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Are you looking to purchase the perfect gift for someone who enjoys journaling, calligraphy, and writing? If you're new to the pen world, it might seem daunting to shop with so many choices of nib types, filling systems, inks, and papers.
As a newbie, you can either run headlong into an algorithmic best-seller list or do hours of tedious research to find halfway decent gift ideas.
Wouldn't it be great if you could get personal suggestions from a panel of the world's most respected writing enthusiasts?
We asked each of our pen pals a set of questions that relate to shopping for a new pen. While we have edited their responses for brevity's sake, you can find their answers in their entirety on their respective YouTube channels.
Below, we will break down the responses to each of the questions, along with the time stamp in the video so you can watch it.
Huge thanks go to all the Ultimate Pen Community Gift Guide 2019 Contributors:
Question 1 - What do you look for in a daily carry pen? (4:50)
Inkdependence: Something dependendable, convenient, and can take some knocks. A good example of this is the Platinum Nice Pur ($251.95). When not using a fountain pen (shocking, I know), a Rickshaw Duo Pen Sleeve allows me to carry multiple pens like a ballpoint pen (dundundun). Jokes aside, some non-fountain pen suggestions are the Retro 51 Tornado ($36) which is a rollerball, the Schon DSGN Classic Pen which is a ballpoint, and the Tactile Turn Bolt which is also a ballpoint.
PenBoyRoy: A fountain pen. Plain and simple.
Figboot on Pens: Reliability. I don’t want to have to fiddle with it. Also, I like variety. Follow me on instagram @figboot11, to see my daily carry which rotates throughout the majority of my collection.
Larry’s Fountain Pens: I like larger, heavier pens. Clips are also a must for me because I tend to clip pens on my shirt or pocket when I don’t have a pen pouch. Next, the heart of the pen (the nib!) is very important to me. Nibs must be smooth and wet.
Sbrebrown: I use my pens, so I need my daily carry pens to be able to write whenever put on paper. All the time, every time. Interestingly, I found that there is not always a correlation between price and reliability.
Pen Addict: I need something I can take with me on the go and write with in various situations. For me, pretty much every pen is a daily carry pen, whether or $5 to $500 because personally, I’m not scared to bring any pen out of the house. But for the typical everyday carry style pen, I enjoy using the Kaweco Sport Fountain Pen ($25). It has a longer cap, which makes it the perfect pocket size when closed. Posting the cap on the back while writing elongates the pen to a full and comfortable size. For an upgrade to the plastic Kaweco Sport with the same style, you can get the Steel Sport ($120), which I personally use a lot. The Kaweco’s also have converters, but I recommend using cartridges for these pens in particular.
Question 2 - To get started, what would you include in a care package to a friend who is a complete pen newbie? (11:20)
Inkdependence: Pen newbie? Great! You could meet them where they are with a gel pen like the Pilot G2 ($12.95 for 8 colors) or the Uniball Signo. However, a step up from those are the Zebra Sarasa Gel Pen because it dries quick, has bold pigment, is long-lasting, and feels smooth. Also, good, inexpensive paper like Maruman Sept Couleur Notebooks is very important. Higher up is the Rhodia Pad (8$ for 6 x 8.25) which is great for pens, but not for pencils. Even higher is Midori. The one I use is the Midori MD Cotton F0 Notebook which takes anything from pencils to fountain pens. For entry level fountain pens, I recommend the Diplomat Magnum ($21.60).
PenBoyRoy: A box of destroyed ballpoint pens followed by ANY fountain pen. Just spread the fountain pen virus.
Figboot on Pens: When I gave someone a starter kid not too long ago, I gave them a TWSBI Diamond 580 and a bottle of Pilot Iroshizuku Bottled Ink in Kon-Peki Ink ($19.95 for 50 mL). A cheaper option is a Lamy Safari ($29.60), but remember to buy a converter ($6) with the Lamy And maybe a Rhodia Pad (8$ for 6 x 8.25) as well.
Larry’s Fountain Pens: I would 2 to 3 samples of ink and a fountain pen. I want to give them the taste of a fountain pen with a Jinhao or a Pilot Metropolitan ($23.95). But remember that the nibs are made differently as the Jinhao is Chinese and the Pilot is Japanese. I would also include 5 different types of fountain paper like a Rhodia Pad (8$ for 6 x 8.25), Clairefontaine ($6.50 for 4.25 x 6.25), Tomoe River, and Life.
