2018 Baltimore Pen Show – Part 4

Welcome back to my BWIPS experience write-up. If you haven’t read parts 1, 2, and 3, you might want to go do that. Fair warning, this post is longer than I intended it to be because there’s a lot to say. That said, I hope you enjoy it.

When I last left you, I was on my way to the Bittner table to buy a Homo Sapiens Bronze Age (VHSBA). There were a couple of people in front of me, so I waited, mostly patiently, for them to finish. Finally, it was my turn. Cindy Bittner was very efficient. She had my Homo Sapiens Bronze Age Maxi with a medium nib packaged up and checked out in a couple of minutes.

Happy as a clam, I met back up with Te and Jim, and we went to the Chesapeake Room to await the Organics (Studio) 101 chat with Tyler Thompson.

Now, before I continue this story, allow me to say a few things about my journey to buying a VHSBA. If you aren’t interested in backstory, feel free to skip this.


I became interested in the VHSBA after watching a Goulet video where Brian discussed the pen. I was fascinated with the idea of a basalt body. But, as I did some research, I became aware of a few things that gave me pause. Like Visconti’s quality control problem. And the lack of ink window. And the price. So I decided I wouldn’t get one.

At the DC Pen Show, I made the mistake of holding the pen. It felt fabulous. Nice and soft, a good weight, well-balanced, but the price was still too high for me to commit with the QC issues. So again, I decided I wouldn’t get one. But the pen still wouldn’t leave me alone. I still wanted one.

So I started talking to my pen friends. Several of them have Visconti pens, and none of them had (or at least, none of them admitted to having) QC problems.

Now more interested in the pen, I asked if anyone going to the February DC pen meetup had one that I could test out. As luck would have it, someone did. He brought it to the meetup for me, and I wrote with it. That’s all it took. I was sold.

The line quality, the smoothness, everything was just fabulous. The price was still rather high, but with a bit of research, I found I could get one for less than $100 more than my most expensive pen. That wasn’t too bad, I reasoned.

So my BWIPS task became determining which of the models I wanted. Maxi or Midi? Dark age? Maybe steel age? The bronze age was pretty neat. Once I’d made my decision, I could order the pen. But, Bittner was offering a good deal, and the pen show atmosphere got to me.

Before I return to my BWIPS story, I’d like to take a moment to credit Adam of Bertram’s Inkwell with both influencing my decision to purchase a Visconti pen and with helping me decide between the midi and the maxi. Thanks! And now back to BWIPS

Round 1

We were the first ones in the Chesapeake room for the ink talk. Since we were early, I decided to ink up my new pen.

Visconti Homo Sapiens Bronze Age

Jim had purchased SBRE Brown, and I figured that would look good with the bronze accents. I filled up the pen, put nib to paper, and…gusher. The nib wasn’t just wet, it soaked the paper.

Homo Sapiens writing sample

My immediate thought was, this can’t be normal. So, I examined the nib. As I said in the first installment, I don’t know exactly what to look for with nib adjustments. But even I could see there was something very wrong with this nib.

You’ll have to excuse my bad drawing. I’m no Pen Sloth. But basically, this was the problem. Whereas a good nib (left) is well aligned and (typically) has minimal space between the tines, my pen’s nib tines were separated, and the left tine was twisted (right). I wish I’d thought to take a picture, but I wasn’t really thinking past the current moment.

Nib problem sketch

Partially in shock, I showed both Te and Jim, who both agreed that I had one f’ed up nib. Since we still had time before the talk started, I emptied the pen, rinsed it off in the bathroom, and visited the Bittner table.

Cindy recognized me as I approached, and asked what was wrong. I explained the problem, saying this Visconti had a very unhappy nib.

Detlef came over with his loop, and, after looking at it for a second, proclaimed, “Yes, it is a very unhappy nib.” He was of the opinion that someone had probably closed the pen incorrectly.

WIthout another question, he grabbed me another VHSBA, took a good look at the tines, and handed it over. The first VHSBA would be sent back to Visconti for fixing.

Surprised at how quickly and easily it was resolved, I headed back to the Chesapeake room to ink my new (x2) pen.

