically perfect! The flat surface lends unique design and provides the added bonus of an un-rolling feature. I really appreciate the subtlety that F-C employs in branding their pens. The etching is light and unobtrusive to the eye or touch, but in the right angle, easily found. Honestly, with materials and design like this pen, F-C doesn’t need much overt advertisement.
Franz: The Franklin-Christoph Model 66 Stabilis has been a pen that I’ve always been intrigued with ever since I held them at pen shows. They use the Model 66 to allow their customers to test their available multiple nib choices. I got this Italian Ice Model 66 at the 2016 LA Pen Show and it fills my large hands very well. Under even indoor lighting, the pen really just looks like a clear material (as pictured above). But if the pen is under diffused semi-directional daylight, it has a very interesting purple tint to it. It is quite difficult to photograph the correct color of the tint and unfortunately my photos below are more blueish than what you see in person.
The F-C Model 66 may be inked up using a standard international ink cartridge, or converter. But if you detach the converter, it can also be used as an eyedropper filled pen. Just make sure to use a little bit of 100% silicone grease on the section-barrel threads, and the threads of the nib unit to prevent any leakage.
The Business End
Katherine: The Model 66 takes #6 nibs — so it’s interchangeable with many nibs from F-C. This particular nib was a surprisingly fine, but still crisp medium CI by Mike Masuyama. It’s smooth, has a little bit of spring and was overall a delight to use. I think this particular nib is finer than most Medium CIs, since I have a hard time writing with most MCIs, but had no problems with this one. The only thing worth noting is that while I do enjoy the slight spring of the 14k nib more than the steel, it’s not worth the price difference to me. All my F-Cs have and have had (a couple have been rehomed) steel nibs.
Pam: The medium cursive italic nib was wonderfully crisp and provided a well defined, crisp line. It’s a joy to write with and really shines with the Franklin-Christoph Tenebris Purpuratum, a dark and well saturated black/purple ink. This is one of the most pleasant CI nibs I have written with. This is just a great lesson that you should have your nib tuned by Jim Rouse whenever you have the chance.
Franz: I asked Jim of Franklin-Christoph for a 14k medium cursive italic nib because their 14k is a little bit springier than the 18k. As Katherine mentioned, this medium CI is finer than the usual ones they have. Because I have a very light touch, I enjoyed the line width and variation this nib laid down. As long as I have it aligned to the sweet spot, it’s a smooth writer.
Write It Up
Katherine: Can I skip writing and just ogle this pen? No. Dang it. The Model 66 is comfortable for me — but a touch long. I personally think it looks a little ridiculous in my hand. And, if I post the pen… it feels like I’m writing with a a slightly too-long pen with a weight at the end. This pen is usable, but when writing, I prefer shorter pens. (The p66 is PERFECT for me. But that’s for another review…)
Pam: Tiny hands handle pens alike! I, too, found the Model 66 to be slightly too long, even unposted. The length was more tolerable in the traditional tripod grip. When the pen was posted, it felt unbalanced and top heavy, especially with my “iron fist” grip; it felt like the cap would fall off in this particular grip. This is a great pen for those with hands/paws of the normal to larger persuasion or for those with smaller hands who don’t mind the added length. For the tripod grip with the CI nib, I actually prefer the length of the FC model 45 or shorter pocket models. However, the girth of the model 66 was pretty comfortable in any grip/fist formation.
Franz: I wrote with this pen unposted as I found its length very well balanced and posting the cap seemed unnecessary. The cap when posted seems wobbly at first and if I try to secure it, I have visions that the cap lip might crack. Don’t worry, I think it’s durable enough and it’s probably just me.
Anyway, I wrote in my journal for a good 20 minutes and my hand was quite comfortable using it. I grip the pen on the barrel right above where it meets the section. I found this very enjoyable and my thoughts just flowed as I journalled and also wrote the lyrics of a Bossa nova song.
Katherine: Franklin-Christoph calls this a desk pen, and a desk pen it should be. It’s a fairly long clip-less pen with a cap that can roll away (even if the body doesn’t)… Not my favorite combination on strange meeting tables.
Pam: I enjoy the pen for the specific setting of sitting-at-my-desk-with-a-hot-cup-of-tea/coffee-to-journal/memory keep. Due to the lack of a clip and somewhat wobbly cap, I wouldn’t feel comfortable throwing this into my white coat. Knowing me, I would scratch up the material if I accidentally threw it in with my keys or crack the beautiful material from throwing it around too much or lose the cap…
Franz: Yes. The Model 66 is a desk pen for sure but I still gave it a go and used it at work while not at my desk. I placed the pen in my jacket’s inner pocket to make it discrete. The length definitely made the pen stick out the pocket but it also allowed me to quickly grab it when I needed it. The cap unscrews with just half a turn and is quick to deploy. Half a turn! hehe..
The downside of using this clipless pen as an EDC pen is it’s more prone to roll away and fall if you set it down. And in that one day of using it at work, it almost fell once (yipes!). Also, because of it’s length, the pen sticks out of my shirt pocket unsecured which makes it prone to falling out while I’m moving around. As long as I transport the pen in a case to my office desk and use it there, it’s a great pen to use at work.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: Ultimately, this pen isn’t for me. I love the way it looks, but found the length a tad unwieldy both for long writing sessions and as a work pen. I much prefer the size of the Pocket 66, which is very similar, but much shorter. The nib on this pen, as with every F-C nib I’ve tried, is superb. In the end… would I like to own this pen? Yes! It’s gorgeous. Would I use it? Probably not (so… I don’t own it).
Pam: The Model 66 was probably the first design from Franklin-Christoph that caught my attention. The Original Ice was the first material by Franklin-Christoph that had me stalking their website like a hyena on the Serengeti. Of course F-C has been teasing great material for the last 2 years and the Italian Ice is not exception. All in all, this is a great pen that is not only functional, but absolutely beautiful and unique in both design and material.
As this pen and the Ice materials by F-C remind me of the winter season, I find myself wanting to add the pocket 66 to my wishlist for Santa (aka boyfriend) rather than the full model 66. The pocket 66 is more my size. (Actually, almost all of the Franklin-Christoph’s pocket models are more my size…) One of the largest draws for me is also the material, in which I prefer the Original Ice. Hint hint “Santa…”
Franz: As seen in the pen comparison photos, the Franklin-Christoph Model 66 Stabilis is quite a long pen with substantial girth as well. If you like larger pens, this may be for you. For small, and medium hands, try it out first for you might feel the same way as my colleagues do and opt for the pocket sized one. As for the Italian Ice finish I love it and I’m happy I got it.
I will most probably end up designating this pen for work and leave it on my desk each day. This way I’ll always have a fountain pen at work. Thanks for reading our review of this pen!
This is our first time comparing two pens. As such we’d extra appreciate your feedback! Was this helpful? Did we cover the points of comparison you care about? Let us know!
Hand Over That Pen, please!
Katherine: The two pens look pretty similar — the VP is a little wider, the Decimo is a little more sleek. I suspect, for more people, any aesthetic preferences will come from preferences in the different finishes. The VP is available in solids, wood, raden and a whole bunch of special editions. The Decimo is available in pastels. (I didn’t realize it when I painted mine, but there isn’t even a black Decimo anymore — mine is likely from the 80s. Oops.)
Pam: I was originally quite biased towards the VP because I enjoyed the added weight and width. However, the Decimo is actually more comfortable with it’s slimmer clip for longer writing sessions. The VP comes in more colors which include the drool-worthy Radens (hint hint boyfriend of mine…) and my beloved dark grey. The VP is also known as Capless in other territories. Typically, the VP/Capless is sold with a gold nib, however, there is a “special alloy” (steel) nib available for about half the price. I can only find the special alloy nib from retailers in Japan. Unfortunately, the special alloy nib is only available in a handful of Capless models (black, dark blue, yellow, deep red, and silver).
Franz: The Pilot Vanishing Point has always been a pen that’s admired for its retractable nib and quick one hand deployment. Even though I’ve known about the Vanishing Point since I started using fountain pens in 2012, it was only this year that I learned about the Pilot Vanishing Decimo line. The Vanishing Point pens are inked up either by sticking a cartridge onto the nib unit, or by filling ink with its supplied converter. When bought new, both will have a Con-50 piston converter but you may also use a Con-20 squeeze converter which slightly provides more ink capacity.
The Vanishing Point reviewed and pictured above is the Twilight Limited Edition for 2015 which I was lucky enough to obtain on the day it was released. Katherine’s VP Decimo is a standard black model that she glitterfied and is now an Artist’s Proof 1 of 1 pen. Of course, there are a number of colors, materials, and finishes that are available for both pen models. We will try our best to focus on the size differences of these two models.
The Business End
Katherine: Nib units for the two are interchangable, but the VP is available from Japan in certain finishes with a stainless steel nib. Decimos and most VPs sold in the US have gold nibs.
