Reflections on the DC Pen Show

Thursday & Friday:

Last year was my first DC Pen Show. Previously, it had been held at the same location for many years, bet this year its been moved to a new location.

While I am by no means a seasoned pen show attendee, I’ve attended enough shows to feel a certain rhythm. Suffice to say, the 2017 DC Pen Show was unusual on many levels.

By way of Penthusiast Oscar, our good friend Alexander decided it was time to update the coloring book pages. I am honored to have my very own page, complete with floating Col-o-ring! I can’t ait to see what wild color combinations folks can come up with for my hair. Brad and Myke also got their own awesome pages too.  All of them should be available online very soon. Thank you so much for making us feel goofy and sharing your talents, Alexander. We are lucky to have someone so amazing in our community.

I'm a coloring page! Alex turned me, @imyke and @penaddict into coloring pages! So amazing! #dcpenshow2017

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I  helped Oscar and his merry band of helpers build Pay It Forward kits for the table. We worked for several hours and people came to visit us throughout the evening, It was one of the few chances I had to talk to Rachel and Brian Goulet who brought ink and other donations for the Pay It Forward table along with meeting lots of friends, new and old.

Me, Jessica, Ashley, SgtStretch (Phil), Penthusiast (Oscar), and JC

I ended the evening hanging out with the amazing Squishyink and Inkaday. We talked pens and ink and they figured out a way to get me to buy a pen before the pen show even started. Impressive ladies, indeed!

One of the major upsets to the show was the change of venues. This altered how the show was organized. Tables were not assigned until Friday morning instead of Thursday night. Some vendors were  assigned awkward locations which caused a long delay Friday morning. Things were settled by opening a new room, but that added several hours. Many vendors with larger fixtures, multiple tables or elaborate set-ups had to hustle to make up for lost time. It was well past noon before most were ready to sell. Needless to say, the lost time for attendees and vendors left many frustrated.

At a lull on Friday, the guys called me over to the Nock Co table, which was right next to the Vanness table. I wasn’t sure if something serious had happened but they both looked very straight-faced.  A friend of the podcast (who chose to remain anonymous) gave Brad and Myke the #003 Pen Addict edition Retro 51 and asked that they give it to me. Brad handed ito me and I completely lost it, tears welled up in my eyes. What did I do to deserve such kindness? How did I luck into such an amazing community? I send my thanks out into the world to my anonymous benefactor. I will cherish this gift forever.


@justvanness at the #dcpenshow2017 and they are packed!

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Saturday had a more traditional pen show vibe. Sales were brisk and tables were filled with happy shoppers. I helped with the Vanness Pen Shop table again and sold ink, pens and paper as fast as I could count change and get the credit card machine to accommodate us. Wifi was iffy and the corner where our tables were located was HOT!

The evening event would change the rhythm of the day as it was Susan Wirth’s Memorial Service. The absence of such a constant and recognizable figure at the show was noticeable, but the evening would bring it into sharp focus. Many people spoke and shared stories about Susan and her impact, not only the community but, also on their life.

I don’t think I’ve made it clear how welcome Susan made me feel in the pen show community from the day I met her. She and John and Deborah Basel and her whole band of “Associates” have warmly welcomed me into the community in a way that is hard to explain. They have fed me grand doses of pen knowledge and history and always been cheerleaders for the new collectors and pen show attendees.

There were many tears and chuckles as stories were told about Susan’s impact– both the kindness and the shenanigans. She will never be forgotten by those whose lives she touched. Keep telling those stories and keep using the pens she found for you.

After the memorial, it was a bit of an awkward transition to go from mourning to partying. I fumbled through it and found myself at the Kenro event with Jake Weidmann at Top Golf. With the hand-eye coordination of a Muppet, I spent the evening photographing the others swinging form. Once I returned to the hotel, I was physically and emotionally wrung out and went straight to bed.



For the final day of the show, the Vanness crew was back behind the table for one more day of sales. Sundays are generally a little slower than Saturdays so we can talk to folks a bit more and even have a few minutes here and there to dash out from behind the table to make our own purchases or say hi to friends.

Ms. @wellapptdesk was helping this two brothers match an ink to a pen they just bought. #dcpenshow2017

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Sunday was my first chance to make it in to the ballroom. I’d heard rumors that Mike Masuyama, Jim and Scott from Franklin-Christoph were lined up as the nib grinding alley but I finally got to see it for myself. Dan Smith was just off to one side too. It was amazing to see them altogether. Maybe next year we really can have “Grind Alley” or “Grinder’s Corner” ?