Sbrebrown: To reduce confusion, I would stick with a cartridge converter pen. When people start out, I recommend using a cartridge but then move toward bottled ink. Get them a nice pen, paper, and a little box of cartridges and then move from there. Paper is very important, so get them a notepad that’s around A5 sized. Rhodia (8$ for 6 x 8.25) and Clairefontaine ($6.50 for 4.25 x 6.25) are great.
Chris Saenz: The Pilot Varsity ($3.77) is great for a newbie. It is a ready-to-write-with fountain pen, so it’s great for a beginner or young person. However, I’d also give them affordable paper such as the Maruman Spiral Note or the Caliber Memo Book which is really friendly to medium nib pens.
Pen Addict: I think the paper is the most important. So I’d give Rhodia paper, which makes any pen that much better. So yes, I’d give them a pen and some ink and some cartridges, but I’d pay special attention to the paper.
Question 3 - What pen would you suggest to a beginner looking to step up to the next level of fine writing? (24:20)
Inkdependence: I would suggest the Pilot Varsity ($3.77) and the Zebra Fountain Pen! which are both disposable and are the lowest end of fountain pens. A step up is the Platinum Preppy ($4.45). Above that would be the Diplomat Magnum ($21.60) and the TWSBI Eco. However, the TWSBI Eco would require bottled ink. Above these, would be the Pilot Prera ($55.95) and the Faber- Castell Loom ($45). Both are great starter pens. A step up would be Schon DSGN Pocket 6. Next up, the Pilot Custom Heritage 74 ($159.95) is great. Upwards from there would be the Franklin-Christoph 02 ($175) and the Carolina Pen Company Charleston.
PenBoyRoy: Easy-- the Conklin Duragraph ($51.95).
Figboot on Pens: This changes for me a lot, but currently, the Pilot Custom Heritage 92. This is a pen I use regularly and it is a good gateway to getting a feeling of luxury pens.
Sbrebrown: I really like the Platinum Procyon ($51.95), which I tried recently. I think it is very worth its cost. I also like Leonardo from Italy. I have had nothing but positive experiences with Leonardo’s regular acrylic models with steel nibs ($199).
Question 4 - What's the one thing to avoid when shopping for a nice pen? (31:52)
Inkdependence: For the first good fountain pens you buy, don’t go to Ebay or Amazon because there is no post sale service or warranty. Go to a shop (Goldspot!) instead. Also, don’t be afraid of using steel nibs. Steel nibs? All great.
PenBoyRoy: Uh… your spouse.
Figboot on Pens: Avoid any guess work. Do your research by reading blog posts and try out the pen if you can. Know what nibs you enjoy. If you educate yourself before you buy, you will be more likely to enjoy it. That’s why I’m rarely surprised negatively when buying a pen.
Larry’s Fountain Pens: Avoid calligraphy pens and nibs you have never used. You may not like what you purchase if you have never used that nib size.
Sbrebrown: It is important to realize that above a certain level of price, you are paying for luxury. At the end of the day, however, it is still a pen. So while they might write great, don’t have unrealistic expectations that the pen is mythical and will knock you off your feet.
Chris Saenz: Don’t have a mindset that the pen must be super expensive. Fountain pens are simply nib holders. The nib is the most important part, not the pen itself.
Pen Addict: Don’t necessarily avoid anything, but be careful when buying a flex nib if you don’t know what you are looking for. Most modern flex nibs don’t write how instagram videos portray with the line variation. Most modern flex is what I call a soft nib because there is a little bit of line variation, but for the huge variation, you will need a dip nib, vintage nib, or a custom nib.
Question 5 - How do you tackle your holiday shopping list? (39:50)
Inkdependence: Poorly. I’m very bad at holiday shopping.
PenBoyRoy: Get everyone a PenBoyRoy fountain pen review channel water bottle ($20) to encourage them to drink more water, live longer, and buy more pens!
Figboot on Pens: I will purchase things throughout the year for the holidays. Planning ahead helps so you can split up your holiday expenses throughout the year. For example, Barnes and Nobles were selling Safaris for $2 at one point when they were discontinuing their Lamy line, so I saw folks that planned to give them out for the holidays.
