Thursday, December 14, 2006

New Ink On the Block: Colfer's Imperial InksTM

For the past few weeks, I've been messing around with a couple of inks from the veritable "new kid on the block," Colfer'’s Imperial InksTM Having first learned about this start-up venture on the Fountain Pen Network, I contacted Sean Colfer, the inventor, to inquire about becoming a guinea pig and he promptly obliged me with samples of four different colors.

Colfer's Imperial InksTM are billed as the "World's Only Adjustable Ink." What this means is that these inks will be available as concentrates - permitting the user to adjust the color density and other attributes by adding more or less distilled water to the concentrate. The concentrates will be sold in varying sizes, including the one-ounce eyedropper bottle, an "EZ-UzeTM" package, that makes 2-ounces of ink, and an "EZ-TravTM" vial, which will yield 1/2 ounce of ink.

Don't have the necessary supplies to mix ink concentrates? Sean has thought of that, so Colfer's Imperial InksTM will also be sold in a complete kit, with everything you need to mix your ink - except distilled water, of course. The inks will also be available already mixed in a 2-ounce Redi-2-UzeTM package. (Sean seems to really enjoy using cute-sy spellings coupled with the TM symbol, such as "EZ-TravTM" and "Redi-2-UzeTM," to identify his products - he must have an intellectual property lawyer in the family). As for me, it's getting to be a pain in the posterior to keep coding the superscript, so I think I'll stop now. But to all you would-be trademark infringers out there - you've been put on notice!

As for me, I've got a lot of things on my plate at the moment and I didn't want to fool around with mixing inks so I asked Sean if he'd just send me the pre-mixed inks. This also gave me the opportunity to see the inks as envisioned by their creator.

The inks arrived shortly after Thanksgiving. I received four different colors: Blue Spruce, NY Central Jade, Cotes de Nuit and Sovereign Blue. I've had a chance to put the Blue Spruce and NY Central Jade through their paces, so to speak, but have only dip-tested the other two.

The executive summary is that I've been very pleased and impressed with the ink. So pleased, in fact, that I decided become an authorized retailer of Colfer's Imperial Inks.TM Not that has anything to do with my review; rather, the opposite is true - it was my review of the inks that spurred my interest in becoming a seller.

Surprisingly, my personal favorite turned out the be the NY Central Jade. I filled my Hero 616 with it and the ink started flowing without a hitch (typical of that pen, I have to say). The color is a nice true green, bright without being garish. I wish I could make a good scan, but my cheap HP scanner is notoriously unreliable when it comes to color reproduction. And the color chart I posted on my website seems lighter the ink displays when you're up close and personal. Of course, monitors vary, and you may see it as it really is. The ratio of concentrate to water that Sean used may also explain the variance. In any event, the ink I used was considerably closer to J. Herbin's Lierre Sauvage than to Diamine Woodland Green, if that helps anyone visualize the color.

I tried the ink on several different papers, ranging from good quality to garbage, and it behaved well in every situation. It dried quickly and there was no feathering or bleed-through. It did smear a little when wet, but then again, it's not billed as a waterproof ink.

The next ink I used was the Blue Spruce. I was really hoping to love this color - the Blue Spruce is one of my favorite trees. Confession time: I haven't used this ink in a fountain pen. Instead, I filled my Monteverde Mega Ink Ball with it. The "nib" on the Mega writes a fine-to-medium line, and although the ink flowed really well, the color just didn't grab me at first. In fact, I was downright disappointed. I have to admit, however, that after using it consistently for the past few weeks, it's really starting to grow on me. I still like the Jade better, but I think in a pen with a broader nib, it'll be really nice.

One noteworthy thing: To address mailing labels, I have been alternating using this pen and ink combination with a Pelikan 140 filled with Diamine Woodland Green (my current favorite green ink, by the way). I was astonished to see how badly the Diamine feathered on the Avery labels in comparison to the Colfer's. And Diamine didn't feather all that badly - but feathering was virtually non-existent with the Colfer's.

I have dip-tested two other inks that Sean sent and I'm eager to try these out, too. The Cotes de Nuit is a perfect match for a burgundy pen and appears close to Herbin Pousierre de Lune.

I dipped my Waterman Liaison with a broad nib into the Sovereign Blue and it was an extremely dark blue - not at all what I expected. But I used it on the most inexpensive of papers so it is likely not truly representative of what the ink will look like in actual use. And again, diluting the concentration with more distilled water would likely yield a lighter blue.

I hope to write a review of those inks after I've had a chance to use them more extensively.

Visit the Colfer's section of my website to view the Colfer's color chart. And, if you're so inclined, feel free to pre-order these inks, in any of their various incarnations, at a special pre-introductory price.

Thanks for stopping by!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Buy One Get One Free?

To celebrate the holiday season, the Pear Tree Pen Company would like to offer its customers something special - something rarely seen in the world of online pen retailing. So, it (come on, who are we kidding? I) decided to offer select items at an unheard of "Buy one, Get One Free" price."