I did have a chance to meet the new Lamy distributors and they were very positive that things were going to improve. They were confident that next year’s limited edition inks were not going to be as scarce as Petrol was this year and the EF nib void has been cleared up already. So, three cheers for the new Lamy distributor already!

As the day wound down we had to prepare to pack everything back into the van, crossing our fingers that we were packing less than we brought. A team of Slack regulars volunteered to help load the van (thank you!) and then we all sat at the bar eating, drinking and hanging out looking at pens.

In Summary

My experience with pen shows are always very different from the average attendee because I spend most of my time viewing them from behind a table. I get to see smiling faces who made their first or umpteenth pen purchase. I meet new people and see friends. I, however, seldom get to experience signing up for a slot with Masuyama for a new nib grind, browsing trays of vintage parts or shopping Sarj’s one-man pen show so I don’t know how this year’s DC Pen Show stacked up against other years from an attendee standpoint.

It took me a long time to pull together my thoughts and write what I hope is a fairly cohesive wrap-up of the show. While the show was a bit chaotic and I can’t guarantee it won’t be just as crazy next year, the DC Show is truly epic and I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from coming to it.

If you have limited time to devote, Sunday might be your best option though as all the kinks have been worked out by then. Of course, a lot of the stock is picked over by Sunday but there’s a bit more space to move. Just know that vendors do start to pack up so you need to shop fast.


Link Love: Collecting vs. Using

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Fountain Pen Review: Sheaffer VFM

Fountain Pen Review: Sheaffer VFM

Review by Laura Cameron

A short while back, I received the Anderson Pens Newsletter promoting the Sheaffer VFM in a gorgeous blue.  When I clicked through to see what it was, I was surprised that it was a very affordable fountain pen ($17.50). It reminded me quite a bit of the Pilot Metropolitan that I so love.  So I ordered what they had in stock: a Medium Nib in the Peacock Blue.

The Sheaffer VFM is so named as a “vibrant, fun and modern” pen in Sheaffer’s pen line. It features a slim body with a brushed satin finish, nickel plated trim, and a stainless steel nib. A postable, snap cap complements the body.

When it arrived I had high hopes. I went ahead and filled the VFM with the cartridge that came with it, notably not a Sheaffer cartridge, but a short international standard black. And then I took it out for a spin.

I was surprised to find that I didn’t like the VFM much at all. In the last few months I’ve been meandering towards finer nibs, but I still do enjoy medium nibs. However, this pen had a western medium nib which is actually quite a bit larger than those I had been using. The pen let down a LOT of ink and on most kinds of paper I got a lot of bleeding and feathering. My sample for this post, on my trusty Maruman Mnemosyne N182A Inspiration Notebook A5, looks pretty good, but when I tried to use the pen at the office (legal pads, copy paper) it just looked incredibly messy.

The finish was beautiful, but I was dismayed that it got scratched almost immediately.  I had put it in my pen case and taken it with me to show off to some friends, and by the end of the night, just in being handled around the table, it came back to me with big scratches. Since then, still in the protected pen case, it has gotten many more scratches.  The snap cap is still very stiff, despite my use, and frankly I’m not so sure about posting it as I’m afraid it will add more damage to the body.

Overall, I found this pen to be pretty disappointing. Maybe I shouldn’t have expected so much from a pen that is at the lower end of the price range, but the Pilot Metropolitans just knock it out of the park at the same price point.  If you’re looking for an inexpensive fun pen, I’d start there instead.

Laura is a tech editor, podcaster, knitter, spinner and recent pen addict. You can learn more about her knitting and tea adventures on her website, The Corner of Knit & Tea and can find her on Instagram as Fluffykira.

Link Love: L’Oural, Ana!




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Review/Preview: Jacques Herbin 1798 Amethyst de l’Oural Ink

Review/Preview: Jacques Herbin 1798 Amethyst de l’Oural Ink

J. Herbin unveiled its latest specialty ink and I crawled out of bed at the crack of dawn this morning to do a special preview/review of the new sparkly jewel. This new ink is not a 1670 ink, its a 1798 and its no longer just J. Herbin branded, its under Jacques Herbin. The color is the long-awaited purple: Amethyst de l’Oural!

And, as if they knew we’d turn the bottle over to see the sparkle, there is an embossed ship and branding logo on the bottom of the bottle too. I was trying to capture the sparkles at the bottom, they are silver this time and you can see them a bit at the top of the bottle bottom. They look like dust particles.

