“But why do you have so many pens,” the 2016 edition.

I used to write a lot. Then I wrote on occasion. Then I wrote only when needed. The number of pens I have has nothing to do with the number of words I commit to paper.


This doesn’t stop me, however, from accumulating more pens, for many reasons that have almost nothing to do with writing.


(Top to bottom: Kaweco Dia, Wrico lettering pen, Montblanc 334 1/2, Parker VS, double-ended poster pen, Mabie Todd Blackbird, Pelikan 100N.)

Story and History

I don’t have a collecting focus, the way others do, but I find much delight in the careful use of a tool manufactured before my grandparents were born. I say “careful” because even a Timelord would have difficulty duplicating a vintage pen. There are those who fixate on “vintage flex” – and they are correct in their obsession, because no modern nib can approximate the touch of a vintage nib, at once delicate and resilient. But flexing the nib on every single downstroke accelerates the formation of cracks and the nib’s demise. The penmen of their day used steel nibs to achieve the faintest hairlines (sans iridium tipping) and the broadest swells, and made sure they had a steady supply, crucial to their work.

When a pen with its own history comes into my hands, it becomes part of mine. A morning’s stroll through a flea market turned up a Parker VS in an attractive dove grey, with an oblique 18k nib to boot. A Google search result somehow led me down the black hole of lettering pens, and I became the Mad Wrico Buyer on eBay, trying to haul all of them home. (I do use them, you know.)


(L-R: Pilot Falcon SEF, Conid Minimalistica, TWSBI Eco, Ranga with G nib, Newton Pens Prospector with self-supplied fude nib, Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 with aluminum section.)


Not all the pens can come out and play all the time. These do get more use. The SEF nib is almost like getting a needlepoint without having to ask someone to grind one for you. The Minimalistica is permanently loaded with Platinum Carbon Black. I liked it so much I bought two other Conid pens, both pre-loved, both bulkfillers. (And that, dear reader, is how you end up with a collection without any conscious intent.)

Conid, Conid, Conid

The TWSBI Eco has a 1.1 mm nib and is currently loaded with KWZ IG Green-Gold (KWZ and other amazing inks are available online from Vanness).

I have many Rangas modded for G nibs in rotation, and you can mod yours with caution. The Prospector is a surprising choice for a workhorse, but it is. The shape is comfortable, and the fude nib I have in it is so wide it can double as a highlighter.  If you have a nib you’re super happy with in a so-so body, why don’t you ask Shawn Newton to make you a new home for that nib?

The F-C Pocket 66 has a needlepoint nib and often accompanies my Hobonichi Techo.

I need to make special mention of TWSBI, which is locally available at Scribe Writing Essentials and is my go-to pen for ink testing. Behold:

all the TWSBIs

The Vac Minis have been testers for De Atramentis Document Inks and Rohrer & Klinger Dokumentus since May 2016. (I highly recommend Dokumentus in Brown for those who work with ink and watercolor.)


(L-R: Nakaya Long Piccolo nuno kise hon kataji, Nakaya Sumiko Skull, Waterman Serenité in Cocobolo, Pelikan M1000 Sunrise Raden.)

grail pens

I wrote about my Serenité quest some time back, and the Nakaya Sumiko Skull. The Nakaya is a more recent acquisition, in a finish that I’ve always admired. The Pelikan, I must admit, was a surprise. The combination of red and raden is audacious. (Perhaps there is an element of audacity in the pens we admire the most.)

Death and Sumiko Skull
Death and the Nakaya
Pelikan Sunrise Raden and antique agate seal
Pelikan Sunrise Raden and antique agate seal


(L-R: Two pens by Stylo Art Karuizawa, Platinum Izumo Kurikara-Ken, Bruno Corsini casein with snake stopper, Sailor Zuisei 105th anniversary. Platinum and Sailor from Aesthetic Bay. Hoarder pencase by thefozzybook, available at Common Room.)

Material and craft

Sometimes your eyes just want pretty.

The raden, urushi, and eggshell art on the Stylo Art pens makes me want to squeal with happiness every time I use them. The Bruno Corsini has yet to be inked, because casein and I are not on speaking terms at the moment. The Platinum Izumo is my third Izumo, and I appreciate the combination of materials and techniques that went into executing such an ambitious pen. The blue ebonite on the Sailor is both subtle and striking.

More goodness in material and technique, from L-R: Kanilea Pen Company Maui Makai, Nakaya izumi no kami kanesada (a 2015 acquisition), Pilot Heritage 912s with custom maki-e work by Katsunobu Nishihara thanks to Mike Masuyama, Parker 51 with maki-e by Ernest Shin, Omas Arte Italiana Titanium LE with rose gold trim. The white pen wrap is made by Staedtler, and I don’t use it because I can’t even wear a white top without getting ink on it. A white pen wrap is the equivalent of running towards a velociraptor with arms waving.

More materials and techniques


There is a premium on Omas pens now that they’ve ceased production. Many Omas fans appreciate the signature celluloids: Bronze Arco, Arco Verde, Saft Green. My favorite Omas pens come from the 50s: the Extra 556/S, the VS, and the 361. The 361 sports a two-way nib: it can be both stiff fine and fine flexible. This was an innovation at a time when the Parker 51 was redefining the market, right before the Ballpoint Age.

Omas 361

Another novel nib that came my way this year was a 14k Pelikan 3B (triple broad). Suddenly my M800 Grand Place had a reason to stay.

Pelikan 3B nib

Doc Kram (Mark del Rosario)’s experimental nib with what he calls a shiro cut is still going strong. I use it so often it barely qualifies as novel. He really should hurry up and make more of them. (Nudge, nudge.)

Shiro cut


Jessica Chan’s Wink Pen took a little long fulfilling its original Kickstarter schedule. She encountered manufacturing issues, but persevered. I appreciate both the effort and the result. (I’ve been thinking about filing the nib to a shape I’m more used to, which is something I used to do to my other glass nibs when they chipped.)

Wink Pen

Not fountain pens, but Dreaming Dogs out of Brazil were, to me, the best-designed crowdfunded pen of 2016. The Layla is my favorite, but they’re all sensational. Video below from their YouTube channel:

I thought this was a fitting image, because with a little luck, dreams do turn into pens.

Dream and Dreaming Dogs
Dream and Dreaming Dogs

If you think of other reasons, let me know so I can borrow them. 😉