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Blog

Correspondence Inspiration

Fr. Kyle Sanders

We’re nearly three weeks after the end of the writing frenzy that is International Correspondence Writing Month (INCOWRIMO). INCOWRIMO is where participants write once a day for the 28, or this year 29, days of February. It could be a letter. It could be a postcard. It just happens everyday.

I was having a conversation with an online pen friend sometime in February about writing letters. This friend was having a bit of trouble writing letters to near strangers. It felt somewhat uncomfortable. I encouraged her and gave a few insights that have helped me over the last few years as correspondence has become a regular part of my week. I felt that I should share that with you. 

I remember first writing to someone when I was in kindergarten. She was my best friend, who had moved away because her father was transferred. In the early 90’s, before Facebook or Facetime, my parents suggested I write to her. I admit I didn’t fully understand nor appreciate correspondence at the time. I would write to her; she would write to me. It was a way for both of us to ease the pain of separation. About a year later, the letters stopped as we had moved on into our lives in grammar school. The depth of writing of a five year old was surface level, as I couldn’t communicate much of anything well and could hardly maintain sentence structure, which I’m sure was helped by my mom. Nonetheless, there was a tenderness there between 2 genuine friends. 

I wrote letters here and there throughout grammar school, high school, and college, but most were formal or classroom related. I wasn’t really interested in corresponding with people, being content with AIM. As I got into reading blogs later in college, early in graduate school, I came across a fascinating blog called Letters of Note. Shawn Usher, the brains behind the blog, would find fascinating correspondence and some history about the chosen letter, then would post pictures of the letters along with his short introduction. They were always fascinating reads. Sometimes they were responses to fan mail from a celebrity, other times they were letters home from war, and still other times they were normal correspondence between friends. Each letter opened a new gateway to looking at history. 

This concept inspired a graduate school paper for Reformation/Post-Reformation History. I was intrigued with the relationship between St. Thomas More and Desiderius Erasmus. They had met as young men, both intellectuals, one the son of prominent lawyer in London, the other an illegitimate son of a Dutch cleric. More became Chancellor of England before being beheaded for disagreeing with his ruler. Sharing his time between France and Belgium, Erasmus became one of the most prominent Scripture scholars of the century and Martin Luther’s most effective interlocutor. Their friendship was maintained for thirty years primarily through letters. This correspondence was the main content of my research for the paper. I became fascinated with their conversations and how much was revealed through these letters. I poured through well over 100 correspondences and ate up every word. It was through this research I became aware of collections of letters by other of my favorite people in history. I was always on the lookout for epistolary collections when I browsed the shelves of used book stores. I got to see a side of my favorite authors that cannot be seen in a biography. I now have letters from Tolkien to Mark Twain to Mother Teresa. I found their writing styles and the content of their letters an ever deeper experience of human relationships. 

A few years later I found the joy of fountain pens and the community around them on Instagram. Three weeks after my first pen pic on Insta one of my new pen friends commented on a pic of my currently inked pens, “u should send a letter my way! :)” I must admit I was taken aback. I barely knew this guy other than his taste in pens (Sailor) and his calligraphic skills. I was going to write a letter to someone with whom I had no rapport or intimate knowledge? I knew how emotionally invested a personal letter could be, and I didn’t know if I was ready to engage someone on that level when I knew him only virtually. My heart was reticent. My head, however, recalled the countless letters I had read by various people, some of which had a lower emotional investment than my own Instagram posts. I also recalled the great joy I had when I received a letter from my friend. I was much more invested in my mom’s opening the mailbox because there might be a letter in there, a continuation of the story and conversation.So I listened to my head, not my heart and wrote this random guy a letter. I received one back a few weeks later, and realized quickly how much I enjoy this form of communication. I picked up two more correspondents here, another there. I would keep in touch with the beneficiaries of my giveaways. Before I knew it, there was always a letter sitting at my desk waiting for response. 

Then, last year I participated in INCOWRIMO, 28 days, 28 letters (and thankfully no zombies). It was at that point, 84 weeks after starting this journey, that I really fell in love with writing letters. I probably wrote letters to 15 new people in that one month, starting 15 new relationships. As an extroverted introvert, that was both exciting and tiring. I loved it, but it was also overwhelming like the first bite of the finest steak you’ve ever eaten. I was stunned into inactivity. Sharing myself in such a way wore me out. I don’t think I wrote another letter till April. Once I did, I knew I had to make correspondence a regular part of my life. It proved a good balance to the instant communication of social media. I now write at least one letter a week. I don’t feel the overwhelming need to respond to a new letter immediately. I wait until I've responded to the ones already sitting, patiently anticipating a response. 

You might have heard about INCOWRIMO, but were afraid, like me, to take up pen and paper, envelope and stamp to write a letter. That’s understandable. Try it anyway. I have been opened up to a whole new world of experience getting to know people from Australia to Canada to California and beyond (haven’t gotten a letter to the space station yet). I’ve ‘met’ people of vastly different beliefs than me and had civil conversations about those differences along with what we have in common. I’ve made new friends in places I may never go, but hope to. 

