Glenn’s pens is a website which started out as a source of information for people looking for fountain pen stores and which of these stores he regarded as a great pen store.
Since its humble beginnings providing reviews on pen stores it has exploded into a unique resource with store reviews from Glenn and other fountain pen enthusiasts from all over the world.
Not only does the site have a wealth of information in relation to pen stores but also fountain pen ink as well as the actual pen companies themselves.
Glenn has kindly allowed me to conduct an interview with him to find out more about the man behind www.glennspenns.com
1. Glenn It’s clear that your love affair with fountain pens has been a long one, can you remember when and why it started?
When I was in school in Winnipeg, Manitoba, I was in the last year where students had to use an ink pen at elementary school. In fact, the year I went into the grade where we graduated from pencil to pen was the year the school took out the ink bottles and dip pens and we all had to go out and buy a Sheaffer cartridge pen. Later when I worked at the Hudson’s Bay Company in Edmonton, over the lunch hour and during major sales events, the office staff was assigned to work in one of the sales departments. I picked the pen department! From there is has been what seems to be non-stop acquisition.
2. Your site has the great statement ‘Your pen, an expression of you’ and suggests that there are very few occasions when you do not use a fountain pen but there must be times. When is this likely?
The very odd time I have to use a ballpoint – with some forms made out of paper that is not conducive to a fountain pen, and to address some shipping envelopes where ball point ink is the safest way to ensure what is written will be on the shipping label as the package makes it way through the postal/courier system.
3. Can you tell us how many pens you own?
I think not that many compared to some collectors, but about 150 pens.
4. Are there any of these that you view as an investment and would not use?
No, absolutely not. I acquire a pen to use it. Even the pens that can’t be replaced, and are considered quite expensive in my books ($1000) are used on a rotating basis.
5. Do you have an out and out favourite? You mention that you are always drawn back to Watermans so I assume it is one of these.
I have a number of Waterman pens that I use on a regular basis, and my OMAS pens seem to be the pen cases I carry in by briefcase on a regular basis. I have a couple of Visconti pens that always seem to be on my desk at home ready for use.
6. You seem to have a leaning towards the Italian pen manufacturers, is this solely because of your love of all things Mediterranean as disclosed on one of your sites or is there another reason?
I like the Italian lines like Stipula, OMAS, Aurora and Montegrappa because they make fairly good pens, and they produce pens with classic looks. They each have models that would not appeal to me, but some of their main production lines are real classics.
7. What do you think of the flourishing market in fountain pens from China? It does make fountain pens more accessible and that must be good.
I have somewhat mixed feels over pens produced in China. I bought a couple and found the nibs to be rough and basically unusable. Also, the finishing on some of the lines that I have acquired are below the standard to what I find with Waterman or OMAS, Visconti or Montegrappa. On the other hand, I have bought some of the Laban Mento’s (I have six of them) and their nibs are smooth and the pen of reasonable construction.
8. Many schools are moving away from using fountain pens for other instruments, including one school I read about who are supplying iPads to their pupils. How would you encourage greater use of fountain pens?
I almost think the pen is a thing of the past when it comes to students in the school system. I wrote about this in one of my columns. My nephew was visiting to attend a wedding. When it can to signing a car, he had big block printing rather than a style of writing. When I talked to him about his lack of ability to actually write, he explained that students hardly pick up a pen anymore in school. They have PCs, they take notes on the PC, prepare papers etc.
This coupled with the loss of social manners – sending a card to say thanks for a gift, or sending a card period all lead to a loss of the need to actually write.
On the card thing, ask someone who have had an event in their life (death of family or friend, wedding or anniversary). They tell me they never realized the difference getting a written card meant over the e-mail until they got a card for something important in their life.
I think that is what will drive people to actually write. When they want to communicate their personal feelings to someone.
Encourage people to write? I send hand written cards to thank people for dinner events, on their birthday, to say thanks etc. I know from the feedback I get, receiving a hand-written card makes a difference.
9. A good quality ink is a necessity but you do not seem to favour one type or brand in particular, any particular reason for this?
I try so many inks, and their popularity with me comes and goes. But if I have a precious celluloid pen, I will only use Waterman Blue or Waterman Blue Black in the pen. Consistently, Waterman has good flow, regardless of the brand, and it is a relatively safe ink in terms of staining.
10. Does the quality of the paper matter for you?
Absolutely. At my office I order a speciality paper and use it for making my own personal business notes paper. For my personal writings or my travel journal I tend to use Clairefontaine paper/books.
11. In one blog post, you state that it all comes down to the nib” and then talk about your nib box. Would you tell us more about this?
Ah, my nib box. I enjoy pens where the nib section simply screws out of the pen, and I can change the nib myself – as opposed to heat sealed units that have to be sent back to the factory service centre.
Often I may have to buy a pen with a medium nib, and then later I place an order for a Stub nib. Do this a few times and you end up with a collection of nib sections for various pens (Waterman, Pelikan, Dupont etc.) So I have a box that was originally made to hold cufflinks (lots of small felt-lined sections) and in each of the sections I have spare nib sections for my pens. When I find the Broad nib for the Edson too big, when I have an Oblique, Stub or Medium and I can slot in for use.
12. For anybody buying their first serious pen, what would say are main things to consider?
Set yourself a price point. You should feel comfortable with the amount you pay for pen. When you try out a pen, try some below and just above the price point you start with. You can make your mind up whether the particular pen is worth going higher or not. You may also be surprised that there can be good options at lower prices than you first imaged.
Try the pen. If a store does not want you to dip a pen in ink to try it out, simply leave. That is not a real pen store.
Hold the pen, and write something out on paper. Don’t just draw a line or two on a small scratch pad. As you write a sentence what to see how you are holding the pen. A good sales person will be able to give you advice if the pen is too small or large for your hand. If the pen does not sit at an angle to the paper, then it will never be a smooth glide across the paper when you write.
Think about how you want to use the pen. Do you want to try different inks in terms of colour etc. Make sure you have a pen with a convertor. If it is your only pen, and you will be using it away from a desk/office set up, then a piston pen will mean you could run out of ink and have no way of filling up. A pen with cartridges may be a good option.
Feel the various parts of the pen. Is the clip firmly attached to the cap? What is the screwing mechanism of the cap to the body? Plastic onto plastic? Metal into metal?
Can you post the cap onto the pen body? If the pen is round, without a cap posted the chance of it rolling off the desk onto the floor is relatively high. When you post the cap, is it secure?
13. Thanks Glenn I really appreciate you taking the time to participate in this interview.
If you already own a fountain pen or are thinking of buying one check out Glenn’s pens at www.glennspens .com