The problem is, I have so many wonderful things in stock that I can't decide what to offer at this price! Sure, I'd love to be able to do that for all the items in my store, but I have a family to feed, too!

So I've decided to let YOU choose the items from my inventory to make available at this unbelievable discount.

So - here's how it's gonna work: Each week from now until the week before Christmas, one item from my inventory will be offered on a "2 for 1" basis. All I ask is that you all let me know what you'd like me to put on sale. I'll select the winning item from the votes received, either online or via email, at (All sales prices will be based on MSRP, by the way.)

You would be well-justified in asking, "Is this some sort of marketing gimmick?" Of course it is! But I'm flush with Thanskgiving turkey and a whole lot of liquid lubrication and my otherwise sound judgment may be slightly impaired. But I still think it's a pretty good deal, and the ultimate winner will be you!

So, let's get the ball rolling - visit my website and let me know which of the items I have available you'd like me to put on sale. Beginning Monday, November 27, 2006, the item with the most votes that week will be listed for sale on my website.

While you're poking around the site, check out what else I have to offer - this could be the best time to buy that ink, journal or pen you've always wanted - for a limited time all orders over $100 get free shipping and you can take an additional 10% off all orders over $25 (see my homepage for details).

And don't forget to tell your friends to vote and look around the site. Click here to visit the Pear Tree Pen Company website.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Waiting for Columbus*

Tomorrow I leave for the Ohio Pen Show, which is billed as the 4th largest pen show in the nation. The show is held in the belly of the beast - at least as far as University of Michigan fans go -– Columbus, Ohio. Yet I remain undeterred.

In fact, I a’m actually pretty excited, as this will be the first time the Pear Tree Pen Company will be exhibiting at the show. I’'ve been making preparations for weeks now, yet believe it or not, much remains to be done. Taking the management concept of "Just in Time Delivery" to dizzying new heights, some of the new products I'’ve ordered still haven'’t arrived - which is causing me some degree of stress, as you might imagine. And, although I a’m resigned to the fact that some of the things I had hoped to accomplish will most likely not be done, I still think I'm in pretty good shape overall.

For starters, my staff and I will have new shirts embroidered with our fancy-schmancy new logo, which should make us pretty easy to spot - on the concourse and off. We also just received our new promotional ink blotters, imprinted with contact information as well as the "Partridge in a Pear Tree" logo. Come by and pick one up.

I've also made sure we ordered new inventory so there will be plenty of pens, paper and inks to sell. Making their debut at the Pear Tree Pen Company will be new pens and inks from Pelikan, including some of the unusual Pelikan Level 5 fountain pens, as well as Pelikan'’s new 364 Epoch "Wood Nut" fountain pens, which are made from hand-polished walnut wood. If all goes according to plan, we hope to have a large selection of Pelikan student pens available for the young attendees and, of course, the cliched "Young at Heart." As one of the newest Authorized Platinum Pen dealers in North America, The Pear Tee Pen Company will also be displaying for the first time its new assortment of Platinum fountain pens, which will be available in a variety of colors and nib sizes.

Lamy pens continue to be well-represented among our products, and we will have a large array of Al-Stars, Safaris and Vistas, as well as some of the pens a little higher up in Lamy's line, like the Brilliant Accent and the 2000. We'll also have the Lamy Studio, which has just added a cool new blue color to their line-up.

In response to many of your suggestions, The Pear Tree Pen Company has also partnered with Greg Minuskin, an extremely talented nib "guru" and one of the rising stars in the field, to bring you several pens with custom-ground stub and cursive italic nibs. Greg has performed his magic on a select group of Sailors, Bexleys and Lamys, and these pens will be available to try and to buy only at the Pear Tree Pen Company.

So, if you a’re in Columbus this weekend, please come by our table and visit. And if you're not in Columbus this weekend, please understand why I won't be responding to your emails and orders with my typical alacrity. Shipping will resume once I recover early next week.

Thanks, and I hope see you at the show.

James P.

* My apologies to Little Feat for stealing the title to one of the greatest live albums of all time.

Friday, October 27, 2006

More Ways to Take Your Money

You learn something new every day, and today I learned all about secure socket layers and internet payment processing gateways - stuff that'll curdle milk and put most sane people to sleep in moments.

I've put all that learning to good use, too. I have been working diligently to configure the Pear Tree Pen Company's shopping cart to accept credit cards - securely - and I finally got it working, so I'm a bit excited.

So - to make things more convenient and more secure for you, my dear reader and potential customer, the Pear Tree Pen Company is proud to announce it now accepts MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Discover - all online and all through the convenience of its web shopping cart. PayPal is good - but choice is better!

Now that I've made it easy for ya - Go Buy Something!

Thanks for stopping by!


Wednesday, October 04, 2006

It's Not About Winning - It's About Trying

I lifted this post from a report I received from Ryan Levinson, a truly incredible athlete who competes at the top level of his sport despite being challenged by a form of Muscular Dystrophy known as FSHD or "Facio-Scapular Humeral Dystrophy." Ryan inspires me. I hope he inspires you, too.

Thanks for stopping by!

James P.


