You Should Build a Salad Spinner Centrifuge

I didn’t come up with this idea, but it’s so brilliant I wish I had. I learned about it from Ron Zorn’s thread on FPN.

The idea is this: You have a lot of fountain pens. And you’re smart, so you clean your pens regularly. You know how annoying it is to get the water out of your pens after they’ve been cleaned, especially when you’re cleaning a pen because you want to change inks. You want to use that new ink now, now, now instead of standing here, at your sink, shaking the daylights out of your pen to get those last stubborn drops of water out.

Enter the salad spinner centrifuge.

Basically, you take a cheap salad spinner — I found mine for $8 at a big box store — and you rig up a way to hold a pen inside it. In my case, I used an old aluminum tube from a cigar I purchased years ago. (Sorry KonMari, my packrat tendencies come in handy sometimes.)

First, I cut an access window near the bottom end of the tube and a slot at the top end. The access window lets me stuff a small wad of paper towel down into the end of the tube to cushion the nib and catch any water and ink that comes out. The slot at the other end is needed because longer pens won’t fit between the end of the tube and the edge of the basket. With a slot at the end, these pens have enough room to clear the edge and slip inside the tube.

Most salad spinners have a basket that rotates freely inside it. I took some zip ties and used them to attach the tube to the basket. The ties have to be snug so they don’t stick out too far and prevent the basket from spinning.

Then, I put tape over the sharp edges of the access window and used hot glue to secure the zip ties to the tube.

The end result is ugly, but it works.

After I clean a pen, I stuff a bit of paper towel down into the end of the tube via the access window, then slide the uncapped pen inside the tube.

Here’s a photo of a pen ready to go:

Then, I put the lid on and give the spinner pull string a tug or several.

The basket spins, the pen spins with it, and any water inside the pen is violently and thoroughly flung out of the feed and into the paper towel at the end of the tube. It takes seconds to remove all the water from a pen and it’s amazing. No more shaking. No more waiting.

If you have a lot of pens to take care of, you need one of these.

2017 Northwest Pen Round-Up Recap

I spent a lovely Saturday at the Northwest Pen Round-Up in Portland, Oregon, immersed in all things pens and ink. This was my first pen show ever, and though it was small in size, it was big in camaraderie and kindness.

Saturday’s weather was perfect — the kind of day that makes you forget about all the rain we get in Oregon — and I decided to ride my motorbike to the show. It usually takes close to two hours for me to travel to Portland from my home, but I arrived earlier than expected. Perhaps excitement guided my hand on the throttle.

The show was held in a back room at the Lucky Lab Brewing Company on Quimby Street. It’s an excellent space for a gathering like this. I managed to snap a photo before the vendors had finished setting up their displays.

I’ve read Richard Binder’s guide to attending your first pen show, so I arrived with a plan and a cash budget.

After saying hello to some folks I met at the Portland gathering in May, I picked one end of the room and started perusing each vendor’s wares. The first table happened to be Sam and Frank from Pendemonium, who had driven all the way to Portland from Arizona.

As I browsed the tables, I noted the pens I was interested in by asking the vendor for their business card and writing down the pen and price on the reverse side. I ended up with a neat stack of cards after visiting every table, but with a strict budget, I’d have to make some decisions about which pens I really wanted.

So I grabbed a slice of pizza and a salad and a beer and thought about it for a while.

Then I went back into the show room and started buying.

I didn’t take very many photos of the show because it was crowded, and I try to avoid posting photos of people without their permission. But I did take a photo of these cool pen blanks made of Alumilite resin embedded with pine cones.

The finished pens look pretty darn unique, though far out of my price range.

I also met the CEO of Regal Pens, a Portland-based company that sells Taiwanese-made entry level fountain pens. I picked up one of their pens and have a lot more to say about it, so look for that post in the future.

With so many interesting goodies for sale, it was incredibly difficult to stick to my budget, but I did. Here’s a photo of the haul, which totaled up to $219.

  • 6 vintage Sheaffer pens in need of restoration
  • a Sailor Fude DE Mannen
  • a Regal pen and converter
  • a 28-pen folio case, designed by two gentlemen here in Portland but unfortunately no longer for sale
  • a bottle of Delta Capri Blue Grotto ink
  • half a bottle of Private Reserve Orange Crush ink
  • 2 Montblanc ink cartridges, unknown brown
  • a Visconti ink cartridge holder
  • 10 replacement ink sacs for lever-filler pens

With all these Sheaffers in my restoration project queue, I’m going to be busy for a while!

