Category Archives: Pen show report

Nuremberg pen show report

It’s traditional for our meta-reviews to start with a little bit of history, and it’s just as well that this isn’t one of those, as Nuremberg is quite incapable of delivering history in little bits; it provides it in great big monumental slabs.  So, let’s get the architectural introductions over with; from the Sinwell Tower, a remarkable medieval survival, you can look at pre-war and post-war photographs of the city landscape then admire the rebuilding job in front of your very own eyes. The one area which nobody was in a much of a hurry to rebuild was the parade-ground used for those 1930s rallies, but thankfully some much more positive uses have been found for that space – and last weekend your dogged United Inkdom correspondent dropped-in on two of them.

First up, of course, was a visit to Kaweco, who really have their ducks in a row – and we’re not just talking pocket ink flasks there. Michael Gutberlet, head honcho himself, gave a guided tour of facilities at Thomas Mann Strasse and Max Brod Strasse (all the roads are named after liberal German-language literary figures), and this could happily have occupied most fountain pen fans for a whole day.  Seeing the assembly and dispatch operations was interesting in itself, but the highlight was inevitably Michael’s own collection of Kaweco antiques, some stretching as far back as the 1880s.  The tray below, charting the morphology of the Sport model from 1911 onwards, is a good example of the ‘design DNA’ evolving over a century.  The solid silver prototype of the Sport which may follow next was impressively heavy too!

Raiding the pen archive also helped to solve another mystery which had plagued those of us more acquainted with English-language literature, viz why the Lilliput model is missing its second letter L.  How the mistake happened is lost to history, but just visible on the original version of this model pictured below is the engraving which shows the spelling as LILIPUT – so retaining the error is at least staying true to tradition.

A short walk north through Hans Fallada Strasse (referring to an author who has only recently been translated into English – a tragic but riveting read) was the Exhibition Centre, our main destination.  Also home to Spielwarenmesse, the annual Nuremberg toy fair, for the last few years it has hosted the marvellously-named Insights-X.  This is a diverse stationery show rather than just a pen-focused event, but there was going to be plenty to see and, just as importantly, the organisers help to get a few bloggers there too.

Part of the blogger experience is a guided tour (with translator, if needed) of a number of stands for which exhibitors wanted a brief captive audience.  For the German and Austrian calligraphers (and one British scribbler) present the relevance of wares varied, with slightly more which was aimed at the children-and-schools market than we quite knew what to do with.  But let’s be honest, who can really object to being introduced to parrot knapsacks and flamingo pencils?

Some of the big names were there in force but with displays which left one wondering quite why they had bothered; Faber-Castell had a stand big enough to contain a working café but brought nothing from the ‘Graf’ range, and Pilot showed-up with the usual glut of VPs but no FA nibs (again).  However, the guided tour included a chance to visit Online, the inconveniently-named but rather prolific German fountain pen makers.  They distributed calligraphy sets to bloggers (there may be a special meta-review of those soon, if all goes according to plan) and even had another purple ink which will feature on a certain obsessive’s blog before too long…

After the guided tour, there was just time to meet up with a few more firms who will interest United Inkdom readers.  We made further introductions to the splendid Super 5, got in touch with Turkish pen company Scrikks for the first time (reviews to follow), and got a sneaky early view of Cleo Skribent’s forthcoming Optima model – which will replace its current ebonite piston-filler next year (we will try to cover that here too, if we can get our hands on a sample).

So, there are lots of pens and products which we’ll probably be reviewing over coming months, and you’ll be seeing plenty more blog items and articles flowing as a result of the trip.  The other really good thing about this sort of experience, though, is meeting fellow enthusiasts – a real delight, even with a few language challenges to overcome.  Stand by for laboured pun… Rather like Nuremberg’s castle, the pen blogging community evidently has a deep well of talent to draw from!

London Stationery Show report

Your dogged correspondent trekked down to the London Stationery Show for a second year, and as previously there was an embarrassment of riches.  Many of this year’s ‘finds’ are ones we’ll come back to, so here’s a quick report to whet your appetite.

There is no escape from Noris; resistance is futile

Highlights included:

  1. The Manuscript stand, with hands-on calligraphy area and of course the rather splendid new ML1856 – which we’re hoping to review before too long.

  2. Kaweco – having now seen the brass version of the Special it’s obvious why it immediately sold out, but we’ll be back to review it when we can get our hands on a few.

  3. Meeting Stuart, who now runs the excellent Pocket Notebooks site – a great guy to talk to, and we’ll be reviewing his wares very soon.

  4. Encountering the revamped Silvine red notebooks; pictures don’t really do them justice.

  5. Playing with the very nice brass pens and pencils from Ystudio.  We’ll get some to review if we can.

  6. Flipping through the new Rhodia Heritage Collection; they really do look the business and we are endeavouring to acquire some to test.