Late Season Results:
New York City Triathlon (USAT PC National Championships)- 2nd
Solana Beach Triathlon- 1st
Nautica Malibu Triathlon- 2nd
Xterra Tahoe US Championships- 1st

Late Season Media:
Max Sports and Fitness Magazine- 1/2 page article with 3 photos (including contents page and a full page spread).

KUSI Television- Athlete profile. (It ran during evening, prime time, and morning newscasts over labor day weekend).

KUSI Television- “San Diego People”, interview (ran on Sunday morning).

Jerry Lewis MDA Telethon- Co-hosted and was interviewed.

The blood on my shoulder and legs had dried, there wasn’t really that much, and most of the mud had fallen off my body as I approached the log crossing in the final mile of the Xterra USA Championship. To win now all I had to do was finish, but I was nearly an hour past when I had estimated I would finish and I was in survival mode…

We started the swim with the pros and regional champions. The water was clear and cold. It was a unique experience to be swimming with a helicopter hovering overhead and SCUBA divers filming from below. Within the first ten minutes I realized I had way misjudged the impact of the altitude. Some people were panicking because it was so difficult to breath. A few people were pulled out for hypothermia, but my Zootsuit and neoprene cap kept me warm. By the second lap of the swim I could feel my face again and exited the water with a near PR for the distance.

The bike was harder than I anticipated. I reached the 8700’ summit, after two hours, three stream crossings, and 2000’ vertical feet of climbing on sandy switchbacks. The only real break from the climbing was a surreal four-mile section of singletrack called the Flume trail. Imagine a sheer rock cliff rising on your left (sometimes curving over your head), three feet of trail, and a hundred foot drop on you right. There were rescue people standing around with climbing gear ready to help people who flew off the cliff. Framing it all was an incredible view of lake Tahoe, now a thousand feet below.

By the time I reached the summit my pre-race nutrition and pace strategies were out the window. I had estimated about two and a half hours for the ride and was already at two hours ten minutes. My first crash was about 10 minutes later during the descent on a technical boulder strewn section of trail. I had just passed a woman lying semi-conscious near the trail, with medics working to stabilize her, when I had to lay my bike down to avoid slamming into a large boulder.

After the crash I looked at that section and could not figure out how the heck people rode through. A guy sitting off-trail next to a broken bike asked if I was ok. That’s what is unique about Xterra -- loosing focus during a road triathlon will make you slow, during an Xterra it can make you bleed. My Specialized Epic is a dream machine and helped saved my ass on that descent.

By the time I started the run my life consisted of pain, forcing down gels, and focusing on avoiding injuries. I had been here before, Xterra Temecula kicked my ass too, but this time I had to finish for more than personal satisfaction. If I failed, there would be no challenged athlete on the podium to represent the challenged division in the first year Xterra included the division. When I crossed that final log during the run I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was going to be the 2006 Xterra US Champion for my division, but that was only a small piece of the puzzle.

For me, over the past five years, competition has evolved to be more about the process than the result. Of course the final result is important, but this season I’ve learned, through some measure of desperate pain and tearful exhilaration, that there is no lasting fulfillment solely from standing on a podium, be it at a local race or a world championship. The search for meaning in triathlon is a much deeper pursuit, yet it all boils down to striving to swim, bike, and run to the limits of your ability.

So why compete? Besides social benefits, the value of competition comes from providing a standard by which to measure your athletic success. Sure there is satisfaction in placing in the top three and discovering that you are better than your peers, but that pales in comparison to the satisfaction that comes from realizing, regardless of your place, you have improved as an athlete. Placing mid-field after the race of your life can be more deeply rewarding than finishing first after a sub-maximal effort.

But if the primary reward from triathlon comes from improving yourself as an athlete, why not just time yourself, download your powermeter, record your heart rates and pursue life as a robot striving for faster programming? Computers and stopwatches can help measure athletic ability, but finishing higher in your division, from one year to the next can be a more meaningful measure of improvement than simply seeing faster times on a screen.

This is why divisions in the sport of triathlon are so valuable. Divisions allow you to be measured against your peers. It is more meaningful to determine athletic progress relative to peers rather than a stopwatch. There is no doubt that the very essence and value of competition is the ability it provides you to measure yourself against others, but more importantly, against yourself.

But what if you have no peers? What if you are young, but like an aging athlete, you have reached a threshold where your times will almost certainly decrease regardless of effort? If satisfaction in competition stems from the ability to measure yourself against your peers, can there still be satisfaction in competing if you are the only one in your division?

The answer is yes, but you have to embrace the fact that at times you will be racing with lonely desperation so that in the future people like you will have a division of peers, or at least a relevant standard, to measure themselves against. Because of the efforts of challenged athletes before me, the New York City Triathlon this year hosted more physically challenged athletes than pros.

At New York, after a disgusting swim in the Hudson and a PR on the bike, I started the run with a comfortable lead over my friend and fellow USAT PC National Team member, David Kyle, a man I beat at the World Championships last year by about two minutes. The race was mine to loose and I ran conservatively figuring there was no way David would catch me. But he did, with one mile to go, and we ran side by side until about 200 meters to go. David kicked, but I matched it and we went into the twisting finish shoot like two crit riders fighting for the final sprint. He kicked again but this time I couldn’t match. I jogged the final stretch and watched David win by a few seconds.