If you are wondering, “I don’t know if I could do this,” either because of the fast pace of your 21st Century life or because you don’t want to write to someone whom you can’t yet trust. I encourage you take up and read. Find a collection of letters from your favorite dead author (usually live ones won’t give over their letter for publication). If you don’t have a favorite dead author (email me, I’d love to introduce you to a few), do not fear. Sean Usher, of Letters of Note, has published a book version of his blog, a compilation of unique and powerful and easily accessible to every reader. Pick it up. Read. Learn, there are few greater joys than to know someone took the time to hand write you a letter

Arkansas Pen Show Recap

Fr. Kyle Sanders

taken by Lisa Vanness

It would seem odd to drive fourteen hours in two days to go to a show about pens, especially if the show had a mere twenty-seven vendors and only a few recognizable people. Despite the lower price of gas, it doesn't seem, to the 'sane person,' worth it. 

I posted last week how there is this awesome community that, at times, seems divided, and the division comes from fear and pride and a depersonalization of 'the other side.' Joe Crace, the Gentleman Stationer, furthered the discussion by highlighting the differing motivations of each 'side,' user or collector. All of this has generated much discussion amidst not only the Pen Addict Community, but beyond it into Facebook groups and no doubt elsewhere where I personally don't dare to trod due to prevalence of trolls, who, unfortunately, don't turn to stone when enlightened. All of these thoughts were bouncing around my head as I walked the tables of pens, had conversations with a great many people, and made a few purchases. 

Taken by Lisa Vanness

I arrived in time for the Friday night afterparty at Vanness. I was struck by the sheer number of things Mike and Lisa Vanness sell, from pens to cupcake tins and a myriad in between. That night  was a good chance to ease into the show. I knew some of the people by face from the Dallas Pen Show, a few years ago, and got to connect with some people I befriended there, namely the Newtons and the Nesbits, both awesome couples, one young, one old. 

Despite spending time on social media talking pens, a show can be a bit overwhelming because there is so much talk about the things we love. We can geek out and not get the upturned eyebrow. The night at Vanness made a good transition because it was as much about people catching up, person to person, as it was about the pens. I got to see people just hanging out talking about everything from mission trips to cooking supplies, of which Vanness had many. It allowed me to move from regular life and into the pen world. This insight gives new meaning to the fact that the publication, Pen World, greets every person who registers for the show, its name indicative of the subculture one is about to enter. 

At Vanness, I fell into a small conversation with Patrick, who has one of the few pen stores in New Orleans, Papier Plume, and who came up to the show as a vendor. We marveled at both the size and diversity of product in this family run store. As a store owner, he was amazed at especially the baking supplies they sold. He carries pens and pen related things, paper, bags, stamps, etc. This seemed almost contrarian. Why would a pen shop sell a large selection of cookie cutters and cupcake toppers? My answer was practical. It allowed them to stay open since 1938 and gives the shop a country general store flavor without the wooden Indian outside advertising a cigar brand. As I think now about it, at Vanness, pens aren't their own world but part of the world in which we live. It integrates them into daily living, on a subconscious level. When we enter a pen show, we step into a world of fantasy. There's certainly some hyperbole in the previous statement, but there's also some truth to it as well. Describing a pen show as magical isn't false.

It's somewhat appropriate, then, that the pen I purchased from Lisa, that first night, was, in a sense, connected to 'real life.' In the vast array of Bexleys she had, one with a woodgrain ebonite caught my eye. It was a limited edition commissioned by a local Arkansas outdoorsman and tourism entrepreneur, Jim Gaston, who apparently loved the New York Stock Exchange enough to call his limited edition pens, "The Bull and the Bear." The bull, the lighter, orange-ier of the two ebonites, caught my eye, and the lines and feel of the Bexley stub caught my heart. To boot, Vanness had all 100 of both Bull and Bear so I was able to get the number of my birth year. I'm not really a follower of the NYSE but the material and nib sold me. The pen had a story and connected me to Little Rock and New York. 

The next day, instead of entering the Castle Camelot or the Shire or Hogwarts, I entered into something smaller, like Merlin's hut or Bilbo's hobbit hole. It was cozy, homey, still full of magic but in a degree this little hobbit priest can handle. (I have this secret fear that going to DC is like entering the Lonely Mountain with Smoag inside. There's treasure to be found but you might wake a sleeping dragon. Forgive my imagination.) I had a few goals: a few pens needed fixing, I had my eye out for an OMAS 360, and I needed more storage for these pens I use. One day might not seem like enough time, but the show's smallness allowed me to take my time, both to browse and to talk. 

