The Post Pen Show Post: London Autumn 2021.

Last week I wrote The Pre Pen Show Post, in anticipation of the show on Sunday 10 October 2021. Now that it has passed, it is time to reflect on the day.

In short, it was wonderful and I had a great time. My wife was to have come, but changed her mind on the day and so I was left to make decisions unaided. I set off cheerfully, taking the London Overground train to Kensington Olympia and enjoyed a stroll to the venue, at the Novotel, Hammersmith.

The venue, Novotel London West.

With UK Pen Shows in new but very capable ownership, membership of the Writing Equipment Society no longer gets you free admission but I heard that this might change. However, visitors were given a free tote bag with the handsome UK Pen Shows logo and names of sponsors, which came in handy for my subsequent haul.

I soon found there to be a special ink for the show, namely a bottle of Beefeater Red from KWZ Ink of Poland. I purchased a bottle immediately without pausing to check what colour red it was. It turned out to be a very pleasing one, a rich dark beetroot tone which strangely reminded me of my favourite wax crayon in the colouring box at primary school.

Beefeater Red, the new show Ink from our friends in Poland, KWZ Ink.

Also within minutes of arriving, I spotted an enticing table of Diplomat fountain pens at generously discounted prices and pounced on a couple of Diplomat Excellences, being one of my favourite steel nib pens of all time. I will not dwell on them here as I have reviewed them previously in this blog.

Two Diplomat Excellences. The one at the front has a nifty quick release screw cap.

Having come through a period of 18 months with very little social interaction, it was a treat to catch up with friends, about a dozen from our London Pen Club, over the course of the day, as well as to chat to the friendly vendors. The venue was bright, spacious and airy and this all made for a very pleasant and enjoyable atmosphere.

The main hall.

Others have written about how to prepare for a pen show, to get the most out of the day and some good tips are to (a) have a budget, (b) make a list of anything in particular that you want to look for. I like to bring a loupe to inspect nibs. You might want to bring a bottle of ink, a notebook, a little bottle of water to clean pens that are dipped, and some paper towels.

This time, I had not got any particular fountain pens in mind to hunt down and was aiming to “be good” and not get carried away in a spending spree, but to keep an open mind and see what was available.

Of the pens that I acquired at the London Spring Show earlier this year, the one that I had enjoyed picking up and using the most, turned out to be a Sailor Procolor 500, a steel nibbed pen about the same size as a standard 1911 and with a Fine (very fine) nib. It has been filled ever since with Noodlers’ bullet proof black. I had found this pen for sale on John Twiss’s table. I asked John if he had any more of these. Sure enough he had a few and I chose a nice sparkly dark red one, (now called the Shikiori), perhaps a good pairing for the Beefeater red ink.

Sailor Shikiori in burgundy with sparkles.
An exquisite steel nib on a Sailor Shikiori.

As for inks, I also bought a bottle of Aurora blue in the nice special edition bottle, from Kirit Dal’s Aurora table. I have become a fan of Aurora’s lovely fountain pens, since finally owning an 88 and an Optima.

I also picked up an extra bottle of Diamine’s Conway Stewart Tavy, a blue black ink that I am keen on, having bought and emptied previous bottles from pen shows.

My ink haul.

It is not the pens but the people that make a pen show: I enjoyed visiting so many tables, in particular John Hall of Write Here, John Foye (whose pen photos I enjoy daily on Instagram), John Twiss, Derek of Stonecott Fine Writing Supplies Limited who was selling pens from Narwal, Benu and Venvstas (pronounced Ven-oost-as), the Onoto table and Den’s Pens.

There were some tables that were new to me this time. Scrittura Elegante from the Netherlands, had a good display, where I handled an Edison Collier in the lovely burnished gold finish and saw some Opus 88 eye-dropper demonstrators that I had not come across before, as well as some Laban pens from Taiwan with German nibs in some attractive colours.

I spoke to William Shakour who showed me his impressive Titan fountain pen, made by 3D printing (which I do not understand). He had some rough grey, unpolished examples for people to test four different nib sizes, with Titanium nibs. I was intrigued. The pens are piston fillers with a huge reservoir. He had been working on making a slightly slimmer version but this meant having thinner walls on the ink reservoir, which he was able to show me.

