Travels with pens: Washington

I’ve been spending this week in snowy Pullman, Washington, hanging out with my brother. It’s always nice to see him — we live on separate continents, so it doesn’t happen often enough.

But really, I came to visit him to pick up my post. I regularly order stuff from US retailers directly to his house to avoid international shipping, and when I arrived, there was quite a box of stuff waiting for me.

Ink and paper from Birmingham

It should be no surprise that I’m a fan of Birmingham Pens, and specifically its line of Pittsburgh-themed inks in cute glass bottles. Nick, the proprietor, recently announced that Birmingham would be changing ink supplier, and that was all the excuse I needed to order some spares of favourite colours, and a couple of new shades too.

Birmingham is also a champion of Tomoe River, so I took the opportunity to order a pile of notebooks from Field Notes size all the way up to A3 (!!!).

Birmingham pens

More Tomoe!

Field Notes Rams

I can’t seem to kick the Field Notes habit. I am a fan of Dieter Rams (I try to live by the idea of “less, but better” — although I am failing!), and backed the wonderful recent documentary about his life and works.

I couldn’t resist picking up a couple of packs of this limited edition Field Notes, which has Rams’ famous ten principles of good design on the back. The paper is unfortunately the usual Field Notes fare — it feathers and (with wetter nibs) bleeds a bit too.

Field Notes Rams

Rules to live by

Karas Kustoms Ink and Starliner

This was an ‘at last’ order for me. I have been meaning to try an Ink for years, mainly attracted by the fabulous machined cap. When Karas ran one of its regular discounts, I pulled the trigger at last. Choosing a colour was hard: the bright turquoise, rich olive, and eye-searing orange all called to me, and it was the orange that won out.

Karas Ink fountain pen

I also sprung for the gold Bock nib, because I was curious to see the difference from the steel. First impressions are very good indeed.

Karas pens

Can you guess my two favourite colours?

I also added a Starliner XL to my basket. I reviewed this budget pen ages ago, and really liked it. I found myself missing it, in fact, even though by my standards it’s a rather small pen. I kept my fingers crossed that the nib would be as good as on my review sample, and luckily it is. The refined capping mechanism really works, too. Only the industrial clip stops this being a complete home-run, in my opinion.

Nakaya Decapod

Oh boy, was I excited about this. I bought this Decapod used, with a B nib customised to an F/M cursive italic, in the green-and-brown Heki-Tamenuri finish, with a maki-e converter. I couldn’t get Nakayas out of my head, despite the big step-down to the section and the ultra light weight. So I was nervous to see whether I’d get on with it, especially given the cost of the pen.

Nakaya Decapod

My first Nakaya. A truly special pen

The first page or so was odd. The nib is a little sharp and toothy, the ink flow is squarely medium, and the angular pen perched on my hand rather than feeling like part of me. But I clicked with it in short order and now I’m really enjoying the unusual experience.

EDC galore

Believe it or not, I have interests beyond just pens. I had a good EDC haul.

Up first: two lights from Surefire.

The EDCL1-T has the perfect gas-pedal interface that I loved from the Lumamax, and while the tint is not quite Nichia perfect, it’s not as searingly cold or green-tinted as I feared. Great pocket clip, too. The only downside is the crappy colour-matching on the anodising.

Surefire EDCL-1T

The Sidekick is a curious beast. It’s like those tiny Nitecores, but built by Surefire. It’s the size of a car fob, has a simple three-level button interface, and charges through micro USB. Perfect for a coin pocket, although I’m not sure how much use I’ll get from it.

Surefire Sidekick

For years I hung out on a now-defunct forum called British Blades, lusting after a revolutionary series of knives by a guy going by pieinthesky (PITS). These knives were UK legal but much safer than a conventional slipjoint. But I never managed to get hold of one. Fast forward a few years and Spyderco brought out its licensed production version, and still I didn’t get one. And then it got discontinued. I snagged the last one I could find. And I wish I’d got it earlier. As well as its glorious coloured titanium scales, it has a super comfortable design and the usual practical spyderco clip and spydiehole.

And last but not least, my first custom 58mm Swiss Army Knife. This is a Rambler with the addition of a Spyderco main blade. Titanium scales with tritium insert. Blue G10 spacers. Stonewashed tools. Pocket clip. It cost me an arm and a leg, but the craftsmanship is superb.

The week in Pullman

What’s been really great about this week is not just all the stuff; it’s having lots of time to think, write, journal, and even meet people. Some of that was enforced — I had a painfully long layover in Seattle — but the result is the same.

I chatted to a Catholic missionary on the puddle jumper to Pullman, heading home from Louisiana. In Seattle airport I bantered with the lovely ladies of Alaska Airlines, my new favourite operator. While trying on watches in Heathrow (Tudor Pelagos and the phenomenal JLC moon) I discovered the sales guy has been lusting after a Montblanc JFK, and we spent more time talking about pens than about watches.

And whether I’ve been in an outdoor gear shop or a cocktail bar, meeting dogs when hiking or rescuing drivers stuck in the snow, everyone here in the Pacific Northwest has been incredibly welcoming. For a recluse like me, it feels healthy to practice my smalltalk!

At the same time, I’ve read entire books, watched films, taken tons of photos (mostly of snowy landscapes) and filled notebooks with my thoughts. What better way to spend a week?

5 thoughts on “Travels with pens: Washington

  1. Trip sounds great. Would like a review of the Tomoe River notebooks please rather than the awesome pens as I’m trying to avoid any purchases.


    • Sorry to be a bearer of temptation, Nick 🙂

      So far, the Birmingham notebooks (at least the A5 one I’m trying now) are a bit more ‘rustic’ than other Tomoe books I’ve tried. But the paper is good.

      Liked by 1 person

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