Shaw Pens – The Bessemer Ballpoint

19 03 2014

Because turquoise makes everything better

Alan Shaw contacted me about helping come up with a name for a new pen he’d designed, and happily I accepted the challenge.

I opened the mystery package to this intriguing nameless pen

I opened the mystery package to this intriguing nameless pen

The look is high-class mechanic, with a touch of the inventor about it with that o-ring grip and accents, and the hex nut around the knock. The name is a nod to Sir Henry Bessemer, who developed the process to mass produce cheap mild steel, which paved the way for the proliferation of the hex nut.

As decorations, the o-rings are a solid choice

As decorations, the o-rings are a solid choice

The o-rings as grip will be a make or break feature—either you will appreciate their grippability, or you will find them too hard. It may depend on how hard you grip the pen.

I am getting hungry for sweets

I am getting hungry for sweets

The body I love. It looks like an enchanted cola float captured in resin. The pen will come in other colors, but anything reminiscent of a tasty dessert is a good start.

I wonder if o-rings come in other colors. I wonder if I'd want the o-rings in other colors...

I wonder if o-rings come in other colors. I wonder if I’d want the o-rings in other colors…

My only complaint is the length of the pen. For me, this pen would be perfect if the tip came out right where the grip meets the nosecone. As is, it feels a bit long in my hand, feels like it would balance better if it was just that little bit shorter. Maybe if you have bigger hands it’d be perfect.

I need Uni-ball to make Parker-style Jetstream ink ballpoint refills. That would complete my life

I need Uni-ball to make Parker-style Jetstream ink ballpoint refills. That would complete my life

The refill it comes with, a Franklin-Christoph brand Piper Premium 1000 Ultra-Glide ballpoint, is a fairly smooth and fairly dark Parker-style ballpoint refill. There are some moments occasionally when writing when I can feel some oddity, something less than 100% smoothness, but it’s generally a pretty decent refill. The pen will take any Parker-style ballpoint refill, so I’ve paired the lovely cola colors with a sky blue Private Reserve ballpoint refill, to fabulous effect.

Here's hoping there will be some new ones at the Raleigh Pen Show!

Here’s hoping there will be some new ones at the Raleigh Pen Show!

Keep an eye out at the pen shows and on the Shaw Pens website for the Bessemer!


Custom Shaw Pen – Gilbert Fountain Pen w/ Steel Nib

5 10 2012

Fun fact: this pen is one of the few I currently have with black ink in it

Picture it: my very first pen show. No idea what I’m even looking for. Lot of cool pens. One of the pen makers asks me if there’s any particular kind of pen I’m looking for, and it hits me: dark purple fountain pen. At the time, I had yet to see any in existence. And it just so happens that this particular pensmith is Alan Shaw. He had done some work recently with dark purple, and he offered to send me a sample.

Pictures fail to do it justice. And that’s why I kept pushing back this review, continually seeking justice…and continually failing.

This is not just purple, my friends, but sparkle-infused depths-of-deep-space-hydrogen-clouds purple. If fountain pens were magic wands, then this would be grade-A wizarding material. Thus I ordered my first custom-made fountain pen.

Seriously. Pictures fail to do it justice. We’ll just have to hang out sometime and maybe you can see it in person.

The finished product did not disappoint. It’s big, heavy, and beautiful. I ordered the Gilbert model with steel nib, which has rare earth magnets in the cap, making the cap easy and secure to close and post. Though, in my experience, posting the cap creates a serious Dolly Parton effect—top heavy, unwieldy, singing country music and spawning theme parks.

Am I writing or falling over? I can’t even tell.

Let’s take a picture moment to appreciate the material of this body. It’s smooth, it’s enchanting—

Like a Disney prince. In fact, this might actually be made out of compressed Disney princes.

It takes standard international cartridges / converter. It’s a decent nib, the kind I’ve seen before on other custom-made body kit-nib pens.

Standard functional steel nib

Mine’s a little on the dry side, very nice for drawing, but I’ll probably work the nib (when I get a little better at that) to be more juicy. Will keep you posted on that.


The pen is an absolute delight, and Alan was very easy to work with. The pen came in a nice box, with a converter and a bunch of cartridges. First custom fountain pen is a definite success.

Perfect purple pen

Here’s Alan Shaw’s website, and here’s the product detail for the Gilbert model. Thanks Alan!

One more picture. Just because we can.

