My Security Blanket: Traveling With Too Many Pens

I love the thought of going away. Seeing friends, having new experiences, taking in fresh scenery, enjoying a break from home and work routines. Finally a chance to exhale.

But travel itself, especially when flying, is fun and draining at the same time. The packing. The security rigamorole. Timing airplane bathroom breaks appropriately. Not losing any of your stuff. There’s always some point along the way where I kind of wish I was home. Just an inkling of homesickness creeps in along the way.

I miss my things–my husband (if he’s not with me, as on this current trip), our crazy pups, my own just-so pillows, a well-stocked refrigerator, ice on demand.

I swear, I have an easier time deciding what clothes to pack than picking out which pens to bring. I always miss the ones that aren’t with me. I stock my Nock Co. Brasstown with more pens than a sane person needs, then typically swap things in and out until zero hour. There’s so much mental chatter in my head about my pen selections that it makes me feel like I must be going off the deep end. But what a deep end it is!

Part of me wishes that I could embrace minimalism–pick ONE pen and use ONLY it for the entire trip. Maybe someday. Right now that thought gives me what is technically called the heebie jeebies.


So here I am in California, oh so far from home, with new and old pen favorites. For this trip (a conference), I brought along:


Pilot Metropolitan White Tiger fountain pen. Nice fine point for note taking. Replaceable should the unthinkable occur.


Karas Kustoms Two-Tone Retrakt outfitted with Pilot G2 0.5 mm black refill. Great pen in my favorite color.

Ti2 Techliner Red Alert and Orange Crush. The Red Alert is outfitted with a uni-ball Jetstream  0.7 mm black ballpoint refill while the Orange Crush holds a uni-ball Signo 207 0.7 mm gel refill…both excellent options.


Amy Grigg’s Apex Kickstarter pen with a Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Great on the Levenger Circa Vivacious paper in my notebook. Smooth. Dark. Gorgeous wood.

 
Bigidesign’s Ti Post Raw Pen + Stylus
, also with the Schneider Topball 850 rollerball refill. Do I need to carry two pens with the same refill? Nope. I never said any of this was reasonable.

Retro 1951 Lift-Off with a Schimdt P8126 refill. It’s my newest Retro so why shouldn’t it travel with me to California?

I also have my Lamy Scribble tucked into the Hightower, should I need to do pencily things. I have not tired of this mechanical pencil. It’s a gem.

There’s no need to carry this many pens across the country. Technically I could survive with a few of the Bic Stic Queen Mary pens the hotel provides. But these pens and pencil (and pen case) make me feel secure. They’re unique, well-made, and reliable–comfortable to hold and top-notch performers. They remind me of the connections I have with the folks who make and sell them. We’ve exchanged everything from brief messages to emails to long letters. Pens aren’t just pens. They’re the people behind the pens.

And that feels like home.

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This post was composed and photographed entirely with my iPhone, so excuse the lack of links (too cumbersome) and any formatting and lighting oddities. Fun fact– the photos were taken on the desk President Eisenhower used while aboard the Queen Mary. I’m sharing his suite with a friend. Pretty cool.


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My Waterman Harmonie: A Closer Look

I had a little fun with last week’s post that featured three of my newest (all used or new old stock) Waterman pens. This isn’t a brand that was on my radar until I picked up my first used Waterman, a Phileas, from The Gentleman Stationer. I’ve since acquired five more (two more Phileases, two Hemispheres, and one Harmonie) and they’re some of my favorite pens. Their looks don’t knock me out, but their nibs do. I haven’t met a bad one yet.

Waterman Harmonie

This particular one, the Harmonie, might be my favorite of the bunch. It’s a little unfair to review this pen because it’s been discontinued (a shame), as has the ink I’ve filled it with— Sailor Jentle Grenade (a shame x 1000), but I still feel the need to tell the tale of this pen. It’s one I write with every day, even if it’s just to jot down a few notes.

