Graduation time has come to Montana. I know this very well, because last weekend I gathered up my two children, dressed them up in the finest threads we have to offer and ushered them 12 blocks to the University of Montana where they watched their mother graduate with an English Major and Sociology Minor. I’m incredibly proud of my wife for persevering through the trials and tribulations that came from raising a family (husband included) while wrestling with the studies of critical interpretation and social ethics. Good job babe!
But with the joyous rapture of graduation weekend comes the sobering and somewhat mournful realization that the last 4-5 year journey had a purpose. And that purpose – for most – was to get a J.O.B.
As the newly minted 2011 graduates explode across the social landscape, fulfilling want ad positions more efficiently than the city’s public works department fills potholes after the spring thaw, it’s our hope that they are capable of finding jobs that not only pay well but that they like. This task alone is harder than any final they’ve ever dared take. In that vein, I thought it would be appropriate to introduce our readers to some folks who truly do love their jobs. Those are the people here at Executive Essentials.
These are the folks who research, organize, filter and coordinate your orders. These are the very people that work with you at Executive Essentials to ensure that you have access to the finest pens the industry has to offer and that you receive exactly what you thought you were getting when you thought you were getting it. And it’s no small task.
With all this experience and knowledge and love of their job, it’s no wonder that a few of them might have some opinions about their favorite pens in the EE catalog. So here are a few of the staff and their favorite Executive Essentials pens.
Ellen Bjorvik is the general manager for Executive Essentials as well as a pen buyer and expert on all things writing. As a general manager, Ellen’s job requires a great deal of knowledge about the organization as a whole and the ability to multitask at a high level. She loves the Parker Duofold Pearl and Black ballpoint pen above all the rest. She enjoys this pen because of its gorgeous, classic beauty and the ease with which it writes due to its extremely well-balanced nature.
Sandy Langenfeld works at Executive Essentials as a customer service representative and is also one of the local pen experts you will find helping when you order. Sandy is in love with the Retro 51 Tornado in Purple which will be her next pen purchase. She likes the Tornado in Purple because she can use the easy flow refills with this ballpoint for a rollerball-like writing experience. Sandy also likes the Waterman Exception Rollerball in Raspberry for both the unique shape as well as the beautiful, feminine color.
Sylvia Draganova is another knowledgeable customer service representative at Executive Essentials that can answer all your questions and offer suggestions based on your writing needs. As one of the many pen experts on the staff, she has many opinions about the best pen brands and individual writing instruments. Her favorite pen brand is Faber-Castell and her favorite pen is the Graf von Faber-Castell Classic Collection of Wood Pens and the Emotion Collection of Wood Pens which are a bit more affordable. She appreciates that these pens use a natural, sustainable resource –wood – and also admires their classic elegance. But above all else, she loves that the company is family owned, just like Executive Essentials.
Renee Silverman is the Director of eCommerce for Executive Essentials and in charge of making sure the website, blog and online catalog are looking good and in working order — among a variety of other duties. Although she is a self-professed ‘non-expert’ she knows what she likes when it comes to writing instruments, having been in the pen business for a few years. She adores the Metropolitan Museum of Art line of pens, specifically the Tiffany Pine Bough Rollerball. She is drawn to the Tiffany Rollerball specifically because of its elegant and beautiful exterior and its smooth writing feel, all of which remind her of Tiffany art. Her other favorite pen is the Montblanc Ingrid Bergman La Donna Limited Edition Rollerball. She loves the unique, feminine shape of this pen, especially the amethyst accent! But the attribute that really causes this pen to stick out to her is the unique contrast between the mother of pearl cap and the black body. Very striking.
Those are just a few of the suggestions from the wonderful people at Executive Essentials. These are the people that are ready to answer any of your questions about any of the pens you might find. So don’t be shy.
The ovens are far from heating up for this 2011 Thanksgiving dinner, but that doesn’t mean that Christmas is content to wait on the sidelines until we are all done digesting. In fact, ho-ho-ho tinged commercials have already infiltrated the airwaves and local shops are already trimming their newly frosted windows in red and green. It is clearly time to start thinking about the gifts we choose to say ‘thank you’ to those around us in our daily lives. And there is no better way for a business to say thank you to its employees and customers than with a high-quality pen that is stylish and affordable.
Executive Essentials makes gift giving easy by offering a wide selection of personalized pens from top name brand companies like Cross, Waterman, Waterford, Parker, and Dunhill. The pens in the EE catalog come in a wide variety of styles and prices to fit the needs of just about any company’s budget. At Executive Essentials, we have the ability to offer substantial discounts for high volume orders and with a little extra time, we can let you see a finished sample of your logo pen prior to your order. We know that you want the very best when you give gifts and we have the pens you need and the service to make it come true. And, unlike cheap custom pens, our pens come from name brand, well-respected companies that offer quality, style and satisfaction guaranteed.
Take a look at a few of the amazing pens in the Executive Essentials catalog that come with the option of being engraved.
This streamlined pen from Parker has a stainless steel body that is brushed to give it a textured effect before it is buffed to smooth gloss finish. Although the shape is simple, the pen itself is designed for a comfort and feel that is appreciated by both men and women. The gold accents give it a flair that is striking without being gaudy or garish. Listed at $65 with another $14 for engraving, the Parker Sonnet is a gift worth giving and worth receiving.
