Taking Stock

As I take inventory there are now 24 fountain pens in my collection. That’s four more than I’ve committed to collecting. My pen storage boxes were built to hold no more than 20 pens. Accumulating pens happens far too easily. New pen discoveries lead to other pens to explore.

When I began exploring fountain pens my greatest interest was how much ink a pen could hold and what pens seemed to have the least waste associated with them. Thus piston filling pens became a prime focus because they potentially held a good amount of ink and didn’t use plastic ink cartridges, but filled directly from a bottle of ink. Of course, the size and weight of the pen mattered much and still matters. A pen must fit comfortably for long hours of writing by hand.

There’s a more difficult element in pens I find difficult to quantify. It is the feeling a pen evokes when writing with it. Sometimes I don’t notice the feeling, and the pen is just a wonderful utilitarian tool. Other times, a pen evokes a wonderful feeling that seems to aid in creative and inspired thought.

My Wahl Signature Pen is one such pen. When I’m writing with it the pen seems to carry on a welcome conversation with me and the page. The Skyline Demi is another, as is a 1950’s Pelikan 400, the modern Bexley Submariner, the Conklin Crescent, the Edison Huron, and the vintage Visconti Ragtimes.

The Aurora Optima Mini, however, serves a great utilitarian purpose, as does the vintage Kaweco Sport. Both pens are small enough to carry on me when, for example, I’m at the theatre and need to take a quick note. Such purposeful pens do not need to make my hand sing when writing. They merely need to write when called upon, and when waiting they need not leak inside my pocket.

It is this emotional element I wonder about when I take stock of the number of pens and think about which four must find new homes. Under consideration are two Pelikans, a modern M200 amber demonstrator and a 1950’s 400 brown tortoise, an Omas 630 demonstrator, a Stipula 22, the Conklin 25p, an Eversharp Skyline, and a Visconti Pontevecchio. All of these are fine pens that I love, yet may love just a little less than others. Some of them have flex nibs, and I’m not so sure I’m a “flexy” kind of writer. Maybe I only need one flex pen to have on hand. I have three Pontevecchios, and do I really need all three? The Stipula holds a lot of ink but how much do I use it?

Sometimes I think I should treat getting rid of pens like taking off a bandage: Don’t think about it. Just move fast and be done. I have done this. Quickly getting rid of pens in order to acquire others.

Then I think I should make sure I know them all better before making a decision. Take six months and make sure each pen is rotated into use.

Of course how many pens I keep is not a problem or much interest, I’m sure, to anyone. It’s entertaining to me and a way to relax my mind off the real troubles in the world. It’s about keeping a personal commitment about accumulating “things.” It’s about being in the present moment with what I have and paying attention to the real work of my life.

And so I’m not sure which ones will go. I do know no more pens can come into the stable, and there are four to cut by the Spring.

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