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Small Batch European Makers And Their Pens

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#1 zaddick

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 23:24

For a dying industry, there sure are a lot of people making pens. Yes, they heyday is long gone (and there are nowhere near as many makers nor nearly the same scale of production), but there are still people out there with passion making pens that fill in a few niches. These are craftspeople or fountain pen lovers who take their creative energy and channel it into something unique.

 

While I enjoy my Montblancs, Pelikans, Pilots, Viscontis, and others, I am drawn to those makers who produce only a small amount of pens, often by hand. What I get is sometimes technically perfect, but more often feels like it was crafted instead of injection molded or stamped by some massive machine that could take away my arm without missing a beat. Sometimes it is one man (or woman), and one pen at a time. Sometimes it is a small shop of artisans, but always it is something special and unique that is the result.

 

In this thread I am going to post little write ups and photos of the various pens I have picked up over the years that were made by the good folks in Europe. (I also plan on doing the same thing for the Americas and Asia.) My collection cannot ever be exhaustive, but I hope it is a good place to start a discussion and raise awareness of some hard working folks. Many of the pens may not be for sale or may be one-of-a-kind, but once you are aware of them you can find something similar or maybe even my pens eventually. I will add my various pens as I have time to do the write-ups and photos.

 

I welcome comments from others about the pens. I am happy to answer most questions, though not on specific prices. (I bought many of these second hand so what I paid might not be a good representation of the current cost/market value.) I also encourage you to add any of your own pens from the same makers or others doing similar work. Let’s make this a showcase for craftspeople. (I’d prefer not to include kit pens please!)

 

Happy reading and writing.


Edited by zaddick, 19 May 2017 - 23:35.


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#2 zaddick

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Posted 19 May 2017 - 23:32

Gimena Pens

 

Gimena is the name of the little shop that was founded in 2010 by Pablo Carrasco in Spain. Pablo is an hands-on guy with a love for wooden pens. They are all hand turned on a lathe and use very high quality hardware. Nibs are made by Jowo, but have custom engraving and logos. I think Pablo did the engraving himself on many of the older nibs.

 

I have two pens I have managed to acquire from this small operation – an Ebenus and a Erica.

 

The Ebenus

 

This is a very simple pen made of a beautiful section of ebony wood. It is #2 of 5 made in the original release in 2010. I bought it from Susan who had beat me to it when it was listed in the classifieds here on FPN by the original owner (and a nice guy). The pen has a clean design and rhodium plated brass and silver trim. It sports a #6 size 18K pen also rhodium plated. The pen is a C/C and is easy to use and clean. Rather than bore you with more details, I will point you to Susan’s lovely review here on another site. She is better with photography and tells the story of the pen well.

 

I am happy I picked up the pen as it is something special among my small wooden pen collection.

 

The Erica Magnus

 

The Erica is a different model from 2015 and it came in two sizes: Regular and Magnus (Magnum). I have the Magnus that is truly an oversized pen. It is another simple design wooden pen with a roll stopper instead of the leaf clip. It has a large JOWO #8 two-tone 18K nib with custom engraving. The metal on the pen in 925 silver and feels well machined. The wood is a beautiful briarwood coated with urushi to provide protection and a vibrant color for a long time. It also prevents moisture from getting to the wood, although this is not really a big issue where I live.

 

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One thing I like about the pen is that the threads are right by the nib, allowing me lots of options where I can hold the pen as it is quite long. But as a result of this design choice, you need to use a special little tool made of ironwood to remove the short metal section and nib to access the converter. The tool almost looks like the circular closed end of a combo wrench. I suppose that is because it is essentially what it is. The inside of the loop has threads and once you hit the stop you then start to unscrew the section from the barrel. If I ever lost the tool this would be a pain to get enough grip to unscrew the barrel. As a novelty and a pen I do not fill often, it is an acceptable eccentricity. It would keep the pen from being a travel pen for me though.

 

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Finally, the packaging for this pen is really a neat treat. It comes in a box that looks like a book. You open it up to find a few pages about the care of the pen and the company. Then the pen and the tool are securely nestled into specially cut out slots in a block of cork. There is a ribbon you pull to get the items out and it is needed because there are tight tolerances in the slots. This is all part of the fun to me and is part of what makes the pen special. I have seen a lot of packaging over the years and this is both cute and clever – it feels artisan made.

 

fpn_1495236636__20161021_152945_resized.

