State of the Horde

State of the Hordefeatured

I probably have a similar story to many who fall down the rabbit hole of fountain pen geekery. You start small, maybe with one pen, but then you want to try something else, and something else… Perhaps you start with 20 cheap Chinese fountain pens and, out of necessity, learn to fiddle. Perhaps you run into a fellow enthusiast and get to try his vintage pen and that leads you down a whole other rabbit hole and into the dark abyss that is eBay.

Eventually you read reviews, you land on sites like this, you find forums where people spend all day talking about pens and inks, debating their merits, talking about the rare pens they are seeking to fill a hole in their collection. You perhaps start collecting too. Your budget grows, your tastes change.

One day you have a whole cabinet filled with pens. And then, if you are me, you realize that you have perhaps ten pens you use frequently and love deeply and the rest you look at from time to time when you open the drawer to reach for that favorite pen yet again. A few years ago I purchased a lovely wooden tool chest, that with pen trays added was the perfect storage for my pen collection, and it held a lot of pens. Even then, not all my pens fit in the cabinet, so I bought a 36 pen zip case. Still, with a good fifty pens (ok maybe more) in my collection, I found myself using the same pens, over and over again.

First I sorted out the pens I never used and would not miss. Those went into my 36 pen folio and I began selling them to finance the two pens you’ll see were added to this experiment mid stream. So I began an experiment. I bought a Wolf Meridian Drawer Valet through Massdrop for a pretty good solid discount. The valet has two drawers. The bottom is a pen drawer with a built in pen tray and a drop in tray that sits on top of it, giving you two layers of pen storage. The valet itself needs its own post, but that will have to wait. For this experiment I placed the pens that I use the most and enjoy the most in the Wolf. I put the wolf on my desk where it would be immediately to hand. I ended up with 12 pens, not even filling all the room in that double drawer (it holds 24 pens total). I’ve since added two more pens to that number, both acquired since the start of this experiment (though one was commissioned before it began.) For the next six months I planned to use only the pens in the Wolf, the rest of the collection would rest (though I could freely swap nibs in my Pelikans and custom pen, one can never have too many nibs). When those six months were over, any pens I hadn’t missed would need to find another home.

Why am I doing this? Because I have finally realized that I am not a collector. The pen that solidified this for me was a pen that should have been the pinnacle of my collection, that should have been a grail pen. I was relieved to finally trade it away a few weeks ago. Early on I decided I loved Pelikan tortoises. I decided I wanted to collect every tortoise they’d ever made (I was spending a lot of time with “completionist” collectors.) I made good progress, accumulating quite a large number of the various tortoise models, finally finding a Pelikan 100 tortoise, the original. The 100s are beautiful, rare old pens; expensive and amazing. I wanted one for a very long time, and then… I found I had no interest in using the thing once I owned it. I just didn’t like it that much. And I realized that in the last year I’d used just one of my extensive Pelikan tortoise collection. That pen I used over and over again; some of the others I’d bought and never inked. It dawned on me that, unlike my friends, I wasn’t a collector and I didn’t need to own every tortoise Pelikan, I just needed to own the one I loved to use.

The experiment began with these pens:

  • Nakaya custom “Gin nami” with OBB cursive italic nib.
  • Pilot Vanishing Point Raden with fine nib
  • Platinum 3776 Koi (celluloid) with extra fine nib
  • Platinum 3776 Chartres with B oblique cursive italic
  • Visconti Opera Elements Air with Pendleton Brown Butter-line Stub
  • Omas Art Italiana Deco (black) with B Titanium nib
  • Pelikan M400 White Tortoise (F nib)
  • Pelikan M600 Marine Blue with stub nib
  • Montblanc 146 (1980s) with medium nib
  • Montblanc 144 (1950s) with flexible BB steel nib
  • Montblanc 244 (1950s) with OBB nib
  • Matador 334 1/4 with OB steel full flex nib

To that was added:

  • Nakaya Decapod with SF elastic nib
  • Custom Scriptorium Pens eyedropper (that takes 400 and 600 size Pelikan nib units)

Today I’m roughly halfway through this little experiment, it will end sometime in November, whenever I really feel I’ve come to an understanding about how I use my pens. I suspect that a few more of the pens currently in storage will make their way onto my desk and into the little Wolf. I have found myself hugely content with my little batch of 14 pens. I love that they are so easily to hand, and that any pen I reach in and pick up to ink will be not just “ok” but delightful.

So what about you? Are you a collector, a user, both? How do you manage your pen collection?

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