Hot on the heels of my visit to the Knitting and Stitching Show came the London Pen Show. This was my first time attending the event and even watching the excellent videos that Penultimate Dave produces after each show didn’t quite prepare me for it.
The location was perfect, with the Novotel Hammersmith being an easy bus journey from my hotel at Brentford. The pen show was housed in a single large conference area on the ground floor. The only criticism would be the quite startling length of time it took to order a simple cup of coffee at the bar, even worse if you wanted food. It wasn’t wasted time, though, as it gave an opportunity to bond with fellow pen enthusiasts. As well as chatting with new people in the queue, I met Rupertarzeian from The Fountain Pen Blog a few times going round the show. It was good to meet both him and his wife in real life after following his blog for a while.
There seemed to be a very good mix of vintage/pre-loved/2nd hand pens as well as new offerings from both the budget end of the market and the premium (or, as I like to put it, astronomic) ranges. You can pay very serious money indeed for some of these fountain pens, but the great thing is that you don’t have to. This is a hobby you can tailor so suit your pocket. I was helped by having a very healthy understanding of the prices which I’m comfortable to pay. It was good to look at the high-end pens and know that I wasn’t even vaguely interested in buying.
I’ll write about my purchases across a few posts. Today’s example is the duplicate of a pen I owned in the late 1970s through the 1980s but lost/broke or otherwise disposed of at some point. The pen in question is the Sheaffer Imperial and I purchased this one from Gordon Brown Pens. This table was manned by Gordon and other family members who explained that he was selling off his vast collection as the family would not be in a position to curate it in future. The table was a gold mine of vintage pens, and Gordon had stories to accompany many of them. Now, I’m a sucker for a pen with a story behind it, so I was completely sold. I spent some time drooling over a silver-coloured Lady Sheaffer before turning my attention to the Imperial. I knew this had to come home with me as it was the same brushed chrome finish as my old pen.
I paid £75 for this pen which I felt at the time, and still do feel, was a fair price. The good news is when I got home and inked it up it worked absolutely perfectly. The slightly worse news is that I made a rookie mistake and purchased a pen with a very broad nib – not my preference at all. I was a little disappointed with myself, but even so felt that there were enough options open to me to make this a good purchase: having the nib ground to a finer point, keeping the nib as it is and using it as a dedicated pen to swatch inks, or using it at times which call for writing with a large, bold hand. The more I look at it, the more I wonder if this could be a good pen to journal with if I explored an unlined book which would allow more room for larger handwriting.
The looks of the pen are really what has always sold me on this model. It is classically elegant from the outside, and that short clip Sheaffer used lends it a slightly quirky air. The magic happens, though, when you uncap it and reveal the stunning inlaid nib. I’m pretty sure my original version had a steel nib, but this one came with a 14 karat gold nib. This lays the ink down in a quite spectacular way. The Imperial is a cartridge/converter pen and will take modern Sheaffer cartridges. The included converter comprises a rubber sac housed in a metal sheath with a metal bar which you compress to fill the pen. This is similar to the type of filling system used in the Parker 51 pens, although with those the mechanism is glued in place rather than being removable.
I’ll cover the ink here, too. I had been on the lookout for Scribo ink at the show and was happy to nab a bottle of Notturno Viola from Write Here – a lovely a dusky purple ink. This ink comes in a chunky 90ml bottle with a thick glass base – surely a nightmare to post, but a great one to look for in person. I’m sure this bottle will last me the rest of my life. Scribo also make pens and these are pretty much the only ones for which I feel I could happily shell out serious money. Since I’m unlikely to do so, the ink will have to suffice. I have to say the broad nib of the Sheaffer pen does full justice to this fabulous colour. I’ll have to try it in a fine nibbed pen to make a serious comparison. This is the sort of colour which you could use in a work setting without it raising eyebrows, but which would provide you with more satisfaction than a boring black.
Next time I’ll cover the biggest purchase I made at the show, a pen which I’ve been coveting for many years and which is set to become a regular fixture in my 3-pen daily carry case once I decide on a good ink to use with it.