Long time readers of the blog will know that it hasn't seen much love over the last few months. There are several excuses that could be pulled out but the long and the short of it is that my interest had waned. Last week was the DC Pen Show and we made it into a family affair; a little pen shopping, touring the attractions in DC, and a lot of socializing with other pen users. It was re-energizing.
Last week was the first time that my wife had met most of my pen friends or really expressed very much interest in my little hobby. In true pen community fashion, she was welcomed into the discussions and was able to make some new acquaintances. You will have a chance to hear her impressions in a later post.
So what was my DC 2016 experience? After months of vacillating, I chose to have my first nib work performed on a pen. This was a big decision for me because I have purchased custom grind nibs from Franklin-Christoph in the past and found them to have a lot of feedback on the page. In the end I chose Deb Kinney to work on my pen, she came highly recommended by Thomas Hall (Penucopia) and Julie Eames (Peaceable Writer) and I found her to be very accommodating. At the end of the experience, what had been a broad nibbed Pilot Custom 823 is now a medium stub and I feel that it will be getting a lot more use because of it.
My shopping was confined to Friday but I was able to cross all of my wants off of my list. I have been lusting after a Montblanc 146 for more than a year and I was able to satisfy that desire. It is a pen which is very similar in size to the Pilot Custom 823, a shape which is pretty much perfect for my hand. The pen I came home with is a 1970's vintage version with a 14K nib and an ebonite feed. I had Deb make it a slightly wetter writer and am now looking forward to using it.
My second pen purchase was a bit of an impulse buy. At the beginning of the year I dedicated my Namiki Capless as a pen for use in my Hobonichi Techo. This meant that I had to switch to a fine nib unit so that I could write in the book's 3.7mm grid ruling. Fines, at least Pilot's fines, are not my preferred nib width so the pen didn't really see a lot of use outside of my Hobonichi. That's too bad since it is quite a practical pen. What I was hoping to find at the show was a Pilot Decimo body, sans nib unit, to allow me to repurpose the Medium nib unit that I already owned. What I came away with was a second 90's era faceted Namiki Capless, this time in all black. The pen came with a yellow gold Medium nib unit so now I have two of these in my collection. After some haggling, I was able to pick this pen up for $125 which was half of what I had seen it for at the 2015 DC show. I am happy with my purchase.
My other purchases were more utilitarian, I ordered up a boatload of Nock Co pen cases in advance of the show and picked them up from Brad in person. Liz of No Pen Intended was working a booth and sold me a couple of A5 pads of Rhodia R. Finally, I was able to source some slotter box tray inserts on the show floor to round out my list.
On the final day of the show my wife surprised me by saying that she wanted to buy a pen for herself. She was drawn to the aesthetics of the vintage pens, an area of the hobby where I have no knowledge or experience. With Jonathon Deans' Why Aren't Vintage Pens More Popular? post running through my brain, I steered her towards a fully restored vintage pen that came with a two year warranty. The pen she ended up with is a 1946 Sheaffer Triumph Statesman. This pen is a vac filler and is quite a looker with its green striated celluloid and its conical 14K medium nib. There is a lot to like about this pen but I'm most impressed with the vac filling system in a nice compact pen. Why was the blog-o-sphere all hot and bothered about the TWSBI Vac Mini when they could have had one of these all along?
On the last night of the show, just as most of our pen friends were clearing out of the hotel bar, three guys pulled up chairs next to us and struck up a conversation. It turns out that two of them were from the Ottawa area, near where I live, and the third restored vintage fountain pens as a side business and hobby. What followed was an hour and a half education on vintage pens as well as learning about the local vintage pen user group. This was pretty exciting for me. While Ottawa isn't exactly close, it is do-able to go to the occasional user group meeting and I'll have to try and make this happen.
So what is my take away from DC 2016? While looking at all of the bling on the show floor is fun, the socializing afterwards is even better. There is so much that I am oblivious to in this hobby and maybe this is where I should direct my attention in the future.