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How To Pen Show



One of the things I've been thinking about for a long while is starting a How To series of videos over on my YouTube channel. They'd cover basic things like "What are the parts of a Fountain Pen?" or "How do I fill this thing now that I have it?" With a series of big pen shows coming up soon, though, a friend asked me if I have a video about Pen Shows. I have lots of videos about pen shows! Just...not a How To Pen Show. So I made one of those. You'll find it at the bottom of this post. 


But, really, it would also be a good idea to have a blog post about it with the same advice. Well, here it is! 


Before the Show:


A little preparation can go a long way when you're getting ready for an event. If you haven't been to a show before, then you might not have much idea what you're getting into. Watching some of my pen show live streams from past years might help out with this, but so will: 


Making Lists!


Yep. Use that stationery. Make some lists. Get your mind settled on some paper so that when you get to a show, and get overwhelmed by the variety of things you'll see, you have past-you's calm reflection to lean on. 


A list of things to buy: 

  • Stuff you're sure you want to find. 
  • Nibs you want to get ground. (Do this first thing!)
  • Pens you want to have fixed. 

A list of Things to Try

  • Things you've heard about or seen online, but you think they really need to be held. There are lots of pens like this. Pilot Vanishing Points, for example, are great pens, but they don't work for everyone. Maybe something looks too heavy or too light in videos or pictures. Find it. Hold it. Try it out. Figure out if it's for you.  

A list of People to Meet

  • Pen shows have pens, but they're really about people. Meeting and talking to fellow pen nerds is something that most of us don't really get to do all that often, but pen shows are the perfect time for that. 
  • Some of your favorite bloggers and others in the community will be around pen shows, and we love to meet people who have appreciated our work.  



  •  Get snacks. Have a water bottle. Keep your body fueled!
  • Wear shoes you can walk and stand in for long periods. 
    • Most shows don't have a lot of seating around the show, so you're going to be standing or walking a ways to find a seat. Don't ruin your feet. 
  • Have an appropriate bag. 
    • You don't want anything too bulky, but you do want to be able to carry some stuff with you without making constant trips to your room or your car to drop things off or grab things to show to people. 
    • I'd recommend a small backpack or a slim messenger. 
  •  Bring your own paper. 
    • You'll want to try out pens and inks on papers that you know. Vendors will have some paper, but it might not be like what you usually use, so bring your own to make sure. 
  • Make a budget.
    • Or not. That's up to you.  
  • Bring some cash. 
    • Not every vendor can take a card or PayPal.
    • Cash lets you know what you've spent if you have a budget. 

At the Show:



*Eat a snack!

*Take care of yourself!


Be Polite:

  • Give people room.
  • Be aware of your space.
  • Ask before you touch things. Don't be Grabby Hands. 

Ask Questions:

  •  Vendors know stuff. 
  • Most of them want to tell you about their goods. 
  • You'll be happier if you know more about what you're getting. 
  • You'll avoid buyer's remorse.


Should I Buy It Now?

  •  Modern pens from an authorized vendor?
    • Mostly you can take a lap and come back. Prices will be about the same between vendors, but some might be other colors and nib sizes. 
  • Small Maker pens and goods: 
    • Lots of their products are one of a kind. If you find something that really calls to you, and you take a lap, it might well be gone when you get back. 
    • This is a bit of a double-edged sword. You can be happy that it went to a loving home and  you saved the money on it to spend on another thing. Or you might be really sad about the one that got away. I've experienced it both ways, so know yourself. 
  • Vintage Pens:
    • This really depends. Is it vintage and common? You can probably take a lap and find something like it again. Is it really rare and something you've been looking for? Is it a great price? Probably snag that thing.


After Hours:

 Hang out with people. Make a new friend. We might all be strangers, but we've got at least one thing in common. 

Show them what you've got. Look at what they've got! Try out some things you wouldn't be able to otherwise. 


Pen people are generally very happy to share their pens with you so that you can try them out and see what it's like to write with something exotic or unusual. Just remember the Grabby Hands rule. Ask before you grab. 


Pen shows are fun. Seeing new things, meeting new people.I hope this little guide has been helpful. Check out the associated video below.

Energel's New Clothes: The Kuro


I've always liked the EnerGel pens from Pentel. They're very good gel pens, with really good inks. Their most common body style here in the USA are the silver ones in the photo below. They're a really comfortable body, with a good grip to them, but they're not the most professional looking things available. Now, I'm a college professor. No one expects us to use a particular pen or ink color, but I've heard from others that they don't feel super comfortable pulling out a big sliver-and-color pen to take notes in a meeting. 

The other two styles shown in that image are better in taht way. The blue one looks a lot like a Pilot G2, and no one blinks at those. The black one has sort of a Bic Stic vibe to it with the very subdued look. They're just not all that comfortable to use for long periods because the grip is just hard plastic.

Enter the EnerGel Kuro! Kuro is the Japanese word for generic black, and that's mostly what this pen is. It's a matte barrel with a few ridges, and it has an almost rubbery feel to it. The back of the pack says that it's latex-free, though, so no worries about that if you have an allergy to it. 

They are slimmer than the usual EnerGel pens with a diameter of 9.4mm as opposed to 10.6mm. You can really feel that missing millimeter, and that's my only worry about this model. My hands are larger than average, and I usually want a thicker pen when I can get one. It remains to be seen if I can use these for long stretches without some hand cramping. I think they'll be fine, but that's my only gripe about them.


