Welcome to The Gentleman Stationer 2016 Holiday Gift Guide!
My 2016 NaNoWriMo project isn’t a novel. Nope, I’ve been working on a couple of longer-form blog resources, of which this 2016 Holiday Gift Guide is the first. Although in the past I’ve resisted allowing the holiday shopping season to creep into pre-Thanksgiving, I’m fighting a losing battle as everyone (myself included) now begins their holiday shopping in Mid-November and stuff starts selling out. So this year, here we are!
Gifts for Non-Fountain-Pen Users
As much as we’d all like to think otherwise, not everyone is interested in using fountain pens. Honestly, even among those who are stationery-obsessed, most are perfectly happy with the ballpoints/rollerballs/pencils they’ve been using all their life. Play it safe and roll with it. There are plenty of nice gift options out there. Here are a few of my favorites.
- Retro 51 Tornado. I gave my father a Tornado Stealth a couple years ago and he still uses it daily. The Retro 51 Tornado is a reasonably priced liquid-ink rollerball with a killer refill, and it’s all most people would ever need. If you’d like to gift a spare refill or two with the pen, here’s the link.
- Baron Fig Squire. The Squire is Baron Fig’s long-awaited pen project which launched via Kickstarter. It ships with the same liquid-ink refill as the Retro 51 Tornado, but I recently replaced it with the fine Fisher Space pen refill and have been using this pen a lot. Another great option, but note that it has no clip, which may make it a slightly riskier gift for the traditionalist.
- Caran d’Ache Metal Ballpoint. I’ve really discovered Caran d’Ache as a brand this year, and none of their products have disappointed. Their standard metal ballpoint is a smaller pen that ships with their “Goliath” ink refill, which supposedly lasts for a VERY long time. The pen comes in a range of fun colors.
- Lamy 2000 Ballpoint. My number one recommendation for when you want to get someone a very nice pen without breaking the bank. The Lamy 2000 ballpoint sports the same classic, Bauhaus-inspired design as the fountain pen, with a classic "click" mechanism.
- Monteverde Ballpoint. At this year’s Atlanta Pen Show, for the first time in my life, I won a door prize. Included in my Pen Chalet gift box was a Monteverde Mountains of the World “Kilimanjaro” Ballpoint, which has been a fixture on my desk at home. Monteverde makes great refills, and their standard “Easyroll” ballpoint refill is no exception. You can also find some quirky, slightly adventurous designs that may make this a more “fun” choice than the Lamy 2000.
- Nice Notebooks. Help someone move on from Moleskine. Everyone needs a good notebook, whether they know it or not, and the Baron Fig Confidant and the Leuchtturm 1917 are my preferred choices that handle all kinds of pens just fine. One thing you may want to consider is the Baron Fig Deluxe Confidant Starter Set, which includes a Confidant Journal, Guardian Cover, and a Squire pen or Archer Pencils.
Beginner Fountain Pen Gift Ideas
That friend or family member who's always expressed interest in learning what fountain pens are all about? Help them scratch that itch with one of these entry-level fountain pens. I'd recommend a fine or medium nib to get most people started. If someone has never used a fountain pen before, don't spend a lot of money on what will basically be an experiment. You can get a great writing experience for well under $30.
- Pilot Metropolitan. The Pilot Metropolitan is one of the best fountain pen options available for beginners, who can get started with simple, easy-to-use cartridges or fill from a bottle with the included converter. For a super classy gift, you can combine the pen with a bottle of ink. For a Pilot pen I’d recommend Pilot's Iroshizuku Ink, which comes in an attractive bottle and a wide range of colors.
- Pilot Kakuno. A great option for kids that comes in around $10. The "smiley face" on the nib helps remind them to keep the nib pointed down on the paper.
- Kaweco Sport. The Kaweco Sport pocket fountain pen is another great gift idea for the fountain pen newbie, along with some of Kaweco's excellent ink in easy-to-use cartridges.
- Lamy Safari. I hesitated to put the Lamy Safari on here because of the triangular grip section, but I'll go ahead and include it anyway because so many people have a positive experience with this as their first pen, and because it's not so expensive that it poses a financial risk if your recipient doesn't like the gift. The Safari doesn't come with a converter, so if you think they'd like to use bottled ink with the pen, be sure to pick one up.
- TWSBI Eco. If you think the recipient won’t mind not having the option of using ink cartridges, TWSBI’s Eco is an excellent gift idea. The new lime green color is awesome, and it's inexpensive enough to be worth taking a bit of a risk on.
