I got my first fountain pen in 2015 and since then I’ve had approximately 1, 762 people tell me I need to attend a pen show. Since I have three little kids and have been in school for the last 5 years it’s been almost impossible for me to make it to one. I finally finished school in July so I promised myself I would get to the San Francisco Pen Show in August. Since this was my first pen show and my view may be a bit different than most I decided to do a bit of a re-cap.
Let’s talk about vendors first-there were a lot of them, but a few stuck out to me. Unfortunately I missed getting photos of Bungubox, Dromgoole’s, Edison Pen Co, Yafa, Luxury Brands and more.
The very first vendor I saw when I got into the show was Curnow Bookbinders. They make custom notebooks they mainly sell through Facebook and Vanness Pens. I’ve been looking into their custom notebooks for a while but never actually purchased anything. They recently started making notebooks with a new paper that’s supposed to be very fountain pen friendly so I purchased a set of 3 small notebooks to try the paper, and if I like it I’ll purchase a custom A5 journal through their Facebook page.
She had vintage Esterbrooks in a ton of colors and even a vintage testing station where you could try out a bunch of different nibs. I was surprised by how small most of the pens were.
Mark had a ton of fun stickers he’d made for the show-I picked four to play with. I love that he gave the pens personality-I wish I had grabbed one of the mad ink bottle too.
There were these fun pen sleeves in bright colors. I appreciated that he brought a variety to choose from. I ended up choosing a 6-pen wrap with art done by @pensivecandy on Instagram. It’s the perfect color palette for me-teals, purples and blues.
Brad Dowdy is one of my pen heroes, one I’ve always wanted to meet in person. I am the queen of social awkward, but he gave me a big hug and let me ask him a bunch of questions about his pen cases. I walked away with a Nock Seed A5 in a gorgeous teal color.
He also had some new Nock cases debuting at the show. I love the pink and green watermelon combo.
Franklin-Christoph is one of my favorite pen companies. I’m always jealous of those who get to see the prototype pens at the shows so I decided to stake out their table before they opened for the day to make sure I got one. But let me tell you, it is BUSY. There are a ton of people who want to see everything so I ended up leaving and coming back. I was still able to find a pen I loved-this olive diamondcast 46. It’s my one pen show pen for this year. I’m pretty anti-glitter in my life but diamondcast materials just look amazing.
One great thing about the F-C table is that they have a nib testing station where you can try out all of their stock nibs before you decide which you want. I ended up going with a broad nib on my pen and Audrey and Scott both worked on my nib for me.
I enjoy Mike @Inkdependence’s YouTube channel so it was nice to meet him in person.
Here’s @allthehobbies-she and I have corresponded before, so it was great to meet her. You have to be careful though-she’ll help you spend all your money on F-C pens!
I bought a F-C Penvelope 6 a few years ago and I use it daily. Of course I don’t just carry six in it-I usually stuff about 16 pens in it, but it has held up beautifully so I had to remind myself I didn’t need another one (even if that Suit Dark Blue one looks AMAZING!)
Galen Leather was present but selling via Vanness Pens. Their table showed off some new items including this new Writers Medic Bag they’ve been working on. I talked myself out of buying the washi tape dispenser but now I’m wishing I had bought it.
These pen barrels by Additive pens look like so much fun and one day I’ll cave and try one out. I love how creative they are.
I ran into Claudia from BauerInks and of course had to take a look at all of her Robert Oster swabs. I’m a huge fan of RO inks and had to see if she had any new ones…
…and of course she did. Astorquiza Olive is a new BauerInks exclusive and as soon as I saw this illustration Claudia’s daughter did I knew I had to give it a try-so look for a review of that in the near future.
I love Musubi’s social mission. They do a great job of helping minorities and providing jobs to the disadvantaged. They were sold out of the notebook I wanted by the time I got to their table, but I look forward to purchasing from them in the future. I think the cream little owl fabric is my favorite.
Ink Testing Stations
One of my favorite parts of the pen show was playing at the ink testing station. There were multiple tables set up around the show where you could try a ton of different inks. I especially enjoyed being able to try some vintage and hard-to-find inks.
Kanilea uses some of the most beautiful materials. I’ve been lusting after the Haleakala pen for quite a while, and someday I will get one.
They had some extra lighting above their table so it was easy to see some of the iridescence in the materials.
