So a few months ago I started an experiment to really see which pens I actually use. You can hit that previous post to find out where I started, I myself just reread it as I start this, the end of the experiment. I had initially predicted that a few more pens would find their way out of my big pen chest and into my little “keep” collection.
In the end only two pens made the trip from the big cabinet to the little exclusive cabinet. Not surprisingly, both were Pelikans. One should have been there all along, the other, well you’ll see. On the whole though, I’d so completely forgotten what I even had in that pen chest that when I went to look I found only one pen sort of niggled when I thought of getting rid of it, my old Pelikan P1 (just because they are so dang practical and pleasant to use.) It has been more than six months and I haven’t even once wanted to reach out beyond the project pens. In fact, I haven’t even used all the project pens. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Here’s what I learned in the last six months.
1. I don’t actually care about collecting at all. In fact the longer I went with that minimal pen chest the fewer and fewer pens I used. In the last three months I haven’t swapped pens at all, I’ve happily kept using the same four pens. It helps that two of the four currently inked are custom eyedroppers that hold about half a bottle each. This minimizes the opportunity to swap pens. But I just found my needs being met by what I had to hand. I’m still on pen boards, I still watch reviews and listen to pen podcasts, though mostly because I like the people. All sorts of fun things have gone past me on eBay and I’ve found myself with no desire to add another Pelikan or Montblanc (shocking). The fact that I don’t have all the M200 demonstrators doesn’t actually bother me. I’ve got just two of my Platinum 3776 collection in this experiment and I’d totally forgotten about the others before I opened that drawer, a new one has been released for that line and I truly don’t have any desire to buy it, I wouldn’t use it.
2. I have a variety of nib needs, but I can make just about anything work. This one was interesting as I’ve got just about every nib you can imagine in my whole collection. From an antique flex music nib, to a Japanese extra fine nail. But I really just don’t need more than one of any of those, and I don’t need any that are just plain ole M. I find myself always wanting something fine inked for my planner, something flexi inked for my soul, and a good oblique italic for long writing sessions (the most comfortable for me and produces the most readable handwriting). Those bases can be covered in three pens if needed and this is great for helping me decide what gets inked on any particular day. It also makes very clear what pens I might consider ever adding to the collection in the future, not much point adding something that doesn’t fall into those three categories as I never use anything else, nib wise.
3. I must find a pen beautiful as well as practical in order to use it. Practical doesn’t just mean it has to write and write well (though that totally a requirement), it also means that if I hate the filling system, I’ll never ink the pen. If I find it ugly, no matter how good the nib is, I just won’t use it. If the nib is meh, but the pen is gorgeous, I just won’t use it. There’s no point in buying a drop dead gorgeous pen with a nib you don’t like. And interestingly, there’s no point in having a nib I adore in a pen I hate.
4. Which brings us to: there is nothing wrong with making a pen/nib work for you. My example here is my antique music nib, at experiment start it was housed in a pen body (Waterman 94) that I abhorred (you may call me weird, but I hate lever fillers and I found the silver/red material not actually pretty at all and it never felt right in the hand). That amazing, stunning nib and I never used it. Not once. But the body was accurate. It was antique! There are those who care more about accuracy than anything else. Often they are collectors who would have set the nib in an accurate pen body and been happy to never use such a valuable piece again. This is fine if you are a collector. There is nothing wrong with being a collector. But if you are not a collector (and I’m not) there is also nothing wrong with making your pen work for you. For me that meant having a pen body that would sing for me, made specially for the nib. And boy does it ever sing.
This brings me to:
5. Some of the pens in my current experiment collection probably need to go. Not because they aren’t great pens, but because they don’t fit all of what matters to me. There is an Omas with a very nice nib and a boring, boring black body (I have a lot of black pens). It’s spot should be given to the Omas I really want. (Once of course I raise the funds to buy such a pen.) Or the decapod Nakaya, whose nib I also love, but whose body is just not to my taste. These pens hold niches that I don’t want to completely change, but that I do want to perfect. That Nakaya? It’ll get sold to raise money for the Nakaya I really want, most likely with the same very enjoyable nib.
So the real question is: did it work? If the goal was to reduce the number of pens I want to own, yes it worked. But I think that’s the least important thing to come out of this. What I think (for me) matters is that over the course of the last seven or so months I have become far more intentional about the tools I use in my life. I have become more aware of the choices I make, of what does and doesn’t work for me. I have been able to define for myself what my values are when it comes to buying analog tools (which pens most certainly are).
I value artistry, I value function, I value beauty, and I value a relationship with those who have made my pens. It’s no accident that 2/3 pens I paid money for this year were designed in conjunction with a custom fountain pen artist and hand made by them (one included a collaboration with a jeweler as well!). I would rather own 10 works of art with deep meaning and stories behind them, than 100 pens of whatever description you like. In this way, this experiment has been a grand success. And now comes the freedom to find new homes for all those pens I have discovered I just don’t need in my life.