One look at the elliptical shape of the Waterman Carene Ballpoint brings to mind an object of speed and grace. The almost bullet like design has a simplicity that is understated and mired in a long standing tradition of craftsmanship. It all makes sense though when you find out that the Carene is modeled after the world’s finest Yachts. The barrel is a high-gloss lacquer and is trimmed in gold for a dynamic look with a weight that feels good in all hands. This executive pen carries a $150 price tag and costs $16 to personalize, but it’s not a gift soon forgotten.
At the lower end of the price spectrum is the Claria in chrome from Waterford Pens. But, don’t be fooled by the $31.99 price tag. This inexpensive pen is far from cheap. The chrome barrel of the pen gives it a substantial feel and the shape lend it a fit for any hand. The rhodium plated finish give it a look that shines bright with sophistication and prestige. This is a great pen for everyday use. One that can be put to work and offer style all at the same time. Engraving this pen costs $14, with two choices of font and 22 characters of engraving text. The right price. The right pen. The right gift.
This is part three in our three part series by Tracy McCusker. Tracy is an avid pen buff & unrepentant word-slinger. Fascinated with pens from a young age, she converted to fountain pens in 2000 after being introduced to the Parker Frontier and Parker Vector. Today her pen collection numbers in the hundreds. Tracy is a staunch advocate of “going analog” for writing & creative brainstorming. When she’s not hanging out at her local fountain pen shop, her digital presence can be found guest posting at the Surly Muse.
We’ve come to the part of the guide where the gifts are a little more expensive as we explore pens in the $100 to $200 range. So sit back and enjoy as Tracy reveals some of her favorite pens in this range.
Pens From 100 to 200 dollars
Fountain Pens: Cross C-Series ($185.00) or the Pelikan M205 ($109.00 – $115.00)
The Cross C-Series is a pen which does not get nearly enough love. It is my favorite pen under two hundred dollars. The aggressive chrome stylings on the C-Series have been called a masculine, an ode to chrome obsession. There is a mechanicalness to its design, but the C-Series strikes me more as “modern design” than “masculine.” The cap screws on in one of the more innovative systems I’ve seen. If you or your intended recipient can get their hands on the pen at a showroom or store, I’d recommend giving the pen a test-drive. The Cross C-Series is a very heavy pen. It is one of the heaviest I own, rivaled only by two very heavy Waterman pens (the L’Etalon and the Carene). I was sold after writing with the Monaco Blue C-Series and comparing it against every other pen in its price range. None of the others felt as smooth on the page. The C-Series rubberized grip is also a novelty at this price-point, but it keeps long writing sessions comfortable despite the pen’s weight. As a word of caution, Cross steel nibs can start off a little scratchy (toothy we call it), but a good nib will become smooth with use.
The Pelikan M205 is the smallest of its numbered series (which spans from 200 to 1000). It fits perfectly in my hand (which is diminutive). The larger numbered series (for example, the 600 @ $304.00) may be a more comfortable fit for larger-handed folks; however, the price increases as the pen size does, so it’s always important to ask, can this smaller pen work for me? While the grip area (delineated by the notches where the cap screws into the body of the pen) is the smallest I’ve seen on a pen when the cap is posted it feels like an average-sized pen. The M205 has a steel nib that has a bit of tooth that gives the nib character. The M200 sometimes can be found with a smoother gold-plated steel nib; however, the nibs in the 205 should be interchangeable—and can be ordered separately from the pen if it doesn’t suit the user’s taste.
The Cross C-Series is recommended to everyone, even though its appearance may put off giftees (and givers) at first. This pen may need to be tried in-store before the giftee appreciates the workmanship of the pen. The C-Series is especially recommended for persons who love aggressively-styled pens.
The M205 is recommended as a good value pen, as it is made with the same precision as its more expensive brethren. As an added bonus, the M205 can be found as either a demonstrator or a highlighter pen (which uses its own special highlighter ink). If your giftee likes luxury pens for a purpose other than just taking notes (who doesn’t love a good highlighter?), the Pelikan M205 might be the right choice.
Rollerball: Visconti Rembrandt Rollergraphic ($145.00) or Parker Ingenuity ($160 – $190.00)
The Visconti Rollergraphic, or Eco-Roller as it is known in other circles, and the Parker Ingenuity are both unconventional rollerballs. The Visconti is filled with a cartridge or converter like a fountain pen, thus able to use your favorite inks (or to allow you to enjoy/try a much wider range of colors or inks that would normally be available to you). The Visconti Rollergraphic is inside the resin body of the Rembrandt line. Like the Van Gogh line, the Rembrandt has a light resin body that has a rich depth of color when held up to the light. No picture will fully capture the play of subtle colors in the resin, so if you can see a Visconti in person, do so! The “Eco-Roller” is thusly titled because if you are using the pen with a converter, you are wasting less plastic/metal/ink by not buying and disposing of refill cartridges.
The Parker Ingenuity, on the other hand, is not a rollerball at all. It uses its own unique refills that are like a combination of the rollerball, porous point, and fountain pen. The pen has a metal nib (that really serves like a hood). If I had to peg what this pen was closest to, it would be a rollerball since it is trying to have “the best of all worlds,” as the rollerball was between the ballpoint and the fountain pen. I have no experience with the Parker Ingenuity, aside from my favorable experiences with Parkers in the past. What the Parker Ingenuity is, is exciting. It’s a new piece of pen technology. The conversations that it might start when someone asks to borrow it might be worth the price alone.