The magicians at shows are said to be the pen repairmen and nib workers. They can turn a broken pen and unusable nib into something new and glorious. Although this show lacked a worker of nibs, it did have two repairman, Jeff Powers and Danny Fudge. Both have wealth of experience and bot are fantastic guys to talk to. Danny had worked on a pen for me while at the Dallas Show so I figured I’d see Jeff, whom Lisa had introduced to me the night before. He was able to cox life out of an Esterbrook LJ and an Arnold Pen (I can never find which model), both of whom needed new sacs. I also left another pen with him to work on when he returns home. I dropped the pens off to him at the beginning of the day. Mid-afternoon found them in tip-top shape. I was grateful for the work he did, but, and this is what makes this community so great, he was even more thankful to me for the life I lead. What happened makes me feel uncomfortable because I don’t feel I deserve it. He waived his repair fee and then proceed to give me a Sheaffer Balance that he had restored, a beautiful little green pen. I am still both humbled and in awe of his generosity.

Generosity is something I think characterizes this community as a whole, whether it’s with information or with actual things. It’s one of the reason I love being in this community, not that I’m looking for handouts, but rather, generous people are people you want to be around. They build you up, recognize your dignity. It was the virtue that characterized my experience of the whole show. Everyone was generous, with time, with stories, with sharing experience, or trying pens. I think when an ungenerous person is encountered (I didn’t experience any in Little Rock) it comes as a shock to us newbies because our experience has been so overwhelming positive. 

I caught up with the Nesbit and Newtons at the show. It seems I get something from the Nesbits every show and I get something from Shawn a few month after the show. I saw an acrylic on his table that I really like, that will probably turn into a dip pen or one of his new pocket models. 

The Nesbits are a sweet couple in their 70’s from Oklahoma City. Dr. Nesbit found himself with quite a collection of pens, new and vintage, many of which he purchased from Mike Vanness. In Dallas, I got my first Esterbrook from them. Since then, he started converting cigar boxes into pen cases much like BamaPen. In fact, he connected with John Hubbard, of BamaPen's, when visiting a child or grandchild. He had a few of John’s pieces as well as a few of his own. One caught my eye for its being different. The cigar box turned pen cased didn’t have the profile of a warehouse viewed from 500 feet in the air but rather looked like an apartment complex that you can open from the top.  It stores 20 pens vertically. I determined it was mine. I also spied three OMAS 360’s in one of his trays. I returned three or five times to their table throughout the day, both to talk and to eye those pens. Aesthetically, I settled on the yellow one, over and above white and red. The 18k fine nib was dreamy, and they gave me a price I couldn’t refuse. It was my prize purchase and was the last one I made that day.

Most of my day, though was spent browsing the vintage offerings. I spent a good 30 minutes looking at some old pens one vendor had. I didn’t know how old, and the prices weren’t labeled. He had them on photocopies with a letter/number system to designate the pen. It worked well for him but not so well for me. I’m attracted to shiny and really liked these overlay pens he had. So I picked one up, examined it, and asked him about it. It was beautiful. I didn’t notice, until I look back in hindsight, how nervous he was as I handled his pens. One I really liked. I didn’t know the price, but I asked if I could try the nib. He promptly told me the pen’s history, late 19th century Parker, and the price, well above my budget. At that moment I was scared and no longer intrigued. He said something to the effect of, “I’d be afraid to break it if I used it.” And I realized, I didn’t want to buy a pen I would never use. 

Manning the Franklin-Christoph table while Jim was away. I guess he could trust the priest ... (Taken by Lisa Vanness)

This whole exchange happened across form the Franklin-Christoph table. I wonder if Jim Rouse, their penman extraordinaire, overheard our conversation. Later in the day, as I was playing with KWZ blues (Lisa gave me a bottle for review) at the Vanness table, I overheard my name. Jim was talking to a man in his seventies who wore an extra bushy, white mustache that floated out beyond either side of his face with spectacle sitting atop the bridge of his nose. Jim was explaining what I had read from the Gentleman Stationer earlier in the day, while at lunch. Us newer folk are more about the writing experience of a pen. We want a pen that writes well and looks good. A collector wants an old pen in pristine condition, whether the writing experience is good or not. Our goals are different. It was interesting to hear similar things from different quarters both from voices I respect. The conversation online about this has been great to follow. I think the commonality between collector and user lies in the fact that we both love pens. Our love may be for different reasons, but its mutuality bonds us together. I found that to be the case during my day in Little Rock.

Earlier in the day (forgive my non-linear storytelling), I had gone out to my care to deposit the cigar box I didn’t want to carry around. I stopped by the men’s room on my way back in. While there, I get a text from Lisa saying I won a door prize. Thankfully, although I wasn’t physically present, they didn’t pull another name. I came back to a large 13”x13” box with a whole Sheaffer No-Nonsense Calligraphy set and a gift certificate for pen repair from Danny Fudge. Again, the generosity of the community proved great. I was actually looking at generating a set for a calligraphy project I’m working on for my parish.

