Quick Update - Summertime!

No, we haven't disappeared! Tom is on vacation this week. Enjoy your Memorial Day weekend! Eat some burgers, ribs, tofu dogs or whatever you like. Regular posting, Twittering and Facebooking will continue next week.


5 Excuses for Not Owning a Fountain Pen

People who buy pens certainly have their preference or bias toward a certain type of pen. Ballpoint people will only love the twist-action/click-top convenience that only a ballpoint can offer. The rollerball acolytes love the smooth flow of only a capped rollerball. And the fountain pen fanatics, forget about them. You try and put a Bic in front of a fountain pen connoisseur and see the look of repugnance on their face. But for those who have been a ballpoint or rollerball writer for years, a fountain pen can be no man's land. There's several stock excuses that I usually hear from those who haven't sipped the ink from the feed. In no particular order,
  • "They're Messy." True, fountain pens require a bit more diligence than simply inserting a new cartridge. With most modern fountain pens offering a cartridge or converter filling system, today's writers have the option of simply plugging in a disposable ink cartridge instead of filling with a bottle of ink. In that case, the only contact you would have with the ink is if you foolishly grab the pen by the nib or feed. And cleaning the pen isn't as bad as you may think - most fountain pen inks are water-soluble and wash out of the nib by running cool tap water on it.
  • "Too Complicated." People born after the invention of the ballpoint take a look at a fountain pen nib with its ribbed feed and converter (which often gets confused as an empty cartridge) and throw up their hands in mental anguish. Trust me, we've gotten calls. Take a deep breath. It will all be OK. Despite the fancy-looking writing mechanism, the fountain pen works exactly like any other pen in the respect that you write with the tip. Filling the pen can be as easy as inserting a cartridge. Cleaning and care of the nib takes no more than water and a cloth.
  • "They're Fragile." If you drop a ballpoint or rollerball pen on the writing end, you may damage the front section where the point comes out and may break the refill tip, but that can be replaced for the cost of another refill. If you drop a fountain pen on its nib, you're most likely going to end up with a pen that doesn't write the same as it did before, and the only way to resolve the problem is to get it fixed by the manufacturer or a nib specialist. I can't argue against this comparison, but what I can say is that our culture's contemporary inventory of gadgets, PDAs, DVD's, cellphones, laptops, etc., offer much less durability than any typical fountain pen. Most consumers expect to be replacing their technological trinkets every five years due to outdated tech, breakage or lack of support for spare parts. Pen companies like Parker, Waterman and Montegrappa have been around for decades. You can purchase a fountain pen with a stainless steel nib and iridium tip and expect to write with it for decades.
  • "Too Expensive." Two Words : Lamy Safari. Under $30 for a solid, workhorse fountain pen that you can write with long after you've replaced your current computer. You can even opt for the starter Pelikan Pelikano for $16.95. Sure, you're not going to find fountain pens in the dollar store, but the point is that you want to use and re-use your pen for the long-term.
  • "Not Convenient." With a simple, one-handed twist, a ballpoint retracts and protracts, ready to write. Can't get any easier than that. Well, there is the Pilot Vanishing point and the Lamy Dialog 3, which are retractable fountain pens. True, fountain pens are not as on-command as ballpoints, but when it comes to writing over long periods of time, the fountain pen is much easier to write with, requiring little or no pressure to contact the ink to paper. I can remember, back before my first FP, writing in the blue exam booklets with a ballpoint pen. After a good hour of writing, my hand felt like it needed a soak in an Epsom salt bath.
We want to hear from the hold-outs. What has kept you from trying a fountain pen?


Excuse me, Kayak.com

Are they saying pen people are "un-dateable?" Granted, I don't think that speed-daters should be whipping out any type of collection on their first date, but did they have to go after pens? What about action figures and comic books, like in the "40 Year old Virgin?" I'm still trying to hunt down the Acura commercial spot I found on TV the other night that had a guy fawning over his warthog tusk ballpoint pen with solid titanium trim. If anyone can help me out with finding that video on the net, I would certainly be appreciative!


Wednesday Pen Spotlight

National Stationery Show Updates from around the web: Goldspot got a chance to visit the show on Monday and peruse the multitudes of booths at the Javits Center. Although the pen pavilion of old has shrunk considerably, we still saw some familiar faces and got to meet several new ones. We will be carrying some new product lines in the near future, so be on the lookout!