Pam: For my VP, I switched with a friend my fine gold nib for the fine special alloy nib since the steel kept a more consistent and finer line with my “iron grip” hand. I found the original gold F nib scratchy for the line width that it produces. The special alloy F nib was the perfect pilot nib that we all know an love. It laid down a consistent line that was just wide enough to show off the beautiful color of Iroshizuku Tsuki-yo, the one true ink pairing (OTIP), for my VP. Currently, I have a gold EF nib in the Decimo. Yes, the EF nib can be considered scratchy given the size of the nib but due to the feedback, however, I may be writing with less pressure allowing for a more consistent line. The EF nib performs wonderfully on Tomoe River paper where as I found the F nibs to shine on Midori paper.
Franz: As Katherine mentioned, both Vanishing Points utilize the same nib units and generally gives you the same paper-to-nib experience. The VP Twilight currently has a broad (B) nib and its line width is very close to a western broad nib as well, which I like! The VP Decimo has a fine (F) nib which writes smoothly and lays down a thin line that’s like a western extra-fine (EF). I loved both writing experiences even if they were different line widths.
Write It Up
Katherine: I can write with either pen for 20 minutes with relative comfort. However, and perhaps out of habit, I do prefer the Decimo. It’s a noticeably slimmer and lighter pen, which I overall prefer. That being said, the VP is perfectly usable and I suspect with time (I borrowed Franz’s VP for a week) I would get used to it and no longer notice the difference.
Pam: I really miss the weight and width of the VP, but I must admit the size of the Decimo is more comfortable for longer writing session for me. The Decimo also has a slimmer clip profile so it’s less likely to interfere with anyone’s grip. I would recommend the VP for average to large hand individuals and the Decimo for those with the petite hand persuasion. All in all, both pens are wonderful pens and suitable for all hands.
Franz: I wrote with both pens for fifteen minutes each. I first wrote with the VP Decimo and it felt a bit too thin and I felt my hand cramp a little bit. I switched to the Vanishing Point and the thicker width felt much better and allowed me to write in my journal more comfortably. Pam is spot on that for larger hands, the Vanishing Point is the way to go.
Katherine: The two are functionally the same to me as EDC pens. I find both very convenient.
Pam: The click mechanism is just too darn convenient and pen is so well constructed to withstand consistent daily use that it’s practically an EDC must for me. The VP was in my white coat pocket everyday, up to the day I lost the pen at work. (Have you ever had such a busy day, you literally have a gap in your memory of that day/afternoon/couple hours? I literally don’t remember which area of the hospital I was in when I used last used the VP. ARGH!!!) The VP is, I mean, was, my most used pen in my entire collection. The Decimo is equally sturdy, but the weight of the VP was reassuring in my pocket.
I don’t have this problem with either model pen, especially since I use F or EF nibs, however, the ink capacity of the VP is pretty small. Given that it’s a cartridge converter, the ink capacity is typically less than 1 ml. If you use a wider nib or use the pen for novel writing, it may require multiple fillings in a day.
Franz: For my daily carry purposes, both pens win! Both VP’s easily clips on to my jacket, or shirt pocket and lets me quickly deploy and write with just one hand. All day long it pretty much went like this: Grab VP from pocket, click, scribble-scribble, click, clip back VP in pocket, and repeat.
As for the ink capacity of the Con-50, a full converter lasted about two days for me. Having been spoiled by my piston-filled pens, refilling every two days was something I had to get used to. Not a deal breaker though.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: After spending a couple months with a Decimo of my own (and dousing it in glitter) and a week with Franz’s VP… to me the big difference is in the finish you prefer. Everything held equal I prefer the slimness of the Decimo as an EDC or for taking quick notes (and I tend to slightly prefer slightly wider pens for long, lazy journal sessions). But the VP is by no means unusable or uncomfortable for me. If I lost my Decimo tomorrow (I hope not!) I would replace it with whichever I saw first at a price and finish I liked first.
Pam: I loved the VP enough to buy another variant of the pen, after the appropriate mourning period had passed, of course. The only caution I would give is to make sure that the VP works well with your grip. If the VP agrees with you, it will be a GREAT pen and won’t let you down.
Franz: The Pilot Vanishing Point pen is a great pen to have in one’s pen case. My first VP was the Matte Black one that I bought at the 2012 SF Pen Show. This was about a month after I got into fountain pens and I used it at work for almost a year, and I loved it. I have come to appreciate this pen for its versatility, different finishes, and nib sizes. I’m proud to say that I have a couple VP’s in my collection.
Both the VP, and the VP Decimo are fantastic pens for the money. You really just need to hold and write with one to see if it feels right. For some, the clip gets in the way of having a good grip (it does not for me), and because most are lacquered on metal, it can be too heavy for some (not to me). The only drawback as to why I do not use my VP’s on a daily basis anymore is the ink capacity of the supplied converter. But I am always happy when I ink one up for journaling, or doodling purposes.
Katherine: Woohoo! I love the size of the Pelikan M200/400s — and this one is no exception! I love the shades of brown paired with the gold. However, I actually think it looks richer in photos than it does in person. When I started looking at more expensive pens, the Cafe Creme was high on my list. However, I saw it in person at Aesthetic Bay in Singapore and found that it didn’t live up to my hopes and dreams, so I never purchased one. That being said, it’s all relative — I just happen to prefer the uneven striations of vintage 400s.
Pam: The Pelikan M200 in review is actually Franz’s pen with a custom architect grind from Dan Smith. I really enjoy the warm tones of the pen as it is a standout from my usual black and grey pens. The cream and brown is simple but rich in color. The brown has a good red undertone that compliments the yellow gold well. My favorite part of the pen is the ink window! A trademark of Pelikan is their twist on the classic fountain pen with great materials and color designs. A great example of that for me is the Pelikan M400 White Tortoise. The Café Crème is no exception.
Franz: Aww yeah, a Pelikan pen finally for review! People who know me are aware of my fascination/obsession with this pen brand. Anyway, moving on with the review, the Pelikan M200 model is considered an entry-level model into the world of Pelikan pens. It is very lightweight and a compact size. Pelikan pens are noted for its reliable piston-filling mechanism and this M200 definitely one of them. There’s just something about filling a pen from a bottle with a piston. Yes, fountain pens with a converter is filled with the same action but it has a different overall feel. But maybe it’s just me.
The Café Crème is a beautiful finish and for a guy addicted to coffee, it seemed like a perfect pen to get. Being an M200, it is fitted with gold-plated clip, cap ring, and steel nib. As what Pam has said, the gold trim fits the finish very nicely.
The Business End
Katherine: M200 nibs in general? Fantastic steel nibs — smooth, wet while still having a hint of springiness, avoiding the designation of “nail” in my book. But this grind? Not my cup of tea. I can write with it, but I don’t enjoy it. I tend to write in cursive and it makes my letters look weirdly… tall. But, to be fair, I’m not a big fan of broad stubs or CIs either — so ymmv. 🙂 If I were to purchase a M200 I’d steer clear of a Broad (too broad) and consider a CI grind to add some flair.
Pam: The architect grind is wonderful for me. It pretty much becomes a “stub” for me since I typically hold the pen at a 90 degree angle. I love using the architect grind in my journal entries when I want my writing to be short and chubby looking, or as other would say “blocky.” Nib is not too wet so shading comes through with certain inks and it’s smooth on Tomoe River paper and Midori paper. Cheap printer paper absorbs way too much of the ink which leads to feathering and non-crisp letters. Feedback is minimal and as usual, Dan Smith did a wonderful job. From my experience with Pelikans, the modern nibs tend to be quite wide and wet. I had an EF that wrote more like a M. I haven’t met a Pelikan nib that was scratchy or too dry. Granted, I am not Franz. He is our Pelikan expert amongst this triad.
Franz: Pelikan expert? Me? For real? Nope, not at all! I am merely a fan of their pens. A Pelikan pen addict if you will.
As I’ve mentioned above, the M200 is sold with stainless steel nibs and generally, they are smooth and juicy. There is also a little bit of bounce to it but not something that one would use for flex writing. For this specific pen, I asked Dan Smith to do something fun with the broad nib and he recommended to do an architect grind. I agreed since I’ve never had an architect/hebrew grind on any of my nibs before.
This grind is actually very cool as it sort of is a reverse italic. Instead of the usual thin cross-strokes, and thick down-strokes of an italic, it was the other way around. I primarily write in cursive, and sometimes print/block letters at work. I find the architect nib more suitable to write in print letters which made it look better. I didn’t really like how my cursive writing looked with it. I think it’s a matter of taste. I still recommend everyone to try an architect nib because you never know if you’ll love it or just like it.
