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Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas everyone!

Today is the day that I finally "officially" merged my two blogs back together. From here on, you'll start seeing repair posts and updates on this blog again!

It'll take me a week or two to finally archive all the old posts here, but eventually I'll get them moved.

Of course - Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you'll all have a wonderful day filled with family, friends, and lots of love!

I'll get back with some update as soon as I've got some time again. Should be real soon - I just need to decide on a special post to start things of again. :)

Tyler Dahl

Monday, December 19, 2011

Been out of the loop for a few days now...

I've been totally busy the last few days, and haven't had more than a few minutes total to be on the computer. I do apologize for not updating the blog, and to anyone who is awaiting an email response from me. I will make my best attempt to get to all your emails today.

Blogging will be a little less scheduled for the next week or two, being the holiday season. I don't want to get to busy with this, and miss other important things (not the the blog is unimportant).

I'm going to make a few changes to some things around here. First one is this:

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Holiday sale!

The holiday season approaching so quickly, I thought it'd be appropriate to have a nice holiday sale for my monthly tray of restored pens!

Every remaining pen is 10% off till the 25th of December! Grab em' while they're cheap! :)

There aren't a whole lot left, so I recommend you go take a peek now, and see if there's anything that interests you. I'd like to move these out by the end of the month, because I want to clear my workshop space up a bit.

I'm planning on doing a little new years sale too, but the pens will be different than this month. :)

Have a good one folks!

Tyler Dahl

Monday, December 12, 2011

A nib that makes my handwriting look better...

Well, I've finally come to a realization this last month. It's something I didn't really want to accept, but now that I have, I'm actually really enjoying it.

The first few FP's I owned all had medium, or smaller nibs. Mostly F and XF.

Then a few months ago I started buying up large nibs - B, BB, stubs, italics, etc. I loved them. They're so smooth!

But I had one problem - my writing just looks horrible with a large nib. I tried to write bigger, but that just didn't cut it for me.

So, what to do? Well, the inevitable.

I switched back to a fine nib for my Pilot VP last month. Ahhh... A sigh of relief - I can read my own writing! I still enjoy the feel of broad nibs, but I have such a hard time writing with them.

Anyone else ever experienced this? Switched to the dark side of broad, only to turn back again to smaller nibs?

Here's a scan of my writing with a small and broad nib. Both written at the same speed.

Now, my handwriting is just bad, period. But, it's at least a little better with the smaller nibs. At least I think so.

Anyone else agree with me on this? Or am I imagining my handwriting improving with the smaller nibs?

That's all for today folks. :)

Tyler Dahl

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Weekend Reads 12/10/11

Time for some weekend reads! Hopefully you've all had a good week, and now you're ready to settle in for some rest and relaxation, before Christmas gets to close.

I didn't get very many questions this week, so I'm going to save them up for next weeks reads. Remember, if you've got questions - ask away! I'd love to hear from you. :)

This review must've been made just for me! It's a "double-review", and both items are things I want to buy very soon. It's not an exhuastive review, but it is a good one. :)

- An ink review, of another ink I plan on buying soon (a sample of). J. Herbin Diablo Menthe - Doesn't look like it did to well in the review. I'm just chasing after the color of this ink, not it's properties.

- Here is a review of the next pen I plan on adding to my collection - The Pilot Custom 823. This review was the main one that sold me on it!

That's it for this weekend. Those should be long enough to keep you busy, if you read the whole thing of course. Enjoy, and let me know if you've got comments, suggestions, questions ,etc.

Tyler Dahl

Friday, December 9, 2011

TWSBI EF nib comparison

My internet was down this morning, so that's why I'm late. One of the downfalls of satellite over dial-up. It's still 1000x better than dial-up though... :) On with the article!

Well, I bought an EF nib for my TWSBI, the reason why, I'll be discussing tomorrow. :)

Here's a quick comparison of the TWSBI EF, compared to a Pilot VP F, and Lamy 2000 B.

Click to enlarge,  if you want to see this close up.

From what I can tell, my TWSBI EF writes a hair thicker than my VP fine! This is what I was expecting, due to several reports.

Not a disappointment, as I like the size of my VP fine a lot, and any smaller would be to much so for me. Still, if you're looking for a true EF nib, the TWSBI might disappoint you.

Has anyone else noticed this? I've heard that the EF might actually be thicker than the TWSBI F nib. Anyone here who wants to confirm that? Drop me a comment and let me know!

That's all for now folks. :)

Tyler Dahl

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Buying from eBay - be aware...

I really do like eBay. I buy a lot of pens there, though I don't do a lot of selling.

The thing you have to be careful of on eBay, are those lemons you occasionally get. I've only gotten 1 or 2, but they were pretty bad.

Here's one of them, that I thought I'd share with you all.

This is a Parker 51 I bought a while back, to add to my collection. I ended up selling it in the end, but that's besides the point.

This pen was a "good" condition 51, on eBay. Let's take a close look.

The jewel - Oh wow! Really bad job here on this cover-up. The original jewel sheared off, and someone glued down the top of a different jewel onto it. Why? I don't know. Seems harder to me to glue one on, than to just replace it.

The old jewel was a normal white jewel. The glued piece was from a "honey" colored jewel. 

And then, a "delightful" hood crack.

There it is again!

So guess what - I got a bad one! Worst of all, after all this damage, you'll never believe what happened when I finally dip tested it. The tipping on the nib popped right off!

Overall I had to invest about $70.00 worth of parts just to get this pen working again. Not a good deal at all in my book. :(

So, now you don't have to feel so bad about your bad eBay buys. It happens to all of us.

