An Earthy Pen & Ink Pairing

The Week # 10 ink bundle included eight Franklin-Christoph colors: Midnight Emerald, Terra Firma, Red 187, Tenebris Purpuratum, Black Cherry, Brown 732, Dark Chocolate, Noir et Bleu—a few browns, a purple, two reds, and a couple of blues. The real fun of this ink adventure, after the bi-weekly reveal, is coming up with new pen and ink pairings. I’m (just barely) resisting the urge to load up multiple pens with ALL OF THE INKS, though that’s certainly a legitimate strategy, and one I have not completely ruled out. But for now, I’m showing some restraint and taking my time.

In anticipation of mud season—when you suddenly realize how much you’ve missed the smell of dirt and the promise of spring—I inked up one of my Karas Kustoms Vertex pens (the now sold-out Washington DC Fountain Pen Supershow version) with Franklin-Christoph’s Terra Firma ink.

This particular Vertex features fine gold mica dust in a subtly swirled yellow/gold/brown/black acrylic that pairs wonderfully with the earthy ink. There is some matchiness between the pen and ink but they are not dead-ringers for one another. Nicely complementary, I think. The Vertex’s medium steel nib lays down a smooth, wet line that makes this caramel-colored ink pop.

Pen and ink pairings often take a bit of trial and error to hit just the right combination, but this brown(ish) pen + brown ink immediately hit a sweet spot for me. There is a complexity of color in both the pen and the ink that makes for a terrific pairing, more interesting than you might think at first glance.

Here’s to the coming thaw, to (slightly) warmer and sunnier days, to fresh air and long walks on muddy trails. To Terra Firma. Solid ground. Solid ink.

Note: I wrote this post and then found that Terra Firma no longer appears to be available from Franklin-Christoph. Well, shoot. So now it’s a candidate for some ink sample giveaways in the future. Stay tuned.

What Not To Do

You know those blog posts that make you want to burn down your house—and your life—because everything the writer owns/carries/does is excruciatingly perfect, with not even a molecule out of place? Yeah, this isn’t one of those posts.

It is yet another cautionary tale. [The first cautionary tale is here.]

One of the pens I purchased at the 2016 DC Pen Show was a Franklin-Christoph Model 45 XLV made from a Jonathon Brooks material. (Whoa! Who knew this was a thing?!). The pen’s body is a wonderful mix of purple and green and white with a subtle shimmer that suddenly wows you when the light is just right. In that vast, vast sea of pens that is the DC Pen Show, this is one of the two pens that called my name.

Add a little sunlight, and this…

Franklin-Christoph Model 45

becomes this. (Photos really don’t do this pen justice. But trust me, it’s a pocket-sized beauty.)

Franklin-Christoph Model 45

Jim Rouse, of Franklin-Christoph, outfitted it with a 1.1 mm steel nib, and filled the pen with Franklin-Christoph’s Midnight Emerald ink, at my request. After the tiniest of adjustments by Jim, the nib performed wonderfully—smooth, with just the right amount of wetness—and quickly became one of my favorite pens for doing my morning pages. I love the 1.1 mm stub because of the interest it adds to my handwriting, and it’s not a nib that I own many of. (Good choice, Mary!)

Writing sample

Here’s the scene. Last Sunday night, 10:45 pm. Husband and dogs are fast asleep, and have been for some time. I’ve ironed my clothes, made my lunch, and printed the week’s to-do lists. The weekend’s been a good one. I’m rested(ish) and ready to face Monday. But first, I need to lay out my morning pages journal and pick out a pen. That’s my nightly ritual.

Journal is taken from the desk drawer and I think, hmmmmmmm, which pen? After mentally cycling through all of the ones I have inked (too many), I decide to use the F-C Model 45. Lovely material, excellent nib, pretty ink. Perfect.

I should have gone to bed RIGHT THEN. But I didn’t. Nope.

Instead, I had a thought. A thought that quietly whispered, “There might not be enough ink left in that pen. You’d better check.”

So I checked. By opening the pen. At my desk. Over the carpet.

AS I WAS DOING IT, my brain clicked on, and screamed, “THIS PEN WAS EYEDROPPERED!!!” A hemorrhage of ink flowed from the body of the pen, onto my desk chair and the carpet. Midnight Emerald ink onto a light rose/taupe carpet. My, god!!