Write It Up
Katherine: The pen itself is very comfortable for me, and I prefer it uncapped. I love this size of pen and find it very comfortable for long writing and drawing sessions. I love this size so much that I own three Pelikans in this size, two vintage 400s and one 400NN. However, as previously mentioned, the grind on this pen drives me up the wall — so this isn’t my top pick for journaling. A stock nib or, perhaps, a CI on something less broad would be very compelling though!
Pam: The M200 is light and effortless to write with. As a “pocket size” pen of the Pelikan line, it’s a great size for me. It’s about the length of the Franklin-Christoph Model 45 and Franklin-Christoph Model Pocket 20. I can see this pen being too narrow for someone with average or larger size hands.I had no issues journaling with this pen and the “chubby” writing always gives me a bit of amusement.
Franz: I wrote with this pen posted for fifteen minutes of journaling and I found it to be okay. As usual, I grip the pen above the section threads by the ink window and I got a bit more girth to hold and the length was pretty okay. Even with the cap, I found this pen to be a bit too light for me though. I did write with the pen unposted for the last five minutes and that was not comfy for me at all.
Katherine: I enjoyed using this pen as an EDC — it has a clip, uncaps easily and is a good size for either my notebook’s loops or just sandwiching in my notebook as I run around.
Pam: The pen is very light and with a screw on cap, it’s a great EDC pen in a “controlled setting.” Maybe it’s the fact that I recently lost a fountain pen at work, but I can see myself losing this pen within my white coat or not realizing that I don’t have it in my pocket because it’s so light. Pelikans aren’t super robust pens and dropping a Pelikan can damage the binde/body. I would recommend keeping your birdies clipped in a jacket or shirt pocket rather than pant pockets (no keys!) or tucked safely into a pen case.
Franz: The Pelikan M200’s size is actually a great pen for everyday use. At work, I found it to be a good pen to bring with me and in my shirt pocket. The pen uncaps with one full twist and is quite convenient for quick notes, or signatures. A quick comment about this nib, having a broad architect nib on it was borderline too thick for the copy paper used at the office. But if it were a medium nib with a round, architect, or cursive italic grind, it would’ve been just right.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: Even if this particular pen isn’t the one for me, I love the M200 line. The size is perfect, they hold a ton of ink and the nibs are solid. However, if you’re willing to do a little hunting, for the money, I much prefer vintage 400/NN Pelikans. They’re cheaper (easily $100-$150) and often have more interesting nibs (I have both a semi flex fine and a semi flex OB). But, for those less patient with eBay and forum trawling, the M200s are solid pens that look great!
Pam: The greatest compliment I can give a pen is to purchase one. In this particularly case, as the Café Crème hits so many sweet spots for me with the architect grind, beautiful brown and cream material (did I mention the ink window?) , and well sized for my pixie hands, I currently have this pen on “layaway” from Franz. In exchange for permanently borrowing the Café Crème, I will “chip in” to Franz’s next pen fund…
Franz: The Pelikan M200 is principally a great pen to have and to write with. Pelikan has issued the M200 in their Classic line with different standard, or special edition finishes since it was introduced in 1985. So if the Café Crème is not your cup of coffee (tea), there are a number of choices available. As I said in the beginning of this review, the M200 is an entry-level pen for the brand and I recommend this to anyone interested in getting a Pelikan pen.
In my opinion, it’s a great size for users with small to medium sized hands. For people with larger sized, or bear paws similar to me, I’d say to try it out first. It may turn out to be a good fit or you might want to go to a larger size like the M600, M800, or even the M1000. Because I am a self-proclaimed Pelikan pen addict, I hope that my review of this pen comes off fair and as unbiased as possible.
Hello friends! It has been almost two weeks since the 2016 SF Pen Show was held at the Sofitel SF Bay Hotel in Redwood City, California on August 26, 27, and 28, 2016. Oh what a great experience that was and I already miss it and cannot wait for next year.
I have never done any pen show recap/reports ever since I’ve been attending pen shows in 2014. So it took me a while to decide if I would do one this year, and if so, how would I present it? I was nudged by a couple friends to do so (y’all know who you are). And as suggested by a friend, present it in a chronological order. A fair warning though, I’m a photo-oriented person so this report will have a LOT of pictures and quite a long read. So I suggest you grab some popcorn or something. Haha!
This is the third year that the current show organizers have held the SF Pen Show. And each year, it has gotten better and better. I did have a unique multi-perspective of this show. I purchased a table to be a vendor, I am part of the SF Pen Posse, the local pen group who had a big part of volunteering to make this show a success, and the principal show organizers asked or “volun-told” me to assist with the coordinating of the paid classes, and free seminars. I’ve come to treat pen shows more as a social event focusing on seeing old friends, and creating new friends. And yes, as an attendee, seeing lots and lots of fountain pens is something I look forward to as well.
Thursday, August 25 – The Evening Before the Show
The SF Pen show organizers opens up the show ballroom the evening before to allow vendors to set up their table displays or just to let them know where their table will be. I arrived at the hotel around 6:30pm and saw the empty tables with just a few pen posse members hanging out. The show sold a lot of vendor tables this year. And I actually witnessed the hotel staff adding the very last table that was bought at the last minute.
The show organizers also held a reception/mixer for dealers, and special friends that evening. It was great to mingle and meet up with old friends. After the reception, a few friends from Southern California and myself just hung out at the hotel bar.
Friday, August 26 – First Day of the Show
The big day has arrived! The San Francisco Pen Show opened for Dealers and All-Access Pass holders at 7:00am. The general public was let in later that day at 1:00pm.
I arrived at the hotel around 7:30am and the ballroom already had a good number of attendees. After doing some of my registration desk/seminar coordinator responsibilities, I immediately went to Mike Masuyama’s table where he was already helping people with their nibs. I got to say hello and speak with Mike and his wife Emiko for a bit and got a number to be in line for nib work. I was number 19 and this was only at 8:00am. More on my nib-work with Mike later on the day.
Next stop for me was at Franklin-Christoph’s table. I was curious to see what prototype pens they brought to the show and also I was asked by a friend from Nevada to purchase a specific pen from them. Guess who I found at the F-C table? It’s Katherine! She was already being helped by Jim Rouse with her nib choice. She was at the hotel right before the show opened.
Afterwards, I needed to go back to the registration desk since Master Penman Michael Sull’s Basic Spencerian class was about to start. This class was sold out a couple weeks before the show with a few people on a wait-list. Mr. Sull had another class later in the afternoon called Advanced Spencerian and that was well attended too.
Pen repair classes were also held by brother and sister, Joel Hamilton and Sherrell Tyree. There were three sessions: Basic pen repair, Vacumatic, and Snorkel/Touchdown.
While classes were in session, I got a chance to walk around the ballroom, chat with dealers and attendees, and take a few photos. At this point, I was really just scoping out what interesting pens would find me. ;-P
One of the first couple people I said hello to were Matt Armstrong of The Pen Habit blog, Brad Dowdy of The Pen Addict blog, and Lisa Vanness of Vanness 1938. Matt and Brad were there to help Lisa and Mike out at their table.
In the middle of the ballroom were the tables for the 14 Ink Testing Stations that contained 686 pens with 686 different fountain pen inks free for people to write with and see how the color looks. The SF Pen Posse donated ink samples and volunteers inked up each station before the show. Each station has 49 fountain pens.
First time pen show vendor, Troy Clark of Brute Force Design was there with all smiles. He drove all the way from Seattle and was one of the people I got to chat with last night as well. He gave me a nice pocket notebook. What a nice gesture. Thanks Troy!
Toys From The Attic returned to the SF Pen Show and they were right beside Franklin-Christoph. I first met Mario at the 2014 LA pen show and I look forward to seeing him at shows. He’s brought some beautiful pens with him.
I moseyed on over to the back wall where the Wahl-Eversharp table was and said hello to Syd Saperstein and his wife Judi. It’s always a pleasure to see them at pen shows. The Wahl-Eversharp pen company is the show’s principal sponsor and Syd is one of the three show organizers.
Since I was focusing on vintage pens this year, I got a chance to ask him about the vintage Wahl-Eversharp Gold Seal, and Doric pens. I learned a lot from him even if it was just for a quick moment. A customer walked up and asked him questions as well.
Right beside the Wahl-Eversharp table was another pen show trademark. It was Susan Wirth’s table. Susan and her team travels to almost every pen show in the United States. She loves writing with an italic nib (like myself), and almost all her pens for sale are inked up for everyone to try before they buy.
Wandering around more in the ballroom and I found Bill Weakley’s table full of beautiful Namiki, Parker, Paul Rossi, and Pelikan pens. I first met him at the 2015 LA Pen Show. I’m so glad he attended this year’s SF Show. He had a lot of pens that I wanted but were definitely over my budget. Haha!
Then I saw Stuart Hawkinson and Jim Leonard whom I met at last year’s show. These are two guys who love restoring pens and like to share their experience.
