It is time for a look back over my last 12 months as a fountain pen enthusiast (a euphemism for addict, perhaps). It has been rather solitary without the monthly social contact of the London pen club meets. However, with letter writing, a couple of pen shows and the constant online interaction of social media, it hasn’t felt lonely. Anyhow, using and tinkering with pens and stationery are good activities to pursue on your own.
First, the reckoning. I still keep a tally of pens acquired with their dates and cost, although I had not reviewed 2021’s figures until now. I see that I had a total of 25 pens incoming. My total spend on these amounted to £1,026, which does not seem too excessive, as hobbies or addictions go. However, a large chunk of this was on my Aurora Optima, at £396 from Iguanasell. If you deduct this, the remaining £630 was for 24 pens, an average of only £26 each. This is a bit misleading as I have not included the value of a few pens received as gifts, but it gives you a rough picture.
None of these was part of a plan. They were pens that I spotted online, or at pen shows or whilst browsing the shops during the summer sales.
The Aurora Optima was my most significant purchase. The rationale was that I am delighted with my Aurora 88, also from Iguanasell. I was keen to try an Optima, with an oblique broad having found these to be well suited to my writing style from buying a Moonman S5 demonstrator. Also, the price looked favourable, although at the limits of my comfort zone. (I have never spent more than £450 on a pen). It was a bit of a risk, buying a pen with a specialist nib unseen, but it was excellent and I enjoy using it very much and have been encouraged by good feedback about my writing, from my correspondents.
A few of the other arrivals this year have included three Diplomat Excellences, two more of the Moonman S5 (they are so good!), two more Cross Bailey Lights (I could not resist the green and the burgundy versions with gold coloured trim); two steel nibbed Sailors: a blue demo Procolor 500 and a sparkly dark red Shikiori, which seems to be its successor. Both of these have fine nibs which, in Sailor terms, means an extra fine.
I bought two Narwhal Schuylkills – one being the 365, limited edition red swirl ebonite version released to celebrate the company’s first year of trading and the other being a blue marlin, both from Stonecott Fine Writing Supplies Ltd.
Finally, I ended the year with the purchase of a pair of Online Bachelors, a lightweight comfortable plastic demonstrator, cartridge converter pen but, unusually, fitted with a 0.8mm stub which I greatly enjoy and just reviewed in my previous post. I have had these only a few days but am happy with them both.
A few of the highlights.
Aside from these fairly regular but low-dosage New Pen Days, I enjoyed completing the challenge of copying out the book Meditations, by Marcus Aurelius. This combined reading some philosophy with practising my handwriting. The idea was to write in a print-style, typewriter font and to use a different pen and ink combination for each two page spread. The whole idea was brazenly copied from Kimberly of @allthehobbies on Instagram whose own immaculate pages (as well as her “currently inked”posts) are most inspiring. I did this over a period of about seven months.
I attended the London Spring Pen Show (postponed until July) and Autumn Pen Show in October. Both took place at the Novotel in Hammersmith. The spacious, airy venue proved a big improvement on the previous events held at Holiday Inn, near Russell Square in recent years. It was good to see so many pen club friends again. Seven of my pen purchases came from these two events. Also, not included in the total, was a new titanium nib unit with an ebonite feed in Jowo fit housing, also purchased at the show. They were available in Jowo or Bock fittings and in a selection of widths. Mine went in an Opus 88 clear demonstrator and gives the pen a whole new character. The nib was just a tad longer than the original and I needed to make a little more space in the cap. This proved easy without major surgery, as the finial unscrews and I just added an O ring.
Aside from the pen show, I picked up a few bargains in the summer sales, at Rymans. These included a Sheaffer Prelude ball pen in Cobalt blue and rose gold, to match my fountain pen. This was a great find, reduced from £50 to £10. In John Lewis I snapped up another Sheaffer Prelude fountain pen, but in the brushed copper and black finish. And equally fortuitous was a Diplomat Traveller fountain pen, a rare find in our shops at the best of times, but reduced in Rymans to just £5.00. I sent one to a friend overseas who was so taken by it that he gave away several of his pens of much higher value, to another pen friend: a nice example of the “pay it forward” principle.
When out and about or exploring new places, it is nice to come home with a new notebook or pen, or both. Finding a new yellow Lamy Safari reduced in a sale was enough to see me pick one up with an accompanying Leuchtturm A5 journal.
The urge to buy a new notebook can be so irresistible sometimes that I buy one even when I know that most inks will bleed through the paper or that the line spacing is narrower than I would like. One such purchase was an Agenzio journal from Paperchase. I was attracted to the unusual size, being between A4 and A5. It was neatly bound, with 240 pages of lined paper with 33 rows per page. I enjoyed testing it out with various inks. I also found that one way to compensate for narrow line spaces (these were 6.9mm), is to rule the page into two columns. Somehow the rows look bigger then.
As for the blog, I have enjoyed putting out posts, although only 31 this year. The blog is now five years old and has received some 225,000 views. Occasionally my posts are picked up and linked by Fountain Pen Quest or the Pen Addict which greatly increases the number of views and lets me feel that “I have made it in America!” Thank you to Ray and to Brad for your support and to all who follow, like and comment on my posts.
This year I bought a new lightbox, a simple 9 inch box with two rings of bright LEDs in the top and powered by a USB cable. It is great to have a quick and convenient means of photographing pens in good light, at any time of the day or year.
With social gatherings and overseas travel largely on hold this year, I have spent a lot of time at home. I find it very relaxing to tinker with some fountain pens, filling or cleaning them, trying them with different inks on different papers and occasionally, attempting a little bit of nib adjustment. Most recently I tackled a pair of Cleo Skribent piston fillers, beautiful resin pens that I had not used very much in recent years on account of them both writing rather drier than I would like. Now, armed with a few simple tools, (a powerful loupe, a set of brass shims, some micromesh pads and a craft knife) I eased the tines apart just a fraction, which made a world of difference in improved ink flow and lubrication. These pens are both now back in circulation. This is a good argument for hanging on to your pens: you might improve them one day.
I have enjoyed keeping my journal for another year. My habit is to write this each morning after breakfast and before leaving for work. I hate to miss it. This year I decided to pick a different fountain pen for each month. I think I will do this again next year.
Favourite pens of 2021.
As mentioned my most significant purchase of the year by far, was the Aurora Optima, which has proved a success with its oblique broad nib. But, cost aside, I have somehow been just as pleased with my new Diplomat Excellence fountain pens from the London Pen Show, or even the Moonman S5 or Cross Bailey Light. I know that they are all in different leagues. But when you find great combinations of pen, ink and paper and the ink is flowing well, the fact that the pens might be of different classes seems to melt away.
I have not made any new plans for the hobby for 2022. As for resolutions, I do not need any more pens although it would be unrealistic to expect that I will not be tempted enough to buy some. I would like to buy less and use more. My aim is to continue finding enjoyment and relaxation and a bit of escapism in the hobby. It has been another challenging year. Who knows what the next year will bring? Everyone needs some way to unwind from the day-to-day stresses of life and work. As long as I can still find this in my pen cups I shall continue to do so and wish the same to you. Thanks for reading and a Happy New Year to all.