Drumroll please! Here’s the current roll call!
(Images are in no particular order and neither is the list below.)
- Nakaya custom “Gin nami” with OBB cursive italic nib – Got used quite a bit and in fact just rotated out. She is never going anywhere.
- Pilot Vanishing Point Raden with fine nib – This pen tends to be my planner pen. Despite the raden it feels solid and tough and I have no worries about sticking it in my planner’s pen loop and dropping it into my purse. (You may cringe now.)
- Platinum 3776 Koi (celluloid) with extra fine nib – Not used during the experiment, but that extra fine nib is too good, and the material too beautiful to let go.
- Platinum 3776 Chartres with B oblique cursive italic – Because the nib was made super yummy by Pendleton and I am a sucker for blue pens. A sucker I tell you.
- Visconti Opera Elements Air with Pendleton Brown Butter-line Stub – How could you not love this one? It has been inked almost continually during this experiment, most recently with a wonderful new shimmer ink that matches it perfectly.
- Omas Art Italiana Deco (black) with B Titanium nib – I love Omas, this one is pretty but I didn’t use it and I likely won’t. It just doesn’t wow. I really want its place to be taken by one of the amazing Arco patterned Omas, preferably with an extra flessible nib. However those are becoming like hen’s teeth to find.
- Pelikan M400 White Tortoise (F nib) – If I could own only one Pelikan here she be. This one saw use, though the F nib is a bit big for a true F and may get ground down if I can ever get to a pen show.
- Pelikan M600 Marine Blue with stub nib – Not used during this experiment but was a grail pen for me.
- Pelikan M200 Clear Demo – I couldn’t get by without a clear demonstrator, that’s just not me. So this one got swapped in from the big pen chest! And is currently sloshing about with shimmer ink in the barrel!
- Pelikan M200 Special Edition Cream Cafe – During the experiment I got a Gillio Dark Brown and Cream ringed planner which matches this pen so perfectly I couldn’t help but rescue it from the main collection. It got inked with a lovely brown ink and used with that planner until the seasons changed.
- Montblanc 146 (1980s) with medium nib – Also not used during this experiment but far too solid a writer to part with.
- Montblanc 144 (1950s) with flexible BB steel nib – Another favorite that didn’t see use because of the heavy rotation of the pens already mentioned and two new pens that were added. But a rare and special pen that I will certainly use in the future.
- Montblanc 244 (1950s) with OBB nib – Perhaps the most delicious Montblanc nib I have ever used. This pen has a permanent home here.
- Matador 334 1/4 with OB steel full flex nib – The best flex nib, hands down, that I have ever owned. Do not let anyone tell you that “steel nibs are crap.” This one will out flex everything but your Waterman 52 wet noodle which it will match flex for flex, and it will do it backed up by a lovely piston filling system. When my flex music nib runs out of ink this will take its place in the rotation.
- Edison Pens Mina – I’m not sure how this one got left out of the original post, ah no, I remember now. When this experiment started this pen was AWOL. It was eventually found under a cabinet where a certain furry ninja had hidden it from me. This was my first custom pen, a gift from my husband and will always have a place in the chest. It was not used during this time, again, see the cat incident.
- Custom Scriptorium Pens – (Commissioned before the project started, arrived well into the project, has been inked ever since.) It doesn’t get more custom than this one folks. Click the link for the full review, but the material was custom made by one fabulous artist, the roll stopper was made by a custom jeweler, and the pen itself was custom made by Renee. The nibs it takes (Pelikan M600 and smaller) are all custom ground by a host of nib meisters. Take that faceless factory pens!
- Nakaya Decapod – I traded for this pen after the project had begun using a pen that hadn’t made the cut. I love the nib, but the body just doesn’t do it for me. I’m not a fan of clips on Nakaya pens (I don’t use clips so prefer roll stoppers or other means of keeping a pen stable), the shape is too blunt for me, and the color isn’t my preference. This one will be sold and hopefully it’s spot will be taken by a Nakaya yet to be named…
- Newton Pens Shinobi with Antique Flexible Music Nib – There’s a mouthful. And the pen is a handful. This was commissioned after the project began when I had my “you can make the pen/nib work for you” epiphany. It love it and it will be going nowhere.
- Visconti Van Gough Tortoise – Random, unplanned, addition. This pen showed up, mislabeled, in a random eBay search. I got it for a song. I’m not yet sure if it’s staying. It is very, very pretty and the nib is very pleasant if a little boring. If it stays it will likely go to a pen show and get spruced up a bit in the nib department, something sexy like an oblique italic.
And that my friends is my current pen collection. I’ll begin selling off the rest over the next few months and use the funds for hopefully two long time grail pens. Beyond those two, however, I have no real desires to acquire more pens. In the planner world they call this finding “planner peace,” and I think it applies here. I’ve got Fountain Pen Peace and it’s a good thing.