Never an Unusable Pen

Perhaps that’s not entirely true, however I’ve been a pen and stationery enthusiast long enough to not only have a fair idea of what suits my writing style and taste best, but to also know exactly where to deploy pens which may not quite fit that ideal window on my usability spectrum.

While there are a couple of ballpoints in the mix here, the slimline black Montblanc and to a lesser degree the Montblanc Noblesse (top) are at the centre of the discussion. Pencil for a little scale.

The slimline fountain pen of the 70’s and 80’s being one example, however there are quite a few others which sit squarely outside my typical usability criteria mentioned below. I remarked recently to a good (pen)friend that much of the “pen discussion” which occurs in our correspondence would make great blog posts, so here I am putting that theory into practice. You see, accompanying a recent letter, I also returned a few pens generously passed on to me by said friend, in the knowledge they would be forwarded on and re-homed to a user perhaps more suited to them.

On a brief side note, I have written about this gentleman before, and truth be told he is one of the most helpful, generous, knowledgeable, and selfless people I’ve had the good fortune of getting to know as a result of writing this blog.

Back to matters at hand, and as it turns out, most of those pens were slimline (read, very slim and narrow) fountain pens which were in their heyday in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Whilst they may not be what I’d reach for to write a thousand words, they were certainly far from unusable, and a few have certainly remained in my collection, to be enjoyed and put to good use. As I wrote in my correspondence, I’ve found there are not too many pens I cannot use in some form or another.

A Usability Window

Don’t get me wrong. We are not talking “unusable” pens with faults or defects that render them, well… non-functional and unable to be used at all. No, here I’m simply referring to those pens which at first glance, hold, or use, give us the: ”well… ah… yeah… not sure how this is going to go for any significant writing…” type of feeling. I suppose it’s the fine line between less-suitable and unsuitable. One of the joys in talking about this stuff is when writing those previous two sentences, I know with 100% certainty that anyone reading this knows exactly what I’m talking about with no further explanation necessary.

I’m sure we all have pens that if we were to sit down and write a few thousand words in longhand, would be the first pulled from the pen pot or case and we’d be eagerly scribing away. Others not so much, where even the thought of making it to the bottom of an A5 page begin those muscle fibre fasciculations which precede writers cramp. It may be size, weight, balance, or many other factors alone or in combination telling us that even beginning with a full cartridge of optimism simply won’t cut it.

For me? Well its usually related to:

  • length: too long or too short (I’m generally not a cap poster, so aside from your pocket pens designed to be the appropriate size upon posting – a la the Kaweco Sport which I love – posting generally makes them feel too long to me). Your smaller pens such as the Pilot Prera and Pelikan 205 I can get away with, however prefer something a little larger if the writing task is looking similarly sizeable.
  • body thickness or diameter: no doubt we all have a sweet spot here. Slimline fountain pens of the 70’s being a little outside mine. That being said, personally I find this to be a wide, wide spectrum
  • taper: I find this an interesting one. Thin and straight – not so great. The same thin diameter at the grip which has come down in a taper – much better. My usual preferred thickness but in a gun-barrel straight body? Sometimes not as good. As I said, I find this an interesting one…
  • finish: I typically find metal barrels a little on the slippery and hard to manage side. That said, the humidity of a Brisbane summer generally affords a bit of tackiness in that regard.
  • weight: often not a deal breaker on its own, given you are of course also thinking this is inextricably linked to balance (as is posting the cap more often than not). A mid to lower centre of gravity if you don’t mind. Combined with the above point — a weighty metal pen can present a challenge.
  • appearance: yeah, I said it… looks. Not in the way you might think though. I’m talking about the output on the page. Those times when the pen doesn’t feel right but your writing just looks fantastic. I’ve typically had most of these experiences with pens I’d have considered a little on the thin side. To be honest it’s often quite a “wow – this goes well” type of moment. Yet, and perfectly illustrative of the point to this post, “wow” is soon replaced with “oh, starting to struggle here — that’s getting a bit messy…” if any sustained writing needs doing beyond maybe a few minutes.