Headed over to Ryan Krusac’s table and admired his new line of Legend L-14. Also his limited Dangers of the Deep pens were quite tempting. I’m glad he got to attend the SF pen show this year and he brought along his wife, Julia. He was at the 2014 SF pen show but was unable to attend last year.
Revisited the ink testing stations and now it’s getting busy.
Dan Smith arrived later in the afternoon from Iowa and he had an online signup sheet. One of his first customers was Joey Feldman from Los Angeles. It was a treat to see these guys at the show.
My Dad, Bert, visited the show in the afternoon and just wanted to see what was going on at pen shows.
While you’re at the Ink Testing Stations, it’s also a perfect opportunity to start conversations and make new friends. This was a brainchild of Ricky Chau, and the Ink Master, Loren S. since the 2015 SF Pen Show.
As it was getting close to the end of the first day, I was finally called for my turn at Masuyama-san’s table. I had my vintage Skyline’s medium nib ground into a smooth cursive italic. I also had my Pelikan M800 double broad (BB) nib tuned as it was skippy and had the baby’s bottom issue. I’ve had my nibs tuned and ground by this man for the past 3 years and he knows exactly how I want my nibs. I rarely give the pen back after he’s done with it the first round.
It’s also always a delight chatting with Mike and his wife, Emiko. Talked about their trips to Japan and other pen shows.
Pen Addict Meetup – After Show Event
Right after the show closed at 7:00pm, there was a Pen Addict meetup event hosted by Brad Dowdy, the Pen Addict himself, and Lisa Vanness. It was an effort to get together with the people you’ve seen around the show during the day and just plainly talk pens, paper, inks, etc. The event itself was free, and you didn’t have to attend the pen show to get in.
As you walk in, Brad handed out raffle tickets for some awesome giveaway prizes. They had some snacks as well. Alcohol was also served and available for purchase.
It was great to meet and chat with like-minded people. Around 8:00pm, Brad started the raffle and gave away awesome prizes. I do not recall each and every prize given away but here goes nothing: 2 Nock Co. cases, Lamy Dark Lilac ink, notebooks, empty Akkerman glass bottle, Joey Feldman poster artwork, notebook engraved with Joey Feldman’s artwork, and a one-and-only Pilot Iroshizuku ink bottle engraved with the show’s hashtag, #SFPenShow2016.
As the Pen Addict meetup ended, a few of the Pen Posse peeps left the hotel for dinner at Amici’s Pizzeria in Redwood Shores. Needless to say, we were all famished and enjoyed some salad, pizza, chicken wings, and more pen conversations.
After dinner, we went back to the hotel bar and just relaxed. What a fantastic first day of the show. I went home shortly afterwards.
Saturday, August 27 – Second Day of the Show
Another exciting pen show day! For this day, the show once again opens for dealers and All-Access pass holders at 7:00am. And the general public will be let in at 10:00am. I arrived at the hotel around 8:30am so I definitely missed the breakfast provided for the dealers and All-Access pass holders. But no matter, I had a breakfast sandwich and Cold Brew coffee right before heading to the hotel.
I have to highlight the SF Pen Posse volunteers who signed up to man the registration and seminar desk from Friday all through Sunday. Without their generosity of time and effort, I’m not sure how the show would’ve turned out.
Across the registration desk in the foyer was Steve Curnow’s table. This was a popular first stop for show attendees. Steve had a wide selection of notebooks, journals, and pens for sale. He also had a very limited edition San Francisco design journals at the show.
In the beginning of this report, I did mention that I was a vendor as well. Well the whole day Friday, my table was unused and empty. On Saturday, Edna, my Mom, arrived at the show and was selling some handmade earrings, and necklaces. Also, I let my friend from the Pen Posse, Fred, sell his SF Pen Show shirts at my table. I intended to sell pens but I just didn’t have the time to sit at my table so I just laid out three pens in the middle with price tags. Katherine also placed her wooden pen blocks she made a few months ago for sale.
Tania at the Franklin-Christoph table had a free moment and we took a hand-comparison selfie. We’ve known each other online for a couple years now and we’ve always joked about our hand size difference.
I walked around the ballroom once again but this time, I reached the other side of the room which was dubbed, Anderson Alley. Brian and Lisa Anderson returned this year and enlisted the help of Jason, and Ana. They brought a lot of items from their store in Appleton, Wisconsin. I always find it a treat to get to chat with the Andersons during the shows.
I then saw one of the most knowledgeable pen person that I know. In fact, he has written quite a few books on pens including Fountain Pens of the World, and Fountain Pens of Japan. It’s none other than Mr. Andreas “Andy” Lambrou of Lambrou Pens (formerly Classic Pens). His pen selection is quite exquisite and he collaborates with very artistic people like Mr. Paul Rossi, and Mr. Ryan Krusac, and others.
More wandering around…
I got to speak with Cliff Harrington about vintage pens. Cliff always has very rare (and can be pricey) pens. And he also has a wealth of pen knowledge to learn from. As I stopped by, I learned more about Waterman pens, Wahl-Eversharp pens, and Carters pen. He showed me a nice and rare Waterman Ideal Doll pen. As far as I know, there were only two of these pens at the SF pen show.
I found myself back at the Wahl-Eversharp table admiring the modern Decoband Gold Seal Oversized pens. And I had to take a photo of both Syd, and Judi.
The NibSmith still hard at work at his table. I actually signed up for his Saturday schedule on his website but because it got busy at the registration desk, I had to give up my spot for other people to have the opportunity and time to sit with him.
I stepped out of the ballroom to make sure all registrants got to attend Amanda McKay’s Kick A$$ Snail Mail class, www.letterletter.com.
This class was the most attended and it was full with 30 people in the class. I’m one of the people that just sticks a stamp on an envelope, address it, and send it out. So I found this class quite helpful when I had a chance to sit in a little bit and learn from Amanda. There were a lot of questions asked with regards to Amanda experience on how the US Postal Service handled her well-designed envelopes.
Planner Meetup – Mid-Show Special Event
Right after Amanda’s Snail Mail class was the planner meetup hosted by a few SF Pen Posse members. This is something new for the SF pen show and it was intended to be an informal hangout for people to learn about the different planner notebooks, strategies on how to use planners effectively (or ineffectively), and also to share stickers, stamps, and washi tape. This meetup was well attended. Three tables were occupied and lots of conversation happened. Tiffany from the Pen Posse gave me a roll of washi tape with a fountain pen design. Thanks Tiffany!
Quickly scoped out Joey Feldman as he was painting his poster artwork for people who bought at the Vanness table.
Back in the ballroom, door prizes were being raffled off. Including a very nice Pelikan M205 in Transparent Blue sponsored by Dan Smith, The Nibsmith.
On Saturday, the show ended at 7:00pm. I had the pleasure of having dinner with my Mom, Andy Lambrou, and his associate Margie. We immediately left the hotel and proceeded to the city of San Mateo where the Vietnamese restaurant named Ben Tre was located. I brought Andy to this place last year and he wanted to come back. Needless to say, we had an enjoyable and relaxed dinner.
The Royal Deuces – After Show Live Band Event
From the restaurant, we went back to the hotel and enjoyed the music of the Royal Deuces band. This is their third time to perform at the SF Pen Show. A lot of fun was had at this after-show event!
When the band was done, conversations still went on. Nikola Pang was there and was writing people’s names to give out. He wrote my name down and gave the card to me. Thanks Nik!
After some time, the room slowly emptied out and I went home.
Sunday, August 28 – Third and Final Day of the Show
Time flew by quick! There was an overall feeling of happiness and a bit of sadness because we knew that this special event would be coming to an end.
I arrived right before 10:00am when the show opened to the general public. After helping out at the registration desk for a bit, I did my rounds of the show once again.
I bid my friends Mary and Jon goodbye as they had a long drive to Southern California. It’s always a delight to see them at the LA and SF pen show.
Rick Propas, The PENguin, always brings a beautiful array of german pens. Namely Pelikan and Montblanc.
There were more door prizes raffled off. One of them was a TWSBI pen sponsored by Sunny Koh of Straits Pens.
Wandering around the room, I found Dale Beebe’s table of Pentooling.com. He had lots of pen repair tools and fully restored pens for sale.
Right beside Dale Beebe was Teri Morris’ table, Peyton Street Pens. They’re located in Santa Cruz, California and is a part of the SF Pen Posse as well.
Sunny Koh of Straits Pens was a show sponsor and is also a frequent visitor of the SF Pen Posse. He brought pens , lots of Pelikan, Pilot, and limited edition inks from Japanese pen shops. Straits Pens also has an exclusive Noodlers ink called, Pacific Dawn at the Golden Gate which was launched at the SF pen show.
Walked away from the show to have a cup of coffee at the hotel bar with my friend Frank before he left.
