8.06.2015

How to Manage Your Fountain Pen Collection #PenGeekProblems


Well, that escalated quickly.

First, it all started with a Platinum Preppy, an innocent Pilot Metropolitan and Varsity. You wanted to give fountain pens a shot because typing out e-mails and putting ideas into a Google Doc lacked any sense of organic feeling. Next, a TWSBI, Lamy Safari and Kaweco Sport piques your interest in more quality pens that everyone always talks about. Then, the slippery slope happens. You've plunked down good money, investing in a Lamy 2000, Pilot Vanishing Point and a Sailor 1911. And the "point" to it all is this - you've started a pen collection that needs tending like a flock of sheep.

Benefits of Managing your Fountain Pen Collection

Keeping a proper rotation of your fountain pens ensures that all of your pens are being worn equally, maintained properly and are enjoyed to their fullest. It's truly heartbreaking (to a pen geek), to find that one neglected pen that was left in a desk drawer some months ago, only to find that it was filled with ink that has since dried up and in need of some serious cleaning (or worse).

Step 1 : Create a "Home Base" for your Pens, Inks & Papers

To keep accurate tabs on all your writing essentials, it is necessary to have a central location where you store all of your extra pens, bottles of ink, refills, ink samples, notebooks and pen maintenance supplies. This could be located in your bedroom, study, office or kitchen drawer. Being organized means, at least, having one place where you can find all your writing stuff.



Since bottles of ink and extra refills are not always needed, it's best to have them stored in a cool environment that is not exposed to extreme temperature changes or direct sunlight. A drawer or cabinet is ideal to store inks. For those with a collection that has become an investment and want to proudly display their pens at their "home base," a clear-top pen case is great way to show off your valuable writing instruments.

Step 2 : Create an Everyday Carry (EDC)

"EDC" has become a popular term in the luxury item market because it describes utility items that accompany our person on a daily basis. There's a high degree of usefulness to accomplish work and be productive, all the while doing so in style. Your everyday carry (or pen lineup) should meet the needs of your common work tasks you encounter during the average day. If you're an illustrator, for example, you may have more varieties of pencils, fineliners or colorful Copic markers at your disposal to sketch when inspiration strikes. If you're a blogging entrepreneur, you may have a set of pens that will comfortable to write out posts in long-hand or to jot quick ideas for future content. Regardless of your occupation, it may take some time to determine which writing instruments will work best in your rotation.



Here are some items that are common to most pen lovers' EDC:

  • A multi-pen case - A slotted or looped pen case that can hold a number (3 & up) of writing or drawing utensils, and possibly a pocket-sized notebook.
  • A pocket-sized memo notebook - A small notebook, like a Field Notes, that allows you to quickly capture notes and ideas on-the-go.
  • A knock-around workhorse pen - A Kaweco, Nemosine or Lamy is excellent for this important role of being a reliable, stand-by pen that you can toss into a bag or take with you in a pinch.
  • A spare ink cartridge (or sample vial) - In the event that all of your pens run out of juice, having a little bit of ink on-hand is like the second parachute.
  • An impressive, fancy pen - It doesn't necessarily have to be expensive, but this pen should be your "flavor of the month," the current apple of your eye. In short, this pen catches your fancy every time you open your case.
  • A decoy - Typically, this role could be filled by a ballpoint pen. In the event that people look to you to supply them with a much-needed writing implement to use for an indiscernible amount of time, you can give them a cheap ballpen instead of your prized Mont Blanc. Having a ballpoint with you can also help when you have to sign carbon-copy documents.

Step 3 : Inking and Cleaning Rotation

Being that fountain pens require regular maintenance to ensure long-term optimal performance, you should consider how many pens you are inking up at once. Consider how much time you spend writing on a daily basis. Is it only 10 minutes total or are you going through a whole converter of ink in one sitting on any given day?



If your everyday routine only consists of a few minutes of jotting notes, then it would not be advisable to have 10 pens inked at the same time. Chances are, some of these pens will dry out and have flow issues before you would get the opportunity to use them.

