Time for a digitally driven fountain pen nib?

February 17, 2012 § 1 Comment

The principles of the fountain pen have been established and refined over the last 150 years. Put simply, an ink reservoir feeds ink into a delivery tube, through a series of capillary tracts, through to the tip of the nib, where contact with the writing surface causes the ink to be deposited. Although a fairly crude process by comparison to the writing technologies of today, the fountain pen, either because of its idiosyncrasies or in spite of them, remains the most rewarding way to put words onto paper for others to read.

Much has been written about the attributes of different styles of nib fabricated from almost every conceivable type of resistant material but, ultimately, beauty remains in the eye of the beholder. At PenFountain, what is very clear is that the current trend towards one-size-fits-all ‘medium’ nibs is eroding the very market that the fountain pen works for.

When asked for advice about pens with alternative nibs, sizes, and formats, the conversation invariably contains the caveat ‘without spending a fortune…’, to which only one reply is currently available, Lamy.  Regular readers of my blog will be familiar with my faith in Lamy’s interchangeable nib system with its low cost and reliability. However, even with its greatness, the design of the Lamy pen range can be a little too contemporarily radical for what may be described as an inherently conservative market. In an ideal world, perhaps the solution could be to put the Lamy nib system into pens of a slightly more conservative style such as, Waterman. Keep the price below £50 and you could have a commercial winner. While we’re designing the perfect commercial fountain pen, the range could possibly be extended to include some oblique nibs. We have been surprised at the number of fountain pen users requesting italic and oblique nibs and, even with Lamy’s ‘calligraphy’ pen nibs, which are technically italic, the 1.1mm nib does not offer sufficient variation between major and minor line widths and yet the 1.5mm major line width tends to suit people with larger writing. Conversely, the broad italics and obliques from the other major players tend to be neither wide enough and, being predominantly18ct gold, too expensive.

We understand the issues associated with production costs, tooling, and economies of scale but surely in the age of CNC manufacturing it would be possible to develop a digitally controlled tool to create a range of nibs that meet the fullest market requirements without prohibitive cost?

Would this be your ideal solution?  Please let us know.

How do you choose your next pen?

January 28, 2012 § 1 Comment

Buying a pen, particularly a fountain pen, can be a very personal experience.  The price, the style, the nib and even the presentation can be a determining factor.  At PenFountain, we are currently experiencing the Rolls Royce for a Mini price scenarios on the retail front.  A £5.00 pen in a velvet lined cardboard veneered case so that it the looks the business (but it’s a lie!).

For fountain pen users, without a doubt there are some fine ‘gems’ to be found below £10  – without the presentation case but, for collectors, these are often the little extras for selection from a pot of pens on the desk.  When it comes to buying the more serious pens, is it hearts vs. heads on price and appearance or is it all in the brand?

We are conducting a short poll – please feel free to complete the poll and comment.

PenFountain enjoys retailing at a new level

December 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

Having opened our new concession shop in Beales department store, Worthing, we continue to learn how different the environment is from our previous individual shop.  The concession offers limited space but encourages creative thinking when it comes to finding room for new products.    

PenFountain @ Beales Store Picture
A great range of pens, nibs and inks at PenFountain @ Beales

We have also had the the privilege of being asked to provide a window display in the main shop frontage on South Street.

 PenFountain @ Beales, window South Street, Worthing

 We look forward to seeing our customers from the Worthing area.

Discount Gambling for Christmas

November 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

The retail sector is very tight with high street retailers offering significant discounts to entice customers to spend.  Very often the offers are on either stock items or special purchases and if you are prepared to compromise on model or brand you can grab a real bargain.

The pen market is even tighter both online and in the retail sector.  There are bargains available at present but if you fancy a flutter on whether prices will take a further plunge in the final run-up to the big Day, be careful!  Speciality lines such as pens, are being short stocked by both retailers and their suppliers.  At PenFountain.com we have already experienced some surprising lines being placed onto back-order with our wholesalers because of stock optimisation and, as Christmas draws closer, the chances of replenishing supplies will become more precarious.