After Frank left, I went back to the ballroom to see more people and help pack up for the show. I saw Ana getting a pen tuned by Jim at the Franklin-Christoph table. #lastminutepurchases
And that’s the last day of the pen show folks. It’s 4:47pm and the doors close at 5:00pm.
Post Pen Show Activity
As the show closed at 5:00pm, a few pen posse peeps took responsibility of the ink testing stations. After all, the ink testing frenzy isn’t over and it will continue to be used at pen posse meet ups in the next coming weeks. #inkcrazypeople
We met up at Amici’s Pizzeria once again for dinner and discussed the events of the show including details for next year.
Back at the Sofitel hotel after dinner and just hung out with pen-minded folks. Terrific time to keep on having conversations and do some show-and-tell of what they acquired from the show.
Pen shows are such a fun event to attend. Most especially when it’s local in your area. The 2016 San Francisco Pen Show was such an enjoyable weekend filled with beautiful pens, lovely inks, terrific special events, and most especially, generous and kind people. It was magnificent to see old friends get-together and see each other once again and I appreciate the chance to form new friendships. I look forward to this show every year.
A HUGE Thank You to Ricky, Todd, and Syd for continuing to organize this show. In addition, to all of the people who have contributed to its success, I thank you as well. To the awesome SF Pen Posse, thank you for all the effort and the volunteer work. Without you guys and gals, well, it wouldn’t have been as fun.
Well, until next time. Thank you for sticking to the end of this long report. I hope it wasn’t dragging and also that your snack was enough.
If you attended the SF Pen Show, feel free to leave a comment for any of your thoughts about the show and also what you bought!
“Pen shows are about the people and the stories between each other. The pens start the story and the people get closer.”
Katherine: When I first discovered the Prera (thanks, Internet) I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of spending twice as much as a Metro on a pen with the same nib. So instead I borrowed Pam’s. I found that the Prera is a small, light pen that’s a solid performer… I figured I’d buy one used at some point, since I now actively try to avoid buying pens just because they’re “cheap”. But, when I saw the limited edition Oeste Kingfisher (pictured above), I had to have it. After almost a month of hunting on Rakuten then three weeks of waiting, I have it! I think it’s a unique looking pen without being “weird” or flashy. It’s clean and classic, but not easily mistaken for any other pen.
Pam: The Pilot Prera comes in a variety of colors ranging from neon green to a deep brown. There are even demonstrator versions that have a splash of color on the cap and the end of the pen body. All the colors come with a complimentary silver/chrome trim. I bought the white one and still regret not buying a grey one as well. Katherine’s limited edition Prera is
The Pilot Prera is a great pocket pen. It’s about the length of the Pelikan M200, or a Franklin-Christoph model 45, or a Sailor Progear Slim. Like all the other pens that I adore, it’s the simple, minimalist, and dare I say, cute aesthetics that had me interested in this pen when I first got interested in fountain pens.
Franz: I was fortunate enough to handle and write with both Pam’s and Katherine’s Pilot Prera. Aside from the color and nib, they are pretty much the same. The Prera is a nice little pen that could be regarded as a beginner-intermediate pen in terms of price and performance. It does come with its proprietary converter and a cartridge. I’m just not sure if it’s a good idea to fill it as an eye-dropper due to the metal ring on the bottom of the barrel. It would be cool though.
Katherine: It’s a light and small pen — a great size for me to clip into notebooks or put in a pocket. Thankfully, despite it’s size, it’s solidly built — I don’t worry about breaking the pen as I throw it into a purse or backpack. Additionally it’s lot’s of fun to use since the cap has a very satisfying SNAP to it. The first time Pam suggested I try her Prera’s snap cap I thought she was crazy, but she’s right — it’s a very satisfying snap (that goes with a very satisfying pen!). I tend to use this pen unposted because I’m lazy, but can use it perfectly well posted.
Pam: If I was a more talented writer, I would wax poetry to the “perfection” that is the Prera for my pixie-esque hands. (Now maybe a good time to warn you of the possibility to excessive alliteration for the remainder of the post.)
I can comfortably use the pen posted or unposted, although I prefer to use it posted. I really enjoy the added, and still balanced, weight of the cap. The cap posts securely as you can feel the cap “suction” the end of the barrel. Unposted, the pen is so light that I wouldn’t even really notice the pen. One of my favorite parts of the using the Prera is actually capping the pen. It’s a REALLY satisfying click and very smooth.
Franz: As I said above, I got to play with both pens and the weight and dimensions are the same. The Prera may be in the featherweight class of pens but the feel was quite nice. Holding the pen unposted was a bit uncomfortable but once the pen’s cap is posted, it’s a nice size pen to handle.
The white inner cap somewhat distracts my view of the demonstrator but I think you just accept it for what it is.
This has already been repeated but I’m gonna say it anyway. Capping the Prera was a pretty cool thing to do. I like it as much as capping the Lamy 2000.
The Business End
Katherine: It’s a smooth writer that’s a touch dry. I have one with a Medium nib and while I would have preferred a Fine, the Medium is very usable and still much narrower medium than many German nibs. I’m very happy with it, and it’s the kind of nib that doesn’t make me think about it a lot, perhaps almost boring, but great for a daily driver.
Pam: If I could wax poetry to the “perfect” Prera’s specs and hand feel, I would compose and sing songs about the nib. The nib is engraved with “Super Quality” and I would believe it. The nib writes true to size for a Japanese fine. It writes wonderfully, smoothly and maybe a little dry, which is great for cheap paper.
Franz: Writing with both nibs gave me almost the same smooth with a little bit of feedback experience. This is not a generalization, but my Pilot nib experience so far has been quite satisfying as they very well out of the box. And I’ve owned a couple Pilot 78G pens, Metropolitans, Vanishing Points, a Plumix, and a Stargazer.
As a preference, the medium nib was more to my liking because of the wider line and wetter ink flow.
Write It Up
(20-minute writing experience)
Katherine: The Prera is a tiny bit narrower and smaller than my “perfect” pen for long writing experiences. (Maybe I should just remember to cap it…). But I have no issues or discomfort at all after using this pen to draw or journal for an extended period. A very versatile size!
Pam: I prefer the Prera over the Metropolitan for one simple, albeit, major reason: no step! The “iron fist” grip that I typically use on all my F and EF pens falls right around the section and right at the step (where the barrel and section meet) of the Metropolitan, which can lead to discomfort. The Prera eliminates that issue altogether! It’s a subtle and smooth transition from section to body on the Prera, making it one of the most comfortable pens for me to use for prolonged periods of time.
Franz: I wrote with this pen posted and it was comfortable initially. After about ten minutes, my hand got a bit fatigued. I think this was due to the thin diameter of the section/barrel combined with its very lightweight. It probably wouldn’t be my journal pen in the near future but it was good to try it out.
Katherine: This pen is a great EDC! Not too expensive that I’d be very sad if I lost it, but still a fun pen that makes me enjoy writing. I’ve used this pen for a couple weeks with my A5-sized work notebook, and it secures the Hobonichi-style cover loops well, and is always ready to go quickly. My one caveat with this pen as an EDC instrument is that it seems to leak into the cap more than other pens do when I fly with it. Not generally an issue, but worth noting. (Interestingly the other pen that leads my “leaks on flights” category is the Metro, which probably has a very similar, if not the same feed)
Pam: It’s a white pen that is consistently in my white coat. The clip isn’t the strongest, but enough to be clipped in my Hobonichi Weeks PVC cover on cover pen loop. It’s also a good size for the Midori leather pen loop. I had tried to clip the pen with my hobonichi, but with all the jostling in my backpack, I had to dig for the pen by the time I got home.
Franz: Yes. The Pilot Prera is actually a nice pen to use on the daily. The snap cap, clip, and nib makes it a winner for me. I used the Prera at work for two days (once with Pam’s and the other with Katherine’s) and I found that it was a pen I reached for in my shirt pocket for the majority of both days. It may not be my go-to journal pen but it’s actually a very nice quick notes and signature work pen.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: The Prera is a solid pen, and I enjoy owning and using mine. However, it’s not a pen that brings me great joy to own or the pen I pull out when I just want to “play” with pens and ink. I’d recommend it for anyone looking for a solid pen for daily use or a beginner with a larger budget.
Pam: I love the Pilot Prera but I can’t really say why. It’s a mysterious alchemy that the pen just possesses and it just “ticks all the boxes” from size, slip cap, portability, aesthetics and great writing experience.
The Pilot Prera is often overlooked as a great “beginner pen.” Maybe this is due to a higher price point, approximately $25-35, in comparison to the Pilot Metropolitan, Lamy Safari and more recently the TWSBI Eco. However, for me, the Pilot Prera is more comfortable than the Pilot Metropolitan and the Lamy Safari due to the smooth section and a better length for me than the TWSBI Eco.