Sheaffer seemed to be the brand of the show for me: the No-Nonsense, the Balance, and then, a Sheaffer Triumph. One of my favorite pens in my collection is a Sheaffer Triumph Desk Pen, which is the only pen I own that is always inked up. The nib is quite unique, being intentionally upturned in what can leave the ignorant afraid the nib is bent. I was attracted by a Sheaffer (I didn’t know at the time it was a Triumph) with a very large cap band. I asked the vendor about the band. He then casually turned to the vendor to his right who seemed to me a fountain of knowledge not different from Merlin himself. The bushy white eyebrows furrowed and the stooped shoulders shifted and a worn voice opened up the annals of scribal history. This particular pen began production in the summer of ’41 only to be changed in design as the war machine took most of the metal. This design then is a special reminder that things changed drastically after December 7, 1941. I already knew I loved the nib. It didn’t take much more for me to make the pen my first purchase of the show. When I use it, I will write in the knowledge of the history that frames the pen and the freedom I still have to write what I please and publish prose on pens in the open forum of the internet.

I said goodbye as the show wound down, I walked out of this pen world and back into the real world (a phrase forever colored by MTV). In so doing, I came to the awareness of why this hobby and love of pens and pen culture has captured our imagination, our attraction to beauty, and ultimately our pocketbooks. The fantasy and magic of pens allows us to see the truth of the world in greater clarity. The colors and the lines, the letters and their shape give us the means to see the world. Despite the present mood of fear, bright greens and block letters remind us there is still brightness and solidity. So I leave you with a quote that fairly describes what I mean to say in betters words than I can compose.

“Can you not see that fairy tales in their essence are quite solid and straightforward; but that this everlasting fiction about modern life is in its nature essentially incredible? Folk-lore means that the soul is sane, but the universe is wild and full of marvels. Realism means that the world is dull and routine, but that the soul is sick and screaming.” - G.K. Chesterton

My haul. 

Letter to the Pen Addict Community

Fr. Kyle Sanders

I will start with some qualifications. What I'm writing won't apply to all of you, and first and foremost is addressed to myself. I also take into account the less than stellar time Matt Armstrong (aka Pen Habit) had at the LA Pen Show only a week and a half ago. Furthermore, my intention is neither to brag or alienate, and where I unintentionally do so, call me out. My intention is rather to speak and attempt to unify. 

I am going to the Arkansas Pen Show this weekend. It will be tiny compared to LA or DC (although it is reducible to LR if they wanted to rebrand it), and it will lack the Pen Addict Community that makes Atlanta so much fun. I will ostensibly only know Shawn and Elizabeth Newton and Lisa Vanness. It won't have the displays or the enormity of vendors. Furthermore, I suspect I will see my fair share of fishing vests and men old enough to be my grandfather. The thing is I will be uncomfortable. I won't have someone to relay ideas off of or be my wing-man, or me his. And that's okay. It's okay I'm entering into the deep, unknowing of what I will find. 

The Pen Addict thing

Brad and Myke have watched this awesome community form around their podcast and Brad's blog. It's spawned a Pencil Podcast and countless new pen blogs, this one included, courtesy of Squarespace advertisements. We all value Brad and Myke's opinion. When Brad has recommended a pen, a retail rush on that product occurs. Recall the Matte Black Pilot Vanishing Point being one of the highest selling products at JetPens, or the sell outs at Pen Chalet due to a promotion. Nakaya found a new market when Brad got his orange scar pen. We value his thoughts, to his credit. 

To an extent, we don't veer outside of what he has recommended. I haven't asked Brad, but I would venture to take a guess that one of the regular questions he gets from the PA Community is, "when will you review this ..." If it hasn't received the Dowdy seal of approval, is it worth buying? We have the relative comfort of reading a review about this pen or that pen from the whole host of awesome blogs and, if you dare, the Fountain Pen Network (FPN) forums. But not everything has been reviewed, or an item may have received less commendation from a reviewer due to personal bias. We certainly aren't perfect, and reviews have no objective standard. Do we as pen people, then, just patiently wait until someone reviews a mid-century Shaeffer or a sweet looking 20's Conklin, or one of the many models of the Parker Duofold?

The internet has really allowed, through the studying of reviews, for us to make more informed choices than our forefathers in the hobby. But I think it can also stagnate our ability to learn things ourselves by making mistakes. We're conservative, not with our wallets, but with what we buy. That's partly due to our budgets, but I think fear is also a factor. What if I buy a pen I don't like it, or I buy a pen that doesn't work properly, or isn't something I've heard about before? We might have a fear of missing out with regard to new products, but we can also have a fear of making a mistake, especially in online purchasing. But if we don't make mistakes, we don't learn from them, and we place our trust on Brad, or others, to more or less make our decisions for us as to what is a good pen. 

The Old School and New Media

I think that's one of the differences between "the old guard" and us newbies is they made many, many poor pen purchases before they amassed the collection they now sell at pen shows. I think there's a resentment toward us "youtube people," as Matt experienced, because we share our mistakes and our joys in pens with the world, as opposed merely to this small community. Despite being a global industry, fountain pens, at least in the United States, seemed to me to be very tribal Within the tribe there was safety and protection and community. With the dawn of the internet, FPN, Youtube, blogs, and a podcast globalized their hobby, opening it up to new sectors and demographics. No longer can the fountain pen hobby be anti-digital technology. We now sit with our phones, and cameras, and computers and set fountain pens alongside technology, not separate from but integrated into our digital lives and the digital continent. Fountain pens used to be part of the small band of rebels who held out against the digital revolution. No longer. And that is a difficult thing to realize for the men in fishing vests. To admit one is wrong (i.e. digital and analog cannot be integrated) is a difficult thing. New things mean change and despite what we say to the contrary, we humans are very uncomfortable with  change. 