I came home with a sick feeling in my stomach. Only later did I realize that it was largely because I had lost focus about why I race. I had begun racing more for place than performance. When I thought I had New York won I pulled back. When David caught, and then dropped, me in the final 100 meters, I realized I was not going to win and I jogged in rather than continuing at max effort. Despite posting an Olympic distance PR, and placing second at USAT Nationals, I had essentially quit.

Then two more pivotal things happened. First, I began another stage of relatively rapid muscle loss (my disease tends to progress in stages), but this time I was loosing key cycling muscles. It is increasingly more difficult to hit target wattages during low cadence force-related efforts. Second, I tried out for San Diego City lifeguards, but despite two attempts I was not fast enough. Working as a first responder can be incredibly rewarding, and I enjoy working as an EMT, but my heart is in the water and serving as a lifeguard has been a long time goal.

These two events were significant because they represent the first time in a few years that, despite my efforts, my physical ability took a big hit. I was like the aging athlete posting slower times despite increased fitness. This realization, combined with my experience at New York, threw me into my lowest point of my season.

But then, thanks largely to feedback from my coach Kevin Purcell, I decided to approach racing from the perspective that what matters most is ensuring that I finish each race having given maximum effort, leaving everything on the course. Kevin’s mantra during races is, “what are you saving it for?” I used to tell Kevin I was going to crush skulls, but he helped me realize that to find satisfaction in racing, the main skull I need to crush is my own.

With this in mind I entered the Solana Beach triathlon and blazed to a PR in the swim (per hundred meters) and a season PR for the run (per mile). I won the division, but more importantly I pushed harder, longer, and with more conviction than ever. It felt good. I wanted more, and got it a month later at the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.

The Malibu Triathlon was the final event on the USAT PC National Team’s schedule. This was going to be my first chance to race against David Kyle, current national champion, since New York. I had been sick in the weeks leading up to the race, but entered the race with the calm confidence that comes from knowing that during the race pain will kick your ass but you’re going to give it the fight of its life.

I had an ok swim and finished near the front of the PC field. After a good transition, I rode solid and steady, did not blow any minds, but made up for weak climbing with a bonsai approach to the twisting sections and with an aero advantage on the downhills. By T2 I was in first with just over a minute on David. Regardless of my final place I was determined to run harder than ever before. By the halfway point David had not caught me and I was on a PR pace.

The pain was good, a familiar place you only briefly visit but never forget. I pushed harder, increased my pace, one mile to go, still not caught, was at my limit but holding the effort, saw the finish, felt a twinge… I might win. Then, with a few hundred meters to go, David caught and passed me. But this time I didn’t hesitate, I kept it nailed, flat out, max effort, crossed the line in second place spent, but satisfied knowing I had given a max effort.

A month later I was again at my limit, running across that final log in Tahoe, overwhelmed because not only had I raced to my potential, but because Xterra had, for the first time, opened a division for challenged athletes and by finishing I was about to ensure that the new division was represented by at least one athlete. I am deeply grateful to the challenged athletes that raced before me in other events so that I may now race with peers, and it is an honor to be a part of that ongoing process. I’m not the first challenged athlete to complete a full Xterra, there are a number of incredible athletes including guys like Willie Stewart, Matt Henderson, and Mike Hicks. I’m just the first to complete an Xterra championship in the new challenged athlete division. Hopefully in future years there will be a stacked field of PC athletes toeing the line.

This is how my season ended and this is why I race.

Special Thanks (in no particular order):

To the athletes who came before me, especially guys like Dan Rock who were a part of the birth of triathlon and who still warmly welcomes countless people into the sport, and guys like Jon Beeson who work tirelessly to ensure that athletes with disabilities will continue to have a place in triathlon.


B&L Bike and Sports for believing in me from the start. Coach Kevin Purcell for keeping me in line and guiding me to new limits. Zoot Sports for the fastest, most comfortable, best looking wetsuits and clothing available. Limar helmets rock. Light, comfortable, fast, if you have not tried one on you are missing out. InfinIT Nutrition- Its funny watching people mix all kinds of concoctions when they can just go to and get it custom made how they like. Vittoria tires, the first tires I raced on in the early 90s and still my favorite. Zipp Weaponry wheels speak for themselves. Nothing faster. Profile Design bars, especially the T2+, love ‘em. Rudy Project Sunglasses are now more versatile than ever with all the new lenses and frames. Challenged Athletes Foundation for advocating for a place where we belong and providing the support for us to get there. USAT for encouraging events to include PC athletes and for providing national team support for those that accept the challenge. Mizuno Shoes- who epitomizes ‘athlete’ more than the Rouses? Mizuno epitomizes the best in running gear. They are a perfect fit (pun intended). Specialized Bicycles continue to blow my mind. How is it possible for one company to make such a diverse line of incredible cycling gear? From their bikes to their shoes to their MTB tires and even gloves, Specialized gear is an integral part of my efforts. Pear Tree Pen Company provided my good luck pen, a Kurt Kinetic Trainer, but more importantly, is owned by another athlete with Muscular Dystrophy who cared enough to contribute to the tribe. West Coast Kiteboarding for continuing the dream and providing web space. And to my friends, family, and the many other people who have shared their love and support, especially Nicole Lippert (soon to be Levinson), she is everything.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Changes Afoot

I want to thank everyone for all of the great feedback I've gotten on the ink sample program. I'm trying to incorporate all of your suggestions and do whatever I can to improve the program.