Nevertheless, the three items I’m most fond of were given to me as gifts: a beautiful brown Sheaffer Balance with a military clip, a bore light (used to illuminate the inside of pen barrels), and an enormous bottle of vintage Sheaffer Skrip Blue-Black ink. The 32oz bottle is nearly full, and I love, love, love the ink. Huge thank yous to Jeff, Jim, and David for being so generous to this pen newbie.

I don’t think I’ve encountered a community of people as kind and welcoming as the ones I’ve met through fountain pens. While it was nice to see and buy stuff at the show, the most fun I had was talking to people. (And I’m a major-league introvert so that’s saying a lot!) The hours flew by, and suddenly it was time for the show to end. I said my farewells, loaded up my bike with all my goodies, and took the long way home.

If you ever get an opportunity to go to a pen show, you should. Maybe someday I’ll be able to attend one of the big shows, but it’s awesome having this one in my backyard.

Daiso’s Little $1.50 Marvel

Yesterday, I posted about a $1.50 pen that had some problems with cracking plastic. Today, I figured I’d balance things out with some thoughts on a different $1.50 pen that’s given me two years of enjoyment: Daiso’s house-branded pen.

My first fountain pen wasn’t a Pilot Metropolitan, or a Lamy Safari, or a Parker Duofold that I found tucked in the back of grandma’s knickknack drawer. My first fountain pen entered my life at Daiso.

If you’re unfamiliar with Daiso, it’s the Japanese version of a dollar store, except everything’s $1.50 (blame the exchange rate for the Yen.) Most of the items in the store are Daiso’s house brand, like this fountain pen I found in the stationery section and purchased on a lark. I’d been a diehard Pilot G2 user for years but was curious about fountain pens and figured this one was worth a try.

I’ve never been able to determine the official name of this pen. Since it cost me the princely sum of $1.50 (and ignoring the few pennies for sales tax), I’ve dubbed it the “Daiso Buck Fifty”.

First, some facts. The Daiso Buck Fifty is a cartridge converter pen with a steel nib. It comes with one short cartridge filled with a blue ink of unknown origin. Unfortunately, I don’t have a sample of that ink as it’s long been used up. I also don’t know what other cartridges fit this pen. Waterman short and long international cartridges are said to fit, but I haven’t personally confirmed it. I’ve been refilling the original cartridge via syringe and it’s still going strong after two years.

The Daiso Buck Fifty is a small pen. It’s a few millimeters shorter than a Pilot Metropolitan when capped and uncapped.

(L to R) Lamy Vista, Daiso Buck Fifty, Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Diamond Mini
(L to R) Lamy Vista, Daiso Buck Fifty, Pilot Metropolitan, TWSBI Diamond Mini

The Daiso’s section is 1mm smaller in diameter than the Metropolitan’s. Like the Metro, the Daiso is heavier than it looks due to its metal barrel, weighing in at 17g without a full cartridge of ink.

The Daiso Buck Fifty’s design is clean and unpretentious. It only comes in one color: white pearlescent metallic. The finish has remained intact despite two years of use. The white is complemented by silver furniture on the cap and barrel.

The cap is a snap-on style that clicks to the barrel securely but doesn’t take an excessive amount of effort to remove. While the cap can technically post, it’s not secure and will slip off the end of the barrel. The clip is firm but springy. It inspires confidence that it’ll remain attached to whatever it’s clipped to.

Uncapping the pen reveals a section made of black plastic with silver trim. I have small hands, and I find the section comfortable to hold for writing sessions up to a few pages in length. I’d prefer a wider section for longer writing sessions, however.

The step-up from the section to the barrel is gradual, unlike the harsher steps on the Pilot Metro.

The nib is a generic iridium point made of steel. I’d call it a Western medium, but the line produced varies with the ink in the pen, and I’ve seen it range from fine to broad. This pen wrote smoothly fresh out of the wrapper with no tuning required.



When I first got this pen, it was a slightly dry writer. After I learned more about pens, I adjusted the tines to lay down a juicy line with most inks. After two years together, I know this pen inside and out, and I now use it as my primary ink testing pen.

The Daiso $1.50 Pen, aka “The Buck Fifty”

This pen is an excellent performer at a minuscule price. It’s a smooth writer. No flex, of course, but that’s not the point of this workhorse.

It’s remarkable that a pen this good can cost so little.