The resentment of the old guard, I think, other than above, is that we don't make the same mistakes they did. We come in to a show having read this review, or that blog post, or that website and are looking for a specific thing not because we have personal experience of it, but because we read about it. This experience is in counter-distinction to theirs. Their first pens, and collecting them, was trial and error. The wealth of knowledge was in the hands of the sellers, who shared that wealth. We seem to have all the answers before the question is posed. So all this experience they've amassed about these pens can seem, to them, to be overlooked or devalued by our research. And although they shouldn't, many take our preparedness personally because they invested so much time, energy, and money to acquire and understand this little pen they're selling. 

I'm certainly not defending grumpy men in grumpy moods being donkeys to interested buyers. I'm rather trying to give context to the seeming grumpiness of many. Just as they shouldn't take our preparedness personally neither should we take their resentment personally. There are reasons for both and mercy need reign. 

With all our research, there's something extremely valuable in the grumpy man's experience. No one wants to feel devalued, especially when there is an age gap, and that devaluation takes on an added generality (old vs. young). A way to bridge the gap is, instead of leading with our research, we gain their perspective first. How did he acquire the pen in question? What is it's history? Show him you value his experience because, in truth, his experience is invaluable, which is the same reason why we put so much trust in Brad's two-cents in the first place; he has experience where we don't. If the seller balks or is still mean, move on and don't take it personally. 

The Value of a Pen show

On the internet, we are afraid of making poor purchases. Amazon has trained us to be prepared buyers who have sought out the experience of others. At a pen show, we can make mistakes and buy a bad pen or a pen, which at first, seemed great  but turned out to be more or less than what we bargained for. It's the place where we can let go of the fear of making a mistake and learn, by asking, by casting lines and sowing seed. It's the place where we can tap into the shared experience of pen aficionados who have been talking pens before I started using one in the fourth grade. The pen show is the place where we can bridge the gap between oral knowledge and wiki-knowledge. 

I will be keeping this all in mind as I drive up to Little Rock this weekend. I will test it out, make mistakes, maybe even get offended by some grumpy old man. But my hope is that I'll gain some new stories and experiences that I'd never hear in the Slack room or on Instagram, unless there was a Humans of Pen Shows. (Somebody's got to make that happen! I mean come one there's an Orcs of New York!) 

 

Waterford Eclipse Review

Fr. Kyle Sanders

During one of the special Pen Addict sales on Pen Chalet, I picked up the Eclipse as an add on with the on-sale Sailor Pro Gear. That was right before the 2014 Dallas Pen Show, so it came during the great pen purchasing fall of 2014, where somewhere around 12 pens entered my arsenal in a four month period. I quite enjoyed my time with this pen, but now it is time to part as it has been given away to Joe Kardia. Before it left my hands, I wanted to share with you my thoughts. 

To be honest, Waterford isn't a company most associate with fountain pens. The mother with the Waterford crystal in her China cabinet was always the envy of her neighbors. (To brag) that was my mother, and due, in no small part, to me. At the age of 16, I joined a student ambassador program called People to People, which gave high school students international experience to broaden their perception of the world, which for teenagers prior to social media was quite small. People to People has programs all around the world. It took me to the British Isles: England, Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. Our first night in Ireland was spent in Waterford. We took a tour through the crystal factory and ended in the 'gift shop,' i.e. how much can you spend in one purchase without breaking the bank. I was on a mission to get some crystal for my parents, so my mom could be the envy of the neighborhood (my estimation at 16, not her express intent). I searched around the entire show floor for various possibilities that would fit the budget. I settled on a while wine glass for her and a martini glass for my dad.

At the time my pen collecting was merely in advertisement pens from businesses and hotels. Fountain pens existed merely in cartoonish form to me. As I return to that memory of searching for the best gift for my parents, I do remember seeing a case with pens in them. I know I would have only glanced over them after seeing their prices, which were around $100 and higher. I might have, channeling my father, asked, "Who would pay so much for a pen?"

Things are different now that I'm a pen addict. Had I the full Waterford offering before me now, I'm not sure which pen I would have chosen. Nonetheless, I'm glad this one came before my desk, reminding me of a great and memorable trip. 

Form

In the pen community, I have perceived a small bias against black pens, with the exception of the Lamy 2000. Black pens are seen as overly simple and don't hold the popularity of the dazzling acrylics you find in many pens today. The black pen subconsciously reveals that the user is unfamiliar with the best of what fountain pens can offer in pen body materials. The 2k is the exception, in part, due to its macrolon body. Many people will overlook a black bodied pen because they assume it's marketed toward the executive rather than the aficionado (I grant some people like shiny things). Black is simple, elegant, and professional. I don't say all ths because I wear black most days. I think most would overlook this pen simply because it's black. If you have this bias ( I have my own biases) I ask you to suspend it and take this pen for what it is. 

