A Collaboration of Talents: The Fisher of Pens Ares Fountain Pen

It’s been awhile since I’ve reviewed a pen and this one is long overdue. Life has been HAPPENING like crazy and I’m finding that my blog suffers when things get intense. How the weeks do fly by. I’ve had this pen—this Fisher of Pens fountain pen (Ares model)—on my “to be reviewed” list from the moment I purchased it at the DC Pen Show in August. Because it’s a gorgeous pen, but also because it demonstrates why pen shows are so spectacular.

FOP Ares model

We arrived to this year’s pen show early Thursday evening, just as the vendors were covering up their tables and heading out for dinner, so there was no shopping to be done that day. But Friday morning, as early as possible, we trotted down to the lobby to pick up our Weekend Trader passes so that we could get into the show as soon as it opened. Because I didn’t have much in the way of a wish list, I told myself that I’d “make the rounds” before making any purchases. I’d take my time, really scope things out, then circle back to buy the pen or pens that spoke to me. That was the plan.

FOP Ares model

We stopped at Carl Fisher’s table almost as soon as we entered the show as he was set up in the lobby, prior to being moved to the large ballroom for Saturday and Sunday. I’d seen Carl’s pens on Instagram, but had never met him, nor seen his pens, in person. Anyone who’s seen the contents of my pen cases, knows I have a thing for orangey autumnal colors, so my eyes (and my heart) were immediately drawn to this pen and its delightful swirl of oranges, golds, and blues, with a slight shimmer that is neither too much nor too little. The sun streaming down from the lobby’s skylight gave this pen the best treatment it could ever have. Illuminated by that sunlight, this pen was simply stunning, radiant, and LIT UP.

But I had that plan.

So I walked away.

My husband and I scoped out a few vendors in the large ballroom, but the whole time, my brain was fixated on that pen. So we circled back.

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Hi, Carl! Sorry I caught you with your mouth open.

I acted all casual, spent some time oogling Carl’s double-ended creation (sweet!), and was about to examine my heart’s desire a little closer when Mike Mattson of Inkdependence stopped at the table and OHMIGOD picked up “my” pen. My neck tensed. My heart stopped. My stomach turned over. Gulp. I conjured up all of my mental telepathy skills and beamed “DO NOT BUY THIS PEN! DO NOT BUY THIS PEN! DO NOT…” to him. I must have skillz, because eventually he put it down. HE PUT THE PEN DOWN. Phew.

And I bought it. Immediately. Plan be damned.

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In talking to Carl, I learned that the material for this pen was made by Jonathon Brooks, of the Carolina Pen Company, which explains why it’s so stunning. Jonathon’s materials and pens are out of this world. I purchased one of his Charleston pens in a Combustion Acrylic at last year’s show and it remains a perpetual favorite.

I should pause to add that both Carl and Jonathon are two of the nicest people you’ll ever meet—warm, authentic, and humble—while also being extremely talented pen makers. These two guys are my kind of people.

On that Friday, Jonathon’s table was just a few steps away from Carl’s, so I stopped over to see him and to show off my purchase.

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Mr. Nice Guy Jonathon Brooks and his just-as-nice wife, Shea

When I showed Jonathon the pen, he high-fived me and said how pleased he was that I liked it. He also kindly offered me a pen stand he’d made that matched my pen. For free. I accepted, and thanked him for his generosity. I always enjoy talking to Jonathon and his wife, Shea. They feel like friends, even though we’ve only spoken at pen shows.

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One thing on my wish list was to have a nib ground by Dan Smith, my favorite nibmeister. I’d picked out the Tiger Stripey pen I purchased from Ken Cavers a number of years ago as the one that I’d have Dan modify to an Architect grind. My name was on his list and I was hanging around his table waiting for my turn as soon as he finished up with his current customer. At the last moment I decided to have the nib on my newest purchase modified instead.

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Dan Smith, The Nibsmith

I’d had Carl install a two-tone medium steel nib (JoWo #6) on my pen, and Carl had tuned it to my liking. Smooth. Wet. It wrote just the way I like. But I’m somewhat addicted to Dan’s Architect grind and thought, why not just have him work on the nib while I’m at the show rather than sending it to him later. So that’s what I did. And now it’s fantastic.

