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(This page revised September 2, 2021)
Over the next few months, if CDC numbers for COVID-19 are favorable, we would like to attend the shows listed below. (The yellow highlight marks our next potential show.) I will be regrinding nibs and diagnosing nib ailments for walk-up clients, and Barbara will keep track of whose pens I will be working on. Look for our banner (shown below, in the “Table Talk” FAQ section) on the wall over our table. We hope to see you there!
The rightmost column in the table below indicates whether the show organizers have confirmed their dates ( ✓ ) or not ( ✗ ).
NoteAs the COVID-19 situation stands in early September 2021, we cannot confirm our attendance at any shows after the Commonwealth Pen Show. (The City of Somerville has adopted a strict masking policy, and the show organizers will enforce it vigorously.) We are watching the information as it is released, and if the situation warrants, we’ll be able to revise our plans for each of the shows listed. Please check back from time to time.
To learn how we operate at a show, please read our “Table Talk” FAQ, below. Really. It’s important.
If you have never been to a pen show and don’t know what to expect, read my articles on pen shows, starting with this one.
We don’t like to disappoint people. This page is here to help you to understand how we operate our table at pen shows. The questions here are the ones that we hear (or read) most often as new people approach the idea of having their pens’ nibs worked on at a show. We hope this FAQ will help you to plan better and make your show experience more enjoyable.
At first sight, some of the answers here might look pretty hard-nosed. We’re not trying to set up a dictatorship, or even to be “Soup Nazis.” The arrangements we describe here are what we’ve worked out through experience. For example, we keep a list because once, at a one-day show that lasted only five hours, people queued up at our table and waited for more than 3 of those hours. That just didn’t seem right.
Remember, a pen show is not a life-or-death experience. It’s supposed to be fun!
Yes and no. I restrict myself to nib work (which sometimes includes minor repair to other parts such as the section) because that’s how I can best serve you. At all of the shows I attend, there is at least one person doing general repairs on site.
We are able to accept VISA, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express credit and charge cards, but not debit cards. We use Square for this service, and we never see your card number.
You can’t. We’ve learned that appointments don’t work because sometimes people are tied up at other tables and can’t get to our table at the appointed time. We can’t simply wait for them because that would cut down the number of people I’d have time for, and that would make both my clients and me unhappy.
So here’s how it works:
For shows that span more than a single day, the list starts when the show opens each day and dies when the show organizers boot us out of the room. If I don’t get to you on Day 1 you will need to sign up again (earlier if possible) on Day 2. Or Day 3. We leave the list out on the table overnight (after the first day), so if we don’t get to the table immediately in the morning you can still sign up.
Usually, yes. But that kind of work is often delicate and very finicky, and sometimes I will suggest that it would be better for your nib if you send it to a professional nib technician who can do the work in his or her shop.
When you come to our table, sign up on the list first! Then look around, and you’ll find a rack of Pelikan M200s in a variety of colors. These are demonstrators, and they’re there for you to play with, to see what nib style might suit you. When your turn comes, I’ll probably ask you to write for me so I can see if I agree with whatever ideas you’ve developed. I won’t start grinding until we agree on what kind of nib I’m going to make for you.
If it just needs tuning or adjustment, it can be inked. (If it isn't, I'll fill it then and there.) If major repair is required, I’ll leave it inked or empty it out as appropriate. For grinding, it should be empty and dry; a racing stripe of ink across my magnifying visor is not helpful.
As noted above, I want to work with as many people as I can. To this end, we have to limit each person’s visit to a single pen. If you have more than one pen you want done, you can sign up again after I finish your first pen, and if there is time, I’ll see you later.
Please note that I expect to spend 15–20 minutes on each pen. I won’t usually have time to triage a handful of pens for you or to help you decide which one you want me to work on. If you’re in this type of situation, and if you think Barbara and our demonstrator rack won’t be able to help you decide, it might be a good idea to send email to me before the show.
Based on past experience, we think I’ll have time to work with about two dozen people on a normal show day, doing one pen for each person. It usually takes 15–20 minutes per person, but the length of time varies from one pen to another, so we cannot be sure exactly how long you will have to wait. Any estimate we give you is only that. You might get in sooner than we say, or it might take much longer to get to you.
Unfortunately, sometimes it does happen that I don’t get to everyone on the list. What I’m offering is one-on-one time and skilled work, not merchandise. Each pen takes a finite amount of time, and although I want to work with as many people as possible, I’m not willing to sacrifice my best work in a mad quest to squeeze more people in.
If you want the nib merely tuned, leaving it filled is great because I fill every pen anyway for tuning. If you want it reground, then I prefer that it be empty because grinding a filled pen’s nib throws ink off in a circle, creating a racing stripe on everything around the grinding wheel — including my magnifying visor.
You’re welcome to watch, and of course I’ll want you to test the results to be sure I’m doing what you want. Beyond that, there’s the scintillating, fascinating and far-ranging repartee — like this entirely imaginary session that our friend Ian K. has kindly illustrated for us. I also have a nice little four-piece puzzle for you to solve — if you can.