The Three Phases of a Hobby

By Michael W. Harris

Audio equipment, stationery ephemera, and books about them…

Recently in discussion with various pen/stationery/watch folks, I have talked about my concept of the phases of a hobby—collecting hobbies in particular. While terms like the “acquisition” phases seem to be well trod, and I have heard a lot of people talking about the “consolidation”—or as recently called it, the “refinement”— phase, I recently stumbled upon what I think is the third and final phase: “Endgame.” Or may less chillingly called, the “Satisfaction” phase. Continue reading “The Three Phases of a Hobby”

The Collection – II. The Perfect Carry

By Michael W. Harris

This post is part of a series documenting the stories behind my pen collection. To see the first post in the series, with links to all the other posts, click here.

The Perfect Carry


  • TWSconti 580AL, “Purple Rain,” Visconti Steel Fine
    • December, 2018 – Pen Addict Slack
  • Parker Sonnet Chinese Lacque Ambre, 18K Fine
    • August, 2019 – Peyton Street Pens
    • Date Code Y, fourth quarter 1996
  • Papier Plume “Blues” Pen, Stylosuite Extra Fine Xwing-Harpoon Flex
    • December, 2019 – Papier Plume

Continue reading “The Collection – II. The Perfect Carry”

The Collection – I: The Holy Trinity

By Michael W. Harris

This post is part of a series documenting the stories behind my pen collection. To see the first post in the series, with links to all the other posts, click here.

The Holy Trinity


  • Pelikan M200, Green Marbled, 14K Medium (M600 size)
    • May, 2013 – Graduation Gift from Friend
  • Lamy Studio, Brushed Steel, 14K Medium
    • c. 2014 – Two Hands Paperie, Boulder, CO
  • Diplomat Aero, Sunset Orange
    • August, 2018 – Two Hands Paperie, Boulder, CO

Continue reading “The Collection – I: The Holy Trinity”

The Refinement Phase: On Establishing a Pen Rotation and Stable “Collection”

By Michael W. Harris 

I am a collector by nature.

Top tray in my large pen case. A few empty slots for some custom pens.

Over the years, I have collected pretty much all the sorts of things that people collect at one point or another: baseball cards, coins, stamps, comics, various types of books, CDs, vinyl, DVDs, Blu-rays, and so on and so forth. And today, it has extended, in a “relatively” small way, into watches, knives, and bags.

However, knowing that I am both an obsessive collector and also a person of limited means, when my growing fountain pen obsession begin to accumulate at a rapid pace, I quickly moved to set limits on said collecting. But the new, shiny “acquisition phase” of any hobby is tricky. You are learning your tastes, what you might like to collect, and also just trying to learn about and experience all that you can while also having fun. Continue reading “The Refinement Phase: On Establishing a Pen Rotation and Stable “Collection””

Nib Shootout: Spaghetti Western Edition

By Michael W. Harris

Pretty Viscontis All in a Row

It was never my intention to end up with four Visconti pens (not counting my TWScontis) all with different nib materials, but so it was that a could not pass-up deal on a Pininfarina with the so-called “Chromium 18” nib (whose exact metallurgical composition and how it differs from plain steel I shall not litigate here) found me in possession of steel, chromium 18, 18K gold, and 23K palladium nibbed pens. The loan of an Opera with a 14K gold nib completed the set of Visconti nib materials (not counting the seemingly Delta inspired “fusion” nib) meant that the Italian Standoff was on. Continue reading “Nib Shootout: Spaghetti Western Edition”

A Modest Fountain Pen Proposal: Do Away With Vintage & Modern

By Michael W. Harris

I am still a relative newcomer to the pen and stationery hobby, but like so many, once I dive-in, I tend to devour and learn all that I can. It is my personality and is most assuredly an off-shoot of my librarian/archivist/academic tendencies. So it was that, pretty quickly, I became a bit confused and annoyed with the rather loose definitions of the terms “vintage” and “modern” by those in the community. Ask 10 hobbyists how they would define “what is vintage and what is modern,” and you would probably get at least 5-7 different answers, if not 10! For me, this is a problem because I need some guidelines at the very least!

We could try and use the qualifications that are applied to antique/vintage car registrations, which can vary between state and country, but they usually label as vintage anything that is between 20 or 35 years old. This, while giving us a set length of time, also yields a moving window, meaning that—eventually—everything becomes vintage. Which might be fine for some…but not for me. And my feeling that way is due to how people will talk about a “vintage inspired design,” not unlike how some talk about vintage clothes, which points to a more aesthetic criteria for what is vintage vs. modern. (For example, see the cover story of Pen World February 2019, which touts, “Vintage Inspiration” in a story about Armando Simoni Club, Wahl-Everysharp, Conway Stewart, and Bexley, pp. 42-9.)

