A Static Yet Evolving Fountain Pen Collection

2017-02-26-post-writing
In use, a Pelikan M600. Looking on, a Pilot Decimo; Faber Castell Ambition; Lamy Safari
Anyone with a keen interest in fountain pens will eventually own more than one. The “more than one” will of course in all likelihood not merely duplicate the original. Most look towards having some variety of experience — different pens, nibs, sizes and designs. A cursory glance through any pen enthusiast’s social media feed will provide an insight into the amazing variety in many collections, be they developing or mature.

Usually, variety also comes with favourites. Those we might prefer to pick up just a little (or perhaps a lot) more than others. “Favourites” however — is not necessarily a category into which all of those great pens will fit into. Such a category is quite personal and subjective after all.

Perhaps “preferred” might be a better term. Horses for courses. Specific pens which may better for certain tasks than others. I’ll touch on this a little more below, however regardless of what title we put on, or how we define it, I think you get the idea.

An aside

There are times when I’m writing a post for this blog where I suddenly stop and think: why am I actually writing this? Who really cares about my personal experience or thoughts on x, y, or z? Something which occurs more often than you would think — and certainly more than I would like. This? Definitely one of those times.

When it does occur, one of two things generally happens: (i) The specific reason something might be of value to someone reading becomes clearer, generally resulting in a re-write with a more specific focus; or (ii) I feel like a bit of an idiot for spending so much time only to scrap the entire thing quite late in the piece.

Blog posts I find most valuable have a way of changing how you think about something — not simply make you think about it. How your own situation is — and will be — influenced by your approach to it, and your philosophy behind that approach. There are plenty of posts published on these pages which won’t achieve that, however hopefully on occasion some will.

Of course when I hit a point in my writing as I’ve described above, I tell myself it improves the overall quality of what does end up published here, though I’m not sure I fully buy that. Here’s hoping I’m onto (i) above with what follows.

Not a “favourite pens” post

So, I’m talking about what exactly?

Well, I can only speak from personal experience of course, however perhaps I’d call it the curious case of my static yet evolving fountain pen collection. It is evolving more with time, and as that continues, it is providing quite an intangible change in value — something that is as exciting as it is perhaps a little unusual (to me at least).

I have a fountain pen collection which has not been added to for well over a year now. For those who may be interested, a listing of said collection can be found here. For those unfamiliar with how much of that collection came together, it is explained here. To say I remain grateful for these pens every day I uncap one would be an understatement.

To explain the apparent incongruity in this same, yet different notion — this “evolution” I speak of, is not in the “I’ve moved on” sense of the word. Over time I’ve noticed an ebb and flow of usage and delight within this collection. Granted, not entirely unusual, however I’m talking about pens I had placed (somewhat firmly) in the unsuitable/not my style/not comfortable/just cannot seem to like it category, completely coming around.

This whole pen caper can be a complex one to think about at times. What’s that? Well if you make it complicated it certainly is. I don’t disagree with you. Just pick up a pen and write with it — simple. Again agreed. However that is precisely the essence of what I’m talking about here. Those we choose to pick up, and those we don’t, and what becomes of those we more often than not don’t.

My collection

Thinking back on previous pen posts here, most have always contained a few points on my usage patterns, a big part of which is dictated by the size of the pen, and how comfortable it may be over longer periods of use. Most I generally consider to be either shorter note takers, or long form writers. Of course long can be short — though short is usually never long.

Pens which fit into the long form writers category, and by default can of course handle the short stuff, tend to be those “favourites” or “preferred” pens of the bunch.

From a previously published post, my thoughts on the Faber Castell Ambition:

Over longer writing sessions, the Ambition is probably not quite as comfortable as some larger diameter pens with a tapered form, however here I am referring to a three or four A4 pages before I began to have those thoughts

Another, on the Sailor 1911 Large:

For me personally, the answer is just about perfect, both from a size and weight perspective. At 122 mm (unposted) the barrel has enough length to provide scope for a higher or lower grip on the section, which I will vary at times during lengthy writing sessions.

Finally – the Pilot Decimo:

For shorter writing sessions or quick notes, it is just about spot on. When in the zone and powering through multiple pages of a longer draft, I’d more likely pick up one of my other pens.

Perhaps some form of size/balance sweet spot or preference appearing over time?