Another note about the bottle, the opening in the bottle is larger making it easier to get your pens into it. It’s also a little bit bigger overall but the volume is the same. The box is also grey instead of white.

With the help of some early morning sun, you can see the sparkles in the ink swatch and you can also see that dear ol’ Jacques is the one ink that doesn’t always get along so well with the Col-o-ring paper and my dip nibs. I got a little feathering towards the bottom there. Grrr!

With the flick of the wrist, I did capture a bit of the sparkle in the sunlight though. Oooooooo!

I tried to catch some of the sparkle in a quick sketch of the bottle, Its more evident in person, of course.

In my writing sample, on Tomoe River paper, using a Lamy Safari and a 1.1mm nib, the ink flowed well. I did need to continually agitate the pen to keep the metallic flakes appearing. The ink dried pretty quickly considering it was Tomoe River paper, metallic flake ink and a 1.1mm nib but I still managed to stick my hand in it a couple times.

As always, I do recommend that sparkle inks are not for the faint of heart, vintage pens or pens that are difficult to disassemble to clean as it is sometimes challenging to get all the metallic flakes out of the feed fins if you cannot fully disassemble the pen for cleaning.

Also, the wider the nib, the more you’ll be able to see the metallic flake. So plan accordingly when choosing a pen for this ink.

As with most metallic inks, there’s not a lot of shading with Amethyst de l’Oural. The metallic flake more than makes up for the loss of shading, right? Compared to the DeAtramentis Brilliant Violet Silver, Amethyst de l’Oural is a bit more understated.

We were all waiting for a purple ink in the 1670/1798 line and its finally here. Is it what we were waiting for? I wish the metallic flakes didn’t sink quite so quickly… damn you, gravity!

Jacques Herbin 1798 Amethyst de l’Oural is available for pre-order today at all your favorite pen shops and will start shipping in September.

DISCLAIMER: This item was for review free of charge by Exaclair USA. Please see the About page for more details.

Fountain Pen Review: Kaweco Perkeos

Fountain Pen Review: Kaweco Perkeos

Finally! The Kaweco Perko fountain pens are available. These entry level plastic-bodied fountain pens look to be direct competitors to other student pens with a molded grip section, poppy colors and a faceted barrel. The price point is €14,95/$17.65 (€12,36/$14.59 Outside EU)  There are four color options available: the “Bad Taste” which is the hot pink and black, the “Cotton Candy” which is a soft pink with cool grey cap, “Indian Summer” which is mustard seed yellow-green with a black cap and the “Old Chambray” which is a white body with a blue-grey cap.

The Perkeos are a matte finish plastic with faceted bodies and the classic hex barrel cap. The caps are snap caps with a tight fit. The caps can be posted. Because these are lightweight plastic pens, they do not feel substantial but they also don’t feel intimidating. They walk that fine line — playful without feeling too juvenile.

The pens with black details have black nibs and the lighter colors have steel nibs. I got two pens with fine nibs and two with medium nibs; one chrome, one black of each nib size.


While the nibs aren’t exactly the same as the nibs on the Sport models in terms of design, they seem to write pretty consistently to them. Actually, I find the medium nib on the Perkeos to be better than the Sport mediums which I’ve always had issues with.

I really like the black nibs! They look slick!

The finials on the end coordinate with the nibs and are the classic Kaweco logos.

The other awesome upside to the Perkeo is that they take full-sized converters and extra long cartridges! Any standard European cartridge or converter is fair game. I used a Waterman cartridge, a Pelikan Edelstein cartridge, and two random converters I had laying around. The Perkeos ship with one Kaweco blue cartridge so you will need to order additional cartridges or converters if you don’t have your own personal cartridge roulette wheel like I do.

Because the Perkeos are so reasonably priced, I couldn’t resist having all four so that I could play Perkeo mix-up. I swapped caps and bodies to make new color combinations. I wanted an all-black with the citrus-y green grip and the hot pink and green above all other things (so Bad Taste and Indian Summer are MUST-HAVES for the swap). I also like the look of the white body with the grey cap. I’ve swapped things around about four times already! But a mod black-and-white would be cool too.

In writing tests, I noticed just a slight difference on the Tomoe River paper between the medium and the fine nibs. The Papier Plume ink was a bit wetter and spread a bit more than the other three inks I used so that was the only place I really noticed the nib difference. With a drier ink, the medium nibs in the Perkeos were quite pleasant. I’m not normally a medium nib fan, but these I like a lot. I’ve used these pens for about a week on other paper surfaces and enjoyed them. They are pretty stiff nibs but smooth.