What it is not, is cheap looking. It would easily look comfortable in the hand of business executive, if Montblanc hadn't cornered that status symbol market. It is a classy looking pen using the simple color scheme of chrome and black, reminiscent of the silver cufflinks and black suit of a smartly dressed man, or the silver necklace, bracelet, and earrings paired with an elegant black dress of the chic woman. If only Bond were Irish! It's classy yet simple. It desires no ostentation.

The barrel is black lacquered brass, polished to a shine. The butt of the pen a has chrome cap, which looks like it could be a piston mechanism, but alas it isn't. I don't mind this little deception because it fits in well, giving some symmetry with the cap.

The cap is the most interesting part of the pen. I know Waterford isn't foreign to engraving design as I remember seeing on some of their crystal fourteen years ago. None of my pens have this kind of design work on them, making this a unique pen. I would call the design metallic plaid (after further research I found that it's called guilloche but metallic plaid sounds more manly). The pattern is set into the chrome giving the cap an interesting tactile experience. The clip looks like an elongated shield with a concave indentation in the upper half. 

"Waterford" is engraved on the bottom band of the cap. It would have been nice to also have a pen model engraved as well. On the finial is something reminiscent of Montblanc, a star. It seems this pen will live in the shadow of its French rival. Deeply engraved is a sea star keeping with the aquatic theme of the company's branding. I bet it would look awesome with different color inks sitting in each of the reservoirs. 

When uncapped, you can see the chrome threads. It helps distinguish the grip section from the body. I've always loved the little flair at the end of the section. The Eclipse has a larger one than most, but it doesn't detract from the sleek look of the pen. 

I would have preferred an all silver colored nib as opposed to the two-tone. The injection of gold seems out of place. Engraved on the nib is the date Waterford was founded, 1783, under which is the Waterford seahorse logo. I like the seahorse. It reminds me of my short time in the crystal factory as well as the symbol of nurturing fatherhood. 

Function

The brass body gives the pen a subtle weight, not as heavy as a brass pen from Karas Kustoms though. It balances well in my hand when it isn't posted. When I post it, it become too top heavy. I'm okay with not posting. Even though my hands are small, I think it would fit unposted in larger hands as well. 

eclipse_cartridgeconverter

The cap screws onto the body without any hiccup. In fact, it's a pleasure to cap this pen because it feels so smooth. After I showed it to a pen friend, he said it seemed to be triple threaded. I can neither corroborate or deny and only speak as the plebeian who enjoys capping and uncapping this pen. 

It is a cartridge/converter pen. The accompanied converter fits well without any leakage. If you like large ink capacities, this isn't your pen. Personally I don't mind converters. It means I can rotate through all of my pens quicker.

The clip isn't very springy, but I've never had a problem putting it in or taking it out of my breast pocket. It did have trouble clipping to thicker materials, though. 

Feel

Like I said earlier, it's weighted well when uncapped, and it feels great in my hand. It's never gotten uncomfortable or weighty with long writing sessions. I really like the grip lip as a place to rest my fingers; it's both my style and my practical preference.

The nib is smooth and wet. Even on rougher paper it retains its smoothness. The wetness is an opportunity to show off a more shaded ink (which after writing this whole review, I wished I'd used a more shaded ink). It breaks up the dark color my fine nibs put down. 

Finances

I purchased this pen at Pen Chalet for $97.20, but they no longer have it in stock. You can find it on Amazon for $95.99, sitting right below $100. It's certainly classier than your cheaper TWSBI's, and Waterford produces a finer materialed pen than the Pilot Metropolitan or Lamy AL-Star, or even the Conklin Duragraph. It sits below the price of cheap, gold nibbed pens. I think this is a great and more cost effective version of the style of Montblanc. Yes, it doesn't have the gold nib or the piston fill, but it fits in well with the executive look without breaking the bank. If someone wanted a Montblanc, but cheaper, I would send them towards the Eclipse. 

Is the Writing Reverenced?

I'm smitten with black pens. This is one is no different. I love to look at and run my fingers over the guilloche pattern on the cap (metallic plaid still sounds better). It's weighted well and writes wet and smooth. 

Reverenced

Paper: Nock Co. A4 Notebooks
Ink: De Atramentis Charles Dickens

Fisher Q-4 Review

Fr. Kyle Sanders

I am excited to announce a review partnership with The Pen Company, a small family run stationary retailer in the UK. I received the following product from them for review, however, this does not sway my view of the product.

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 In trying to chose a review item, I wanted to choose something 1) I've never owned or used 2) preferably something something I've never seen reviewed (because I'm prideful). These are both selfish  reasons I know. Hopefully the choice comes to bare to aid in your purchasing. 

For some reason, I was interested in trying a multi-pen. I don't use one often and when I do it's the Hi-Tec C Coleto Me. Their concept, however, intrigues me, a vertisble Swiss Army tool of writing instruments. In my search I stumbled upon a multi-pen produced by Fisher, to whom I connect the famous Bullet Space pen with its patented pressurized ink cartridge. I knew they made other pens, but I had not seen one, until now. It fit my parameters and The Pen Company's, and, two weeks later, the pen showed up in the mail from across the pond. 

