Recently my wife and I had an opportunity to drive to Cleveland and visit family over the weekend. Planning this trip coincided with a few email and telephone conversations with master craftsman Brian Gray, who owns and operates the Edison Pen Company. Brian was helping me select an acrylic that I was interested in him using to make my second Collier as a bulb-filler. I was looking for the same translucency and appearance of the fine machining characteristics Brian does with the threads as I have on my first Collier, this time in a deep red/maroon color.
Brian has available so many delicious colors and patterns to choose from, and he hit the bulls-eye again with his Red Tortoise Acrylic! I could see it many times over on his wonderful Edison Pen Company SmugMug site where he has pictured literally hundreds of pens in all type and variety of material, style, color, pattern, and more.
In closing I mentioned that he and I hail from the same general Cleveland area, he on the west side and me from the east side, and that my wife and I were headed that way a few weeks out.
And then it happened…
“Hey Hugh, why don’t you swing by the shop and we’ll make your custom Collier while you’re here?” In that moment I experienced all things “Willy Wonka in the Chocolate Factory” as it applies to custom, hand-crafted fountain pen passion.
I truly cannot remember my response to Brian. I do recall my voice went up a number of octaves and grew in volume as I accepted this man’s kind and generous offer to visit the place where the finest custom and production pens are made. This, a field trip beyond compare, would become reality.
We arrived to a warm and gracious welcome by Brian and his wife, Andrea. My wife and I were treated to a guided tour of the Edison Pen Company shop, with a stop at each station where the magic happens at Brian’s skilled hand. Along the way Brian explained each step, the many processes, and how he applies his skill and amazing capabilities through tools and technology to transform raw sheet and rod stock into the most fabulous writing instruments I have ever experienced.
Brian and his Edison Pen Company is an amazing story. It’s a mosaic of “Made in America”, “mom and pop shop”, where everything is crafted and made by hand and inspected by eye from start to finish. With just that perfect touch of spousal competition over perfection, this is a story that I hope prospers forever more.
We watched my Red Tortoise Acrylic Collier being made…by hand. Brian explained how he designs the component parts to be crafted, and then told the story as each was being created. We watched as raw rod stock was cut to length, fitted into the lathe, and then shaped as an amazing high-speed, hand-guided shower of flakes and strands gave way to reveal those gorgeous components: the section, the cap, the barrel, the blind cap, those amazing quad-threads being cut at a degree of precision almost incomprehensible, and so much more.
My newest Edison Pen Company Collier in Red Tortoise Acrylic
As I watched this amazing birth take place, I noticed that Brian always has his hand on the lathe while listening intently with great focus upon the intersection of tooling-meets-rapidly-rotating-acrylic. Frequently he makes the absolute slightest adjustment to this wheel and that dial. And when I say slight, the amount of change Brian applied was nearly imperceptible. Yet it always resulted in that beaming boyish grin appearing on his face together with, “Yeah, that’s it…that’s what I want…that's what I want to feel and hear.” in a most confident, self-reflective voice speaking to no one other than himself. I was in awe.
Top - my new Collier; Bottom - my first Collier in Antique Marble Acrylic
With the clip fitted to the cap every part was then examined intently under fluorescent lighting to reveal any imperfection, and the very minor one that was found was made to vanish. Every part, every fit and finish, and each package is scrutinized by both Brian and Andrea with one empirical criteria, “Is it the way I would want to receive it?” And every Edison Pen Company pen you and I purchase leaves Brian's shop that way. I’ve watched Brian and Andrea’s commitment become reality at their hands. And they make no exception to this commitment of quality and craftsmanship.
I asked Brian to fit my new Collier with a custom grind two-tone steel stub nib, which he made while explaining each step and process. Fitted with the special adjustments and modification necessary for the nib unit to perform in a bulb-filler pen, on went the breather tube. With the Stub nib installed in my newly minted Collier, and a bulb fitted and sealed in place, Brian then had me write with my new Collier as he watched with an attentive eye toward my pen hold, the angle at which I address nib to paper, and writing style. “Okay, I see…let me make a couple of adjustments.” All this perfection delivered nothing short of pure aesthetic and writing pleasure.
As we made ready to head out to Brian and Andrea’s favorite pizza joint for dinner and conversation, Brian offered us to stroll around the shop at our leisure. “Hey, and let me know if you have any questions about anything!”, he says.
Okay, so think about this for a second…I’m inside the Edison Pen Company shop, I’ve just shadowed Brian Gray as he made my second-in-kind grail pen, and I’m looking at really cool power tools and equipment, trays full of fountain pen nibs and clips, and a work-in-process workbench of pens many of you have ordered. Questions? Oh, I’ve got questions alright, starting with how quickly can I save up for the next dozen Edison Pen Company pens that I’ve just envisioned while looking at all these materials, colors, and combinations laying in-process on this workbench!
Having seen the really cool ideas others of you have ordered as custom Edison pens, I know that I will be asking Brian for a pen with clear colored cap tops (the blind cap and the one atop the main cap) in an Edison model made in the style of a vintage Waterman Hundred Year pen. And, of course, one day I’ll ask him for a demonstrator version to be made from one of the clear colored materials he uses to make the ink window. Each and more are must haves. Wait a minute…”a pen”, “one”…silly me. Let me revise those: “another pen” and “one more pen” are much more appropriate!
Next up, though, will be an Edison pen in each of these that I found while trolling through Brian’s stock of materials.
All that's left to say is a heartfelt...