In actual fact, I drafted the beginnings of this post some months ago. Seriously? What have you been doing? Good question for another time — actually no it isn’t. I don’t actually have an answer to that one.

In any event, that original post had a working title of A Pen Sweet Spot. In it I began to wax lyrical about how it wasn’t just about nibs. It was (and is) about weight, dimensions, and overall balance as well. That is often why I pick up what I do on any given writing occasion. About how it isn’t just about numbers and specs. How there is a good deal of the intangible.

It might help at this point to provide a little context of where I was headed with that post.

The original draft

A surviving excerpt from the original:

So, it sits about where this so-called sweet spot?

For reference, it’s around a Pelikan M600; a Sailor 1911 Large; or a Pilot Custom 912. Towards, but firmly within the lower (read smaller) end, it’s a Pilot Custom Heritage 92; a posted (of course) Kaweco Sport; or even a Pilot Kakuno. Aside from the Kaweco, all of the above are used without posting the cap, as are those towards the upper end of the window.

Towards the larger end we have contenders such as the Pelikan M800 series, my OMAS Ogiva Alba, and even the Platinum President.

There are also some notable omissions from that list. If we are simply talking approximate size, then it also should be the Lamy Safari, probably the Lamy 2000, and even the Pilot Metropolitan. To me that suggests there is more at play. Those and a few other pens I’ve never really gelled with. Great pens mind you — each of them, and I do enjoy using them — just not for any significant amount of time.

Some notable omissions? Probably the Pelikan M200 and 400 series, the Faber Castell Ambition, and the Pilot Decimo. Each probably a little on the slender side to keep things completely comfortable over the course of more than a few pages.

2017-02-26-post-sweet-group
L to R: Pilot Custom Heritage 92; Sailor 1911 Large; Pilot Custom Heritage 912; Pelikan M805; OMAS Ogiva Alba; Platinum President
Between writing those words in the initial draft and now, a few things happened which I have to admit surprised me. For one – I powered through a number of pages with the Ambition and wondered why I enjoyed it so much. I wrote a lot of the first draft of this very post with the Lamy 2000 – again stopping to think: what happened there? That is, with reference to the above, the short did become the long — and I thoroughly enjoyed the fact, and the pens. It changed my whole perspective on some of the pens I’d not used in a little while.

How did this magic occur?

The zone

A few pens with which I’d never managed to end up in “the zone” with, magically appeared there — and appeared there effortlessly. Though we might all have our own word or term, you know what I’m talking about when I refer to “the zone”.

Those writing days where everything just feels right. The pen sits truly in your hand — the nib gliding freely but with precision. The slope uniformly even, the tails curve in symmetry, and no matter how fast the page is filling — it’s all falling into place. You’re in the zone — and it will take a big nudge to bump you out of it.

Somedays it can be found in the first sentence. Perhaps late in the first paragraph or even over the page. Other, more frustrating days? Good luck finding it at all. It’s a Field of Dreams really isn’t it? Putting together a combination of perfect tools: pen, paper and a perfect position will see it somehow magically appear from the corn field. Other times? It’s just you sitting in the empty stand.

Your point exactly Pete?

This (sweeps hand above pen storage boxes) — all of this changes.

2017-02-26-powderfinger-quote
Powderfinger and a Lamy 2000
This is a journey that goes not from A to B. To borrow a phrase from legendary Australian band Powderfinger, it goes up and down and back again. It isn’t simply a linear spectrum or continuum — there is more to it.

As I mentioned – I’ve not acquired any new fountain pens for some time, yet somehow, I have what I consider a whole “new” group of pens patiently waiting for me. That is as weird to me as it is wonderful. I’d begun thinking a little about my longer term plans in relation to these pens, yet now it’s decided – I’m hanging onto them, for I’m sure those sitting patiently in that drawer are likely to have something more to offer when called upon.

I feel extremely lucky all over again.

Signing off

If you’ve made it this far I thank you, and apologies if what I’m trying to say remains unclear. The essence of the message is simply that it seems this whole fountain pen journey indeed evolves, however it is equally back to the old as it is on to the new.

So yes, buy on recommendations, however embrace what you own. Love your pens, look after them, and go back to them. You never know when that one at the back of the drawer might become “the one” — at least for a while anyway.

There you have it, over 1900 words that could have been summed up in a tweet. Long form writing though — with fountain pens.

Exactly. You get it.