Just a few minutes of writing a day will keep most pens fresh and prevent the ink from settling in the feed and becoming "gunked up" in the nib. Make sure to keep your fountain pens capped while not in use for more than a minute to prevent flow issues when you come back to using it next. So, before you go and ink up your entire collection for the week, consider your writing habits. In general, here's some "rule of thumb" guidelines to determine how many pens you should have inked at one time. These figures are approximate, and have been determined by years of personal experience.


Writing Activity Time Spent Writing / Drawing Daily # of Pens that Can be Inked
Signatures, some notes < 5mins / day 2 Pens
Lists, light note-taking 5-10mins / day 3 Pens
Lists, brainstorming, doodling 10-20mins / day 5 Pens
Journal, blog writing 20mins - 1hr / day 7 Pens
Short Stories, Essays, Letters 1hr - 2hrs / day 10 Pens
Novel, Thesis, Dissertation > 2hrs / day 12+ Pens

Keeping an appropriate number of pens in rotation guarantees that all pens will be used evenly and that none will be neglected for very long. As they run out of ink, it is recommended that you clean them out and have them ready for the next inking while using the other pens that have not run out yet. Pen ink capacities differ, so you may have a pen in the rotation for longer than others, especially if it's a piston filler or eyedropper fill pen.

Some collectors have a designated day of the week for cleaning their pens. Sunday seems to be a good day for most people, as they can start the week fresh with their pens fully loaded.

Step 4 : Curating the Collection

All pen collectors and enthusiasts have had that feeling at one time or another - a pen falls out of favor. Maybe it wasn't a favorite to begin with, but it was on-sale or had great reviews, so you had to give it a shot. However, it's been months and the pen hasn't made its way into your EDC pen case. Unless it has some sentimental value, it may be time to offer the pen up for trade or sell it to liquidate the funds for a future pen purchase. Although eBay is the defacto place on the internet to sell collectibles, you may be able to get more value out of offering it for sale or trade on a fountain pen community discussion board like FPN or Reddit /r/PenSwap.

After taking an honest inventory of your pen collection, you may feel that certain pens would be used more if they had a nib that wrote better. Some nibs might have been a little dry or scratchy right out of the box, some may just not give you the desired amount of line variation you crave. Give your nibs a make-over by treating it to a tune and smoothing. This is a skill that you can easily develop on some cheaper steel nib pens until you are comfortable on fixing up your more valuable pens. There is plenty of information, tools and instructional videos online to help guide you in performing simple adjustments that can refresh your entire collection of pens.



If you are uncomfortable or unwilling to work on your own pen nibs, you could opt to reach out to a fountain pen repair specialist or nib meister. There are a number of nib specialists in the USA that are reliable and highly frequented by collectors. Some may even have a wait list that is months long. Nib miesters can add a whole new dimension to your experience with your beloved pens by offering a specialty grind like cursive italic, oblique or architect (to name a few nib styles).

If your collection has grown to over 20 pens, you may need to upgrade your "home base" storage to ensure the pens are adequately protected over the long term. This means storing them in something other than a mug. A pen case with non-marking, acid-free lining that separates each pen from touching each other is ideal. Pen trunks can sometimes go up to 50 - 100 pens, but are quite costly. Many collectors have opted to go for a DIY, homegrown approach that usually involves a trip to IKEA. If your collection has grown to an epic size, some folks resort to cataloging all of their pen purchases in a spreadsheet, for which some members of the pen community have devised a format to use for convenience.

Have a tip for other pen collectors? Share our post with the tag #pengeekproblems and add your pro tips (with photos) to show how you can handle your growing pen obsession. Feel free to comment below to

4 comments:

  1. Your social shares bullying covers the left side of the text. You really make reading a good post aggravating. People are more apt to share if they can access the post.

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  2. You said acid free for lining. What material do you suggest? Is felt acid free? Thanks!

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    1. If you're putting together something yourself, I'd suggest digging into the makers of the material itself. Opt for anything that is "archival" or "acid-free." Just buying off-the-shelf felt may do unintended harm. For example, dye in the material could transfer to the pens that are sitting on them.

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    2. Oh dear. It seems impossible to find out the maker... I just bought off the shelf felt. Thanks for your help...

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