My advice for you all - Be careful, and buy restored pens from trusted repairers whenever possible.

That's it for today. :)

Tyler Dahl

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ink Review - Noodlers Brown

Ink review time! Noodlers brown is on the plate today. I'm going to use an adapted version of my new review system for this. We'll see how it works out. :)

Noodlers Brown ranks about 65% in my book.

Noodlers brown originally got me interested for two reasons:

1) It looked like it shaded really well.

2) It looked like the perfect shade of brown.

Overall I am a little bit disappointed in this ink. Not completely, but it certainly is not exactly what I thought it'd be. It has some major (t0 me at least) downfalls, that I'l hit on in this review.

The good:

  • It is a nice shade of brown. Not perfect, but better than most.
  • It's a Noodlers ink, so it's not expensive to buy.
The Bad:
  • It has some major bleed-through issues. Wait till you see the photos below...
  • Color is too dark for me. Sometimes it looks black. It's the right shade of brown, but it needs a touch more light to it.
  • Dry time is a bit slow.
All in all, it's a decent ink, but I'd like to find something to replace it. I only bought a sample, in my hunt for the perfect brown. This is not the perfect brown. It's a good one, and some aspects are real close, but it's not there.

Onto the review!

Ink Review: Noodlers Brown

Pen and nib: Lamy 2000 - B nib

Color: Dark Brown

Dry time: 15-20 seconds. Not bad for such a wet pen.

Smear when dry: A tiny bit...

Shading: Low/moderate. I think a less wet pen would actually shade better.

Lubrication: Good.

Bleed-through: Quite a bit actually. I wish it wasn't so...

Feathering: A very small amount.

Here's the scan. I think this one's pretty accurate.

Here is a shot of that bleed-through. Yikes! You'll notice that the bleed-through looks red-ish. It is in person too. It seems that the red-hue of the ink is separating, and bleeding through the paper.

Another shot of the swab...

This is an okay ink, but it's poor behavior makes it a no go for me. Again, if these small problems were fixed, this could be a real winner. But until then (or if ever), I will be searching for another brown.

Anybody here got a brown to recommend? Waterman Havana Brown is next on my list to try, thanks to Peninkcillin. :)

Anyone else ever tried this ink before? Did you get the same impression that I got? I'm wondering if it's just my pen and nib combo. I'll try it in my fine nibbed VP, and see what happens.

I hope you enjoyed the review. As always, feel free to leave me a comment and let me know what you think. If you've never left a comment before, now's your chance. :)

Until Wednesday then!

Tyler Dahl

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Weekend Reads 12/4/11

Welcome to the first official Weekend Reads post. I hope you'll enjoy it!

Let's start this off with my favorite articles of the recent week. There are some great ones here, so be sure to check them out.

1) First one is not exactly FP related, but it is related to writing. Someone posted this website up on FPN, and I just had to share it here. I'll keep it a surprise, so you'll have to go find out for yourself what exactly it is. :)

2) Next up is an ink review from one of my favorite fellow bloggers. I've never tried this ink, but Im definitely adding a sample next time I go ink shopping. Noodlers Hunter Green is basically a waterproof ink, in my favorite shade of green.

3) With the holiday season upon us, and Christmas approaching fast, I thought this was a very appropriate post from Economy Pens.

4) I have not seen to many pink inks before... But this one looks pretty intriguing! Very wild, and not a very "manly" ink so to speak, but  enjoyed the review.

Now time for some Q&A!

Q #1: While I can, and have, replaced ink sacs, is there an easy way to get a new ink sac on the section when replacing an old sac? I have tried sac stretchers, tweezers, just my fingers, etc. Sometimes I have immediate success but sometimes it is frustrating beyond belief, the shellac dries out or ends up on my fingers, and I have to start all over! Is there one foolproof way to get the sac onto the pre-shellacked section?
A: My method for placing the sac on the sac-nipple is very simplistic. Once I discovered it however, I have had no trouble in getting my sacs on. I'll attempt to describe it, though I may end up needing to make a video of this one. - Start by trimming your sac to size, and dry fitting it, to make sure it's the right size. Next, give the sac-nipple a good coat of shellac. I prefer to have a little extra, and need t dab it off later, as opposed to not enough. If there's to little, the sac will stick and not slide, and that will make it harder to do this. Now for the real trick. Basically, I just push the sac on. I start with half of the sac-nipple, sliding the sac over it. Then, I use my finger (not pinching) to just push it over the rest of the sac-nipple. After this, I'll twist the sac 1/4 turn, to make sure the shellac is spread. Then dab off any extra shellac, and you're done! That probably doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but maybe you caught it. I'll work on a "pictorial", or video of this very soon. :)

Q #2: I recently purchased brass shim so that I could floss the tines of my fountain pens in order to increase ink flow. Luckily, my local hardware store had brass shim available to purchase, but only in a package containing various sized sheets of brass shim. Each sheet is a different width/thickness. The package included: .001, .002, .003, and .005. Since I am a novice at this, first, I had no idea that brass shim came in different widths. Second, which one do I use on my pens?
A: The preferred sizes for brass shim, when used with FP's, is .001, and .002. I use both, but mostly the .002. Any wider though, and you might spread the tines to far apart. The .001 is good for cleaning out ink channels in the feed. It's a bit thin to floss the nib with, unless you like a really dry nib.

