kyle cassidy (kylecassidy) wrote,
kyle cassidy

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Stationary Geekery

So last week was the Philadelphia Fountain Pen Show where the ballroom at a giant hotel fills up with acres of new and vintage fountain pens and related whatnots like ink and paper and journals ... this year I went with novelists Gregory Frost and Michael Swanwick. Having divested myself of a bunch of under-used pens last year and one the year before I wasn't planning on buying much, if anything. I had some things that needed to get fixed, but there wasn't anything that I went there desperately feeling that I needed to bring back.

I did buy these two Conklin's,

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the red fountain pen for $15 and the black rollerball for $10. I wasn't in love with either of them, but the price was too nice. And the Conklin's have interchangeable hardware, so I may find a fountain pen nib for the black one. I have a blue Conklin I got on sale a few years back from the Arthur C. Brown and I love it. They've been doing very nice things inexpensively.

I got some things repaired by Mike It Work. A few months ago I'd loaned my Delta Dolce Vita (the orange one) to someone to sign something or other and they pressed down like they were engraving silver and bent the nib. After 20 minutes bending and twisting and burnishing with various tools Mike made me promise never to loan a fountain pen to someone who didn't own fountain pens. I also found this Visconti traveling ink well. They were made in the 1990's and were a) awesomely clever -- especially for someone who travels as much as I do and b) very expensive. Someone had a box full of unsold stock and I picked it up cheap. You fill it with ink before you leave home and while you're on the road, you can stick your pen in the cylinder and refill it. This assures people that you are either a serious writer or just eccentric.

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While I was there Mayor Nutter showed up with a big flourish and a bunch of TV cameras -- he's got a collection of expensive pens and wristwatches so it made sense. And then Joe Frazier showed up, you know, the world heavyweight champion. He shook my hand and said "The dogs are loose now!"

Greg fished around and found some parts for an old precursor to the rapidograph and Swanwick talked to some custom pen makers about -- oh, wait, I shouldn't say yet, it's too good an idea -- then we went out to lunch and on the way back ran into Tor author Jared Axelrod and his wife, photographer & costumer JR Blackwell. Pens were bought that had stories pent-up inside them.

A few months ago I'd posted lamenting that I wasn't able to find the right journal. Deep in the heart of Texas photojournalist and journal maker RC Mckee took pity on me and made me a set of three travel journals, just the perfect size for week long excursions.

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Where do I get an Inexpensive Fountain Pen???
While I was there, lots of people were Twittering I love fountain pens, but they're so expensive! -- truth is there are a lots of inexpensive, quality fountain pens. There are a bunch of new ones like the Parker Vector, the Lamy Safari and the Waterman Phileas all in the $25-$40 range. You can find vintage wonders on ebay -- Esterbrook made some of the best writing pens ever that can be found for $10-$30 -- be forewarned -- vintage pens may need some repairs. The technology behind it isn't difficult and you can get parts at places like, but you might need to do a bit of hands-on before you start your novel. Also, vintage pens are more prone do do things like dribble ink. Someone like Mike It Work or the people at the Fountain Pen Hospital can make your vintage pen write like a dream, but it might cost your $20 or $30. The Fountain Pen Hospital also has a lovely free catalog where you can see pens from $20 to $20,000.

Also, if you're into vintage pens, you can google the Zoss Pen List which is a mailing list full of people just like you -- plenty of whom I'm sure would be happy to help you out finding a vintage writer in whatever price range you have.

If this isn't enough pen geekery for you, you can check back through the archives of my journal -- the pen show is always somewhere around January 20th and I usually post right after.

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