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The Architect Grind

I’ve had Dan modify a couple of nibs to Architects and I love how they feel and look. This one is no exception. At the show, Carl had filled the pen with Montblanc Toffee Brown, one of my favorite browns. Once that ran out, I loaded it with the Akkerman #5 Shocking Blue I’d purchased from the Vanness Pens table, and the combination is a winner. The ink’s sheen shines through, and the color very nicely complements the blues swirling through Jonathon’s material.

Nib grinding fascinates me. The pros, like Dan, make it look easy. Even working in sub-optimum lighting, he modified the nib on my pen to perfection. I absolutely love writing with this pen, not just because it’s a stunner in looks, but also in performance.

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Carl describes the Ares model like this—Stepped cap pen with a taper on both the body and the cap. Typically finished with rounded finials, this design allows for posting of the cap to the back of the pen during writing. 

My particular pen weighs 18.6 grams (12.1 g body, 6.5 g cap). Capped, the pen measures  15.5 cm (6.1 inches). Uncapped, the body measures 14.0 cm (5.5 inches). I use the pen unposted as its posted length is 18 cm (7.1 inches), which feels a bit long to me. Unposted, it’s great in hand. The Ares model takes a cartridge or converter, and can also be eyedropper filled.

Those are the pen’s facts and figures. But facts and figures do not tell the story of this pen. Every part of this pen was touched by the skilled hands of a craftsman. And because it was purchased at the pen show, I was able to spend time with each of them, sharing laughs and handshakes and good feelings.

I was also able to use my extraordinary powers of concentration to wrench it away from the hands of a rival buyer. You, too, can experience the high drama of competitive pen purchasing by attending a pen show! More thrilling than a rollercoaster! Guaranteed to get your heart pumping and the blood flowing! WHEEEEEE.

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Every time I look at this pen I hear Alicia Keys singing, “This pen is on fire!” (IT. IS. HOT.) While I’m hearing that song, I can’t help but think about Carl and Jonathon and Dan, each one playing his part to make this pen perfect for me.

This is a Mary pen, if ever there was one—a pen that truly represents a collaboration of talents.

The pen and the nib grinding service were purchased with my own funds. I was not compensated in any way for this review, and there are no affiliate links. 
More information about the services of Carl, Jonathon, and Dan can be found at the following links:
Fisher of Pens (Carl Fisher)
Carolina Pen Company (Jonathon Brooks)
The Nibsmith (Dan Smith)

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Another Viewpoint: The Kaweco Sport Squeezable Converter

Special Edition Kaweco Sport Mocha Fountain Pen

A few weeks ago, I ordered this Special Edition Kaweco Sport Mocha Fountain Pen from Fontoplumo, which has become my go-to shop for Kawecos. Frank has great prices, very reasonable shipping rates, and personal touches that keep me coming back, despite the fact that he’s in the Netherlands while I’m in the US. When I caught wind of this Mocha edition, I talked myself out of it. For awhile. I’m trying to not fall into the “I must have every color” mindset (though my Lamy Safari/AL-Star collection would tell you that I’m pretty much full of s#&t in this regard).

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I caved and ordered this version of the Kaweco Sport because it looks an awful lot like my favorite iced coffee. Or caramel. That is to say, it looks delicious. It’s a dessert pen, without the guilt or calories. Sold!

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Along with the pen, I also ordered the Retro Sport Gold Clip AND the new “squeezable” converter, Kaweco’s latest effort to provide a converter option for their line of pocket pens.

I syringe filled the tiny converter with a squirt of Akkerman #5, Shocking Blue, popped it into the pen as you would a cartridge, and started scribbling. The gold-tone medium nib wrote immediately, very smoothly, and nicely wet. Though I know that you can eyedropper the Kaweco Sport model, we all know how well that works for me, so having this new converter option kind of made my day.

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Right around this time, Jeff Abbott published his review of the same converter, and came away with a very different experience and opinion than I did. He calls the item a “dud,” and outlines his reasons in a well-written post. He had trouble achieving a full fill. I never tried to fill the converter by dipping it into ink and squeezing it. As I said, I went the “syringe fill” route and didn’t have any trouble at all, whereas, Jeff did. He also noticed that his pens with squeeze converters installed seemed to leak ink onto their nibs while they were being carried. I haven’t found that to be the case. I don’t baby my pens, so I’m not sure why that’s happening for Jeff and not for me. He also states that this converter is a pain to clean. I haven’t cleaned mine out yet, so I can’t really voice an opinion on this aspect. I do, though, plan to just flush it with a syringe so I don’t think it’ll be too much trouble.