Lastly, the nib on the Pilot Prera is worth every penny. It’s a true Japanese fine nib and writes wonderfully. Even better, the nibs for the Pilot Penmanship, Plumix, Kakuno and Metropolitan are all interchangeable with the Pilot Prera. This isn’t just a great beginner pen, it’s a pen feels like an upgrade to other beginner pens.
Franz: Using the two pens finally made me appreciate the Pilot Prera for what it had to offer. I’ve been aware of the Prera for a couple years now but never really paid attention. I would encourage a person with a small to medium hand size to get the Prera. It is quite an inexpensive pen for beginners or intermediate users. As for people with large hands, try it out first and see if it’s comfortable.
Between the two pens, I liked Katherine’s more (sorry Pam). Mainly because the nib in it was a medium and it won me over. Secondly, Katherine’s was the Oeste Kingfisher Blue and well, it’s blue! ‘Coz #ilovebluepens!
Thanks for reading our thoughts on the Pilot Prera and our blog!
Whoa. It’s been a couple days now, and I’m already excited for 2017 — August 25 to 27! Mark your calendars!
To recap, I was loosely looking for an Omas, vintage flex, cool materials, but if I had money left in budget, I said I’d get a Pilot Custom 823 with an FA nib. What did I actually buy? A Franklin-Christoph p66 with a Masuyama Needlepoint in a cool translucent swirly orange and cream color (cool material, check!), and a second generation Wahl Eversharp Doric in striated black with an adjustable semi-flex medium stub (vintage flex, check! same shape as the Omas pens I like… check?)
Here’s my entire haul. Yep, that’s it. Just three things. I’m very proud of coming out of the show UNDER budget.
Now the long version…
I woke up on Friday at 5:45am to pick up a friend at 6:15, despite flying in from Hawaii the night before. I thought I’d be super sleepy (~8 hours of sleep in the two nights before) but I wasn’t. I guess pen show excitement does that! I ran a little bit late (got distracted posting about the new Noodler’s ink to Reddit) but made it to the show in good time.
We arrived at around 7am, before most of the dealers had set up. It was a nice time to walk around before everyone was set up since that was a lot less overwhelming. I met Troy from Brute Force Design and admired his pens (I love the look of all-copper pens, but unfortunately they’re just too heavy for me!) while we both kept an eye on the Franklin-Christoph booth and talked about pen turning (my lathe is showing up in the mail today…).
Scott (of FC) showed up sometime between 8 and 9am with the hand carry suitcase full of prototypes and I pounced. I picked out a lovely “prototype” in a unique orange-and-cream swirl material. FC never gave it a name since they only made 1-3 pens with it. This is my first time buying a pen from FC at a show — and getting the nib tuned with Jim was fantastic! I had opted for the Masuyama needlepoint and he asked if I preferred fineness or smoothness. I went for fineness, and the nib isn’t scratchy at all but has an enjoyable amount of feedback that I can best describe by calling it “pencil-like”.
After this, I made my rounds taking a look at each booth, handling pens, and testing out inks. I had my eye on flex pens and Omas pens and Wahl Eversharp Dorics — I really like the 12-faceted shape. I found my second pen also on Friday morning with Cliff Harrington, who was very, very friendly, helpful, knowledable, and had a great selection of Dorics. But, it was only Friday morning — so I thanked Cliff and swore I’d think about it a little longer. By Saturday afternoon I was legitimately stressed that someone else might buy “my pen”, so I went back and bought it. It’s a second generation Doric in a striated black material with a #9 adjustable nib. It goes from a smooth medium stub to a a wet BB-BBB. I’m very happy with the pen and Cliff was great to work with!
In addition to my pens and ink (I picked up a bottle of Kingdom Note’s pink jellyfish ink from Sunny at Straits Pens) I had a lot of fun meeting some great people and looking at interesting pens. Cliff had Waterman’s World’s Smallest Pen which was neat to see and handle in person. John Corwin had some crazy flex nibs, including a smaller-sized Doric with an adjustable full flex nib (out of my budget). The ink testing station had over 600 inks — and after trying every Akkerman ink there, I decided not to get a bottle (upsides to getting to try before you buy!). I met many folks who were fairly new to pens and many more who had years of pen knowledge to share with me. So many pens, so little time! 🙂
Pens aside, Pam and I hosted a Planner meet up on Saturday afternoon. We spent Saturday morning putting together grab bags of washi tape samples, stickers and cute sticky notes for grab bags — but despite making two dozen, we ran out! It was a fun-filled hour and a half of oggling each other’s planners, sharing supplies and, most importantly, making friends. After the session I have some ideas for a planner experiment I’m going to kick off in a couple days when September 1 rolls around! (Starting with a new month is just easier… I think)
All in all, I had a great time and I managed to stay under budget*! I’m very excited for next year and am full of ideas for new workshops and maybe even being a vendor!
Did you find the pen of your dreams at the SF Show?
* Sidenote: Staying under budget was hard — but I’m really trying to limit the number of pens I own. So this doesn’t at all reflect on a lack of amazing pens at the show, but instead my IRON self-control. Yep. (Real reason? My pen carrier only has 15 slots, so I can’t own more than that without buying another form of pen-transport… and I’m too cheap to shell out $60+ on a nice leather carrier)
The SF Pen Show is less than a week away! There will be dozens of vendors, ink stations with over 600 inks & classes and meet ups.
What are you looking for at the show?
Katherine: Well, to start with – I’m SUPER excited for the Planner meet up I’m hosting with Pam on Saturday. I’ll be bringing my planner & lots of supplies to show off, see what other folks are doing and hopefully swap some supplies. I’ll also have some (probably 20?) goodie bags, so drop by and say hi! 🙂
On the buying side — I’m primarily looking for interesting pens, but don’t have a well-defined wish list. My focus is going to be on picking up a reasonably priced Omas (fingers crossed), and perhaps a new flex pen or nib (I have one with a nib I like, but a body I hate. hah!). I’m also very much interested in pens made with interesting materials (I do love those vintage celluloid pens!) and nibs (I’ve recently been very curious about hooded and inlaid nibs). So we’ll see what turns up!
I have a rough budget, and if I don’t use up all/most of it, I’m going to buy a Pilot Custom 823 with an FA nib after the show. I thought of buying it before the show and having the nib ground, but this will be an interesting way of judging whether or not I really want a pen at the show. This is my second time at a pen show and I’m a little wary of getting carried away — my first show was a year ago and SF was just overwhelming! All I bought was a converter.
Pam: I am trying really hard to be disciplined at this year’s pen show after this past year of pen gluttony. Thank you for the strong work in pen-abling Franz and Katherine! Therefore, if all goes to plan, I will be purchasing more inks than pens.
I am going to be making friends around the Franklin-Christoph table. Definitely looking to purchase a pocket 66 (in ice finish or a prototype material) and a Model 45 (in antique glass, if available at the show).
My Inky wishlist includes Bungubox Omaezaki Sea, Pelikan Turquoise, J. Herbin 1670 Stormy Grey, and Sailor Yama-Dori.
Additional pen lookout for a Pilot Capless with a special alloy nib, Pilot m90, Pilot myu.
Lastly, but definitely not least, to meet planner/pen-minded people and make more planner/pen friends!! Especially at the planner meet up!
Franz: Awww man! I’ve been so excited for the SF Pen Show ever since the 2015 show ended. On the final day of last year’s show, they already knew the 2016 show dates and I couldn’t wait.
To answer the question of what I’m looking for at the show, I’m looking for a pen (or two) that will grab my attention and won’t let me go home without it. I don’t really have a specific list of pens to acquire but I do have a couple pens that I wanna see how it feels “in the hand”. For vintage pens, maybe a Wahl-Eversharp Doric or Gold Seal, or maybe a nice Parker Vacumatic, or a safety fountain pen. For modern pens, I want to hopefully see the Visconti London Fog in person. That pen has been popular among the online pen community for a couple of months now. Then perhaps a Pelikan pen I’ve never seen in person before. I’m also looking to sell a couple pens at the show. I haven’t decided which ones yet but maybe a couple vintage Parker pens, a couple Pelikan pens, and just other pens that other people will enjoy writing with and perhaps become part of their own collection. Hmm.. this is becoming a lengthy explanation of a very vague point. Sorry.
Now onto what I’m REALLY looking for at the show. I’m looking to reconnect with old friends I’ve met from the past pen shows (SF and LA), and also to meet new friends either just from the pen show itself or meet a few Instagram (IG) friends in real life (IRL). True story: I actually met Pam and her friends at the 2015 SF Pen Show while I was helping out at the registration desk. So there you go, with each pen show I attend, I am blessed to chat with people and gain more knowledge about this great hobby of ours.
I will try my best to post photos on Instagram during the pen show. The Instagram tag used is #sfpenshow2016 and #sfpenshow as well.