The Visconti Rollergraphic is recommended for eco-conscious giftees who don’t want to make the leap to fountain pens. The Parker Ingenuity is recommended for early-adopters willing to take the leap without long-term feedback on how the “5th technology” of this new pen works.
The Waterman Carene is one the most elegant pens that I’ve laid eyes on in the past fifteen years. Compared to any pen on this list, or in a high-end pen catalog, the Carene has a stand-out design. Its barrel is a heavy brass overlaid with lacquer that tapers into a rounded end. The characteristic Carene black button isn’t featured on the ballpoint; nevertheless, it retains the curvy, graceful profile distinctive to the line. The Carene ballpoint is heavy, but it has gotten lighter with successive generations. My chrome-trimmed Carene from 2007 is noticeably lighter than my gold-trimmed Carene from 2002. The pen comes in two different kinds of lacquers, the glossy lacquer featured on the Amber Shimmer and the matte lacquer featured on the solid-colored chrome trim pens. These lacquers create two different kinds of pens. The glossy lacquer pens are a bit slicker to hold. The glossy lacquer has some self-healing properties that hide small scratches. My ten-year-old glossy Carenes show remarkably little wear. The matte lacquer pens, on the other hand, feel more comfortable when writing at length because there’s a bit more “grip” to the surface. The downside is that the matte surface shows nicks and scratches very easily. Two of my matte-lacquered pens have started chipping badly due to poor care. If you decide to invest in a matte lacquer Carene, please do yourself a favor and purchase a pen case for it! Unlike some of the other workhorses on this list, the Carene needs to be given the care that a luxury item deserves.
The Carene is recommended for pen lovers, avid writers, and those that can give appropriate care for their writing instruments. This is a pen that needs to be taken care of!
For a First-Time Fountain Pen User: Pelikano JR ($10.40), Parker Vector ($24.00) or Namiki Vanishing Point ($140.00)
Gifts are sometimes the best way to introduce an avid writer (or someone who could become one) to fountain pens. There is a great joy in putting a nib to paper. But we don’t all rocket from the ballpoint world right into the 18K top-of-the-line fountain pens. For a young writer (or someone who just likes big bright colors), the Pelikano JR is a good introduction to pens that aren’t the standard mass-produced disposables. The Pelikano JR has a smooth Pelikan steel nib (reportedly the same nib on the slightly-more-expensive P58). At such a low price-point, it’s not a big deal if the Pelikano nib suffers some wear & tear… actually, maybe you should consider buying two.
For a teenager/student looking to get into pens, the Parker Vector is a good jumping-off point into one of the major pen manufacturers. The Vector has a nice black & chrome modern styling in its latest offering, a steel nib that can take the punishment of a heavy hand. Starting fountain pen users often write more heavily (or too lightly) than the pen requires. The Vector is very forgiving as the writer experiments with their writing. The Vector isn’t perfect—make sure to flush the nib before filling it (look up how to do it before putting the nib under running water). The Vector will be scratchier than most good pens. If the Vector isn’t visually appealing, the Lamy Safari always can make a good entry pen too.
The Namiki Vanishing Point is expensive for a starting pen. It is over a hundred dollars. However, the Vanishing Point is aimed at those who might already be comfortable with fine pens. Specifically, with click-push ball pens that are a staple of the office since the arrow clipped Parker Jotter was introduced in the 50s. The click-mechanism of the Vanishing Point makes the fountain pen much more familiar to the average writer. The VP’s nib is semi-hooded—it writes uniformly and doesn’t dry out quickly. Namiki-Pilot sells replacement nib for these pens, so mishaps from dropped pen are minimized (as a side note: be sure to make friends with your local fountain pen repair shop!). It’s a good place to get a ballpoint enthusiast on the fountain pen wagon or to at least dip a toe into the world of nibs, converts, and ink bottles.
For Someone Looking To Impress: Visconti Impressionist Collection ($199.00 – $279.00), Visconti Opera Elements Ballpoint ($265.00), or the Waterman Carene collection ($150.00 for ballpoint, $275.00 for fountain pen)
The Visconti Impressionist Collection and the Visconti Opera are stunning pens. Visconti’s resins are, in a word, amazing. When you hold the Impressionist under the light, the layers of resin create a depth of color with a touch of translucence. The Visconti Opera’s swirls are equally striking. Unlike other pen companies that use plastic resins, Visconti uses vegetable resins as their color base, creating unmatched beauty. I know. I’ve held them. My Visconti Van Gogh constantly surprises me with its richness in color compared to the lacquers and resins of other brands. Impressionists are pieces of art to display on a desk, in the hand, in a pen stand. The resins of the Visconti barrel are by no means delicate, but they’re not as up to the rough-and-tumble as metal-bodied pens are. If you insist on using them at the local coffee shop / on the slopes of Mount Lassen, be sure to protect them adequately from loose change or other small objects that could scuff their surfaces.
The Carenes, on the other hand, beg to be displayed everywhere. Take them wherever you go; write with them wherever you write. I’ve already gone on at length about the ballpoint so I will keep my comments short. The Carene fountain pen is a pen for the ages. Unlike stiff Visconti nibs, Carene nibs are impossibly buttery. The inlaid nib on the pen body means that the nib is protected from drying out quickly. I have owned three Carene fountain pens, and each one was of fantastic quality. Carene gold nibs don’t need to be broken in. They write like champions out-of-the-box. The word of caution is for the weight of the Carene. The fountain pen is heavy and is meant to be used unposted. Nevertheless, I am confident that if the look of the pen entices you, the Carene will likely become your favorite pen.