I’ve kept the above list devoid of the even more finicky aspects of nib type/size/grind or liquid ink vs ballpoint, with these really beyond what the post is about. And granted, the above are exceedingly obvious and far from groundbreaking to anyone reading this. In its simplest form we are merely talking about those ”oh this is too big/small/thick/thin/long/short/heavy/unbalanced/slippery/knurled/smooth moments that first flood your mind upon picking up and using whatever writing instrument it may be.

Tale of the tape out of interest: 8mm at the grip section, running to 10mm on the barrel

But of course, all is not lost…

Strategic Deployment

It is here the crux of the argument lies. I’m sure none of us will put up with something we genuinely don’t like using, and with various online marketplaces or simply exchanging with others, there are plenty of ways to offload something of that nature. I guess what I’m referring to though is the genuine joy that exists in having a certain amount of variety available in our day to day tools. Also, it’s not hard to see most of us in this pen caper have some sort of “rotation” in use at any given time. The variety may therefore come weeks to months later, depending on just how many pen soldiers are in storage before they are called to active duty.

I wax and wane as far as numbers in the rotation are concerned (largely depending on when I decide to clean and refill), however I’ve also noticed a trend in having a secondary group — a “special teams” if you will. It’s in this group where the slimline fountain pen sits. Or the outrageously heavy pen. Or the pen that is too short. I think you get the idea.

A short A6 journal page entry? No problem.

This secondary group exists in parallel with the main group for two main reasons. One, they perform what I’d call “writing support” functions (more on this below) and two, they get a run in the main group when the urge to clean isn’t strong enough to reinforce the dwindling ranks of the “in-rotation” group. The funny thing is, it’s the latter of these two scenarios which frequently reminds me that many of the pens assigned a support role deserve a spot in the main rotation, and that is often a change I make moving forward.

So what of these writing support functions? We all have them I’m sure, and I present a second exceedingly obvious list for your reading pleasure:

  • markup: perhaps the most common of them all. Editing your 2014 NaNoWriMo novel for example — a task that remains unfinished (errr… I mean tasks like that anyway, surely no-one is that slow… right?). Those office ”can I get your thoughts on this” type of queries — often printed, hand-written feedback applied and returned (or at the very least hand written for my own thoughts before applying tracked changes and returning a digital document)
  • lists: not much to be said here. If I cannot use a certain type/style of pen for a few pages, I can generally use it for a dozen one or two word bullet points
  • index: essentially the point immediately above
  • headings: where you might prefer the analogue equivalent of H1, H2… etc
  • contrasting text: colours, underline, highlight. Some of this blends into markup, yes, however I also often use different colours in the primary text of a notebook for ease of emphasis or finding something upon scanning through pages
  • injection of joy: not the artistic type by any stretch, however at times I’ll add a little flourish such as the one in the image below if I’m so inclined (“flourish” considerably overstates what you see below, however that’s about as good as it gets — notwithstanding the numerous Bujo YouTube videos I watch at times…)
Merry Christmas one & all…

You’ll have your own lists with far more in them than mine, and I’ve likely forgotten a couple I use as well, however I just want to emphasise one thing: “strategic deployment” is by no means a synonym for “begrudging use”. If I really don’t like a writing instrument, then yes, it will see no use and will leave the collection. It’s just that with all the possible uses, this very rarely occurs, and that is something which gives me considerable satisfaction.

What has always worked for me is loading them up with atypical colours (if you write with all the colours of the rainbow then it won’t matter anyway) to utilise the benefits for markup and contrasting text; having them located at their assigned task (ie coupled with the notecards or notebook in which the list is made); ensuring horses for courses (no free flowing nibs with feather heavy inks in a pocket notebook or on cheap paper if I have too use it — long live the ballpoint!!! — that’s genuine praise, don’t get me started, I love them).