We’re looking forward to all the fun things planned like the free seminars, the planner meet up, the letter writing social, and many more. Even after the show closes, there is a Pen Addict meet up on Friday at 7pm. And then on Saturday night, the Royal Deuces band is performing live music at 8pm.
So if you’re able to attend the 2016 SF pen show on August 26, 27, and 28, please do and we hope to meet some of y’all! Thank you!
P.S. If you will be attending, what are you looking for at the San Francisco Pen Show?
Katherine: It’s a cute and small pen with a beautiful finish. I’m surprised at how heavy it is, given its size.
Pam: Cute, small and elegant. The blue finish on the metal barrel pen has alot of depth in the light. It’s a really good weight for such a small pen. The width of the pen is very reminiscent of the Pilot Prera, another favorite of mine. The finish, weight and extra wide silver band with simple black writing lends a “grown-up” feel to the pen. It is easily a pen that can be used in an office setting. It’s particularly handy for use due to the slip cap for fast and easy deployment. Posting the cap is easy and secure.
Franz: The Pilot Stargazer was a pen that I wanted to get when Mr. Dan Smith reviewed it a couple years back. The sapphire blue finish truly won me over especially each time I hold it in my hands. It may be a small pen but it looks quite appealing and refined.
The Business End
Katherine: The pen I’m reviewing has a medium nib — and I’m very surprised by how wide and wet the nib is. It’s very smooth, but I’m generally not a fan of pens this wide. The overall experience of writing with the pen reminds me a lot of bigger, German nibbed pens. (I don’t have a Metro on hand, but I’m pretty sure this is much wider than the Metro’s Medium nib)
Pam: Needless to say, the medium nib is WAY too broad for me. It’s practically a broad because the gold nib is really soft for me. The nib is a wet writer but very very smooth. Whew. But it sure is pretty and shiny. I wonder how the EF nib is…
Franz: Ha! I chose that medium nib because there wasn’t a broad nib option. I do have to disclose that the line width is probably thicker now because I wrote with this pen on a daily basis for almost a year. Over time, the nib spread a little bit more than when I bought it.
Write It Up
(20-minute writing experience)
Katherine: Twenty minutes later — this pen is great if I feel like printing, but my cursive is far too small for this pen. For printing though, it’s a solid feeling pen (I could imagine it hurting if I threw it at someone) but I prefer slightly lighter pens when I’m holding a pen at this size. Not bad, but not my favorite.
Pam: I would have to write LARGE with this pen so that my handwriting doesn’t become a blobby mess. The nib and the pen would have been perfect for a long writing session, however, the aesthetics of my handwriting was bothering me. I can’t keep keep writing that large! The cartridge/converter has a decent ink capacity, but, I have to write so large. And the nib is so wet… I can’t imagine using this pen at work on the crappy office paper.
Franz: I used the Stargazer with its cap posted during the full twenty minutes. And even though the weight, and size was quite comfortable, I felt my hand cramp up a little bit. I think that was the first time I wrote with this pen for an extended period of time.
Katherine: As previously mentioned, I find this pen a little heavy… which turns into it feeling “slippery” as an EDC. A little too small for how heavy it is. But, when it comes down to use, the slip cap is very convenient. But, the wetness made it hard for me to use as an EDC (my little letter-shaped puddles) didn’t dry in time to close my notebook! The long and the short of it is this wouldn’t be my preferred EDC pen. But it wouldn’t be terrible.
Pam: With the slip cap, elegant design and an extra fine nib, it would be a great addition to any jacket, lab coat or writing arsenal. It’s quick to deploy and you would definitely notice the pen in your pocket. Given my recent lost of my beloved Vanishing Point, I can really appreciate that aspect.
Franz: When I bought this pen, I intended to use it for work daily. With the pull cap design, and nice nib, it worked well for me. Unlike Pam, writing on copy paper wasn’t too bad. There was definitely showthrough and some spots that bled into the back, but it was acceptable.
When I went on vacation for 9 days, I always had the Stargazer clipped onto either my shirt pocket, or jeans pocket. I think this is a good Every Day Carry pen at work or when you’re just out and about.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Katherine: As mentioned, it’s a surprisingly heavy and solid feeling pen for how small it is. That being said, I find it a little too heavy for the size — I prefer the feel of the Prera, which is a much lighter pen. This is a pen I wouldn’t purchase for myself or for a friend, unless they were specifically looking for a pocket-friendly pen. It’s a refined looking pen, but it’s a little too heavy and a little too wet.
Pam: This is a pen that I felt was a suitable gift for my friend’s 30th birthday to introduce her to fountain pens. It’s a beautiful, elegant and worth pen for anyone looking for an “upgrade” to the Prera, or as a first gold nib pen if you enjoy the added weight due to the brass body.
Franz: As Pam said, the Pilot Stargazer is a beautiful pen to give as a gift, even if it’s just for yourself. I love the look of this pen and the feel in my hands.
There are two things that may be a negative about this pen. The girth is just a little too thin for me which is probably what caused my hand to cramp. Next, the price of this pen is in the higher range and on par with a few larger pens like the Pilot Vanishing Point, the Pilot Custom 74, and the Lamy 2000. With that said, I do not regret getting this pen.
If you like small pens and a slip cap design, check this pen out.
A philosopher once asked, “Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?” Pointless, really…”Do the stars gaze back?” Now, that’s a question.
It has been about a month since the launch of our blog! It’s high time that we introduce ourselves a little bit more and get to know you all, our awesome readers.
What do you do and how does that affect your pen choices?
Katherine: I work at Sift Science as a Solutions Engineer and team lead. I work pretty closely with many of our customers, so I’m constantly on the phone, in and out of meetings and generally running around. As a result I tend to carry a notebook and prefer pens I can get to easily (not looooong unscrews) so I can jot down quick notes easily. My office is pretty close to paper free, so I bring my own notebooks to work (currently a Travelers Notebook and a Nanami Sevenseas Crossfield) and, of course, supply my own pens and ink.
Franz: I work in a bank as a customer service manager. I am that person who goes around the office to meet a client, or assist a co-worker. And the job requires me to be able to jot down notes or sign my name multiple times in one day. Before I got into fountain pens, I used to be that guy who kept on asking, “Do you have a pen?”. Now, I have a backup pen (or two) just in case I left my main pen of the day on my desk.
As for pen choices, as long as it is comfortable, the cap doesn’t take forever to unscrew, and it writes okay on cr-opy paper. I tend to choose either fine, or medium nibs on my pens as a compromise between Tomoe River paper for personal use and the copy paper used at work.
P.S. Now, I am that guy who tries to spread the joys of writing with a fountain pen (Penvangelism).
Pam: I am a pharmacist at a hospital. I work both in the pharmacy itself and on the patient units. At work, I have been called the “pen pusher.” I have introduced Jetstreams and Pentel Energels to my colleagues in the hospital. Sadly, our supply closet is still filled with generic, gummy, ballpoints.
The only paper available is cheap copier paper. Luckily, I really enjoy EF and F nibs. They work pretty well on the cheap paper and I prefer pens that are really fast to deploy for quick notes given how healthcare can go from 0 to 60 in a couple second flat. A finer and stiff (steel) nib really helps keep my lines consistent due to my small handwriting as well.
What was your first fountain pen?
Katherine: Ha. I had a cheap, bright yellow Sheaffer as a kid. I was about 9 when my mom got it for me, complete with a bottle of Skrip blue with the old-style side pocket to make filling easier. I loved the pen, but generally made a mess. Fast forward many, many years and I rediscovered fountain pens by buying a Pilot Metropolitan off Massdrop. It’s hard to believe, but I bought my Metro and a bottle of Noodler’s HoD because it was CHEAPER than the number of gel pens I was going through.
Franz: It was an onyx Cross Aventura with a medium nib and I still have it. As I wrote with it, I found that the writing was too bold and that it almost bled through the paper. I was a little bit turned off at first but I think I loved the idea of writing with a fountain pen more so I kept on it.
I later found out (probably the next day) that there are different types of paper and more fountain pen friendly paper exists, I also found that writing with a fountain pen does not require bearing down on the pen with pressure like I would on ballpoints. And so the pen addiction began.
Pam: A green/grey Kakuno, F nib (of course). That was soon followed by the Pilot Petit and the Metropolitan.
How do you carry your fountain pens?
Katherine: I typically carry mine in either a zip pouch from Franklin-Christoph or a three-pen sleeve I made out of a piece of fleece. The former gives me more flexibility with pen sizes (it fits ALL of my pens). The latter gives me more protection from leaks, and if I want to bring multiple pens, stops them from rubbing together. Sometimes I’m lazy and just clip my pen to the inside of my notebook and throw it in my backpack… but I’m pretty sure this is how I end up losing a pen and try not to do it too often.
