2015 DC Pen Show Report – Saturday and Sunday
Saturday is the busiest day of the show, by a pretty wide margin. To get into the show on Thursday or Friday, you’re supposed to buy a “trader” pass, which will get you into the show for all four days, and costs $45. To get in on either Saturday or Sunday, you can buy a public pass, which is only $7. I had my trader pass from the day before, but my dad needed to pick up his public pass for Saturday. The line management wasn’t great, and by 8:45, the line for passes (which went on sale at 9AM) wound across the lobby and back into the bar. Despite the fact that the line wasn’t well-managed, it moved very quickly, and by 9:15 dad was into the show.
A few weeks before the show, I had asked my father if he would be interested in taking an Italics calligraphy class with me. The class ran from 10AM to 3PM, with a one-hour break in the middle for lunch. I have always wanted to learn calligraphy, so we signed up. After a quick walkthrough of the show floor, we headed off to class.
The class met in one of the smaller conference rooms and was taught by Tamera Stoneburner (AKA “Red.”) Red is a professional calligrapher who has worked (and occasionally still does work) for the White House, and now does work for the government that she “is not at liberty to discuss,” but that involves authenticating handwritten documents. She has a great sense of deadpan humor, and clearly knows her stuff. I enjoyed the class immensely (despite a scheduling snafu regarding the length of time the class was scheduled to run.) I could have used another hour or two with her one-on-one to really lock down some of the concepts, but I’ve been continuing to practice, and find that I really enjoy Italics. I would like to find a local teacher to help me continue, because this is a skill at which I’d like to get much better.
During the lunch break, Dad and I ran over to Noodles & Company for lunch, then back to the show. Dad went to look at a couple of things at the Franklin-Christoph table, and I happened across Andy Lambrou’s table again. This time, I noticed that he had put out a whole bunch of pens that weren’t on the table the day before, and one of them was the exact pen I had been lusting over since I had first seen it: the green LB5.
Unfortunately, I only had about three minutes until I had to be back for the second half of my Italics class, and I was having a hard time deciding whether I was willing to spend $1200 for a single fountain pen. If I purchased it, it would be the most expensive pen (by far) I’d ever purchased. It was the only green one (Midorigi) available out of a very small numbered production lot of 50. I figured I would go to class, think about it, and if the pen was still there when I got out of class at 3PM, then I would decide whether or not to buy it. Without my asking, Andy volunteered to hold the pen for me until 3PM, which was very nice of him.
We finished the class, and afterwards, I ran into a Pen Pal friend of mine, Ken. We chatted for a few minutes in the hallway (as he was on his way out of the show.) Then I hustled back to Andy’s table…and my pen was gone. When he said 3PM, he meant 3PM. In this, I can’t blame him. On the busiest day of the show, retailers can’t put their stock “behind the counter” in the hopes that you’ll come back. It was a reminder of the mantra I’ve seen over and over again in show write-ups. If you see a pen you want, DON’T HESITATE TO BUY IT OR IT WILL PROBABLY BE GONE WHEN YOU COME BACK! I was a bit disappointed, but I figured it was a sign that $1200 was too much money for a single pen, and this was the universe’s way of telling me.
Then Andy informed me that Jim, his creative director (?) and owner of penhero.com, happened to have a green LB5 that he could sell me at the show, then ship to me when he got home on Monday. So, I paid for the pen (*cough*debit card*cough*) and walked away with a bit more bounce in my step.
While at Andy’s booth, I ran into Mike Shue, who had sent me his very rare Merlin Triumph to review. I had brought it to the show to give back to him in person. (It’s a neat pen, and the review will be coming up in Season 3.) Throughout the rest of the afternoon, I continued running into viewers and pen friends I hadn’t met in person before. It was quite lovely.
For the remainder of the afternoon dad and I wandered around, mostly separately. I bought myself some yummy chocolates from Brandon of ModernChocolatier.com who was sharing a table at the show. I picked up a Rhodia notepad from a vendor for my writing samples on my video reviews. I visited a bit at the Andersen’s table, and chatted with Brian and Andrea Gray at the Edison table for a while. I ran into the Goulets again on the show floor, and dad cornered Brian for a bit to chat, while Rachel and I stood in the background and commented on the show.
One of the things we talked about was the changing demographic of the show attendees. Rachel mentioned to me that this year’s crowd seemed like one of the younger crowds they have seen at the show, which both of us considered to be a wonderful sign. This having been my first pen show, I have nothing else to compare it to, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how many younger folks were at the show. Beside the regular blogger contingent I kept running into and chatting with, I ran into a lot of people who, just like me, were attending the show for the first time and starting to learn what this whole hobby was about. It was great fun.
It is interesting attending a show like DC as someone who is relatively “well-known” in the community. Because I do videos rather than written blog posts, people are able to recognize me as I was out and about on the floor. It was very cool to get stopped by people who watch my videos. Every now and again someone would do a bit of a double-take and then smile, introduce themselves, and say how much they enjoyed my videos. Getting to meet the community was a blast, especially as this was my first trip out of my little home studio/hidey-hole. As much fun as it was for me to meet viewers, it was monumentally so much more fun to watch people light up when they met Brian and Rachel Goulet. “OH MY GOSH! IT’S YOU!” was, I think, my favorite reaction that I happened to catch. I love the people in this community. They’re so wonderful.