One thing I feel I absolutely have to mention - and I hate to do it. Effective at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, September 28, the price for the ink samples will increase to $2.95. If you notice on my website, the old price of $1.75 is now identified as a "sale" price.

I really don't want to have to raise the price, but I simply can't keep the program going at the old price - the cost of the vials, supplies and postage (not to mention PayPal fees) cost me more than I was charging. I am hoping that people believe that the value of getting the ink samples still exceeds the relatively small charge and recognize that this increase is, unfortunately, necessary in order to keep the program alive.

I thought I ought to at least give people a heads up and an opportunity to order some ink samples before the price goes up.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement. I really do appreciate it!

Thanks for stopping by!


Monday, September 11, 2006

In the News . . .

A reporter from the Legal News recently interviewed me when he discovered the Pear Tree Pen Company was one of the sponsors of the 17th Annual Michigan Pen Show, coming up on September 16-17, 2006.

My mother is so proud!

Thanks for stopping by!


Thursday, August 31, 2006

So Much is Happening!

All I can say is "Wow!"

I have had such tremendously positive feedback from everyone regarding the Fountain Pen Ink Sample program that I haven't had the time to update this blog in weeks! I'm not really sure where to begin, there's so much I want to share.

First, I have to give kudos to whoever hired our new law clerk at my law office. The first day she was here, she was given a tour of the office. When she got to the supply room and our paralegal showed her where to get the firm's stock of pens, she replied, "No, that's OK. I bring my own." Then she reached into her pocket and pulled out some beautiful fountain pens - including a nice vintage Parker "51." As you might expect, the paralegal immediately pointed her in my direction.

I've also wanted to write about about my latest folly: training for ODRAM, the "One Day Ride Across Michigan." Patterned after the Race Across America, ODRAM is a test of physical (and mental) endurance, as participants ride their bicycles 152 miles from the shore of Lake Michigan to the edge of Lake Huron. ODRAM is September 9, 2006 (a little over a week away), and I'm worried I'm not ready. But I'm riding for a good cause - raising money for Muscular Dystrophy research and awareness - so hopefully that will provide the incentive to keep me going. Please contact me if you're willing to make a tax-deductible contribution to this worthy cause.

On the pen front, I have good news and some bad news. The good news is that the variety of ink in stock has just increased considerably. The Pear Tree Pen Company just received a shipment of Diamine ink. Some colors were on back-order so I didn't receive the complete order, but a very nice selection is still available. The balance of the order, including the long sought-after Diamine Umber, is expected in about two weeks.

Also, due to popular demand, I've expanded my inventory to include the complete line of J. Herbin fountain pen ink - 26 colors! These are now in stock and ready for immediate delivery.

In addition, Aurora inks are on their way - in about a week or so I expect to receive a sizeable shipment of both the Aurora Blue and Black ink.

Lastly, I received a few bottles of "Jentle" ink from Sailor. Initial tests have been very positive, and I'm excited to be carrying this premium line of fountain pen ink.

Speaking of Sailor, I've been writing with a new "international style" Sailor 1911 fountain pen for the past month. I haven't yet found the time to sit down and write my review of it. Suffice it to say that the 21K medium nib helps make this one of the best writing pens I've ever used. And, while I'm on the subject, Sailor has recently introduced its 95th Anniversary Limited Edition fountain pen, the Realo. Only 100 numbered pens have been exported from Asia, and only 30 are destined for North America. I have been lucky enough to be awarded 3 of them. The Realo is Sailor's first (and only) piston-filled fountain pen. If you'd like to learn more about the Sailor Realo, send me an email.

Now for the bad news. I am out of sample vials! The supply I expected to last for months was exhusted in a little over two and a half-weeks! Although I just placed an order for another batch of vials, I'm sorry to report that I have to temporarily suspend shipment of samples until those come in.

That's all for now.

Thanks for looking!

James P.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Try Before You Buy? Ink Samples Now Available!

I can’t tell you how many times that I have bought a bottle of fountain pen ink after reviewing a seller's online color chart, only to end up disappointed when the ink finally arrived. Imperfections in computer monitor calibration or the inability to assess the shading or flow characteristics of whatever ink I’m considering are among the major problems with buying fountain pen ink over the internet. I've often thought how nice it would be if I could only get my hands on a small sample of the ink to try for myself before committing to a purchase.