Continue reading “A Modest Fountain Pen Proposal: Do Away With Vintage & Modern”

Blue Dots: A Taxonomy of Hues

By Michael W. Harris

I Love Blue

I love blue, it is my favorite color by far (with purple a medium distant second), and even better is that the color has a fascinating history in our culture. It is a color that is sad and joyous. It is the color of royalty and the color of the commoner. It is one of the rarest naturally occurring colors and yet is also the color most associate with both our planet and its two most prominent features: water and sky.

And it is a color that has been among the hardest to produce for dyes and pigments until relatively recently. It is a color that at one time was so prized in Western art that artists had it written into agreements how much patrons would provide for them, and it was reserved for only the most import subjects in art: Jesus and the Virgin Mary.

I will not attempt to rehash the history of blue here, but the links to the following YouTube videos will provide a more thorough (and entertaining) recap of this fascinating color:

My interest in the color blue is multifaceted. Historical, philosophical, material culture, and sociological. However, for this post, I will focus on a single aspect: categorical. Continue reading “Blue Dots: A Taxonomy of Hues”

America’s Best Ideas: The Voyager Missions and National Parks

By Michael W. Harris

The Golden Record

A little over three years ago, I wrote a post on why I believed (and still do) that the Voyager Missions and accompanying Golden Record is one of the best things that America has ever done. Part of my fervent belief of this is that the Record presents an aspirational view of humanity and our future. The Record as a goal for us to work towards. And part of why I wrote that, in 2016, as the world was starting to spiral into Trumpian Oblivion, was that it provided a counter to that negative outlook.

You see, I am a cynical person by nature. I have a deep repository of cynicism that I thinly veil with a healthy schmeer of sarcasm. I have, outwardly, lost all belief that humanity can dig itself out of the mess that we have created for ourselves. If a Cylon asked me if I believed that humanity was “worthy of survival,” I would probably (in my cynical view) answer “no” without skipping a beat. I would probably follow up with “Burn the motherfucker down. Honestly I am surprised we haven’t done it already ourselves. Sorry to make you go to the trouble.” And before I could take it back, the missiles would be launched to the strains of “All Along the Watchtower” and “bye, Felicia.” Continue reading “America’s Best Ideas: The Voyager Missions and National Parks”

Pancakes are Love (and Other Lessons Learned from my Grandmothers)

By Michael W. Harris

I still use the copy of the recipe I wrote down while talking to my Grandma Jackie.

There is a line in the 2008 Wachowski’s movie Speed Racer that, even though it is largely a throwaway line uttered by what will soon turn out to be the film’s villain, has always stayed with me: “Pfannkuchen sind Liebchen. Pancakes are love.” Now, Google Translate informs me that that is not entirely accurate, that “Liebchen” actually means “sweet heart,” but I still like the sentiment because pancakes will always be love, specifically the love of my Grandma Jackie. And I can totally hear her saying “sweetheart” to me.

Growing up, Grandma Jackie, my dad’s mother, and her pancakes were something I looked forward to whenever we visited St. Louis or spent our summer vacation fishing at Montauk State Park in southern Missouri, the Harris family’s ancestral lands (at least in the immediate past). In the very best Midwestern tradition, breakfast at Grandma’s was a true feast: sausage, eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits and gravy, milk, coffee, orange juice, and, of course, pancakes. It is no secret that Midwesterners love their food. The church potluck is basically a cliché for the Methodists and Lutherans, to say nothing of basically inventing tailgating. But our love of food goes beyond needing big meals to get ready for a long day working the farm. In the Midwest, food is love. Continue reading “Pancakes are Love (and Other Lessons Learned from my Grandmothers)”

Inspired By Modding -OR- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love TWSBI

By Michael W. Harris

A TWSBI family portrait. Since this photo was taken 3 more have joined the family.

I have been “deep” into the stationery game for a bit over a year now, and I feel like I am starting to hone in on my tastes and figure out what I really like and dislike. However, some things still do surprise—such as just how much I liked writing with a Sailor King of Pen that a fellow Memphis Pen Club member recently bought. I had always assumed it would be way too beg for me, but instead I am now entertaining expensive thoughts. But of all my recent realizations a year in, the most surprising was saying to myself, “You know, I think I could get rid of most of my pens and be happy with just my modded TWSBIs.” Sure, there would be a few others I would keep, such as my so-called “Tier 1” pens, but this was a shocking thought, especially because TWSBI was one of the first brands I tried and quickly decided was not for me. Continue reading “Inspired By Modding -OR- How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love TWSBI”