Franz: It has been a while now since I’ve been using a 4 pen leather case to carry my pens to work. I got this from the Andersons’ table at the 2014 LA pen show. This is my go to case and it’s just perfect for me.
More recently though, I’ve been slinging a bag that contains the 4 pen leather case, and a Nock Co. Sinclair. Also in the bag are a couple notebooks, and a planner. I guess I went from carrying four pens to ten (or more). Don’t judge… ;-P
Pam: I have been using the Lihit Lab Smart Fit Actact Open Wide pen case. I also keep pens with my Hobonichi Weeks and Hobonichi Cousin. Interestingly, I have been carrying more pens since meeting Franz and Katherine. Interesting indeed…
Dear reader, answer us this, what was your first fountain pen?
Franz: If I am not mistaken, the TWSBI Eco fountain pen has been in the works since 2013. Fast forward to late 2015, I held an Eco with the black cap and piston turning knob. The pen looked cool and reminded me of the TWSBI mini I had. Actually, the Eco’s nib size is the same as the mini. I really like the design of this pen but for some reason, I never got myself to purchase one.
Pam’s Eco in the clear version is very nice as well. As seen in the photos, it is a piston-filler pen and the capacity is very nice. I really love seeing ink sloshing in the pen as I use it. I’m sure that this is not the first time this was said about certain demonstrator pens but I wish that the plastic liner in the cap was transparent.
Pam: I have had a TWSBI before. The TWSBI Diamond mini with a fine nib was lackluster to me so I gave it to a colleague who would appreciate it better than I could. Nonetheless, I was really curious when I saw the TWSBI Eco. I was very excited when TWSBI released the clear “demonstrator” version of the Eco. It was well worth the wait for this version than the colored versions in my opinion. Given the reasonable price for the look and a decent nib, which I was able to test out at a SF pen posse meet up, I took another leap of faith and bought the pen from Goulet Pens.
The plastic feels better than the plastic from the TWSBI Diamond mini and from what I have heard, less prone to the “defects” of the previous TWSBI models. Unlike other models, the Eco is a piston filler with a friction fit nib. So the nib units from the 580 or diamond mini are not compatible with the Eco
The length is longer than my preferred length, especially posted, but the plastic is light enough that it’s not crazy bothersome. When capping the pen, the plastic-y sound is pretty satisfying and it’s very smooth with each turn. My only complaint for the Eco is that there is only a rubber ring to secure the cap when posting to the back of the pen. It is a cheap but effective way to secure the cap when posting, but it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing and also results in the cap not posting very deeply, leading to a slight imbalance.
Katherine: I love the way this pen looks! I know this isn’t technically a demonstrator, but everyone seems to use the term to mean “pen you can see the insides of”, so I’ll keep doing that. I love demonstrators, and this is a clean looking demonstrator without breaking the bank. My one nit is that the translucent white liner inside the cap is visible — but it is a pen after all, gotta be functional!
The Business End
Franz: From prior TWSBI pens I have owned, their nibs have never been a disappointment for me. This is the first time I’ve written with an extra fine from their lineup and this was no exception. It wrote smoothly and the feedback felt nice. I used the Eco for two weeks and I have not had any negative issues with the nib as it just wrote as it should.
Pam: I wasn’t impressed by my experience with other TWSBI nibs, as they were not the Japanese EF or F that I was looking for. Maybe my taste in nibs are changing, but I find the EF nib on this TWSBI to be a wonderful nib right out the box. It’s more of a Japanese F which works out just fine with me. Inking it up with Franz’s stash of Bungbox Sapphire, the pen provides just enough wetness and line width to enjoy the color and sheen of the ink. I found the nib smooth and really enjoyable to use. I even considered using this nib and feed unit in a custom pen because the pen itself is too long, but I find myself wanting to use the nib more and more.
The nib and ink combination does wonderfully in my Hobonichi and great on Midori paper, however, it feathers on cheap paper.
Katherine: This is a very solid nib on a cheap pen. If I bought the Eco as my first pen (instead I got a Metro), I’m not sure I would have ever ventured out to other pens. It’s a very comfortable, smooth and wet nib on an affordable pen. I’d compare it to my Metro’s Fine in terms of line width — pretty fine, but not the Extra Fine I’d expect from a Japanese pen (which makes sense, since this pen isn’t Japanese…).
Write It Up
(20-minute writing experience)
Franz: I wrote very comfortably with the Eco posted for the first ten minutes, and unposted the next ten minutes. Because of the pleasant nib, and the abundant length of the pen, I did not experience any hand cramps or fatigue. This is a great pen to use for my journal time. If I were to choose, I’d write with the pen unposted because the balance seems better.
Pam: Unsurprisingly, I find the length of the Eco to be too long for me, especially posted. The balance isn’t perfect in my tiny hands, however, maybe if the cap posted deeper? Unposted, the pen is an okay length, but still not ideal. Not to mention, I prefer posting my pens, especially at work, given how easy it is for me to forget anything that isn’t already attached to me. (Just ask my keys, wallet, thermos, other non-fountain pens, etc.)
Overall, the writing experience is comfortable as the plastic is light. In my iron grip, the width of the pen is great. Again, the nib is the best part of the pen and the piston filler filled with ink is beautiful to behold when you are not using the pen.
Katherine: The Eco is a little large for me posted, so I wrote with it unposted. Overall, a comfortable and solid pen. It puts down a fine, wet line that makes it quite comfortable to use, even with more “interesting” inks that sheen. I would have no qualms about this being a pen in my regular journaling or letter writing rotation. An added perk is that it’s fun to watch the ink slosh around and settle as I think about what to write next.
Franz: At work, this pen came in handy as the extra fine nib was actually nice to write on the copy paper we use. Unlike the two ladies, unscrewing the cap did not bother me at all. This may be due to my daily use of a Pelikan M805 at work for the past three years. When a pen uncaps in less than one and a half turn, I am actually pretty happy with it. I actually can see myself use this pen on a daily basis.
Pam: The Eco has been clipped to the pen loop of my Hobonichi specifically for both quick deployment as well as the longer journaling/planning sessions. The cap is on securely enough that I don’t worry about the pen and planner getting tossed around in my backpack. The plastic isn’t the best material to get scratched up, especially if you enjoy watching the ink slosh around without distracting scratches or scuffs. No scratches on this puppy yet, but I wouldn’t chance it by throwing this pen into the same pocket as my house keys.
It is inconvenient for me to use the pen at work due to having to screw the cap on and off. And given that the nib and ink has been feathering, it’s less than ideal for work. This is a great beginner fountain pen and planner companion.
Katherine: I like the Eco at work because it has an easy to see ink capacity (big plus so I don’t run out of ink partway through a meeting before… it’s happened before), it’s cheap (I’ve never lost a pen, but there could be a first!) and it’s comfortable to write with. The one downside is that the cap takes more turns than I’d like to unscrew. As I’ve mentioned before, I tend to be pretty stop-and-go with my note taking at work, so being able to quickly uncap and cap a pen is a big plus for me.
Final Grip-ping Impressions
Franz: The TWSBI Eco is a nice pen with great, great value. I do recommend this pen for anyone who likes the pen size, and is looking for a large ink capacity. The Eco just writes and there’s really no frills to it. Okay, maybe aside from watching the ink sloshing in the pen. hehehe…
Would I recommend this as a first fountain pen for newbies? I would probably recommend it to be a second or third pen to own. When I started, I got a cartridge/converter as a first fountain pen and I appreciated the fact that I can just insert the supplied cartridge and write. It took me a couple weeks to buy my first ink bottle (Waterman’s Serenity Blue) and filled up my converter with it.
Anyway, I am quite impressed by the TWSBI Eco and I’ll probably purchase one. I just need to decide between the clear or the black version of this pen. Thanks Pam!
Pam: Katherine has a self imposed 15 pen limit where as the Eco convinced me to have a “beginner pen” collection. It’s also my excuse to keep the TWSBI Eco. (There goes those rationalizations again…) This will be, of course, in addition to my “completed” grail pen collection.
I enjoyed the Metropolitan and the Safari, but in terms of performance and aesthetics the Eco is my favorite of the three. A $29 piston filler with such good steel nib beats the Lamy Vista by miles. The comfort and EDC-ness of the Eco has the Metopolitan beat hands down. TWSBI really did hit it out of the park with the Eco. I have finally been converted to a TWSBI fan!
Maybe this nib should go into a custom pen body after all… it’s just too much fun!
Katherine: As previously mentioned, if the Eco was my first fountain pen I may have not ventured further into the world of fountain pens. But, it wasn’t, so instead I’m here blogging… Back to the Eco — it’s a very solid and nice pen for the money. The writing experience doesn’t have a lot of character, but it’s a great workhorse pen. For this review, I borrowed Pam’s Eco, but I’m seriously considering purchasing my own. In the end though, it’s not a pen with a lot of character so I’m not willing to “cut” another pen for it.