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Granted, this latest iteration of the mini Kaweco converter doesn’t hold much ink, but I’ve been using mine to write plenty of notes, and this review, and still haven’t had to refill. For me, it’s been a convenient way to use my favorite inks in this tasty looking Mocha Kaweco Sport. (Whenever I use this pen, I WANT COFFEE.)

I’m not saying that I’m right and Jeff’s wrong. Not at all. I just wanted to present another viewpoint. For me, the Kaweco Sport Squeezable Converter, is well worth the couple of dollars it costs.

Now we need a tie-breaker. Anyone?

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There are no affiliate links in this post. I purchased the pen and accessories with my own money. 

A few CRITICAL tips for the DC Pen Show. Trust me.

I’m heading to the DC Pen Show tomorrow and am so jazzed up I can’t concentrate on work or life and am having nightly pen show dreams. Weird ones, but still.

As I prep for the show (Oh, I have to pack clothes?? Just pens won’t do??), I wanted to pass along a lesson and a tip. You may recall my Akkerman ink debacle from last year’s show. If not, take a few minutes and refresh yourself HERE. This year I’ve made a few changes to my “procedures” and thought it might be worthwhile to pass them along. Nothing earth-shattering, but maybe they’ll save you some sorrow.

Akkerman #18 and #24

I have a packing list in Evernote, complete with checkboxes, that I use for trips. I move the “master” packing list into the Evernote folder for that particular trip, then customize it by adding and subtracting items as applicable to the location and event. (e.g., There will be NO pantyhose or dress shoes taken on this trip.)

This list works great to make sure I don’t leave home without everything vital to my well-being and happiness. That part usually goes off without a hitch. (Jinx!)

To make sure that the same is true for my RETURN trip (this is where things can derail for me), I’ve instituted a “dual checkbox” policy on my packing list. One checkbox for home to venue, and the SECOND ONE for venue to home. Now I can take a quick inventory BEFORE I LEAVE THE HOTEL (yes, I’m yelling) to make sure nothing is missing.

And because of last year’s Akkerman thing (shudder), I’m also making myself log pen show PURCHASES on my list so that I can VERIFY that they’ve been packed and haven’t been left in a safe, or in the back of the closet, or in a dresser drawer. Or right next to a very obvious chair, which is where I think I left my ink.

To recap:
1) Use a packing list to make sure you don’t leave home without your essential and favorite stuff;
2) Add a second set of checkboxes to your list so that you can take inventory when you pack up to return home;
3) Add pen show purchases to the list and account for those when you’re packing to head for home;
4) Sweep the room/drawers/closet/safe at least twice…maybe more…before you drive away.

Oooooo…one more thing…put contact info (a business card or a label) inside your valuable belongings (pen cases, camera cases, etc.). That way if an honest person finds your precious cargo, they can contact you to arrange for its return.

Thus endeth my pen show service announcement.

Oh, yeah…one final thing. If you’re at the show, please say “hi”! I look like this…

Sandy & Mary
I’m the blonde one. I may very well be making this expression as I agonize over pen purchase decisions.

Not helpful? Okay, this one should work better…

Mary and the Queen Mary
The Queen Mary and Mary

2014 Wrap-Up: The Feelings

Simple tree
Simple tree

I had planned to get a post up last week, but then I caught a cold (unexpected) and Christmas arrived (expected). One thing was fun, the other not so much. Slowly coming out of my sinus miseries and low-key Christmas celebrations to think about getting things back to normal. Well, normalish.

Baking cookies
Baking molasses cookies. Or as I call them, mole asses cookies.

I’m off from work for most of the week— just have to pop in on Friday for a little while— so every day feels like Saturday lately. Which is what I imagine heaven feels like.

Christmas colored Retro 51s
My festive Retro 51s

A couple of feelings routinely kick in this time of year, as one year ends and the other begins. The first is gratitude. Thanks for all of the good stuff and good people that I’ve encountered in the last year, much of it related to pens (and paper and ink and pencils) and the pen/pencil communities. These are the places where I feel most comfortable, where my introverted tendencies vanish, where I have a blast.

