Nib Novice, Part 10: The Vanishing Point

This is the tenth and final part of a blog series in which I’m learning to use fountain pens. For all the previous installments, click here.


When I began writing this series of blog posts over two years, I’d hoped that I would be proficient with a fountain pen by the end. But now here I am, a collection of fountain pens surrounding me, and I still feel like a novice. These are surprisingly complicated stationery tools, and I could probably write a hundred posts in this series without feeling totally comfortable. Still, I’ve managed to learn a lot along the way, and, at the very least, I don’t find fountain pens as intimidating as I once did.

So, now that I’ve literally and figuratively spilled a good deal of ink, it’s time to end this series with a fountain pen that I’ve been coveting since the very beginning: The Pilot Vanishing Point.

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The Vanishing Point’s claim to fame is that it’s one of the very few retractable fountain pens on the market, and it has been ever since the product line was introduced in the 1960s. Why don’t more manufacturers make retractable fountain pens? Well, when a fountain pen nib is exposed to air for too long, ink will dry up in and around the feed, which causes clogs that are a hassle to clean. But Pilot’s engineers solved this problem with a simple “trap door” mechanism that opens when the nib is ejected and seals shut when it is retracted.

It’s a novelty – and I mean that in the best sense of the word – but it’s also expensive. So, after saving up a little, I spent the most amount of money I’ve ever spent on a pen, $134, and placed my order for a bright yellow Vanishing Point with a medium nib. When it arrived a few days later, I wasted no time before inking it up with a brown Iroshizuku (Pilot brand) ink.

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While a lot of other fountain pens can come across as pretentious or gaudy, the Vanishing Point’s sleek design is like writing with a Chevy Camaro. So handing it over to people who have zero experience with fountain pens is a lot of fun, if not also a bit risky. I’ve stood frozen with terror as a co-worker attempted to write with the nib upside-down and then proceeded to shake the bejeezus out of it when the ink wouldn’t flow. But these are the risks we take to show off a cool pen.

And it is undoubtedly a cool pen. It writes smoothly, it looks good, and it’s generally just a pleasure to use. At the same time, it’s certainly not for everybody. For example, a lot has been written about this pen’s clip placement on the grip section of the barrel, and this is uncomfortable for some. Fortunately, I don’t have that problem, and if anything, I find that it helps me to hold the pen properly.

The big downside for me – and this applies to all expensive pens – is that I don’t always feel comfortable using it. If I’m at my desk, and I’m using Pilot’s approved ink, it’s fine. But if I want to take this out and about or use it at work, I’m paranoid about losing or breaking it. And, yes, I suppose this is just a personal mental block that I’ll have to get over, but the concern is real enough for me.

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So, now the Nib Novice series is over, part of me wonders how much I’ll continue to use fountain pens. I have to admit that fountain pens never really clicked with me in the same way that they have for other people. Yes, I’ve learned a lot and had fun writing these posts, but I’ve also had my share of frustrating experiences. I also rarely find myself in situations where I need to sit down and write a lot, and ballpoints or gel pens tend to be much more convenient for me.

I suspect that I will, at least on occasion, use these pens. They are great for writing cards and checks, and my girlfriend uses the Pilot V Pen for all sorts of things. Time will tell, I suppose. So you’ll just have to keep an eye out for more fountain pen reviews in the future.

Review: Jeffbona In[k]ception, Gel Ink, 0.4mm

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The fidget toy craze has obviously crested. Sales seem to be waning, claims that they improve focus have become ever more dubious, and I haven’t seen that Fidget Spinner kiosk at the mall in a while. But sometime late last year I decided to back In[k]ception by first-time Kickster creators Jeffbona. It’s an aluminum pen that includes a fidget-spinning mechanism on the top end.

The design of the pen is actually pretty minimal. There’s no clip, no textured grip section, and no knock. To eject and retract the tip, there is a thin, metal band with a notch that twists (and digs into your finger a bit). And, above this band, you can give the top-quarter of the barrel a flick with your thumb and it will silently spin for 30 to 45 seconds.

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Despite the gimmick, there’s nothing remarkable here, and, yet, I still found myself flicking the spinner over and over. As the type of person who has the urge to click-click-click retractable pens all day, this pen grew on me. Though I take some ribbing at work over the “rose gold” (metallic pink, really) color, I’m sure my coworkers appreciate that fidgeting with this pen is practically silent.

For non-fidgeters, there’s not much to recommend in the In[k]ception. It’s a bit top heavy, the retracting mechanism is somewhat uncomfortable, and though the 0.4mm Schneider Gelion 39 (gel) ink is quite dark, it’s also surprisingly thick and smeary. Besides, the pen doesn’t seem to be available outside of Kickstarter (yet) anyway. So if you want something with a similar look – but without the fidget attachment – see the Baron Fig Squire, or if you want another pen that’s good for fidgeting, check out the Pilot Down Force.