I was excited about getting a new pen and starting this new aspect of the blog. It seems I caught my office manager, Steve, in an equally excitable mood. We opened the box together finding the pen in the Fisher 'space case.' I gave him the honors of trying it first, since it wasn't a fountain pen (he's more keen on rollerballs but I forgive him). He took it out of the box. We both looked at the gunmetal barrel and ribber grip, and the four functions printed on the top of the barrel right below the nock mechanism. He clicked the nock and out came the stylus. He clicked the release button, clicked the nock again, and out came the stylus. He repeated this one or two more times before I snatched it from him in impatience only to find the same results from my attempts. After 5-7 minutes of varied success getting different functions to come out, black ink, or red ink, or the stylus would come out, but never the pencil. There seemed no rhyme or reason by which to eject the desired function. As we were sitting out in the front part of the office, the parish secretary probably thought it was hilarious, us sitting there trying to figure out how the mechanism works properly. At her commensensical recommendation, we decided to look at the directions provided by Fisher (did I say pride earlier, add stubbornness), and they didn't disappoint. Once we 'figured it out' we were both completely fascinated by the pen. (I've got to leave some suspense. I'll tell you how it works later. I guess I'm a prideful, stubborn tease). Steve then went all around the office showing everyone how it works. For the next 30 minutes, every visitor to the office got a demonstration of the pen's operation. I think I effected the efficiency of the office that day.

I carried the pen in my shirt pocket for three months and have a good handle of it. Here, then, are my thoughts. 

 Form

Fisher prides itslef on creating writing instruments for the space age. That futuristic aesthetic is present in our current charge. The pen is sleek and unadorned. It says I'm here to take scientific measurements on the moon, in mulitiple colors. The pen is larger than the Pilot G-2, and its slender length gives the feeling of an apollo rocket. The body bulges slightly at the rubber grip section giving the whole pen pleasant lines. 

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The body has a gunmetal color to it. Although such a color lends itself to the thought of space age, as opposed to teal or pink or Irish green, it leaves the pen looking like a fancy advertisement pen. Instead of looking ready for the space age, it looks more comfortable at the doctor's office or with a law firm's name on it, leaving the pen looking cheap. The chrome accents at the tip, in the band above the grip section, in the click mechanism, and with the clip up the class just slightly.  

Even so, all of the colors of the pen balance well. The black of the grip section mixed with the chrome accents find a happy tonal medium in the gunmetal grey of the body. This monochromatic feel gives the pen a '50's futuristic aesthetic in line with what I would think Fisher was looking for, but it still looks cheap.

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The branding is simple with its white words sitting nicely within the greyscale. Above the grip section band, is says "Q-4 PEN by FISHER." Below the cap, written in the same font are the four functions of the pen: Red, Black, .7mm, and Stylus. Stamped in profile on the side of the clip is "Japan,"  which makes the pen look cheaper still. After spending three months in a breast pocket the printed branding is starting to be scratched off; eventually, after a few years of hard use, it will become impossible to know what function is being chosen. 

I do like the interplay between the dull black rubber of the grip with the polish of the body and accents. It settles the eye after all that reflection, a reflection which gives the greyscale a vibrance black and white film wished it could convey.  

Function

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This is where this pen shines. It has a unique mechanism to 'discharge' the desired function. It uses gravity to determine which function is ejected for writing. The names of the four functions around the top of the barrel are not just decorative reminders but are functional keystones (pun intended). The function whose name faces up when the pen is horizontal will be the function that is extended. This is where myself and the office manager ran into the random ejection experience. We held the pen vertical, like every other pen is held, when ejecting the refill. We hadn't operated the pen correctly, hence the headaches. We were telling it to do something it wasn't made to do. 

This fascinated me the first week of use because it was new and a rather ingenious way to solve the  multi-pen problem of multiple cartridges playing bed buddies in the same barrel. They have to play well together or there will be a serious problem. After the first week, however, it became more of a frustration. I still hadn't gotten the orientation of which function was where on the barrel for me to eject it, so I would end up spending a few seconds looking for my desired function. "Oh there's the red pen." This extra time seems counterintuitive to the click function of the pen. You have quick access, but wait, let me find the right passage way. 

The click function itself runs smoothly. There are no snags or hangups. It has a comfortable tension that doesn't make it feel too loose and shakey nor is it so thight as to require the strong thumbs of a video gamer or portrait texter. The release function is also smooth. Although it is a small button it doesn't get accidentally pushed causing me to look for the function again. It requires an intentional push. Each function fits well through the extension hole. No one of them feels skinny or misshapen, all fits seamlessly 

The pencil function, after being extended, requires another click to extend the lead. The nice thing is that I can leave the lead extended even if the pencil function isn't ejected. When I do find the pencil function to click I can get right to writing.

