How many pens is too many?

It comes up surprisingly frequently on pen forums and Facebook groups. How many pens do you have? How many do you have inked? How many do you carry?

The questions have more than a hint of the confessional. Like we want to know if we’re normal.

The answers, of course, vary dramatically.

Some people — and remember, these are people who are active on fountain pen forums — only own a handful of pens (these are the same crazy folk who only write in Waterman Serenity Blue… I believe they’re missing out, like people who eat at the same cafe every day).

Others have museum-grade collections with dozens or hundreds of pens from vintage to modern. (This is where the distinction between “user” and “collector” becomes important — and I fear that collectors are missing the true purpose of a pen, which is to write).

But I digress. Leaving aside the outliers, most seem to have at least half a dozen inked and at least three carried daily.

Right now I have 12 inked and routinely carry five in my Nock Sinclair (if it wasn’t for the Sinclair, I would have no restraint, and would carry the whole lot).

2017-10-14 22.34.46

My “currently inked”. Oops.

That, I believe, is too many. Nobody wants to lug several hundred pounds (in value) with them, or several pounds (in weight) for that matter. And if you have to keep a list of which pens you’ve got filled with which inks, perhaps you have a problem.

Maybe it would be better to just pick three and stick with them? I hear you say.

But it’s not that easy! The temptation to ink and carry more is huge. It’s unthinkable to have so many great pens relegated to the desk drawer, waiting for their turn in six months. And there are so many inks to try! What if I fancy writing in orange?!

So the resolution and satisfaction of having just three pens inked gradually (or suddenly) goes out of the window, and we’re back to having a full rack of inked pens.

And it’s a vicious cycle. With a dozen pens inked, especially large German piston fillers, it can take months to write the whole lot dry. During which time you naturally get bored of the combinations you’ve got on hand and grow even more tempted to ink up another few to get a fresh hit.

There is one advantage to having a large number of pens inked. It becomes blindingly obvious, every day, which pens you tend to reach for and which sit unloved in the pen case. Those are the ones you should seriously consider selling.


7 thoughts on “How many pens is too many?

  1. This is a big topic and thought provoking. I remember when I had only twelve pens inked! This summer has seen the number go ballooning up to 30 (if I count the couple I leave at work and one at the bedside table). This is an all time high for me and includes five pens from the recent LWES. My main pen cup has five sections which can each fit up to eight pens. I admit that 30 inked is too many. I could go and flush them all but it goes against the grain to waste ink.I want to get back to a more reasonable number. It would be nice to have just one pen that I use for everything…which is back where we started…but for all sorts of reasons, new pens are hard to resist. But I do enjoy the simplicity sometimes of having just one with me when writing in a coffee shop, for example.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Missing out on what, exactly? Fountain pens are a hobby like any other. Some will hoard vast collections. Others will be happy with a single pen and ink pairing for the rest of their days. The majority will fall somewhere in between. All are valid pathways to joy.

    Anyway, I appreciate the thought-provoking post.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Missing out simply because there are so many experiences out there to try, and it’s natural I believe to think that breadth of experience, or at least variety, is a good thing. Although I do envy those who know what they like and stick with it.

      Good point about many paths to joy!

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Having a personal rule or theme to limit things is helpful.
    I have 7 so far, and 2 grail pens but not in hurry to afford any of them in few more years.
    My limit is colour group. Not worrying about having different shades of same group inked as long as I already picked the wavelength that clicked with me best 🙂


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