If you have your sights on a Waterman rollerball, may I politely suggest otherwise? Waterman rollerball refills are notoriously erratic. While you may be able to find alternative refills that fit the pen, I would just as soon recommend Visconti rollerballs over Waterman.
For Someone Looking for the Out-Of-The-Ordinary: Fjader Ballpoint ($15.99), Monteverde One-Touch & Stylus ($30.00) Lamy Dialog Ballpoint ($99.99)
The giftee who loves pens (or more generally) out of the ordinary, there are pens that may fit their personality. This list is by no means extensive; I encourage you to shop around to find something that fits their personality (do they like beads? Crazy colors? Strange patterns?). I’ve selected three pens which fit three different types of giftees. These pens throw traditional pen wisdom to the side.
The Fjader Ballpoint looks like a feather. I’ve never seen a pen quite like it—bulging to one side and tapering to a point; it certainly stands out from the crowds of tube-pens or fish-eye cigar-shapes. Being a ballpoint, the Fjader is a giftable pen to any and all who write. The Fjader low-price makes it tantalizing as a stocking stuffer, or as a gift to those who already collect pens and might appreciate how this harkens back to crow quills.
The Monteverde One-Touch & Stylus reminds me of the bright colors of the Tombow Object and the stylings of Retro 51. What earns it a spot on this guide is that until other traditional pens, it acts as a stylus for modern touch screens and it provides handy ink-based writing when the stylus won’t suffice. Even though I don’t have any touch screens, the small knob on the end of the pen actually seems to make the pen look better than the One-Touch without the stylus. For the tech-heads who need a stylus, or the design-heads who just think a pen might look funny without one.
The Lamy Dialog Ballpoint had to be included because the pen looks like the future. Twenty-five years in the future, pens probably will continue to be modern, retro; doughty and elegant; restrained and loud as they do now. However, with the Lamy Dialog, your giftee can pretend to live in a different future twenty-five years from now. One that’s boxy, white-on-gray and more than bit retro-futuristic–much like 60s architecture in LA. Check out the other Lamy Dialog pens. There is a different design for the ballpoint, rollerball, and fountain pen. The ballpoint is my favorite, but perhaps another might strike a chord with you!
For Someone Who Has Pain When They Write
It’s probable that there is someone on your gift list that has pain in their hands. Sometimes after a long day typing, the most relaxing thing to do is to unplug from the computer. Maybe catalog the day in a journal. But it’s hard to do this if you have carpel tunnel, arthritic joints, or other pronounced hand pains. My go-to pen of choice after long days of typing is Sensa’s Cloud 9 ballpoint. The gel grip on this pen feels angelic; it is a comfort after hours of hitting hard plastic keys. The cushioned grip is also quite thick, forcing a looser grip to be used when writing. For giftees who have deeper problems than stiff joints, the Yoropen may be an appropriate tool for them. The Yoropen has a unique (and kind of crazy-looking) design that relieves pressure on the hand by changing how your grip transmits pressure to the tip of the pen. If someone you know is suffering carpal tunnel or other joint-related problems, the Yoropen may be the best choice of pen for them. I can think of no greater gift than giving the gift of pain-free writing to a benighted writing enthusiast.
Phew. And that’s it for this holiday pen gift guide. We hope you’ve enjoyed Tracy’s in-depth gift guide as much as she enjoyed writing it. Don’t be shy about asking questions or leaving comments. Both are appreciated. And good luck out there finding the perfect pen gift for that special someone in your life this holiday season.
All brands of pens have ranges within their own hierarchy. It’s part of the marketing game to make sure that you have products in your lines that speak to those pen lovers in all economic brackets. I’m glad they do. It’s a good challenge for pen designers to push the limits of quality and aesthetics against the wall of everyday price points. What does a $50 designer pen look like, write like, feel like and smell like compared to a $20 version? How can the manufacturing process be tinkered with to create savings in the higher end pens? Experimentation is key and eventually, the results of those experiments trickle down to the users. Us.
But, there’s another way that pen collectors can get good deals on brand new pens rather than waiting for the brands to become more efficient or come out with a line that is more affordable. Quite simply you only need to take a look at the clearance section of the Executive Essentials online catalog.
Today I’d like to point you to the Waterman clearance pens. Although the current stock of Waterman pens on clearance isn’t bursting at the seams, you will find 6 great pens at prices that are worth considering. So take the time the time to check out a few of these great deals on Waterman pens. But remember, we also have a great deal more Waterman pens in the Executive Essentials catalog that are worth looking at as well.
Blending prestigious materials, color, and a distinctive, vibrant personal style, Waterman continues to create some of the most elegant and inventive writing instruments in the world today. The Waterman Hemisphere rollerball pens, with its timeless lines, are practical and discreet. It breathes modernity and a magnetic refinement. The simple contemporary elegance of this stylish chromed rollerball is made from lustrous black lacquer is as timeless as a little black dress or a tailored tuxedo. This particular pen is running $35 down from $75. A real steal.
The Waterman Perspective celebrates the dynamic purity of modern architecture. This elegant expression of contemporary design has a slim cylindrical shape decorated with a delightfully dazzling chrome finish throughout each pen. This ballpoint is made a silver colored satin lacquer that creates a shimmering tone effect and is decorated with the sharp beauty of architectural lines. It comes with a three-year warranty and a twist action mechanism that is easy to use. Originally this pen cost $130, but now it is only $109 in the Executive Essentials catalog.
