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2023 DC Pen Show, Part 1

Posted in Pen Shows

General Show Experience

While absolutely exhausting, I have to say that this year’s DC Pen Show has been my favorite by far of all the ones I have attended. I got to chat with so many pen friends, meet new people, strengthen relationships, and reconnect with older friends.

For those who didn’t attend the DC Pen Show last year, and/or who didn’t read my blog posts, the show hotel underwent a major renovation — it was in progress during last year’s show — so multiple areas were seriously altered in comparison to previous years.

I have a lot to say for my show review this year, so check out my post about it later this week.

This post is specifically about what I saw, did, and purchased at the show. If you want more general show information, you can check out Mike Matteson’s walk-through video.


My goal for this year’s DC Pen Show was to not buy any pens. Spoiler alert: I didn’t manage that. But, that goal resulted in a more relaxed show. I didn’t feel a need to race off to any given table the moment the show opened. There wasn’t any pressure to see everything as soon as possible in order to make purchasing decisions.

When we arrived around 9:40, we found out that we’d missed a long line at registration — no complaints there. There were a surprising number of vendors still setting up their tables as Jim and I took care of a couple of “errands” before starting an initial circuit of the show.

In previous years, the show was in two rooms: one large (the ballroom) and one small (known as the maker room). This year, however, there was an additional, even smaller, room. So, to make sure everyone is on the same page, I’ll be referring to them as the large (ballroom), medium (maker room), and small (new room) areas.

From the people I spoke to, Friday had an initial rush, then slowed down considerably, but was still considered a really good sales day.

I exchanged some pre-planned ink samples with Nibs and Flourishes right before entering the small area, where I made my first purchase of the show: Dominant Industries Sunset from Smruti Pens. It hadn’t been on my shopping list, but I really like the ink, and it was sitting there in front of me.

Once in the large area, I picked up Colorverse Iris Nebula and Rainy Day from Luxury Brands of America. Bryce and Carol also told me about the new Harmony of the Hummingbird, and I asked them to hold number 19 for me if it arrived the next morning.

The day is a bit of a blur at this point, but I during my various circuits, I:

  • Donated a ton of stuff to the DC Pen Crew Share the Wealth table and picked up a few interesting ink samples I’ve never tried,
  • Purchased a Legend L14 Dragon limited edition from Ryan Krusac, and
  • Made my obligatory Jinji chocolate purchase (truffles, date popper, and hazelnut chocolate spread).

After dinner, Jim and I hung out downstairs for the typical evening gathering. I swapped nibs on my Namiki Custom 745, trading a B for a F. Both myself and my dear DC Pen Crew friend were delighted.

The location allowed for much less pen and ink sharing than previous years (keep an eye out for the post on this). But I did have a lovely conversation with Eru from Pilot, as well as multiple existing pen friends before calling it a night around 11:45.


Waking up on Saturday was difficult. I was physically exhausted — from lack of sleep — and sore. The hotel pillows were terrible, and my feet and hips hadn’t particularly cared for all of the standing the day before. But, eventually, Jim and I got ourselves up and going.

My first stop after breakfast was the Luxury Brands table. They hadn’t yet gotten the boxes opened, so I made a mental note to check back in with them later. Jim and I mostly just meandered until it was time for my handwriting analysis test at the Pilot tables.

Handwriting Analysis Test

A little background, if you haven’t heard about the analysis yet. Pilot brought several of their R&D staff from Japan to run an analysis on how westerners use pens. Presumably, this is to see how, or if, Pilot needs to adjust their product offerings in the western world. An admin shared a link in the DC Metro Pen Crew Facebook group, and I submitted my name as soon as I saw the post. I was one of the lucky ones who received an exciting email after a couple of days.

Despite the time, I must have been the first appointment of the day, because when I arrived for my handwriting analysis, the chairs were still angled against the table, and the test machinery was neatly piled to one side. After the three men got everything set up, they did their best to walk me through the process. Their accents were rather thick, but I got the general idea: write your name in the box when we tell you to. I dutifully followed directions and was met with several renditions of “you write very light!”

handwriting analysis printout

In case you can’t read the image, allow me to transcribe my results:

  • Twisting angle 15 deg
  • Writing angle 55 deg
  • Writing pressure 64 [gf]
  • Maximum 93 [gf]
  • Minimum 40 [gf]
  • Difference 53 [gf]
  • 17 [strokes]
  • Your writing pressure is light, and you tend to write with your pen at an upright angle and slightly twisted outward.
  • Pilot’s recommendation is F (Fine), FM (Fine Medium)

I think the “gf” stands for gram-force, based on a Google search. I don’t know what the “17 [strokes] means, because I only used 5 strokes. And I’d take the nib recommendation with a grain of salt, as, so far, everyone I’ve talked to was recommended the same two nibs.