On the downside, the colors may not be for everyone. Right now, the only nib options are fine or medium and like I said earlier, they do not come with a converter. There is no packaging. The pens came wrapped in a cellophane sleeve each. I suspect these were designed to be sold on store countertops like lollipops.

But for about $15 each, Perkeos are some of the least expensive full-sized fountain pens available from a major European manufacturer. Yes, the Pilot Metropolitan is still a (Japanese) metal alternative at $14.50 but if I was looking to buy a pen for my niece, I’m more inclined to get her a Perkeo which is a bit lighter for her younger hand but still cute. I’m certainly not embarrassed to use them.

DISCLAIMER: Some items used in this review were sent to me free of charge by Fontoplumo. Please see the About page for more details.

News: DC Pen Show Early Edition

If you will be coming to the DC Pen Show this weekend, here’s some things to look for. Even if you’re not, some of the events will be broadcast or available online as well. So, if you’d like to feel a part of the excitement, here’s how:

Susan Wirth Memorial

On Saturday evening there will be a memorial service held in honor of Susan Wirth who passed away suddenly in May. The service will be held at 7pm. There will be efforts made to livestream parts of the event. Details to follow. Check on Instagram, Twitter or the Pen Addict podcast episode 268 (yet to be broadcast, but this is where the link will be when available) which will be recorded on Friday night. Myke is hoping to get it uploaded as quickly as possible and may be able to get some information broadcast about the whos and wheres of any recording. I am sure people will be taking photos, videos and sharing their own experiences as well.

In general, most images of this year’s Pen Show can be found on Instagram via the hashtag #dcpenshow2017. You can find images of Susan Wirth under the hashtag #susanwirth . If you have any images you’d like to share, please upload them to Instagram and add the hashtag to share along with your stories.

Pen Show Specials

In honor of their second anniversary, Federalist Pens has a special edition Robert Oster Signature ink called Frankly Blue. Its a rich dark blue-green with shading and its exclusive to Federalist Pens, of course. If you are interested in this new exclusive ink you can pre-order on their web site and pick up your order at the show. Be sure to mention in your order if you want to pick up your ink at the show. Or send an email to Frank.

Also available at the Federalist Pens table will be the new Soda Pop Blue and Black Violet inks but those will be available on a first-come, first-serve basis so come by the table to get these two new colors as there are a limited number of bottles available. The best way to see these colors and what Robert Oster is working on next, check out their Facebook page.

Vanness Pen Shop  is bringing the Rollbahn notebook collection from Delfonics to the show. The notebook covers are available in both brilliant neons and more subtle colors in top- and side-binding in a wide array of sizes with lines and grid formats. The paper is a warm ivory color and  pretty fountain pen friendly. In the back of the notebooks are plastic storage sleeves (multiple sleeves!) for loose ephemera sandwiched between two sheets of cardstock. Black elastic keeps everything tidy. Of course, Vanness is also bringing towers of ink from all the brands from across the globe and the new Kaweco Perkeos (shown above), new goodies from Caran d’Ache and so much more. Vanness will also offer 8 colors of Bungbox for $35 per bottle. Come get them while you can!

Anderson Pens will be bringing their fabulous wares including the new Retro 51 Tiki Kona, the new TWSBI Eco Turquoise, the Leuchtturm1911 notebooks, Graf von Faber Castell Guilloche pens, the new Akkerman Dutch Masters ink colors, and the Kyoto TAG inks. The Andersons will also have the new Robert Oster Black Violet ink.

The Kanilea Pen Company will debut their new Haleakala Fountain Pen design at the DC Show. The Haleakala fountain pen, has a rose gold medallion and is available with an 18K rose gold or rose gold steel nib. It looks amazing and I can’t wait to see it in person.

A handful of Funkytowns getting ready to head to D.C. #dcpenshow2017 #nockshots

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NockCo is bringing an array of their products including so unusual mix-ups like these “Funkytowns”. Just in time too because someone at my house ran off with my Brasstown.

Special Guests

Master Penman Jake Weidmann will be at the Montegrappa table Saturday & Sunday. If you’re not familiar with his work, this is a great opportunity to see him in action.

and, of course,

There will be Col-o-ring Ink Testing Books available at the pen show! I will be at the Vanness Pens table with a goodly amount. I know that Tom of Ink Journal plans to be at the show with a stash of Col-o-ring Ink Testing Books as well.

If you have any questions, drop me a line via Twitter, Instagram or my handy, dandy Ask The Desk email form. Please come by and say hi at the show! I can’t wait to see every one, their purchase and their Col-o-rings!