It’s a question I asked myself often over the past weekend at the Atlanta Pen Show. One of the great things about pen shows is that you get the opportunity to see, hold, and learn about pens that you never otherwise would have experienced. And since I spent two days surrounded by friends (both new and old) eager to let anyone write with the invaluable pieces in their collections, I experienced a lot of pens. My takeaway from this? I need to break the “pen of the month” habit and focus on acquiring fewer pieces that mean more to me.
This topic came up in a few different conversations that I had over the weekend. A general consensus seems to be that you reach a point in your “collecting” that you plateau, and begin to derive less enjoyment from the typical “production line” pens that are easily available. While there are always exceptions to this rule, finding a unique or different writing experience out of the box becomes difficult, and you end up chasing color variants of the same pen or the full line of stock nib options. Some time ago I reached the point where I don’t feel the need to have more than one TWSBI, especially where I can purchase a bunch of replacement nibs and obtain variety that way.
Enter the world of custom pens.
I’m ready to move on. But to where? Of all the pens I was able to try this weekend, the custom pens were the ones that really stood out and spoke to me. By "custom", I'm referring to pens that are generally made to order by a pen turner (typically by hand) according to the craftsman's original design, and can be adjusted to the user's preferences. I was fortunate to handle a wide range of pens made by several makers, from Shawn Newton's Shinobi Eyedroppers to Brian Gray's Edison Menlos in Tibaldi Celluloid. I wanted to keep all of them.
So, I’ll ask myself again, where do I go from here? It’s dangerous to put this sort of thing out there, but it’s pretty much the only way I’ll be able to hold myself accountable. The next two pens I will acquire will come from custom manufacturers, once I can afford them, and until then I plan to thin out the accumulation of pens and ink to reduce the amount of "stuff" that I never use.
If you’re interested in the world of custom pens, here’s some further reading to get you started. My next pen will likely come from somewhere on this list:
- Conid Bulkfiller
- Romillo Pens (read a review of the Essential #9, by the Unroyal Warrant).
- Newton Shinobi
- Scriptorium Pens
- Edison Menlo
- Nakaya (via Nibs.com, the easiest option for those of us in the U.S.)
There are many, many more custom manufacturers out there. Keep in mind that in order to enter the world of custom pens, you’ll have to suppress your desire for instant gratification (something that will be difficult for me). Not only will you have to part with some money up front, but it generally takes at least 6 weeks for a pen to be made, and that's on the quick end of the spectrum. In the end, however, I think the wait adds to the experience.