“It’s not getting what you want, it’s wanting what you’ve got.” -Sheryl Crow, Soak Up the Sun

Parker 51

I recently acquired a vintage pen that was barely used by its owner, which is both cool and a little sad. Cool for me because I now own a sixty-four year old pen that doesn’t look a day over one, but sad in that the owner never put his mark on it. The pen never rolled across the surface of his desk, or went to the office in his suit pocket, or was scribbled with by his grandchild. He wrote his wedding vows, then put the pen away. Like I said, cool. And sad.

This got me thinking about pen acquiring and pen collecting and pen hoarding, and the fact that I’m undoubtedly in the throes of all three. It’s so hard to resist chasing all of the shiny things. What’s my favorite pen? Why the one that I just ordered, of course!

But as my pen cases fill up, I’ve started thinking about acquiring vs. collecting, and having vs. using. Like the 1959 Mercedes that’s purchased but never driven, it seems to me that pens that are rarely inked and notebooks that are squirreled away aren’t living their lives (says the person who has a bunch of empty pens and stockpiled notebooks). There’s something to be said for “mint condition,” but there’s also the joy that comes from using something, using it with care, and putting your mark on it.

Patina, according to one dictionary, is “an appearance or aura that is derived from association, habit, or established character.” When we use an object, a pen, day in and day out, we put our mark on it. It acquires a sheen or tiny scratches or a nib that’s worn to our style of writing. It acquires a patina. It acquires a life.


Coincidentally, as I was mulling all of this over, Sarj Minhas offered his thoughts on acquiring versus collecting, and developing a pen focus, on FPGeeks Podcast Episode #65. Some wise words from the one man pen show!

The Bolt: A Machined Bolt Action Pen

The Bolt
The Bolt, by KarasKustoms

Last week was a good pen week, and one of the pens that made it so was The Bolt, by KarasKustoms. I backed their first pen project, the Render K, and was so pleased with that pen that it was a no-brainer to back this project.

KarasKustoms sets the bar pretty high when it comes to Kickstarter projects. They provide regular updates that often contain videos of the machining process. (I’m oddly fascinated by these glimpses of the birth of a pen.) The shop truly brings you along for the ride and provides a very transparent experience. I haven’t backed a project that’s done it any better.

Like the Render-K, the Bolt is available in both aluminum and brass. I chose aluminum, as I did for their first project, and am again pleased with my choice. The pen has heft but is not heavy. The weight is just perfect for me. The pen measures 5.5″ long and 0.45″ in diameter, and feels great in hand. I’d consider it well-balanced and comfortable.

Bolt action
Bolt action

Unlike the Render-K, this pen is retractable, and that’s where things get particularly cool. To extend the writing tip, you push down on the knock, as you would for any other retractable. But THEN, use your thumb to twist the knock to the side so that the bolt continues to travel in the machined slot, and the extended writing tip is locked into place. (At first this action took two fingers, but now that things have loosened up, I can do the whole thing with just my thumb.) I don’t know why this is fun, but it is. It is.

Sturdy, sturdy clip

The pen comes with stainless steel hardware, AND an Allen wrench so that you can tighten the clip’s screws, if need be. (Have I mentioned that these guys have an eye for detail?) The clip on my pen hasn’t budged, but it’s nice to know that I can tighten it up if I have to.

0.5 mm Moleskine gel refill
Writing sample with the 0.5 mm Moleskine gel refill

While the pen DOES comes with the Allen wrench, it DOES NOT come with a refill. Why’s that? Well…because the body is able to accept a number of refill options (generally in the Parker-style format), Karas Kustoms chooses to leave the choice of refill up to the customer, rather than providing refills that users may toss. That’s fine for me, and I was well-stocked with my Parker-style refill of choice- the Moleskine 0.5 mm gel refill. Within minutes of unpacking the pen, I popped in the refill and was off and running. (A few folks missed this detail in the project’s documentation, and were puzzled/angry. This lack of refill is the same as with the Render K, AND is clearly stated, so I wasn’t caught off guard.)

