Thursday, May 13, 2021

Fountain Pens and the Pandemic

 



by Tony Thomas


It is already March and this is my first blog of the year.  2020 was certainly interesting and now things have to be returning to some degree of normal.

The global pandemic has certainly made life much more complex and challenging for most of us.  It has literally turned our lives upside down.  Some questions for you:

1. Are you using fountain pens more or less?

Since I quit working full time and retired three years ago, I find myself using my fountain pens less.  One of the reasons why is I was in an environment where electronic device use (other than the company-assigned PC) was prohibited.  As a result, all of my note taking was with pen and paper.  That facilitated the use of fountain pens.  I am sure that changing work patterns and environments have also impacted your fountain pen use.  

2. Are you using a fountain pen to write letters?

The US Postal Service certainly has been negatively challenged by the pandemic.  As a result, mail delivery is much slower and less reliable these days.  I am sure this has reduced the number of letters being written.  One of my favorite uses for fountain pens is creating handwritten letters and notes that add a personal touch.  Fewer letters being sent probably means less fountain pens are being used to write them.

3. Has the pandemic curbed your fountain pen spending?

I am sure that fountain pen retailers have been hit really hard financially as people have lost their sources of income due to the pandemic and made the transition to living on unemployment.  The recent stimulus payments may have caused some funds to flow to these retailers, but if you are like me, fountain pens are not high on my list of things I need to buy.

How has the pandemic affected you?


   










Monday, September 28, 2020

Ridiculously Expensive FP Ink!

by Tony Thomas

Let’s face it, fountain pen ink is ridiculously expensive!

Most ink is somewhere around $12 for a 50 ml bottle.  And as it takes over 3785 ml to make a gallon, that is over 75 bottles of ink.  At $12 per bottle, a gallon of fountain pen ink costs $900 per gallon!  

Noodler's ink is one exception that I can think of (aside from Chinese or Indian inks).  You can get 90ml for around $12 and a huge 16 oz. bottle of selected ink colors for $50.  That is around 473 ml of ink for less than .11 per ml, or right around $400 a gallon.  A comparative bargain!

When you add in the high cost of shipping and tax, unless you are pretty well off, you will be seriously constrained as to the range of inks that you can buy.  That is why I am thankful for ink samples offered by Goulet Pens, Anderson Pens, Pen Chalet, and other vendors.  That at least gives the most frugal of us a chance to experiment with small quantities of even the most expensive fountain pen inks.

I hope that manufacturers will provide more low cost ink options.  I am sure that this can be done as that the bottle is probably more expensive to manufacture than the ink inside.

What do you think?  Do you think that fountain pen ink is too expensive?  What is your favorite "go to" ink?

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Are Hand-Finished Fountain Pens Worth It?

 


by Tony Thomas

I bought my Edison Collier back in 2013 and it is one pen purchase that I have never regretted.  Although it is not a completely custom pen, it was turned on a lathe and hand finished.  It is really a work of art.

I prefer hand-finished pens to those created in factories using mass production methods because of the tender loving care that goes into them.  The human touch.  

It really makes a difference.  And, yes, hand-finished pens are worth it.

I love pens from Edison and other companies that produce hand-finished pens like Franklin-Christoph and Ranga.  They are unique and very versatile.  I can swap nibs, use them with a converter, with cartridges, or as an eyedropper.

One day, I hope I can afford a custom pen from Edison so that I can pick the design and materials that are tailored to my aesthetic sensibilities and my writing needs.  

Until then, I can only imagine the pen of my dreams.  




Monday, July 20, 2020

I'm Back!

by Tony Thomas

I'm back!  Did you even miss me?

I know that I haven't shown up here in quite a while. I have been retired for the last few years and haven't spent a lot of time with my fountain pens lately, although I hope that will change. I've been doing most of my work on my tablet and my computer.  Dictation is sure a lot easier than writing everything out by hand. And, paper takes up a lot of space and is pretty expensive these days.

I still love my fountain pens although I am not able to buy them at the pace that I once did. That said, I still have a pretty nice collection that I acquired over the years and plenty of pens to put into rotation as long as I can afford the ink and the paper.

I also tend to use pencils quite a bit for drafting because my pens tend to dry out while I am in the thought process.  I have also experimented with using the Apple pencil and styluses with my iPad. There are some good drawing apps that are very good for note taking such as Notability and Good Notes and provide a pleasant writing experience.

My books, "The Fountain Pen Book" and "Getting Started with Fountain Pens" are still selling on Amazon, Apple Books, B&N, Kobo, Sribid, Smashwords, and other stores. I thank the fountain pen community for continuing to support my efforts. Hopefully, one day I will be able to write some more books and revise the ones that are already out.

With the global pandemic going on, perhaps I will be able to spend more time using my fountain pens for enjoyment rather than utility. I do enjoy using them to continue to improve my penmanship.

