We’re approaching that time of year when we give each other (and ourselves?) presents. So what do you get for the fountain pen addict in your life — or if someone asks you what you want, what do you tell them?
Here are some ideas across seven categories. Every item on this list I have used and can recommend; most are new to me in 2019 — so I hope they’re new to you too.
Every product is linked to somewhere you can buy it from, as well as to my review where available. I’ve not been paid to feature any of these products, and none of these are affiliate links. If you’d like to support the blog, please donate a few pounds through PayPal.
Special inks off the beaten track
Diamine, Herbin, Iroshizuku, Edelstein, KWZ… all great ink brands, but probably not new to you. If you’re looking for a new colour fix, why not try:
Ferris Wheel Press
These premium inks come in beautiful spherical bottles with brass caps, and glorious packaging. Probably the most gift-worthy inks I’ve seen yet. Pure Pens stocks them.
For the eco-minded pen addict, these small-batch inks are all natural, keenly priced, and super wet, too. Colossal Squid Dark has become a firm favourite. Order direct.
If your giftee is ready to get with the times and try some complex shading inks (sheen and shimmer are so last season), and if they’ve already tried Sailor Studio 123… Troublemaker is your next stop. Abalone, Petrichor, Milky Ocean and Kelp Tea are truly special. Order direct, ASAP!
An out-there pen to match (<£500)
Sailor, Pilot, Pelikan… you’ve got one, right? If you or your giftee are craving something new to write with, and you’ve done the tour of the usual manufacturers, here’s some inspiration:
Japanese ebonite and gold nibs, handmade in a tiny Tokyo workshop, at surprisingly low prices. Get wonderful service from Pepe at Inktraveler if you’re looking for an EU-based retailer. I’m only selling mine because it’s a bit too small for me.
If the usual plastic turned pens by the craftspeople of Instagram are leaving you cold, try the innovative wooden pens from this Irish maverick. Contact him here.
The best of independent America (<£250)
The USA has a thriving scene of small manufacturers doing interesting things. And they don’t break the bank, even with the inevitable customs charge.
Schon DSGN Pocket Six
Get a one-off colour scheme and the most surprising pen design I’ve seen this year. I now have three. Oops. Order direct.
Absurdly high standards of finishing and one of the most comfortable new pens I’ve tried in ages. Order direct.
Pierre is a master with wood, ebonite and acrylic, and isn’t afraid to try bold new designs with filling mechanisms that just get better and better. Oh, and flex nibs if you want them. Check out his site here, and keep your fingers crossed that there’s a Soubriquet for sale.
Mainstream, not boring (<£150)
Just because a brand makes their pens at scale in China and sells through retailers instead of direct doesn’t mean they’ve lost their creative spark.
The flagship pen from the rebooted Esterbrook is a solid workhorse that comes in some really pretty colours. You really can’t go wrong. Pick one up from the Writing Desk.
Ferris Wheel Press Brush
This super-slim slim pen from the design-obsessed Canadian brand oozes charisma. You can buy them now from various UK retailers, but I’d recommend springing for one of the brand’s gift sets. The unboxing experience is an absolute joy.
Lamy Studio Aquamarine
2019 has been the year of Lamy special editions. I love my Bauhaus Blue 2000, but the Aquamarine is a stunner and a great choice if your budget is stuck in double figures. Get yours from the Writing Desk. It’s still in stock at time of writing.
Pushing the boat out (>£500)
If you love someone very, very much and want to spend £500+ on a pen that isn’t something conventional like a Montblanc, here’s what I’d recommend.
Now in a pretty blue colour, the Scribo gives you all the writing charisma of Omas’s finest, in a practical and comfortable piston-fill body, and without resorting to eBay. The 18k nib gives a soft ride, or choose the 14k if you want more flex (the 14k EF is on a par with the Montblanc flex nib for variation, with less pressure needed). Write Here is the place to look. Expect to spend around £500. Look for a full review soon.
Forget the fact that these are cartridge-converter pens with plastic feeds and Platinum 3776 nibs for £650+. There is something so, so special about a Nakaya. Check Iguanasell for competitive prices, or Sakura for a wider choice of models and white-glove service. My pick is one of the 17mm Cigars, which strip away the unnecessary clip to show off the urushi, and add welcome comfort and weight over the smaller, more common models.
Namiki Urushi 20
A strong candidate for my favourite pen of all time, you really have to hold it to understand why it’s so perfect. At over a grand, it makes most Nakayas even look cheap, but it’s worth it. Iguanasell has it in stock.
Something to write on
I was going to write “you can never have too much paper”, but then I looked at my notebook shelf. Oops. Still, this year has seen a torrent of new paper products on my desk, featuring Tomoe and other stock. Here’s my pick, but honorable mentions to GoodINKpressions, Lochby, Galen Leather, Birmingham Pens and Ferris Wheel Press.
Understated branding, Tomoe paper and excellent customer service. If you can get the Glacier special edition, you’re in for a treat. Check Nero’s first.
I use this lovely Tomoe book as my journal now. Flawless construction and practical ruling. Take a look here.
Not a new product this year, but better card packaging and new dark colours. My go-to for Tomoe River notebooks and easily available from Amazon.
Something to store it all in
Whether it’s for sketching or journalling on the go, a folio to take to meetings, or just overflow pen storage, you can’t beat a good case. Regular readers will know I’m a Nock fanboy, but I can recommend other options, too.
With more materials than ever before, and two sizes, you can have it whisked to your UK address in just a couple of days from F-C HQ in the US. I believe the Penvelope is the best way to store a dozen pens in comfort.
The most practical on-the-go writing kit, with room for an A5 notebook, pocket notebook, and three pens, all safely padded and fully enclosed by a zip. I hope these hit the Nock site before Christmas, but if they don’t, the A5 Lanier pouch offers nearly the same experience.
Esterbrook Pen Nook
A fresh and good-looking way to store anything from one to 12 pens. No leather, no zips. Get yours from the Writing Desk.
Want to keep your total spend under £50? I got you, fam.
The cleanest and easiest way to test out inks. At around £15, they won’t break the bank, and they look pretty, too. I mostly use this Herbin one from Cult Pens.
I’ve recommended these clever swatch cards before, and any ink fiend should have a stock on hand. Make into a little swatching kit with the addition of a glass pen, some cotton buds from Boots, and a few samples of your favourite inks. Available from good old Cult Pens.
TWSBI Eco Purple
What I’m wishing for
To write this guide, I looked back over my posts from the past year, dug through my pen spreadsheet, looked over my shelves of notebooks and drawers of inks.
I was struck not only by how much stationery I’ve got (duh!) but by the quality and variety. I’m wonderfully, wonderfully blessed.
So for me, I’m not wishing for any stationery this Christmas. I’m going to shut my eyes to the Black Friday bargains. I’m closing the tabs on the ST Duponts I’ve been looking at, the pretty Lamy Scala Dark Violet, and the exciting new Sailor Manyo inks. I’m ignoring the Deltas on eBay, and the awesome work that Matthew Martin is doing with metal. In the new year? A Nakaya Ryogiri might cap my collection perfectly. We’ll see.