Q #3: Hi Tyler, how about this: (a) what has been your toughest repair and (b) why was it so difficult? 
A: Wow, that's a tough question. I think I may have had toughest repairs, but never one single repair that's been the most difficult. I'll pick just one tough one though. It's funny actually - My toughest repair is now one of my most ruitine, and easy tasks to perform. At the time however, I was stumped, baffled, and frustrated. I was trying to install a hanging pressure bar into a Waterman pen, for the first time. Boy was that a chore! This one happened to be just a bit bent inside, so it was more difficult than normal. Still, After I finally got it in, I thought - "Why was that so hard!?". I laugh about it now, as I find this very easy to do, but at the time, it wasn't very funny at all. :)

Well, I hope you've enjoyed the weekend reads for this week! I know I was late this week, due to the work needed on my house. Hopefully next week I can run this all as scheduled.

Enjoy the reads, leave me a comment, subscribe if you liked this, and don't forget to submit your questions for next week!

Tyler Dahl

Friday, December 2, 2011

Sorry folks, a little busy today... :)

Well guys, I wasn't able to post to the blog today. I was working all day long installing the wood-stove on my house. Took a long time, and I honestly don't enjoy working up on top of my metal roof. :| A bit stressing, but it sure is great to have it done!

I'm also going to delay the weekend reads till Sunday. I just need a day to prepare for it, and the next week of blogging.

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tyler Dahl

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Monthly Update!

Well guys, today marks the first day of December! I've got snow on the ground at my house, and it's pretty chilly here too. Anyone else think it's beginning to look a  lot like Christmas? ;)

I'd like to just give you all an update on what's going on this month, and what you can expect from the website, and both blogs.

Firstly: I will be open for business all December long. I do not take a break for Christmas, so you may feel free to send me pens anytime during the holiday season. Don't be concerned about me being busy, because Christmas-time is not a busy time for me. :)

Let's start with the Website. I've got quite a few improvements that I think you'll enjoy!

1) First off, I've got a whole new tray of pens up for sale this month! Lots of really great ones too. These are for sale, but only for this month. Tis' the perfect season for buying a new FP, for yourself, or a friend. :) Some of my top picks of the month are:

Beautiful Blue EverSharp Skyline!

A lovely vintage Pelikan M400 with a semi-flex nib!

Conklin Crescent filler with a fabulous #2 flexible Toledo nib!

2) Next up, we've got a great new feature for those "visual minded" people. I decided that just listing a photo of all 12 pens at once just didn't cut it. You can't see enough of the pen. So, to remedy this, I've come to a good in-between place. The "tray picture" will remain the same, as it's good to see what's for sale at a glance.

The new feature is the "click the title to a large picture of the pen". Any pen that you're interested in - just click the title, or the magnifying glass icon. You will be taken to a new window (or tab), so you won't lose you place, and then you can see a full image of just the pen you want. I've made these images to show as much detail as possible. Try it out here and see for yourself!

3) The Mobile Website is almost ready to launch! I'll need another week or so to finish up the last details, but it's very close now!

A public thank-you to everyone who volunteered to help out with the mobile website! I couldn't have done it without you. You've been a huge help, and I really appreciate it!

4) This is very important, so please do read it. 
I have had to make a rather difficult decision this month, and I want you all to be aware of this, and have a good understanding of "what" and "why". I try to be honest, and keep stuff like this out in the open.

I have recently had a rise in my costs for repairing pens. Namely, new tools, to expand the possibilities of what I can accomplish. Many of these tools cost quite a "fortune", and thus I feel the need to make some small price change in accordance with this. As of today (12/1/2011) I have made some small price changes to my some of my services. I realize that this is not the kind of news that we always want to hear. I do dislike having to do this, but I feel it's the only way to keep my business running, and thus I decided to go for it. However, even with these small price changes, I can still safely say that my prices far undercut many others in the pen-repair field. I hope you all understand this, and please, let me know if you have questions. I am still determined to maintain low prices, and excellent customer service, forever.

Now for some blog updates:

Just a few quick ones, to keep you current.

1) I will be continuing to blog every other day on both blogs! I don't intend on stopping this anytime soon, as I don't see a reason to. :)

2) Hopefully you all read about my new review system here. That will continue to be used for all my future reviews. Seems very handy to me.

3) If you haven't checked it out yet, I'd love to have you participate in my Weekend Reads Q&A! I need folks to ask questions, or else I can't do it. Go ahead, don't be shy! Ask away about anything pen-related.

That's about it for the monthly updates. Have a great holiday season everyone, and enjoy the blog!

Tyler Dahl

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mini-review: Six-Pen Pen-Wrap!

This is more of a "show-n-tell/you need one of the for yourself" than it is a review. :)

Ever since I first laid eyes on one of these, I knew I had to have one of my own! If you've never seen or heard of a pen wrap, then all the better! This will be a real treat, either way. Enjoy!

WARNING: This review is highly subjective to the user, and thus, you may disagree with my rating. So, I'll just let you know - this is my rating. :) It may not apply to you, as we all have different likes and dislikes. Cheers!

 For me, this pen wrap scores an amazing 95%!


The good:

  • Absolutely incredible craftsmanship - handmade!
  • Many color/design options available
  • Customer service is 110%!
  • Can be custom made to specifications, at cost
  • Works very, very, very well. :)
  • Makes carrying your pens around fun and enjoyable
The bad:
  • They are a bit expensive, ranging from $40.00 - $60.00, depending on what materials you choose.
  • The chord for securing the wrap can come loose at times
These pen wraps are handmade by Ling, a school teacher in Taiwan. her husband does the emails and billing stuff, but she sews the wraps. To put it into a few words - You rarely see this much beautiful craftsmanship in America these days. With everything mass-produced, it's a really special treat to use/purchase something handmade.

