Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years, I have received hundreds if not thousands of questions from viewers.  I am very honoured and I would love to help out, but please understand that answering questions about fountain pens, ink, and paper is not my day job.  I have therefore compiled this page of frequently asked questions.  Before you send me a message, please read these questions first to see if your question is answered here.

What is the best fountain pen under $50/$100/$150/$200/insert your preferred amount here?
I really don’t know: it strongly depends on what you are looking for (pen brand, material, nib material, nib type, filling system, ink capacity, etc.). If you want to pose questions of this nature to me, provide me with as many details as you can. I try to reply as time permits, but, to quote Sherlock Holmes, I cannot make bricks without clay, so I cannot answer questions that contain little or no details (to be sure: “What pen should I buy under $50?” is an example of a question that contains not nearly enough information).

I bought a fountain pen from X and it does not write properly/is broken/the cap is loose/the piston doesn’t draw up ink/etc.
It would make most sense to contact the seller, who ought to make things right; given that I did not sell you the pen, there is little I can do.

What equipment do you use to record your videos?
I like to keep things simple, so I use a Panasonic HC-X920 camera on a simple SIRUI tripod. I use no additional microphone, studio lighting, diffusors, soundproofed rooms, or anything of the kind. I edit my videos with AVS Video Editor, which is a simple but effective suite of software.

What is the best fountain pen ever made?
The one you have on you when you need to write something down.

What is the music you use in the opening of your videos?
That question is very difficult to answer briefly, but I’ll try.  I love Orthodox church music (yes, some consider that to be odd).  I particularly enjoy Byzantine chant, so the music of the Greek Orthodox church.  Byzantine music is, as far as I am concerned, the cradle of our music, and I just love it.  One of the defining characteristics of this style of chanting, is the system of the “octoechos” or eight modes (AKA tones) of chanting.  Every mode is, in a nutshell, a series of musical formulae that centre around one of the eight Byzantine musical notes.  In principle, almost every church hymn can be chanted in each of the eight modes, and it will sound differently because each mode requires starting the hymn on the specific note that is that mode’s “typical” (so the central note for that mode).  To indicate in which mode a hymn will be sung, the (proto)psaltis or lead chanter sings a set of random syllables, and the choir will know what mode to sing in, because every mode is associated with its own set of random syllables.  This set of syllables is called an apichima in Greek, and the one I use, ah-na-nes is associated with the first mode authentic (i.e. the first of the eight modes).  If you have trouble understanding all of this, it is not you.  This is really complicated stuff that people have written entire books about for centuries, so explaining it in a few sentences is madness.  If you want to read more, I can highly recommend the Divine Music project by the Brothers of St. Anthony’s monastery in Arizona: their website is in English and they have excellent guides and tutorials on Byzantine chant, including an excellent explanation and overview of the apichimata; check out their website here.

Where can I buy Akkerman ink?
I understand that this may not be immediately apparent to people who don’t live in The Netherlands, but P.W. Akkerman is a fountain pen store and they sell their own brand of ink. There are a few shops in the US who import the ink (Vaness, Anderson Pens), but you can get the ink directly from www.akkerman.ink. I cannot assist in obtaining Akkerman inks beyond providing you with this link.

How many pens do you own?
Not nearly as many as you would think. I give away or sell any pens that I do not use.

How many inks do you own?
Not nearly as many as you would think. I am very selective in my choice of inks.

What is the best blue/green/red/etc. ink?
There is no such thing as the best ink for all pens and papers, but here are my favourites organized by colour. These inks are all by brands that I consider safe and that I would put in every pen I own.
Black: Aurora Black.
Blue: Waterman Serenity Blue, Pelikan Royal Blue.
Brown: Montblanc Toffee Brown.
Green: Montblanc Irish Green.
Orange: Sailor Jentle Apricot (discontinued).
Red: Akkerman Chinatown Red.
Pink: Iroshizuku Kosumosu.
Purple: Montblanc Lavender Purple.

Can you send me a free pen?
No.

Why do you have a plastic sheet under your hand as you write?
The purpose of the sheet is to create a barrier between the paper and the writer’s hand, so that oils from one’s skin do not contaminate the paper, as that hampers ink flow from a (fountain) pen. Calligraphers have done similar things for centuries, obviously not with plastic, but with folded sheets of parchment or paper.  Some calligraphers choose to wear special gloves for this purpose.  If you want one of these shields, I sell them as Brown Protectors here.

Can you recommend fountain pen stores in The Netherlands?
The Netherlands is bigger than you might think, so it will depend a bit on where you’ll stay.  The list below is not exhaustive, but it includes the worthwhile shops, in my experience.
P.W. Akkerman in The Hague: very well-equipped store with expert and English-speaking staff in a monumental location.  A nice selection of limited edition pens.
P.W. Akkerman in Amsterdam: no longer related to the shop in The Hague and it doesn’t sell the Akkerman ink in the fancy bottles.  Staff knows basic pen stuff but isn’t always well-informed about products sold.  Nice selection of well-known pen brands.
Appelboom Pennen in Laren: a nice, well-equipped store, including a nice selection of leather goods, now in a brand new location.
La Couronne du Comte in Tilburg: small but well-equipped shop in the town where I was born.  Owners are very knowledgeable and speak English well.  A nice selection of pens and inks.
Fontoplumo in Delft: nice store with a friendly owner, and a nice selection of pens, including some CONID pens that are exclusive to this store.
De Groen in Wassenaar: an office supply store with a nice selection of pens, including some less common brands like Franklin-Covey.  
Pen Shop
in Nijmegen: A store that can adjust nibs when you purchase them, owner is definitely opinionated.
‘t Vulpenhuis in Arnhem: a store that carries the well-known pen brands.

Can you recommend nibmeisters/people who can tune, adjust, or alter fountain pen nibs?
I have excellent experiences with Mike Masuyama in the US.  Appelboom now has a resident nibmeister that will do tune-ups on nibs, even those that are not purchased from Appelboom. I have heard very good things about John Sorowka in the UK, but I have not personally dealt with him; Mr Sorowka does not have a website, but he is “oxonian” on the fountain pen network, so you can reach him there.

What brand of eyeglasses do you wear?
I always wonder why this is relevant, but I get this question at least once every three months.  The current brand is Ray-Ban.

Why do you have a midwestern/American/British/Scandinavian/German/Israelian/East-European/etc. accent?
Do I? Am Dutch and English is not my native language, so I have probably picked up a mixture of accents somehow.