The Retrakt
Karas Kustoms Retrakt

Though not a complete list by any means, these are just some of the people and places who made 2014 a memorable year:

Podcasts/Videocasts
The Pen Addict with Brad and Myke (responsible for oh so many pen purchases and for an always entertaining commute)
The Erasable Podcast with Andy, Johnny, and Tim (Who would’ve thought I’d listen to a show about pencils? I do, and I love it.)
Anderson Pens (Oh, that chat! It’s like meeting with friends every time I tune in.)
SBREBrown & Gourmet Pens & the “I won’t be ignored” kitty (Great information with great humor. You guys rock.)

Pen, pencil, ink, notebook, and storage vendors
Anderson Pens
Dudek Modern Goods
Edison Pen Co.
Field Notes
Fontoplumo
The Goulet Pen Co.
JetPens
Karas Kustoms
Levenger
Nock Co.
Pen Chalet
The Pen Company
Retro 1951
Write Notepads & Co.

Thanks to some for supplying review items, to others for great customer service, and to all for great products and that extra-special personal touch.

My nib guy
Dan Smith @fpgeeks

Thanks for making less than stellar pens remarkable, quickly and affordably. Great work!

Penpals
Tracy Lee
Michelle

Thank you for understanding when I TAKE SO LONG TO REPLY. Your letters and cool envelopes are a source of delight in my mailbox. So glad we’re getting to know each other better while using our pens and inks.

Bloggers, Tweeters, Facebookers
I won’t name names because I’ll leave someone out then feel bad, but you all entertain and educate me, amuse and enlighten. This is the BEST community.

Best hotel
The Sheraton at Tysons Corner for returning my “left behind” Akkerman ink after the DC Pen Show. Amazing customer service. So grateful.

Pencils at the ready
Pencil line-up

The other feeling that kicks in this time of year is “fresh start.” Old year out, new year in. Time to purge, reorganize, and start with a blank(ish) slate. Fred and I regularly purge and straighten out our pantry during our break between Christmas and New Year’s. Annual ritual. Afterwards, we vow to use what we have on hand before adding more stuff to the cupboards.

Conklin Stylograph
Conklin Stylograph (to be reviewed)

In that same vein, I plan to make 2015 a year where I buckle down and USE my pens, pencils, papers, and inks— switching my focus from acquisition to using. When you have a Staples Printer Paper box full of empty notebooks, it might be time to stop buying notebooks and start writing in them. Like every day. Don’t get me wrong, I use my stuff but I need to REALLY use my stuff. There’s plenty here to be written in and written with, plenty to be reviewed, plenty to have fun with. Plenty.

Machined goodness
Machined favorites

So I’m closing out 2014 and starting 2015 feeling grateful and blessed. And you— all of you— are the reason.

Peace and good health to you all.

Write Notepads & Co.
Write Notepads & Co. loot

The Ink Debacle: A Cautionary Tale

Prior to the DC Pen Show, I took the Vanness Pen Shop up on an offer to order a couple of bottles of Akkerman ink, for pick-up at the show. By pre-selecting, and pre-paying, I wouldn’t have to worry about them running out of the colors I was interested in.  This was especially appealing because I was only able to attend the show on Sunday and I figured they’d be picked clean by then. So I ordered Akkerman #18 (Garuda Rood) and #24 (Zuiderpark Blauw-Groen).

On Sunday morning, the Vanness Pen Shop booth was my first stop, and since the ink was already paid for, it felt like I was getting it for free! The colors I reserved WERE sold out, so my approach was a sound one. I couldn’t wait to take a look at those cool Akkerman bottles.

Akkerman Ink packaging

If you’re not familiar with them, Akkerman ink bottles (60 mL, from the Netherlands),  feature a wide bottom with the long neck. This neck contains a marble that seals off the opening after the neck is filled with ink. So, to fill your pen, you tip the bottle, the marble slides out of the way and the neck fills with ink. Tipping the bottle back to an upright position causes the marble to drop into place to seal off the neck. Dip your pen into the “trapped” ink to fill it, then partially tip the bottle so that the marble dislodges and the ink flows back into the bottle. It’s a unique and very well thought out system. I’ve wanted Akkerman ink FOREVER. Well, at least since 2012, which feels like forever.

And I FINALLY had some.

We shopped all morning, took a break for lunch, then shopped and browsed a little more. I wound up with a bunch of bags…the goodie bags handed out upon entry to the show, as well as the bags I accumulated during the show. I was very careful to keep track of my stuff— double and triple checking myself after each stop at a table. I’d freak if I left something behind. But there’s confusion and excitement, sort of a recipe for disaster.

