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Filtering by Tag: Karas Kustoms

Atlanta Pen Show Recap

Fr. Kyle Sanders

Franz Dimson ,  Jeff Abbott , and myself (photo courtesy of Franz Dimson) 

Franz Dimson, Jeff Abbott, and myself (photo courtesy of Franz Dimson) 

I was looking forward to the Atlanta Pen Show all year. It was a long Lent, and I was anticipating a good time with my pen friends as we geeked out about extra-fine nibs and primary manipulation, knowing those were not underground sexual references.

It was different this year. Many of the regulars from the two previous years didn't come down, choosing, rather, to wait for the Chicago Pen Show. It opened up the space for something new, which included cupcakes and a contingent from San Francisco. The nights were filled with conversation and alcohol and pens. It felt like war. Back in the day, before the gun and the lamp, battles ended at sun down and all sat at camp recovering, licking wounds, and consuming comforting liquids, talking about the scars acquired and comrades lost. Thankfully the only thing spilled was Diamine Oxblood. In those camps was a communal atmosphere of 'we survived together' and it brought those soldiers closer.  We didn't experience violence, but like comrades in battle there was something shared that those outside camp wouldn't understand.

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My first purchase was six-months in the making. I comissioned Shawn Newton to make me a holy water dispenser pen. (I'm going to spend another post on this and the full story behind it. ) It left Shawn's hands in February and travelled to the Vanness Pen Shop for a relief engraving, after which it was sent to Jonathon Brooks, of Carolina Pen Company, to do an abalone inlay on the cap. Jonathon delivered it to me on Thursday night as we all prepped for the show. I was ecstatic. I showed it to every person I could, and probably a few people multiple times. I was super excited about it. It's made it two years in a row that I've gotten a holy water pen at the Atlanta Show. 

This was my first year at a Friday of the show. It was evenly paced. It didn't seem overcrowded but was sufficiently attended. The only money I spent was on a brown luminescent Franklin-Christoph 45 to replace the one I purchased last year. The first disappeared (Sad face). I had Jim Rouse put the same grind on the nib, a stublique, as he calls it, or a SIG (stub italic grind) as F-C calls it. I have found the 45 to be my favorite of all the models Franklin-Christoph makes. I love the size and the grip. I promise I won't lose this one too.

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I brought a few more pens for repair. I'm not ready to jump into the next 'stage' of pen geekdom, repairing my own pens. I know it's possible, and with practice anything can be done. However, I am more into seeing what can come out of the pen then what is in it. Not to say I don't appreciate a pen design, but rather I'm interested in creating sentences not pens. Anyway, I had an Esterbrook desk pen that needed repair and resaccing and an old Sheaffer Jade pen that needed a new sac and nib. The Esterbrook could be done at the show. I left the Sheaffer with Sharrell Tyree to restore. I'm looking forward to getting that pen back and playing with it. 

In my aimless wandering through the show (I wasn't lost, I just found myself talking to people rather that looking at pens), I came across Brad and Myke, of the Pen Addict Podcast, talking with Detlef Bittner. He was showing them the new line of Wahl-Eversharp pens. They've managed to design a semi-flex and full flex nibs to put in their Decoband model. This pen is a monster of a pen and makes a Montblanc 149 look like a Kaweco sport. I was impressed with how well the semi and full flex worked. Aurora's semi-flex had trouble keeping up. Being that the Decoband runs just shy of a grand. I'd have to save up get one.

Friday night was off the chain (did I use that slang right?). I've never seen so many Sailors in one place and there not be a boat. I was introduced to the King Eagle nib. The lower the angle of the pen to the page the wider the line, and it can be flipped over for a nice fine line. It's technically extraordinary not terribly attractive.