At PenFountain.com we will be removing our usual alternative nib options on our fountain pen ordering in the run-up to Christmas purely on the basis of it being difficult to maintain stock levels in the high volumes of pre-Christams sales.  Therefore, if you want a specific pen with a specific nib, we would recommend buying sooner not later and it is highly unlikely there will be a sudden unloading of stock just before Christmas!

Fountain Pen nib choice is on the wane.

October 28, 2011 § Leave a comment

There is an increasing trend among fountain pen manufacturers to reduce nib options, even on their core pen products.  This year has seen Cross discontinuing production of the broad nib option from their range, although stock remains available at the time of writing.

Lamy then followed suit announcing the demise of the extra fine nib across their range.  They treated their customers rather differently, announcing the discontinuation after stocks had been exhausted preventing retailers from stock piling these niche nibs to prolong the availability a little longer.

At PenFountain.com, we pride ourselves in our nib range and believe that one of the great things about fountain pens is the joy of different writing experiences afforded by a change of nib or pen.  It is a great disappointment when, presumably for production-cost reduction reasons, these nibs are discontinued.  However, pens retailers in general are becoming more focused on the supply of medium, one-size-fits-all, nibs and are therefore contributing to the demise of the great variety fountain pen choices.

Lamy Extra Fine Nibs discontinued

September 1, 2011 § Leave a comment

We have been advised today that Lamy are discontinuing their Extra Fine nibs in all but their high-end pens.  In effect, the superb stainless steel nib range is being reduced to fine, medium, broad, and left-handed, in the core products with 1.1, 1.5, and 1.9mm in the calligraphy type nibs. The steel nibs are renowned for their ease of changing.

The 14ct gold inlaid nib in extra fine will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.

At PenFountain.com we are disappointed to learn of this change because it was a popular nib for the finer characters used in many Asian scripts.  We will maintain stocks of the steel nibs for as long as possible.

Lamy Safari Reviewed

August 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

The Lamy Safari and its success as a school fountain pen is well-known.  But lying behind this success is a combination of design and manufacturing quality together with features that make this an attractive pen from the outset.

From picking the pen up at just 18 grams in working order, the quality of the ABS moulding is immediately noticeable.  The Lamy Safari uses the same polymer that is used in the manufacture of  Lego bricks, offering the same high quality, and durable finish.  Its round-sectioned barrel is finished with facing flat sections and an ink level window.  Whilst the grip, also round in cross-section, has 2 asymmetric flat recesses to accommodate the thumb and forefingers in an ideal position for optimum control.  The stainless steel nib, shared with the Lamy family up to around £80 pens, offers excellent writing characteristics from its range of widths from extra fine through to 1.9mm square-cut italic calligraphy style.  There is also a left-handed nib available.

Filling the Safari is by conventional, proprietary ink cartridges or by optional screw-piston pump ink converter to allow use of bottled inks.  The best thing about the Safari is that it works reliably with a smooth performance which, particularly for the uninitiated, exceeds expectation for a relatively low-budget pen.  The Safari also uses a rubber o-ring as a final seal to its click-on cap contributing to the reliability of its initial ink flow.

Lamy Safari fountain pen with cartridges

Lamy Safari fountain pen with cartridges

The detail adds to the Safari’s difference.  The ability to change the nib with minimal cost and simplicity is well-known, using the Lamy slide-on mounting system.  This offers 2 principle benefits including, replacement of a damaged nib or selection of an alternative nib width or style. The cartridge has a small reserve ink supply in the final constriction at the top of the cartridge where, when you’re down to your last drop, a little flick of the end will release the ink from its designed-in air-lock.

By the way, when you get your first Safari fountain pen, please remove the cardboard spacer from the barrel – it’s only there to prevent premature puncturing of the sealed ink cartridge before use.  You’d be surprised at how many customer have complained at not being able to get their new pens working!

The Lamy Safari is currently on Special Offer at PenFountain.com for £9.95 until 5 September.

