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”

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”

It’s Alive!! Musings on the Nature of the Frankenpens

By Michael W. Harris

The Sailor Pro Gear Slim Purple Cosmos. I love this pen, but it is probably the most FOMO purchase I have made.

It is hard to be a fountain pen enthusiast and be of modest means. Budgets are really tight and FOMO is strong with the endless parade of pretty limited edition pens in swirling colors. You naturally want to get ALL THE THINGS, but rational thought, your bank balance, and the crushing reality that you can only use so many pens and inks in a lifetime (and you cannot take them with you) will, hopefully, bring one back down to earth. So, what is one to do to keep the fountain pen/stationery passion alive and well when you cannot plunk down $900 on a new Visconti at the drop of a hat? How can the stationery junkie in search of their next fix get it while also on a budget?

Some find that rush in the form of cheap Chinese pens bought from Amazon, Etsy, or eBay. Fun to explore, easier on the wallet, and many times mimicking the hot trends of the larger or more expensive brands (looking at you PenBBS faux Conid), these can be a way of exploring different aspects of the hobby without breaking the bank. Continue reading “It’s Alive!! Musings on the Nature of the Frankenpens”

Looking Forward, Looking Back: The Past and Future of The Temp Track

By Michael W. Harris

Pen, paper, and coffee…the beginnings of so many posts this past year.

It has been a year. While I did not go into 2018 planning on doing one post a week, that is how it ended up. It just sort of started, kept going, snowballed, and before you knew it I had a pattern established, and I am loathe to break patterns. And looking back, I am really glad I did it. It was part therapy during what was one of the most difficult periods in my life, part exercise in finding a good writing process as I try to integrate my love for the craft of the written word into my life, and part needing an outlet for some of the smaller scale projects that I want to pursue.

However, more than anything else, I just wanted to write more. I have always loved writing, and it is a big reason why I decided to do a PhD and not a DMA all those year ago. When I thought about which I would rather do, practice bassoon for eight hours a day or read and write for 8 hours a day…the decision was easy to make. And now, with (hopefully) my last degree a year behind me, another year of tumult and upheaval over, and job stability ahead, it is time to think about what the future of The Temp Track looks like.

After a year filled with gin reviews, musing on stationery, some rather personal essays that made some people worry about my mental and physical health (and I share those concerns…hence writing as therapy), and other random musing on life, the universe, and everything, what does 2019 look like?

Let’s first look back before we look forward, shall we? Continue reading “Looking Forward, Looking Back: The Past and Future of The Temp Track”