If you want to carry around your collection of up to 6 pens with you, believe me - this is your case. It looks amazing, functions flawlessly, and it's incredibly handmade! What more could you want in a case? :)


Need I say it again? Stunning. Simply stunning and beautiful.

My pen wrap is supposedly made of Japanese Linen, though that could just be a "name" for a type of textured cotton. I'm not 100% sure it actually is linen, but it feels like it to me. :)

The edges of the flap (it covers the clips to prevent scratching) are angled in, so that when the case is rolled up, they don't poke out. This case is very intelligently designed too.

I let Ling choose the inner material for me, so this was a surprise for me. I like the choice a lot! It's not my absolute most favorite pattern in the world, but it's beautiful, and there are certainly worse things out there. :)

My small collection of pens. I just cut back to two pens, and a pencil. I plan on buyer more when my house is finally finished and we're moved in.

The part of the slot where each pen clips on is very sturdy, yet thin enough to not be a nuisance. The entire wrap is made of 7 layers, and has been professionally steam-pressed so it will maintain it's shape forever. (Well, for a very long time)

I chose the ornament below form a gallery of about 30-40 different ones. If you don't like this one, fear not! They've got a lot to choose from. I'll include a link to the "store" at the end of the review.

The upper-left edge of the wrap tapers in slightly, in a nice angled "cut". I'm not sure of the purpose of this design, but I think it looks really cool. Maybe that's just it? :)

Not only is this pen wrap a thing of beauty, but it's also built for work. It functions even better than it looks! These wraps are just well thought out, from top to bottom.

The stitching job is beautiful, and very well done. The look machine made, and yet, they're not!

Pens slide in and out very easily from the slots, and yet the remain secure during transport.

My Lamy 2000 has a new best friend. :)

Each slot seem to stretch, or shrink to fit with whatever pen is in it.

The Chords is a very convenient, yet stylish method of securing the wrap. I find that it's not the most convenient, but it's certainly my favorite looking design.

all you have to do to secure it is wrap the rope around, and tuck the little "ornament" into the rope. One of the few flaws with the case: This rope can come undone sometimes, because it's not extremely secure. If you want to throw your pens of a cliff, don't pick this pen-wrap to protect them. ;)

That being said, I've never had a problem where my pens were in danger do to this very minor issue.

Overall, from "head-to-toe", this pen wrap is masterfully designed and created. I really can't say enough good things about it! It protects extremely well, without looking ugly. That's just what I wanted when I bought it!

Here's my conclusion. You can browse the gallery of pre-made wraps here. To order. Well, that's the tough part. I really don't want to post this guys email address all over the web. If you want to buy one of these pens wraps, email me, and I'll personally give you his contact info. Sound good? :)

What more need be said? You know what to do. Sell of those pens you don't use, and invest in beautiful, functional protection for your pens. 

Lastly, let me know what you think of the review, and the pen wrap! Not your style? Or is this the thing you've always dreamed of, but had yet to find?

Tyler Dahl

Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome the new blog schedule!

Hello to any and all who read, or frequent my blog! I finally have a good consistent blogging schedule now. This will remain the same, with the exception of holidays, vacations, and emergencies. Here's what I'd like to do:

I will be updated the blog regularly every other day now, starting today. Here are the exact days, since we don't have an even number of them in a week. :)

Monday: Blog Update
Tuesday: ____
Wednesday: Blog Update
Thursday: ____
Friday: Blog Update
Saturday: ____
Sunday:Blog Update

So Sunday and Monday will  be back-to-back blogging, but I'd rather do 4 per week instead of 3. :)

That's it. My schedule for blogging. I really enjoy blogging, but I definitely need the days off to work on pens, and prepare for the next days blog post. I think this is a good balance of blogging being a priority, but not getting in the way of my work.

Enjoy the blog, subscribe if you already haven't, and leave me a comment to share your thoughts. I'd appreciate hearing those.

Tyler Dahl

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Weekend Reads Q&A

Time to introduce an idea that I am really excited about, but that I need your help and participation with!

Yesterday we introduced the new "Weekend Reads" feature. Part of that is the new Q&A addition!

Here's how it will work:

All week long, anyone who reads my blog will be free to submit any and all questions that they might have, about pen related things. I'd like to keep it fairly short, so questions like "explain how a fountain pen works" will be saved for an entire article, if that makes sense. :)

Then, after collecting questions throughout the week, I will publish answers to them every Saturday, to be included in the Weekend Reads post.

Here's what I need help with:

I need you folks to simply ask questions! If you have a question about anything: "what's my favorite ink?" - "where can I buy pens from?" - "how do I get a good deal on eBay?" - Anything at all! Just ask away. I can't do this without your help. :)

If I don't get enough participation, I'll have to discontinue this, which would be sad.

I know that out of my many subscribers and readers, there has to be at least 3-4 of you a week who can ask a question, right? I know you all can do it!

Please direct your questions here. I will let you know if you're question will be included in the Weekend Reads. If I feel it's important enough to warrant it's own article, I'll let you know that too. :)

Again, I really need your help with this, so if you have a question, don't be shy about asking. I really want to hear from you.

Tyler Dahl

Saturday, November 26, 2011

New feature! Introducing "Weekend Reads"

Another new improvement to the blog. I'd like to introduce you to my new concept: Weekend Reads!

I've been considering doing this for a while now, but it was just until now that I've decided to do it.

So, "what are Weekend Reads?". Let me explain:

Each weekend, on Saturday, I will publish a list of my favorite articles of the recent week, from my favorite blogs. These articles will be hand picked, and not just "pumped out". That means that I won't just go searching for links to add - I will only add my favorite articles that I think you'll find interesting. Occasionally, I will refer you to a previous post from this blog, or another blog, if it goes with the content of the week's articles.