So, how is that ink?


Frankly, it's great. It dries fast and it's extra vivid. Gel inks usually have more pop to them than other stick-pen inks, but EnerGel really does a great job. While I love my Sarasa pens, I think EnerGel beats them on vibrancy. 

These refills are the same ones that you'll find in the regular line of EnerGels, though, so

Check out my video below, and subscribe to the channel for stationery stuff! 

St. Louis Pen Show 2021 Ink: KWZ's Meet me in St. Louis "Forest Park Green"


The St. Louis Pen Show has sent me a sample of their show ink to review every year, and it's always been pretty cool. I think this is my favorite one yet. Thanks, Ken! 

Diplomat Deep Green


I've been a fan of Diplomat pens for the last several years. I did my first review on a Diplomat Traveller in December of 2013. It was a fine pen. Then the first Diplomat Aero in 2016. I maaaay have accumulated a few more Aeros and other Diplomats since that time. So, when I heard that they were making a line of inks, I had to get some. 

I reached out to Dromgoole's in Houston, TX and they sent me a few bottles to review. Thanks, Dromgoole's! 

So far, I've used three of the 7 inks that were sent to me, and they've all been different from one another. This one runs really wet. Another is quite dry. Another is very medium and erasable. It may be a brand about which you can't make generalizations, and that's fine I suppose. The performance of this ink is sort of all over the place, though. Look below to see what I mean. It bleeds and feathers where it shouldn't, but when you get it on the right papers it's really good. 

The bottles say that the ink is made by Octopus Fluids in Germany. I think it's cool to know that sort of thing, and I wish more brands would be upfront about their sources. I'm not familiar with Octopus Fluids, but I do like a cephalopod, so that's cool with me. 

Written Review:

Video Review:

If you like videos about ink and pens, subscribe to my channel at YouTube and tell a friend! 

Close Ups:

You can see some feathering here on Rhodia. That's odd, for sure. But wait until you see how it works on some of the papers below. 

20# Copy Paper:

There's some feathering and a bit of bleeding on this copy paper, but not really much more than on Rhodia. That's weird.  

Inky Fingers Currently Inked Notebook:

So we've seen feathering on Rhodia (a coated paper that doesn't usually absorb ink), and some feathering on some bad office copy paper. This wheat straw paper, though, has no issues at all with Deep Green. It looks great and it doesn't feather or bleed at all. 

Tomoe River Ink Journal:

TR, of course, has no issues at all. 

Water Test:


Color Comparisons:

**This ink was sent to me for free for this review. That doesn't change what you're seeing here, and I don't think it affects my reviews. What you see is what I got. **

Private Reserve's New Daphne Blue


Private Reserve is an ink brand that I'm really familiar with. My first bottles of ink were Private Reserve. They were one of the only ink brands that I could get at the Paradise Pen stores in the Houston or Dallas Gallerias, and I have been using the inks since the 90s. I'd gone through bottles of Lake Placid Blue and a few others before I ever thought of blogging.

The brand has changed hands a few times over the last several years, and it is now owned by Yafa Brands. So, when I heard that they were bringing back the Private Reserve inks, I reached out to them and they sent me a selection of PR inks to review. So: Thanks Niv!

Private Reserve's Daphne Blue is a nice sky blue. I think it's a good color, though it's a little light for me. I think it's a bit on the wet side, and so this medium nib gave it a little too much freedom. It had a tendency to bleed and spread if it wasn't on good papers. And it did want to bleed a little on Rhodia, which was just strange. I don't have any particular reason why that would be. There weren't any problems on the wheat straw, Tomoe River, or other good papers I used.

I've used the original Daphne, but only in cartridges, and they are much darker. I think they've lost some water, though, so the ink has concentrated and I can't really compare them. I do have a swatch of the original, and that'll be in the comparisons below. 

One last thing. There was an issue with PR and "slime-in-the-bottle" a while back. It was a production issue with the previous owner, and Yafa says they've moved production to their "top of the line QC facility." Yafa makes good inks and stands behind them if there have been issues. I wouldn't worry. 

Written Review:


Close Ups:


Copy Paper Test:

Inky Fingers Currently Inked Journal (wheat straw paper):

Tomoe River Ink Journal:

Water Drop Test:


Video Review

Color Comparisons

Here's the comparison between the original and new Daphne Blue. It looks like the original is lighter, but it's sometimes difficult to judge old swatches on different papers. I think we just have to take the new one as it is.

 **This ink was provided for review by Yafa, the owners of the PR brand. That doesn't shape my review in any way I'm aware of. **

Taccia Ukiyo-e Hokusai-Sabimidori


This is the first of the Ukiyo-e inspired inks I've tried from Taccia, and it's extremely good. This is an ink whose color is a little difficult to pin down. The when it's wet, it's kind of a cerulean blue. As it dries it turns green and then develops a bronze sheen. It's just awesome. There are one or two other Hokusai themed inks that I want to try, but this is one that I'd really like to have a bottle of. I'm only waiting for it to come back into stock.

For more information about this line of inks, and a nice run down of the art that inspires them, you should check out Macciato Man's blog post


Look here for my video review: 


Copy Paper Test

Tomoe River Ink Journal

Inky Fingers Currently Inked Journal (Wheat Straw Paper)


Water Drop Test

Color Comparisons on Col-o-Dex Cards

** This ink sample was given to me by my friend Beth. That doesn't sway my review one way or another. What you see is what I got. **