Made to measure? On buying bespoke or custom made fountain pens

I have an overly developed opinion on individualised number plates! They are, IMHO, the sign of a deviant mindset with the framework of a truly decaying society. What does it say about someone who doesn’t have the cerebral capacity to remember what their own preferred means of transport looks like to the extent that they must have their name on it in order to find it? OK, OK, rant over for now.

The question is though, is the penchant for handmade or individual fountain pens a similarly repugnant idea? Well perhaps, or perhaps not. But today I wanted to think about the process of getting a handmade pen and hopefully pointing out some of the things for which you should look out. who knows we may even get a debate going!

Firstly  we have to recognise the width of the category we are about to investigate. Making fountain pens from scratch can be a hobby or a business, a means of relaxation or a means of making money. It is a trade practised by a whole range of individuals from your eccentric uncle in his garden shed to the time served craftsman who has invested their whole life in making instances of pure pen artistry, and to each of these worthies we should pay an appropriate amount of respect.

In these days where there is something of a renaissance of fountain pen-making. You won’t go long or far without being tempted, as I was, to ‘go bespoke’ and get a pen made to your own requirements. So if you are tempted, what should you think about?

Reality Check: First of course you should weigh up the pros and cons. This will include giving yourself a necessary reality check. Can you really afford that Nakaya? Do you really need it? Remember a pen is exactly that, a pen. It is something with which to write, it will not change your life…

One thing that you should remember is that anything that is handmade or bespoke is going to cost. So be aware of that. Sure if it is something you’ve wanted for a while, worked  and saved up for, why not, but whacking stuff on the credit card on a whim is an easy way to a big financial headache. You know what they say… ‘buy in haste repent at leisure…’

Time: This is another factor. This may not be an issue if you’re just buying from a penmaker’s stock. But if want that truly individual pen made to your own remit then it will take time…

Individuality/Style: This may be where the bespoke pen stands or falls. The truth is not everyone has good taste. How could they have? Just because you think  something is a thing of beauty doesn’t mean everyone will agree. But in a bespoke pen you are able to truly express yourself, at least somewhat vicariously through the skill of the person making you a pen. One of my pens will serve as an illustration. I love orange pens and wanted a pen that used a particular material but was more modern than the usual pens made with said material, hey presto thanks to the skills of John Twiss from Twiss pens (check them out here) some weeks later my pen arrived turned from original Parker Duofold orange stock. Now I like it, some may not, but its mine I tell you… mine…all mine… mwa-ha-haa!

Sorry about that, where were we? Oh yes… Individuality. The thing is that you are free in the land of custom made pens to mandate so many things… Materials, nib, filling mechanism, should the cap post or not, pen size, and weight to name but a few. If you’re really pedantic you can have debates on such nuances as grip size/shape, pen balance, etc.

Relationship: Another good thing to remember is that pen makers are people too so getting to know them might help a bit. Obviously don’t overdo this, I’m not advocating stalking them but a couple of emails and a telephone conversation or three may help in deciding if this is the person whose skills you really want to invest your hard earned money in.

Testimonials: One of the wonderful things about the fountain pen community is that it is exactly that, a true community. So there s a wealth of advice, help, and guidance from people who have already trod ‘the path less travelled’ as it were. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If people have experience of and recommend a particular pen maker or nib guru, it can save you time and heartache…

Conclusion: To be honest, it’s like many things I guess, each to their own. What I really want to know is, what do you think? Have you gone custom made? If so what was the result? Good? Bad? somewhere in between? what do you think are the important thing to keep in mind?



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4 thoughts on “Made to measure? On buying bespoke or custom made fountain pens

  1. Very good advice. I haven’t gone down the rabbit hole of custom made pens. Though I would love an Edison Menlo or something made to my specifications; I sometimes just look through their stocks of materials deciding which I’d go for… Maybe one day.

    Also I think that link to Twiss Pens is broken. Looking on Google their URL is

    1. Thanks for the comment Adam, I wouldnt say no to a Menlo either, and thanks for the nod on the link I’ll fix it 🙂

  2. For a while now, I have admired Renee’s pens at Scriptorium Pens (particularly The Literati), but the price of them is something I have not yet come to terms with yet. It’s just like buying a Pelikan M400–I know I own a number of pens that added up come to the price of the Pelikan, but when I think about getting the Pelikan, I think “hey, when are you going to use that Platinum 3776 you fell in love with and bought three months ago? Or what about that Sailor? Or that Levenger?” I don’t want to buy another pen to sit in a box; I want to use the ones I have, so I have not gone the custom route yet. I do think they can be worth it, though, if you love it and will use it a lot and are comfortable spending the money.

    Oh, and thank you for the blog you write. It’s always so beautifully and thoughtfully done.

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