This will give you something to read about, while I get a break from blogging. I will publish it Saturday morning, and will resume normal blogging again on Monday. This will keep me rested, and let you catch up on some good articles you may have missed.

Here's the quick features list:
  • An overview of the last week on this blog - popular posts, and an update on what's going on "behind the scenes".
  • My favorite posts and articles from fellow blogs, that I hope you'll enjoy.
  • A new Q&A time, which I will introduce tomorrow, for the next week's Weekend Reads. :)
I hope that you will enjoy this new "feature" of the blog. I do need the rest, but I also would like it to become an good asset to your reading list.

Please, let me know if you've got suggestions or thoughts on this. I really want to hear from you. Your suggestions can, and will help influence the way this blog works, in a good way!

Thanks folks, and have a great weekend!

Tyler Dahl

Friday, November 25, 2011

Review: Lamy 2000

Time for another pen review!

Up for review today is the highly acclaimed Lamy 2000.

As with all my reviews, I try to be subjective, and honest. Even though this is on my top 5 pens list, I still have some issues with it that we'll hit on this article.


The Lamy 2000 scores 89%!

The good: 
  • Really cool, award winning design
  • Intelligent functionality
  • Excellent ink capacity
  • Extremely durable - a true survivor
The bad:
  • Cap "nubs" can be very annoying to some users
  • The design is either "you hate it or you love it"
  • Piston can tend to be a bit stiff
  • Prices have gone up recently

The Lamy 2000 is a pen that has been, and will continue to be at the top of my collection. Though recently pared down to only two pens, the Lamy 2000 remained in my fountain pen collection. Being a very picky FP user, that is saying something!

I highly recommend this pen to anyone who is looking for a solid/reliable pen to take with them everywhere. This is one that you can clip into your pants pocket, and not worry about it. It takes a beating, and it doesn't even show. The matte finish texture seems practically invincible, and it looks great too.

If you're in the market for a new pen, I see no reason that you should hesitate to purchase the Lamy 2000!

Read on for the full review:

Thursday, November 24, 2011

How to: a guide to my new review system!

Well guys, I've finally deiced to re-invent my review system. As always, change can be a bit rough at first, but I think you will enjoy these new changes. I'll keep this post short, as most of the changes are self explanatory, and you'll catch on to them by simply reading the reviews.

These new changes will be implemented immediately, and you'll get to see them at work tomorrow morning (Lamy 2000 review!).

Let's jump right in with all the changes:

  • All pens will now be rated in 4 different areas: Design, size/weight, functionality, and the nib.
  • Each area of the pen's performance can be given a maximum rating of 25%.
  • At the end of the review, all rating will be added together for the final pen's rating, maximum of 100%. Simple enough, right? :)
  • There will be a new overview section at the very beginning of each review. This will help get the point and conclusion of the review across to those individuals who may not have time, or may not wish to read the entire article. It's exactly what it says - a quick overview of the bad and strong points of the pen!
  • You will see the new "rating bar" for each review now. A convenient graphical bar to let you know, at a glance, how good the pen ranks on my scale. Here's how it will look:
This is the full bar, just showing the different coloring for each rating. Percentage rating goes like this:

  • Horrible: 0-20%
  • Bad: 21-40%
  • Not bad, but not good: 41-60%
  • Good: 61-80%
  • Great: 81-90%
  • Amazing: 91-100%
The higher ranks have a more "narrow" allowance than the lower ones do. The percents are just a bit "goofy", but being that I had 6 rankings, to divide into 100... :)

I did the best I could! I'm sure you'll catch on to them, and get used to it in a few reviews.

Here's how it will look in the reviews. Whichever rank the pen scores will be "lit-up", and the rest will remain greyed out.

The overview:
I felt the need to add this into my reviews. The overview will give the high and low points of the pen, as well as it's rating, right in the first visible portion of the review. It's basically a quick summary of the review in just a paragraph. This is made for a specific reason. I want to make it easy on people who may not have the time to read the entire review, but they still want to know what the pen is like. If you've got 60 seconds to spare at work, you can quickly determine if the pen is good enough to be worth reading the full review later. I hope you will enjoy this new feature!

That's about it for my changes! The rest are small things, that you may not even notice. They will just make everything a little bit better.

As always, don't forget to subscribe to the blog! Tomorrow morning I will put out my first review using this new system. The Lamy 2000 is up on the plate, and I've got some good things to say about it. :)

Tyler Dahl

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

5 tips to sell your pens like a pro

A big part of fountain pens is the buying, selling, and trading aspect. It's a great deal of fun, and selling/trading your pens is a good way to obtain new ones at low cost.

But maybe you've had trouble selling your pens before. Often times it can be difficult to achieve a sale, even when your pen is priced correctly. Here I will share my best tips for getting your pen sold. These tips are not a "get rich quick" kind of thing. These are honest ideas to improve your sales, the right way. Enjoy!