With the introduction of The Pear Tree Pen Company's new new ink sample program, now you can. The program is really very simple: You can choose up to 4 different inks in any of the nearly 400 shades in stock. The approximately 1cc samples are packaged in a small vial, which are then vacuum sealed to prevent leaks. When they arrive in the mail, you should have more than enough ink to be able to decide whether you like the ink.

To help defray the costs of postage and packaging materials, there is a nominal fee of $2.95, which can be paid with PayPal for your convenience. I also accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express, so you can pay with your credit card if you want. There is absolutely no obligation to buy anything.

To help keep costs down and to prevent abuse, each person is limited to 4 samples of ink per month. If, however, you buy any bottled ink before that time is up, I'll reset the clock, so to speak, so you can request another 4 samples.

The Pear Tree Pen Company attempts to stock the complete line of all inks it carries. Currently, we carry bottled inks from Aurora, Diamine, J. Herbin, Lamy, Noodler's, Pelikan, Private Reserve, Sailor, Waterman, Visconti. We also carry the new line of Caran D'Ache "Colors of the Earth" series of bottled fountain pen ink, which comes packaged in a beautiful glass inkwell.

This pilot program will be run on a trial basis for a month or two. If response is good and I don’t lose my shirt (or my mind!), I’ll keep it going. If I’m mistaken and the feedback I get suggests the pen community does not think this is a valuable program, I’ll discontinue it.

I apologize to my many international customers, but during the trial period, I can only ship samples to the continental United States. I will, however, evaluate the pros and cons of shipping ink samples internationally and make a decision in the near future.

To see the complete selection of inks that are currently in stock, visit this link to the "Ink & Refills" section of the Pear Tree Pen Company's website.

Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Results Are In

In what many pundits are calling the most dramatic and suspenseful Tour de France in decades, American Floyd Landis stood atop the final podium in Paris, winning the 2,272 mile race by a mere 57 seconds. In so doing, Floyd became only the third American to don le Maillot Jaune in Paris, following the tire tracks of Lance Armstrong and Greg Lemond.

In a marginally less exciting contest, Memphis, Tennessee Attorney Sam Blaiss claimed the coveted “Stylo Jaune” in the Pear Tree Pen Company’s inaugural Tour de France contest. Predicting that Landis would win by 1:22, Mr. Blaiss not only guessed this year’s Tour winner, but came closest to predicting the overall margin of victory.

For his prognostic abilities, Mr. Blaiss has won a brand new Waterman Charleston fountain pen, valued at $155.00. Sam has opted for a medium nib, in 18K gold.

Why a Waterman Charleston? Why, it's French, of course. And, they’re available in yellow!

The Pear Tree Pen Company would like to thank all those who participated in this year’s contest. Next year’s edition promises to be better, with more prizes and more fun. So start handicapping now!

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

What a Nice Note!

I recently received the following message from a customer in Canada who purchased a Conway Stewart Churchill from me. It's notes like this that remind me why I do this!

The Churchill arrived late this afternoon! It is really something special. I think it looks very elegant in green and is quite impressive in the case as well. I am very pleased.

I also want to thank you once again for the superb customer service. Your interest, advice and concern set you apart from many of the other people I have dealt with on-line. Any concerns I might have had about buying a costly and special item from someone in another city with whom I had never spoken evaporated in the face of your exceptional attention to my situation and my needs. Best of luck with the new website, I'll be checking in from time to time, and also reading your blog with great interest. Suffice it to say, my future pen purchases will most likely be made through you.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

Fountain Pen Review: Waterman Phileas

Lest anyone accuse me of being anything less than honest, let me get this disclosure out of the way before I begin this review: The Pear Tree Pen Company recently became an authorized Waterman dealer. Our Waterman inventory at the moment consists of Waterman Phileas and Charleston models, in all available colors and modes - fountain pen, rollerball and ballpoint. We also have genuine Waterman inks in stock.

Despite the fact that I'm a retailer of Waterman products, I think this review is still unbiased and presents an objective view of this pen. Contrary opinions are welcome.

OK, now on to the review.

Waterman's "entry-level" fountain pen, the Phileas is one of those pens that gave many pen enthusiasts their first taste of what a fountain pen could be. And why not? For about $50.00 (MSRP), you get an attractive pen that's comfortable, well-balanced and writes, uh . . . right.

As I said, the Waterman Phileas got many a collecter started in the hobby. I wasn't one of them, however, and this is the first Phileas I've had the chance to hold and use. To say I was skeptical about the Phileas is an understatement. As much as I love fountain pens, I've had a hard time falling in love with Waterman. It's certainly not for a lack of trying, and I own a lot of Watermans. While their quality has almost always been good, many of Waterman's pens are lacquer over brass, which makes them too heavy in my book. Some people prefer a heavy pen, but I don't, especially for long writing sessions. My hands are small and after a while, heavy pens really start to cause me a lot of hand fatigue. Moreover, in my opinion, Waterman's nibs lean toward the bland. Don't get me wrong - they work well enough, but the one's I've used lack a certain je ne sais quoi. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the Phileas is unlike those Watermans I've used in the past.

