Currently Inked- November 2021

I love reading about what other pen lovers/users are using so why not do the same?

I keep swearing to “thin the herd” of inked pens, and I do have brief cleaning sessions, but then I think of another interesting pen and ink combination to try and I’m right back to where I started. I might as well face the fact that this is a losing battle, or, more accurately, a battle that I have no real interest in fighting.

The current crop...or herd...or whatever
The current crop…or herd…or whatever.

The pen that I reach for more often than not is the Karas Kustoms Ultem Vertex (the first pen on the left). Absolutely LOVE IT!!!! I tried to resist ordering this because the look of the Ultem doesn’t really do that much for me, but I’m so glad I eventually caved and placed my order. A discount code made my upgrade to a medium titanium nib virtually free, which sweetened the deal. Titanium nibs are my favorite, and this one is wet, smooth, and slightly springy. Truly addictive. I have it eyedroppered with Birmingham Pen Co. Electron ink—a bright blue with some red sheen. Gorgeous combo, and a dream to use for journaling and letter writing.

The third pen from the left—a Karas Kustoms INK in tumbled aluminum with another medium titanium nib—gets heavy use as well. This one is repeatedly inked with Birmingham Pen Co. Voltaic Arc—a dark blue with high sheen. (Notice a pattern here?)

The Gravitas Skittles Skull pen is a BEAST. It is HEAVY (74 g capped, 49 g uncapped), but surprisingly usable despite the stunning heft. I have this inked with Waterman Tender Purple, currently one of my favorite purple inks. I’ve started attending “Death Café” meetings (which are much more uplifting than they sound) and this will be the perfect show-and-tell item at a future meeting. Memento Mori in a pen!

The second pen from the left—a Franklin Christoph P45 in the Kaleidoscope acrylic—is a recent addition from their last online pen show. I ordered it with a broad S.I.G nib and inked it with Iroshizuku Yama Budo—a very satisfying combination.

Other current favorites:

  • Moonman C1 perpetually inked with shimmery J. Herbin Kyanite du Nepal
  • Narwhal in Poseidon Blue inked with Birmingham Pen Co. Tesla Coil
  • The TWSBI Draco inked with Diamine Writer’s Blood (with an amazingly smooth bold nib)
  • A couple of Levenger True Writers—Kyoto inked with Papier Plume’s Café Diabolique and the Sea Glass inked with Birmingham Pen Co. Black Olive (pretty sure)
  • Spoke Design Icon inked with Birmingham Pen Co. Jade Inferno
  • Lamy Safari with Sailor Jentle Grenade
  • Franklin-Christoph Model 31 with Waterman Tender Purple
  • TWSBI Swipe with Birmingham Pen Co. Electron

These are a few of my favorite, and currently inked, things.

Write ’em dry!

Forsaking All Others

Every now and then you hit upon a pen and ink combination that makes you want to clean out everything else you have inked. I’m currently obsessed with Birmingham Pen Co. Ultramarine ink in my Karas Kustoms tumbled INK with a medium titanium nib. Oh, my! What a pair!

Ultramarine is a deep, deep blue with a trick up its sleeve.

In the right light—like in the light of my desk lamp—the sheen POPS. Deep dark blue with red sheen? Yes, please.

When the ink arrived, I was mulling over which pen to put it in when I noticed my uninked INK and remembered that I always enjoyed the titanium nib on that pen. It turns out that “enjoyed” is quite the understatement. WOW. It’s smooooooth and springy—truly effortless.

I have ten or so inked pens at the ready, but this combination—along with my homemade cold-brew—is what gets me out of bed at 4:30 am every weekday morning to journal for an hour or so. It’s that good.

I can’t do this nib or ink justice with my simple words and imperfectly lit photos. You have to be there—feeling and watching your handwritten words flow from that nib, pool up on the page, then slowly dry, revealing high sheen in just the right light.

It’s incredibly satisfying to pair the right pen with the right ink purely by chance. This is a simple pleasure that’s difficult to explain and photograph, but you definitely know it when you find it. I think that’s the pen-lover’s quest in a nutshell—pairing a pen and an ink that triggers a “WOW!” every single time the nib touches the page. Pure bliss.

Note: The Karas Kustoms INK fountain pen and Birmingham Pen Co. Ultramarine ink were purchased with my own funds. There are no affiliate links in this post.

