I have encountered a lot of retailers and brands in the past three and a half years running this blog. Many amazing products, plenty of great service (and a few problems, too, of course).
I’m looking, as many of us are, for more simplicity in my life, and I was inspired by a post that Michael from Scrively made, saying that he is focusing his personal collection on German pens.
It got me thinking about the mainstream brands and retailers I would focus on if I wanted a happy and easy life.
Say I’m making a recommendation to a nervous reader, or if I was rebuilding my collection after a fire and wanted to know things would be OK with no stress or problems.
I’d be looking for products that I know from experience really fit me like a glove. They are beautiful, comfortable, work well, and last long-term. No worries about nib quality or difficult cleaning, or cracking barrels, or dodgy nibs. And I’d be looking for great service, both in the purchase and any future support.
This is an opportunity for me to move on from those brands that I keep trying to like, but that either don’t fit my needs or give me consistent trouble — like Pelikan and Kaweco. And those that I love but are too unpredictable, like Aurora and Visconti.
To be on this list, I have to know that you really won’t let me down.
I wouldn’t go so far as Michael and pick German-only pens, but I definitely get where he’s coming from.
My first port of call would be Montblanc and Lamy.
I have more Montblancs in my pen tray than any other brand, and I simply don’t have problems with them. From EF to BB, the nibs just work. They don’t leak, they don’t dry out, the pistons work great, they perform well with many different kinds of inks. The nibs arrive wet enough and well aligned. And as a company, I’ve nothing but good things to say about Montblanc. I mean, I haven’t needed a service or repair, but I have done a few nib swaps, and they’ve run smoothly.
The Lamy 2000 is close to a perfect pen for me, as I’ve written before. I have needed service, and done a nib swap, and the experience was smooth and quick. If I had to pick just one pen, there’s a good chance it would be a Lamy 2000.
In my ‘toy pens’ case I have half a dozen TWSBI Ecos. To me they are the ultimate no-stress pen. They are piss-easy to completely disassemble. The nib swaps in about three seconds. They’re demonstrators, so you can see what’s going on. Every single nib I have had, from EF to stub, has been perfect without fail. They write well with any ink. And they literally never dry out. As close to a post-apocalyptic pen as you’ll find under £30.
For a pocket pen, I’d choose a Schon Pocket Six. This should be no surprise to regular readers. Not only are these robust, comfortable and snazzy pens, I completely trust Ian Schon to have 100% perfect quality control in everything from the barrel finish to nib assembly. The essence of hassle-free.
So that’s the workhorses taken care of. Looking further east, I’d consider a Nakaya next. I’ve had three, and each has been so good out of the box that I haven’t needed to take the company up on its personalised set-up service. I mean, I haven’t had a problem with the sister company Platinum either, but you can be sure that every Nakaya has had more eyes on it during its construction than practically any other pen around.
And if I were to take a chance on Italian flair, I would pick a Scribo — probably the new Feel Mediterraneo. Out of three Scribos in my possession, I’ve had one had minor nib problems, but the company fixed it fast and with a great attitude — so I trust that I’d be in safe hands with a new one.
Now what would I fill these beautiful pens with? I’ve kinda already answered this question. Looking through the inks I’ve boiled down to (not literally) this year, my collection is dominated by Montblanc, Sailor and its store-brands (Kobe, Bungubox, etc) and Birmingham. And I dabble with Vinta, Troublemaker, Edelstein, KWZ and a few other makers to give me some variety. But the one thing I can guarantee is that I can trust Montblanc, Birmingham and Sailor to perform well with interesting colours.
Paper and accessories
Of course, you have to have something to write on. I won’t beat about the bush: of course, it’s Tomoe River.
For chunky A5 notebooks my go-tos are Elia Note and now the outstanding lay-flat Galen Leather, with Musubi for fancy projects.
For slimmer and more portable notebooks, I’m still very partial to GLP Author and the A5 exercise books from Pebble Stationery.
And when it comes to pocket notebooks, I’ve had good luck with lots of manufacturers, but Pebble Stationery would be a good place to start. Its special editions are classy.
And to put it in? I’ve lost track of how many Nock cases I’ve bought over the years. While I do use other cases of various sizes, it’s Nock that has no flaws in my eyes. Separate pen slots that are big enough for any pen, non-scratchy zips, and perfect space efficiency for two pens up, with paper storage too. I’d start with a Sinclair for portable use and my Burton for journalling.
To buy all this stuff? Well, Nock and Galen sell direct, as do Elia Note and Musubi, but I’ve had years of great service from Write Here, the Writing Desk, Cult Pens, Iguanasell, Wheelers, Izods and Nero’s Notes. A good retailer can make all the difference to how comfortable you feel with your purchase.
If you wanted an easy stationery life, which brands do you trust most, every time?