Here’s a list of some of the refills that are compatible with The Bolt:

Faber-Castell Ballpoint Pen Refill
Fisher Space Pen Refill, PR Series- Colors (Bold, Medium, Fine)
Foray (Office Depot) Ballpoint Refill for Parker (Medium)
Monteverde Ceramic Gel Refill (Broad)
Monteverde Needle Point Refill (Fine)
Monteverde Soft Roll- Colored inks (Medium)
Monteverde Soft Roll- (Superbroad, Medium, Ultrafine)
OHTO Needlepoint Ballpoint Pen Refill PS-807NP
OHTO PS-205NP Extra-Fine 0.5mm Ballpoint Pen Refill
Parafernalia Ballpoint Pen Refill NO LOGO
Parker Ballpoint Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Parker GEL Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium)
Parker Quinkflow Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium, Fine)
Pelikan Giant Ballpoint Pen Refill 337 (Broad, Fine, Medium)
Pentel KFLT8 Ballpoint Pen Refill
Schmidt 9000M EasyFlow Pen Refill
Schmidt P8900 Super Bowl Refill (Fine)
Schmidt P900 B Ballpoint Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Schmidt P950M Megaline Pressurized Ballpoint Pen Refill (Medium)
Schneider Express 735 Pen Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)
Schneider Slider 755 Pen Refill (Extra-Broad, Medium)
Stabilo Ballpoint Refill
Tombow BR-ZLM Ballpoint Pen Refill
Visconti Ballpoint Pen Refill AA49 1.4 (Broad)
Visconti Gel Refill (Broad, Medium, Fine)

Quite the list, eh?!

The Bolt

I have nothing but praise for the team at KarasKustoms. The Bolt is solidly made, and sports clean lines and a cool industrial look. And that bolt mechanism? It’s irresistible.

Keep ’em coming, KarasKustoms. Keep ’em coming.


Want your own Bolt? Though the Kickstarter project has ended, the pen is now available via the KarasKustoms website. Check out all of their cool products by clicking here.

I was not compensated in any way for this review. I’m just a fan, and wanted to spread the word about this interesting pen and the quality workmanship.

Icon: Lamy 2000 (Makrolon)

Pen & Ink
Lamy 2000 & Pilot Iroshizuku tsuki-yo

This pen flew under my radar for quite awhile. Since I have a bunch of Lamy Safaris and a few AL-Stars, I didn’t really see the need for a pricier Lamy. Silly me.

Lamy 2000
Not a Safari

A recent stream of positive chatter on Twitter perked up my pen ears, and I did my usual deep-dive into reviews and even a little digging into the history of the pen. The more I read and watched, the more my interest grew. The more I watched and read, the more I realized that this is a very different Lamy than the ones I already own. While the Safaris and AL-Stars are perfectly fine, well-made, fun, and colorful, the Lamy 2000 is a true icon.

Posted pen
Not an AL-Star

In continuous production since 1966, this is a pen that is gorgeously understated- looking both modern and vintage at the same time. Its subtlety is dazzling, its nib superb. I was immediately blown away by its looks and performance, and could easily see why this pen has been around, virtually unchanged, for 47 years and counting.

The pen’s features are SO well-integrated that I opted to use little red arrows to point them out. Like I said, subtle.

Piston filler knob
Well-hidden piston filler knob

Piston filler slightly open
Piston-filler knob opened just a hair

Because the pen is a piston-filler, bottled ink is required, and luckily I had a drop or two on hand. (Or a liter.) I filled it with Iroshizuku’s tsuki-yo (Moonlight) which is, in my opinion, the perfect ink for this perfect pen. They belong together. Forever and ever.

The pen body contains a very faint ink window so that you can keep an eye on the ink level. The red arrow will help you out.

Ink window
Ah, yes…THERE it is.

The spring-loaded clip is made of brushed stainless steel, as is the section, whereas the rest of the body is made of Makrolon- a high-tech polycarbonate material. I don’t know what that really means, but I have learned that Makrolon is durable and feels great in hand. There’s a matte, VERY finely ridged feeling to the material- smooth with just a hint of texture. I love it.

Stainless brushed clip
Stainless steel, brushed clip & a closer look at the Makrolon

LAMY branding
The branding is, you guessed it, subtle.