This is their newest pen-Aolani. It’s a purple swirly pattern.
Dan Smith is an amazing nibmeister. For this show I wanted to have one of my pens worked on and see how the process went. I have this Platinum 3776 Nice Pur that I bought used. It had an architect grind which I was excited about, but it had a very high sweet spot and I use a lower writing angle, so it never felt quite right to me-too scratchy when I held it comfortably. I finally decided I either needed to get it adjusted so I liked it or sell it. Cue the nibmeister! I showed up for my appointment with my clean pen. I told him what the problem was and demonstrated how I hold my pens. He looked at it for about three seconds and felt how it worked on paper and then took it straight to the grinder. This is where the trust comes in-it can be nerve wracking to see someone take a grinder to your pen, but trust me here, it’s worth it. After grinding it for a second he tested it out, went back to the grinder and tested it again. Then he smoothed it, flossed the tines and filled it up with ink for me to try. I asked that he make the flow a bit wetter which he quickly did and handed it back. I tried it again and it was perfect. The whole process took about three minutes, but it’s something I didn’t know how to do on my own and a lot of experience went into those three minutes. Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Pen Show Haul:
So what did I end up getting?
Franklin-Christoph 46 Olive Diamondcast, broad nib
Nock Seed A5 in the Ooh La La color way
Yamamoto Paper Fountain Pen Friendly Paper Collection-This pad contains 5 sheets of 18 different papers to try
Logical Prime A5-B Notebook
Rickshaw 6-pen roll with art by @pensivecandy
Fun stickers from Rickshaw
Backpocket Journals from Curnow
Cal-o-ring and Col-o-ring oversize from the Well-Appointed Desk
Monteverde’s new ink collection Sweet Life which includes:
Blue Velvet Cake
Key Lime Pie
Private Reserve Fall Sampler Set:
Robert Oster Astorquiza Olive (BauerInk exclusive)
Monteverde DC Supershow Teal (Yafa)
Monteverde Malibu Blue (this ink was free with the welcome tote bag)
KWZ Honey (Dromgoole’s)
Papier Plume Marina Green
Monteverde Ocean Noir (Yafa)
Blackstone Lemur Lime (Lemur Ink)
Monteverde Smoke Noir (Yafa)
KWZ Sheen Machine (Vanness Pens)
Robert Oster Carolina Blue (Carolina Pen Co)
I try to mix both pro’s and con’s in my posts. As much as I loved the pen show, I did have a few issues. Some of the vendors did not have great customer service. Some of the vendor helpers clearly did not want to be there and it showed in their interactions. After running a salon for years and handing a lot of customer service, it’s something I pay attention to. 95% of vendors were amazing, but there always seem to be a few issues in any crowd.
There weren’t a lot of options for food nearby the show. There was the restaurant attached to the hotel and a little market in the hotel as well, but it was open very limited hours. Outside the hotel there weren’t any close food options, so we mostly ate at the hotel, which was expensive.
It’s so easy to spend a lot of money on pens. I used a cash budget which worked really well. If I had used a debit or credit card I know I would have gone over budget.
Events with lots of people are not the easiest for me-I’m a true introvert and struggle when meeting someone new. I knew that there would be “pen show after dark” meetups at the bar in the evenings and there were-people congregated in small groups all over the bar area. I was often in the bar in the evening but found that since I didn’t know anyone personally in the small groups it was hard for me to try to involve myself. I think it would be best to attend a show with a pen buddy-someone who is in the hobby and can help you join in some of the groups and meet more people without feeling too awkward.
I was able to attend the live recording of The Pen Addict podcast on Friday which was great. I loved putting faces to the voices I hear every week. They interviewed the owners of the Kanilea Pen Co and it was interesting to learn more about the company.
Many attendees were very friendly. There are lots of people in the room-it gets hot. I went and sat in the little lobby outside the main room to take a break for a few minutes and ended up talking with a fellow pen lover-we discussed pens and he let me try his Nakaya. Seriously-pen people are the best people.
I often attend the Seattle-ish Pen Posse and I was surprised to find that seven of my pen friends from Seattle also made it to the show. We were able to have a mini Seattle meetup at the bar. I love seeing so many products in person. There have been many times I’ve held off from making a purchase because I want to see it in person first, and a pen show is a great way to do that.
Overall, I had a great time at the show. I would absolutely go again, but next time I would like to attend with a fellow pen addict.