What about you?  How much are you using your fountain pens lately?

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Are you a Fountain Pen Addict?






by Tony Thomas

Is fountain pen addiction a thing? Given the large size of some of our pen collections, I often wonder.

I am sure many of us have looked longingly at Brian Goulet's amazing pen collection that is housed in a growing number of IKEA cabinets with drawers. Of course, Brian can justify owning all those beautiful pens. After all, he is in the pen business. Having a huge pen collection is one of the perks that comes with business ownership.

I watched a popular fountain pen vlogger admit that he spent a ton of money (over 20 grand) during his first year of production. While he didn't elaborate, I suspect that a fair amount of that money was used to purchase fountain pens and ink based on his content. An alarm bell went off in my head.

While many of us admit jokingly to having a bad case of "fountain pen acquisition syndrome", things can easily get out of control, especially given the price of high-end fountain pens. I admit I have more pens than I really need. To qualify that statement a bit, I acquired them over a period of several years. (That is a lame excuse, I know.)

However, one thing I did as a frugal fountain pen guy is to put severe limits on the amount of money that I would pay for a single fountain pen. My limit was (and is) $200 for a single pen. Most of the pens in my collection cost me $100 or less. A lot of them are way below $50. And many more are cheapies from China and India. This is helped me to keep my "pen habit" under control.

In recent years, I have been much more careful with my expenditures given the size of my collection. I rarely buy any new fountain pens anymore, and when I want to change things up a bit, I just switch nibs.

I have found that my best fountain pen investments have been in pens that have easily replaceable nibs. You can get a lot of mileage from a midrange pen from Edison, Franklin-Christoph, or even a less expensive one like a Ranga, by just buying some extra Jowo nib units.

For the most part, I have steered away from fountain pens that sport gold nibs. I do have a small collection of Japanese Pilots and Platinums with fine and extra-fine gold nibs. The writing experience of those pens certainly justifies the higher price. At some point, I may add a low-end Sailor to the mix, but I don't see any pricey Nakayas or Pelikans in my future.

I certainly don't begrudge those with high-end fountain pen collections. If you enjoy them and afford them, that is great. But for the rest of us, a bit of reality and moderation is in order.








Sunday, June 24, 2018

Help Keep the Fountain Pen Movement Going




by Tony Thomas


I watched with great interest the explosion of the fountain pen market around 2010.  It was an exciting time since flex nibs began their resurgence and it seemed like every pen lover had to have one.  Noodler’s pens and inks were riding that trend. A company called the Goulet Pen Company started in a bedroom around that time.  And an interesting vlogger from the Netherlands by the name of SBRE Brown started doing pen reviews.  

 I started “The Frugal Fountain Pen” blog in 2014 to focus on pens and accessories at the lower end of the cost scale.  It seemed like more attention was being devoted to expensive fountain pens and cheaper pens were not getting that much attention.  That trend continues.

It also seemed like not many new inexpensive fountain pens were being introduced. Fountain pen production is expensive, especially in the development stages, and most companies can’t afford to take the risk of releasing a product that may not sell.  

A few years ago, I turned my focus to fountain pen videos on YouTube with mixed success. YouTube is such a large and popular platform that it is hard to get enough visibility to build an audience. In addition, YouTube is making it much more difficult for smaller channels to produce revenue to help subsidize the costs of their productions.

Within the last few months, I read that one of the most popular YouTube channels covering fountain pens was shutting down. I enjoyed watching “The Pen Habit” since its introduction and will miss Matt Armstrong’s valuable videos and pen reviews.  He has raised the bar for YouTube fountain pen video production.  You can find his final video here:

https://youtu.be/QA5Wd8uOrZs

To help fill the void, I have decided to spend more time writing for this blog rather than concentrating on fountain pen videos.  In addition, I just completed a new book aimed directly at new fountain pen users.  It is called: “Getting Started with Fountain Pens”.  It is a very short book in the introductory price is only $.99. It will be available on Amazon for Kindle, Smashwords, Apple Books, Nook, and Kobo.  

At some point, I may even make it available at no cost as a way of giving back to the fountain pen community.  It is imperative that we stimulate interest in the hobby so that companies will continue to make investments in new products and fountain pen retailers will continue to prosper.

If you know anybody that may be interested in my new book, or if you want to support my efforts, you can find the link here:

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DZP8W56












Friday, November 3, 2017

Happy Fountain Pen Day!





by Tony Thomas

I hope that you are having a happy Fountain Pen Day today and will take some time to write with your fountain pen if you own one.  If not, today is the day that you should order one!

By the way, today (11/3), you can buy my bestseller "The Fountain Pen Book" for only $1.99! 

amzn.to/2AaRdT7 

Enjoy the day!

Tony