Maybe my favorite part of the pen is its 14kt gold, platinum-coated, hooded nib. I ordered an EF and am thrilled with how it writes. The line is fine, juicy, and exceptionally smooth.

Sweet EF nib
Simply perfect. EF and juicy.

Breather hole
Breather hole

I’ve read of some not-so-happy 2000 owners having less than stellar writing experiences, so it appears that there may be some nib inconsistencies. I ordered my pen from The Goulet Pen Company where each Lamy 2000 is QC’ed in-house prior to shipment. If my pen is any indication, they’re doing a great job weeding out the occasional dud. (Thanks, Drew, for inspecting and approving my pen!)

The slip-on cap is held in place by tiny ears, and feels very secure. The ears bother some “princess and the pea” type folks, but they in no way interfere with my grip, so are a non-issue for me.

Nib & ears
How the cap stays on

I enjoy my Lamy Safaris and AL-Stars in all their colors, but I LOVE LOVE LOVE the Lamy 2000. What a design. What longevity. What an icon.


For Stephen Brown’s video review of this pen (the one I studied over and over), click here.

For an amazingly complete 4-part history of the Lamy 2000, click here.

Medicating With Pens: Namiki Raden Vanishing Point

Namiki Raden Vanishing Point
Just what the doctor ordered

If there’s ever a month that requires a pen pick-me-up, it’s February. And this last one was particularly grey, in weather and in mood. One of our beloved pups (11 year old Boo) has been struggling a bit so we’ve been extra-anxious about him, which made the colorless skies and raw winds that much harder to bear. Basically, we’re raw nerves in need of brighter days.

Raden VP
Mmmmm…shiny colors

Rather than cope with…ummm…”substances,” I’ve turned to pens. Well, one pen in particular– the Namiki Raden Vanishing Point that I picked up used from Dan Smith back in January. With it’s black lacquer body and heavy sprinkling of gorgeously shimmering abalone chips, the Namiki Raden Vanishing Point is good for what ails ya. It’s stunning, but not flashy. Colorful, but not blingy. The teal, purple, pink, azure, and emerald abalone chips almost look like they’re floating beneath the surface of the deep black body. When you consider the fact that each chip was placed by hand, it’s impossible to not be impressed. Mesmerizing, is what it is. Just like a starry starry mid-summer sky.

A stunner

The pen came with a medium nib, but I found that it had a bit of “tooth” to it, so I made the decision to purchase and swap in a “Binderized” medium nib unit. A pen this good-looking deserves a stellar nib. And stellar it is. A “Binderized” nib is tested and tuned by Nibmeister Richard Binder…not customized, but optimized. Simply put, Richard Binder works magic with nibs. Magic.

Binderized medium nib
18K gold, rhodium plated, nib-o’-perfection

And let’s not forget that this is a Vanishing Point, which adds another level of coolness. By clicking the rock-solid knock, the nib is deployed or retracted, just as easily as with a retractable ballpoint pen. Click. You’re writing. Click. You’re not. Dead simple.

VP Knock
That’s one heavy duty knock

I filled the pen with Pilot Iroshizuku’s kon-peki (Ocean Blue) which works beautifully with the abalone accents. It’s a match made not in heaven, but in the ocean. Very soothing. Which is great because remember? Raw nerves?

Iroshizuku kon-peki
Ink as tranquilizer

I will admit to a bit of a break-in period with regard to the clip placement, but all is well now. I have a pretty typical grip, I think, so if you don’t, you might want to try one before jumping into the Vanishing Point pool. That’s one quirk with this pen that might be a negative for some.

Clip placement
Try before you buy

I can’t resist. Let’s take another look at those colors…

Rhodium accents & abalone bits
Rhodium accents and abalone bits

Another view
And again

So this pen did the trick, and beat back the February blues. Apparently the Namiki Raden Vanishing Point is my drug of choice…and without the co-pay.

Raden VP

But you know what REALLY cured me? Little Boo, back on his feet.


Some things are more important than pens.


Check out another review of the same pen at Gourmet Pens.

Want to know more about this fabulous ink? Check out Brad’s review.