After the analysis, I was asked to fill out a short survey. They Pilot R&D folks asked if I had any pens, and I assumed they were asking so that I could fill out the survey. I pulled out my pen case with inked pens and they all had a good ogle of the custom pens I had with me. They especially enjoyed my Iron Feather Creative Mayan Hummingbird and my Stanford Pen Studio Right Royal Pen. Once I finished answering the incredibly difficult questions — like “what is your favorite fountain pen” — I received a small gift box with a couple of postcards and a Pilot Plumix.

So, back to the show. I went back to Luxury Brands, and, unfortunately for me, they hadn’t received pen number 19 — no instant gratification. But, I paid for the pen and Bryce sent off an email so that number 19 could be sent out first thing Monday morning.

Throughout my remaining wanderings at the show on Saturday, I picked up several more items:

  • A cute pen and inkwell sticker from a table in the large area that I can’t find the name of — it was a father-daughter team with pens on one table and shirts, stickers, and art on the one next to it
  • Several pins and a shimmery, rainbow washi tape roll from Little Black Rabbit Paperie
  • A Rickshaw Sinclair Model R in Purple Splatter
  • Wearingeul Robinson Crusoe from Dromgoole’s

While at the Rickshaw table, I had a conversation about what would make my perfect pen case. I was handed a Rickshaw business card and asked to email the link to my post about it. Imagine my surprise when I got back up to my hotel room and found that I’d been speaking to Mark Dwight, the owner of Rickshaw Bagworks! Perhaps my perfect pen case may become a reality after all.

We had to go home and give Bumbledore his last antibiotics, and we had dinner while we were out. Per usual, though, we hung out after hours. I headed upstairs a little earlier this time, not wanting to be quite so tired the next morning.


While Jim and I got up earlier on Sunday, we had a slower start to the pen show because we went out for breakfast and checked out of our hotel room before hitting the show.

I truly thought I was done shopping. I’d seen all of the tables, I’d gotten all of my ink shopping list that was available, and I had no interest in the remaining pen-adjacent items. But, sometimes life laughs at you. I say this because at the Martin’s Pens tables, I found a Goulet Pen Co. Exclusive Edison Nouveau Premiere Tequila Sunrise from 2018. That was one of those pens that got away. And nobody sells them on the secondhand market, so I’ve long since assumed I’d never own it. Needless to say, I picked it up. I also nabbed a Penlux sticker and some Chatterley Luxuries stickers.

Around lunch time, I was also privileged to introduce a pen-curious friend to the DC Pen Show. During our truncated tour (truncated because she was getting overwhelmed), I picked up some wax drops for Little Black Rabbit Paperie, inspired by my friend’s purchase of an entire wax seal set (wax melter, wax, seal, and handle).

At the Pilot table, she discovered a love for the Kakuno EF, so we had to do a second circuit of the large area looking for one. Pen Realm and Crazy Alan’s Emporium both had Kakunos, but no EF. Federalist Pens and Paper, though, had an EF, a converter, and a purple ink — Colorverse Opportunity. I helped her get her pen inked up during lunch, and walked her through how to clean it properly. Another soul for the collective!

After lunch, Jim and I did a quick walkabout to say goodbye to pen friends before heading out. But, in the small area, as Jim was saying bye to someone he’d met, I got waylaid at Smruti Pens and bought a bottle of Wearingeul The Flowers on the Way. It’s kind of fitting, really to have both started and ended the show at a single vendor.

Most of my pen show haul, minus the Benu. Click to view full size.

Now I need to recover from my pen hangover.

Did you go to the DC Pen Show? If you did, what did you get? If you didn’t, did you want to? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear from you.

Thanks for reading to the end, I hope you enjoyed my post. Make sure to subscribe to my blog or follow me on Instagram so you don’t miss any posts. I generally post at least once a week.

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