Advertisements

A Pen Index Page

With the number of pens in my collection growing substantially over the last few years, I’ve put them all together in an Airtable database as an attempt to keep them in some sort of order. Although the database is far from complete, and will perhaps be the subject of a post in its own right — my thoughts came around to the blog and how things are organised in terms of the pens and reviews I’ve put up so far.

I’ve decided on at least creating a basic pen index list for the blog, which will hopefully provide readers with a general idea of where I’m coming from as far as my fountain pen thoughts and opinions are concerned, along with a simple index with links to the posts I’ve managed to get around to writing so far.

Looking at the list, I feel incredibly fortunate to have the pen collection I have, which was largely brought about by a very kind and generous friend downsizing his own collection at about the same time. Although I’ve thanked him many times, it is a generosity that I will never be able to fully repay.

There are certainly some pens in the list I find myself coming back to, filling, and using more often, though at the current time I’m not ready to either put them in rank order or into a best/top type list. Perhaps that might come at some point in the future.

At the current time I’ve also limited things to fountain pens, having not decided on the exact nature of how I might include other types of pens I own without the index becoming a little too all-encompassing and unwieldy. I also debated on whether to include budget pens such as the Pilot Petit1 and Platinum Preppy, however having written a post on the Petit1, the decision was made to include them as well. After all, there are some solid pens at this end of the market, particularly at the price point they sell for.

If you’d like to take a look at the index, it is sitting under the Analogue Tools category of the site’s menu, or click the following link:

Current Pen Index

As I’ve mentioned, the list contains links to posts I’ve written on some of the pens. If you are looking for other reviews around the web, the best place to start is the magnificent Pennaquod pen blog search site run and maintained by Ian Hedley, of Pens! Paper! Pencils!

And the Airtable database I mentioned in the introduction above? That’s not a database — check out the one David Brennan of Too Many Inks uses for his pen and ink rotation. Now that’s a database.

In closing, I do hope to slowly get around to transforming more of the index to links, however of course that means finding time to write the posts.

I’m sure I’ll get there — eventually.


Two of a Kind: Pilot Metropolitan and Tombow Object Fountain Pens

IMG_3427
Silver Zigzag Pilot Metropolitan (L), and red Tombow Object (R)

With a Pilot Metropolitan having been in my collection for almost 12 months now, upon recently receiving a Tombow Object, I was struck by how similar these two pens actually are.

My original Metropolitan had a fine nib, which met its demise after about 11 months of use, when a very small part of the nib tip popped off while writing. Although I then had an instant stub nib, it was a little jagged for writing! The Metropolitan you see here came with a medium nib.

Both of these particular pens were received from the very kind gentleman I wrote about in a previous post.

Look and Feel

FullSizeRender 14The similarities in these pens were immediately apparent in relation to appearance; to some degree the design, and how both felt in the hand while writing — I see am not alone in thinking this.

When capped, both are of a very similar length and shape, tapering towards both ends. The Tombow remains a little larger in diameter at the end of the body and cap, whereas the Metropolitan continues to a slightly finer taper.

The Metropolitan is noticeably the heavier of the two, however both are quite well-balanced when putting pen to paper. Both have sturdy, well-functioning clips, with the Metropolitan sporting a feature band of decorative patterning around the centre of the barrel. This particular one being the Silver Zigzag model. A nice touch, however probably adds no more aesthetic value to my eye.

Both pens have a metallic, brushed aluminium looking finish on the entire exterior (with the exception of the zigzag addition to the Metropolitan) — a type of finish I do like, and particularly suits some of the more colourful options available in the Tombow Object series.

IMG_3433
Differences can be seen in overall nib length; step at the junction of section and barrel of the Metropolitan; and the Tombow’s matte finish on the section.

You could say the similarities end once the snap on/off caps are removed and the grip sections are exposed. The Metropolitan’s shiny gloss plastic (resin?) grip section is immediately apparent, whereas the Tombow sports a more subdued matte finish.

Both have visible and palpable lines running the length of the grip section from the manufacturing process, and although virtually unnoticeable, are not evident on more expensive pens. Certainly not an issue and I only mention it as I analyse the grip sections a little more closely for comparison. The taper, length and step of the grip section is the biggest difference I find in these pens, and I will elaborate further in Writing Performance below.

Overall, I like the look of both for sturdy, everyday use pens, and given the similarity, if I like one, it goes without saying I like the other. On appearance alone, I really couldn’t pick a favourite between the two.

