A Slow Pen Movement?

I’m now about five months and three dozen posts into my little corner of the pen blogosphere. While I’ve been into pens for as long as I can remember, reading, and now writing, about them on a consistent basis has led to many firsts for me over the past few months. Since starting the blog, I’ve been to my first pen show (two actually – Philly and Long Island) and bought my first vintage fountain pens (Parker 51 and Parker Vacumatic). Of course, I’ve placed plenty of orders with various pen merchants before this blog came about but the rate of ordering has certainly increased. At this point, I own about 25 fountain pens, dozens upon dozens of ballpoint and gel pens and more pencils than I could possibly sharpen in the next 20 years (I won’t even mention the mechanical pencils and all the lead refills). Without a doubt, I have enough writing implements and ink to get me through this and several more lifetimes which means that the number of pens in the “don’t and will never use” bin is noticeably larger than the number of pens I currently or eventually will use anytime soon. There are days I look at the bins and bags of unused pens and think, “What the hell is wrong with me?!” However, that thought passes quickly and another order to Jet Pens or Goulet Pens or Anderson Pens or Amazon or so on or so on is placed and the cycle of, let’s call it what it is, addiction begins again. So, it seems that now is a good time to take stock and share with you which pens (and pencils) are getting a lot of use. This post is less a review of any pen(s) in particular and more about me trying to honestly assess my workflow and pen use.


Let’s start with the pens that most frequently end up in my pants/shirt pocket. Most recently, I’ve kept the Hi-Tec-C Coleto 3 (blue, aqua blue and orange – all 0.5mm) and something holding an Energel 0.7 refill immediately handy. Typically, the Energel option comes in the form of a blue Energel-X in 0.7 mm. But, just a few days ago, I received my Tactile Turn Mover and Shaker pens and I did a bit of hacking to get the Energel refill into the smaller Shaker. So, right now, you’ll find me armed with the Coleto and the Energel-ized Shaker in my pants pocket. It doesn’t matter if I’m at work or running errands, the Energel/Coleto-3 combo is with me. I also typically have a Field Notes in my back pocket.


Next, what do I typically have handy in the pen(cil) cups and customized Dudek pen holders at the home and work desks? As a science teacher, I do a fair amount of assessment item writing and solving and a good old-fashioned pencil works best here. Currently, I’m keeping a number of  Tombow Mono pencils in F and H grades at home and work. The harder graphite cores work well for someone who prefers a precise line and presses down a bit hard with his pencils. I recently bought a couple of Mitsu-bishi Hi-Uni pencils, also in F and H, and my magic 8 ball is predicting that these pencils will be taking up consistent residency on my desk soon. I also have number of mechanical pencils here and there, but nothing worth singling out as a true member of my writing implement family.


Also duplicated at home and work are various colors of Pentel Energel-X gels and Vicuna hybrid ink pens. These pens get used for grading the aforementioned assessment items. I’ve tried grading with fountain pens, but honestly, it just doesn’t work for me. The need to realign the nib and paper after each page turn exam after exam slows the grading process down too much. The fast-drying gel inks are a must as portions of the grading process are a flurry of check marks, “X”s and page turns and a slow drying ink would result in a stained mess.


Which brings me to those pens that I carry with me wherever my briefcase goes, including home, work, business and personal trips. While there is a bit of coming and going in this category, the most frequent occupants of the briefcase pencase are TWSBI Mini, Kaweco AL Sport, Parker 51, Parker Vacumatic, Sailor Pro Gear Slim, Pelikan Souveran 405 (BP) and a Retro 51 rollerball of some sort. I don’t think I’ve ever carried ALL of these pens in my briefcase at the same time, but you can count on 4 or 5 of them being in there at any given moment. The TWSBI or Sailor often find themselves in the pocket for long stretches, but using a fountain pen in most work situations requires a conscious effort. This lack of consistent fountain pen use for quotidian tasks is something I plan to correct. Now that I have zeroed in on what I like in fountain pens and inks (fine line widths and somewhat dry writers), using them more frequently for even the most menial of tasks will be eaiser.


So, when you add it all up, I generally have about 10 writing implements within arms reach one way or another at most times. Which brings me to another purpose for this post. Does having 10 or more writing implements this accessible make sense? I mean, I’ve only got one good writing hand and I’m certainly not some sort of artist who needs so many writing/drawing tools close at hand. I’m beginning to think I need to reduce my “pen footprint” and maybe start a “slow pen movement” to promote a more pen minimalist lifestyle. After all, wouldn’t fewer pens and pencils mean I get to know them and learn to write with them better and better as time passes? I’m going to think seriously about this approach. It certainly would be hard to narrow the options down, but I’m wondering if there might be a different form of happiness to be had by concentrating my use on fewer pens. And, afterall, this blog is called “That One Pen”. Getting to one pen will be wwwaaaayyyy too hard. But, can I get down to 3 or 4 writing implements? Probably not, but it might be fun, and instructive, to try.


5 thoughts on “A Slow Pen Movement?

  1. Oh man, regarding moving to a more minimalist approach is a battle I find myself having in my mind on almost a weekly basis. “Time to purge and simplify”, but it often doesn’t happen… : )

    Solid post!

  2. My grandfather taught me to always use the right tool for the job, and it sounds like you do a lot of different kinds of writing, so your pattern of use makes a lot of sense. I also go back and forth between grading, which is kind of a constant dull roar, and other personal and professional writing, and it satisfies something in my soul to be able to switch writing implements. Carry on!

  3. I’ve been carrying about 10 myself lately and it is a bit overwhelming. It includes 3 pens I need to write a review on but I end up neglecting by favorite rotational pens. After these reviews are done I’m thinking about going down to one pen a day but rotate it out more often. Then each pen is sure to get work out. Worth a try.

  4. I am a chemist working in an industrial research setting, so I do a lot of writing in many different notebooks and report forms. I, like many people on this forum, have a pen addiction, so I have many pens in the regular rotation. I have taken to making a schedule for myself for the last two months, where I switch out pens on a weekly basis. For a week, I limit myself to just one pen of each type (gel, bp, roller, fountain). I am learning pretty quickly what my pen preferences are, and it keeps my addiction under control.

  5. Great comments everyone. Thanks for stopping by. I’m finding myself taking an approach similar to Chaz in that I’m trying to limit myself to one gel, bp, roller and fountain. Of course now the problem is finding that one gel, one bp, one roller and one fountain pen! Good gravy this vicious cycle of addition never ends! 🙂

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