The pen that breaks away from all expectations and changes the rules…the Exception. With its bold square design, the Waterman Exception has a powerful presence, finesse, and elegance. This fountain pen is the ultimate expression of seductive confidence. It is made of rich, luxuriant berry pink lacquer and bright white silver-plated trims for women who just love being women. To add to this stunning writing implement is an intricately engraved rhodium plated18-karat gold nib. Right now you can get a savings of $85 and have this pen in your hand for $300.
These pens and variations are available in the Executive Essentials catalog. And don’t just dwell on Waterman, Executive Essentials has a plethora of great pens on clearance every day. Come on in and browse a little.
This post is third in a series about the technical aspects of fountain pens. — by Tracy McCusker
I have spoken at length about the anatomy of fountain pens in this series: how to identify interior parts, how the feed system works, how ink interacts with nibs. My main theme has been function over style because it’s all too easy to get sucked into a pretty carbon-fiber or tortoise shell barrel without thinking about the most important bits.
But there are points of style that can’t be ignored when thinking about functional pens. Style is the first consideration that I make when I reach for a writing instrument. When I write my daily journal pages, I want a cheerful, well-flowing pen to keep my mood light. If I am drafting the first scene of a novel, a no-frills pen that’s a hard-worker is my go-to selection. For editing, a pen that won’t dry out while its uncapped is my choice.
These considerations aren’t so much about how a pen looks, as they are about how the pen nib is styled. There are three main styles of nibs: an open nib, an inlaid nib, and a hooded nib.
The open nib is the standard nib that you see on 95% of modern fountain pens. It is called an open nib because you can see every part of the nib (it’s narrow base, the flare of its shoulders, the breathing hole, and its tines). The nib protrudes from the pen body to draw attention to itself. Open nibs can be plain or ornamented with filigree because their design is meant to impress. Open nibs can suffer from ink drying out if it isn’t in use. Their open design often allows nibs to be easily replaced or tweaked if the feed system goes awry. It’s no wonder that the open nib is so popular; the brazenness of a bare nib sets fountain pens apart from ballpoints.
While the open nib is the most popular of all nib styles, I prefer variety in my nibs. As a fan of both ballpoints and fountain pens, I don’t feel the need to flaunt open nibs if they don’t suit the pen design (and I honestly feel like most pen design isn’t served by sticking to standardized open nibs). I keep an eye out for open nibs that aren’t of the standard shape or size. The Lamy Studio has an open nib in a non-standard style; its short rectangular nib integrates into modern angles of its body.
Hooded nibs are the exact opposite of open nibs. They are also incredibly rare on modern Western pens. The nib’s body and shoulders are covered by a piece of plastic or metal. A hooded nib often doesn’t look like a nib at first glance. The hood has two advantages and a feature that’s seen as a drawback. It keeps ink from drying out quickly on an uncapped pen and it allows a writer to grip the pen close to the tip. For people with small handwriting or just a desire for precise motion, the hooded nib is appealing. The drawback feature is that the hood creates a rigid nib. Rigid nibs are uniform in writing—almost like a ballpoint. For people who buy fountain pens for flex, or for the gentle swooping change of thick-to-thin lines, hooded nibs don’t provide those lines at all.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that I am a great fan of hooded nibs. I write at length and for a variety of business purposes. I prefer a pen that will take to being uncapped, and will write with relative uniformity. The small, thin lines that can come from a hooded nib are fantastic for making small notations (for this reason, hooded nibs are sometimes sold as “accountant nibs” online).
Finding a good hooded nib is difficult because of their relative rarity. The most popular hooded nibs are found on vintage Parker 51 and Parker 61 pens. Chinese pen maker Hero makes an array of Parker 51 clones that hold up well to everyday use. For a new twist on the hooded nib, Namiki-Pilot’s Vanishing Point pen has a retracted hooded nib.
The last nib style is the halfway point between a hooded and an open nib. Like the open nib, the inlaid nib is visible from the top. Like the hooded nib, its feed system is hidden by a piece of plastic or resin and not easy to repair. The inlaid nib gains some of the dependable uniformity of the hooded design because it is usually mounted on a pen body. It, however, remains a style fixture in modern fountain pen manufacture because it celebrates the presence nib as a design feature. Inlaid nibs are often integrated into the pen body in astonishingly sleek designs. An inlaid nib is unforgettable. Unfortunately for pen aficionados, inlaid nibs are even rarer than hooded nibs, as there are not as many vintage inlaid nibs pens as popular as the Parker 51, nor are there a flood in inlaid nib clones on the market.
My earliest experiences with fine fountain pens were with an inlaid nib. It should be no surprise that the Waterman Carene that I’ve spoken highly of on this blog have inlaid nibs. The Carene is one of the few non-vintage inlaid nibs on the market. Other inlaid nibs are pseudo-inlays, like the Montegrappa Nerouno Linea (the nib juts beyond the pen body, so it is not a proper inlaid nib), or have been discontinued, like the Cross Verve. A collector can usually find vintage or discontinued inlaid nibs at a price. If an inlaid nib is the object of your attention, finding a list of pens with inlaid nibs can usually be found on fountain pen collector message boards.