Tip #1: Be honest and trustworthy
If you're tempted to skip this tip, stop! This is without doubt the most important thing on my tips list. Whether you've never sold something before, or you have a not-so-good track record from the past, now is the time change that! Here are some things to remember, to help you build a foundation of trust with your buyers:
  • Honesty sells. People love honesty. Don't you? I would rather buy a broken pen knowing that it will be broken, than buy a pen that works "OK" when I was told it would be perfect. If the pen has a defect, lay it out, in the open, for everyone to see. People will catch on to this, and they'll love you for it. If people can trust you, you've knocked off half of your selling problems right there.
  • Give your opinions, but not too liberally. If you want to rant about how smooth the nib is on this pen, go ahead and do it! But keep it within reason. If you let your opinions extend beyond fact, you'll run into serious problems. Saying "this is one of the smoothest nibs I've ever used" is much better than shouting "this is without doubt the smoothest nib ever manufactured!". Even if you are enthusiastic about a pen, and you love that pen, you can't give people the wrong impression. If they're expecting the smoothest nib in the world, and your pen doesn't deliver, you've lost a customer's trust.
  • Keep building for the long run. Each sale you make that is trustworthy and honest earns you another "reputation point". At first, it may seem unimportant, "because I'm just selling this one pen", but it really pays off. If you've built a 3 year track record of excellent sales, the next time you need to sell a pen fast (to afford that new one perhaps), you won't have a problem doing so.

Tip #2: A picture is worth a thousand words, and a few thousand dollars
This is a very tough point for many of us. When we want to sell something, we want to "list it now!" It's very, very important to provide good quality, clear photographs of the pen you're trying to sell. No phone-snapshots allowed! Think about it this way: you can spend 15 minutes taking pictures now, or you can spend three weeks trying to sell your pen with crummy pictures later. Which do you prefer? Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • Always photograph "areas of concern". If there is anything "questionable" or wrong with the pen you're selling, it's important to photograph it clearly. People need to see what they're dealing with before they make a purchase. Though it may seem like not showing a defect is an acceptable shortcut, it could potentially cripple your sale.
  • For more on pen photography, and how to get good photos for cheap, read this article here.
  • Take your time. If you're in a rush to sell your pen, people won't be in a rush to buy it. That's just how it works. The more time you put into selling your pen, the more time buyers will put into looking at it. Think of it as an investment.
  • You don't need an expensive camera! Don't let anyone tell you that you need a $1500.00 Nikon to sell your pens. I take all my photographs with a $30.00 camera bought off eBay! Now that's cheap! For more on pen photography, and how to get good photos for cheap, read this article here.

Tip #3: Spare me the details, give me the facts
This is something that I have a tendency to do wrong. I like to talk up my pens a lot, but this is not always good. We as sellers must walk a very fine line between being over descriptive, and secretive. Here's my advice:
  • Use descriptions sparingly. If you say "greatest" and "best" for every square inch of the pen, people won't believe you. Use you descriptions sparingly, and only for when a feature really stands out.
  • Make sure that the pens strongest selling points are easily scanned and read.
  • Keep it scan-able. Let's just be honest here - When you go onto a sales page, what do you do? You first look at the pictures - always, every time. Then you go and look at the price. Then, if you're really interested, you'll do a quick scan through the description. That's how it is, isn't it? We need to keep this in mind when we're selling a pen. Always make the price of the pen stand out, but don't be outrageous with it. A simple underline, and boldface will do. Just big enough to be easily seen, but not "in your face". Make sure that the pens strongest selling points are easily scanned and read. This is crucial. If someone wants to know what type of pen it is, you can help by showing them all the strong points, using simple text formatting. Once again, making use of boldface, and underlining can help potential buyers make a quicker decision.
  • Keep important info in one place. When I say "important info", I am talking the basics that we all need to know: Size, color, model, nib size/type, etc. Try to keep it one quick bulleted list. You can repeat this information throughout your description, but it's also good to have it in one place, for easy scanning. If I'm trying to find out what nib size a pen has, I don't want to have to read three paragraphs of text to find it.

Tip #4 and 4.5: The free shipping technique & Pricing
These are very important principles as well. Take a look at this for a moment:

Which one would you be more prone to choose?

From my experience in marketing, I personally think that people can often be intimidated by extra numbers like .99. People like rounded off, dollar amounts. Though it is popular in the marketing world to sneak a few extra dollars by adding in that .99 cents, and putting that tiny little + shipping in there, I have found it to be otherwise. If you're looking to be honest, and treat your customers as you would like to be treated, I suggest you use the following techniques:
  • Offer free shipping. It is a HUGE selling point. When I'm right about to purchase something, and I'm suddenly hit with a $7.69 shipping fee, I'll often times leave immediately, and go search elsewhere. Make it clearly stated that shipping is already factored into the price. This will give people a peace of mind, knowing that there is no secret charge hiding and waiting for the unexpected. Even though it seems like you'll be losing money by offering free shipping, it will pay off in super-fast sales, and happy customers. It's worth it, believe me.
  • Make your pricing simple. Factor in all fees, shipping, and if necessary tax, and make your price a single rounded dollar amount. This makes it easier for everyone, from balancing the checkbook, to remembering how much your latest pen-purchase costed, a rounded number price is always better.
  • Charge what's fair, and keep it safe. If you're pen has problems, or it has a defect, price it accordingly. When you do, you will be very surprised at how many people are willing to buy it. I can safely say that my busted-up user-grade pens always sell the fastest. With these poor little user-grade pens, I often give them a personality, and a story. It helps! Give the pen a sob-story that your buyers won't be able to resist! It's funny, cute, and people love it.

Tip #5: Make it easy on your buyers
This is my last tip, and this is one that can really make or break a sale. If you're hard to get a hold of (via email or phone), you only accept an extremely limited amount of payment types, and you only ship to certain areas, you can really put off a potential buyer. Here are my recommendations for keeping a customer around to make the final sale:
  • Offer international shipping at cost. I have found that international customers are extremely open to paying the extra to have a pen shipped to them. Just let people know that they're welcome to buy the pen from overseas, as long as they're willing to pay the extra. You will be surprised at how many people don't care about the cost of shipping. They just want the pen! I personally will usually offer to split the shipping cost, just because I like to treat customers extra nice, but this is purely up to you.
  • Respond fast! If someone emails you about buying your pen up for sale, do NOT ignore that email. Drop what you're doing, and answer them, lest you forget and lose them. I can't emphasis this point enough. Good communication is key to making a sale.
  • Keep up with your listings. I am guilty of not doing this as well as I know I should. When a pen is sold, you must remember to edit the listing. I have had to apologize, more than once before, to customers who inquired about a sold pen, because I hadn't edited the listing yet. It was a dumb mistake...