Signing Off

In wrapping things up after taking far too long to say that I rarely can’t find a good use for a pen, there really is nothing more satisfying than having an arsenal of pens, with a reasonable amount of variety, which all see their fair share of use. Use them and love them I say.

And a final word to the generous soul now back in possession of those pens — I’m sure they’ll bring as much joy to the next new home as they did to mine, and as always I am forever grateful to you. And that folks, is an expansion of my letter, as a blog post — unsurprisingly it works pretty well.

An Untimely Christmas Visitor

Well there we have it. After making it almost three years covid-free through this pandemic, I’ve been hobbled at the final hurdle – the 2022 Christmas family visit. As late as the morning of Christmas Eve, packing was being finalised and lists checked off. Cars were fuelled and tyre pressures correct. Departure was imminent, save for the pre-trip Covid check, which as you can now guess, in my case turned out to be disappointingly positive.

Sure, there are ways to manage these things and still make the trip, however suffice to say, our particular circumstances dictated the trip be cancelled. A somewhat quieter Christmas at either end of the two hour drive which separates us would now follow. Time for a little quiet reflection perhaps? Right you are, and of course that’s exactly what happened.

Amongst the kind (and certainly welcome) messages acknowledging the sad situation we found ourselves in, also came a certain clarity of thought around the reason for the trip. To see loved ones — as is the case with most of us this time of year. With many solutions offered in the well-wishing messages, summarised as: take a separate car/sit outside/wear a mask/just drop by at a distance, all consideration was given, however the decision to cancel was never in doubt.

You see, a little clarity of thought around what was being missed here is the key — at least in my mind. Yes, we are a family that celebrates Christmas in all the typical ways. All things going well, that is what has always occurred, and will continue every year into the future. The key however being it’s not the date that matters. The disappointment I feel in not being able to make a three day visit to see my family is no worse on December 25th than it might be on say, the 10th of June — or any other date.

Sure, it’s very disappointing. Seeing them on a particular “day” is not really what’s important to me — simply seeing them is. It’s about the visit not the date. And yes, plans are already in place to visit in about 10 days if things go our way.

So in the spirit of making the most of a bad situation, it’s a fine summer day here in Brisbane, and I’ll continue my recovery in front of the television, alternating between the Boxing Day cricket test match and the Sydney to Hobart yacht race. A return to full health is best achieved with leftover ham and judicious amounts of pavlova — both of which are in plentiful supply. Add to that the real saviours and joy in this situation, my wife and kids, with whom I’ve just spent Christmas — albeit at a short distance through a mask. It wasn’t “as planned”, and despite feeling a little unwell, I can certainly not complain about these past few days.

In the midst of the chaos surrounding extreme weather, flight cancellations, health concerns, and many other challenges, I hope your plans went along as proposed. Mine certainly will — just a little later than expected.

Pen collection thoughts – niche or narrow?

When it comes to a pen hobby, some may consider it niche, others not so much. Sure, there are plenty of folk who love their stationery, however the more “nerdy” pen types likely fit the niche descriptor one way or another. From there, well I guess it is just a matter of how far you go down the rabbit hole, which in many ways brings me to my point.

Depending on your approach, going deep into any hobby or interest carries with it the inherent risk of limiting the breadth you may experience across that same endeavour. Specialising, or carving out your own… ok — niche, indeed has many benefits, however again, there are sacrifices in this approach if we begin to take a broader view. There is of course no right or wrong to any of this, simply the path(s) you choose. Further, that old adage you don’t know what you don’t know springs to mind as well.

Why am I writing about this? Well as with anything reflective in nature, the trigger is often some occurrence which makes us ponder things a little. Where you ultimately arrive with those thoughts may be a side tangent you hadn’t necessarily seen coming. I guess that’s the thing about serendipity.

It’s around nine years or so since I started this blog, and it was only a little before that I found myself revelling in the discovery that many likeminded people shared their love of pens online. What was one to do? Dive right in of course.