I stood frozen and horrified. This was not something you want to do five minutes before going to bed. Or ever, really.

I yelled for Fred—both for the need to confess my awful mistake and to have some help cleaning up the mess. He continued to sleep, blissfully unaware. I briefly considered running away.

(I wish I’d had the presence of mind to take pictures of the ink pooled on my desk chair and splattered from here to kingdom come, but all I could think of was, I’ve got to clean this up. Like, right now! So there’s no photographic evidence, but trust me, it was bad.)

Using paper towels, I made short work of the puddle on my desk chair. The chair is cherry wood so the ink cleaned right off. Phew.

In my rush to sop up the spatters on the carpet, I unknowingly leaned into some of the stains with my knee and wound up adding still more ink to the carpet every time I knelt down to blot at the spillage. GAH!

After I blotted up all that I could, I remembered that I had a small bottle of Amodex in the hall closet. Amodex- an ink and stain remover! Yay!


I applied the magic solution, waited, blotted, and scrubbed. The stains lightened. But there were, it turns out, more stains than there was Amodex. I needed an industrial size bottle, not 30 mLs.

By now Fred was up. My yelling had finally penetrated his dreams and he bolted into the living room thinking I’d hurt myself badly enough to require an ambulance. When he saw the real problem, he was relieved that there was just a damaged carpet and not a damaged Mary. “Who cares?” he said, as I pointed to the drips and drabs and splotches.

Truth be told, the carpet has seen better days. Changing it out is on the to-do list. The dogs have not been kind to this decades old carpeting, so some ink spatters are probably the least of its worries. But still I dabbed and scrubbed, now using carpet cleaner and a toothbrush. The spots faded a little more but it quickly became clear that they would always remain to some degree. They would tell visitors that I’m into fountain pens. And that I’m an idiot.


“Go to bed,” Fred said, and so I did, the adrenalin still coursing though my body.

In the morning I decided that I sort of like them—the Jackson Pollackesque drops and dribbles. It’s only ink. The carpeting’s old. There are bigger problems. (New rule, though: ALL pens are opened over a sink.)

I decided, after a good night’s rest, that I’d share this cautionary tale. This tale of what not to do.

My stain. Your gain.








There’s Nothing Like a Pen Show For…

Sea of Pens

seeing more pens in one place than you’ve ever seen before.


For visiting favorite vendors.

[Scott Franklin, of Franklin-Christoph]

Ink and notebooks

For adding to your already healthy stash of ink and pocket notebooks.


For meeting the very nice guys who make those notebooks.

[Story Supply Co.’s Vito Grippi and Gabriel Dunmire]

Fisher of Pens pen

For finding the pen that calls your name…

Carl Fisher, Fisher of Pens

and meeting the man who made that pen…

[Carl Fisher, of Fisher of Pens]

Jonathon Brooks

AND the man who made the material for that pen.

[Jonathon Brooks, Carolina Pen Co., and his wonderful wife, Elizabeth]

The Nibsmith

For having a little nib work done.

[Dan Smith, The Nibsmith]

Starter set for a friend

For helping a friend at home get started with this fountain pen obsession hobby.

A patient husband

For testing the patience of your “not really into pens” husband.

(In all honesty, he did very well. Better than I do at car shows, where I’m “over it” after an hour or two. When we got home Sunday night, he did say, “Well…I think I’ve seen enough pens to last me a few years.” Fair enough.)

Ana and Brad

For saying a few words of thanks to the people who inspire you.

[Ana Reinert, The Well-Appointed Desk and Brad Dowdy, The Pen Addict]

But mostly…


it’s about spending time with friends.

[Michelle, me (looking goofy), Karen, Phil, Tracy, Ashley, and Ira. So many more not pictured.]

Paul Joynes

[Paul Joynes, Gorgeous.Ink]

Joe Lebo

 [My pen show buddy, Joe Lebo]

Pen show swag

The pens, paper, notebooks, and ink are all great, but there’s so much more.

There’s sharing and hugs and laughter. There’s friendship. There’s love.

There really is nothing like a pen show.

A Full Heart: The 2015 DC Pen Show

Filling my Edison Collier

The night before heading from upstate NY to Tysons Corner, VA for the DC Pen Show, I filled a number of favorite pens, including this Edison Collier in Persimmon Swirl. If a mood could be described by a pen and ink combination, this is the surely the one that I’d choose to illustrate my emotions. Oh, I felt bright and happy and my head was swirling with plans and pens for the days to come. I was in a very fuyu-gaki state of mind!