This Waterman Harmonie popped up on SBREBrown’s “For Sale” page awhile back, and though he noted that the nib wasn’t perfect— a bit of the plating had peeled away— I was interested. Great price. Discontinued pen. Cool looking lacquered finish. Those Waterman nibs. We had a brief and cordial email exchange, and the deal was sealed.

Waterman Harmonie

This was Stephen’s first university pen, and that also upped my interest in acquiring it. I’m a big fan of Stephen (AND Azizah) so owning a Doc Brown souvenir was the proverbial icing on the cake…or the tipping on the nib, I should say. Stephen and Azizah put a tremendous amount of work, heart, and passion into their pen review videos, blog posts, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter posts. I’ve learned so much from both of them, and consider them friends, though we’ve never met. Plainly put, I admire them which makes me admire this pen just a little bit more.

Waterman Harmonie

As I said, the nib is not cosmetically perfect but that doesn’t affect its performance in the least. There’s just something about this pen— the way it fits my hand, the quality of this wonderful medium nib— that improves my handwriting. Very little pressure is needed to lay down a solid, wet line. It’s just perfect in terms of flow and smoothness. Who cares if the plating isn’t perfect? Not me.

Waterman Harmonie branding

I do like the subtle checkered pattern on this lacquered pen. Branding is quiet and tasteful. The open clip, a Waterman trademark, and looks great on this pen. Even though I keep saying that I’m not wowed by the looks of my Waterman pens, I think this one is unique and quite attractive.

The section is narrow, which, I’m guessing is one of the reasons why Stephen was looking to sell off this pen, even though it held some fond memories for him. For my considerably smaller hand, it feels just fine.

Waterman Harmonie

Maybe Waterman isn’t one of the first pen brands to pop into your head when you think of affordable, great writing pens. (Of course there are expensive Watermans, but I haven’t found the need to explore that tier as yet.) Though many models have been discontinued, they’re worth a look if you stumble onto one for sale online from a trusted seller or vendor, or in person at a pen show.

Consider yourself warned—while at the DC Pen Show, I call dibs!

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Here’s a link to Stephen’s video review of this very same pen—> Waterman Harmonie video

The Watermen and the Sailors: A Love Story

Waterman Hemispheres & Harmonie
Waterman Hemisphere Stardust Gold, Waterman Hemisphere Ombres et Lumiéres, Waterman Harmonie

Once upon a time, there were three Waterman pens— two Hemispheres and one Harmonie— the Watermen. Despite having good looks, they felt empty and lackluster.

Until they met a trio of Sailor inks.

Sailor inks & Waterman pens
Sailor Jentle Apricot, Jentle Grenade, Yama Dori

That’s when things got interesting. And hot. They couldn’t stay away from each other.

Waterman pens & Sailor inks

The uniquely lacquered body of the Waterman Harmonie made a perfect match for the magnificent color and sheen of Sailor’s Jentle Grenade. What a couple.

Waterman Harmonie

The Waterman Hemisphere, in Stardust Gold, and Sailor’s Yama Dori made a striking pair. The Hemisphere’s medium nib laid down a generously wet line of that deep, rich blue-green-sheeny ink.

Waterman Hemisphere Gold Stardust

And the Waterman Hemisphere Ombres et Lumiéres, with its distinctively patterned body, was totally smitten with the drop dead gorgeous Jentle Apricot.

Waterman Hemisphere Ombres et Lumiéres

The well-matched couples traveled snuggly in their pen cases, venturing out to cafés and to work and to relaxing times on the patio. They never bickered, never wished for other partners. They were cozy and content, spending hours together writing letters and filling journal pages.

Sailor inks

The Watermen were very, very happy with their Sailors. ARE very happy with their Sailors.

If only their love could last forever. But soon, there will be no more Jentle Apricot, no more Jentle Grenade. All they’ll be able to do is remember the good times, and try to go on. Which they will, but it won’t be the same.

Waterman pens

At least for now, they have each other.