You begin poking around online, one blog links to another, and progressively a nice cache of RSS feeds mounts within the “Pen” folder in your reader. The associated social media and podcast(s) inevitably follow. You immerse yourself further. These are your people! There may be a local group or two where online becomes face to face, and as good as that may be, for the introverted amongst us that aspect may just as quickly fall away. Again, nothing wrong with that — we are each to our own. Online though, it’s all there. All around.

Fast forward a few years, and as your interactions broaden a little, you begin to see that despite all you’ve opened your eyes to across the entire (or so it seems) internet, your view may be a little narrower than first thought. I guess all that’s left to do is chuckle as you are reminded large parts of your hobby are actually unknown to you. You’ve completely missed them.


Well I’ve probably answered my own question earlier in the post: …one blog links to another… All well and good, however there is the tendency for things to work their way around in a nice circle as a result. Podcasts at times can be similar. Opinions somehow become fact and we all end up hearing or writing similar things. We buy the same things from the same companies. Is it FOMO? Maybe, or perhaps so we can contribute to the conversation?

Whatever the reason it can certainly stifle any natural growth which may occur in directions other than everyone else’s well worn path. Maybe there is a fine line between community and echo chamber. Perhaps it’s one and the same. Mind you, I say that with the utmost respect, for I think there is simply a natural tendency for things to develop in such a way.

So what is this serendipitous event I speak of? Well the mere existence of a large swathe of pen models by a certain large pen manufacturer which existed through the 70’s and 80’s which I knew absolutely nothing about, yet are certainly out there if you care to look. I’m talking of the Montblanc Generation, Noblesse, and Carrera. Throw in another slim line two-colour twist mechanism ballpoint for good measure. Bringing these types of pens into a collection certainly results in a little background research, and it is only then you begin to realise the extent of the gaps in your knowledge.


The exact pens themselves aren’t the point here (they certainly may be in a future post of course…). The narrow-ish field of view I’ve somehow developed to this point is.

I understand many of us live in the “now” or “next release” of the pen world, and do not necessarily seek “vintage”, or have any interest in it, which is absolutely fair enough. I hadn’t really ever planned on doing it either, however found the main benefit to be a richer and broader overall view as a result. That being said, the point of this post is not even to sing the praises of vintage pens, but to simply explain the catalyst of putting pen to paper which ended up being what you are reading now.

The moral here? If I could speak from experience and with brevity: No matter what you think you know, or who you choose to read, watch or listen to, there is far, far more out there which may indeed be of interest — perhaps surprisingly so.

If everyone else has/wants/suggests a certain pen, might it be worth casting the net a little wider and  considering something different instead? You never know what you might find.

A Less Wasteful Home Espresso

After many years dutifully following the “don’t even bother with the single basket” mantra in my home espresso routine, I began to increasingly lament the wasted shot from the other side of the spout at every push of the pump button. To confirm, yes — I’m a single shot espresso drinker. Always have been, always will be. Of course, the term “single” is a relative one these days, however I’ll get to that later. Suffice to say, I felt something needed to change in how I approach things from a waste and cost perspective, while preserving the quality, flavour, and respect for the coffee and those who produce it.

That being said, if you are happily capturing the full yield from say, a 16 – 20 gram dose in your cup and drinking the entirety, much of what follows is moot. Simply to say I acknowledge none of what I’m saying here is groundbreaking, nor does it apply to the majority of full yield-drinking home espresso enthusiasts out there (as You Tube and Instagram would seem to suggest). At the end of the day, writing a blog is perhaps just talking out loud to yourself anyway, which is precisely the case here.

In any event I will press on, and although things will inevitably continue to change, I think stepping back and looking at a few aspects of my “why” turned out pretty well.


To paint a frame of reference:

As a brief aside, discussions around equipment and tools are very much point-in-time aren’t they? To say things constantly evolve is perhaps an understatement, given 12 months ago this looked a little different, and by the time I get around to writing a planned follow up post it will likely be different again. Thankfully though, the topic at hand is more enduring.

