Feedback on custom fountain pen

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jpford

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Apr 16, 2016
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Ambler, PA
Hey,fellow turners & craftspersons,

I'm looking for creative input. I've been asked to craft a fountain pen as a gift for a husband who is a "writing instrument enthusiast" and owns several high-end Mont Blanc & Omas pens... His passionate areas of interests are National Parks, Photography, and Cycling. He prefers a fine nib and a medium weight.

I'd love to hear some ideas about what pen you'd recommend for this person. Obviously, it needs to be of supreme quality. I'd also love to hear ideas about themes for this pen. It can include any combination of exotic wood, casting, engraving/lasering, and inlay. The wife's initial thought was a rare or special wood from a specific National Park. I think she'd like to combine all of his passions into the pen, although that might not be possible. I'm brainstorming, so I appreciate your input.
 
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McKenzie Penworks

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There is one gentleman in the classifieds selling a Great Palace Vine pen... And then you can always upgrade the nib to something different from the usual Dayacom nib.
 

Marcros

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United Kingdom
I always like a "show stopping" burl. Not to criticize the Mistral as it is a nice pen, but I do wonder if it might be a bit mediocre for someone who owns a $1000 fountain pen? Just thinking out loud...
I think that any kit pen would struggle against a $1000 pen. I presume that you are comparing with a special edition mont blanc pen, probably loaded with precious metals, and having a statement design. I think that a well made, well designed pen made with quality kit components could potentially retail in a showroom/gallery at several hundred dollars. You would certainly need to be in the pen art rather than the pen making business though.

I have a couple of lower end montblancs- a simple black resin and a (simple) chrome barreled one with a carbon fiber top. They were chosen primarily because i liked them, rather than being budget driven and were to be used daily (the fact that they were duty free and low down in the range helped!!). These are my yardsticks- any other pen that I make or buy is mentally compared to these two for function. The form is important too, but a good user can have many forms. What i like is the understated design, simple lines etc. I think that a kit pen could compete with these, if well designed and executed.

In my opinion... I have seen the mb special editions in displays. I am not a huge fan of many of them, but each edition is unique. Each to their own. I don't think that you will compete with those using any kit, because they are one offs. It is like looking at the whitehouse and the empire state building as inspiration for your new workshop and then trying to compare which of the three is best.

I would be impressed with a good looking, nice writing pen that performs as well as my yardsticks. I can see through branding. In my opinion, if you make a pen that looks good and writes fantastically well, it will be appreciated by the recipient, even if they have a collection of $5000 pens. Make a beautiful, unique and expensive pen that doesnt write well and it will be left in a drawer.
 

duncsuss

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For a pen afficionado, the nib is fundamental. By definition, the one that comes with a kit is not appropriate -- and you might need to fit a gold nib rather than steel (that's something the lady commissioning the pen has to decide, as it adds significant cost.)

I'd get in touch with one of the nib experts -- here are three off the top of my head: Michael Masuyama, John Mottishaw, Linda at Indy-Pen-Dance -- about tuning the nib.
 

Woodster Will

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I would go for a show-stoppingly beautiful burl or wooden blank. It is a nice idea to get a blank from a national park, but you would be unlikely to get something comparable to the best available from elsewhere.
Is what I was thinking as well. :wink:
 

bmachin

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Owensboro, KY
It looks to me like you're being asked to take a shot in the dark.

Are these friends of yours?Does the wife have any ideas? Does she have a budget? Is this to be a surprise? Is she on a fishing expedition? Does she know anything about pens? Is the husband an accumulator, a collector, or a user? I'm assuming he uses his pens since he prefers a medium weight. What size of pen does he like? Both Omas and Montblanc have a broad range. Does he like bling? Probably not too much since bling can get you out of the medium weight range really fast. Some enthusiasts like limited editions only, some prefer vintage Pelicans to new Pelicans.

I would worry that this could be one of those situations where a novice buys something expensive/custom/non-returnable for an aficionado who doesn't really want it.

You need a lot more help from her than you do from us at the moment.

Just things to think about IMO.

FWIW
Bill
 

jpford

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Apr 16, 2016
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Ambler, PA
It looks to me like you're being asked to take a shot in the dark.

Are these friends of yours?Does the wife have any ideas? Does she have a budget? Is this to be a surprise? Is she on a fishing expedition? Does she know anything about pens? Is the husband an accumulator, a collector, or a user? I'm assuming he uses his pens since he prefers a medium weight. What size of pen does he like? Both Omas and Montblanc have a broad range. Does he like bling? Probably not too much since bling can get you out of the medium weight range really fast. Some enthusiasts like limited editions only, some prefer vintage Pelicans to new Pelicans.

I would worry that this could be one of those situations where a novice buys something expensive/custom/non-returnable for an aficionado who doesn't really want it.

