DC Pen Show – 2016 – Thursday

If you are in the fountain pen community for a while already, it’s very likely that you have heard of the DC Fountain Pen Supershow, one of the largest pen shows in the world.
The DC pen show actually doesn’t take place in the Washington, D.C.. Instead it is held in Tysons Corner, Virginia. It is not very far from the Washington D.C., and is accessible through public transportation (Washington Metro, Silver Line, Spring Hill Station).
This is my first time attending the DC pen show. Before going to the show, I had already been doing research on what I could expect to see in the show, and what suggestions were given by the people who had attended the show in the past.
I didn’t have a long list of items that I would like to purchase at the show. I did not have a huge budget either. I planned to attend the show on the Thursday and Friday. I heard that the show is usually very busy on the Saturday, so that there will be less time to interact with the exhibitors. Therefore I decided to skip the Saturday and Sunday of the show.

Thursday:

Thursday was the first day of the show. Also it is only a pre-show day. Many of the vendors did not attend this day. I went to the show in the morning. There were three main halls that held the show: a main ballroom, a smaller one, and the main lobby. Even though the two ballrooms were almost empty, the central lobby already had a decent number of vendors and a small crowd walking around. I had heard that Thursdays are usually quiet compared to the other days of the show, but I was still surprised and glad that there were a lot of things to look for already.
One of the first few vendors that I was able to recognize was Sarj, the “one man pen show”. He already had his table fully occupied with pens, a lot of pens. Pen in small sizes to very huge. Pens that can be commonly found to the ones that are very rare. Pens that fit all kinds of budget limits. I started to look for pens that are on my wish list. Unfortunately he did not have the exact pens that I was looking for. However, he had so many pens that not only I don’t have in my collection, but also I wasn’t even aware of. That was one of my first few stops in the show and I already saw so many pens that I wish I could have. However, I wanted to know what everyone had to offer, so I continued to walk the floor.
Before the DC pen show, the last pen show that I attended was the Toronto pen show. The scale of the DC pen show on the Thursday was not much smaller than the entire Toronto pen show (which is a one-day show). Meanwhile it had a heavier focus on vintage pens and pre-owned modern pens, because most of the retailers who sell brand new pens and inks were not there yet on the Thursday. Also I wasn’t able to find any nibmeister on that day. I was mainly looking for pens. Therefore I was happy to keep browsing and I could have more time chatting with several vendors at the show, since the floor was not very busy.
My top item on the wish list was the Montblanc Meisterstück 149. It’s a pen that I always want to have in my collection. But I can’t justify the full retail price, considering that I will keep the pen frequently in the rotation and carry it around, hence not necessarily try to keep it in the mint condition like my other special edition pens. I would be perfectly happy with a pre-owned Montblanc Meisterstück 149 in fairly good condition. Therefore I kept browsing the tables to see what the offerings are. Many vendors were also happy to explain the details of each pen, so that I could understand better what the price differences represented.
While walking the floor, I had a small and thin Leuchtturm1917 Jottbook with me all the time, so that I could note down the prices of the pens that I was interested in and also where I found them.
There were also a few vendors setting up tables in the two ballrooms. After I completed browsing through all the tables, it was already at noon. I went back to my hotel room to take a short break and organize my notes from the morning.
I went back to the pen show in the afternoon and browsed a few tables again. Overall, the Thursday looked very relaxed. Even though the floor was not busy and there were fewer exhibitors, it was still a good day since I was able to have more opportunities interacting with the people there and also had no rush to purchase anything. I could get a better understanding of what’s available, so that I was able to slightly adjust my wish list based on the item’s availability or price. At the end of the Thursday, I hadn’t made any purchase. But I felt prepared and knew better what I could focus on for the show on the Friday. More importantly, I had a great time meeting so many people in the pen community.

2015 Favourites – Part 2

The writing experience won’t be complete with just pens and inks. Paper plays a role as important as the other two.

Rhodia 90 gsm paper was one of the first fountain pen friendly paper products that I tried. After using the paper for a while, I started to get frustrated and feel that maybe it’s not the best for me: certain pens do not work well (skipping and hard starts) on the paper, and several inks do not look as nice as how they appear on other paper and notebooks, even the ones that are considered to be with lower quality. That’s when I started looking for more varieties of paper to try. Here is my top 5 favourite paper products:

1. Rhodia 80 gsm Dotpad

Rhodia #16 Dotpad has my go-to paper. I like its convenience and portability. The 80 gsm paper feels relatively less glossy and polished, which is friendly to nearly all of my pens and inks.

