Tale of a Vandal Pen Collector: Edison Custom

As I examined my shrinking collection, it seemed to me an imbalance had been created among my core writing pens, leaving three Danitrios to two Edisons. And three urushi pens over two non-urushi pens. Uh… makes sense, right? A non-urushi Edison was in order.

Many of us obsess about various aspects fountain pens in the quest for the mythical perfect pen. Mostly I obsess about heft—the weight of the pen. Weight alone, however, doesn’t  define what works. How that pen balances its weight matters even more.

Pilot Justus 95

Pilot Justus 95

For example, two pens weighing the same, uncapped and inked up, the Pilot Justus 95 and the Danitrio Sho-Hakkaku (aka the short octagon), are very different experiences in my small hand. Weighing in at 20g, the Sho-Hakkaku feels great, and I can write for hours with it. The Pilot Justus 95, at the same weight and with a wonderful nib, leaves me with a hand cramp after 30 minutes. The Justus 95 carries it’s weight in a way that’s uncomfortable for me.

Danitrio Sho-Hakkuku ki-dame

Danitrio Sho-Hakkaku ki-dame

Certain Edison Pens, I know from experience, are going to be within a comfort range for my hand. Certain other models will not. The popular Pearl is too thick, the Pearlette a wee bit too short, the Mina’s pretty darn good, and the Huron is just right.

Because my pen collection is small, I’ve no desire for my pens to be all the same size and shape. And so charts are born to try to figure out which Edison might make another good candidate for a new pen:

Edison Measurements Chart

Hmmm… nothing quite what I want, ay?

Two of my favorite pens to write with for hours on end are: the Edison Huron, and (a non-Edison) the small version Danitrio Cumlaude. There’s something about the heft, the section, the girth of these two pens that I find very comfortable. These were the two pens  in mind when last year I approached Brian Gray of Edison Pen about a new fountain pen.

Edison Huron, Danitrio Cumlaude

Edison Huron, Danitrio Cumlaude

What I like about Edison Pen is the consistent quality in the pen build, and the large variety of materials and options that can make even a pen from Edison’s Signature line unique. Then, of course, there’s Mr. Gray himself.

Danger, Will Robinson!

Talking with Brian is risky because he’s really nice, extraordinarily patient,  and will even show you material, via Skype, that’s not listed on his website. After chatting with Brian, I got all psyched up about buying not one but two pens. Not Brian’s fault is it, being a amiable fellow who doesn’t pressure you at all to buy, that we are struck with a bit of pen fever, ay?

Once I calmed down, the 2nd pen was put on hold for deeper, and longer pondering.  What was it I wanted again? Oh yeah…

What I wanted was a pen shaped more like—but not exactly like—the Cumlaude. I wanted a section with as small a step as possible while making the cap fairly flush with the barrel. The Cumlaude does that trick nicely. I sent Brian a goofy drawing of a pen shape, and some blather about the Huron and the Cumlaude being similar in certain ways.

Brian’s very clear about what he will and will not do for you. You can’t just call him up and say, “Hey, make me a triangular pen out of compressed maple leaves that floats on water, broadcasts the tune ‘Beyond the Sea,’ and writes perfectly.” Brian is a busy guy, after all. And so, generally, he likes to take one of his current designs and modify it to your preference.

There were some “no’s:” “No, you can’t have a thick band of gold, like that cute little Tucky you have.” “No, you can’t have a clip made out of redwood shaped like a tea cup.” “Yes, I know that material, but you’d have to buy 500 of them in order to afford the material…” Er…well, hmmmm.

Updated 2013 Sep 16: On the other hand, you can ask him for a double-ended pen like someone we know did: A Double-Ended Pen, Why Not? Pretty cool, ay?

He’s a smart business man, IMHO. Not only does he make his Signature pens, he’s expanded into retail with his Production line of pens.

It’s All Material

You can get an Edison pen in almost any pen material. There’s a variety of nib styles and choices, in steel or gold. Clips, too. Most folks start and end their customization with those basic choices. Even that is pretty cool, IMHO.

While looking through Brian’s SmugMug gallery is a relatively easy affair, actually deciding on color and materials is more time consuming. So many, many choices!  I knew my new pen had to be in the brown-ish range of pen materials. In my world, sometimes that means gold/yellow.

Some materials I considered (photos linked from Edison Pen’s SmugMug gallery):

  • Flecked tortoise acrylic used for an Edison Nouveau LE. What a handsome pen that was/is! This material, however, clashed madly with my beloved Huron in Yellowstone acrylic. Here’s the Flecked tortoise in an Edison Beaumont:Beaumont Pneumatic Filler in Flecked Tortoise AcrylicBTW: Brian has stated the flecked tortoise acrylic was hard to come by in large quantities. He had someone make a handsome, new material for him called Aztec Gold:Beaumont Pneumatic Filler in Aztec Gold Acrylic
  • The celluloid tortoise material. Ultimately this material is more clear and less tortoise-y than I would like. Here’s a handsome Glenmont, even so: Glenmont in Tortoise Celluloid and Black Acrylic
  • Briar swirl ebonite is very nice. But I kinda don’t like ebonite. Crazy, huh? Here’s another Beaumont:Beaumont Pneumatic Filler in Briar Swirl Ebonite
  • The acrylic tortoise material. This is pretty nice looking stuff. Here’s an Edison Mina version:Extended Mina in Tortoise Acrylic

All very different materials, aren’t they? Even more different: the material I’ve wanted since I saw it posted on Leigh Reyes’s website as a Grande Huron: tortoise lucite.  Here’s a sample from Edison’s SmugMug gallery: Tortoise Lucite

Brian warned me that this material was completely transparent. You can tell that from the above sample, can’t ya? Despite my penchant against demonstrator-style pens, this material called out to be made into my pen.