My pen pal, Paul Joynes of Gorgeous.INK, picked me up on Wednesday 8/12, on his way through from Ontario. Without Paul’s generous offer of a ride, I wouldn’t have made it to this year’s show, so I’m ever so grateful for his kindness and driving endurance. How he managed 13+ hours of driving in one day is beyond me. I handled the navigation, which went quite well, with only a hiccup or two. We talked about pens and plans and good ol’ life stuff the entire way. That travel day was a long but good one. We were on a quest! Fatigue be damned!

Trader pass and iced coffee

By Thursday morning, I was rested (enough) and ready to get to the good stuff. Armed with my Weekend Trader pass ($45 and well worth it), and some cobbled together iced coffee (Starbucks Via Instant Iced Coffee purchased from the WalMart next door), I browsed through the mostly vintage offerings of the vendors assembled in the hotel’s lobby. Thursday is a quiet day pen-wise—a tiny preview of the days to come. It’s a popular day to get to the show, as evidenced by the number of attendees and friends streaming in throughout the day. Though I spent some time checking out what the vendors had to offer, and ogling Sarj Minhas’s amazing selection of gorgeous vintage pens, I held onto my money that day. Just looking was fun, and there was still plenty of time for serious shopping.

Ink testing table

I spent of chunk of time on this leisurely Thursday at the famous (infamous?) ink testing table, also in the hotel’s lobby. I’ve never been to the show this early before, so I’ve never experienced this table before the inks have become jumbled and somewhat “muddy.” On Thursday, a couple of woman were doing their best to organize the inks, while also removing and systematically storing the caps. Why remove the caps? To prevent theft. Apparently full ink bottles have been known to disappear. Sheesh.

Iroshizuku Mini Bottles

These adorable mini Iroshizuku bottles were fun to sample as the colors were still uncontaminated at this point in the show. The striking glass bottles hold 15 mL of ink and are as cute as kittens.


I also spent Thursday taking plenty of walks. After Wednesday’s long day of travel, my legs were begging for exercise. Though the hotel is situated in what’s essentially a business park, there’s a townhouse development behind the hotel that gave me a good place to stretch my legs and get my daily step count up to an almost acceptable level. Tucked back in amongst the Ashgrove townhouses are a few historic buildings, including this smokehouse. Hotels are fun places, but it’s also a relief to get out of the air conditioning every once and awhile.

Jonathan Brook's Charleston pen in Combustion acrylic

Thursday evening, while hanging out in the bar area with old and new friends (SO FUN!), I was introduced to Jonathon Brooks of The Carolina Pen Company, and his case of handmade pens. (Thank, you, Michelle, the enabler!) As I learned, not only does Jonathon make pens, but he also makes the material that he uses to make the pens. Though not attending the show as an official vendor, Jonathon set up a makeshift “shop” in the bar and settled in installing nibs and tuning pens amongst the conversation, laughter, and cocktails. I latched onto one of his Charleston pens, made from his Combustion acrylic, and it was love at first sight. Yes, my pen purchase was made in a bar. And THAT’S the fun of pen shows…serendipitous connections lead to some of the best times. You can’t plan this stuff, which is a great lesson for the obsessive list-making person that I am. Life can be really cool when you just let it happen.

Thursday night was a blast. Even without a single drink, I made friends with friends of friends, met a number of folks who I knew through Twitter and Instagram, and talked and laughed until exhaustion struck once again. God, that felt good, especially for this social weirdo. Without exception, the pen people I met were (are!) kind, friendly, funny, and helpful. I’d found my tribe.

Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 Prototype

As Friday morning dawned, a small and well-caffeinated clutch of us descended on the Franklin-Christoph tables to scope out the trays of prototype pens we’d gotten wind of the night before. Though the scene could’ve gotten ugly, like a bad Black Friday scenario, it actually played out like a well choreographed ballet, with patience and politeness as we all reached for our favorites. I came away with the Franklin-Christoph Pocket 66 in what I consider to be a stunning material (name unknown). I chose the Mike Masuyama medium stub nib, and had it ever so finely tuned by Scott Franklin. What a great experience with a company that clearly wants its customers to walk away completely happy.

