Mar 23, 2019146 views

New to Massdrop: wondering about people's interest in hand-crafted fountain pens?

So I'm new here, and i've been lurking and reading (a lot) of posts, trying to get a sense of things. And, to be honest, I'm still not sure... At the risk of putting myself out there: if I've missed a point, please be gentle! :) :) I'm one of those folks who does wood turning, and I make a fair number of pens: lately most of what I make and sell in artisan markets and to private buyers are fountain pens. (I've been turning for almost 20 years at this point, but only selling for about ten) I have specialized mostly in 'higher end' pens and mechanisms, trying to get good quality metals, good nibs and working to put really exquisite pieces of wood to use in making the pens up. Because i'm in eastern Canada, I have access to a lot of really beautiful pieces of maple and walnut, and I've made a lot of beautiful fountain pens in those woods. I've also made a fair number made out of laser-cut pieces of wood, built up into inlays and such. (the jigsaw puzzle below is made of 44 laser cut pieces of wood all glued and bonded and turned on the body of the pen. The wood pieces come from a chap in Nevada, the piano keys from a chap in southern Ontario, but its all my skill to assemble and turn it so it doesn't explode on the lathe, and to build up the finish so its a 'lifetime' pen) I've got lots more photos on instagram (distinctivewoodworking) Are things like this of interest to Massdrop folks? If they are, I'd be interested in figuring out a drop. (Understanding that, especially in the maple burl, every single one I make is subtly different, the bark inclusions, the wood texture, the colourations are always different) I have "better than Schmidt" #5 and #6 nibs available too. (Bock mostly) Hope this is worth discussing: if not, i'll go back to eagerly awaiting the Diamine drop to conclude, and keep hoping there will be another Iroshizuku ink drop :)
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kstokley, fountainpenlady, and 2 others
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I have one. It looks great and writes beautifully:
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Believe Ryan Krusac from Georgia makes hand-crafted fountain pens and they are made of exotic woods. I own three of them so far and love the idea of hand-crafted fountain pens. They are very special. Usually hand-crafted and not mass produced since they are hand-crafted and can not be totally completed by machines.
Beautiful pens! I would be interested in a drop. Price depending of course, I am married....
Stefan66
There seems to be enough folks who have said they'd be interested in a drop. I'm not sure what's next to do though. I'll do some more reading, i'm sure there is a FAQ around here. maybe I need to create a poll?
One more comment, which is general in nature. Recently I saw referenced fountain pens that are made for left handed people. It had to do with the way the nib was constructed - I have no idea how truly functional that is. I wonder how much interest there is in that feature.
FlaRider
I have on occasion polished nibs to make them friendlier for my left handed customers. Typically it just involves a subtle tweak to the angle the nib makes with the paper: the challenge is: making sure its compatible with how the person holds the pen. Left handed writers are actually far better served by simply ensuring they use a really good ink in the pen: I find the pilot iroshizuku inks from Japan work the best, simply because they seem to dry well on many papers.
Your work is gorgeous, there is no question about it. The one topic I have not seen mentioned is what you estimate your price would be. Given the amount of work that must go into each pen, how many can you make in what amount of time? That certainly would be a big factor in a drop, unless it was limited. Which, given the beauty of what you do, would not be unreasonable. I look forward to seeing where this goes.  
FlaRider
The biggest factor is actually my obsessiveness with polishing the pens: with my skills I've built up over the years, the actual woodworking aspect isn't as hard (I also have my autistic son help me in the workshop: he has safety limitations, but what he's safe to do he helps out with, which helps with speed a little) Really the top line limitation is that I like to polish between 20 and 30 coats of finishing oil into the wood: that takes a few days of intermittent "polish in oil", "let it cure", "polish in more", "let it cure" etc. As others have observed, I do use a particular manufacturer's "mechanism kit" for what I make, but I use the 'top specification' mechanism, and then upgrade the nibs: thats also important to consider.
Beyond Massdrop, how do we order pens from you? Both the piano and jigsaw versions would be great for 2 of my friends for birthday presents.
RogerLambdin
Roger: thanks for asking. If you're in Canada or the USA, I have an ETSY store that I never seem to manage to find enough time to keep up to date. (three kids, day job, woodworking always seems to be down the list; everyone here can relate in way or another) :) Look for 'pensbyjonathan' on etsy, or message me on instagram at 'distinctivewoodworking' (yet another thing I need to make time for: clean up my branding! :) ) Thanks for the interest
Very nice work! The only issue (and it's a deal-breaker for me at least) is that the mechanism is "kit" - this results in a very thin diameter metal section, which translates into significant discomfort over long writing sessions. I've often wondered whether it might be possible to create a bit of a 'franken-pen' - take your wood turned barrel (which looks absolutely lovely) and create an inner thread that might connect up to (let's say) a Pilot Metro section (I only use the Metro as an example as they're fairly inexpensive). You may have some success selling wood-turned barrels that fit other pen manufacturer's hardware if you can't get your hands on that stuff yourself.
Ghostwriter
Ghostwriter: its funny that you ask that: a friend of mine was asking me about playing with 'Frankenpens' Curiously enough actually using some of the "Chinese knockoff" pens that are floating around, some of which are actually fairly decent, and are often better than the kits. However: for what its worth: while you're right that a couple of the pens in my pictures are the "kits" they are for lack of a better word "high end" kits, so the metals are higher end, better nibs and the such. When I have some summer vacation playtime I am going to play around with tapping one of my mechanisms to see if my Lamy nib and quill will fit: I checked the diameters and they're very close.
Your wood turning work is quite good. If people come off negative against "hand-made" fountain pens, 90% of the time it is because of the generic (sorry to say this: soul-less) pen kits that are used to make them. It's a shame really, there's some truly beautiful work out there. As for drops, AllegoryGoods is sometimes featured here. Though they use the same kits everyone else uses. Personally, I like their leather work more. Their pens aren't that interesting especially considering what they charge.
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Considering the effort you put in to the finish of the pen, how about going the distance and design a distinctive pen? The custom pen market expects the performance of typical German bib units like Schmidt, JoWo and Bock, in a way a more rudimentary “pen kit”. Also consider adding features that are practical, like a window to see ink level. How about showing off your wood working skills by introducing unusual joinery techniques? For example a twist lock to secure the cap, or a pin to hold the barrel and section in place? If you can insert a plastic liner or some super durable varnish, make an eye dropper. These are features a pen collector would go ga ga over
MrSharkbait
Thanks MrSharkBait... Part of the problem is some of what you suggest will require me to put even more tooling into my workshop than I admit to my wife that I already own... However; any temptation for more tools is worth considering :)
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I'm mildly interested lol.
densetsu
Wow: those are stunning... Whomever you bought those from puts some *serious* work into a few of those. I find it interesting that most of them are built up on the so-called "Gentleman" style mechanism body. I get the sense you have a weight and size you really like. :) If you look at my maple burl photo, the one on the granite slab. Its the same physical size as a "Jr Gent" style body, but the mechanism is an upgrade: Better machining on the threads, a little more ornamentation on the finials, a higher spec plating on the metal body, and then a #6 nib as the finishing touch. BTW: I'd love a closer picture of the two on the bottom of that picture... :)
DistinctiveWoodworking
Not sure where my original comment went - seems to have disappeared. The pens are really gorgeous, and I appreciate the discussion on nibs. What I haven't seen yet is an indication of what you would need to charge for the pens in order to make a drop work for you. Just a price range would be helpful.