First of all, it's light, but not so light that it feels cheap. Waterman accomplished this by building the Phileas out of plastic, rather than lacquer-coated brass. But Waterman inserted a small brass sleeve into the upper portion of the barrel to give the pen a bit of substance. It feels nice in the hand, and I was able to write several pages without even the slightest hint of fatigue. The pen is also nicely balanced, and is exceptionally comfortable with the cap posted or unposted.

Of course, the true test of any writing instrument is how well it writes and this is where the Waterman must have put its R & D money, because the Phileas excels in this department. When I first inked up the Phileas I honestly wondered if I was setting myself up for disappointment. Not a chance!

I filled the included converter with Noodler's Black ink and less than a minute later, I was ready to go. I pulled off the slip cap and started to write. Much to my surprise, the two-tone stainless steel nib was buttery smooth. I mean really smoooooooooooth. Although it still lacked some of flair that comes with more exotic nibs, the line it laid down was consistent and even. It was neither too wet nor too dry - it seemed to lay down the right amount of ink at all times. Oh, and did I mention it was smooth?

Every single letter was perfectly formed (to the best of my ability, that is), and there was not a single moment's hesitation, skipping, streaking or any of the other potential pitfalls of pendom. Vertical lines were as smooth and clean as horizontal ones. I left the pen uncapped for about an hour and it started immediately when I picked up. It wrote perfectly after sitting on my desk overnight.

I did not detect any tooth to this nib at all. Some people may find that disconcerting, as they prefer to get a little feedback from the nib as they write, so if that sounds like you - be forewarned. My medium nib was true to size, which was also unexpected, since Waterman nibs have a reputation for running a hair wide.

Appearance wise, the Phileas is an attractive pen. The model I tested is a red marble acrylic. The red is a nice deep, almost burgundy, red with black swirls stirred in. The pen is decorated at the ends with black on the cap and a black "blind cap" to match the black plastic section. Gold-colored trim rings separate the black pieces from the red marble, and a gold clip finishes the package. The nib itself is two-tone stainless steel and looks quite rich as well.

On the fit and finish side, it's obvious that this is an entry-level pen. On close examination, the luster of the pen's plastic just doesn't match that of more expensive pens, but when viewed from a distance, it's not as apparent. One of the things that sets many expensive pens apart is attention to detail, and the Waterman Phileas is lacking in this area as well. The biggest "flaw" to my eye was the trim ring at the end of the barrel - it was not a solid ring that encircled the pen barrel; rather, it appeared to be a clip that was a few millimeters too small to complete the circle. I don't know why Waterman would skimp in that area. It's one of those tiny details that few will ever notice unless they happen to be looking for something to criticize, though. And I was.

The Phileas measures 5" from the tip of its nib to the end of the black plastic blind cap. That number stretches to 5 5/8" when the cap is posted and 5 3/8" long when capped. Not a large pen by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly not a small one, either.

The pen comes in the familiar blue clamshell box, in which is a blue Waterman ink cartridge and a converter for using bottled ink.

I have to confess, I almost chose not to publish this review. Because the Wateman Phileas may just well be the last pen you'll ever need, I was worried I'd go out of business! Lucky for me that fountain pens are often more about desire than need.

To wrap up, the Phileas is a terrific pen. It looks good and performs far better than one would expect for a pen at this price-point. It's not perfect, but the flaws are primarily cosmetic and easily overlooked when one factors in the outstanding performance. It's easy to see why so many fountain pen enthusiasts got hooked after using one. It really is that good.

Thanks for stopping by!

James P.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Le Stylo Jaune Sale - Just in Time for the Tour de France!

The Pear Tree Pen Company, in keeping with the time honored tradition of awarding a yellow jersey to the leader of the Tour de France, is proud to announce its first ever “Stylo Jaune,” or yellow pen sale. During the Tour’s three week run from July 1 – July 23, every yellow item sold at the Pear Tree Pen Company will be sold at 10 percent off the already low prices. This sale includes all yellow pens from Sailor, Bexley and Waterman, as well as inks in shades of yellow from Noodler’s and Private Reserve.

The inspiration behind this event comes from CEO and founder of the Pear Tree Pen Company, James Partridge. An active cyclist and bicycle advocate, Partridge has turned what was once a means to get in shape into a passion he has incorporated into his daily life. His enthusiasm for cycling has come a long way from its humble beginnings when he didn’t know the difference between a departments store’s “clunker” bike and the high-end carbon-fiber road bike at his local bike shop.

Partridge has now developed a keen eye, not only capable of procuring fine writing instruments for his thriving online business, but also bicycles to suit his every need. At present Partridge is the proud owner of seven bicycles.

“Each bike I own is designed for a specific purpose, like cyclocross, road racing, or mountain biking,” said Partridge, “you need to have the right tool to do the job.”

Partridge goes on to explain that like bikes, not all pens are created equal. “One would not expect the same performance from a pen that comes in a blister pack, as you would from a pen that comes with a hand-tuned nib made from solid 14, 18 or even 21K gold and carries a lifetime warranty.”