Specifications

Specifications below courtesy Jet Pens:

Pilot Metropolitan

  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Weight: 3.7 ounces (105 grams)
  • Grip diameter: 9.8 mm (max diameter 13.3 mm)
  • Length Capped: 13.8 cm
  • Length Posted: 15.3 cm
  • Length Uncapped: 12.5 cm
  • Nib: steel
  • Fill: international standard cartridge/converter
  • Price: Approximately $AU18.00 (Jet Pens US + shipping)
  • My pen: Silver Zigzag model; M nib

Tombow Object

  • Country of origin: Japan
  • Weight: 3.0 ounces (85 grams)
  • Grip diameter: 9.3 mm (max diameter 13.0 mm)
  • Length Capped: 13.8 cm
  • Length Posted: 15.6 cm
  • Length Uncapped: 12.2 cm
  • Nib: steel
  • Fill: international standard cartridge/converter
  • Price: Approximately $AU48.00 (Cult Pens UK + shipping)
  • My pen: Red model; F nib

As you’ll note from the lists above, it is certainly not hard to see why these pens are very, very similar in look and feel — the most obvious difference being of course the weight.

For overall balance, I honestly could not pick one over the other despite this obvious difference, however if you were someone who posted their pens — for me at least — this would make things a little top-heavy with the Metropolitan.

You’ll also notice both are sold as cartridge/converter fillers. Not being overly adept with the included squeeze mechanism converter included with the Metropolitan, I swapped in the CON-50 converter which I’ve always found easy to use and very reliable. I have only used a standard international cartridge in the Tombow.

Writing Performance

When putting pen to paper, it is again quite amazing just how similar these pens are, even more so with the medium nib of the Metropolitan and fine of the Tombow.

IMG_3428
Despite the Metropolitan’s M nib and Tombow’s F – the line characteristics were very similar.

From what I recall, this would certainly not have been the case with the fine nib of my previous Metropolitan. At times I found the fine nib a little scratchy on certain paper types, and overall it was probably too fine for my writing style. The medium nib on this model is a far better fit for me.

The line widths, nib feel and smoothness are very, very close. Both lay down ink very well, with the only real difference in feel the marginally stiffer nib on the Tombow. Even with slightly more flex to the Metropolitan, both pens showed minimal (and pretty even) line variation with changes in pressure. There is no doubt these are really great nibs — both of them.

I keep harping about the similarities in these pens, so we should probably have a look at some of the differences as well.

My standard grip as shown with the Metropolitan.
My standard grip as shown with the Metropolitan.

That grip section. Here is where the suitability of each pen might vary widely depending upon your particular writing grip and style. I believe I would call mine a fairly standard pen hold, and with that, the Metropolitan suits my hand better than the Tombow.

With the Metropolitan, there is a significant step down from the barrel to the section, which in itself may be a problem for some, however suits my grip perfectly. As my middle finger hooks around the step, it provides a perfect platform to balance the pen, with my index finger and thumb able to rest lightly on the top and side. I’ve found this facilitates a lighter grip nicely — particularly in someone who is making a conscious effort to be a little less heavy handed (remember that broken Metropolitan F nib I was talking about?).

With the Tombow, at that same point in the grip section, although there was no step, the continuous taper towards the nib and smooth plastic finish left me wanting a little more control most times I wrote with it. This was most evident early in the mornings when both hand and pen barrel/section were cool, and I found my fingers sliding around a little on section. Not a deal breaker, however I certainly had less control, and was forced to grip a little more tightly, something I am consciously making an efforts not to do.

IMG_3437IMG_3436

Of course I then began thinking how the Tombow would make a perfect summer pen, when the Queensland humidity would ensure the grip section became nice and tacky — and just like that my pens started to become seasonal. What has become of me?

Overall, I’d say these pens are quite similar (again!) in writing performance, particularly from the perspective of the nib. My preference simply comes down to the shape of the section on the Metropolitan being more suited to my particular grip.

Use case

The most obvious answer here of course, is anywhere you would use a fountain pen, although there are a couple of other points I’d like to add. Although I have differing nib widths for both pens (a reminder: M on the Metropolitan; F on the Tombow), as you can see from the accompanying writing samples, both are on what you’d call the finer side of line widths.

IMG_3424
In a Baron Fig Confidant Journal.

