“A pen show?”
“Like a car show?”
“Sort of, but with pens. It’s also inside.”
The London Writing Equipment Show has been something I’ve been looking forward to for quite a while now. I recently moved out of London to attend university and even though it was only a week, it was lovely to feel right back at home again – and what better way to enhance that feeling than being in a room full of pens?! I actually came home for the night so that I could get the Tube up to the show.
The London Writing Equipment Show (which I shall just refer to as the London pen show) was my first pen show when I went there in 2016. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I came back with a lot of goodies and I was very pleased with what I had got.
This year, the pen show fell on the anniversary of when I got into the hobby (1st October 2015) and I think spending my 2nd anniversary at the show was a perfect way to celebrate. Even if I didn’t spend as much as I did last year (though, I almost bought a Conway Stewart Churchill that was reduced to £500. After all, what are student loans for?!), I still had a lot of fun and it was very enjoyable.
I got to the show at about 10:00. Upon entry, you got a free bottle of Diamine 30ml ink. It was a random bottle and from what I know, most people either got Teal, Ancient Copper, Grey or Steel Blue – which is by no means a bad selection; especially Ancient Copper. I got Teal, but I am yet to try it out. I have been away from teals, if anyone remembers my fascination with the colour, so perhaps it’ll be nice to get my foot back in the water. The ink bottles were donated by Pure Pens and I would like to give them a very big thank you as it was a tremendous thing to do.
Speaking of Pure Pens, their table was always busy and I did have a wonder round. I have met Ross before at the last pen show when I bought a number of Noodler’s inks. This year they had an ink testing station, similar to what KWZ had last year with their inks. I was going to have a play, but I saw a lot of new people taking a liking to the station and didn’t want to intrude as it was encouraging to see them all try out new inks. So I went over to the other side of the table and I had a look at a few Pelikan pens. The Renaissance Brown was there, along with the new Smoky Quartz M200 (which in hindsight I regret not buying as it would compliment my Cognac very well). One Pelikan I was really drawn to was the Pelikan M20000000.
The way the pen show is laid out means that before you can get to the main room, you have to pass through two other corridors, where stations are also set up. Conid were amongst the many vendors down one of the two corridors and they always get a good reception. They actually ‘invited’ us to a pen show in Belgium where “the traffic isn’t as bad as it is in London” (they were a little late to the show as a result of the less than fantastic London traffic). I also discovered that they have their very own brew of beer. For anyone who follows me on Instagram (new tab), you can probably understand why Conid is slowly becoming a pen I really want to get. They are on the pricey side, but many people give them a very good recommendation (one of the London pen club members bought from them last year and raves about them!)
Also down the corridors was a table selling a random assortment of pens such as Monteverde and Conklin. I have never had any exposure to these pens other than an Impressa, I believe by Monteverde. However, this table was selling the Conklin Mark Twain models for £10. I hadn’t done my research on these pens beforehand as they have never appealed to me, but for that price I thought “why not?” and scored one for a tenner. Well, turns out I bagged myself a bargain as these things go for £160-£170 online. To begin with I didn’t really like the model, but it’s grown on me very quickly and OH. MY. GOODNESS. The nib is fantastic. Expect a review of that in the not too distant future. If I had known how much I would enjoy it I would’ve picked up two (and scored boyfriend points with the other half!). Unfortunately by the time I got round there, they only had the orange model left. Not my first choice, but I’m happy nevertheless (though, if we’re being pedantic about it I believe the colour is actually called Coral). They also had the Mark Twain demonstrator there, unfortunately this wasn’t part of the £10 promotion because I would’ve snagged that for sure.
Further down you had vendors such as Yard O Led, which is a table I always enjoy visiting. The pens are handmade in England from sterling silver and often have very complex and beautiful designs on them. One day I hope to get one of their more luxurious designs, perhaps when I graduate uni’ it can be my present to myself. I tried one of their pens and the nib was super smooth. I was tempted to purchase, very tempted.
There was also a station selling Pilot Capless pens and a couple of inks. A friend and member of the London pen club spotted a Pelikan Edelstein Amber ink amongst their table, which he has been searching for for a very long time. For anyone who doesn’t know, the Amber edition was one of the inks of the year by Pelikan and has been sold out. He just happened to have stumbled across it and the vendor has apparently had a hard time selling the ink – so he was able to pick it up for £15 – an absolute bargain!