Conclusion: Well, there you go! That's my 3 years experience of buying and selling pens, all compiled into on  semi-complete list. I have sold many pens before, and these are all the discoveries I've personally made. Techniques for selling can, and should be constantly perfected, but this should give you a good ground to start from.

I hope you've enjoyed this article. Please, leave me a comment below and tell me what you think. Give me your thoughts, and suggestions. If you have something to add, go ahead and let us know! If you've never left me a comment before, now would be a great time to start. Commenting is beneficial for all of us. It encourages me, and it adds to the discussion for everyone else. 

Lastly, don't forget to subscribe to the blog for more tips and tricks like this!

Tyler Dahl

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pen photography: Tips to get you started

This post today is preparing for tomorrows post, which I think you will all enjoy.

Today I am going to share some pen photography tips and ideas with you all. Being able to photograph your pens is not just for fun, it's useful for many reasons. If you want to do a good pen review, sell a pen, or trade a pen, you'll want be sure to provide good images for your viewers. This post will jump start you on your way to better pen photography!

Let me encourage you by saying: Getting professional looking pen photographs is easy, simple, and inexpensive! Let's begin.

Tip #1: "I just need a better camera..."
I hear this to often. Let me tell it to you like it is, straight up: You do not need to spend a lot of money to get good pen photographs. Photographing pens well is a technique, not a camera. :)

The camera I use cost me $35.00, off of eBay! It's a very old camera, and it doesn't have a whole lot going for it. Yet I get the job done. Of course, if you already have a nice $1500.00 camera, you'll be a step ahead.

Don't let this discourage you though. As long as you have a digital camera you can take very good, if not great pen photographs.

Tip #2: Take some time!
Don't be in a rush to finish up photographing your pen. Set aside a good 30 minutes for taking the photos, and editing them. I'll share my editing methods further down in today's post.

If you're in a rush, your photo quality will be greatly diminished. That's just not good, and it's not worth saving the extra 5 minutes. If you're going to bother to take photos of your pens, at least do a good job, right? :)

Tip #3: Set yourself up, for success!
Getting a good camera setup is an important key to getting good photos. You will want to experiment some, and see what works for you, but here's my favorite set up:

I have a table underneath my porch, where the sunlight  reaches, but not directly. You don't want direct sunlight for pen photos. You want indirect sunlight. Windows, underneath your porch overhang, etc. Those places are good for taking photos.

Use a tripod! Don't even try to avoid this one. You can find a good tripod on eBay, brand new for about $10.00. A tripod will prevent your camera from shaking, and produce much clearer pictures. It's worth the small investment of buying one.

Here is a photo of my camera setup. Very simple, and very basic - that's all that's needed.

My tripod pints down, and normally I set a piece of white paper on the table. That's it! Table, paper, tripod, and canopy.

Tip #4: Get outside - secret ingredient here!
Like I said in tip #3 - I take my photos outdoors. This is the most important key to success in my pen photographs. Inside, the lighting is so very poor. Whatever you do, don't pull the "snap a quick photo at my desk"! This results in horrible photos, unless you have a professional camera setup, and a light-box.

Believe me when I say that taking your photos outdoors will improve them in a way you never thought possible.

Again, avoid direct sunlight. I recommend taking them under a canopy, during a time of day where the sun is directly overhead. This way, the sun won't be shining right on your setup, but a gentle ambient light will filter through. Perfect...

Here is a comparison, of two photos of mine. One of these is from when I just began selling pens. The other is about a year or two later. These both use the same camera, and same setup. The difference? - Location.

Taken under fluorescent lighting, this is not such a great picture.

Same exact camera setup, but this time by a window, with indirect sunlight! This photo is sharper/crisper, has better coloration, and looks cleaner.

*It should be noted, for my own sake, that I am not a smoker! This is just an old cigar box I converted into a pen case.* :)

Tip #5: The background IS important
Don't forget a good backdrop for your photographs! Once again, think cheap. I use a plain piece of printer paper for my backdrop! Costs nothing, since I already have it, and looks professional. A good, plain white background will improve your picture quality so much!

Here is a comparison, between my old pen photos, and my new ones.

Bad backdrop - Stuff in the upper-right corner. To zoomed out, and to distracting.

Same camera, different setup! Outdoors, using a white sheet of paper for a backdrop. Not a lot of extra work for a huge amount of improvement.

Tip #6: Process them, but not to much
I like to use google's Picasa for my photo editing. I own Adobe Photoshop, but find it to complex for basic stuff like this. You can download Picasa for free, right here. Picasa also gives you some free online storage for your photos. I won't go into details about Picasa right now, as I don't want this post to become to long. I may do a tutorial on how I like to use Picasa, sometime in the future though.

The key to processing photos is this: Process enough to where the photo looks like it would in person. That's it. What do I mean by this?

Let me give you an example:

Here is a raw photo of a Lamy 2000. As you can probably tell, it's dark, and the paper is showing on the edge.

Same photograph, after a quick (30 second) touch up in Picasa. Lighting levels now look like they would if you were standing there with me, looking at the pen in person. Also, it's cropped so you can focus on the pen and not the background.