2. Tomoe River loose sheet paper

Tomoe River paper is relatively new to me. I have heard of this paper for a while already, but wasn’t interested in it, because I thought it wouldn’t be practical or useful for how I prefer to use my notebooks and notepads for daily writing. However, one day I decided to give it a try, after hearing so many times about how wonderfully it shows the sheen and has no feathering or bleed through. It is really fun to use and now I try every ink that I fill into the pen with this paper, just to see what kind of magic it has. I still don’t think that it is practical. But it’s definitely fun to use.

3. Maruman Mnemosyne notebook

I prefer the Maruman Mneymosyne notebooks for their design. This is my choice of the daily notebook, mainly for two reasons:

  • Being a wire bound notebook, it can lay flat and give enough time for the ink to dry.
  • Each page is perforated, so that when I want to quickly take some notes and remove the page, I have the option to easily do so.

4. Leuchtturm1917 notebook

The Leuchtturm1917 notebooks get a spot in the top 5 for their excellent paper quality. In comparison, the paper seems to be not as glossy as the Rhodia 80 gsm paper, and it gives more feedback. What I like about it is that many inks appear more vibrantly on this paper, such as Sailor Jentle Souten and Private Reserve DC Supershow Blue. For certain inks, there is even more sheen shown on it. Last but not least, there are so many colour options for the notebook cover! It’s always nice to have a lot of options!

5. Midori TRAVELER’s Notebook insert 001

I always carry my Midori TRAVELER’s Notebook with me. I use it for any type of writing from to-do lists to short articles. The insert 001 (lined) works well exactly for that. However, while it certainly has a big advantage, which is the convenience, it isn’t my favourite paper type, for a similar reason like the Rhodia 90 gsm paper. It can be too glossy for the pens sometimes, which is not only causing skipping or hard start issues, but also taking certain inks a lot of time to dry.

Other than the lists of pens, inks, and paper, I have another one that I think is interesting to talk about. And that is accessories. For this list, I consider anything that is related to this hobby but not being pens, inks, or paper as accessory. There are ones that I find particular useful or fun to have. And here are the top 5:

1. Bulb syringe

This is one of the best tools for fountain pens in my experience. It is so useful for cleaning cartridge converter pens. Its efficiency and effectiveness guarantee it a solid place in the top 5.

2. Fountain pen cleaning solution

I had several pens that had flow or skipping issues. I wasn’t sure if the cleaning solution could offer much help. It didn’t take long for me to absolutely believe in it. The pens’ performances got much better. It is also useful to clean the pen with it occasionally just as a regular maintenance. I am often surprised by how much ink is still trapped in the pen.

3. Visconti Dreamtouch Leather 6 Pen Holder

Among all the pen pouches that I have used, this Visconti 6 pen pouch outshines everything else. I usually carry 3 to 6 pens and this pen case offers more than sufficient. The slot reserved for each pen is spacious enough to handle any pen in my collection, even the Delta Dolcevita Oversize. It features the full protection to pens and the build quality is excellent. Small details such as using the non-metal zipper and full-length divider certainly help ensure that the pen pouch itself will not cause any damage to the pens inside.

4. Silicone grease

I do not eyedropper any of my pens, but the silicone grease still comes handy greasing my piston-fill Pelikan pens and some other converters that can be disassembled. One quick maintenance can ensure that the piston mechanism works smoothly for a long time.

5. LEGO bricks

Why do LEGO bricks appear on the list for the top 5 favourite fountain pen accessories? Building LEGO is another big hobby of mine. While having many LEGO bricks around, it’s fun to combine the two hobbies together. I started to use LEGO bricks to build pen holders and individual pen stands. It is extremely useful to store the pens being used frequently and glass dip pens. For the one that I am currently using, even a base plate is added to hold ink bottles. With the LEGO bricks, the possibilities are endless and it’s always been a great pleasure to design and build something purely based on my preferences and further improve it along the way.

Here are my favourites for 2015. What are your favourite pens, inks, paper, and accessories?

Thank you for reading!