Sunday, February 1, 2015

Epic Pen Search and Discovery, Part 2: Seattle Pen Club

12/26/14 Platinum Carbon ink, Van Gogh watercolors, Stillman & Birn Beta
(This is part of a multi-post series about my ongoing search for the ultimate variable-line-width fountain pen. To read the other posts in the series, choose “Epic Pen Search” in the label cloud at right, below.) 

As certain as I was that the Mother of All Fude Nibs would be my grail, the careful shopper in me felt compelled to do more research before making the substantial investment of a custom-made Sailor. I went to the Fountain Pen Network, which I already knew was a wealth of information about all things fountain-pen-related, as long as you have the time to wade through the thousands of discussion threads in this old-school, text-based forum. After much digging, I came upon a thread that included links to numerous informative videos (and some less informative, unless you understand Japanese).

Despite trying to stay on the path of the fude nib I was interested in, all those videos were a bit distracting, to say the least. Music nibs! Zoom nibs! Flexible Falcon nibs! And more! As I learned about them, I started wondering about the potential of all of these variable-line-width nibs for sketching. . . another light bulb moment!

But one frustration I found in doing online research was that most of the information and samples shown focus on calligraphy or ordinary writing, not drawing. For example, much of the discussion about Japanese specialty nibs is about how they are ideally designed for Asian calligraphy. Traditional western calligraphers get frustrated because the nibs aren’t suited for their needs. Since my needs are not for calligraphy at all, it was hard to tell whether these nibs would be right for me. A few artists posted samples of drawings they’d done with some nibs, which were somewhat helpful, but I wished I could see more. (Of course, Mike Daikubara, who first started me on this search, has many inspiring sketches done with the Sailor fude nib. So do Lynne Chapman, Liz Steel and Suhita Shirodkar.)

One thing became clear: If I was to learn how these specialty nibs would perform as sketching instruments, I would have to try them out myself. Short of taking a trip to Sailor’s retail shop in Tokyo (as Mike did! Imagine my envy!), what could I do?

Attend a meeting of the Seattle Pen Club, that’s what! During one of my many searches, I stumbled upon the website of this organization, “a gathering of fountain pen enthusiasts,” and e-mailed the president. He invited me to attend a meeting, saying he would alert the membership ahead of time that I was hoping to try out some variable-line nibs.

At the next meeting, to my amazed delight, the Pen Club’s members opened their huge, felt-lined leather pen cases and generously shared whatever pen I wanted to try. Many of them long-time collectors, they were also a treasure trove of information.

Aside from a serious case of pen envy, I left the meeting with three thoughts: the Sailor music nib, the Sailor zoom nib and the Pilot flexible nib! From my brief trials at the meeting, I wasn’t sure if these types of nibs could make me happier than my Sailor fude already made me, but I was eager to learn more. . . (stay tuned next week).


  1. The Pen Club was a brilliant idea! Great way to try out the pens.

  2. How nice of them! I think I encountered one of their meetings at Third Place Commons a couple years ago. What's the Pilot flex nib?

  3. I am following this with interest. At some point I am going to want to move beyond my Noodler's Creaper. Larry's review of the Pilot Falcon soft extra-fine has my attention, and I'm looking at a lot of videos and online info.

  4. I'm thrilled to read your discoveries and hope for photos ^-^

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