Top 5 Pens for Young Writers

When we wrote about the Top 3 Pen Grad Gifts last week, the choices were a bit skewed toward graduates of high school and college. This list is more for the young-uns who are still learning to hone their skills of penmanship and might be starting their first diary/journal or mastering the 5 paragraph essay. Lamy Safari - Young or old, this sturdy, colorful writing companion is the hands-down favorite for all ages. Made of sturdy ABS plastic with a brass wire clip, this pen is made to take the abuse of children and still keep writing. The stainless steel nib on the fountain pen is one of the best values on the market. At $30 retail (or $23.95 at Goldspot Pens), the price is exceptional for a starter pen. Pelikan Pelikano Jr. - The Pelikano Jr is meant for an early writer. It features a thicker barrel and a molded-grip section that accommodates left- and right-handed users. The barrel and cap feature a frosty, semi-translucent plastic that is available in four vibrant colors. They also have a small, self-adhesive strip that your child can write their name on and wrap it on the pen barrel. Yoropen Superior - The uniquely designed Yoropen has been known to assist writers with everything from arthritis to early writing development in children. The pen forces correct hand posture and allows for longer periods of comfortable writing. Great for lefties who hate smearing what they write! Caran d'Ache Metal Pens - Available in a wide array of metallic, colorful finishes. Each pen sports the smooth, reliable and long-lasting Goliath ballpoint refill. Diligent note-takers rejoice! The slim profile and easy, one-click mechanism makes it easy to carry this pen anywhere you go, including algebra class! Fisher Lacquered Chrome Bullet Pens - The legendary Fisher Space Pen refill, used by NASA and known for writing upside-down and in extreme weather conditions, is the heart of the bullet pen. The bullet closes to 3.7" in length and 5.3" when open and the cap posted on the back. Available in several vibrant color finishes.


Parker Sonnet Precious Sterling Silver Cisele Slim Ballpoint Pen Review

A classic combination of sterling silver, black lacquer and gold trims, the Parker Sonnet Sterling Silver Cisele is certainly a style that has lasted for years as a highly desirable design amongst Parker pen enthusiasts. The finish endured a complete refresh of the Sonnet line that Parker made over a year and a half ago. In that re-release, the slim ballpoint version was created to offer direct competition with the slender profile of the Cross Classic Century. Opening the box, there is an immediate difference in packaging that collectors of Parker Sonnets prior to 2008 would notice. Similar to the Sonnet Premium Gold Lustre we reviewed last year, the Precious Sterling Silver line is presented in a black, pull-out drawer box that contains the pen in a nylon pen wrap with the Parker logo on the front. The wrap has a magnetic closure and features three loops with two additional "pockets" for refills. As opposed to the chunky gift box that was offered before, this pen wrap provides the additional benefit of being able to use the container to protect and transport your writing instrument. The glimmering sterling silver pairs well with the precise complexity of the filled-in grid engraving that covers the barrel and cap. A small hallmark is stamped on the back of the pen to signify the authenticity of the material. The gold trim and Parker arrow clip contrasts well with the silver and adds more of a luxurious appeal to the pen. Holding the pen in-hand, the thin profile definitely reminds one of a Classic Century or Parker Insignia. That being said, the grip isn't for everyone, and certainly not me. Besides the narrow width, the crosshatch engraving feels rough on the finger tips. The Parker ballpoint refill that comes with the pen is a fine point and writes well. The solid weight of the metal in-hand and the average length of the pen offers decent balance. However, I would find it difficult to write over the long-term without developing a callus on my finger. Summary:
  • Writing Quality : For those who prefer a slim grip. However, the engraved surface is bothersome to hold. (grade C+)
  • Aesthetic Quality : Sterling silver w/ chiseled grid engraving is classy and exudes luxury. (grade A-)
  • Utility : Slim, twist-action ballpoint could probably fit in many organizers. One easy twist and the point retracts and advances. Parker-style refill is easily found in most stores. Included pen wrap is a useful value. (grade B+)
  • Price : If you think about the pen as just a ballpoint pen, then the price tag of $155 can seem steep. But, if you think about the fact that it is a Parker and that the pen is mostly sterling silver with an intricate design that most other manufacturers would offer above $200, the price doesn't seem so bad. (grade B-)
Final Grade : B May be a great buy for people who prefer slim-profile, Cross-like ballpoint pens. Certainly a luxury item, but does not offer the everyday writing comfort that a great pen should.


Wednesday Pen Spotlight

Lots of interesting articles and blog posts this week, so lets get right down to it: Jackie from Letters & Journals proudly presents the new website launch of lettersandjournals.com which will promote the future magazine of the same title. Check it out if you are interested in all things stationery and writing. Whatever features an Edison Huron Bulb Filler review. Included in the post is a video of Brian, the master pen craftsman behind the Edison Pen Co., crafting the pen right before your eyes. What's the use of a notebook? What am I going to do with it? Notebook Stories has tons of ideas to get you inspired to use your notebook like a Mental Swiss Army Knife. The NY Times Magazine online has a great article written by a woman that is longing for the old days of using her Filofax Organizer in, "The Demise of Datebooks." Found through Notebook Stories blog. For some fun with fountain pen ink, check out the artistic expressions of Leigh Reyes. The coolest Crayola Crayon sculptures can be found on Doodler's Anonymous. Chisel Away!


