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Thread: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

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    Senior Member RocketRyan's Avatar
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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Quote Originally Posted by fountainpagan View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Pterodactylus View Post
    Anybody thinking making a custom pen is a piece of cake should proof it.
    I'm looking forward to see many new masterpieces in the Pen Making forum.



    And as it is that easy those guys can easily make a lot of profit also by selling their masterpieces.
    Buying the needed equipment should therefore also not be an issue.
    Maybe they could also quit their current job and become rich with their masterpiece custom pens.

    Totally agree with you.

    Cannot wait to see the new créations!
    Neither the time or desire, by the time I had finished I would be sick of looking at it. Unless of course I had the know how to make nibs from scratch, now that would interest me.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Wow, I have so much to say but I am not a master at the written word. I will do my best to be brief and to the point.

    I think I know the original video spoken of here and it is not that easy. If it was, everyone would be doing it.

    I do not think I can do a kit-less pen in less than 2.5 hours. 3 hours is more likely for me. I am not proficient at it.

    For me there is a fair amount of time consumed with the behind the scenes tasks. Changing drill bits, changing cutting heads and double checking everything before starting the cut takes time. Some lathes are more forgiving in this area than mine. And I am way to cautious, I need to just do it.

    The fitting of clips and bands are another step that can be tedious. Some artists even make there own clips and bands. Even more time consumed.

    Then there is sanding and finishing. If you were not careful enough when doing the final shaping the pen you will spend a bit more time removing the tool marks.

    I am not the best pen maker. and even the best of them have blow-outs that require starting over. Which results in a lot of lost time.

    I do enjoy making pens but it is so hard to get noticed and have people want your product. I have mostly went back to making kit pens and trying to expand my other pre-made product offerings (ink, paper and factory pens).

    I think anyone starting out and thinking they can make a living at it, better have a large bank account to pay their bills and a lot of patience. Unless they have a new revolutionary idea it will be a tough road ahead.
    Last edited by DaveT; June 28th, 2017 at 12:20 PM.
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  4. #43
    Senior Member Scrawler's Avatar
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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    I like owning unique things. I am very lucky to own a unique, bespoke fountain pen made by Brian Gray. It writes very similarly to my daughters MB146. Maybe I should have gotten an MB instead. It does not look like anything MB would ever turn out. I do not live close enough to other humans to derive pleasure from their acclaim, so I am obliged to admire the artistry in material, design and manufacture by myself. When someone request that another make a bespoke item they are causing employment by making money and materials move. They enable another to express their skills and abilities. Usually bespoke and custom made items are made by smaller studios and individuals, not larger corporations with marketing departments to pay for. I believe that all people, who are able, should have at least one bespoke item made for them. Whether that is a suit or a pen, or a painting, it does not matter. What matters is that people with skill should be employed to use those skills.

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    Senior Member SIR's Avatar
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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Scrawler View Post
    When someone request that another make a bespoke item they are causing employment by making money and materials move. They enable another to express their skills and abilities... What matters is that people with skill should be employed to use those skills.
    Which is why I not so long ago chose to invest in Nakaya; my faith was well repaid with the best writing pen I am likely ever to own.

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    Senior Member Cheshire's Avatar
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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    I'm not sure if I would base the costs of a bespoke FP on materials alone because you're paying for more options/customization/materials/design/time which went into the effort of creating one-of-a-kind item. Granted, I don't own any custom FP but I do read tons of reviews and seen a few in person at the local FP club/events in the city.

    Also, some of the FP designs are very unique and don't exist from other major brands for example:



    source

    I have seen his work in person and it's truely a work of art.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    One thing I don't think anyone has touched on is the give and take between the craftsperson and the customer. I have three custom made pens that Renée of Scriptorium Pens has made for me. The first was a Wordsmith basically her standard model but I wanted a different color at the cap lip, something she hadn't done before. The second pen was one based on the Carter's pen, using Conway Stewart pistachio material, with sterling silver furnishings. Renée wanted a clip that looked like the Carter's clip and had one custom made. I approved of shape of pen and design of the clip. The finished pen was beautiful and exactly what I wanted, but Renée had spent a lot of time working with me. The pen is now her Inkling model. The third pen was a Sonneteer. I had a large Carter's 14k nib, section and feed that I wanted her to use and I wanted the pen to be a blow filler. So she created a section that the friction fit Carter's section would go into the standard Sonneteer section, and the Carter's section had a ink sac attached. When I was reading the description for the pen it said that a JoWo nib went with the pen so I had Renée create a standard section that threaded into the barrel and it was fitted with a converter. So I had an ebonite Sonneteer with two interchangeable nib units. The three pens are all beautiful and unique. So what I was paying for was all of the planning that took place (the give and take), the materials, and the craftsperson's time in actually making the pen.
    Last edited by linearMN; January 14th, 2019 at 08:03 PM.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Forgot about this thread, and perhaps timely given that the guy who made my two custom pens has apparently hung up his tools and retired. Unfortunately that leaves me without a maker to approach (if I were to get my hands on a decent vintage nib like a 100 Year Waterman or something that I would like to have a pen built around).