Well served by the Breville Dual Boiler – of course things are apt to change

My puck preparation involves grinding into the Niche dosing cup, flipping that into the filter basket, palm tapping the side of the portafilter, performing the Weiss Distribution Technique (WDT) with a single “needle” followed by a Pullman chisel distribution tool spin (my use of this varies — somtimes yes, other times no), and tamping. The more you play around, the more you realise puck prep is such an important part of the entire process.

I run the Dual Boiler anywhere from 93 to 96 degrees celsius for darker to lighter roasts respectively, with preinfusion set at 55% pump pressure for 5 seconds, though occasionally will play around with this as well. When running longer (ie greater volume), faster flowing shots (lungo and beyond, “coffee shots”, “turbo shots” — see links below), this may run as low as 91 degrees, however we’ll go into that another day.

Dosing, basket foibles, grams, and spouts

I mentioned in the introduction of taking my espresso by the single shot.

When talking grams, a true single is really a double, and standard speciality coffee establishments would typically serve a triple shot. Then again, what is “true” here? My terminology here assumes we are talking the typical Italian style dose of 7 grams as our “single” unit of measure. My “single” has evolved into 13-14 grams (aka a “double” by gram weight), and the typical cafe serving of around 20 grams give or take, therefore approximates a triple shot by gram weight.

The whole single or double reference however (at least in my experience here in Australia), has generally involved a split shot from a dual spout portafilter. That is, do you want both spouts of this 20 gram dose or “just a single”. I think you get my drift here. For consistency and clarity, henceforth I will quote the dose I use in grams as we move through the post. Thankfully most of what you view or read online now has adopted the same approach in terms of gram weight descriptions. Three cheers for standardisation and consistency in terminology!

Single or double? Aka one or both spouts as it were…

My filter baskets are of course matched to the relative doses, with a 14g (La Marzocco), 17-19g (Pullman) and 19-21g (Pullman) sitting by the machine. I must admit to keeping the ridged “single” basket which came with the machine from Breville, however it’s only use being to fit the blind filter attachment inside for cleaning. For a little further clarity, it is this ridged single basket that is the subject of derision and the “don’t even bother with it” mantra I mentioned earlier — not to be confused necessarily with a lower dose in a higher quality, gram-matched ridgeless basket.

The generally outcast ridged basket at left

To close this out: for years I’ve used a 19-20g dose and split the shot. One spout into my cup, the other discarded. More recently as part of this rethink, I’ve moved to a smaller 14g (ridgeless) basket, capturing the full yield into my cup. I’m now using this for both espresso (at 1:2 up to 1:4 brew ratio) and milk based beverages (usually 1:1.5 brew ratio) and couldn’t be happier with the result.

So there is the what, let’s get more into the why.

A changed approach


Waste. Cost. Conscience (though not entirely in a way you might think). The long term viability of this whole espresso set up. All of the above and anything else you might find in this post really. I guess it is sitting back and thinking about why I’m doing certain things and whether they can be done any better — or at least more efficiently, less wastefully, and with no loss in quality.

With a little thought, research and experimentation, the answer turned out to be yes.


The concept of wasting coffee is of course as much tied to cost as anything, however also bears an important discussion on its own merits.

I’m sure none of us set out to intentionally create waste in any aspect of our lives and this post is the outcome of realising I was essentially doing exactly that. Wasting a heap of coffee (and yes, money) with how I was approaching my espresso making at home. Arguably, the waste is a far more important issue, although sometimes it is the realisation about cost which nudges you to think just that little bit more.

While waste and cost may be inextricably linked, the moral to this story lies somewhere between experimentation, having an open mind, and questioning why you are doing what you’ve always done. Further, despite what you might think, your home is not a cafe – regardless of what you’ve spent(!) on equipment over the years. Generally, the only customer you might lose through experimentaton is yourself, and is a situation that should be pretty easy to turn around in a hurry…

It’s pretty clear that excess and mindless waste don’t quite fit in a world where sustainability and doing better for the environment are so important. As an individual, how much will my contribution of minimising waste make? Perhaps not much, I’d hope the little things do add up when each of us do our part.