For the Serious Fountain Pen User
If you’re particular about your fountain pens, you already know better than to try to buy a fountain pen for a fountain pen nut (unless you know them really, really well, or they’ve told you exactly what they want). Otherwise, if you’re flying blind, you’re better off going with a nice “universal” accessory like a pen case or notebooks cover. Here are some of my picks:
- A Nice Pen Case. My personal carry now includes this luxurious two-pen leather sleeve from Tom Barrington Leather Goods. For years, I’ve also used this Aston Leather 10-pen case and every single model made by Nock Co. If you really want to knock their socks off, spring for a Franklin-Christoph covered pen tray. Franklin-Christoph also makes a model of the CPT that doubles as a dresser-top valet, if your recipient doesn’t need storage for a dozen pens.
- A Piece from Dudek Modern Goods. If you have your eye on a Dudek desktop pen holder for Christmas, GET YOUR ORDER IN NOW. This alone is one of the reasons why I wanted to get the holiday shopping guide out pre-Thanksgiving. Mike makes all of his wooden pen/pencil/notebook holders by hand, so there’s a lot of lead time involved.
- A Leather Notebook Cover from Galen Leather. Galen Leather makes a wide range of leather notebook covers that fit A5 notebooks, the Hobonichi Techo, Travelers Notebook-style refills, and others.
Gifts for Pencil-Heads.
There are a lot of unique pencil gifts floating around out there, and regardless of how "digital" things have become, pencils make popular - and practical - gifts. They also don't break the bank and fit well in a stocking.
- Palomino Blackwing 602. If you want to give a nice pencil-related gift, with a cool history behind it, I’d start here. If you want to kick the gift up a notch, add in a pack of extra erasers for the Blackwing's iconic ferrule. I like replacing the stock black eraser on the Blackwing 602 with the pink to duplicate the look of the vintage Blackwing 602 pencil.
- Caran d’Ache Fixpencil. I’ve been loving leadholder-style pencils recently, and this Caran d’Ache is one of the best. I like it because it’s designed to be comfortable for writers as well as artists/designers.
- Twist Bullet Pencil. I get asked a lot for recommendations on the best pencil for pocket carry. It's hard to beat the Twist Bullet Pencil, a collaboration between Huckleberry Woodchuck and Metal Shop CT.
- Rotring 600 Mechanical Pencil. The best mechanical pencil ever, and one of the best bargains in high-end stationery. Mine is a fixture in my everyday carry. If you know someone who carries a mechanical pencil in their pocket all the time, you may want to consider the more expensive Rotring 800, which features a retractable pipe that won't stab you in the leg.
- A Nice Pencil Sharpener. One of my co-workers came into my office the other day and asked where she could purchase a Carl Angel 5 sharpener for her daughter for Christmas. This one is probably my favorite, though the Carl CC-2000 gives you multiple options for point sharpness. If you’re looking for a handheld sharpener, the KUM Masterpiece and KUM Long Point sharpeners will also get the job done.
Ideas for Stocking Stuffers and Smaller Gifts (Secret Santa, etc.)
I’m placed in charge of stocking stuffers every year for the family, and guess what! I rely very heavily on the massive stash of pencils, pocket notebooks, and pens I accumulate throughout the year, many of which go unused. The holidays are a great time to re-home things that you picked up and never tried or wrote with once or twice. (Except notebooks, however. Don’t give used notebooks. It doesn't go over well. Sorry, Dad.)
- Pocket Notebooks. I give out Field Notes and Write Notepads pocket notebooks every year as stocking stuffers and they are always well-received. This year, I’ve discovered a ton of other great options including Calepino notebooks and Nock Co. Dot-Dash books and notecards.
- Reporters Notebooks. Write Notepads (the Reporter's Notepad) and Field Notes (the Frontpage) are both excellent options. If you know someone who makes a lot of lists, a reporter's notebook is a great addition to a daily carry.
- Pocket Pens. Even people who normally don’t care all that much about what they’re writing with think a quick-deployment pocket pen like the Fisher Space Pen or the Lamy Pico is cool. If you know a Pilot G2 fan, then consider the Machine Era brass pen.
- High-Quality Disposable Pens. Everybody needs them, whether to keep in your briefcase and/or the car glovebox for emergencies, or simply to keep next to the phone or computer for use in a pinch. My go-to recommendation is the Pilot G2 (in the Limited Version), but there are many excellent options out there.