    In the OP the material costs were only mentioned as a point of reference, and of course I would not expect a maker to sell at material cost!

    To my mind though, if a pen is not unique then it is hard to accept that it is custom. All the well-known makers have stock models that they've churned out dozens of times, and I see no evidence (as yet) that these particular models are not CnC produced or at least lathed using a template, and the pens are okay in their way.

    And to touch a little on the point in my second sentence above, no matter what pen you have made it will write the same if it is fitted with a standard Jowo nib. These nibs are functional, not spectacular, in my experience (I have had quite a few).

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    Exclamation Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    For those who enjoy this sort of thing, there is a whole subreddit dedicated to folks, who out of ignorance or entitlement, feel that professionals should work for free or greatly reduced “fair prices”.

    The pattern is almost always: “I watch (woodworking/make-up/cooking) videos and don’t understand why you (the professional) are charging the rates you are. You should work my (re-model/wedding/dinner) for (practice/exposure/pennies-on-the-dollar). After all, I know how much materials are and I’ve seen how simple your job is on (PBS/YouTube/FoxNews).”

    https://www.reddit.com/r/choosingbeggars/
    Last edited by Chemyst; January 12th, 2019 at 02:55 AM.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    1. I haven't said these pens should be priced according to material costs. However, as is always the case, the material costs are included in the final price, so it is helpful to bear this in mind when trying to get your head around the pricing strategy.
    2. Nobody said that that turning a pen is easy. The OP notes that in the hands of an enthusiast turner it, well, kind of is. Of course the acquisition of these skills takes time.
    3. CnC turning lends itself to production line output, not exactly handmade, eh?



    When I started this thread I was trying to understand the prices, wait times and so on that append to the so-called custom pen makers.* Part of the reason is to compare what I can get for my $200 - $400 in cash if I look at 3 pen markets: vintage, modern, "custom".




    *it is disappointing when people assume agenda or motive behind the search for information or understanding, particularly when it is done in a passive-aggressive manner as in the previous post.
    Last edited by Empty_of_Clouds; January 12th, 2019 at 03:40 AM.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    *it is disappointing when people assume agenda or motive behind the search for information or understanding, particularly when it is done in a passive-aggressive manner as in the previous post.
    Yep.

    The truth is that fountain pens are an example of a Veblen good. Basically, that means most people buying them assume higher quality with a higher price. Which makes pricing low a self-destructive strategy except in special circumstances - eg if you're a Chinese brand, because China doesn't have the emotional "pull" of European makers. You can see this most hilariously with Pilots prices, which triple in the UK compared to Japan. That's because in Japan a pen that costs $20 to make is sold as a "standard" good at the mark-up typical for such goods, which is 3 to 5 times. But in the UK Pilot sell their fp's as luxury goods, so the Veblen effect kicks in and they sell them at a 10 times mark-up. And they're probably correct - they'd probably sell fewer pens rather than more if they cut prices.

    Part of the reason is to compare what I can get for my $200 - $400 in cash if I look at 3 pen markets: vintage, modern, "custom".
    Looked at as a writing machine, every pen more expensive than a Kakuno - or a Baoer Sonnet clone with the nib swapped for a steel Bock - is a disappointment. Excellent nibs and feeds and are cheap to mass produce and the rest of a pen is just a tube. (Although caps can get interesting, with the need to seal ink and remove easily.) If you want pretty you can always buy a PenBBS.

    ..This doesn't mean getting into pen-making is a sure-fire way to get rich though, because persuading people to buy your overpriced tube rather than one from a well-known brand is extremely difficult.
    Last edited by ilikenails; January 13th, 2019 at 09:48 AM.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Quote Originally Posted by linearMN View Post
    Snip.
    Not my experience at all. From the customer side of things I would expect the craftsperson to raise points that may have not been considered by the buyer (who may, as in my case, be unfamiliar with potential pitfalls or the process). In general I felt pressured throughout the process.