This allows these pens to function very well on paper where a broader, wetter nib might bleed and feather its way out of favour. A case in point being the Baron Fig Confidant notebook. Otherwise, my usual Rhodia pads have seen the most of both these pens for both meeting and general notes I have made at my desk in the office, a task for which I have found both pens well suited, given their understated look.

That said, it has been nothing to carry either one in my pocket or shirt placket for use in a coffee shop note taking or planning session either. True, I notice the Metropolitan’s extra weight in doing so, however I wouldn’t say enough for me to avoid doing so. Both have again performed well, whether it be a few quick words written between sips, or a few pages written when ideas are flowing a little more freely.

Either of these pens can be anything you need them to be.

Conclusion

Put simply these are both great pens.

The Pilot Metropolitan is widely recognised as one of the best value for money pens out there. That very statement ”value for money” typically infers compromise, yet I certainly do not necessarily see that to be the case here — for either pen.

For the respective price points, the materials are of course not high-end, however I think for both cases here, that simply adds to the satisfaction when using these pens. You have a great pen in either case and have spent only a modest sum for the privilege.

If I had to pick, it would be the Metropolitan. Largely based on the better suitability of the grip for my particular style, and the lower price point really hammering home the value for money aspect.

That being said, I would (and will) be happy to continue using both on a regular basis.


Generosity

Time, money, objects, advice — to name but a few. Generosity can be demonstrated in many forms.

You might usually find greater expression of it amongst friends and family. Between complete strangers? Perhaps less often, yet a little more likely where there are common interests.

What follows below continues to amaze me as I write and read through it, yet also reinforces to me there are some wonderful people out there, and I have been indeed lucky enough to recently become acquainted with one.

Initial contact

Readership of this blog has built slowly and steadily over the two years I’ve been writing here. I do receive feedback occasionally on what I write — not a lot — but enough. Some offer encouragement, others push me to think a little differently about what I have written, though it is always well-intentioned and respectful. I consider myself very lucky in this regard.

Earlier this year I received some kind words from a reader on a couple of my pen related posts. I of course responded with thanks as is usually the case. Thankfully, he also reached out via email, through the contact page of this blog.

What the email contained is something I’ll never forget.

A most generous offer

Earlier in the year I had concluded I would be satisfied with my current pen collection in the short-term — and convinced myself I wouldn’t be making any significant purchases (perhaps only a bottle of ink here or there) until the second half of the year.

Not long after, I received the email which contained an offer I must admit left me somewhat stunned upon my initial reading.

I know what you are thinking — the email contained an unbeatable deal and I broke my current and future planned budget restrictions all at once.

No. It was much more than that. Way more.

The writer of the email mentioned owning a number of pens, and considering himself a user rather than a collector — was looking to pass on some of the pens he no longer regularly used to someone who might use and appreciate them.

Somewhat more significantly for myself, he went on to say he enjoyed reading this blog and would like to do something to support that. Very kind words and encouragement which in themselves already more than made my day. Being offered these pens was… well — you can imagine how that felt.

I continued reading.

The list of pens here was nothing short of amazing — particularly to someone like myself looking to expand a fairly limited collection. An endeavour that was to date progressing — though fairly slowly. Remember we are talking about doubling my fountain pen collection overnight — with each of these pens worth more than any (bar one) I already owned.

Needless to say I was somewhat flabbergasted.

A few emails back and forth later — and I had provided an address for the pens to be sent.

Arrival

A little excited at this point.
A little excited at this point.

Needless to say, an exciting few days wait ensued before an express post package arrived at my desk in the office. Being the somewhat private person I am, waiting until people were off in meetings and such for a quiet time to open it was one of the hardest things I have done in recent times.

Again. Totally amazed.

Although through the previous email exchanges I had known what was coming — actually having them in my hand was unbelievable.

At no cost to me, I had just received: a Pelikan M400 (green; EF nib); Pelikan M215 (black and rhodium; M nib); Pelikan M205 (red; F nib); Lamy 2000 (F nib); Tombow Object (red; F nib); Platinum Multi-pen; and a selection of ink cartridges.

IMG_3170
In all their glory.

 

I think anyone familiar with pens will see the value in those above, and anyone who isn’t — well let us just say we are looking at a significant amount of money if I were to buy them.

What can I say?

Having received the pens in the middle of March, I have only now been able to sit and write some thoughts on this act of kindness, with the extent of my good fortune having finally sunk in.

