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Blog

Atlanta Pen Show

Fr. Kyle Sanders

Here's a picture so you can mentally walk around with me from space to space. 

I planned on arriving at 10 AM, right at the beginning of the day, but as Myke Hurley, of the Pen Addict Podcast, and Jeff Bruckwicki, of Nock Co, found out, I'm not good at counting. I didn't factor in the time zone change, nor that there would be a traffic stopping accident on the interstate. So I arrived on the show floor just before noon. I missed some of the travelers who needed to get back for work the next morning. As my first interaction proved, this show was about the people, more than the pens. 

Obligatory selfie. 

Before I could even get to the show floor I ran into the Pen Addict himself, Brad Dowdy who was seated with his Nock Co. partner Jeff being interviewed by Pen World. I knew I was in the right place. They both gave me warm welcomes despite the obvious import of the interview for getting their little brand to the pen community that isn't on social media. I digress (it'll probably happen again). 

On finally arriving at the show, I see two people: my friend Andre, who lives in Atlanta and whom I helped ease into this hobby, and Myke, who was manning the table for Nock. After a few minutes conversation with Myke, Andre and I made our way over to Franklin-Christoph. As I said in the prep post, I was looking to replace my Model 29 Bellus that Erin now greatly enjoys. Come to find out, the model has been discontinued! What was a casual thought became a virtual necessity. When you are choosing from the end of stock of a discontinued pen, you don't have the luxury of options. All they had was the maroon body with the black clip-band. There was nothing more than for me to choose but the nib. I figured I shouldn't mess with what doesn't already work so I choose the same nib I gave away, a medium cursive italic ground by Mike Masuyama. The nib went over to Jim Rouse to be made sweet. I happened to get the final medium italic nib of the show (which came out of the tester pen.) While we were talking, we came upon the subject of pocket holy water dispensers. Parker, Esterbrook, and Sheaffer made models of holy water dispensers out of the popular pen models. Jim had found one at the Atlanta Pen show last year. I am currently on the lookout for any of those. Unfortunately (or fortunately) I got so caught up in conversations I didn't get a good scope of all the tables to see if one was there. Eventually, I will find one. 

Jim Rouse smoothing Andre's nib.

I went from there to introduce myself, in person, to Dan Bishop, the designer for Karas Kustoms. He had come to the show with his wife setting up a table with his machined wares. We joked around for a bit. (There was a Colonel Sanders look-a-like at the show.) I ended up completing my collection of his pens by picking up a Retrakt in two-tone, aluminum and grey.  

I quickly learned his table and the Nock table were the de facto meeting places for the Pen Addict community who had travelled to the show. I got to meet Jeff Abbot, Thomas Hall, and Leigh Reyes before they left to travel home. All three are people I wish I could've spent more time with, but it wasn't to be. I was struck that, in the 5 minutes we spent together how comfortable all three were despite having only online interaction. They greeted me as old friends. Although I was sad I missed the epic Nakaya party from the night before, their immediate hospitality assuaged me. It highlighted that this show was very different from Dallas. Dallas was about the pens. Atlanta was about the people. 

After saying hello/goodbye to them, I went into the second room to visit Lisa Vanness and her partner in crime, Wendy. Lisa has been busy most of the weekend because of her being the only American retailer that sells Sailor Bung Box and P.W. Akkerman inks. Lisa is an awesome woman. She has bubbly blonde curly hair and a warm personality that syncs well with her hair. What I like most is that she shoots things straight. If she likes something, she lets you know, if she doesn't, she lets you know that too. I find her honesty a delight in its somewhat incongruity with her bubbly personality. I guest I fear the falsity of bubbliness (Mean Girls). Okay, enough of Lisa's character study. It was great to see her.

 Like I said in the prep post I asked her to save two bottles of ink for me. They just started carrying two new-to-them lines of ink, the aforementioned Bung Box and an Italian brand named Califolio. I looked through their site and found two inks that I was ready purchase. For some reason I really like rusty inks and Califolio makes one called Itzamma. It comes in a triangular bottle like Diamine 150th Anniversary inks. The range of Bung Box is so vast that I had trouble settling on one (by choosing one I quelled the temptation to buy them all because that temptation is real). I ended up going with a green, Norwegian Wood. I like both the color and the Beatles reference. I am slowly amassing a collection of dark green so if you have any feel free to suggest. 

After Lisa and I caught up, she asked me about the Homo Sapiens Crystal I had purchased from her at the Dallas Pen Show. I had mentioned to her that the nib seemed scratchy, which wasn't what I remember from my experience of the Dreamtouch nib. I chalked it up (pun not intended) to the ink, but even with a new ink the pen didn't feel right. I brought it with me to the show hoping we could talk about it (I didn't tell her that ahead of time.) I wanted someone else to validate what I was experiencing, because I am still somewhat new to his (the blog is a prideful front of expertise). She wrote with it and agreed that is didn't feel right. So she decided to take it to the Visconti table. I watched over her table for a good 7-10 minutes. She arrived back with a brand new nib, and I subsequently turned into the wicked witch of the west when she lost her battle against water. Lisa had to do everything she could to keep me together so she didn't have to mop me up from the carpet. The nib now lives up to its name. I didn't think a writing experience could feel so good. I showed Brad the pen later on in the day, and he nearly got mad at me for adding another pen to his list. "Get this away from me,"  he said.