    Unfortunately, as noted in my last post, I no longer have access to any pen makers (last guy just retired). Thing is I am only after a single specific model, in a specific material. Then I am gone. It just takes one maker to step up and do something nice for a very distant person. Alas that the years go by and my exile continues. I could have the pen commissioned by a third party, unknown to the craftsperson, although that would be almost dishonest to my mind (even though not illegal or anything). I may get a bit animated at times on these boards, but I am still driven by the principle of honesty.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Curious point:

    Given that the well-known "custom" makers nearly all have wait lists of over a year, where are the reviews or show-and-tell posts from their customer base? Conservatively estimating making 100 pens per year per maker would mean that at least 500 pens get made across all makers. As "custom" pens are most likely commissioned by people who are already "into" fountain pens, it seems strange that so very, very few display their pens on here or at FPN. The last Newton pen I could find here, for example (and not including classifieds) was 4 years ago!

    Well, I think it rather curious anyway.

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    Senior Member Jon Szanto's Avatar
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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    As if here or FPN are the barometer of anything. I see posts with new custom pens on a regular basis on Facebook, Instagram, the reddit fountainpen subforum, and various pen sites. The mere fact that the pen makers continue to have a high volume of requests, leading to longer wait times, points to one thing: satisfied clients.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

    ~ Benjamin Franklin

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Barometer? Here and FPN are about as functional in this regard as the sites you mention. There used to be a lot more show-and-tell of "custom" pens, but that has been tailing off quite rapidly (at the two sites I cite). To the point where they are to all intent and purpose non-existent. This change suggests a possible shift in the kind of people who are buying "custom" pens.

    Of course there is no quality difference between makers other than personal preference (for design, personality or maker or whatever). If there were, the market would show this. It doesn't as far as I can tell. So from an economist's point of view I can treat all makers as a single entity.


    I actually have two custom pens. They both write exactly the same way. Would I buy another? Well, the window of opportunity is still open for a maker to end my frustration regarding the original Ghost Koi pen. However, at $200+ the value just isn't there for me to pursue any others beyond that.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Barometer? Here and FPN are about as functional in this regard as the sites you mention. There used to be a lot more show-and-tell of "custom" pens, but that has been tailing off quite rapidly (at the two sites I cite). To the point where they are to all intent and purpose non-existent. This change suggests a possible shift in the kind of people who are buying "custom" pens.
    Not true. To have offered your original premise based on such a small sampling of pen afficianados is faulty. Beside the point that all communities change (FPG is very different than it was even a couple years ago), there is great variety in the various forums and physical gathering places. The lack of discussion *here* or on FPN does not mean there isn't discussion, sharing and enthusiasm in other places. The reddit sub "fountainpens" has passed the 100k subscriber mark. Ignore that if you like, but people share bespoke pens there, and makers often show a new pen they are proud of.

    Beyond that, Instagram can bring an exponential growth to viewing custom pens, as you follow a pen user, check out the maker, start following them and realize other makers. There is much more activity and variety than you imply. And etc. The bottom line is that basing *anything* by what one reads at one or two sites is weak.

    Of course there is no quality difference between makers other than personal preference (for design, personality or maker or whatever). If there were, the market would show this. It doesn't as far as I can tell. So from an economist's point of view I can treat all makers as a single entity.
    Treat them however you like. Personal inspection and feedback from users indicates a range of quality in design and production. There is most definitely a spectrum from entry-level producers new to the craft all the way up to absolutely artisan work.

    I actually have two custom pens. They both write exactly the same way. Would I buy another? Well, the window of opportunity is still open for a maker to end my frustration regarding the original Ghost Koi pen. However, at $200+ the value just isn't there for me to pursue any others beyond that.
    If I thought that my experience with a pen was strictly about the function of writing, I might give some weight to that statement. It would also make sense if one were pursuing a minimalist lifestyle. From my perspective, there are other aspects of a pen that I can, and do, appreciate. There are some makers that are expanding into the writing aspects of the pen, or partnering with a nib person, but having a beautiful pen that perfectly fits your hand can easily be used to host a valued nib, or have a personal grind done to make it unique in your use. It is somewhat endless unless one puts their own arbitrary limits on the process. Certainly valid, but it is not a universal approach.

    2019 will see the creation of my first truly bespoke pen. I will share it on this forum, as elsewhere, when completed and in my hands. I'm excited about the collaborative process and the enjoyment of knowing I'll have a unique piece to value until I don't breath anymore.
    "When Men differ in Opinion, both Sides ought equally to have the Advantage of being heard by the Publick;
    and that when Truth and Error have fair Play, the former is always an overmatch for the latter."

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    Senior Member Empty_of_Clouds's Avatar
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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Your points are taken, although they do not have the weight of validity that you assume for them here. Note also that makers displaying their wares does not count, as this is marketing and not a measure of buyer satisfaction (strictly speaking).

