Just a few weeks back I posted my review of a Yard-O-Led Astoria Grand I picked up at last October’s London Pen Show. I mentioned how I had contacted YOL over the history of the pen and the possibilities of replacing the clip band with the correct sterling silver one (with hallmarks). Within a day I had a reply.
People tend to mistakenly think that when Parker moved their manufacturing to India and Platignum (not to be confused with Platinum) appeared to cease to be, that fountain pen production in the UK had halted. However, even before that time, a number of small craftsmen were already starting up. One of these, in 2003, was Bryan Lucas at the Worcester Pen Company.
Let’s be honest. It was not just the textured pattern of the Kumpoo limited edition 3776 Century pen from Platinum that made it so popular. It was also the turquoise colour. A colour that did not quite match any of the inks out there. Except …..
These days most people associate Yard-O-Led (YOL) with a range of sterling silver writing implements hand crafted from a workshop in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, UK, however back before the 2015 buyout from their previous owners Letts, they had other pens in their inventory.
I’m far from alone in liking maki-e and appreciating the skills and processes that go in to the creation of this form of art. As with many I often thought that my only options would be the ‘cheap’ commercial screen print pens, which are approximately £100 a pop, as the far more attractive alternatives I saw were all high end in the four figure price range and with releases been limited to single digit numbers of pens. Discovering the Namiki Nippon Art range was a revelation. Sure these pens are still £400+ outside of rare deals, but they are also much more affordable for a hand drawn piece of work.
Delta were around from 1982 to 2016/7. During that time their most famous model was the Dolcevita. Traditionally available with an orange body and black cap, grip, and blind cap, a latter day alternative was launched, the Oro, in a stunning crushed orange resin. Available in silver and vermeil trims, it also should have come with either a 14k gold nib, or the infamous Delta Fusion nib (steel with a gold triangle glued on top ‘for heat dissipation’). In the last days of the company, pens were fitted with what was available just to try and get money in. The result, a Dolcevita Oro Stantuffo with a steel nib.
What happens when an artist and sculptor moves in to the fountain pen world, making every component bar the nib/feed unit. This is what happened with Andy Deschacht of Garcia-Deschacht from Belgium. The net result is a range of unique pens with an attention to detail and visual aesthetics.
Back in December 2015 an interesting pen appeared on Kickstarter, the VENVSTAS Carbon V. Designed by architect Lucio Rossi it was of an unusual design and construction and suffered from a troubled start. Some people loved it, others had great problems. One was leant to Stephen Brown who infamously lambasted it, which Lucio Rossi did not take too well on the FPN forums. Still it resulted in a growing range of pens, ending with the D’Art. I’m not sure what then happened as the company is still going, but the Kickstarter account was suddenly deleted and Lucio Rossi started a new company and Kickstarter account, U75 as well as a new pen, The Edge.
Most people who are involved in the pen world are aware of the Sailor King of Pen. A range of over sized fountain pens with a 21k nib available either as a medium, broad, or a hand made naginata (supposedly while Nagahara-san has retired, his son is meant to be restarting a limited set of the range). Most commonly found in the cigar shape of the 1911/Profit and ranging from acrylic, through the eponymous ebonite version and on to high end and high art Maki-e master pieces, the KoP is also found to a lesser extent with the flat finials of the Pro Gear shape. Over the last number of years there has been a limited edition release of the latter based on the five Japanese elements, starting with Wind (2016), then Earth (2017), Ocean (2018) and now Fire (I expect ether/heaven will finish the set next year). The same Pro Gear limited edition can also be found in regular and slim sized models.
I can still remember (as it was only 10 years back) when in the UK the only people watching out for Black Friday deals were Apple fanbois as it was the only day in the year when Apple would discount some of their range, the discounts being global, and some very good bargains to be had. I think it was only really with Amazon joining in and pushing the event world wide that the fuss spread over to this side of the pond. Since then it has waned but there can still be some good deals to be found.
From a fountain pen basis here are the ones I’m aware of in the UK. I’ve listed them in alphabetical order for the retailer and have only included those listed on their websites or mail pushes. Please note this is also based on the list of retailers I have in my browser and are actually advertised as Black Friday deals, not just their regular offerings. Any I have missed, please let me know and I will add.