To me, it goes way beyond the monetary value which can be calculated from the list above. The kind gentleman who made contact can certainly be assured the pens have been warmly welcomed into my collection, and no amount of thanks could ever be sufficient, though I will indeed give it my best shot.

He has made no money, has no blog, Twitter or Instagram account to link back to — and even if there were – I get the impression a link would be politely declined. Also, my query as to whether he wished to be mentioned by name, and to read this post before it went up — politely declined. To me, it is a very real reminder of the kind and generous people in the world (and within the pen community) that we may never see nor hear from. Or at least if we do, not often.

These are the people I write for.

As this piece of writing nears conclusion, something else has struck me you know. I mentioned time and advice in opening of this post. Two very valuable things I have also received far more of from this kind gentlemen than I’d ever hope to receive, and to that end, I look forward to each and every email.

As far as this generous gift I have received?

I can only hope that someday — if I am in a similar position – I would do the same, but it mightn’t be with any of these particular pens. No, these I’ll likely be keeping as reminder of the immeasurable kindness and generosity that still exists in the world.


A reviewer — or not?

I have posed the title of this post purely with reference to my own writing about pens — a genuine question as to whether I should be considered a “reviewer”. My immediate answer is no, however I realise that is perhaps incorrect.

The Oxford Dictionary definition (insert “pens” if you will):

a person who writes critical appraisals of books, plays, films, etc. for publication

For publication – I guess writing on a blog satisfies that. Where I originally thought I differed slightly is that I do not set out to “critically appraise” pens — rather, I write about the pens I own and what I like or perhaps dislike about them. The reality is though, that is probably a reasonable definition of what it is to “critically appraise”.

First though — a little background. The stimulus for posing this question (mainly to myself — albeit now aloud through this site), was a post on Fountain Pen Economics (FPE) calling on reviewers to review bad pens. Although I have had some thoughts on this numerous times before — mainly when deciding how I want to write or what my “style” should be when writing about pens — now seems a good time to put them down.

A couple of prominent pen bloggers or reviewers were mentioned in the FPE post, which coincidentally came at a time when there has been a little — shall we say — “unrest” in the pen community regarding negative YouTube/blog commenting or online “trolling” – which is absolutely appalling and should be (and thankfully often is) widely condemned.

That said, I wonder if there is ever really a time where behaviour of such a nature is not occurring to some degree. I do applaud those who push on in the face of it, and add my encouragement for them to continue doing so.

Objectively based opinion and discussion — even of the “robust” variety — I believe, is valuable for the growth and maturity of any industry, community or even small working team. Of course not everyone has to agree, but if we are all working from roughly the same set of rules and respect each other, then theoretically there will be no problems — right. Right?

I simply want to say here that I do not think there is anyone in the pen community who would disagree with the sentiment that reviewers should be honest and transparent, and as a whole, I am comfortable with the current landscape relating to this. To be fair in relation to the FPE post, it is also made clear the author believes this to be the case. Speaking in broad terms, regarding the possibility of false positive reviews for “product”, FPE notes:

Now, I’m not saying that any reviewer in the community does this at the moment, simply that the potential exists.

A reviewer?

Here is where I believe things are a little less clear. Not simply in reviewers neutrality, but in what constitutes a “reviewer” in the first place. Back to what I mentioned above — all working from the same set of rules.

Here I am very much referring to myself, however perhaps there are others who see themselves in the same light. The very site you are reading was not set up to “review” pens — nor anything else for that matter. My About page indicates I started this blog for two reasons:

to share some experiences and ideas, and to continue further down the road of personal development and knowledge acquisition

Although the page probably requires some updating, I believe the above remains accurate today. I must admit though, at times I still don’t know exactly what this blog is for to be honest, but I do enjoy writing here. Therein lies the point. I enjoy writing here, and I enjoy the things I write about — one of which is the subject of pens.

So in relation to pens, does that make me a reviewer?

I say no — but is that simply because I say I’m not? Conversely, what if I do describe myself as a pen reviewer? Back to the Oxford Definition above — do I not critically appraise my own pens in some way?

Further, is there really any meaningful distinction?

To officially be classed as a reviewer, would I need to receive products for free — specifically for the purposes of a review. Would I get to keep them, return them, hold giveaways or on-sell them? Must they be from a manufacturer or a retailer — does it matter? Is my site reliant on page views and ads, and/or affiliate links or sponsors to generate some form of income? Do these relate to the suppliers or products I am also reviewing?