Nib style can be an important stylistic decision to make, though one that’s usually made for the pen already given that the majority of pens have default open nibs. Despite my own quest for variety, there is nothing wrong with an open nib. Most fountain pen buyers start out with open nibs. Only after buying a few pens do debates over the suitability of open and hooded nibs arise among collectors. What it boils down to is this: open nibs are the gold standard, but hooded nibs are worth a try for their workman-like dependability. Inlaid nibs carry a hefty price tag but are incomparably gorgeous.
Hey, folks! Guest blogger Tracy McCusker is back again. This time with some great suggestions for graduation gift pen ideas with a step by step outline of what to look for and a list of favorites at the end. Take a look.
The graduation season is upon us. Big box stores are sprouting pyramids of seasonal pen sets. Pen shops, usually empty but for pen connoisseurs, welcome the flocking parents & loved ones looking for the traditional graduation gift: a respectable and luxe pen to signify success and future professionalism.
In my opinion, pens make for the best graduation gifts for high-schoolers, college grads, professional school grads and beyond. Pens are more practical than similarly-styled “executive” items like watches, journals/planners or silver-cast desk stands which in this day and age are style/status statements your graduate may not share. As a parent of a graduate, what looks professional or managerial to you may look outdated or stuffy to them. Luckily, pens can successfully bridge the style gap between “old-fashioned” and “stylish”. Even the most paperless adherent can use a good pen to prop up on their desk, or a pen/stylus to interface with paper and technology. A gift pen can embody any range of moods (restrained, luxurious, playful, flashy) that the gift-giver wishes to convey to their graduate.
Despite the burgeoning supply of pens at this time of year, buying a pen does not become appreciably easier during graduation season. The effusion of gift pens aimed directly at graduation gift shoppers if anything makes the choice harder. With these issues in mind, I have cribbed a short list of pitfalls that you should avoid to help you select the best pen possible for your grad. And because what guide would be worth their salt without some suggestions, I will give a few suggestions at the end of the article.
1. Don’t buy a fountain pen. Do buy a ballpoint or rollerball pen.
If you read enough of this blog, you will know that I am the leading cheerleader for introducing writers to the joys of writing with a nib & ink. However, for a graduation gift, a fountain pen should be off the table. A fountain pen is an investment in time, money, and effort. Fountain pens require upkeep. They also have so many variables that relate to the nib & the writing style that the owner will need to keep in mind, you want to leave all of this baggage for a different purchase. For this purchase, give fountain pens a pass. If you see a fountain pen that has a style you can’t tear your eyes away from, consider buying the rollerball for your graduate instead.
2. Don’t shop by price. Do shop by form/function.
The biggest mistake I see when parents set foot in a pen shop for the first time is that they come in with a set budget (100, 200, whatever dollars) and ask to see pens at the maximum of that price range. Many will confidently exclaim to be taken to the most expensive pen in the store. This is a huge mistake! Not only will the most expensive pen be in the thousand dollar range (rather than the hundred dollar range), expensive does not automatically mean “better looking” or “better writing experience”. Instead, shop by the look and feel of the pen. Look at pens across a range of brands and prices. Try out a skinny Cross Century, a fat Waterman Expert against anything in the Montblanc line.
If you are looking at pens in an online shop, there are usually guides that break pens by price and other categories (like unique pens or luxury pens). If you are using prices guides, make sure to look at more & less expensive ranges than what you’d ideally like to spend. You never know if the perfect gift may be more or less expensive than you imagine them to be.
Consider very closely what kind of function this pen will serve in the next few years. Will this pen be going to a high school grad who has years of note-taking and dorm-hopping ahead of him/her? Will this pen be going to a college graduate who is looking to go into high-status professional training for business or law? Will this pen be going with a college graduate out into the workforce? What kind of functions will be most useful for each of these scenarios?
3. Don’t buy a pen set. Do buy a single good pen.
Pen sets are aimed at graduate gift shoppers looking for a “dignified” pen at a low price. Although these pen sets appear to be nice to graduates who are used to using chewed-up Bics, pen sets are usually fairly cheap-looking affairs. They show their wear easily. While their prices might sway you into thinking that they are a good bargain, I am more wary of the fact that you are usually buying a second-tier brand (like Franklin Covey) that has put a mediocre (and rather bland) pen and pencil together. Pen sets that actually would be worth your money are generally expensive because they are two well-made pens (or pen and pencil) together. A good pen set could be hundreds of dollars more than you will be willing to spend.
Rather, a better use of your gift-buying dollars would be to research a single pen that has been well-engineered, and will still look classy years down the line. If you happen to find this pen in a pen set (Retro 51 has pen sets that are quite classy) and the price is right, then by all means.
4. Don’t buy a pen without seeing reviews.
Buying a pen online can be a tricky affair. Pens that appear fat/large/heavy online may turn out to be thin/small/light in person. Even experienced pen buyers can be surprised. A case in point: I have been buying pens for more than twelve years. When I picked up the Cross Sauvage for the first time in a pen shop, it was surprisingly light and small in my hand. I was, honestly, disappointed by it. I expected heavier and flashier, as most Cross pens fall on the extremes of thin/feather-weight or thick/lead-weight.
If you can, make a trip to a pen shop to view, hold, and compare pens. If a pen shop visit is out of the question, then look for pen reviews that compare the pen’s size and comments on its weight. Or, if you are dealing with an independent seller, ask questions about its feel/size compared to an average hand.