A standard 250 gram bag of speciality roasted coffee. For arguments sake I’ll call it AUD$18.00 at current prices. If we are dosing our espresso at 20g then we are looking at 12.5 doses per bag. After dialling in and rounding, we are probably left with 10 usable doses per bag, or $1.80 per cup.

The key point to remember here is that for me, half of that 20g dose was going unused. My own fault entirely, however there isn’t another member of the household to utilise it, nor as I’ve said above would I typically use the full yield myself at any given time.

Well it’s sure cheaper than cafe prices! True enough, though a heck of a lot more goes into what you are served in that context, and it doesn’t absolve me from trying to do better at home.

Now, proceeding further into the weeds.

That same 250g bag of specialty coffee at doses of 13-14g will provide us with 17-19 doses. Give or take dialling in, lets say 15-18 usable doses per bag. Already we skip to 50% more doses, the entirety of the shot yield utilised, at a cost of $1.00 to $1.20 per cup. Nicely done.

What if we bought our coffee in a larger amount? Estimating costs for a 1kg bag of specialty at say $60.00 per kg we arrive at $0.92 per cup (at say, 65 doses after dial in). Finally, throwing in something from left field: Aldi’s Lazzio Medium Roast is $12.00 for a 1kg bag (There I said it. For milk based drinks, give it a shot. You might be surprised). That’s about $0.19 per cup.

It takes all sorts…

It is here we proceed with a little caution. Should we be suspicious of larger scale production at cheaper, commodity level prices? What about sustainability, cheap labour and the like? All valid concerns, and I’m not about to propose any answers. To be fair, nor am I casting aspersions on anything or anyone in particular. These are simply considerations in this somewhat complex world we live in.

There is certainly a lot more to say about fairness in price in the world coffee market, however that is beyond the scope of this post.


Is this not the typical result of some type of existential thinking – bringing it all back to being about you, and whether “making a difference” is really just a way to feel better about yourself?

Yes and no.

Anyone with a passing interest in specialty coffee, let alone someone who might refer to themselves as an enthusiast, pays some attention to the plight of the coffee farmer, who typically is on the lowest rung of the value chain. Many are doing it tough, and climate change, fluctuating international coffee prices, and the effect of Covid certainly isn’t helping. As for the fairness in price issue? Another reason I’ve looked into utilising my coffee a little better. When you use a lot, it can get expensive, however cheapest may not always be the best option – particularly given this approach has its own issues as I’ve alluded to above. In view of that, I do try and support local specialty roasters who source quality coffee, which may be at slightly higher cost.

There we have conscience part one.

Part two? Well that relates to the guilt many enthusiasts, hobbysists, or whatever you may call your particular self may feel at any given time. None of this comes cheap, and we can, over the course of many years (or let’s face it – in an instant with a simple click), spend a significant amount of money on the “tools” that come with said passion or interest. That dedicated coffee bar; the need for an expensive grinder to do this espresso justice; the natural upgrade creep that occurs in rewarding your “skill” increments over the years; or just a shiny new thing that’s hot right now in coffee…

For some it might be jet skis, bikes, cars, or tech gear. Heck, it might even be some weird fascination with pens (go figure…). Suffice to say, that with every “yes” in this little world of my passion means “no” to something I could pay off faster, improve around the home, or visit with my family. Although, who is to say an espresso machine is anything other than a home improvement. Jokes aside, spending significant amounts of money affects more than just me, and is something which has weighed on my mind at times over the years.

The relevance of this sentiment here? Well, where opportunity exists to change things a little and the result is a more cost effective way of doing things, I see no reason not to try and do a little better.