  7. Discovering that Fabriano notebooks are coming back to our high streets soon; good-quality dot grids which you don’t have to go online for sound like they could be very handy.

  8. Meeting the owner of the new bricks-and-mortar shop in lovely Hexham, Penfax.

  9. Admiring the refillable notebooks for people who know that ‘traveller’ has two Ls, from Paper Republic – and yes, we’re aiming to review those too.

  10. Discovering that Sheaffer still make some proper posh pens.  We can’t be so certain of getting some of those to play with, but we’ll see.

  11. Wading through a veritable forest of shiny new Leuchtturm notebooks, with a lot of understandable fuss about how 1917 was, y’know, a whole century ago and everything, and watching their portable embossing machine and old-school Gutenberg lettering rack in progress (see below for more on how to bag the results).

Lowlights included:

  1. Heating which threatened to boil all exhibitors alive, until a merciful cool-down after lunch.

  2. A certain rather well-known manufacturer whose representatives didn’t recognise one of their own pens, got confused about how flex nibs worked and had to be given a brief lecture on model numbers and the difference between push-button converters and piston filling systems.  We shall leave them unidentified to spare their blushes… don’t mess with penthusiasts, people!

Win the notebook

Leuchtturm kindly embossed our name in a silver on a unique United Inkdom A6 notebook, and with only one of them in the whole world we couldn’t possibly divide it between our team so we decide to hand it over to you!  We asked for comments with weird and wonderful ideas about what you’d do with such notebook in your pocket (or indeed in your hand), and the winning answer was, well, world domination.  How could we argue?





London Stationery Show report

United Inkdom counts as a media channel these days (about which a modest degree of smugness is hopefully forgiveable), and that hallowed status gets us into trade fairs too, when we ask nicely.  So your dutiful correspondent popped up from the subterranean railway at the Angel, and sauntered in for a browse…

Now, this was a general stationery show rather than a nib-fest, as is reflected in the line-up of best-in show winners – none of which were fountain pens, horrifyingly.  But there were diamonds in the rough, nevertheless.  Stationery in the wider sense does matter to us pen-wielders, after all, and it was good to catch up with the team from Exaclair (i.e. Rhodia and Clairefontaine), who weren’t yet aware of the recent growth in fountain pen owners moving over to the disc-binder system and needing good A5 FP-friendly paper.  Well, they are now, and we look forward to seeing what develops.

Within the high-street emphasis were some other nice surprises, too.  Zebra, for instance, contributed a surprisingly nice extra-cheap fountain pen, disappointing only in the sense that it is disposable; it turns out to be good enough to want to keep.  Caran d’Ache, while not making much of their fountain pen range, sadly, at least had the kindness to give everyone one of their rather nice water-soluble colouring pencils.

Looking at what’s on the high street rather than the focus of specialist fountain pen retailers highlighted some different emphases, as you might expect.  Lamy presented rack after rack of endless Safaris, rolling on into the savannah until even the mildest-mannered visitor would reach for the elephant gun.  A certain brand who shall remain nameless invested in flying executives out from Japan rather than attending to their dubious UK pricing structure, but the least said about that the better. Then again, a high-quality German pen manufacturer you’ve never heard of was around the next corner – largely unknown in fountain pen circles because they sell mostly through jewellers rather than stationers at present – and of course, we’re going to see if we can help them with that profile in future. Also spotted was a potential new ink source, and a rather interesting fountain pen brand you have heard of who we’d love to review too – but those will have to stay unidentified for a little longer while we parley with them!

Pen people are lovely, as you know, and one of the highlights of the day was talking to some of them in person.  Louise from The Pen Shop, aka the ‘Queen of Dex’, handed over some interesting material for a United Inkdom meta-review coming up very soon indeed. Tony from Pocket Notebooks was a mine of information (as you get a flavour of in Ian’s interview with him a few weeks ago) and we’ve passed-on a few ideas in return – plus he donated some Tomoe River paper which we have all sorts of ideas for!

Getting back to the exhibitors for a moment, there was one outstanding triumph, and that of course was the historic yet bang-up-to-date Federhalter-Fabrik Kock, Weber & Co – OK, that’s Kaweco to you and me.  While they massively flattered a certain scribbler’s ego by confirming that this was the very first Supra sold, they also had the coolest hands-on exhibit in the whole place: the build-your-own-Sport assembly line!  Putting the components together and operating the machinery under the watchful eye of Sebastian Gutberlet himself (son of the CEO, so no pressure there) was far more convincing than any glossy sales brochure can be, and the results aren’t bad either.

Scribble Sport

We offered readers the chance to win this hand-made unique creation – plus a selection of purple cartridges, of course – by dropping us a line below telling us what sport you think this Sport is most fitted to accompany.  The results make for quite entertaining reading, starting with Quidditch and getting more creative from there on!