5. Don’t buy a pen whose refills will be impossible to find.
This “don’t” has become less important with time, now that online pen shops offer the ease of refill purchases for most to all of the major manufacturers. It is still a truism that Cross, Parker, Waterman and Montblanc refills are the easiest to find in big box retailers like Staples. Other pen manufacturer refills may be harder to lay hands on. One of the important things to check is what kind of refills are used by the pen. Some second-tier pen brands use Cross refills (as they are actually manufactured by Cross for the mass market but put under a different brand to not tarnish the “luxury” Cross brand). Certain brands of luxury pens like Libelle and Monteverde are compatible with Parker refills, and can easily be refilled.
But some brands that might be found at vintage pen sellers, or from second-hand retailers may be nearly impossible to track down. A vintage Cross may not be refillable with modern refills. Recife, a French pen brand that does not sell pens in the United States, refills are as common as unicorns. Handmade pens may have similar difficulty—unless the pen maker specifies what kind of refill he or she bases their pens on. Be very wary of “no-name” brands. If you don’t know what a no-name brand might be, do a quick Google search on it.
6. Don’t buy a pen that will be good for one circumstance. Do look for a pen that will be at home in a range of circumstances.
A “one circumstance” kind of pen is a pen that is usually bright, colorfully, and “moody”—maybe it’s a good note-taker, but it doesn’t look particularly attractive. Or it’s beautiful enough to put on a pedestal but not practical enough to use. Or maybe it’s made from a novelty material (sewed-up leather, chain mail) that only the recipient can appreciate, but isn’t interested in using it in public. A good graduation pen will be one that will be functional for a variety of circumstances: taking it to an interview, using it to take notes, admired on a desk and in their hand.
This is a high order for a single pen to fulfill. It’s one of the reasons that graduation pen sets all start to look the same. A pen that can be used across a range of circumstances usually has a fairly restrained style: a lacquer body, a classic pen profile, chrome or gold appointments. Although I will normally advocate pens that off the beaten path, a graduation pen can be both classically beautiful and fairly unique.
7. Do consider one of the following pens.
This list is by no means extensive. How could it be? Your graduate will have his or her own sense of style, and practical needs. Do take these into account when selecting a pen. But ultimately, remember, the choice is up to you. Nothing is more surprising and rewarding than a well-thought-out gift.
Tombow Object. Good for note taking. Can stand up to abuse. Colorful yet restrained with good lines. Catches the eye with its clean, modern design. It is not a luxury pen. Its silhouette recommends a person that is more interested in design, functionality, practicality than an unnecessary luxury.
Tombow Ultra. Good for note taking. A step above the Tombow Object in terms of price. With its chrome body, it has more of the classic pen look/feel to it. However, it is clearly not a luxury pen. It appeals to someone who is interested in a pen built to last.
Waterford Pallas. Luxury styling. Fairly fat lines for a wide grip on the pen. Does not look like your average set pen. Available in a wide array of colors, from the tuxedo look of black/chrome to Tortoise shell celluloid patterns. (Currently over 50 percent off in the EE catalog)
Waterford Metro. The clip offers interest on this doughty pen, offered in “classic” Cross colors, like the fighter (silver body with gold appointments), and the black/chrome, blue/chrome combos. The blue/chrome is one of the most attractive of the line. (currently 20 percent off in the EE catalog)
Cross ATX. My personal choice of graduation pen. I’ve given at least ten of these away to friends over the years. Cross is easy to refill, well-manufactured, able to stand up to decades of abuse. They look classic in any situation.
Delta Vintage. A classy, luxury pen that can be found for under a hundred dollars (for the ballpoint). It has a gorgeous marbled depth that would be at home in the hands of someone that wants to project confidence, taste, and power. (Currently over 20 percent off in the EE catalog)
Visconti Rembrandt. A luxury pen that clocks in around 150 dollars. Their arched clip is distinctive and sets them apart from the field. A Visconti is impossible to forget. The subtle resin in the Rembrandt means that it is a touch playful, even as its styling is at home in the most professional of settings.
I also recommend that you browse around this blog, which has buying advice aimed at other situations but may still yield good recommendations. Check out my previous gift buying guides for Christmas. Just keep in mind that a graduation pen has a different kind of weight attached to it—a quiet dignity, a sense of pride and hard work. A gravitas. Failing that, you could always buy your graduate an Acme pen shaped like a No. 2 pencil.
You can’t believe it. The black robe chafes as you walk up to the podium. The Dean doesn’t smile. He shakes hands and gives you a placeholder diploma. A small wave to the attendees fanning themselves with the program. You’ve done it. Graduation!
After the ceremony, you are handed a small package. Your folks look on eagerly. It is traditional to receive small gifts at graduation, so you aren’t surprised. You shake it. A muffled rattle. It doesn’t sound like a new phone. As you unwrap it, a pang of anxiety strikes. The sleek outer box bears a vaguely recognizable European name. The case snaps open. Your fears are confirmed: it’s a gift pen from your folks.
Pens are a time-honored gift for new graduates. Especially since the pen can signify nearly anything: a sliver of luxury to predict future success; a whimsical look back on your four (or more) years of hard work; a pretty piece of practical jewelry. The graduation pen is normally a sober, tasteful piece meant to look good in your new high-powered career. Or at least to look tasteful as you’re filling out applications. Chances are astronomically high that the graduation pen will be the most expensive pen you ever own.
And you couldn’t be more scared.