At the end of the day, we flopped in our hotel room and I took inventory. All present and accounted for. Exhale.

We stayed around a couple more days, headed into Baltimore on Monday to explore the city and visit with Chris and Mark of Write Notepads & Co. (more on that in another post). That evening, we took in a Yankees/Orioles game at Camden Yards. Each time we ventured out of the hotel, I stashed my pens– the ones I’d purchased as well as the ones I’d brought from home— in the in-room safe, just in case. I left all of the other stuff— some Write Notepad Co. notebooks, Montblanc Oyster Grey ink, some free Delta ink samples, and the Akkerman ink in the handle bags in the room.

Finally, it was Tuesday morning— time for the 7+ hour trip home— and we had to skedaddle. We had to make it home by 6 pm in order to pick up our four dogs from the vet/boarding so speed was of the essence. We packed up after breakfast, I double-checked the closet and the safe, scanned the room, and hauled everything to the car in one trip. The trip home was miserably rainy, but I love road trips, so it was a fun day. We picked up the boys at 5:30. Perfect.

After unpacking and laundry (ugh!), I rooted through my stuff, pulled out the Wahl-Eversharp Technik fountain pen and inked it up. Wow- what a wonderful nib! I screwed around with that for the evening, then JUST before bed, I thought, “Hey, let’s take a look at that Akkerman ink!”

You probably see where this is going.

I went through the first handle bag looking for the little brown bag holding my Akkerman boxes. Hmmm. Well, it’s gotta be in this other bag. Nope. Or in THIS bag. Nope.

Cue instant nausea.

NO AKKERMAN INK ANYWHERE.

Despair. Disbelief. Confusion. Anger. Blame. I passed through all of the possible stages of missing-ink grief in a matter of minutes. I sprouted an instant headache.

I called the hotel, gave them my name and room number and information about the ink (feeling a little bit like a weirdo). I mean, people leave pillows and laptops and stuffed animals, but INK? They took my information but in my mind, I’d already written it off. It’s gone, I kept saying, to myself AND out loud.

This is not the type of thing to discover right before bed.

The next day I had a call from Virginia. Florida,  a manager at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel, called to follow-up and asked for a more complete description of the ink and the bag I had it in. I googled some Akkerman images and sent them to her. I explained that it HAD TO BE in room 1617 in a small brown paper bag with my name on it. She said she’d contact Housekeeping to see if they’d found my ink.

Later on, another call from Virginia. My heart jumped! But no, this call was from Elizabeth, the Housekeeping manager, saying that she’d do her best to track it down. People might already be in the room, though, she said, but she’d see what she could do.

Then in the afternoon, the call I was sure wouldn’t come came. They’d FOUND MY INK in the room. Florida confirmed my credit card # and said she’d have it shipped out asap. My headache, and nausea, receded.

What a great feeling. What great customer service! I raced to my desk and wrote both Florida and Elizabeth thank-you notes. I tweeted thank yous! I gave them all 5’s on the Sheraton survey that arrived via email. I was, you could say, very happy. And relieved. AND puzzled.

Where the heck was the ink in the room??? How had we missed it when we scanned the room on our way out??? Well, we’ll never know the answer, but who cares? The ink arrived in excellent condition, and I cherish it even more than I would have had it made the trip home with us.

Lamy AL-Star Blue-Green

I’ve been using the Akkerman #24, a gorgeous blue-green (Blauw-Groen) in my Lamy AL-Star Blue-Green (fine nib) and they complement each other perfectly. This particular Lamy writes exceptionally well, very smooth. That ink in this pen is a great match.

Lamy AL-Star Blue-Green on Akkerman #24

My Akkerman ink took the long way home, but it’s here now, and I love it. I’ll be forever grateful to Florida and Elizabeth at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel for taking a genuine interest in my stupid little debacle and for providing stellar customer service. Even if they hadn’t been able to track down my ink, I would’ve been grateful for their efforts and phone calls.

So we have a happy ending and some lessons learned the hard way:

  • Make a list of your purchases (or really, all of your critical items) and take inventory before you leave the hotel.
  • Consolidate everything into as few bags as possible.
  • Never leave the hotel room in just one trip. Always go back for a second or third look.
  • Don’t let your spouse or partner rush you!

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Akkerman packaging

Akkerman #18 and #24

Akkerman #18 and #24 with Lamy Al0Star Blue-Green

Such cool bottles filled with excellent ink. Smile.