The Chicago Pen show has already come and gone, but I am posting about it anyway because PEN SHOW! (also, that should always be in caps—once you go to a show, you’ll understand why 🙂) I’m not sure what happens to an attendee of a show, but time is altered somehow. You think you’ll have enough time to see everything in one day, how could you possibly need more? But, you go and suddenly there is so much to see and get done and people to catch up with and new people to meet! If only oxygen was pumped into the ballroom like Vegas, you could go all the live long day, but it’s not and you can’t and you’ve got to eat something before you pass out. Tip #1: Take snacks and H2O. Shows really are quite something though, if you get the chance to go to one, don’t hesitate, go!
I haven’t been to Chicago since my father was alive and that was a long time ago now, so I was excited to go to this show. The hotel was about 20 minutes away from the airport in/near Hoffman Estates/Schaumburg. I didn’t see much of Chicago proper that I had seen when I was much younger, but even so, the venue was great for the show! It was within walking distance of eating establishments thank goodness and yes, there was a Starbucks (I completed a SBUX dash while there!) and believe it or not, it was my first time to Buffalo Wild Wings (thanks Cindy for letting me hijack your wings). I also had a pork tenderloin for lunch, which I’ve always wanted to try, on one of the days with some friends who also attended. If you’re lucky, someone will have a car and this will allow travelling offsite to recharge. Tip #2: know where you can grab a bite to eat.
I think those of you who follow me on Instagram know that my first stop at the show will probably be the Franklin-Christoph table. If you’re not familiar with F-C, they’re a pen manufacturing company in Raleigh, NC. You can read more about the history of the company here. The owner and creator, Scott Franklin designs the various models of pens offered. Once at the Philly 2016 PEN SHOW, Scott along with his head machinist held an informative talk about the design and manufacturing of his pens that was quite interesting. (I have a special affinity toward model 45, the pocket pen as I was lucky to witness the design and tweaks that produced the model that lives in the lineup today.) I love seeing what new materials and permutations of fountain pens they bring to the show, “protons” as I now call them (an auto-corrupted version of “protos” on my phone that has stuck) and it’s always something to watch the unveiling. This show was no exception.
Franklin-Christoph setting up at the Chicago PEN SHOW
My friends and I checked in to see whether the pens had been put out and tried to decide upon the following, but really how does one decide upon just one?
Franklin-Christoph prototypes – familiar models, but different
materials than the standard colors offered on the F-C website.
At this point, once you’ve chosen the model, you the choose the nib that you’d like seated into the pen. Franklin-Christoph provides testers of all of their various nibs (needlepoint all of the way up to their music nib as well as the different materials, HPS/High Performance Steel and Gold options!). I have to say, if you don’t yet know what nib you’d like, sit down and try the testers. It may be daunting your first visit to the table, but I promise, it gets easier and they want you to try out the nibs. It’s what they’re there for and you want to be happy when you walk away with pen(s) in hand and even more so when you get home. Once the nib is seated, you have an opportunity to test it out and they will fill it with any of their inks right there and then. If you’d like it eyedroppered, they will do that for you! Tip #3: The Franklin-Christoph experience is unique and something you should not miss.
Shows usually have a special SHOW INK and Chicago had a few to offer! One was a KWZ Chicago Blue ink which was available at the Vanness Pen shop after the show (it’s now sold out). Lisa and Mike, the owners of Vanness Pens, are always a highlight of the shows for me, I love catching up with the both of them. They’re wonderful folks and if you are shopping outside of a show and don’t see something on their website, send them email or call them, they’ve helped me find lots of things that I’ve looked for from time-to-time! They have a great selection of inks and are my go-to place for difficult to find KobeINK and Robert Oster as well as Kyo-no-oto inks! Tip #4: They take quite a bit of ink to the shows and they often can take orders to your local show so you can get it in person. (contact them ahead of time for arrangements) They’ve got interesting stationery items and have been known to sell socks at shows (believe it or not, some people who won’t be named here have forgotten to pack them, not me BTW!).
Lisa Vanness (on the right) with Ana and see? There are socks there!
Vanness: more inks! Akkerman and some Robert Oster inks
Matt Armstrong (Penhabit) wears the best PEN SHOW vest ever!
And look at more of the inks Lisa Vanness brought behind him!
Big thanks to Laura (one of the organizers of the show) for helping my friends and I to acquire the Papier Plume show inks, Lake Michigan Summer and Ivy 108 while we waited for the F-C protons! More show pics can be found on my Instagram feed or at #chicagopenshow2017.
Chicago show inks! Why o why didn’t I buy
eleven billion Lk Michigan Summers??!?
The traveling ink testing station made an appearance in case someone was interested in swatching the 300 inks, many available at the Vanness table!
Ever wanted to try out an ink you were wondering about?
No show would be complete without some nibwork. This year Dan Smith (the Nibsmith) was the lone nibmeister at the show. I had him work on five pens and he told me later that numerous people had stopped by while he was working on mine to ask if they were for sale. (sorry folks!) Tip #5: Get on the list for nibwork. Four of the five pens are shown below~now that the VP Guilloche has a CI nib, perhaps I’ll actually use it. (The missing pen is my Sakura Platinum 3776 which went from a B to a MCI.)
The Chicago show had a nice mix of modern and vintage items. I found a great vintage glass nibbed pen at Tom Bailey’s table (thanks again Hong for nudging him to let go of one for me!) It is lovely and writes for quite a long time on the initial dip to test!
Vintage glass nibbed pen
More vintage pens can be found at many other tables, a favorite being Tim Pierson’s tables, plural. Tip #6: Strike up a conversation with Tim, you won’t be sorry. You will recognize him with his many tables and risers and drawers upon drawers of vintage pens, all in working order! His color coding system makes it very easy to find the type of pen nib you’re looking for. Yellow is the color that I look for—yellow equals flex and there is little better than vintage flex. I’m very thankful for Tim because he often has the backstory for many of his pens. He remembers where he finds them and when you talk to him a bit more and he gets to know what you like, you just may find that he’s put aside a pen he thinks you might like. The Chicago show was no exception and I went home with this beauty:
Vintage Sheaffer w/flex from Tim Pierson’s table in the hotel light.
Also, the new Fountain Pen Day zipper pull button!
NockCo brought lots of fun items to the show as well. Often they have an item only for the show. This year, for this show they offered a black, waxed cotton Sinclair and a leather Fodderstack! The new sizes of notecards were also available there and I took home the XL notecards as well as the Sinclair and Fodderstack. (I have misplaced my Fodderstack, but you can see it on the Penhabit Chicago recap video on YouTube.)
The truth of the matter is yes, the pen finds are exciting, but the real fun is catching up with friends and meeting new ones. I had a blast going to lunch with a couple that I first met at the Atlanta 2016 show! I’m so appreciative that they came to the Chicago show and had me join them to eat at their favorite Ramen place! Going to breakfast with friends to fuel up for the day ahead is always a great start to the day. Being in the same place with people who like pens is such an amazing thing. I’ve never once seen someone at work with a fountain pen, nor have I ever seen anyone out in the wild using one either. Aside from an occasional Pen Meetup, it’s just the furry son and me looking through the pens I’ve acquired at home. Mr. Murbers isn’t there yet. I’ve got him using rollerballs now so I’m thinking fountain pens aren’t too far off in the distance. To be continued…