 

fpn_1495236702__20161021_153015_resized.

 

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As of a 2016 blog post on the site, it appears Pablo is now focusing on making pens from ebonite as it is more cost effective. It looks to me like a lot of the same models are being crafted by in black hard rubber (with other colors possible in the future), and some new models will come out also. I am a little sad about this myself as I like the wooden pens. There are plenty of folks making great ebonite pens already that it will be harder to stand out. Still, I’d rather the company be profitable than relegated to the dustbin of history.



#3 DavidHL

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 04:23

Thank you for the wonderful post and idea! I am eager to read more about your collection.



#4 inkandseeds

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 05:09

Thanks for the thread.  Most interesting and inspiring.



#5 dms525

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Posted 20 May 2017 - 05:27

Thanks for this topic, Zaddick! I look forward to your writings about your other pens.

 

David



#6 zaddick

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 06:02

Gimena Pens continued...

 

I was able to get the pens out his morning and take a few more pictures. i will try to take some comparison shots instead of boring measurements. I will include a Pelikan M800 and an MB 149 as these ar esome of the more common pens I own.

 

Here is a picture of the Ebenus with the custom made zebrawood case.

fpn_1495346241__20170520_131311_resized_

 

Here are the comparison shots of the two Gimena pens, capped and uncapped. Pens are aligned at the bottom, even if they look off in the photo.

 

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Edited by zaddick, 21 May 2017 - 06:04.


#7 Empty_of_Clouds

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 06:13

The Ebenus is really attractive.  Pity they are not making any more.


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#8 zaddick

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 06:36

Astoria Goliath

 

Astoria is a historical name in pens as it was founded in 1921 by a former director of MB. In 1932 the company was purchased by Montblanc and in 1936 it was just merged into the firm.  In 2010 Horst Max Schrage (member maxpens here on FPN) resurrected the name and used it for his handmade pens. The pens are mostly made of ebonite, but there are some fancy models with Toledo metal work and even Japanese style egg shell. The pens are all handmade in Hamburg and even use custom ebonite feeds that, to me, look exactly like the split ebonite feeds MB used from the 1980s until about 1995.

 

My model is called the Goliath as it is larger and uses what I believe to be a Bock  A380 which is basically a #8 size similar to an MB 149 nib. The nib is very springy, similar to a 1950s 149. It provides good line variation and the fed has no issue keeping up. The nib and pen hare engraved with the Astoria name and the barrel says “handmade in Germany” in block printing. The clip is pretty much an spot on replica for the old MB “tie” clips like on the 13X series and the later Hemingway. All the furniture on the pen is silver and thus will tarnish over time. As you can see in my pictures, I have left the patina but could easily be polished right up to a nice shine. The top of the pen shows the old (and new) Astoria logo. Where the vintage pens are black and white, this pen has Toledo work silver and ebonite top. It is a nice subtle look and I think the tarnished furniture is a good compliment to the Toledo work. The pen is a piston fill. I am not sure if it is a custom piston or an off the shelf part, but I would guess custom. I have not measured capacity, but I have no complaints. The pen is a great writer and the concave and matte ebonite section are very comfortable. They only thing that may bother some folks is the lack of an ink window, but this is not uncommon for ebonite pens.

 

The pen design is vintage without trying too hard to match a specific pen. It is not 139 or Duofold or Sheaffer, but still looks like it could be old thanks to the clip and the cap top. You also get lots of notched details that take time and effort to create, but add to the tactile pleasure found in use. The pen is still currently for sale on the website for 1025 Euros. You can make your own judgement call on the value, but I can tell you I think the pen is a fairly unique item and very well made.

 

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Comparison shots are vs a Pelikan M800 and an MB 149. The pens are aligned at the piston cone, even if they look a little off.

 

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Edited by zaddick, 21 May 2017 - 06:39.


#9 da vinci

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 12:29

Great topic Zaddick :thumbup: I am really looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

Quick Q - are the Goliath, 149 and Ebenus nibs all the same size?

I really must get a Gimena pen, they look fabulous!

#10 basterma

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 14:16

Thanks for the topic. What other brands are you going to post about?



#11 Ghost Plane

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Posted 21 May 2017 - 17:23

Oh yum! Big pens with #8 nibs. These are beautiful!

That thread by the nib design is one of the things I love about my modern Ancoras.

