Welcome to The Gentleman Stationer 2017 Holiday Gift Guide!
I decided not to completely overhaul last year's gift guide for the 2017 Holiday shopping season. My recommendations for this year are pretty consistent, though I've added some excellent new products that were released since this guide was last updated.
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 years ago, and he used it daily. It came back into my possession after he recently passed away, and the pen still works perfectly. 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 another great option, which is now available in multiple colors, but note that the pen has no clip, which may make it a slightly riskier gift for the traditionalist or someone who tends to lose things. The Squire ships with the same liquid-ink refill as the Retro 51 Tornado, but you can also replace it with the Schmidt Easyflow 9000 ballpoint refill.
- 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.
- Lamy 2000 4-Color Ballpoint. I'm a big fan of multi pens for the busy professional, and Lamy's multi-pen version of the 2000 goes to work with me every day. While this would be the ultimate work tool if Lamy would include a mechanical pencil option, you can swap in one of these refills and add a highlighter. More information on multi pens and their various refills can be found here.
- Sailor Imperial Black Multi Pen. While I've raved about the Imperial Black fountain pen for years, I only recently discovered the multi pen version. It uses the same universal D1 refill as the Lamy 2000, but features a mechanical pencil insert.
- 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. This year, I would also add a word for the MOO Notebooks. They now come in both hardcover and softcover versions - in multiple colors! - and there is a special edition collaboration with designer Timothy Goodman called "Meetings Kill Creativity."
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 a three-pack sampler of Pilot's Iroshizuku Ink, which comes in an attractive bottle and a wide range of colors.
- Pilot Kakuno. A great option, especially for kids. The "smiley face" on the nib helps remind them to keep the nib pointed down on the paper.
- Kaweco Perkeo. Kaweco's new entry-level offering comes in a range of fun colors, and since it's a full-size pen, the recipient can fill with a converter from a bottle after your new pen addict catches the bug.
- 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, 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 includes this two-pen leather sleeve from Tom Barrington Leather Goods, as well as this single pen sleeve from One Star 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. And if you're looking for a more traditional glass-topped "display" case, Pen Chalet currently has a wide selection available at excellent prices.
- The Penwell. A new product that recently launched, the Penwell comes in either walnut, brass, or aluminum and turns any fountain pen or capped rollerball into a desk pen.
- A Piece from Dudek Modern Goods. If you have your eye on a Dudek desktop pen holder for Christmas, for yourself or someone on your shopping list, 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. There are several custom leather goods companies out there that make excellent quality products. My current favorite is One Star Leather Goods out of Los Angeles, California, which makes a wide range of notebook covers, pen sleeves, wallets, etc. Galen Leather is another good option, and if you have someone on your list who's a Traveler's Notebook aficionado, then they have a ton of cool colors to choose from.
- Personalized Stationery. Some of the best gifts I've received over the years are personalized correspondence cards, jotter cards, or letter sheets. Crane & Co. is the gold standard, but it can be pricey. If you don't want to go the personalized route, Clairefontaine Triomphe, G. Lalo, and Original Crown Mill all make great writing stock.
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.
- Blackwing Volumes Subscription. You can guarantee your recipient a dozen limited edition Blackwings per quarter, plus subscriber extras!
- 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. I've probably kept Carl in business over the past couple of years, recommending Carl Angel 5 sharpeners to co-workers. This one is probably my favorite, though the Carl CC-2000 gives you multiple options for point sharpness, and is the version that I keep on my desk at work. If you’re looking for a handheld sharpener, the KUM Masterpiece and KUM Long Point sharpeners will also get the job done, and if you like the vintage look of Brass, check out the Castor and the Pollux long point sharpeners (though I'd call the Pollux "experts only," since it's a bit tricky to use).
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, 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.
- Pocket Notebooks. I give out Field Notes and Write Notepads pocket notebooks every year as stocking stuffers and they are always well-received. There are many other great options including Story Supply Co., Calepino, Darkstar Collection, Nock Co. Dot-Dash, and others.
- 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. I'd also add a plug for the Pokka Pen, specifically designed for Fisher Space Pen fans whose pens tend to "go missing." While technically a "disposable" pen, you can also refill them.
- 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), and if you want an ultra-fine tip, the Morning Glory Mach 3, but there are many excellent options out there.
- Pencils. See above for recommendations. We had pencil-themed stockings last year.
- Bottled Ink. No pen addict will get made at you for sticking a bottle of ink in their stocking. I'd stick with something pretty much universally regarded as "safe" and well-behaved, like Pilot Iroshizuku or Robert Oster Signature, both of which come in a wide array of colors.
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 currently use mine as a hybrid, but I think this year I will be moving to the larger A5 Cousin or Cousin Avec, and using it as more of a planner. Include one of the standard Hobonichi covers or a custom Galen Leather cover for a really nice present. (The slimmer Hobonichi Weeks might be great in a stocking.)
- Traveler’s Notebook. Capable of being both a planner AND a journal. Infinitely customizable. A great gift for the true notebook geek. If you are interested in a TN-style cover that comes in a wider variety of colors, check out Galen Leather.
- 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, and they've recently introduced a new B6 version, the Cafe Note (which also has a custom Gfeller leather cover option).
Books for Those Interested in the "Analog Life"
Every year, I always say that the one thing that I'd like to do more of is read. As in, read real books. Offline. As in not on a phone. 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 a best-seller, and by far one of the best books I've read over the past year.
- The Pencil Perfect. Caroline Weaver of CW Pencils published this combination coffee table/design/history tome, which I have yet to pick up but need to do soon. Signed versions available directly from the CW Pencils Store (upon request, as I understand it).
- The Secret Life of the Pencil. With a heavy focus on pictures, this book discusses the preferred writing and drawing instruments of different artists and designers.
- Tools of Titans. A lot of people don't like Tim Ferris and his "Four Hour [XXXX]" series, but I enjoyed this collection of interviews and shorter-form pieces, particularly because of how many people referenced in this book incorporate analog into their daily routines.
- A Book That Takes Its Time: An Unhurried Adventure in Creative Mindfulness. I still haven't tracked this one down, but if Mary Collis likes it, it's good enough for me.
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.
- Any Stationery Item from Duncan Shotten. I gave Rainbow Pencils as secret Santa gifts last year, but I'm also enamored by this space-themed office set, especially the hand-painted, solar system push pins.
- Bellroy Pencil Case. Australian leather goods company Bellroy recently released a carry-all designed to hold pencils, sharpeners, erasers, cables, etc., and folds out into a tray.
- Wallets or Pocket Notebook Covers from Bellroy. I've carried a Bellroy Hide & Seek wallet for the past three years, and it still looks amazing. Their pocket notebook covers also are well made, and can double as a passport wallet. Huckberry (generally a great all-around source of gift ideas) carries a wide range of Bellroy products.
- Worn & Wound Watch Straps. There's some overlap between the pen and watch communities online, and many readers of this blog also follow "value-focused" watch blog Worn & Wound. Last month I visited the Wind-up NYC Watch Fair, where I was able to spend some time with Worn & Wound's goods in person. Their straps are all high quality, especially the "ADPT Strap" NATOs.
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!
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