At The Good Blue, I tried their unique design of flex nib pen, with a metal body and one flat side to stop it from rolling.

By late morning I was glad of a coffee break with friends Jon of Pensharing.com and Vijay – both of whom are on Instagram, where we had a catch up and tried a few of each other’s pens.

Vijay and I then went to find the nib units, being sold at John Twiss and Vincent’s table with titanium nibs and ebonite feeds in various widths and with a choice of Jowo or Bock fittings and even a choice of colours for the feeds! I chose a Titanium fine nib, with red feed and Jowo fitting, hoping to fit it in a large Opus 88 Demonstrator that I had bought three years earlier with a steel broad.

A Titanium nib in an ebonite feed and housing, Jowo fit. Very popular at the show.

After making several more circuits of the tables and testing my self restraint to its limits, it was time to go home. My final tally was three new pens (two Diplomats and a Sailor at irresistible prices), three bottles of ink (KWZ Beefeater red, Diamine Conway Stewart Tavy and Aurora Blue in the fancy bottle) and one Titanium nib.

Overall I was very content with my purchases. The choice is phenomenal and easily overwhelming, particularly if you are more used to a quick browse at the pen shelf in Rymans or WH Smiths! There are pens to suit all budgets. I came away feeling that I had got the balance about right and had not gone mad. You cannot go to a restaurant and not eat.

At home I tried out the Titanium nib in my Opus 88. I was a good match and the clear acrylic grip section allows the dark red ebonite feed to be seen and appreciated. I inked up the pen with Graf von Faber-Castell Cobalt Blue (you need a colour that you will not get bored of in this pen) and the nib is a nice, feedbacky firm Fine. This was my first ever experience of having a Titanium nib so that is a novelty.

The new nib in my Opus 88, eye-dropper demonstrator. You must remember to put the pen’s rubber O ring on the back end of the housing.

Thanks as always to the organisers and vendors and fellow visitors who make these events so enjoyable. See you all again next year, if not before.

9 thoughts on “The Post Pen Show Post: London Autumn 2021.

  1. That Titanium nib does look good in the demonstrator. Sounds like a good day at the pen show with the ideal mix of fun things to look at and social interaction. I very much like the look of that Beefeater Red.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Yes it was a super day. I am enjoying the feel of the Titanium nib. It is well matched with the massive Opus 88 demonstrator.
      I have just filled the Sailor Shikiori with Beefeater Red. A good pairing! That is also a feedbacky nib and a lot of fun to use.

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  2. I am obviously very pleased that you enjoyed the day and enjoy your blog immensely. Personally, I find these pen shows very dull and depressing. Essentially, you pay for admission to a sales convention. You simply walk around looking at comparatively expensive wares on tables until you feel obliged to buy something. If you are lucky you might have a nice chat with one or two of the sales people and even try out a demonstration pen, but that’s about it. Some sales people are enthusiastic about our hobby, whilst others fall into the “suits you” type and just want to sell there overpriced pens. Eventually, you leave having spent the hundred or so pounds that you brought with you (after visiting the ATM on the way in, as most of the vendors only take cash) and hope that you will pleased with your purchases when you get home. With a little more thought and effort the London Pen Show could be so much more than this. There could be lectures staged on different subjects throughout the day, live demonstrations, group discussions and social meetings for enthusiasts to meet and get to know each other. It doesn’t have to be all about selling. I always think that these things are a great wasted opportunity.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your kind words about the blog.
      I am sorry that you feel this way about the London Pen Show. Yes, you will see plenty of expensive wares on tables, but there are also bargains to be had and a unique opportunity to shop from a colossal range of pens, both modern and vintage and there are items to suit all budgets. As for pens, it helps if you know what you are looking for and know the usual prices. More vendors are using card payments now, although this can make it harder to keep track of spending if you have set yourself a budget for the event. The UK Pen Shows are now under new ownership. This year, at the delayed Spring and the Autumn pen show, there were less vendors than usual, with some from overseas unable to travel for obvious reasons.
      For an event open from 10 – 4, the £5.00 admission fee feels very modest, to help the organisers recover the cost. The type of event that you describe in your comment, with lectures, pen auctions, calligraphy classes and so forth, sounds like the American style of pen show, running over several days, but the admission prices will be considerably higher.
      Personally, I enjoyed the event but then it helps to know plenty of those attending.