Material decided. Check. It’ll be an ED. Check. Make the bore as deep as you can go! Check. Check. Clipped or clipless cap? Clipless! Check. Nib? Ah, the nib… I asked for an 18K stock EF nib, thinking if I didn’t like because it would write too wide and wet of a line, I’d send it to MikeItWork to make the nib more to my picky liking.

Brian told me the pen I was asking for would start from a Glenmont, and be whittled down by hand into what I wanted. Something like that anyway. I’m not one to try and dictate how Brian gets to where he needs to go—merely to point towards the end result I hope to see.

Now it’s a Pen

From initial conversation to the pen’s arrival was about three months. That included major holidays, and some long pondering time on my part. Once given the go-ahead, the pen was actually finished in no time at all. Here’s are the photos Brian emailed me for approval:

bgmypen2 bgmypen

It’s at this stage, you tell Brian what you want changed/adjusted/whatnot. However, these photos are so pleasing, who cares that the end isn’t rounded like in my goofy drawing? Not moi. It combines the look of both the Huron and Cumlaude. It’s a Hurlaude!

The cost? In early conversations, I asked Brian how much I should budget for a custom pen. Guess what? He told me the budget was pretty much the same as any other signature pen. And so it was, in fact. Quite a deal to get a pen made for my hand, I think.

It’s All About the Nib Our Idiosyncrasies

Hell-yeah, the pen feels great in my hand! It’s a great sized pen (5 1/4″ uncapped), only 15 grams inked up, and is what feels like a well-balanced pen. The tortoise lucite is delightful, too. Brian did a great job with the tiny step/cap thing. The cap is as flush as can be. Very nice!

Most of us pen freaks know that no matter how wonderful a pen is to hold, if the nib isn’t to one’s liking, the pen won’t get used. No disrespect meant earlier when writing my willingness to send the nib to MikeItWork to tweak it. Wrote that only because in general I prefer the finer Japanese nibs to the German JoWo nibs.

My biggest surprise, then, about the Custom pen:  the stock 18K EF nib is so much fun to write with! Even though it’s not as fine as I normally like, I love it. And so the EF has been left alone with its inner JoWo.

My Edison Custom pen holds approximately 5ml of ink in the barrel. That’s 2ml more ink than any of my other pens hold. For moi, 5ml is a whole month’s week’s worth of intensive writing on just one pen!

Watching the ink slosh about inside, slowly being written away, has been utterly enjoyable. Who knew? The custom Edison is one of the best pen decisions I’ve made.

Once filled with ink, the pen takes on a very different appearance:



Edison Custom inked up

A special pen required special ink for its first write out: Sailor Yama-dori. I had a 5ml sample of this discontinued ink that’d been waiting for such a special occasion.

Writing sample from the Custom in Sailor Yama-dori. Pens measurements are here.

Stock EF 18K nib writing sample in Sailor Yama-dori. Pen’s weight and measurements are here.

I was a little concerned at how well the pen would clean up, and if the Yama-dori would stain the barrel. After five weeks, it cleaned up effortlessly. Pretty nice, don’t you think?

All cleaned up

All cleaned up

The tortoise lucite material gets on well with the Yellowstone Huron, and even the Danitrio Cumlaude.ed2dani

Huron and Custom

Huron and Custom (converter inside)

The Hakumin Edison Mina alongside the Custom:


Edison logo—subtle

Edison logo—subtle

Friend Thomas sent me his Nakaya Naka-ai ao-tamenuri to look at. This new Nakaya morphs Nakaya’s Piccolo and Deskpen into one long pen. It’s a sweet pen, and a perfect heft in my tiny hand. Even so, I’ve a hard time looking at such a pen without wanting to ED it. ‘Tis difficult for moi to leave a pen to its inner Converter.

The Naka-ai only reminded me of my ink hoarding Custom:

Nakaya Naka-Ai, Edison Custom

Nakaya Naka-ai, Edison Custom

Custom, Naka-Ai, Hakumin Mina

Custom, Naka-ai, Hakumin Edison Mina

And so it goes. Not all writing pens need be urushi, ay? Although, hmmm….the Hurlaude would make a nice urushi pen.

New pens become the favored pen, and the Edison Custom is no exception to that rule. Left uninked once—when I was traveling and said pen was left at home. And once more when the Custom pen took it’s own vacation without me to spend time with Friend Thomas. No doubt I’m writing with my pen now as you read this post!

Rest in Pieces

A sad fate has met my little Danitrio Cumlaude. I dropped it. Twice. Once coincidentally while Skyping with Brian, trying to show him my pen. Sometime later, the pen fell flat onto the wooden floor in my office, falling into this:


*sigh* Stupid floor…

Looks clean and simple, doesn’t it? Not something easily fixed, however. Especially without changing the characteristics of what makes this pen so lovable.

The tiny Cumlaude is the only pen I have a “backup” of. Guess what? Backup-smack-up: I’ve discovered the backup Cumlaude is just not the same as this sweet little pen. And so, the pieces and the backup have been put away. Sometime, who knows when, I’ll bring them out of hiding to see if I’ve changed my mind, and can put the Cumlaude-to-spare into rotation. For now, a little long mourning period is in order.

Of course this is only a pen problem, not a real problem concerning food, shelter or democracy.

Plus, I have the custom Edison pen to ease the pain.

Some friends of Brian’s made this cool “Behind the Scenes” video, in case you haven’t seen it:

Edison Pens in Milan, Ohio, Creates Custom Pens, Big Demand, Cleveland Plain Dealer, Aug 29, 2013

This has been a unsolicited, uncompensated love post about my Edison Custom Hurlaude.