This is near where the Conway Stewart Churchill pens were. I have really enjoyed the look of these pens as well as the gift box that you get with it. It is very gimmicky with the cigar (as someone who doesn’t smoke, I wouldn’t really know what to do with it) but they come with a quote book of Churchill. Churchill quotes often give me goosebumps and make me feel a little giddy reading them. Maybe one day I’ll own one, but unfortunately that day was not Sunday.
Then you got to the main area of the pen show which was full of tables and people. Two tables in very close proximity were the John Twiss table and Sarj’s table: the one man pen show. This was very dangerous as both tables have a plethora of beautiful and amazing pens. John brought along his Arco Pelikan M1000 and I was lucky enough to write with it. Unfortunately it wasn’t up for sale, but you can still bid for it on eBay. It won’t end cheap, let me tell you that! I enjoy Twiss pens – I have one that was made specially for the London pen club and it’s a lovely design that smells amazing because it was custom made and the material used smells great (in a really weird way though).
Much of the pen show was full of vintage pens and a lot of Pelikans. I saw a few Parker Vacumatics going for <£100 which is really shocking. There were a few Grand Place M800s dotted around which was interesting, as well as an M620 Cities San Fran’. But I’m content with my M620 Piccadilly Circus so wasn’t tempted. I did see an M640 which was really interesting to see.
I continued doing a few rounds, and when Conid arrived I swung by them to have a look at their pens. As I said, it wasn’t as expensive as last time and instead of “buyer’s remorse”, I actually have “not-buying remorse”, though it’s probably a good thing I didn’t splurge out. I have a fund for pints down at the Student Bar now. Maybe instead of a Pot Noodle I could treat myself to a full English sometime. Nevertheless, I am very happy with my Mark Twain. I’m not 100% sure if I’ll keep it or sell it and invest into another pen, but maybe I will fall in love with it. I have a lecture today at 16:30 and I have already decided that this is the pen I’m going to bring with me. I have it inked with Akkerman #26 Groenmarkt Smaragd, which I am yet to ask my girlfriend what it means (as she is Dutch). I also have Zuiderpark Blauw-Groen and Hopjesbruin that I was fortunate enough to get last time I visited her. For anyone interested, it is a very similar colour to Diamine Umber.
There were many things there to look at. For example, I was able to find a pen with Concorde on it with the British Airways logo. My father, I believe, had worked on Concorde before it stopped flying so I got a picture for him.
There were also so many beautiful displays of pens, such as this one with the Parker Duofolds:
Of course, amongst the many beautiful displays of pens, you had Sarj’s table. For those of you who have never been to a pen show and met Sarj, I highly recommend you go to one and find his table because he has some of the most magnificent pens. He even had a Pilot 823 in the black finish – and we all know how much I love the Pilot Custom 823. I was thinking of getting it, but I already have the medium nib. If it was a fine then I would have picked it up without a second thought. Here you can see (just some of) the pens Sarj had lined out last Sunday:
Some of the other beautiful finds that were at Sarj’s table:
Photo credit of the latter two pictures above to my good friend and fellow attendee of the London pen club, Thomas, of whom also runs a blog that you can find: here (opens in a new tab).
After the show I went back to Thomas’ house and a few of us played games for a while before it was time to leave and for me to embark on a 2.5 hour trek back home (albeit, most of that was waiting for a bus as at that time on a Sunday they only came once every hour).
All in all, I had a very good time at the pen show. It was lovely to be back home in London, and to spend my pen anniversary at the show. There was so much to see and I met a number of great people.
If by any chance you happen to be in the London area and are interested in joining the London UK pen club, feel free to message me in whichever way is easiest for you (you can find me on social media by searching for 7heDaniel – alternatively you can email me at email@example.com ) – it’s free and regular attendance isn’t necessary! We meet every first Saturday of the month (October being the exception due to the pen show) in London (spoiler) where we talk about pens and have other chit chat, have something to eat and a few drinks. I highly recommend it!