Once again, out came the SBRE Brown. Something, however, made me look at the nib. Since it showed signs of having been dipped, I gave it a quick rinse before filling it.

Once full, I put nib to paper, and…it was a little dry. But, I figured that that, at least, was an easy issue to fix. I’d talk to Oscar later and commission a nib adjustment.

Second Homo Sapiens writing sample

Pen Show Shenanigans

I happily settled in to listen to the ink talk. While I couldn’t follow all of it (a couple of questions got very technical) it was still fascinating.

Tyler Thompson of Organics Studio

I even got a chance to ask Tyler about the feasibility of a rose gold colored ink. Sadly, his thought is that it probably couldn’t really be done.

Eager to talk to Oscar, I made my way back to the Pay it Forward (PIF) table, figuring he was likely to be there. On the way, I looked over the Vanness wall of inks, and was happy to find Eau de Nil, even though it was a small bottle. But still no sign of Golden Honey.

Unfortunately, Oscar was nowhere to be found, so I finished my circuit of the small room with a visit with Adam and a bit of admiration for the work happening at the Indy Pen Dance table.

Indy Pen Dance table Indy Pen Dance table

I met up with Te again outside in the hall, and we decided on a final turn around the big room. We stopped by Modern Chocolatier because chocolate. After perusing the “menu” I settled on Make-A-Mark (Bourbon), Scotch, Mezcal Caramel, and (after trying a sample) Passion Fruit. Brandon Lee was kind enough to tape the box and tie a ribbon around it to keep me from eating all the chocolate before I left the show.

Te and I continued our circuit of the outer perimeter of the big room, including a final look at the Vanishing Point Twilight. As we were finishing, I noticed a downed sign at Federalist Pens. Upon picking it up, I was met with a bottle of J. Herbin Poussiere de Lune! I was so happy, I literally squee’d. In fact, one of the gentlemen manning the booth said something along the lines of “That’s the sound of a happy discovery.”

Poussiere de Lune ink

By now, the show was winding down, so we headed back over to the PIF table to grab my hoodie. I made a pit stop along the way to purchase a 24 pen Girologio case from Toys From the Attic.

Round 2

Luck was with me this time. Oscar was standing at the PIF table. I pulled out my VHSBA and asked if he could make it a little wetter.

He took at look at it and uttered words that stopped my heart for a second. “This needs to go back where it came from.” He showed me that the nib and feed weren’t aligned, and explained that those nibs are a pain in the butt to remove and re-align.

Te urged me to go right back to Bittner because everyone was closing up. She made a good point, and I scurried over. Cindy looked flabbergasted when she saw me.

I explained the situation, and asked if perhaps I should just send it to Visconti. After all, I’d been away of the QC issues when I’d made my decision to buy one. Her answer: yes, absolutely. Apparently, they’d only unboxed the pens the day before for the show.

“They’re fresh from Visconti!” She told me. She asked if I wanted to try a fine, but I had so many fine nib pens already. I really wanted this one in medium. She also offered me a broad, but explained that they ran really broad, nearing a stub or italic nib. I knew that wouldn’t suit me as I tend to write rather small.

I’m assuming, since she didn’t just offer me another medium nib, that they were out of my particular pen configuration. She did, however, ensure that I had Visconti’s contact information, and explained the best way to reach them. She also gave me her card and asked me to contact her if I had any problems getting the pen fixed. She’d make sure everything got taken care of.

As ever, I was impressed by the friendliness and integrity shown.

There’s Hope

Feeling a little disheartened, I made my way back over to the PIF table. I think everyone could tell by the look on my face that the outcome wasn’t a good one.

I explained what had happened, and that it was ok. I knew what I was getting into. I’d just have to be without a pen for a little while.

Oscar asked to see the pen again. He eyed it for a bit, and finally told me that between he and Ralph, they’d fix my pen. “Between Tweedle-dee and Tweedle-dum, we’ll get this tweedle to work.”

I was so happy that if he hadn’t been on the other side of the table, I would have given him a massive hug. I was positive I was going to be without my pen for a while, and Oscar swept in and gave me hope.

– – –

I’ve got one, probably two posts left to finish out my pen show experience. Come back tomorrow for more.

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