Noodler's Borealis Black Ink Review

Far out, dude. Borealis Black, dressed in a trippy, colorful Noodler's artwork, is unlike the "standard" bulletproof black. Borealis is dark, real dark. According to Noodler's website, the formula is based on 1950's ink that is perfect for artists, calligraphers and people who use flex nib pens. It is billed as the "Blackest of the conventional Blacks." True, this Borealis Black is very black. Bulletproof Black seems much less saturated by comparison. Borealis flows smooth and wet with a bit of bleedthrough visible. The downside to the ink is that it is not "bulletproof," or fraud resistant. It can be removed with bleach, some carpet cleaners and laundry detergents. The ink is available in a 3 ounce bottle (shown above) and a 4.5 ounce eyedropper bottle, complete with a free fountain pen. I promise, more spring-colored inks will make their way onto the blog soon!


Wednesday Pen Spotlight

Same great taste on a different day, we've moved the weekly pen spotlight from Saturday to Wednesday. Without further adieu, please enjoy the following assortment of writing and pen-related links. Exaclair, Inc. had started a new segment on their blog called "The Writer's Project," which interviews writers around the world, getting them to talk about their process, inspiration and, most importantly, pens! Okami has a recap of the Suncoast Fountain Pen Fanatics Meetup, complete with pen-filled slideshow. Meetups are definitely hard to find, but sound like a lot of fun. Loved the hot/cold torture that OfficeSupplyGeek put his Uniball Power Tank Smart pen through. Not many people will test the manufacturer's claims and hold them to their word. Don't try it at home! Although it is only available for Windows, Pelikan offers a beautiful screen saver through their main corporate website.


Pens and the Age of Consumer Electronics

Now, the general consensus may be that the era of the handwritten, pen-and-paper affair is over. But you're reading a blog about fancy pens, and our job at Goldspot.com is to sell these archaic writing instruments, so you can assume that we would argue the opposite case. Not today. It is over. Everyone can shelf their Pelikans, Parkers and Mont Blancs. Steve Jobs is going to send everyone iPads for Christmas this year. Your pens will make a great addition to our museums to show how primitive our lives were before everything evaporated into a digital "cloud." Schools will replace lessons on handwriting with typing and computer literacy. We send our "signatures" through biometric scans of our thumbprint. Even grocery checklists are automated with bar code scanners and your Stop&Shop card. The luminaries of silicon valley will tout, "We're saving thousands of acres of rainforest to re-build our thin ozone layer. And our wallets have never been thicker!" Actually, they won't say this in person, but in a text message that you receive as a Tweet. And America will say, "Well, it has to be true if @million_$dollar$_CEO said it." Meanwhile, my daughter is going to be more concerned if the boy she's dating changed his relationship status on Facebook from "single" to "in a relationship" than waiting for any love letters to come in the mail. And after she bugs me to check her Facebook one last time as she goes to bed, I'll be up writing a blog post about how people are losing touch with reality the more they "connect" online. As I tap away at my keyboard, I think about all those nice pens that are now collecting dust in the closet. It was nice to look at people's handwriting and get a sense of their personality and the emotions they have in the moment they are putting the pen to paper. What's that word again, "SUBTLETY?" Emoticons can only express so much, even if you copy and paste the same one over and over again. It was far less frustrating to write notes in my notebook than it is to type notes in my tiny iPhone screen with the battery dying from looking up YouTube videos on my way to work. And gee, although the computer wizards claim they're saving the forests, they make up for it by creating massive amounts of environmentally unfriendly batteries and draining our already-tapped electrical power grid. I hear the chanting of "Drill, Baby, Drill" in the distance. Then, there was the one day that an internet prankster in South Korea decided it would be LOLZ to wipe out every hard drive on every server, notebook, netbook, iPod, smartphone and personal computer (even your Nintendo DS isn't safe) in the entire world. Since we went paperless, everything was lost. To Doctors, patients have no more medical history. That amount you owe to the credit card company - gone. Your savings account, however, is also history. And the best thing about this phenomena is that no one can Tweet about it, no one can "like" it on Facebook and you will actually have to step out of your cave and strike up a conversation with your neighbor, "hey, my internet is out, do you have a phone book so I can call up the cable company to complain?" This is what the digital "cloud" has to offer : a veiled, distant form of reality that is even more fragile and difficult to maintain than our real lives. One day, we can wake up, and our lives are hijacked from us by a hacker who managed to crack our foolproof password : "12345" (...and change the combination on my luggage!) What do we hope to pass down from generation to generation? When we click OK to accept the terms of a Last Will and Testament, does that mean we have to upkeep Uncle Larry's MySpace page for all eternity? What value does any of this have in the long run? If pen and paper dies, does our humanity go along with it?