If it is reliant on one or all of these factors, when do I become a fully accredited reviewer — when my monetary return from the blog reaches a certain level? If so, what is that level?

Further, at what point do I then seek out pens to review which I know I am not likely to enjoy writing with, to ensure a balance of good and bad pen reviews appear on my site? That is, at what point do my responsibilities to readers outweigh the responsibility to myself to buy the things I enjoy — and perhaps write about them along the way. Do I have an obligation to review every pen I buy?

Or – more simply, as is often the case — am I one of the large number of people on the internet who buy pens with money from their own pocket, and write about their experiences, joys and excitement associated with their hobby? Simply someone who bought their first fountain pen 18 years ago — then not another for 15 years — only to again become hooked in the past three? Who, due to this renewed interest, stumbled onto a massive online community who write and share information about these things, and felt the urge to do the same.

I’d say this is exactly what I am — however does it really stop there?

What are my responsibilities?

Do I even have a responsibility that is defined by a certain set of parameters when I write about pens? I believe I probably do.

What exactly are those responsibilities?
I probably need to understand that anyone reading what I write might be influenced in some way by my opinion. In re-reading that statement it is hard not to laugh — from the point of view of: who do I think I am that my opinion counts enough to sway someone’s purchasing choices. Therein lies the very point doesn’t it. How is any first time reader of this site to know if I have absolutely any idea what I am talking about?1 Even if I do, how are they to know whether I know enough to warrant them taking heed of any of it.

Should my about page have a pen bio:

  • Year of first fountain pen;
  • Number of pens owned;
  • Number of forums active in;
  • Pen blogs regularly read;
  • Syringe experience;
  • Nib preference;
  • Number of custom nib grinds;
  • Pen shows attended etc

Of course not (well — at least I don’t think so), but you get what I mean. So, at first glance, or perhaps coming in at a random post on my site, none of the above will necessarily be obvious to a first time reader. Nor will it — in actual fact — to long time readers necessarily.

Therefore, I need to make sure each post or opinion is well written enough (hopefully) to get my point across clearly and concisely, with good, objective reasoning — again a difficult proposition in what I find to be such a subjective topic area2. I’m a firm believer in the theory that if you give someone enough information, they can at least make their own mind up from what you have provided.

Facts and opinion — with one the basis for the other, regardless of the pen or where it came from. Beholden to no-one other than myself to write honestly about what sits in front of me.

So what on earth am I trying to say here?

When I sat down to write this post I had several key points in my mind that have somehow blurred, bleeding out like De Atramentis Permanent Blue on the cheapest recycled office notepad.

A few things to finish if I might ask for a fraction more of your time.

I wholeheartedly agree that transparency and honest reviews are a vital part of the pen community. Where I find things a little more difficult, is in suggesting fellow bloggers (particularly those who buy the products they write about) get their hands on some bad pens to review. I say this, mainly because with so many items on my wish list, I’m not about to waste a cent on something I am probably going to dislike. Again, in fairness the FPE post, I think the perspective there was perhaps related more so (I think) to items specifically received “to review” from sellers.

After all, in doing so, I would then be left with something I rated poorly, didn’t like, and would either have to accept the monetary loss or try to sell it. But to whom? “Here, this is a really bad pen — please buy it from me, and then when you hate it — see if you can then flog it to someone else”.

Let’s not even start on how you might review a pen you may not like that was given by a family member as a gift for example. To avoid offending the giver, there is every likelihood the review would either overlook some of the negatives, or perhaps not be done at all. In this particular case we are back where we started aren’t we.

In conclusion

That’s it – I’m done.

I fear that in highlighting some of the difficulties in actually coming to a definitive conclusion about all of this, I may have simply come across as being argumentative or a bit of a contrarian. This is not my intention.

To those who love writing about their pens — be they bloggers or reviewers or both — please continue. We love reading about this great hobby of ours. While you’re at it, make sure you remain transparent and objective — but you already do that, so here I’d also simply say — please continue.

 

  1. Of course there are the usual criteria of blog longevity, update frequency, number of ads and overall style to go by – but again – how does that make me any more knowledgable about pens?
  2. I highlight the subjectivity of pens thinking of one of my favourites, which I never would have bought if I had read a couple of reviews prior to clicking “checkout”.