2008/04/07

Atlanta pen show

I had my first pen show experience today at the Great Southeastern Pen Show. Overall I had a great time but the story is quite long and complicated.

I am a little bit embarrassed to say that I got really excited about going to my first pen show for several days. Not only I had trouble sleeping the night before, but I also woke up twice during that night. I remember this kind of excitement back in my elementary school days, it's just like the night before we are going out for a field trip. Well, I guess that kind of make sense. In a way this IS a field trip for me.

Even with the difficulty of sleeping, I managed to wake up much earlier than usual and made it to Atlanta just before they open the door. I am pleasantly surprised to find that they are giving out a free Pelikano to the first 100 attendees of the day. With the lovely little pen I got back more than twice of what I paid for admission so I was very happy and off to a good start.

My first order of business is to find Richard Binder's booth. My main purpose of going to this show is to buy a Bexley Americana from Richard and have him customize the nib for me. And right there I was totally devastated. I picked up the pen from their display, played with it, and found that it's the perfect size and weight for me. However, they have sold out the color that I want and I don't find other colors attractive to me at all. To make things worse, Barbara told me that Bexley has used up all the materials and has discontinued the production. I was totally stunned and don't know what to do. Logically my next option is to find another pen that I like, but that proven to be extremely difficult and consumed the most of my time there.

A couple of other pens came very close but none of them made the cut in the end. Maybe I am just being too picky, but I guess this is to be expected after seeing a pen that I really want and couldn't get. The other pens I considered are the Signum Orione (absolutely stunning colors but the piston doesn't feel as good as the Pelikans), the Classic Legend (LM1 and the prototypes, very nice pens but a little bit too heavy/big), and a Toccia (don't remember the model, very close to what I want but somehow just wasn't exactly right).

I took a break from my fruitless hunt to attend the three seminars of the day. In the first one Richard Binder talked about tuning the nib and many other things about pens, nibs, and inks. The seminar was very fun and informative and I throughly enjoyed it. The second talk by Roger Cromwell focused more on trading pens. It's an interesting talk but just not my cup of tea. The third seminar was given by Susan Wirth and was pretty interesting too. There was less than 20 people in the room and Susan had each of us wrote two lines of text on the paper and went over our handwriting one by one. The most important suggestion I got is to try to use an italic nib (which I intended to do anyway). Because the limit of time Susan asked us to talk to her afterwards to get more of her opinions on improving our handwriting experience. This turned out to be another disappointment of the day.

I continued my fruitless hunt for a new pen after the seminars. I even got a chance to play with one of my dream pens, the Omas Arco Milord. It was indeed a beautiful pen. However, after seeing so many great pens in person I doubt if I will buy it when I am willing to spend that much money on a pen. There are simply too many great choices at that price range, or I could've gotten several nice ones for the price of it. So this may be a good thing for me. I am also happy about that fact that I'm past the peak of my vintage collection fever and was focusing on finding a new modern pen there, otherwise all those attractive vintage pens there will create many dilemma for me.

Then the idea hit me: if I can't get the pen that I want today, why not make a pen I already have to suit my needs better? I am pretty happy with my Pelikan M800, which is my main pen for the past 10 years since I got it. Now that I have discovered the wonderful world of italic nibs I kind of want to have it customized. The reason that prevented me to do so is that I don't want to part with the pen at all, even for just one day. Now that Richard Binder is here I can have this done on the spot so I quickly signed up a slot on his sign up sheet. While I am waiting for my turn I tried to get a chance to talk with Susan Wirth about my handwriting. However, there is also a long line of people waiting at her booth. When I finally squeezed in and sit down, I saw that Richard is working with the person before me. So I apologized to Susan and walked over to Richard's booth.

My initial plan is to have my M800 regrind into one of Richard's special ItaliFine nib. Unfortunately that wasn't feasible because the nib doesn't have enough tipping materials on it, so I settled for a 0.5mm cursive italic. I am very happy about how the things turned out. As I was testing the pen with writing some differential equations and complementing on how great it writes, Richard joked that "Hey, I didn't say that it can do calculus!".

After that I tried to get back to Susan's booth with no luck and bought some more accessories. The two inks that I bought, the Aurora Blue and the Diamine Monaco Red, both turned out to be great. After the drawing at 4 (not surprisingly I didn't win the $13,500 Visconti Four Seasons Maki-e Pen) I was pretty tired and decided to head home. Just before I get on the ramp to I-285 I realized that I forget to take any picture today, even though I specifically brought the camera with me today.

So all in all, I had a great time despite the disappointment of not bringing a new pen home with me. As soon as I'm done with writing this post I am going to continue my hunt for a Bexley Americana in Rio Grande Red.
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