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I don't know when the pens were first produced, but the stylus is completely useless. It looks like an old Blackberry stylus. It is't capactive for the modern touch screen; it dosn't even work on credit card machines in the gorcery store. This basically makes the pen into a Q-3 + nothing.

There is also a hidden eraser in the nock push. It doesn't look any different than the eraser on a Rotring, but it doesn't function as well. The nock,when engaged, is rather springy making it difficult to erase, because, when you push down, the nock just goes farther down. It doesn't lock to allow you to erase. I had to hold the nock to erase anything. Again, ease of use is the issue.

Feel

 The pen has a good weight to it, definitely having more heft than the analogous advertisement pen. The weight is situated at the grip section preventing it from being top heavy and leaving it feeling very comfortable in the hand. 

I like the feel of the rubber grip. It feels like my fingers are sitting on a lazy boy. The rubber itself has some shiftiness to it. It isn't dense or immobile like tire rubber. For a while I thought the shiftiness lent to the  cheap feeling of the pen, but as I wrote with it I came to like the waterbed feel it gave.

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The Fisher space refill is one my favorite ballpoint refills. It's smooth. It has a consistent line. It can write anywhere, anytime. The black refill lacks some darkness of a good rollerball but the charcoal color is pleasant nonetheless. The red refill is just as enjoyable. It puts down a little bit thinner line that the black despite having the same tip size. These refills really help to make the pen something I'd use on a regular basis. They're enjoyable, pleasant, and useful.

The pencil takes a .7mm lead. I prefer .5mm, but I can tolerate the width. Because of the relatively light weight of the pen (a Rotring is heavier) along with the particular installed lead it doesn't put down a very dark line. I can always change out the lead to something more my liking.  

The stylus ... Well.  

Financials

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The Fisher Q-4 is $48.37 at The Pen Company. This is below the Lamy 2000 multipen, $57.66, and above the Lamy Logo multi-pen at $34.47. Although the price sits between these two pens, I don't think it would be as durable as those to Lamys. Consisering the advterisemnt pen-type body, the price seems high even at the $35 price range you find at discout retailers. The price might be attached to the unique nock system, which was probably some fun engineering R&D. I'm a little shocked, having experienced the build quality of the bullet space pen, and its simple beauty, Fisher couldn't have made something that looked nicer and warranted the higher price tag. This is especially the case when rival Uniball has its Jetstream multipen + pencil priced at $16.50 with a cheap plastic body.

I'm assuming the model is also no longer in production since one of the functions is obsolete.

Is the Writing Reverenced?

I love the uniqueness of the mechanism, and those Fisher refills are some of the best ballpoints on the market.  However, these two things don't redeem the chinky look, relative unease of the mechanism, and complete uselesness of the stylus. Not reverenced.

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Paper:  Clairefontaine Classic Top Wirebound Notepad A5

Fall-en for Pencils Giveaway

Fr. Kyle Sanders

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Unlike many of you who live up North, fall has only just begun in South Louisiana, just after the official start of ’winter.’ Leaves are turning colors and temperatures are dropping below 70°, sometimes. Laugh or cry you may but our winter is your fall.

Now this weather gets me in a sentimental and reflective mood. I’ve come a long way over the course of this year in my relationship with woodcased pencils. At the beginning of the year, if you would’ve told I’d traveling to my year end retreat with a 2B triangular pencil and a pencil encased in what looks like a bullet I would’ve thought you off your rocker. I was through and through and fountain pen guy. As I said back in February I despised pencils. Then I chose them to be my Lenten sacrifice. Unfortunately, from a sacrifice perspective, by the time Easter came I had begun to enjoy using pencils. After those 40 days I reviewed the Blackwing 602 and didn’t consider it reverenced. I think if I were to review it again my position would change.

Over the course of the last 8 months I found myself purchasing single pencils at art supply stores and off the internet. I even subscribed to receive a dozen special edition Blackwing pencils four times a year. Special edition pencils, really? 

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I now enjoy using pencils. The smell of cedar can just be sensed by my weak olfactory sensors. it's such an enjoyable experience to sharpen a pencil. That statement itself is new to me; it feels weird to write it.

Part of what helped me is this stationary and pencil community. the Erasable Podcast Facebook Group has been a blast. I’m not as deep into pencildom as I am in pendom, so I’m still learning.

To say thank you to you my readers and to the community, I have a giveaway courtesy of my friends at Metalshop CT and Nock Co. I know it seems like all I'm doing is giveaways but I promise, posts are on the way.

Here what’s up:

I've chosen colors than remind me of fall.

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1) an orange Twist Bullet Pencil with a green tip

2) a sky/pick Nock Co. Fodderstack with Dot-Dash notecards

3) two orange Palomino HB's with erasers

4) a CW Pencils 2B Triangular pencil

5) General's Pacific #2

6) Field Notes Orange Pop #2

7) Kita-Bosch Red Pencil

Here's how it works:
Make a comment on the blog.
CHECK BACK ON THE BLOG ON JANUARY 1 at NOON CST to find out if you won. If you did email me through the letter button on the top right of the site. You have 4 days to respond before I choose another winner.