When I passed the Visconti table letter (at the behest of Lisa), I thanked them for the new nib. I found out there was a batch of nibs that had poor tipping. I was kind of disappointed at the slip in Visconti's quality control, but, on the same token, they didn't hide the mistake. They graciously replaced the nib (as a side note: I was also delighted to see the two Visconti reps, a guy and a girl, were around my age). 

 I also had to say hi to Ryan Krusac, the scrimshander and pen maker, and his partner in crime Brandon Lee, the Modern Choclatier. I got to briefly meet Ryan's wife at the end of the show. His children were playing around his table and his wife was complaing because one of them bought a few pens that were in need of restoration. It was great to hear the unbridled desire of a child to be like their father, and, on the other side, to see the parent look at the difficult reality of a very detail oriented hobby. I'm excited for the kid. The pens will be much more useful that a model airplane (admitted hobby bias). 

I moved on to the Cursive Logic table.  Linda had sent me an email asking to review her program before the Kickstarter ended, but I balked. I think a lot was going on, and I couldn't really do it justice. She showed me how the program works. It takes some of the concepts of calligraphy in letter creation and organization of strokes and applies them to regular handwriting. It focuses on four basic shapes, and from those shapes you can write the whole lowercase cursive alphabet. I got a book from her and hope to share it around with parents in my parish. 

 I walked around the room simply looking and staring at pens. I stopped a table filled with restored Parkers and Sheaffers. The guy behind the table, Nathaniel, asked me what I was looking for. I told him that truth: vintage pens scare me. I can't tell what is quality and what is not. He proceeded to give me a 20 minute lesson on different vintage pens and a few things to look for in seeing if there are cracks in the material or degradation of a filling system. I feel more confident now and will probably spend more time in vintage the next show I attend. (These thoughts will spurn a whole separate post because this thins is already long and if you're still reading thank you). 

I returned to the Karas table to watch Ana Reinert, of the Well Appointed Desk, and Kasey Kagawa (@punkey0 on Twitter) play with new inks. Ana is one cool cat (I'm pretty sure she's okay with me calling her that). Her interests aren't just in the stationary realm. We ended up talking soccer. I found out she's a part of US soccer history. I'll let her tell the story if you're interested. Kasey is one of those guys that knows not just a little bit about some things but a lot about a lot of things. He had information on far ranging topics from grooming, to beer, to food, to gamma ray saftey (maybe not so comic book-y but the science language was beyond me). I wish I would have had more time to spend with them just to hear them share their stories. 

One thing I must say, both Ana and Myke were left-handed. I had never seen a left hander use a fountain pen and know what to do. It was one of those things where I was both uncomfortable and fascinated in a brand new experience. Because of the nature of left-handedness, one can be scared at lending a fountain pen, but I had no qualms with either person. I would entrust all my pens to them before lending one to a newbie. It was little experiences like that that set this day and a half apart. 

As the show was packing up, I got some notebooks and a gift for a friend from Nock. My last purchase of the day though was of utmost importance. Since I had seen one on IG and then heard Myke talk about it on the podcast, I had to get the Retro 51 Swoosh which is a Tornado wrapped in basketball rubber with the pimples and black recessed lines. I've been a basketball fan for most of my life and to have a pen like that is pretty cool. It added to my growing collection of Retro 51's.  

I ended the show with some nib work by Mike Masuyama. There was a possibility because of my late arrival that I would not be able to get anything done, but due to Mike's incredible work rate I was able to get things in. Over the course of the year, I had found the nib that came on the Krusac pen I had gotten in Dallas had hard starts. I'm pretty sure it was baby's bottom. Mike smoothed it out and turned it into a much more enjoyable pen. It's now both good look at and nice to write with. Then, I asked him to grind the nib of my Giuliano Mazzuoli Moka Chiarracsuro in a needlepoint. It's such a small pen and the nib was subpar to the beauty and was way to wide. It didn't feel right. So now the line fits the size of the pen. I couldn't be happier. 

That night we talked pens but most of all we just talked. I knew they would be somewhat tired after full pen enthusiasm for over 48 hours. I enjoyed getting to know everyone. Pens brought us together, but growing friendship kept us together. Pens were the gateway, but friendship was the end. 

Kevin and I. I'm short. 

The party continued the next day where Myke, Kasey, and myself joined Jeff at the Nock shop. The three of us were free labor for a day helping just gather inventory from what was left after the show. I'm surprised Jeff trusted me to count after listening to me count poorly the day before. If you ordered something from Nock only be subsequently informed they were out of stock don't blame Jeff. It's probably my fault. While we were there, I picked up Nock's collaboration with Ti2 Design a tri-camo Techliner. I love the sound of the click of the magnet. Kevin Penley, of the Gear Compass, joined us for lunch from Hankook, which had this awesome calamari taco. 

The tiredness I had next two days was worth the time I get to meet and spend with these awesome people. So much so I totally forgot to take pictures. I'm looking forward to a full weekend next year. 

The whole loot minus the Swoosh (he didn't get the photo shoot memo)