For those of you receiving the gift pen, remember to take a deep breath, and thank the gift giver. Even if you primarily use a word-processor or text notes on phone (in which case, the pen might be a pen/stylus hybrid), the pen deserves to be acknowledged respectfully. Take it out of the case. Weigh it in your hand. Swipe it across a sheet of paper a few times. Sign your name. Return it to its box. Worst-case scenario: if the pen is a highly polished chrome, it may smudge (not as badly as an iPhone screen).
Now that you are a proud owner of a new graduation pen, there’s also a time-honored set of responses–namely: to lose the pen. There are many different ways to lose your new pen. But before you settle on which way to lose your pen, be sure to read the entire list and consider the upsides and downsides to each option.
Never Take It Out of the Box
The most popular option with graduation pens is to hide the re-boxed pen in a drawer. Ostensibly this is to keep the pen safe. Some excuses are more elaborate and well-meaning (“I want to write my first novel with it! Nothing else will suffice!”). In the end, the pen stays in the box inside of the drawer. The box may gather dust, only to be found years later when you are preparing to move. Even though it has been in your desk drawer, the pen is essentially lost because you derive no value from it. The upside is that this pen can be regifted. The downside is that you miss out on using a fantastic pen for years.
Pens with a value of greater than 50 dollars tend to fall into this trap more often than others.
Leave It At The First Interview.
The runner-up option is to save the pen for your first big “event” for a (potential) employer. It is likely to be an interview, though sometimes the pen may survive to the first meeting for new hires. The pen, as your status symbol of hard work and projected success, accompanies you to the interview. It is perhaps clipped to your jacket pocket or jangling around in your pocket with loose change. The interviewer asks you to sign an application. Or perhaps you get nervous and start fiddling with the pen. You get lost in the banter (interviewing is less terrifying than you thought!). After the final handshake, you leave the office… and the pen rests forlornly behind a nest of photographs on the interviewer’s desk.
Chances of retrieving the pen are slim. If you are employed there, perhaps slightly higher than none. But the ease with which pens disappear into the maw of the workplace is about equal to the ease in which light slips into a black hole. You can only hope the pen ends up in a good home.
The pens most susceptible to this fate are the ones that look good in a work scenario. Many doughty Cross, Montblanc, and Waterman pens have been lost in this fashion.
Pen Falls Prey to Curious Hands
The dark horse of the top three options is to the chain the pen to your desk. This chain can be metaphorical or literal depending on your taste for drilling holes into a luxury item. The pen is kept on the desk in reach, to be used to jot notes, write out weekly reviews, or sketch ideas for your next project. Whether you are at home or at the office, the main risk is having a sleek pen in the range of curious hands. These hands need not belong to another person (how many times have your Bics met a similar fate when you’ve wandered from the desk with the nubby plastic stick between your fingers?). The cooler, or sleeker, or less Bic-like the pen, the more likely it is to attract curious hands. Does your pen have a unique grip? Does it have a beautiful clip? Is it well-designed with crisp, flowing line like a luxury car? If the answer is “yes” to any of these questions, curious hands are likely to seize upon the pen. From there it is a matter of absent-mindedly walking off with the pen-in-hand.
The pens most vulnerable to curious hands often come from Lamy, Waterford. Any large-gripped pen can be a target of curious hands. Large, heavy, and uncomfortable pens are notoriously hard to lose this way—but then you would likely choose another way to lose the pen if it were uncomfortable to you. The best solution is to have several cheaper, funky pens or tiny toys to draw curious hands away from the graduation pen.
Preventable Loss: Planner with a Pen Loop
One of my favorite ways to lose a pen is to buy a planner (or journal) with a pen loop. Lodged in this harder-to-miss item, the pen is less likely to be lost. If the journal/planner is routinely carried in a larger bag, it’s even less likely to be lost. Yet all it takes is one careless lay-down-on-a-bus bench or a thoughtless day at a doctors’ office. Now you are down a journal and a pen. The upside is that journals have space to include and address and the recovery rate for missing journals is much higher than missing pens. (This is purely personal observation, but with over 50 missing pens and 2 missing journals—both of the journals (and their attached pens were returned. None of the lonesome pens ever found their way home.)
The pens best suited to this option are skinnier pens that can fit in pen loops and/or inside of a larger bag. Tombow and Retro 51 pens are quite attractive on a pen loop.
Preventable Loss: Pen Eaten by Hungry Chair Cushions
The last, and in my opinion, the best way to lose a pen. Supposing you are a regular writer and you do so in the comfort of your own home, the readiest way to lose pens is to drop one after you’ve finished writing. Maybe you knock it off the table with your elbow. Into the chair cushions, it goes! It is a little-known fact but chair cushions are incredibly ravenous. They will collect pens with impunity. Car seats, too. The trickiest part is that often you remember the pen being somewhere else, or having it at a place away from the chair cushion. Do not be fooled by such recollections and start any search for a lost pen in the vicinity of chairs. The upside of this method of losing pens is that the pen can often be recovered and lost over, and over, and over again. You can cherish the memories of frantically searching for your pen for years to come. It is truly the gift that keeps on giving.
The pens that most easily become lost in this fashion are pens that fit your comfort profile and you enjoy using on a daily or weekly basis. Any kind of pen can fit your writing style, though it is often pens under 100 dollars that are both comfortable to their user and don’t provoke ‘Never Take it Out of the Box’ behavior.