Ink Drop Soup: Raleigh Pen Show

7 06 2012

BABY’S FIRST PEN SHOW! (Beautiful pens from the Anderson Pens booth)

My very first pen show, and I made it all three days, even though I worked Saturday and Sunday nights (and was asleep most of the daytime, thank you night shift life), I still brewed up extra coffee, woke up early (for me), and made my way over. The only other kind of major convention I’ve been to before is an anime convention. The main difference is that no one here was dressed up as a pen.

Spoils of war!

It was great meeting other pen enthusiasts in person—usually I am otherwise skeptical when someone in person shows interest in the office supply world. I make a very good attempt at raising one eyebrow, and ask in my most dubious voice, “Are you sure you really want me to go on about this? Don’t lie, because I will go on at great length. The full wrath of my pen-ADD will be unleashed upon you.” But here was a whole room full of nice people who also like to talk about pens! It was like living inside the internet.

The majority of the goods

The pen holder/binder/whatever this is called, along with a pack of purple Sheaffer cartridges (not pictured, except for the one inside the wee Sheaffer pen) I picked up from the booth of  Bertram’s Inkwell. The Lamy Pur EF nib fountain pen to the far left (and the Clairefontaine notebook in the previous picture) both came from the booth of my local pen store, Office Supplies and More (I’m still trying to convince him to have an online presence, still to no avail). The two tiny coral-pink items are a lead pencil and fountain pen set by Arnold’s of Petersburg, VA. They are alleged to be from 1825…which I’m going to have to call horsefeathers on, as I’m pretty sure either the plastics or whatever material these two are made of weren’t available in 1825, OR (/and) lever-fill fountain pens didn’t even EXIST in 1825. It’s very clearly written on the price tag, but maybe whoever did this meant to write 1925 and had a moment. Alas, I forget the name of the booth where I got the Arnold’s mini set, but it was only $25 for the both of them (and I don’t know a blasted thing about antique pens, so that sounded good enough to me, especially considering they are both in working order).

Beautifully overwhelming quantities of pens everywhere. I wonder if my pens would look this awesome with dramatic lighting and majestic-colored resting spots in wooden trays.

The little iridescent-purplish Sheaffer pen and the blue Esterbrook (and the Sheaffer converter, which I apparently decided was worth including in the picture) all came from the above collection of one Arthur D. (Dan) Reppert. I’m thrilled with both of those pens, and I’m especially happy with my very first Esterbrook. Clearly I will have to look into Esterbrook more.

Me: “Oh, you need paper? I have some—“
Martin (rummaging for Rhodia notebook): “But this is good paper—“
Me (waving a spiralbound Clairefontaine): “Yeah, so is this!”

I finally got to see some Snorkel pens in person! And even though I didn’t buy one (it’s going on the long-term want list), I did pick up a Hero 616 from Martin‘s booth. He’s a cool guy who understands the importance of good paper and the dangers of Private Reserve fountain pen ink. Like talking to a brain mirror.

So many tempting colors….

Being still almost completely clueless about how things work in the vintage fountain pen market, I tried to keep myself from getting sucked in too deep (read: buying too many / too expensive pens), so I was thrilled to see TWSBI pens and accessories. My TWSBI up there is still the same ole Diamond 530, but thanks to Anderson Pens it now has a brand-new fine nib, and an ink buddy.

The silver will match any ink color I decide to put in there. Pen accessory and ink coordination is a fine art.

Unfortunately, there wasn’t a terribly big ink presence, so someone like me looking for the rarer/stranger/more out there colors of bottled ink was a little boxed in. Aside from the Sheaffer cartridges, I didn’t buy any ink (not that I really REALLY need more ink…)

Pen wizardry

You may recall my early vexation with my otherwise lovely Pilot Vanishing Point—so it was no contest as to which pen I’d pick for my very first customization of a nib. What was once finicky now freely flows, and it’s incredible! Richard Binder is truly a god among pens.

Pens yet to come…

And finally, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet Alan Shaw, and explain to him the as-yet-fruitless grail quest I’m on for the perfect, dark-purple-bodied fountain pen. Since he is a maker of custom pens, and I am in search of a custom color, well….let’s just say…there’s a good chance I might be getting into my first custom fountain pen here in the future! He’s got a lot of custom pens with really creative materials. If I made business money, there was a pen of his there with huge bird feathers in clear resin that I would’ve snatched right up. Why I didn’t take a picture of it, I don’t know. To instill regret in myself, I suppose.

All in all, a very fun and exciting first pen show! Now I need to start plotting out when the other East Coast pen shows are, see if I’ll be off. I’m hooked now.