A weekend in Shropshire 7


To celebrate my 40th birthday we spend the weekend in Shropshire …and of course I couldn’t resist buying more stationery.

 

A dower house form the 1820s, between Weston-under-Redcastle and Hodnet

A dower house from the 1820s, between Weston-under-Redcastle and Hodnet

Independent stationery shops

What a nice weekend it was – and I found an independent stationery shop in Shrewsbury – what a nice surprise. I hardly ever come across independent pen shops these days. The one where I live closed down and one in the town where I’m from closed down, too1. I’d like to visit the Pen Company one day, but it’s several hours away. What’s left nearby is either focusing on art supplies or is part of a chain, which usually means that staff are not really excited about pens.

After buying some souvenir stationery in Shrewsbury Abbey I discovered Write Here. First: stocking up on Koh-I-Noor 1500 pencils – and then a fitting eraser from Koh-I-Noor as well.

Sheep in the country side

Sheep in the countryside

Koh-I-Noor

In the 18th century Jospeh Hardtmuth started the pencil factory in Austria that would become Koh-I-Noor. Koh-I Noor is the name of a famous diamond. I seem to remember reading somewhere, probably in Petroski’s book, there were several pencils named after diamonds because diamonds and graphite both consist of carbon. In the 19th century manufacturing then moved to Bohemia, to Budweis in what is now the Czech Republic.

The Koh-I-Noor 1500, the pencil I bought,  started being produced in 18892. After WWII the factory, in what was then Czechoslovakia, was nationalised and Joseph Hardtmuth’s descendants started manufacturing in Austria again. A few years ago the Austrian ‘branch’ of the company went bankrupt and was taken over by Cretacolor, but the Czech ‘branch’ of the company does still exist under the Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth name.

I have previously bought new old stock Koh-I-Noor 1500s in Shanghai and in my home town, but these are one of my few new ones. Too bad Write Here didn’t have HB and F (yes, you can get the 1500 in F), so I went for the B and H, which I’ve been using all of this week so far.

The shop window of Write Here

The shop window of Write Here

Write Here

Later that day I went back to Write Here, asking whether they have any fountain pens with flexible nibs. I’ve been looking for a nice fountain pen with a flexible nib for a long time now. My Lamy 2000 with an M nib and some of my Pelikan M200 nibs in F are quite flexible, but the line at its thinnest is too wide for me. Noodler’s nibs are nice and flexible, but when using any of my different Noodler fountain pens I usually end up having dirty hands because they spill ink after a while.

Pens in the shop

Pens in the shop

After asking for a pen with a flexible nib it took the owner of the shop a second to think about my request before taking a fountain pen out of his jacket and telling me to try it. What a nice, flexible nib that was. It was a fountain pen from Omas. I knew about Omas, but I never tried one before. When I started writing there was some feathering, but when I tried it on another paper the pen wrote smooth while still producing crisp lines. Unfortunately the pen was far too expensive for me. It turned out that this shop is also the distributor for Omas in the UK and I was told that very soon a cheaper pen with this nib will be released. I say cheaper, but it is still a £300 pen, which would make it more expensive than the most expensive pen I own.

Stationery bought in Shrewsbury

Stationery bought in Shrewsbury

Pen and ink

Shrewsbury

Shrewsbury

I then bought the Monteverde Tool fountain pen – more in my price range, and the owner of the shop told me about Sailor’s pigment ink which contains nano pigments, so it doesn’t clog up the fountain pen.

I’m still not sure what to think about the fountain pen. It seems to skip quite a bit (using the cartridge that came with it), I hope that will get better over time. I also wonder why the scales on the pen incluse 1/200 metre and 1/300 metre. I have seen 1/x inch scales, but 1/x metre scales are certainly not very common and don’t seem to make much sense to me. Is this how imperial users imagine the metric system to work?

The ink can behave very well when used on good paper, but when I use it to fill in forms at work it feathers quite a bit. I think time will tell whether I like this ink, but so far I don’t think I’ll buy another bottle.

  1. There still one left in my home town, but it’s more of a post office / news agent / bit of everything shop. []
  2. see Koh-I-Noor Hardtmuth’s history. []

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7 thoughts on “A weekend in Shropshire

  • Sola

    Happy birthday Matthias! And yes, it is getting to be a real privilege nowadays to live near a proper pen shop, especially one old enough to dig treasures out of and where there’s trained and knowledgeable staff. I hope this one keeps going. And I also find Omas pens out of my reach 🙁

  • Gunther

    Happy birthday, Matthias! What a great trip – thank you for telling us about it. In my region too “proper pen shops” (as Sola calls them aptly) have almost completely disappeared so looking e. g. at the glass cabinets filled with so many treasures makes me a little wistfully nostalgic. I am happy to hear that you had such a great time!

  • Matthias Post author

    Thank you for your kind comments!
    Sola, you are absolutely right. Unfortunately this shop is quite far from where I live 8^( About the Omas pen: I managed to get a Pilot Falcon for a really good price (only 1/3 of the UK price). I haven’t received it yet, but I hope it will have a nib like I want – I’m not sure I want to spend as much on a pen as Omas is charging…

    Gunther, oh. I thought there were some really good shops near you – you once mentioned one in Darmstadt. I hope the rest won’t disappear, too (You even live near some pretty big cities, so I expected you to have lots of choice). The glass cabinets were nice, but that was fountain pen focussed. The pencil choice was not as impressive as the fountain pen choice.
    It really was a great weekend.

  • junius

    Congrats on your fortieth, Bleistift! Do enjoy reading about your jaunts and excursions, and seeing pictures of your stationery finds.

  • Gunther

    Fortunately we still have some very good stationery shops (with Format in Darmstadt being the best, at least to me, and luckily they have much more than stationery). However, many have closed, including one in my hometown which was led by a former Rotring employee who was able to tell a lot about their products. But that was a long time ago … In Frankfurt/Main we have a unique shop for stationery and model construction. The father of the current owner has taken over the shop more than 50 years ago so the store is much older (which can be recognized by some really old products). Quite a while ago I had an appointment with the owner’s father after closing time to pick up some items, and our short meeting took more than two and a half hours in which he showed me some old catalogues and much more. It was great!