Culling the herd


They followed me home. Honest!

We all go through “The Binge.”

From the time you lay hands on your first pen, it takes but weeks to get to 60, with yet another mixed lot coming in the mail. Soon, you have scores of pens you didn’t really want or need. Buyer’s remorse sets in and domestic peace enters a fragile state.

How do you get out of the rut?

Listen to your hands. What sounded so perfect on the forums may be the wrong fit for you. Lamy 200os, Parker 51s and Sheaffer Triumphs do not lack for champions but many soon find that they can’t agree with conical or hooded nibs. Not yet, or not ever even.

These small pens are as intricate as the jewelry of the time. They write as well as any of their big brethren but will your hand like them?

If the pen is too big or too small, your hands will not appreciate using the pen for long. Pens that are too heavy or too light may have the same effect. Your grip will settle down in time, but fighting an ill-fitting pen early in the game is something you want to avoid.

The Edison Huron Grande in the middle lives up to its name. It may do for signatures but few can use it for note taking. The amber TWSBI or the ringed Platinum might fare better for such uses.

Hint: Which pens do you reach for first on a daily basis? Your hands might be telling you something.

Look at your writing. If your scripts are on the smallish side, a lush Broad will make your scribbles look like a Rorschach blob.  The paper at work also tells you what nib sizes you can employ. Cheap fodder favors finer nibs with drier flow. If you are lucky to have decent paper between 9 to 5, then you have more options. But let your usual writing size guide your nib selection.

Consider your writing pressure too. Needlepoints require a light touch. Flex nibs will suffer pressure one way but not another.  If your hand is too heavy for the nib, worn tips and even sprung tines await. Your hand will evolve as you get comfortable with your scripts. By then, you will get a firmer idea of which nibs suit your daily use and which are best used for special writing needs like holiday cards and letters.

Dress smartly.  A person working in a tech or creative environment can get away with Fuyu Gaki sloshing about in a big clear demonstrator. Someone in a law practice, bank or a government office  might want a more sober pen filled with a less eye-searing ink. It need not be boring and it should never be. Look at your hoard with a critical eye and you should find a couple of acquisitions that will be up to the task.

They share a lot in terms of looks. But the Chartres Blue (bottom) is built so much better than the Waterman Kultur. If you had to choose just one, which would you keep?

Go for quality. A lot of folks use student pens for their daily rotation and leave their better pens at home. Nothing wrong with that. But if those upscale writers see no use at all, then they serve very little purpose. Be careful with your stuff but don’t be afraid to call on them as daily writers. Good pens are built to last and they will keep ticking long after you keel over. Don’t hesitate to charge into the breach with your best pens in hand.

Set a target. And stick to it. This is the hardest thing to do and quotas are as varied as pen people themselves. I have friends who are trying to get to 40 pens from 300. Others are working to trim their flock from 20 to 10. If you draw with pens, your flock may be larger than someone who just needs something to sign checks with.

An artist’s pen wrap holds all the nibs she could need for the day – flex, music, sharp italic and a round nib for daily writing.

In my case, my limit of 12 gives me a variety of nibs to use for whatever writing need that comes with my job and interests. If I have never breached this limit (yet, fingers crossed) it is because I tend to rehome whatever is redundant.

One man’s covey of modern pens. Each pen was chosen to fill a need and whim.

If there is something you want to acquire or if you are gifted a nice pen that fills a useful role, you may want to try releasing as quickly as you catch. If you keep this cycle manageable, domestic bliss will never suffer.


8 thoughts on “Culling the herd

  1. Julie

    “Listen to your hands.” Yes, that is the grand key, IMHO.

    12 is a good number. I keep shooting for 9 but seem to always fall at 12. Well, 3 of those were sweet gifts.

    • Karlo Tatad

      I think that for those of us who don’t draw with our pens, 12 is an attainable limit. Artists need more nib widths and cuts so 12 might be too limiting for them. I could be wrong on both counts though. 🙂

      Glad you liked the post!

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