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Retro Talk: NYC Tornado

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New York, New York. I’ve only visited a few times (and I’ll be going back later this year), but I know that it’s an amazing city – one that I love. So when Goldspot Pens announced this NYC Skyline Retro 51 Tornado late last year, I immediately jumped on the pre-order train.

The NYC Skyline Edition is a standard Retro 51 Tornado in almost every way, except the barrel is wrapped with the iconic structures of New York City. The art includes the obvious and mandatory Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, and Empire State Building. But the barrel also shows off The Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center (along with the 200 Vesey Street and 225 Liberty Street buildings nestled below), the Bank of America Tower, and the CitiGrooup Center. There’s even one building I can’t ID, but it looks like it could just be generic Manhattan offices.

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Another neat feature is the disc at the top of the pen, which features a logo reminiscent of the old NYC Transit tokens. Additionally, like a few other Tornadoes of late, the wrap glows in the dark. With this Skyline edition, however, the gimmick makes sense because it represents the city at night, which, frankly, looks cool.

This is an amazing edition for anyone that loves New York City, but it was unfortunately limited to an odd 333 pieces. So, as you might have guessed, it’s already sold out. If you’re looking for something similar, the Statue of Liberty Tornado is still widely available, or Anderson Pens sells a Chicago Skyline Tornado. It also seems likely that Retro 51 will continue with this line. I can think of plenty that might come next… San Francisco? London? Paris? It will be interesting to see whatever it is.

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Off Topic: The Odd Hobby of Running

Though I often find it difficult to explain this blog (and the hobby of collecting pens in general) to people, running as a hobby can be much harder to explain. With pens, I usually say that I’m drawn to the art and design element, or I’ll just gift a nice gel pen to anyone who expresses curiosity – that works most of the time. But trying to explain my hobby of running to non-runners, well, a lot of the time they just don’t “get it.”

Running at least has the advantage of being a very common activity. Nobody really looks down on it or thinks that it’s crazy or weird, but a lot of people see it as something grueling at best or, at worst, grueling and boring. Most wonder, if you’re not just trying to burn a few extra calories, why would you choose to run all the time?

I’ve found that the easiest answer is to just shrug and say, “I think it’s fun.” But if I’m making an effort, I’ll say something like, “running is the opposite of eating an entire tray of brownies.” The point is, gorging yourself on a big dessert is really pleasurable in the moment, but it’ll leave you feeling sluggish, bloated, and probably ashamed of your gluttony. Conversely, running can sometimes be miserable in the moment, but you’ll feel energized and happier later on.

Though, honestly, that’s still just a partial explanation.

There are times when I’m just happy to be outside in the fresh air, especially on a sunny day but even sometimes on a rainy or cold day. There’s also the famous “runner’s high,” though I think it’s greatly exaggerated. More than that, I love the feeling of setting goals, running longer and faster, and being surprised at how much progress is possible.

Over the past year, I’ve really gotten into the sport. I’ve been running lots of 5Ks and Half-Marathons, slowly getting faster, gaining endurance, and chipping away at my personal records. I’m not quick enough to be competitive, but I’m still excited to see what I can do. And I’ll find out this fall when I’ll be running my first marathon – the New York City Marathon. It might sound odd to a lot of people, but I’m very much looking forward to running those 26.2 miles.

If you’re at all interested in picking up running as a hobby, I’d strongly encourage signing up for a 5K race/fun run this summer. There are many to choose from, and it shouldn’t be difficult to find a local event. There are also lots of great “Couch to 5K” training plans for free on the web if you aren’t sure how to start.

Yes, it’ll probably be grueling and boring at first. But if you stick with it, you too may get to that point where you’re looking forward to your next run and maybe even discover that running isn’t such an odd hobby after all.

Notes on 2015 Nixon Field Notes

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Many Field Notes fans are familiar with the special edition Nixon notebooks from 2016. It was a good collaboration, and those summery notebooks remain popular. However, all but forgotten are these notebooks that Nixon released a year earlier, in 2015. Although 2015 was a peak year for Field Notes collectors, the 2015 Nixon notebooks just never seemed to be highly sought after.

Each pack contains three notebooks. The first is a turquoise/gray book, which is far and away the most eye-catching one in the pack, though it contains plain inner-paper. The second is a dark brown book with ruled paper. And the third book looks very similar to the standard grid-ruled, Kraft Field Notes notebook, though it has dark-brown printing on the inner cover. These notebooks use 100# cover stock, 50# paper, and light-brown ink for the ruling.

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The 2015 Nixon Field Notes books have long been sold out, but I don’t personally consider it too much of a loss. I find the books a little to plain, to be honest. But if anyone ever decides to release 3-pack of those turquoise books, it’d be an easy impulse purchase for me (just as long as it’s made with graph paper).

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Additional Notes

  • The 2015 and 2016 Nixon Field Notes share the same “practical applications” list. A little boring, I know.
  • Back in 2011, there was a different special edition of Field Notes that used turquoise covers (with a company called Tattly). But besides being long sold-out, I’m pretty sure they had blank inner paper too.
  • Did I mention that the 2016 Field Notes are still in stock?