Friday is the perfect day for shopping. Vendors are fresh and ready, customers are plentiful but not out in overwhelming numbers. There’s plenty of time and space to chat with other shoppers and vendors. There’s great energy, and SO MANY PENS. As shoppers, we encouraged and enabled each other, compared purchases, conversed, took breaks, and browsed throughout the day. It was a great day spent with so many like-minded friends. Friday truly is the best day of the show.

Franklin-Christoph Model 20 in Red Tiger

I knew I wanted to pick up a third pen, and circled both ballrooms and the lobby on my quest. Eventually, I noticed that I kept winding up back at the Franklin-Christoph display, my eyes always honing in on their Model 20 Marietta in the Red Tiger material. After repeating this loop a number of times, it became obvious that this was the pen my eyes and heart (and wallet) wanted. It has a very smooth medium nib, and Scott Franklin filled the converter with their Black Cherry ink so I was quickly good to go.

Friday was an earlier night. After dinner out with my friend Tracy, and my new friends, Karen and Sam, we spent a little time in the bar where pens and ink and paper are sprawled out for all to enjoy. I started getting punchy and silly and decided it’d be best to get some rest. Once back in my room, I unwound by trying out the day’s purchases and fell asleep very content with my choices.

The main balloon, on Saturday

On Saturday, the crowds arrive. And I do mean CROWDS. Lines snaked throughout the hotel lobby and looked depressingly long. Despite appearances, the line moved quicker than you’d think. (As the holder of the $45 Weekend Trader Pass, you can bypass all the lines, get in on Friday, and get in early on Saturday and Sunday. It really is worth the money, if you’re in town for the whole show.) Because I wasn’t really planning on picking up much else, I milled around for the fun of it until the crush of people became too much.

Bungbox ladies

The women from Bungbox were doing a brisk business in ink, pens, and cute paper products. I was pleased to snag the very last bottle of a particular Bungbox color that a pen pal had requested. I also picked up a couple of Franklin-Christoph inks and two Waterman converters before I decided to call it quits shopping-wise.

Tim Wasem getting the Masuyama treatment

Johnny Gamber and Tim Wasem from The Erasable Podcast made it to the show by lunchtime, and Tim was able to immediately get some nib work done by Mike Masuyama, thanks to a bit of teamwork by his friend, Joe Lebo. (If you want some nib work done, but can’t get to show early, have a friend who’s already there get you onto the list of a nibmeister, like Joe did for Tim.) After that, Joe, Tim, Johnny, Cody Williams, and I grabbed lunch at a nearby restaurant where we could sit outside and yak. That’s another cool thing…plans are very fluid. There’s always someone to hang out with and someone to eat with. And remember, I’m a social midget, but had no problem finding folks who were willing to let me hang out with them.

Saturday night was another “bar night” and I have to wonder what the hotel staff think about this invasion of pen people. It really is an amazing sight to see so much passion and enthusiasm and love shared among so many people—people from all over the country and the world, people who hadn’t met in real life until a few days ago but are now fast friends. There’s beer and cocktails, pens and paper and ink, laughter and heartfelt conversations. This is a very unique community.

I did a lousy job of capturing the nighttime gatherings in pictures. I guess I didn’t want to break what felt, to me, like a magical spell. I did my best to stay in the moment, and what great moments there were. I was finally able to thank Brad in person for the amazing gift of my Nakaya. I shared stories and hugs, all while trying the pens being passed around. I’m not normally a crier (unless a dog dies in a movie), but as I said goodbye at the end of the night, I surprised myself by getting choked up. Once you find your people, it’s hard to let them go.

Sunday meant getting ready for the long trip home. My suitcase was packed a little tighter than when I arrived, but what was really overflowing was my heart. The pens are great, but pen people? It’s not hyperbole to say that they’re the best.

The absolute best.


Thanks to everyone who said hi, let me share a meal with them, passed along unexpected little gifts, enabled pen purchases, and made me laugh. I had a blast, and sure do hope to get back next year.

If you’re on Instagram, check out #dcpenshow for LOADS of photos, including the nightly meet ups.

Here are a few excellent posts about the show from other attendees:
Paul Joynes of Gorgeous.INK
DC Pen Show 2015-Thursday
DC Pen Show-Friday & Saturday

Joe Crace of The Gentleman Stationer
D.C. Pen Show: Thursday and Friday Recap
D.C. Pen Show Insanity: The Saturday and Sunday Recap!

