A Fountain Pen Odyssey by Wendy Van Camp

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Fountain pens have been my hobby for the past few years. I tend to remember details better when they are written via a pen and paper, but my hand would grow tired after long sessions of writing in journals. When you write with a fountain pen, only a tiny amount of pressure is needed to glide the ink onto the paper and it allows you to write for longer periods of time. I started out with inexpensive chinese-made pens to see if I would like writing with one and ended up falling in love with the look and feel of the pens. Now I own a small collection of pens and inks that I use for different purposes. A year after I got started down the fountain pen rabbit hole, my husband did too. Now we enjoy going to fountain pen conventions together and exploring our hobby together.

Location

This is the third year that the San Francisco Fountain Pen Show has been held at the Sofitel San Francisco Bay Hotel and our second visit to the convention. It is nestled in Redwood City, near many big name silicone valley corporations and is a short journey from San Francisco International Airport. Driving there can be tricky due to all the “goose crossing” signs leading up to the hotel. Yes, flocks of Canadian Geese make the immediate area their home and can step out into the road without notice. Behind the hotel is a lovely lagoon with walkways to facilitate moonlight walks with your significant other. The interior is modern with a French twist. The hotel was as lovely as we remembered, with comfortable rooms and a pastry shop that tempted us with goodies.

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The pen show is held in the ballroom and uses a few of the conference rooms nearby and on the floor above for workshops and meetings. The majority of the vendors were in the ballroom where their wares could be locked up securely in the evening, but this year there was an overflow of a few more vendors into the hallway.

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Exhibitors

There were a large number of exhibitors this year, many more than the first time we came to the San Franciso during its opening year. These are a few that I frequented:

Anderson Pens
This was their first year at the San Franciso show, but I hope it will not be their last. They had a lovely assortment of bottled inks, notebooks, pens and pen cleaning supplies. My husband had placed a pen order for pick-up with them before the show, but we found ourselves returning for more goodies. I bought an inexpensive Plaisir Fountain Pen there and several bottles of ink.  Working the booth was blogger extraordinaire, Ann Reinert from The Well Appointed Desk.  It was a pleasure to be able to meet her in person. I’ve enjoyed reading her blog for many years.

Franklin-Christoph
Always a staple at the main fountain pen shows, Franklin-Christoph is a manufacturer of fountain pens, nibs, ink, notebooks and leather pen accessories. Both my husband and I own pen cases from them and my husband is a convert to their nibs. He will often match a pen he purchased elsewhere with one of the Franklin-Christoph nibs. While I did not purchase from them this year, I was glad to see them and will keep them on my A list when it comes to purchasing nibs and leather goods.

Curnow Bookbinding and Leatherwork
This is the first time I have seen Curnow Bookbinding and Leatherwork. I purchased a lovely leather travelers-style notebook cover from them. Their table also had handmade traveler’s notebooks with Tomoe River paper at a decent price. The workmanship from this artisan is superb and I hope to see them at other pen shows in the future.

Peyton Street Pens
It was my first time at the Peyton Street Pens table. My husband had suggested that I look at their Ranga line of pens since I was interested in gaining a pen with a Sheaffer nib. They had plenty of vintage Sheaffer pens, but my eye was caught by a beautiful turquoise resin pen newly made in India, but paired with a vintage 1970’s American made Sheaffer nib. I was able to pick the nib I wanted and match it with the pen body. They even threw in a converter and free fountain pen friendly notebook. Such a deal!

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Vanness Pens
This was the other large ink vendor at the show. I ended up buying a few bottles of ink from them as well. There was a great assortment of pens and unusual ink lines that I had not seen before. I was pleased to see Matt Armstrong, the host of The Pen Habit, a video series you can catch on YouTube was there working in the booth! It was a pleasure to meet Matt in person and he was quite knowledgeable about all the pens and ink at the table. A real asset to Vanness Pens, to be sure.

MikeItWork – Mike Masuyama
It is always a pleasure to see Nibmaster Mike Masuyama at a show. He will customize your nibs to your specifications, allowing you to gain access to nib types that are hard to find or impossible except by customization. He created a beautiful nib on a Parker 51 for me the last time I was at the SF Pen Show and I still love it.

Inking Station

ink-stations-2016-sf-pen-showOne of the exciting features of the pen show, and something you normally only see at the larger national level pen shows, was an ink sample table. 600 Platinum Preppy Fountain Pens were filled with an assortment of inks to try for the price of admission. Most of the major ink brands were there, such as Diamine, deArtementis, Noodler’s, Iroshuiku, Sailor, J. Herban, Montblanc, Pelikan, and Platinum. However, there were also inks from more unusual brands to try out. Kobe, Akkarman, Robert Oster, KWZI, LeArtisan Pastellier, and others I had not heard of.

I set up a page in my A5 cashier sized notebook and wrote down the name of the ink in the ink color and then created a dot so I could see the saturated hue on the page. I discovered that the colors I see on the monitor when I research possible fountain inks to purchase are very different from seeing them in person. This is a wonderful way to sample inks you are interested in and not only get a better idea of their color, but also see how they handle in the process of nib to paper.

Conclusion

Fountain pens are a great hobby for writers. The pens are a dream to write with, needing only the smallest amount of pressure to glide across a page and make long hours of writing more comfortable. While no one needs to purchase an expensive fountain pen to gain the benefits of their ease of writing, seeing all the fancy new pens coming out from the manufacturers, discovering all the vintage antique pens, and playing with the myriad of inks available makes for a fun time. If you get bit by the fountain pen bug, make a point to visit a local fountain pen show.

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