That's all the retouching I do. Just enough to make it look like it should, but no more. As soon as you get into the realm of enhancing a pen beyond what it actually is, you're into trouble.

Well, there you have it! That's my take on pen photography, from my 3.5 years of experience with it. I realize that to some of you folks out there who really are the pros, my methods might seem cheap. They are. :)

My goal is to make it possible for everyone to get really good pen photos. Good pen photos are crucial for selling pens, and they make our reviews a lot better too.

I hope you've enjoyed this collection of tips/tricks. Let me know in the comments below if you have anything to add, or you'd like to ask a question, or whatever! Just talk with me! I'd really love to hear from you.

Don't forget to subscribe to the blog. You don't want to miss tomorrow's post! Tomorrow I will share my 5 best tips for selling pens. I have sold a LOT of pens, so this is in area where my experience is fairly good. I hope you can all benefit from my mistakes, and successes.

Tyler Dahl

Monday, November 21, 2011

Ink Review - Waterman Florida Blue

Waterman Florida Blue is not only a most unique variation of the shade "blue", it is also one of the inks I trust most, as far as stability goes. Waterman has been making inks for a long time now, and though their color selection is nowhere near the top, they have some very shining qualities that should be noted. Read on for the review!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Is it dangerous? My 2 cents on Noodlers ink...

First off, I think you should all know that I've set a goal for this next week (20th - 26th). I am going to do 1 blog post a day, on both of my blogs! After the week, I will see how this went, and gauge from there on how often I can manage to normally post. I really want to blog more often, so this has become more of a priority for me. I'm thinking of alternating every other day, between my two blogs. That'd be one post a day, but only one post every other day on each of the blogs, being that there's two of them. So, wish me luck! Onto the main point of this post:

I often get asked via email, or on the forum at FPN, whether or not I think Noodlers ink is dangerous. Today I would like to give my 2 cents on this issue, for all who care to listen. :)

I'll keep it short, but to the point. And guys, let's keep the comments kind and respectful to each other. I know this can be a controversial subject, but I don't want to have to close the comments. I will though if I feel that things are getting out of hand.

Anyway, let's jump right into the article!

"Is Noodlers ink dangerous for my fountain pen?"

I can easily answer this in three words: Yes and no. :)

But that's not a very definitive answer, so obviously a little background is in order.

The first ink I ever purchased was Noodlers. The color was Luxury Blue - an oddly speckled-pale blue color from their "Eternal" line of inks. I used this ink for almost an entire year, before I finally began looking into other inks. Next ink I purchased was Noodlers, again. Navajo Turquoise (reviewed here - I love this ink).

After this, I began discovering other brands. I tried Diamine, MontBlanc, Iroshizuku, and Private Reserve. There might be more, but I can't remember them all.

After all this time, I had still been consistently using Noodlers ink, always having at least one pen inked with it. For an entire year I kept a Parker 51 loaded with Noodlers ink, and I can safely say that it never suffered  any damage whatsoever. Indeed, even in later years when I learned to repair pens, I took this one apart. It had no damage.

So, what's the point of this all? Well, this my background. The point of this is very important. Here's the punch-line: No matter what ink I used, or use, my pens never suffer from any ill effects.

So then, was I just lucky? Absolutely not. There is a good reason why none of my pens were ever harmed by ink. 

It's called cleanliness. That word right there holds the key to the lasting function of your fountain pen. Without good pen hygiene, I believe that any ink can damage a pen.

Want proof? Take a look at these:

What you're seeing here is a Pelikan M200 nib, from which the gold plating has been "melted" off, and "glued" to the feed. Believe me when I say that cleaning this feed was one heck of a job! There was no Noodlers ink involved in this incident. What there was however, was ink left in sitting in a pen for to long. I strongly believe that this is the #1 cause of chemically melted feeds and pens.

Here's another shot, showing that gold plating, and how it transferred.

Now take a look at this: See that chunk of "something", sitting right where that thin tube goes into the feed? That's a moldy ink accumulation. Once again, caused by a pen having ink left in it for to long. The nib itself is also stained very badly.

Now here is an example of how ink can be wrongly accused. This pen was filled with an Iroshizuku ink. These inks are supposedly one of the safer brands. So what went wrong? It turns out that it had nothing to do with the ink. When I first saw this (a melted twisted vac-diaphragm), I immediately assumed it was the ink. After some questioning however, I was convinced otherwise. This is actually the result of a faulty vacumatic diaphragm. The ink is not responsible in any way. So there you go - even I have accidentally accused an ink wrongly! :)

The bottom line
Here's my ultimate thought: Keep your pens clean! I personally believe that (disregarding the obvious - no India ink! one can use any ink in any pen, as long as you keep it clean. This means that every time you're ready to change inks, flush that pen out good! If you're wondering how to get a pen really clean, you're in luck, as I am going to post a little mini-tutorial on how to really get your pens clean. I'll put a link here as soon as I get it posted.

Also, anytime you want to use a more "clog-prone" ink (Bulletproof inks, permanent inks, etc.), I recommend flushing every fill, even if you're not changing colors. This will ensure that your pen will remain in the best of health.

I hope that this answers the question "what do you think of Noodlers inks?". I love them, and I see no reason not to use them. Just keep cleanliness in mind, and you won't have to worry about what inks you're using!

Remember to subscribe to the blog, especially this week, as we jump start my new routine with a post every day!

This post has been written to "supplement" my other post "Clean your pens!". If you want to read more into this subject, I recommend looking at that.

Tyler Dahl