- Pencils. See above for recommendations. We had pencil-themed stockings last year.
Gifts for Planner and/or Journaling Addicts
Another go-to gift category if you know someone who carries a paper planner and/or who journals. You can never have too many in your stash.
- Leuchtturm 1917. Again, the Leuchtturm is my go-to recommendation. It’s best described as the classic “black notebook” with (much) better paper than a Moleskine for fountain pens and other types of liquid ink. Leuchtturm makes standard journals/notebooks as well as planners.
- Hobonichi Techo. A day-to-a-page planner that can be used a traditional planner OR as a daily journal. I use mine as a hybrid. Include one of the standard Hobonichi covers or a custom Galen Leather cover for a really nice present.
- Midori Traveler’s Notebook. Capable of being both a planner AND a journal. Infinitely customizable. A great gift for the true notebook geek. If you’d like a custom color other than those offered by Midori, Galen Leather sells handmade leather notebook covers designed to fit Traveler’s Notebook refills.
- Seven Seas Notebooks, by Nanami Paper. For the fountain pen enthusiast in your life, consider this nearly 500-page A5 journal made with super thin Tomoe River paper. The Seven Seas notebooks are available in either the lined version (the Writer), or the Crossfield, which has a reticle grid. These make excellent personal journals. Note: the Crossfield is extremely popular, and therefore is in and out of stock. Check back regularly, as I believe they are expecting a fresh shipment in before Christmas.
Books for Those Interested in the "Analog Life"
One thing that I'd like to do more of is read. As in, read real books. Offline. As in not on a phone. Looking back over this past year, I ended up disappointed at how much of my "reading" took place with my face glued to a screen. All of these recommendations are books that I've already enjoyed, or that have made their way onto my own Christmas list. Anyone interested in pens, paper, handwriting, etc. would probably enjoy any of these books.
- The Revenge of Analog. David Sax's timely book is now a best-seller, and I've just started it. So far, it's excellent, and I may even get a review up on the blog.
- The Missing Ink. Philip Henscher's book is out of print, but you can still find used hardback copies at very reasonable prices. This collection of personal and historical vignettes is another must-have in any analog-lover's library. I've given this book as a gift multiple times and it's always been well-received.
- The Perfection of the Paper Clip. Last year's Revenge of Analog. James Ward's book on the stories behind the development of "boring" everyday office supplies is much, much more entertaining than you might expect.
- The Pencil. Henry Petroski's book is classic that for some reason I've never read. For someone who's into pencils, this is THE book to start with (if they haven't read it already).
- How to Sharpen Pencils. Another one I haven't read, but has become something of another modern pencil classic as David Rees's career has taken off (though he has, regrettably, wound down his artisanal pencil-sharpening business). Along with The Pencil, this book is on my own Christmas list.
- The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting. You may not necessarily agree with some of her conclusions, but you can't say that Anne Trubek's book hasn't provoked conversation. I make a point of trying to read stuff even though I might not necessarily agree with it, so this is now on my nightstand.
I've added a catch-all category containing things that I think people who read this blog might be interested in. Some I've reviewed on the blog, others are gifts I've received myself and really loved or otherwise come across in my travels.
- Wax Seal Stamp from Kustom Haus. If you have a letter writer on your gift list, consider an old-school wax-seal stamp with an accessory kit to go along with it. I've been enjoying mine quite a bit. Choose from Kustom Haus's own stamp designs or submit your own.
- Doxie Flip Portable Scanner. A great gift for someone who's heavily into Field Notes. I purchased this product years ago and use it to scan the "keeper" notes out of my pocket notebooks. It's also extremely useful for digitizing old family photos, which is an ongoing project of mine.
- Bags from Topo Designs or Filson. My family gave me a wonderful Filson briefcase for Christmas last year, and it's one of the best bags I've ever owned. It's both rugged and dressy, and has all the pockets, pen slots, and dividers you could ever want. If I hadn't received the Filson, I might've purchased the Topo Designs Mountain Briefcase, which I've seen in person and is another well-made, versatile option.
- Djot "Bookmark Planner." More of a reminder system than a formal planner, but a pack of Djot Bookmarks would make a great stocking stuffer. Basically, these are bookmarks that have a mini-calendar printed on them that allows you to jot notes, reminders, and even a rough schedule.
Whew! That was quite a project. Thanks for reading, and if you need some advice on a specific gift idea, feel free to reach out through the Contact link above. Happy Holidays everyone!