Using it all

Use it all. Largely a message to myself. Do you need a fancy machine to experiment with dose, shot time and yield? Of course not. Remember most cafes you enter these days are still not pulling a minutely detailed flow, pressure or any other profiled shot. Some might be, they also probably have a better grinder, better water, and have dialled things in far better than our at home once or twice a day heat-up-the-machine-and-go approach. So many opportunities to improve if you haven’t got those things on point already…

So where did I end up? The turbo shot? Chasing the perfect lungo? Something in between? Well, any and all of the above. I’ll leave some links here, given the considerable discussion in the last 12-18 months about different approaches for both accessability (to newcomers in espresso), consistency, and as a beneficial flow on – sustainability (which is, well… for everyone’s benefit).

The links below contain information, concepts and ideas which mirror a fair proportion of where my experimentation took me, and I’ll have more to say in a follow up post. I’ve listed them here in the event they may be of interest, some of the videos are a little lengthy.

The Finish

If I have learnt anything from this process over the past six months or so, it is to give yourself permission to do something different. The best part? At home, no-one can hear you scream, see your “that’s-lemon-juice!” face, or spit things out at the extreme under or overextraction that inevitably results from experimentation. Ironically there will be a little waste as you sort things out, the longer term gains will indeed be worth it.

Having written a couple of thousand words here, I do have more to say, and plan to run through a little more about why I’m particularly enjoying these new found brew recipes and approaches. After all, while less waste and saving money are indeed noble endeavours, they cannot come at the cost of taste and enjoyment, and it is here that I’ve had the most pleasant surprise…

I’ve actually found it far, far better.

Sorry – not with those swirls

I’ve never been one for those colourful and swirly finishes on the body of my fountain pens. Actually pretty much any of my pens, fountain or otherwise. At times I wonder if I missed out on the creative component of my being, or maybe I’m just exceedingly dull. Not in the best position to make an objective call on that one, I’d like to think it’s merely a case of I know what I like or perhaps more to the point — what I don’t.

Exhibit A – Fountain pen drawer one

As I look through my collection of pens, it is decidedly lacking in colour variation. Actually is black even a colour? Sure, there is a splash of red, a drop of blue and some demonstrators, however we have what many would call an overwhelmingly conservative collection. What I’d call it? A collection of classic styles, designs and overall character. I absolutely love it. I’ve written before about a very kind and generous gesture a few years ago which swelled the number of pens I own considerably. The fact is, had this been a slower one by one accumulation to where I sit today, things would look exactly as they do now — to the letter (or colour and finish, as it were).

Exhibit B – Fountain pen drawer two

I’m not entirely sure when this anti-swirl sentiment began, and I can only assume it is some innate tendency leading me to gravitate towards the opposite. In looking further afield at things such as my accessories (mostly leather – again, generally black) and even more broadly across my wardrobe, you see classical and largely timeless rather than overtly expressive. Again — exactly as I like it, and exactly as I curate it. The classics? They say never go out of style I seem to recall.

I must point out this perspective is written merely as a personal observation of my own situation, rather than some sort of argument against the colourful swirl of many a fountain pen. Further, at times I do feel a twinge of guilt in not offering much support to the smaller independent pen makers who produce and offer these types of designs to the market. Let’s face it, your standard black body and platinum trim are typically the bread and butter of larger players rather than the indie battler. At the end of the day I guess you can only buy what you like, and hope you end up liking what you buy. If that is indeed how it turns out, there is a compelling case to repeat the behaviour.

Of course I’ve also bought my fair share of pens through Kickstarter or direct from smaller manufacturers, yet funnily enough, I’m not sure any strayed too far from the flock. Take these rollerballs for example. Further, in bolstering my stable of ballpoints over the last year or two, the purchases have been your standard dark makrolon, ultra (let’s call it matte) black, and black and platinum respectively. So the trend continues, although the same cannot be said for the refills.

In bringing this post to a close, I hand it to those makers who are doing fabulous things with those dreamy, swirling creations, and I’m certainly glad there seems to be a healthy market for them.

However just as it should be at this and every other juncture in this pen caper, we are each to our own.