By the end of the day Saturday, you could feel the energy at the show start to dissipate just a little bit. Mike Masuyama stayed grinding nibs until they kicked him out of the ballroom so they could lock it up for the night. Folks started dispersing. Dad and I went to the nearby Indian restaurant and had a nice, sit-down meal (despite the deafening mix of Indian party music and American pop being blasted for a child’s birthday party that was going on in the neighboring room.) The FPGeeks forum, of which I am a regular reader and an on which I am an occasional commenter, had a gathering in the bar that night, and I was excited to meet a bunch more of the folks with whom I had interacted online but never in person. The Goulets, Brad Dowdy, and I chatted about video production and any tips or tricks for how to cut down the time to do these videos (so far, no life-altering ideas on that front…), and at last, I headed back to the room, exhausted.
Sunday dawned, and I was starting to feel it. I am not as young (or thin) as I used to be in my dancer days, and my body was starting to protest standing around on my feet and walking all day. On the plus side, though, when I got home on Monday I discovered I had lost five pounds! (Pen Shows: Best Diet Ever.) Dad and I had a leisurely breakfast at the hotel breakfast buffet, then meandered through the show for a few more hours. The mood of the show definitely changes on Sunday. It becomes far more mellow and relaxed. Sunday is also the day to snap up some good deals. Most exhibitors want to take as little home with them as possible, so they’ll often give you a slightly better deal on Sunday than earlier in the week.
I still had a couple of things I wanted to do/buy. I still had some money to burn since, as a result of putting Saturday’s Classic Pens LB5 on my debit card, I had cash left in my wallet just begging to be spent. First stop was the Wahl-Eversharp table, where I put in a pre-order for the new Deco Band with the #8 Superflex nib. I was so impressed with the pen when I had played around with it on Friday that I knew I had to get my hands on one to review (and use!)
After that, I had a Sophie’s choice to make. There were two OMAS Paragons that I wanted. I couldn’t afford both of them, so I had to decide between the Green Arco version that I had found on Friday (and which had survived the entire show without being sold) or one of the new 90th Anniversary Paragons in the Burlwood Celluloid. In the end, I decided on the Green Arco version since it hadn’t been made for quite a while, and decided that the other Paragon would be my Christmas present to myself later on down the line (assuming I can still find one anywhere.)
I had to pick up some ink from the lovely women at the Bung Box table who had flown all the way to Washington DC with the last remaining stock of their Sailor Bung Box inks in those spectacular vase bottles that had been discontinued. I knew I wanted to get at least a couple of inks in those bottles before they were gone forever, but they were out of the colors I wanted (Tears of a Clown, Sapphire, and 4B) so I instead picked up Imperial Purple (and I am so glad I got this ink…review will be forthcoming in Season 3) and Kabayaki Eel.
Before my final purchase of the show, I got a phone call from Mrs. Masuyama informing me that I was up next to have my nib work done. I ran back to the room and picked up my two trouble pens, and then headed back up to the floor. When it was finally time to sit down with the master himself, I handed over my Sailor Pro Gear. This poor pen had been a loaner given to me by a longtime Pen Habit viewer for review purposes. When I was cleaning it out, I accidentally dropped it, nib first on the floor. And considering it was a brand new pen purchased from nibs.com (which meant it had been tuned prior to going out the door), I felt that I had no real choice but to replace it. (That experience is one of the reasons I remain extremely hesitant to borrow people’s pens for reviews. I’ll do it occasionally, but only with people I trust and pens I know I can get replacement nibs for if something goes wrong.)
After having bought the replacement, I was stuck with a damaged pen. A sane person would normally decide it best to send the damaged pen to a competent professional for full repair. I, being a few electroshock treatements shy of sane, decided I would use this as a learning experience in repairing and grinding nibs. So I did my best to straighten the tines and then decided to grind the nib from a zoom nib (which I don’t care for) down to a medium round nib. I did a passable job, and the nib wrote pretty well, but it wasn’t what one might consider great. Or even good.
Mr Masuyama looked at my first pen, and said in his quiet voice, “I can fix this.” Then he looked at me over the bridge of his non-existant glasses, and with a hint of a smile flickering the corner of his mouth said, “It’s not as easy as it looks, is it?” I hung my head in only partially mock shame and said, “No sir, it isn’t.” He repaired the tines, and ground it down to one of the most stunning cursive italics I have ever used in my life. It’s one of my favorite nibs now. I bow down to the master.
He also did some great work on my OMAS Ogiva Alba. The nib slit on this pen was wide enough to drive a golf cart through, and put down ink like a paintbrush–and that was without flexing the nib at all. It was all but unusable. So, he fixed the ink flow issue and smoothed the nib out to perfection. The grand total for working on both pens was only $70. It was, without question, the best money I spent at the show.
Then, at last, it was time for my final purchase: an Edison Menlo in a lovely blurple swirl acrylic that I think is called Electric Blue Swirl.
The whole show, I had been hemming and hawing between this pen and a very lovely purple Collier I had my eyes on. (I don’t have many purple pens, and purple is one of my two favorite colors.) In the end, though, I went with the Menlo. I already have a Collier, and while I love it, I wanted to try the Menlo. I love the pump filler. And there’s something about the Menlo that just really speaks to me. I’ll talk about this more in the review I will do in Season 3, but the Menlo is, to me, one of the most perfectly proportioned pens I’ve ever used.
And with that, I had cleared my wallet of all but about $50. Dad and I sat in the bar and drank Diet Cokes for an hour and just talked over our acquisitions. (He had purchased a nice Laban pen, some Rhoda paper, and a lovely Franklin-Christoph Model 02 in Orange). Plus I had given him my Conklin Duragraph, since I almost never use it.
After a nice, quiet dinner at the hotel restaurant, we retired to our room to pack and prepare to head home. Dad had an early morning train ride to his job site in Philly, and I had a bit more sightseeing to do before a cross-country flight back to Seattle.
Coming up: The trip home and my final thoughts.