For the majority of my fountain-pen-using days, I have only ever bought pens from major manufacturers. I tend to prefer smaller pens with solid, simple colors and it’s always seemed like most handmade pens are quite large and colorful. It wasn’t until The Colorado Pen Show in 2018 when I purchased my first handmade pen, and since then I’ve picked up a few more! In this post I want to take a look at the different handmade pens that I’ve acquired and give my thoughts on each one.
I want to mention, before I get into the details of my pens, that handmade pens vary greatly depending on which creator you get them from. There are as many different sizes, styles, and colors as there are creators. I had to look around quite a bit to find pens that appealed to me. While I prefer pens without all of the colors and sparkles, don’t think that these pen makers only make black pens. It’s quite the opposite, actually. Even if the pens I’ve chosen don’t appeal to you, I highly encourage you to check out what else these pen makers have to offer.
The Desiderata Pen Company features pens made by Pierre. I had the pleasure of first meeting him after Stacy Hills introduced us at the 2019 Los Angeles Pen Show. I instantly fell in love with his BAMF. It pushes all of the right buttons for me. It’s black, has clean lines, is ebonite, has just a splash of color hiding beneath the cap, isn’t oversized, and is well made. At the pen show, all of the pens he had for sale had Zebra G flexible nibs in them. I’d already spent my budget at that pen show, so I didn’t end up buying one from him at that time. A year later when I decided to order mine from his site, instead of the Zebra G I went with a more standard JoWo nib.
The pen itself is relatively thin, which I really like. It’s similar in shape and size to a Parker ’51, just a bit longer. For a modern comparison, I’d say the barrel is similar to the size of a Lamy Safari. The black ebonite has a great texture and is not polished to a smooth, shiny finish like most pens. Once you remove the cap, you’ll find a polished grip of red ebonite. I really like this splash of color and the contrast it adds to the pen. You’ll find the same when you remove the blind cap to fill the pen, although I think this may have been changed on newer models.
The BAMF comes with a #6 nib.
I first met James with Bonecrusher Studios at a Denver pen meetup. He lives Colorado and regularly brings his new creations for everyone to take a look at. I didn’t have a lot of experience with handmade pens when I first saw his work, but have since come to appreciate it. Not only does he use some fantastic materials, but his craftsmanship is up there with the best.
In 2021 the Colorado Pen Show was scheduled to take place in October, but got canceled on short notice. Some of the local vendors who were going to participate decided to hold a smaller version of the pen show so that we could still meet up and get our pen fix. I had a table right next to James and spent most of the day looking at his pens. While many were of the colorful and sparkly variety, one really caught my eye. It was made of black ebonite and had grey ghost ripples. I immediately knew this was going to be my pen.
I like this pen because it is simple yet subtly beautiful. I had never seen rippled black ebonite before and just love the way it looks. It also feels great to hold. If you’ve never had the pleasure of using an ebonite pen before, I encourage you to give it a try if you get the chance. Ebonite (sometimes referred to as hard rubber) has a warm feel that you just don’t get from a resin pen. While it may not have the same depth or color, I find an ebonite pen to be just as beautiful as a pen made of resin.
The Velma comes with a #6 nib.
This was the first handmade pen I ever purchased. I was at the 2018 Colorado Pen Show and came across the Hinze Pens table. This may have been during the height of my black-pen phase and when I saw that they had a black pen, I grabbed it. Jim was kind enough to swap out the gold clip for a silver one right there at the table, which sealed the deal.
This is easily the largest pen that I own. It’s larger than the Bonecrusher, it’s even larger than a Montblanc 149. It doesn’t fit in some pen cases. While I’m not usually a fan of oversized pens, this one has a special place in my collection as the first handmade pen I ever bought. It’s also just a great pen! I love taking it apart and admiring the fine craftsmanship that is evident in the well-defined threads and how well the pieces fit together.
The Americana comes with a #6 nib.
One thing I do want to mention is that this pen has always had a strong hard rubber smell. In the past year or so it has gotten much stronger and I started to notice the material is deteriorating. This doesn’t reflect on the craftsmanship of Hinze, but on this particular material. I’m sure it was just a bad batch of stock. Still, I thought it was worth pointing out, as this is one of the potential dangers of hard rubber pens.
For the majority of fountain pen users, pens that are made by major manufacturers are the only ones they’ve had any experience with. This was certainly the case with me up until a few years ago. My first handmade pen, and all of those I’ve purchased since, really opened my eyes to what level of skill pen creators have. The high quality of these pens is very apparent and they certainly meet or exceed the quality of pens made by major manufacturers. Not only are handmade pens available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors, but each one is also a unique creation, made by the hand of a skilled artisan. Because of this, if you don’t see something from one creator that appeals to you, look at another. It might take a bit of searching, but you’re sure to eventually find something that appeals to you.
In my opinion, it is best to purchase a handmade pen in person. This way you can handle each pen, look at the different colors and patterns, and feel the quality of the work. Chances are you’ll also get to meet the person that created the pen! If you can’t find a way to purchase one in person, be sure to familiarize yourself with the sizes of different pens so that when you see the pen dimensions, you’ll have an idea of the approximate size of the pen. I think the biggest difference between a handmade pen and one made by a major manufacturer, and one that may surprise many people, is the larger size of handmade pens. Going into a purchase knowing what to expect can give you a great chance at being happy with your new handmade pen.
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