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Having a little fun with these favorite pen and ink pairings tonight. I’ll do individual reviews of these wonderful Waterman pens in the future. They’re all excellent writers, super smooth, really superb. And these Sailor inks are AMAZING. I mourn the day that my stash of Jentle Apricot and Jentle Grenade is depleted. But for now, I’m appreciating every single precious drop. Which sounds like a life lesson, doesn’t it?!

Customized Wooden Pens, a Kickstarter Project by Amy Grigg

The Outlier I have a couple of students working with me for the summer, and this morning, one ambled up to my desk, then stopped in his tracks and said, “WHOA!! What IS that?!” It’s not entirely obvious that it’s a pen, what with all of its steampunk accoutrements and all. But it is, it’s a pen. A big, heavy, outrageous pen. The Outlier I backed and reviewed Amy Grigg’s first Kickstarter project, and since then, we’ve stayed in touch. Even though we’ve never met, I consider her a friend. She’s got that dry, spot-on sense of humor that makes her emails, letters, and Kickstarter updates a blast to read. I think she gets me, and I get her, so there was no way that I wasn’t going to back her second project. Apex and Outlier This time I backed two pens—the Outlier 2, a ballpoint/gel pen, and the Apex fountain pen—both made with curly maple. After I pledged, Amy sent me an email warning me about the size of the Outlier. (For the record, it’s 6″ long and weighs 72 grams. That’s big. That’s heavy.) She’s not a person to take your money and run. She wants you to be 100% happy with her work and your pens. She’s something of a Kickstarter anomaly in this regard. Steampunk bolt action I assured her that I appreciated the heads-up, but that I had to go for it. This year has been a ridiculous one— what with the death of two pets, my ongoing medical journey, the assorted calamities of our elderly parents, etc.—so I wanted a ridiculous pen to mark the fact that we’re still standing (so far). The Outlier and refill options The Outlier 2 is just that pen. Its steampunk style stands out from the crowd in a big way. It’s dramatic and fantastic. Need to distract someone during a meeting? Use this pen. Need to defend yourself? I daresay that the Outlier could do that, too.

It takes, and ships with, both a Parker style ballpoint refill and a gel refill, so you can customize the pen for your favorite writing style. I love the Schmidt EasyFlow 9000 ballpoint refill so that’s what I’ve installed in my Outlier. The line on that refill is as bold as the style of this pen. The refill deploys via a bolt action lever that’s works flawlessly and can be deployed easily with just your thumb. The Apex The Apex, available as a rollerball or fountain pen, is a much more practical pen. I backed the rollerball version the first time around, in dark cocobalo wood, so I decided to switch things up and opted for the fountain pen version in this fantastic curly maple wood. Amy raves about the curly maple on her project’s main page, and she’s right. It’s prettier in real life than I can capture with my camera, with interesting grain and depth. Amy’s woodworking skills and attention to detail transform raw wood into finished products—the pens here, but also bowls, boxes, and spoons—that are a joy to look at and hold. The Apex fountain pen With gunmetal hardware, and a magnetic cap, this is a pen that’s as easy to use as it is to look at. The nib is generic, but wrote immediately upon inking, and lays down a smooth medium line. The pen ships with one international short cartridge and a converter. Mine is loaded with Sailor’s Yama Dori—a great looking ink for a cool looking pen. Amy Grigg's pens When you back a Kickstarter project, you’re backing a person as as much as you’re backing a product. There are very few people I’d back without hesitation, but Amy falls into this select group. Her updates are regular, honest, and entertaining. When an issue popped up with one of the woods in her last project, she got out in front of that and IMMEDIATELY laid out a series of options for the small group of affected backers. Even this issue was addressed with good humor and zero drama. Apex and Outlier Amy is authentic and the real deal—a woodworker committed to her craft and to your satisfaction. If you like what you see here, check out the full line of pens on her Kickstarter page. The project closes on July 16th so move quickly if you’re interested. There’s a little something there for everyone— from practical to deluxe offerings. All made with care, all made with 100% Amyness.

Note: I backed Amy’s project with my own funds. My rewards were shipped to me early, but I was not required to review them, nor was I compensated in any way.