Larry’s Fountain Pens: I make a pen list and then reduce it until I only have 3 pens on my shopping list.
Sbrebrown: I find this very difficult. I usually don’t get fellow pen lovers pen stuff because pens are so personal. It is hard to know what others will like. I ask them what they’d like if I really am going to buy them a pen.
Chris Saenz: Make a list with your ideas and budget limits. Furthermore, I prefer shopping online (goldspot.com).
Pen Addict: Shop early, shop often, shop online. That’s my mantra.
Question 6 - What would you ask "Santa Pens" for this year? (45:10)
PenBoyRoy: I don’t ask Santa for pens. I’m the Pen Boy. Santa asks me for pens.
Figboot on Pens: My eye has been on a Galen writing box to keep my wax seals and letter writing supplies.
Larry’s Fountain Pens: Hmm… a fountain pen. But not any fountain pen. When I saw Tom from Goldspot Pens review this pen, I wanted to try it. This is none under than the Leonardo Momento Zero Grande Fountain Pen with the gold nib ($549).
Sbrebrown: I don’t buy much but I am tempted by the Leonardo Grande Fountain Pen ($549) because I like bigger pens.
Chris Raez: I would want the Nock Seed A5 in Purple Iris ($70).
Pen Addict: I never ask for pens from others, but I do like accessories surrounding pens such as pen storage or cool vintage pencil and paper sets. I’ve been looking for shelves to store my notebook. So don’t buy me pens.
Question 7 - What is an excellent gift for a pen enthusiast that has it all? (48:43)
Inkdependence: It’s hard to go wrong with paper and notebooks or pen storage. Displays and accessories are also great and beautiful.
PenBoyRoy: I thought we covered this already. The water bottle.
Larry’s Fountain Pens: A gift card to somewhere like Goldspot Pens.
Sbrebrown: I wouldn’t venture into pens themselves, but perhaps a very nice ink. This could be a very personal gift. It is also not as expensive as a luxury pen. A little gift box with different papers is something I’ve done before, and it was great.
Chris Raez: I would recommend a gift card to a major pen company. Also, don’t be discouraged if you’re on a tight budget. Tight budgets result in the most creativity!
Pen Addict: The Lamy 2000 4 Color Multi Pen is a great, classically designed pen. It has four colors and is great for pen nerds out there. It’s fun and really neat. Something you can never catch me without is the Caran d'Ache Fixpencil Mechanical Pencil ($19.95). If you are looking to blow someone’s mind, the Sailor 1911 Standard Fountain Pen in 4AM ($220) is great.
Question 8 - What book would you gift to an aspiring writer or artist? (55:53)
Inkdependence: This was hard but I would recommend The Calligraphy Handbook by Emma Callery. A great thing about this book is that it gives a lot of history regarding italics and scripts, while also showing you how to draw them.
PenBoyRoy: Is this a real question? Uhh.. Green Eggs and Ham. I like ham and I also like eggs.
Figboot on Pens: On Writing by Stephen King. Not only is it a good handbook regarding the process of writing but it also talks about recovery through obstacles in life that King experienced.
Larry’s Fountain Pens: The first thing that came up in my head was The Love Of The Ink: A Book About Fountain Pens. For Beginners: Learn All About Fountain Pens In One Day. You’ll be amazed at all the important information. This book surely helped me go down the right path.
Sbrebrown: I have very much enjoyed The Calligraphy Bible when it comes to calligraphy. When it comes to art, I recommend Caspar David Friedrich by Johannes Grave. This is a beautiful, beautiful book. If you are looking for books on fountain pens, I recommend those from Andreas Lambrou. They are fantastic and worth every penny.
Chris Raez: The book I have most gifted people is 10 Secrets for Success and Inner Peace by Dr. Wayne Dyer. I’ve given it to family members, young people, graduates. It is just such a soothing book.
Pen Addict: I’m neither a great writer nor a great artist, but I appreciate the work. One of my favorite artists is Tommy Kane, and he wrote All My Photographs Are Made with Pens. He would grab his chair, sit outside and draw. You can see how he puts his art together, and how he uses the colors of pens.
What would you recommend?
Leave us a comment below and let us know your answers to these pen gifting questions. Thanks for watching!