A few weeks ago I moved from San Francisco to Denver. While this can explain my lack of recent posts, it also gave me a good opportunity for a new post! How do you move an entire collection of fountain pens and ink across the country? Having done it a few times, I’ve learned a few things and will share my experiences with you here today.
Moving With Fountain Pens
Moving is a stressful and hectic experience. Whether you do all of the packing, loading and moving yourself or hire movers to do it all for you, having something get broken, or worse yet, lost, is almost unavoidable. The more precautions you can take to make sure your pens arrive unharmed, the better.
For most people, fountain pens are probably some of the highest weight to value items you own. While a pen might only weigh a few ounces, it might be worth hundreds of dollars. This means that, depending on your collection, one small pen case that’s full of pens might be worth thousands of dollars. This is not something that you want to simply pack into a box and send off with the movers. So how can you minimize the risk of loss or damage to your pens?
For each of my moves I have put all of my pens into zippered pen cases. These cases do a few important things. First, the elastic straps in the cases securely hold my pens and prevent them from rubbing against each other. Second, the padded covers offer some protection against crushing or bending. Third, they are a very efficient and portable way to transport larger numbers of pens. Probably the most important feature of these pen cases is that they are small enough to put into a backpack or bag, meaning no matter if you’re traveling by automobile or airplane, your pens never have to leave your side.
Speaking of pens never leaving your side, I would highly encourage you to keep them with you at all times. If you fly, do not put your pens into a checked bag. Not only do checked bags sometimes experience rough treatment, but they can also get lost! By keeping your pens in your carry on, you know that they are always safe. If you drive, keep your pens in a bag that you can bring inside whenever you stop. Not only is a bag sitting in a car an easy target for thieves, but a hot or cold car is never a good place for fountain pens.
Prepping Your Pens For Travel
When traveling with pens that have ink in them, you might want to clean them out before your journey so that none of them leak. If you are driving for your move, you shouldn’t have much to worry about. Filled pens should be fine to drive with, as long as they don’t experience any drastic pressure or temperature changes. Flying is a different story. Due to the pressure changes experienced during a flight, some pens might leak and create a mess. While I have flown before with pens and not had any leak, to be safe you should empty and clean any pens that you are going to put into a pen case before your move. This also helps to prevent them from drying out if you end up spending a lot of time unpacking and don’t get to use your pens for a while after the move.
Moving With Fountain Pen Ink
While transporting pens is fairly easy regardless of how you travel, ink is a different story. Although ink is not nearly as valuable as fountain pens, it is a liquid, so the chances of it spilling and damaging other things that you own are high. Fortunately, a little preparation can go a long way towards preventing (or at least minimizing) any type of inky disaster during your move.
One of the first things you should do is make sure all of the lids are tightly screwed onto the bottles. Next, put your bottles into the original boxes if you still have them. Not only will this offer some protection against broken bottles, but will also help to contain and absorb any ink that might leak.
The next, and possibly most important step, is to find a box that will not only protect your ink, but also help to contain any ink that might leak. I used a large plastic tote that I felt offered more protection than a cardboard box, with the added bonus that if any ink spilled it would not soak through the sides and damage anything that was touching it. I also packed a bunch of paper into the top, both to keep the bottles from moving around and also to help soak up any ink that might have spilled. If you want to use a cardboard box, be sure to choose one that has thick walls and, as an added precaution, you might consider wrapping your ink inside of a plastic trash bag. An even safer method would be to put the box in which you packed your ink into another box for double the protection.
Since ink is a liquid, you won’t be able to take it on an airplane with you, which means that, unless you’re moving yourself, you’ll have to send it with your movers. If you’re driving yourself, it shouldn’t be a problem to make sure it gets transported safely. If you send your ink with movers, learn from my mistakes and make sure that they pack your ink box flat. My movers put my box of ink sideways into another box. Fortunately, only one bottle leaked and the paper that I packed in the top of the box absorbed everything, so nothing else was damaged.
It should go without saying that the more precautions you take when packing your pens and ink, the more likely they are to arrive safely at their new home. Once you know that you’ll be moving, make sure you give yourself enough time to purchase any pen-related items you need for the move. While some of the above steps might seem like common sense (like making sure the caps are tight on your ink bottles), getting an entire house ready to move is an overwhelming task and it can be easy to overlook even the most obvious items. So the next time you move, I would suggest you take a few minutes to sit down with a pen and paper and make a list of things you need to do to get your pens and inks prepared for their journey.
Hi, my name is John. I’m a Colorado-born professional photographer who recently moved back to Denver after spending 3 years in San Francisco. I’ve been using and collecting fountain pens for over 20 years. I got my first one in college when I got bored taking notes with ballpoints and pencils. Since then I’ve bought and sold hundreds of pens, but have consistency in my love of Esterbrooks.