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  3. Your blog is great because you take the time and effort to discuss, evaluate and analyse various pens. Your dedication and transparent enthusiasm makes the hobby fun. Thank you for the time and pleasure that you give to others. The London Pen Show, in contrast, just sets out to sell pens. Fine, but what if you want more? Maybe I am odd, but I don’t need to continually buy new pens. Of course, I occasionally do so, but I already have a large collection and I am not driven by a gamblers-style addiction. It is not all about personal acquisition (that way you end up with a stack of rubbish pens!). The sad truth is that in the UK today there are no public (non-virtual) forums for genuine pen appreciation and discussion. I suspect that most fountain pen collectors and users live in isolation from their fellow enthusiasts and feed their curiosity only by reading online reviews. I am interested in the history of fountain pens and particular makes and models, but unless you get this information out of an obscure book you are left pretty high and dry. I would like to discuss and hear other’s opinions and recommendations, not just splash the cash. Clearly, there are a lot of people who enjoy the London Pen Show and this is surely proven by the fact that they now have two per year. Good luck to them and I would not do anything to stop their pleasure. However, I suspect that I am not the only one who finds it a bit intellectually shallow and a socially cold experience. You say that you know a lot of people that attend. I suppose that makes a lot of difference? Whenever I have been in the past there has never been any opportunity to meet people, unless you feel like barging up to someone hunched over a table gazing at the wares and randomly introducing yourself. Unfortunately, being British, that sort of behaviour doesn’t come naturally to me. By the way, why is it only ever middle-aged blokes who go to these events? From memory, there were more women present at the local CAMRA festival than at the London Pen Show. Maybe that has changed? I didn’t know that the American pen shows provided the sort of thing that I was looking for. What a pity that it has never been done here. Well, frankly, I would be willing to pay a £100 entry for an interesting afternoon’s entertainment like that, but would regard £5 spent as a bit of a waste of money just to visit some sales stalls. Funnily enough, the new venue of the London Pen Show is pretty close to where I live, but I just couldn’t be bothered to attend because I knew what it would be like: impersonal. However, I would gladly travel to Inverness for more stimulating and socially enjoyable occasion. Anyway, keep up the good work!

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    1. Thank you for your further comments.
      You make a number of points, mostly negative, about the London Pen Show. But for a one-day event, it does provide for a coming together of vendors and enthusiasts. You will find not only pens, but plenty of accessories too such as a vast choice of inks, notebooks, pen cases and display boxes. The current venue offers plenty of space to meet and relax with a bar and restaurant area. There is no pressure to buy anything. If you do not plan to buy and are not interested in browsing and perhaps finding something of interest, or meeting fellow enthusiasts, then you may have no need or wish to go.
      I think it unfair to say that it is intellectually shallow and a socially cold experience. You will find a wealth of knowledge and experience in the room from people, not only “middle aged blokes”, from all walks of life. Indeed there may be many people there much like yourself.
      The number of pens on display can be overwhelming: it can be hard to know how to look at a table of hundreds of vintage pens. But if there is anything of special interest to you, then dealers are happy to help.
      Depending on your personality, it may be more enjoyable to attend with a friend (or spouse who shares or tolerates the same hobby) if you find the atmosphere lonely, intimidating or depressing.
      You will find the day more satisfying if you go with some objectives and manage to achieve them.
      It is also a social occasion. At the last show, I met a dozen or so friends in the course of the day, and enjoyed a coffee break with a couple of them – which provides exactly the sort of opportunity you mention, to share opinions and recommendations.
      Many of these are friends I have met at earlier events, or from the Pelikan Hub, or through my blog or from the vast “online fountain pen community”, of people on social media, or the London Fountain Pen Club which meets once a month at a pub on a Saturday afternoon (although currently suspended since the pandemic).
      The pen shows offer something for everyone. For an enthusiast such as yourself, particularly if you live close to the venue, it seems a pity to miss it.

      Like

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