Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Tools of the Trade: Newton Pens Eastman

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently attended the Arkansas Pen Show as a vendor for the first time to sell find new homes for some of my handbound books. It was a wonderful experience for a number of reasons, but not least that my friend and I had the best table-neighbors possible for vending a show. We were placed next to Shawn and Elizabeth Newton of Newton Pens. There was much interesting discussion about art, craftsmanship, writing and tools thereof, superheroes, Maniac Magee (which I promptly re-read and love more than ever), and lots of other random things. There was no way I was walking out of there without finally owning one of Shawn's custom, hand-turned fountain pens.

Choosing just the right pen was nearly impossible. I hemmed and hawed over his incredible selection, chewing my lip as I fought back another wave of frustrated indecision.

Okay, I'm totally lying. If I had allowed myself to actually do more than sneak a side-glance at his table, that is what would have happened, but I didn't let it. I couldn't let my eye wander over there, because (thanks to Shawn's amazing pictures on social media), I had already promised my love (and my money) to one of his pens in particular:

Newton Pens Eastman in Cool Mint Water Acrylic

Shawn has made pens from this material before for other customers, and from the first time I saw it, I was sold. The color is gorgeous--soothing and mild, but with an icy vibrancy in the veining. When writing with it, I catch myself just stopping to look at it, enjoying the way the swirls bend and swoop in the walls of the pen, adding the illusion of mass suspended in weightlessness.


Basically, that's a lot of fluffy wine-tasting talk to say, "It's purty. Like, really." The light was not kind when I tried to take a few quick shots of the pen to add to this post, but there are some much better pictures on the Newton Pens site. (While you're there, go ahead and click the Newton Pens Scholarship tab. It is such a cool program!)

As soon as I entered the room to set up for the show, I was like, "HiShawngimmemypenpleasepleasehurrykthanks," because I didn't want anyone else making me have to fight them for it. When I finally had it in my clutches (along with a custom pen sleeve in the coolest geek-cred fabric made by Elizabeth Newton), I immediately had the strongest urge to go hide in a quiet room and write an entire novel. Unfortunately, since I had two days of selling books to do, I had to sit and stare at it until after the show when I would have time to put some miles on it.

It has some miles on it now.

Yes, it does.

First, I want to talk about the quality of the craftsmanship. This pen doesn't feel like any other pen in my collection. It wouldn't--it's completely unique, made by hand. That said, I dare you to find a flaw. It has been polished to incredible smoothness inside and out. It has been turned with meticulous care and consistency, for any variations of material thickness or machining technique would be fairly obvious in this, a clear pen. The form factor suits it so well: a simple, straight cylinder with flush cap and barrel. It allows the material to take center stage. The cap and barrel threads are tight, so the cap stays in place securely when the pen is closed. The tolerance between cap and barrel when closed is nearly seamless. It is not possible to post this pen given the shape, but the length is significant, similar to a Pelikan m1000, and should be sufficient for any size hands. Likewise, the pen is light enough to hold in quite dainty hands, even though it is of substantial size.


The filling mechanism is cartridge/converter, and it came included with a nice standard-international converter (and a fill of Waterman blue-black). It is also possible, with the addition of a smear of silicone grease on the threads, to use this pen as an eyedropper-filled pen. (Here's more information from Fountain Pen Revolution if you're not familiar with eyedropper-filled pens.) I bought a brand new bottle of Diamine Soft Mint (J. Herbin Diabolo Menthe would also work) just for this purpose.

I chose an extra-fine steel nib for the pen. Shawn now works with a partner who is creating custom gold nibs for his pens, but he also sources good-quality Jowo nibs, which can be found on several well-known manufacturers' pens. Personally, I'm a fan of the Jowo nibs, and I've rarely used a poor one. This nib is no exception, providing a relatively smooth writing experience with a moderate amount of pleasant feedback. (I consider some feedback, or paper-feel, very pleasant when writing. If you prefer a mirror-smooth writing experience, I might direct you to a broader nib. It's rare to find that quality in even the best fine and extra-fine nibs.)

As a crafts-woman myself, few things make me happier than supporting my fellow artists. This pen will remain a special part of my collection, not just because I love how it looks and how it writes (I do!), but because I know what it is to make something with my hands and the guts it takes to share that with others.

I write reviews like this and keep a "Tools of the Trade" portion of this blog specifically because I believe it is important to understand and find affection for the tools that make our endeavors not just possible in a minimal way, but truly enjoyable. I appreciate this pen like I appreciate other tools, and I love it like any number of other nice things I've been blessed to own. However, more than either of those things, I respect it and the hands that made it.

May all that care, attention, and passion infuse every piece I write with it.
Official Title: Writing Sample in Horrible Lighting, $1000 unframed


1 comment:

Shawn Newton said...

Thank you so much for the awesome write-up. :) made my day (especially since I've been so sickly today).