Service vs. Tumbleweed

August 19, 2011 § Leave a comment

Cranleigh, like many high streets in the current economic gloom, is extremely quiet.  The tumbleweed almost rolls down the road some afternoons.  However, Cranleigh is relatively quiet even when other high streets are heaving with shoppers preparing for a holiday. This is why the retail shop for PenFountain.com is in an ideal position.  With the majority of our sales being online, for those prepared to make the journey, we are able to offer attentive, personal service that buying a quality pen deserves.

PenFountain.com for pens at low prices

PenFountain.com, the shop to look out for!

For those who have discovered the almost therapeutic pleasure derived from pen selection, many have travelled some distance. Recently a couple came over from Woking.  This is not exactly the other end of the country excepting they came by bus requiring a change of route at Guildford just to visit the shop. 2 x buses x 2 and over an hour of travel each way.  They seemed to enjoy their excursion and think it well worthwhile.

What is waiting for those who make the pilgrimage?  A good range of pens, a selection of nibs and paper types, enthusiastic, informed opinion, and advice, with prices parallel to our online offering. Arguably, this offer could not be replicated in a bigger store elsewhere because our personal involvement cannot readily be scaled up to a busier shop. Our service is not just for the high-end pens, either.  In many ways greater satisfaction comes from helping first-time fountain pen users, particularly left-handed ones!

PenFountain.com in the Surrey countryside

Make a day of your visit to PenFountain.com

Once in Cranleigh, we can recommend a selection of excellent refreshment stations and some other interesting independent retail experiences too.  Walkers and cyclists are well catered for with open countryside all round us.  So, why not make a day of your visit to PenFountain.com?

Sonnet Surprise

August 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

The new Parker delivery arrived at PenFountain.com.  Opened, checked and oops! Ordered the wrong product code.  It’s a Parker Chiselled Carbon Sonnet fountain pen.  Haven’t seen one of these.  They appear to have slipped under the radar.  But this pen is something special.

Parker Sonnet Chiselled Carbon fountain pen and ballpoint

Parker Sonnet Chiselled Carbon fountain pen and ballpoint

We are late converts to the Sonnet, particularly the later, more creative interpretations such as the Sonnet Art Deco (Feminine Collection!).  The Chiselled Carbon Sonnet however, is everything the Art Deco represented but in a different design direction.  This is a more masculine treatment of the profile with gloss anthracite coloured PVD coating over a striated, chiselled design, interspersed with minute starburst crosses.  The finish has titanium particles in it which create a fine metallic sheen allowing the light to interact with the facets of the chiselling. The trim is nickel palladium plated while the fountain pen has an 18 ct gold nib with rhodium coating.

The 18ct gold nib is the proven Sonnet 7 series unit offering a smooth writing experience with just enough spring in the tip to add that little extra softness to the touch.  The nib is available in 8 width options from extra fine through to medium reverse oblique, although beyond the core fine, medium, and broad options, these may only be available to special order.  The ballpoint is in a corresponding style, in standard or slim versions, and uses the recently introduced Quink Flow ballpoint refill.

Together the Sonnet Chiselled Carbon fountain pen and ballpoint has proved to be quite an exciting ‘find’, one that seems to have passed-by a lot of pen enthusiasts, professional and amateur.

Buy pens now!!

August 9, 2011 § 1 Comment

“Buy fountain pens now!”  Sounds like a line from a ‘B’ movie about the commodity markets.  But there is truth in it.  We all love our pens and enjoy the privileges of writing with a choice of nibs, particularly those produced in gold with precious metal decoration.  The pen manufacturers have been maintaining prices remarkably well but one has already broken cover with unscheduled, mid-year price increases of 14% for their gold nibbed fountain pens coming into force at the beginning of next month. We are sure that the others will have to follow suit, either with an unscheduled price revision, or with a massive hike at the next scheduled revision. 

The background to this is the general economic upheaval and investors turning to precious metals including, gold, silver, rhodium and platinum, for security.  We have looked into this and suggest viewing a US based coin website where the picture is very clearly laid-out: http://lynncoins.com/historical-gold-charts.htm

Cross have announced their price schedule for the European markets and, according to a customer in the Southern Hemisphere, are trying to lift prices even higher there.  So, if you have a major birthday to buy for or just a treat for yourself for Christmas, we would suggest a purchase earlier rather than later!

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