The Birmingham Pen Company: Seriously Addicted

I’d been eyeing pens on The Birmingham Pen Company site for at least a year before I made a purchase. I shouldn’t have waited that long.

It’s not hyperbole to say that I’ve been journaling with this pen every day since it arrived at the end of July.

Though they have some cool looking orange acrylics (my weakness), I decided to go in a different direction and instead picked a pen that matches my love of blue ink—the Sixth Avenue model in an acrylic they call Photon Torpedo. It’s swirly and interesting, with a little red amongst the light and dark blues. Though it doesn’t show up well in the above photo, there’s a bit of chatoyancy in the base acrylic. I always enjoy that deeply shimmery look.

<Taking a quick break. Be right back.>

JUST FOR YOU I went outside to take a few better photos.

Truth be told, I could not resist the name “Photon Torpedo.”

“The pen factory is humming.”

Birmingham Pen Company is a four-person family-run pen and ink maker based in Cranberry Township, PA, on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. As their website explains, brothers Nick and Josh started the company in their parents’ basement in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2018 that they began offering in-house made pens. Their dad is now the “chief pen machinist,” and their mom pitches in by doing some of the processing work and by contributing catchy product names. Maybe like “Photon Torpedo”?

I spent my first few years of elementary school in the Pittsburgh area (Mt. Lebanon) and have very fond memories of the neighborhood with its yellow brick streets, my first close friends, and fun times at school. I learned to ride a bike at in Mt. Lebanon and still remember the liberating feeling of FINALLY learning to balance on two wheels. I think my warm childhood memories of a Pittsburgh suburb factored into my decision to give this tiny pen company a try.

Their packaging is superb—distinctive and classy without being overdone. I ordered the pen and two bottle of ink, (The ink is shown above and below in the small boxes).

The two packages, featuring old-time maps of Pittsburgh, fit into a single sleeve.

The pen is packaged in the narrow “Writing Instrument” box, while the converter and a debossed Certificate of Authenticity arrive in the wider “Accoutrements” box. Receiving and unboxing a pen from the Birmingham Pen Co. is like opening the perfect gift from a special friend.

You care because it’s obvious that they care.

So far so good—cool pen name, interesting acrylic, well-designed packaging—but is all of that why I’m so addicted to this pen? Not exactly.

As great as all those things are, the reason I’ve picked this pen up every single day for weeks on end is the 0.8 mm #6 Nemosine stainless steel stub nib. It’s hard to explain how smooth and perfectly wet this nib is. For me, it’s the writing experience I look forward to every day when I sit down to write my morning pages at 4:45 am. Cold-brew coffee + this nib = happy Mary.

Not long after ordering and receiving my Sixth Avenue Photon Torpedo pen, a slightly/lightly used Sixth Avenue Ariel popped up on Instagram’s Virtual Pen Show for a very good price. I mulled it over for just a couple of minutes, then quickly DMed the seller. Basically an insta-buy.

This pen arrived with an EF nib that wrote well, but was much finer than my current tastes. To remedy this, I ordered a separate 0.6 mm Nemosine stub nib, also available from Birmingham, and swapped that in with only a little bit of difficulty (i.e., I did not impale myself as I feared I might). Another winner! Sometimes I journal a page or two with one of these pens, then a page or two with the other. They’re both fantastic.

If there’s one drawback with this small company, it’s that sometimes supply doesn’t keep up with demand. The models and acrylics available tend to ebb and flow, so not all pens are available at all times. This makes perfect sense given the fact that this is a mere four-person operation, with only two of the four working full-time. To stay abreast of their current offerings, follow the Birmingham Pen Company on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, or sign up to be notified when the sold out pen you’re stalking is available on their website.

Birmingham Pen Company also manufactures and bottles their own house-made ink. I’m plowing through my bottle of Ice Rink while a bottle of Waterfront Dusk is waiting in the wings. I’m very intrigued by their new Twinkle inks and will be ordering a bottle or two of those very soon. But which ones? That’s the head scratcher.

It’s obvious that the family team at the Birmingham Pen Company cares as much about the customer experience as they do about the quality and value of their pens, inks, and accessories. That’s why my Birmingham Pen Company addiction is just getting started.