    Treat them however you like. Personal inspection and feedback from users indicates a range of quality in design and production. There is most definitely a spectrum from entry-level producers new to the craft all the way up to absolutely artisan work.
    Yes, there is a range of quality of design and production, but I was referring (perhaps a little too obliquely) to a very specific price band (approx. $200 to $250) - and incidentally this is a price range that is not dependent on getting a gold nib which would jack up prices and has nothing to do with the pen maker. In this kind of price range there is no measurable difference in quality in the pen itself. As noted, the marketplace will determine this - currently the market is flat across makers at this point. Unless you have data to show otherwise?

    Beyond that you are adding conditions to the equation, whereas I am talking about general custom pens using stock nibs. Of course one can pour money into anything, the cost of nibs goes up, some materials may be more expensive (but generally not by much), and the techniques used may certainly be much more expensive (like maki-e and such), but then you are talking about a pen that is far, far outside the range of the general custom pen price. And incidentally, it's really hard to recall seeing anything at that level beyond the self-promotion of sellers like Manu Propria (for example).


    And lucky you (truly) that you can both afford something that is genuinely bespoke, and that you can at least have a civil conversation with a pen maker. To a large extent I agree with what you are saying but as neither of the two points in the preceding sentence apply to me it is somewhat moot.


    ps. I am also on the subreddit for fountain pens - a quick check reveals there were only 6 or 7 threads showing custom pens for all of 2018. No doubt you'll be pleased to know that I only watch and don't get involved (not that you know my handle of course).

    pps. If I have a small brain infarct and find myself at the SF pen show I may have one of my custom pens with me (the Dartmoor acrylic King of Pen replica). I'm looking for a recipient. If I can't find one I may leave it on someone's table!
    Last edited by Empty_of_Clouds; January 20th, 2019 at 05:07 AM.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post

    Of course there is no quality difference between makers other than personal preference (for design, personality or maker or whatever). If there were, the market would show this. It doesn't as far as I can tell. So from an economist's point of view I can treat all makers as a single entity.
    Are you actually an economist? I really doubt it from what you've written. But if you are, are you the person who wrote the blog post defending prices between Japan and export markets on the basis of instability in exchange rates? If so I'll gladly expend a hundred or so words explaining your errors...

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    Quote Originally Posted by Empty_of_Clouds View Post
    Your points are taken, although they do not have the weight of validity that you assume for them here.
    This is argument by assertion. Which is meaningless.

    Note also that makers displaying their wares does not count, as this is marketing and not a measure of buyer satisfaction (strictly speaking).
    The poster you are replying to was quite clear in saying that people buy pens and show them on social media. If you're not deliberately distorting his words, you need to read more carefully.

    Re. fpgeeks, the traffic on this site is absolutely tiny. And fpn seems to be quite pathological and still represent only a fraction of a percent of users - and not a random sample. The same is true for reddit. If you had actual intellectual training of the type required to make the arguments you are attempting, then you simply wouldn't argue make the arguments you are doing - you shouldn't expect a small non-random sample to necessarily show a small sub-population.

    ..That's not to say that the person you arguing with is correct - just that the arguments you have used are entirely fallacious. (And please don't use phrases implying actual qualifications, like being an economist, unless you actually have them, yes?)

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    I am following some custom pen makers on IG precisely because I saw other people posting (with great enthusiasm) the pens made by them. *shrug*

    (Yes, that is anecdote).

    ETA: I also haven't been active on pen-Instagram very long, and I am someone who may well be in the market for a custom pen at some point, so it found me as a market pretty fast!
    Last edited by Voiren; January 20th, 2019 at 08:12 AM.

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    Default Re: Custom-made pens - costs and experience

    I find it sad that more custom pen makers are not posting their work on this FPG. I do see plenty on instagram.

    Now to the pleasure of working with a custom pen maker. Yes, prices do vary some but not by much. I really enjoy working with various crafts persons on pens. It is fun to pick out materials and the form of your new pen. The best work closely with their clients and make modifications to the clients desire which can be the diameter at certain points, length, form, threads and hardware. That makes it fun. If I only cared about how a pen wrote I would have all black pens but I like different pens for different moods or even seasons. As to nibs, well there are plenty of good nibsmiths to work with. Many custom pen makers will make a pen to fit a particular nib and feed that you may have. The feel, balance and size of a pen are also very important and those are the things you get to work with dealing with a custom pen maker. I find that I rarely use any of my commercial pens anymore. I can not afford to purchase a custom pen often but I save up and definitely enjoy the out come and process of getting a pen from various fountain pen makers.

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