Everyone loves a love story, right? Well this one is a dual love story, it’s the story of a pen, and the story of the human who bought it for me. But we should probably back up a bit. Not long after I got into fountain pens I discovered fountain pen message boards and with them fountain pen people. And it was through people like Leigh Reyes that I discovered the rabbit hole was oh so much deeper than I’d ever expected. In short: I was introduced to the Nakaya pen brand. I was struck by the artistry and beauty of the hand turned, hand lacquered pens. I was also pretty struck by the price.
One of their line in particular caught my eye from the very start, it was made with raden (tiny bits of mother of pearl embedded into the lacquer) and the design twisted around the pen body like the milky way. I fell in love with it. First, because shells and I have a very special connection, I’ve always collected them since I was a tiny girl filling my pockets to bursting every time we went near the water. These days I try to bring back just a handful of shells from wherever we’ve traveled, but still they overflow across my little home altar, a mixed up lyrical beach. I also grew up out in the country, where the milky way was rich and vivid every night without the sorrows of light pollution. Since adulthood I’ve lived the majority of my life in cities and I miss the Milky Way, I miss the ability to glance up into the darkness and feel as if you are about to fall off the surface of the world and into infinity. The pen called to me.
Years into the fountain pen hobby I have other Nakaya, through trade or careful saving, but that “Galaxy” pen remained out of reach, too expensive certainly to spend on myself.
This Christmas, at the tail end of my great “pen experiment” my husband asked the question he dreads every year: what do you want for Christmas? Mostly he dreads it because I can never answer it well. Often all I say is a helpless “please don’t get me anything practical.” There just isn’t that much I want or need at this point in my life. This year I sent him a link to that particular Nakaya, because there was one in stock at Nibs.com. And in no surprise to anyone he asked for a few more ideas, as that was a bit more expensive than he could quite fathom spending on a pen (this is the man who thinks a Pilot G2 is really all any person needs when they must write instead of use a keyboard). I came up blank and he said not to worry, he’d come up with something great!
By Christmas morning I was utterly convinced that there would be no Nakaya under the tree, I was disappointed, but not surprised. Here I should say that my husband is a creative and incredibly devoted man, and he’s good at gift giving. He’s not the least intimidated by a jewelry store and has more than once surprised me out of the blue with some incredible treasure.
We opened presents. A solid state portable drive (did I mention he’s a geek), perfume, an adorably nerdy t-shirt that made me laugh, but after it was all done I saw the twinkle in his eye and he began theatrically looking around and scratching his head. There was, somewhere he said, another box. He knew he’d wrapped it, where could it be… And out he pulled, hidden away where no one had noticed it, a very familiarly shaped box.
I suspect my heart stopped for just a second. I tore the paper off. I might have screamed, or shrieked. I know I jumped up and down. I may have hugged an inanimate object. (And yes, I totally kissed the man responsible!)
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The shape of the pen is familiar to me, Nakaya’s Naka-ai (it was designed with John Mottishaw and I believe is sold exclusively through nibs.com). My ultra custom Scriptorium Pens creation was modeled on this body shape. It’s long enough to give one the lovely balance and grace of a desk pen, but just short enough to still fit into a portable pen wrap. (None of my leather pen cases are long enough for it, but it works well in a wrap.) The balance is superb. This pen cannot be posted, but since I never post any pen that’s not an issue for me. It rests perfectly against the webbing between my thumb and forefinger, light and responsive. The urushi as always feels divine, smooth as silk but warming almost immediately in the hand until the pen seems to become an extension of your own body, warm and alive.
The nib was ground by Mr. Mottishaw, who by now knows me and my very quirky grip enough that he knew just how to grind my favorite angle of oblique cursive italic out of a soft-medium nib. Apparently there was some head shaking and a warning that for anyone else he’d say it was a bad, bad combination, soft and oblique italic. But he’d modeled my first pen grind off a beautifully flexible antique Pelikan factory oblique and knew I knew how to drive such a persnickety vehicle. (Note: that antique nib is heaven and is the best nib ever made, hands down and I’ll fight you over that.) Nakaya’s soft nibs are not flex nibs.They aren’t even semi-flex. But they give a lovely soft and giving feel to your writing that Nakaya’s regular nail like gold nibs just can’t provide. Since I adore soft antique nibs this one is a perfect match.
In the great Fountain Pen Experiment this pen takes the place of the decapod that never really grabbed my heart. That will be sold or traded on for someone else to enjoy.
It goes without saying (though I’m saying it) that the galaxy is beautiful. Every chip of mother of pearl hand set just so. It is unique even among others of the same design. And as you write the little bits of shell wink and flicker in the light. It does indeed remind me of stars, of the great milk spill of our galaxy across the summer sky. It is a graceful, classic sort of pen. I find all Nakaya to be comfortable, easy writers. Their nibs tuned perfection by John (what isn’t), and their design just as functional as it is aesthetically pleasing. It’s rare these days to find the best of both worlds in one item but there it is.
I have been using it consistently since Christmas and loving every moment. My first Nakaya was a similar grind but started with a double broad nib. It is often a little large for every day note taking, journaling, and certainly too large for my small paper planner. This nib is perfect for such everyday work.