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#12 zaddick

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Posted 22 May 2017 - 00:23

Great topic Zaddick :thumbup: I am really looking forward to seeing how it evolves.

Quick Q - are the Goliath, 149 and Ebenus nibs all the same size?

I really must get a Gimena pen, they look fabulous!


Thanks for the kind words.

The Astoria is a Bock #8 and is very similar is size to a Montblanc #9, though the shape is different. The Ebenus has a Jowo #6 while the Erica Magnus has a Jowo #8 which is shorter than the Bock and MB nibs but about as wide at the base.

#13 zaddick

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Posted 22 May 2017 - 00:25

Thanks for the topic. What other brands are you going to post about?


Sorry, you will have to wait. No previews. :)

I can think of maybe 6 more makers I have left, off the top of my head.

#14 da vinci

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Posted 22 May 2017 - 19:32

Thanks for the kind words.
The Astoria is a Bock #8 and is very similar is size to a Montblanc #9, though the shape is different. The Ebenus has a Jowo #6 while the Erica Magnus has a Jowo #8 which is shorter than the Bock and MB nibs but about as wide at the base.


No thank you.

Apologies I got my Gimena's mixed up - the reply was very helpful.

I know there are no previews but I am hoping that you might be able to cover a pen by the maker whose initials are FF... ;)

#15 amk

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Posted 22 May 2017 - 22:40

Lovely topic. I have been very impressed by what I've seen of Gimena and rather hope I can afford one at some point.


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#16 zaddick

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Posted 24 May 2017 - 20:31

Faggionato Burl Wood

 

Fred Faggionato is an artisanal pen maker based in Baume, France. His website is fairly easy to navigate and shows much of his recent work. Many pens are very ornate with lacquer/urushi work and inlay like raden on rankaku. The urushi pens are not cheap, but you will get a fairly unique item. Less expensive are the cellulose acetate and acrylic offerings. You can even order a few accessories.

 

My pen was picked up from another member on FPN who had it custom made. It is a large pen, though not overly thick, made of untreated briarwood. The pen is smooth to the touch, but you can see and feel the imperfections in the wood. Some makers will polish and lacquer these pens so they are like wooden jewels, but this pen took a more natural (maybe even laid back) approach. The lines are pure and simple with no extra anything. The only outside adornment is the double F logo hand carved into the cap top.

 

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The section of the pen is a mottled hard rubber, ensuring ink does not stain the wooden body. The pen is a C/C filler so no real further comment there. The one and only complaint I really have about the pen design is that the cap threads are cut into the section. This makes it possible to unscrew the barrel of the pen leaving the section firmly screwed into the cap. It does not happen very often, but it does happen and it is annoying.

 

fpn_1495657739__20170520_134637_resized_

 

The pen takes Bock nibs, but the one currently installed is a flex added special from Pablo Carrasco. See my writing sample compared to a vintage MB 138 here. The nib is a 14K F width but takes a light hand due to the flex capabilities. But, it is fine for normal writing, maybe a bit scratchy compared to the wide stubs and CI pens I usually use.

 

I have no idea what this pen cost in 2013 when it was made. I am going to assume much less than the urushi pens with inlay, but a fair bit more than the current celluloid and acrylic offerings. It is a unique piece and currently have a very fun to play with nib. I’d buy it again in a heartbeat.

 

Finally, comparison photos vs a Pelikan M800 and an MB 149. Pens are aligned at the bottom, even it they look off.

 

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#17 zaddick

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Posted 24 May 2017 - 20:32

No thank you.

Apologies I got my Gimena's mixed up - the reply was very helpful.

I know there are no previews but I am hoping that you might be able to cover a pen by the maker whose initials are FF... ;)

 

There you go my friend. I pushed it to the top of the queue for you.



#18 Ghost Plane

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Posted 24 May 2017 - 23:00

Beautiful!

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#19 ArchiMark

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Posted Yesterday, 04:19

Beautiful pens and fun thread, zaddick!

 

Not always into wood pens, but these are gorgeous....

 

Only pen I've had like yours is the Astoria. As you say, very well made and designed. Definitely has the vintage vibe.

 

Keep up the great postings....

 

:thumbup:

 

Mark


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#20 da vinci

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Posted Today, 00:09

There you go my friend. I pushed it to the top of the queue for you.


Thanks :thumbup:

Another interesting and insightful review particularly as to the finish of the pen which I assumed would be in the jewel catagory! :)





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