Behind the scenes: storage, travel and writing desks

When you’re a pen freak like me, you spend as much time organising your stationery (and other hobbies’ detritus) as you spend using it.

My setup is not fancy. I don’t have a huge house, I don’t have a dream home office or desk setup. I have a beaten-up Ikea desk and office chair that could do with a dusting, in a small office that’s far too full of pen boxes, wires and filing cabinets. I do my evening journalling from a cosy corner of the living room, in a mid-century style chair with a lamp next to me and hot radiator behind me.

So the space isn’t fancy. But I have worked hard on storage and routines that work for me and help me manage my stuff. So let me take you on a little tour.

This little engineer’s tool chest is the heart of my collection. It’s where I keep my pens, but also my watches, wallets, knives, flashlights, cufflinks, tie pins, multitools and other small, expensive stuff.


The pen drawer is looking a little emaciated after a few sales; I keep my for-sale pens separately too, and my “magnificent seven” are out on duty. Otherwise, it’s inked pens to the left, uninked to the right.


For point of comparison, this is my EDC drawer. Lights in order of size, knives too. I don’t just fritter money away on pens…


Inks take up three drawers in the ancient chest of drawers below. Top-left drawer houses blacks, greys, greens, browns.


Top-right drawer is all blues.


Large drawer below is filled with reds, oranges, yellows, purples, but also duplicates, samples, syringes and other bits. The painful reality is that these drawers are overloaded and I have way too much ink.


On the other side of my desk are two wall-mounted shelves. The top one houses my Dudek pen block, which is loaded with ballpoints and glass pens, as well as a wooden box (decorated by my then-toddler) filled with my ink swatches, spare nibs and other parts.

Below is paper. From left to right, my in-progress pads and unused pocket notebooks, a stack of completed notebooks, standing are my empty A5 notebooks, and then on the far right, completed pocket notebooks and journals. It looks messy, but it’s a system. It’s surprising how often I have to refer back to a previous work notebook.


On the go right now I have a huge Tomoe A5 notebook with blue tweed cover, which I use for Currently Inked dumps, initial drafts of reviews, and personal writings. I also have a slim GLP Author notebook for taking to pen meets, which is mainly filled with ink and pen tests.

I use a Galen Writing Box as my journalling station and desk away from desk. It has just enough slots to host my week’s pens, and holds my two Hobonichis. It’s my ritual now to place the box on my lap, choose a pen, unclip the Hobo and pour out the day onto the page.


When I’m out and about, my casual bag of choice is an Alpha One-Niner Chio. It’s light, flexible, and just the right size, with plenty of pockets. In the flat back pocket I keep a slim A5 Graphilo notebook and a Tomoe pocket notebook; in one of the front pockets I’ll keep a Franklin-Christoph glasses case with a selection of three pens. I try to make one of them steel-nibbed in case I need to lend someone else a pen.


When I’m not working from home, my laptop bag of choice is a Samsonite. I am a complete Samsonite fanboy: I have two spinners, a suit bag and two laptop bags and they are incredibly robust and well thought-out, as well as inexpensive. Nestled in one of the front pouches will be a Nock Sinclair with 3–5 pens, or a Nock Lookout. To avoid being late for work, I make the agonising decision of which pens to take the night before!


The actual bulk of my writing happens at my desk, but I’m almost ashamed to show it. It’s burdened with a huge videoconferencing screen, ugly laptop stand, mechanical keyboard and trackpad, headphones and wires aplenty. But it’s undeniably a working space, and it literally gets the job done.

In the drawer to the right is my Belomo loupe; on the desk to the left is my Off-Lines paper station and Penwell pen stand. Everything is just where I want it.DSCF3303.JPG

How does your hobby fit into your life, your work, your spaces? How do you keep your pens and inks organised? I’d love to hear.

5 thoughts on “Behind the scenes: storage, travel and writing desks

  1. Thank you for this backstage tour. It is fascinating for me to see how others store and organise their pens, inks and paper stock, a subject dear to my heart. Looks like you have found a system that works for you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Congratulations on being so organised. I just let stuff pile up on my desk until I get nagged to tidy up!
    Where did the engineer’s tool chest come from? I’ve seen a few on line, but it’s hard to gauge quality from a few small photos.


  3. Pingback: My desk is not nice enough to do justice to the Galen desk pad | UK fountain pens

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