Todd of That One Pen
Washington DC Pen Show 2015

Chasing Shiny Things: Model 27 Diamondline by Franklin-Christoph

Franklin-Christoph Model 27 Diamondline

One of the problems of attending a pen show is that you come home and think, “Why didn’t I…?” There’s so much going on– so many pens and people and inks to see– that your focus tends to drift. Well, MY focus tends to drift.

When I got home from the DC Super Show, the question rolling around in my pen-brain was, “Why didn’t I spend more time with the folks from Franklin-Christoph?” They had a well-laid out set-up and were very approachable, but they were also very busy. I stopped by early on, then meant to stop back, but each time I circled by they were pretty swamped. Still, I meant to make it a point to spend more time at their booth, but somehow, I forgot. (I’m blaming that swirly hotel carpeting for messing up my concentration. It’s disorienting, I tell you!)


Happily, not long after I got back home, Franklin-Christoph announced two new Special Edition Model 27 fountain pens- Diamondline and Radiant Red. Nice looking. Great price. Here was a chance to mend the error of my ways. Tough decision, but I went with the Diamondline. Ooooooo…shiny.

Diamondline detail
Diamondline detail

The pen arrived and was as shiny and great-looking as I’d hoped. But there was one little snag. One of the included ink cartridges had somehow popped its seal and dripped a couple of spots of ink (tiny ones, but still) on the pen “cushion” inside the box. It didn’t REALLY matter, but I do keep all my boxes stored away, and I like them to be pristine. So I emailed Franklin-Christoph, explained the issue, told them that it really wasn’t a very big deal (though my OCD tendencies thought otherwise), but wondered if I could get a new box. I HAD AN ANSWER WITHIN THE HOUR. Maybe even sooner than that. A new box went out IMMEDIATELY and arrived a few days later along with a very nice Franklin-Christoph keychain. So customer service? High, high marks right there.

Logo on the cap’s end

The Model 27 is a cartridge/converter pen, with the following dimensions (as taken from the Franklin-Christoph website)-
Capped: 5.5″
Posted: 6.5″
Unposted: 4.75″
Narrowest portion of the grip: 0.32″
Weight: 1.65 oz/46.78 g (without ink)

It’s a fairly slim pen with a nice weighty feel. When posted, the pen feels a bit top-heavy, and this is something that Franklin-Christoph is up-front about on the product page (see the Designer’s Note).  I’ve been using this pen unposted almost exclusively and find it to be very comfortable. Those with large hands, though, may find the grip section to be a bit too narrow.

Grip section comparison
Grip comparison: Model 27 vs. Lamy AL-Star

While the grip is quite different than the grip on the Lamy AL-Star, the other dimensions are not, as shown below.

Posted vs. Lamy AL-Star


The clip is spring-loaded and the profile reminds me of Faber-Castell clips. This one has just a bit of detail, subtle, but consistent with the Diamondline theme.

Clip detail

Bodywise, the only thing that bugs me a little is the fact that the cap screws onto threads that are on the section, not on the pen’s body. Because of this, I sometimes twist the entire section out of the body when I’m just trying to uncap the pen. I did find that if I over-tighten (just a hair) the section in the body, this happens far less often.

Medium stub nib by Mike Masuyama
Medium stub, by Mike Masuyama

The Model 27 is available in a wide range of nib choices, in both steel and gold nibs. I chose a steel nib with a medium stub. As I understand it, nibmeister Mike Masuyama grinds all of the custom nibs (needlepoint, medium italic, medium stub, broad italic, and broad stub) so that was a definite selling point. To get a quality pen, at this price point, with a Mike Masuyama grind was a no-brainer.

Medium stub by Mike

Though I’ve been a hardcore fine/extra-fine nib user, I’m beginning to inch toward nibs that are a little bit wider, mostly because ink shading is much easier to see and appreciate. This medium stub by Mike may just be my new sweet spot. It’s still on the finer side of medium, but with just a bit of a stub to bring out the beauty of the ink- Iroshizuku kon-peki, in this case. There’s not much line variation to be had (not in my hand, anyway), but the steel nib is smooth with a middle-of-the road wetness. I just love it.

One things for sure, the next time I get to a pen show, I plan to hunker down with the folks from Franklin-Christoph. They aren’t just selling shiny things, but shiny things done right.