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Saturday was the busy day. The rooms were packed for most of the day. It felt more frenetic. There were a lot of people who came up for the day which gave the show a high energy. Limited time, expendable money. I only picked up two things that day. I had been eyeing one the Karas Kustoms delrin models. It had a purple delrin body and a gold aluminum cap. They made it for LA as an homage to the Lakers, but in SEC territory purple and gold only has one team, the LSU Tigers. I couldn't not buy it. I prefer the Fountain K model to the bulkier Ink and in LSU colors it makes it a great daily carry pen. I also traded (my first trade) a Visconti Rembrant, I was trying to sell, for a seafoam green Sheaffer Snorkel. I love the color but the nib will need some repair. The Snorkel gives me more delight than the Rembrant. I was also able to sell two other pens that evening to fund a Sunday purchase.

Saturday evening was sushi and pens and pens and alcohol. Jim Rouse brought out some of his unique pens, like a demostrator Parker Vacummatic and a pen from the original run of Franklin-Christoph. Dave Rea also shared his brand new LB5, which about as large as the Decoband from the day before. Mr. Lambrou makes beautiful pens, but the more I handle the less I want one (and my pocketbook takes a big sigh).

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I found Sunday tobe uncharateristically quiet. A storm did blow into the city which prevented some of the tentstive locals. Most of those there were vendors qnd weekend passers. Having been there for two days, I appreciated the slower pace. I spent the morning in front of Mark Bacas, the Nib Grinder. A few years ago I purchased a Visconti Salvador Dali. It never wrote well for me (I've owned 5 Viscontis and only the Rembrant I sold the day before wrote well out of the box), but I liked the body too much ot sell it. I also wanted a funky nib grind in homage to the king of surreal. Mark ground the broad nib into an italic, and, if flipped over, it becomes a fine. It's a cool little nib and makes the pen much more enjoyable to write with. I also had him turn the new Fountain K into a needlepoint. 

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I ended the day with two purchases. All weekend I had been eyeing the special edition ebonite pens Johnathon Brooks brought. One in particular, with waves of light bluegreen at the bottom of the barrel, caught my eye. I must've picked up the pen 30 times over the weekend and Shea, Jonathon's wife, just egged me on each time. I liked it too much and had to have it. I had him put a 1.5 mm stub on it to just lay down ink. I left knowing I have a unique pen that is exquisite in a material I love. 

Over the course of the weekend, I documented every ink I possibly could. I had made it my goal to become a bit more familiar with various inks. I'd never laid down so many inks in so short a time. I enjoyed seeing the subtleties in different shades from the same brand. A few caught my eye, but I only purchaed one, the Franklin-Christoph Blue 72. It's a simple straightforward, bright blue. I enjoy its simplicity. While getting the ink, Jim sweetened up the feed and nib of the 1.5 stub in the Brooks pen. Sunday night I went to dinner with some friends in Atlanta. When I returned there was a small remnant, i.e. Ana Reinert and the Cali crew (who I'm pretty sure hadn't adjusted to Eastern time by the time they flew out.)

Usually a pen show does not satiate the thrist for pens. In my experience it drives it. I got to see great specimens of the OMAS arco celluloid I wished I could enjoy. I'm still in search for a Montblanc Heritage 1912 I could afford. Other than the new Decoband, I've added two more pens to the wish list, neither of which I could've bought on my limited budget this year. The first is the Maui Makai from the Kanilea Pen Company. They have multiple pens one can desire, but this particular material piqued my fancy because of the translucent blue in the middle of the pen, transporting me to memories of swimming in the Florida Keys. The second is the Earth pen in Carl Fisher's, of Fisher of Pens, four elements series. The green galaxy look of the pen captured my eyes and my imagination. 

 On a final note, I apologize to those who followed this blog on a regular basis. I've gone through a transition time in my life, and blogging became less of a priority to allow me to work on other things in my life. I can't promise you regular writing, as much as I would want to, but I hope snd intend to make this a regular part of my life again. For those of you who have emailed me or told me at the show that you miss the blog, I appreciated that more than you would know. Thank you. 

Calligraphy by  Nikola Pang

Calligraphy by Nikola Pang

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)