You need a lot more help from her than you do from us at the moment.

Just things to think about IMO.

FWIW
Bill
Bill,

Thank you. No fishing expedition, here. I simply didn't want to create an excruciating list of requirements since I felt I had already loaded a lot on to my post. I also don't want to limit anyone's creativity. The budget is flexible and in the area of $500 - $1500. This is a gift and they are not friends. The husband is a lover of quality pens and writes with fountain pen every day. The wife is looking for something unique. I've expressed to the customer that incorporating all three passions might be challenging, so we'll narrow it down as we continue to talk.
As for "bling", he's going to prefer a more subtle and elegant beauty over something flashy. Think Emperor over Oriental Dragon.

I'm also looking for are some ideas about hardware. I don't think the average "kit" will make the cut here. Maybe something like Silver Pen Parts instead of dayacom?
 

budnder

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My opinion, as a "fountain pen" lover and owner of some higher end name brand pens... I'm assuming kit-less isn't a practical option so will ignore those options...

Use a nice, unusual material not found in name brand pens... simply the fact that it's unique, custom, and hand crafted for the recipient gets you near the impression you need. The only two mods I'd do to the kit (so it doesn't just look like a pen you can buy on Etsy) is to swap in a Bock nib and make it closed end. So pick a kit where you can swap in a high end nib and feel comfortable making closed end. I'm not sure I'd go the extra $ for gold nib vs. two tone, but go for it if you have the budget. If you're not comfortable doing basic tuning on the nib, buy one already tuned, or have somebody do it for you - it makes a big difference, even with purchased high end nibs. Or maybe you find out the guy likes to tune his own, so you don't worry about it.

I prefer the feel of plastic in the nib grip/assembly rather than metal, so I'd look at a Churchill as a base kit. IMO, as with many kits, it's way to heavy to write with posted, so you don't really loose much by making it closed end. And on some kits (Presimo, for example), you can do the closed end in a way where it will post anyway, if the user wants to.

A matching custom stand/case might also better enable you to compete with high end name brand....
 

bmachin

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Joel,

As a fountain pen guy myself, I would consider weight an important consideration, so here is a little bit of hard data for your consideration.

Up until about a year ago, Nibs.com had a spreadsheet of the physical data of all the pens that it had for sale and I was crazy enough to tabulate it. If I counted correctly there were 278 pens in the sample with weights ranging from 11 grams to over 100 grams.

for what I would call a usable range:

94 (34%) were between 15 and 25 grams
117 (42%) were between 20 and 30 grams
72 (26%) were between 30 and 40 grams
29 (10%) were between 40 and 50 grams

Nibs.com seems to print the dimensions and weight of just about every pen that it sells on the description page for the pen.

My own small collection of kitless, vintage and current commercial medium to high end fountain pens weighs between 15 and 32 grams with one exception which is a Lamy 3000 which weighs 47 grams and which I find to be uncomfortably heavy.

I have a couple of kit fountain pens for comparison. A Churchill that weighs 43 grams, and an Electra that weighs 41 grams.

Two other online sources:

https://peaceablewriter.wordpress.com/penweights/

Top 25 best fountain pens - Technical Chart

For what it's worth,
Bill
 
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bmachin

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I hadn't noticed Roy's post until after I had posted mine. Need to learn to pay attention.

He's right. Kit pens are a problem in terms of weight. Unfortunately there's no way around it.

I also agree with him though on the Churchill. It's a good looking pen, and the plastic grip section is certainly much more appealing to a pen guy than a metal one. I would take his advice one step beyond though. Rather than just swapping out for a Bock nib, I would at least consider making a new grip section out of ebonite or possibly the same material that you use for the pen (assuming of course that it's not wood). You would need to buy the nib/feed assembly, an m10-1 tap and die, a couple of metric drill bits, and a $30 or so special tap for the Bock of Jowo (which I lean toward) feed housing. Probably a $50-$60 tooling investment.

There are tutorials on section making in the library, and it can easily be done on a wood lathe.

Bill
 
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bmachin

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An addendum on weight. I took the cap off my Churchill fountain pen an weighed the barrel/nib. It came in right at 24 grams.

Bill
 

Talltim

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I would be careful about taking any rare or unique wood from a national park. You might find yourself paying the value of the pen in a fine.
 

budnder

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If you go closed end with a kit, that can help considerably with the weight as there's no big metal thingy at the end of the pen. You can also get rid of most of the brass tube in the body - just use enough tube to let you press the nib end hardware in place.

Of course, balance is a factor, and just making it lighter doesn't mean you end up with something where you like the balance. Of the top of my head, though, in my experience I don't mind a nib weighted balance. It's weight on the back end that I find uncomfortable to write with (which is why I don't get hung up on a kit pen having to post... that really puts a lot of weight on the back end).
 
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