Tomoe River paper, De Atramentis Red Roses

I’m fortunate that the Daiso Buck Fifty was my first fountain pen, as a lesser one might have put me off fountain pens entirely. It’s an excellent pen for its price. The only downside is that it’s not the easiest pen to find. Goulet Pens sells them in a 2-pack, but at a significant markup. (Boo!)

If you ever find yourself in a Daiso, keep an eye out for these pens and pick up a few or several if you see them. Hand them out to friends and create some more fountain pen addicts. Go on, the first hit’s only a buck fifty…

This pen was purchased with my own funds. My opinions on this blog are always my own. Please see my review ethics statement for more details.

Read more about this pen:

Maybe the Jinhao 992 Ain’t All It’s Cracked up to Be

I was ready to sing the praises of my latest ridiculously-cheap pen acquisition, the Jinhao 992 (aka the 922, aka the Spiral, aka the drunken sailor), when I glanced at my pen and spotted a curious glint at the end of the barrel…

Those would be cracks. I’ve kept this pen on my desk for the week I’ve had it, and it’s never been dropped or mishandled while in my possession. Though I can’t say for certain the cracks were there when the pen arrived, I can count three cracks today when there were only two yesterday. That’s not good.

According to this thread on FPN, I’m not the only one seeing cracking issues with their 992s, including some reports of catastrophic failures that involved caps and barrels snapping in half. This is some early-TWSBI-level crackery.

So I feel confident in saying that the Jinhao 992 is a pen you should avoid.

It’s a damn shame, since the pen is an otherwise wonderful writer with a nice, smooth nib. I guess paying $1.50 for a fountain pen (including shipping! including a converter!) really is too good to be true.

Snap Judgments: Penton F10 Demonstrator

As much as I’ve been flirting with vintage Sheaffers lately, I still have my eye on cheap pens. I came across this thread on FPN a while back about a cheap demonstrator pen called the “Penton F10” that cost $3 including shipping. At that price, I had to give it a try.

These pens can be purchased via this eBay listing. I handed over my six dollars, sent the seller a message with my color and nib size choices, and two weeks later a package containing two pens showed up.

Both pens ended up performing the same, so for the sake of expediency I’m only going to focus on one of them: a clear pen with a fine nib.

The Penton F10 is a slim pen made of clear plastic. Measurement-wise, it’s almost a dead ringer for the Pilot Metropolitan; the capped length, uncapped length, and section diameter are the same between the two pens.

The cap secures by snapping onto the pen’s body, and it can be posted by slipping it on the end of the barrel, which is shaped for that purpose. The Penton F10 doesn’t have the prettiest cap and finial, and the clip is utilitarian looking stamped metal, but it’s sturdy and has the right amount of spring to keep it securely in place when you clip it to something.

A piston-style cartridge converter is included, but the pen can also be converted to an eyedropper using an included o-ring. In fact, most of the promo photos in the eBay listing show the pen being used that way. I haven’t yet tried it as an eyedropper but I’m sure it’ll happen eventually.

The nib is described as a “0.5mm fine” and I found that to be accurate. So, it’s more of a Western-style fine. It wrote smoothly out of the box without any tuning required.

Visually, the design of the nib looks very similar to the Lamy Safari. And the nib writes like a Safari too, with a bit of feedback on Tomoe River paper and little to no flex.

The pen is very light. For me, it’s most comfortable when unposted, and I didn’t feel fatigued after writing several pages with it.

It’s risky buying a pen from an unknown manufacturer, but this one is a pleasant surprise. In fact, the only flaw I can find with it is a tiny bit of molding sprue left on the section, but even that is on an edge where it won’t bother your fingers, and I was able to remove it easily with a razor blade. The cartridge converter doesn’t hold much ink, but the pen is intended to be an eyedropper anyway.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I haven’t mentioned this pen’s country of origin yet. Care to guess where it’s from?

If you said China, you’d be right. I’ve heard Chinese pens can be hit-or-miss, but this one is a hit. It’ll probably be my new ink testing pen because I like how the cap and barrel are completely clear — it really shows off the color loaded inside.

This pen performs surprisingly well for its price: a mere $3, including shipping. The nib is smooth and required no tuning out of the box. There is a hint of feedback reminiscent of another nib that’s similar to this one in design and appearance — the Lamy Safari. A cartridge converter is included, but the pen also comes with an o-ring for eyedropper conversion.

An excellent value pen!

Pelikan Edelstein Mandarin on Tomoe River paper