Partridge explains that like a bicycle, a pen should fit its user’s needs. While an artist may prefer a finer nib for the clean lines of drawing, a lawyer signing documents may prefer a broad nib for a bolder signature. A high-quality pen can actually lend flair and distinction to one’s handwriting, just like a good bike may help improve one’s cycling.

Alongside the yellow pen sale, The Pear Tree Pen Company will be running a contest. The person to correctly predict the winner of the 93rd Tour de France will become the proud owner of a new Waterman Charleston fountain pen, valued at $155. The pen is, of course, available in yellow. The Waterman Charleston comes equipped with an 18k gold nib in the winner’s choice of Fine, Medium or Broad size.

Both the sale and the contest will run their course with the Tour de France beginning July 1 and ending July 23, 2006. Entrants should email their predictions to In your entry please include the name of the rider you think will win the Tour, and the winning margin.

For more information about the Pear Tree Pen Company, the Stylo Jaune Sale, and the contest, visit

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fountain Pen Review: Sheaffer Intrigue

I decided to purchased a couple of NOS Sheaffer Intrigues after reading about its new-fangled filling system. I had heard several people comment that the complexity of the filling system contributed to the pen's demise in the marketplace, so I had to see what the fuss was about. It is the first Sheaffer fountain pen I've ever had, although I have owned other varieties of Sheaffer pens in the past.

I received the pens yesterday afternoon. Both are the "Silken Bark" pattern and are equipped with Sheaffer's very nice looking medium sized 14K gold inlaid nib. So far, my overall impressions have been quite positive.

Before I inked one of the pens, I gave it the old visual "once over." The packaging was a little on the chintzy side. Futuristic looking, but an overabundance of flimsy plastic. The pen itself is solid-looking and it has the heft to back up its appearance. It is a heavy pen for its size and is fairly top heavy when posted. Removing the cap from the barrel end cures that problem, and the pen feels much better balanced when writing unposted. But it's still no lightweight.

The fit and finish are good. The seams are visible where Sheaffer attached the cartridge/converter drawer (blind cap?) and the "piston" knob, but they're not obtrusive. I do wish that Sheaffer had taken more care to align the lines of the "bark" on the barrel with their counterparts on the knob where the drawer unscrews. No matter how I try to align them, they're still a bit off. But that's a pet peeve of mine with several pen lines and odds are I'm the only one who'll ever notice or care.

The inlaid 14K nib looks great. I really like the streamlined look such a nib gives a pen and I'm glad that Sheaffer has continued that look with its recent Valor pen as well.

The section is smooth and provides a fairly comfortable grip, with no slippage. It is a hair fat for my smallish hands, though, and I felt my hand becoming a little fatigued as I wrote my review.

But you all want to know how it writes, don't you?

Exceptionally well! I understand MSRP was around $140.00 for this pen. It can be had for considerably less if you look around. So far it has written better, smoother and more consistently than several pens costing several times as much.

I filled the pen with Lake Placid Blue from Private Reserve, my current favorite blue ink. A word about the the filling system. Despite what I'd heard, it really wasn't that complicated - You just insert the converter through the drawer that slides out of the top of the pen instead of by removing the section. And, rather than have the twisty-knob built into the converter, Sheaffer put it on the pen itself so it works and looks more like a traditional piston-filler. Pull out the little knob on the end and twist. Snap it back into place when you're done. Nothing to it!

The pen lays down a smooth and somewhat wet line. After I inked the pen last night, I scribbled a few lines and let it sit in my pen tray overnight (capped, of course). When I picked it up this morning, it started right up with out a moment's hesitation. I even left the pen uncapped for 40 minutes this morning and the pen performed without missing a beat. Well, actually there was a brief skip on the down stroke of my first letter, but the Intrigue recovered quickly.

The nib is rigid - there's nary a hint of flex here, and the line is completely uniform - this isn't the pen for you if you're looking for line variation. Although I'd be willing to bet that a qualified nib meister can make this nib quite expressive.

Overall, I'd have to give this pen good marks. It looks good and writes even better. The filling system worked without a problem. It is a bit on the heavy side, so if you're sensitive to that, this pen may not be for you. But otherwise, I'd suggest looking into picking one up, especially since they seem to be going for around half of their original MSRP.

NB: The Pear Tree Pen Company is not a retailer of Sheaffer pens.

Thanks for stopping by!


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Am I an Old Dog?

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks. Over the next few weeks, I'll be conducting a little experiment to see if there's any truth to that statement.

For the purposes of this experiment, we will, of course, have to make some factual assumptions that don't necessarily comport with reality. For example, (a) I'm not a dog, and (b) I'm not really old.

By now you're proably wondering, "what is this new trick?" The answer: Penmanship. Ever since I was a child, my handwriting has been the subject of much derision. In elementary school, I routinely received the politely euphemistic grade of "N" (for "Needs Improvement") in the subject. My parents, ever the optimists, eagerly prepared me for a career in medicine. To their chagrin, I went to law school instead. Throughout my career, my assistants insisted upon additional insurance for optical coverage to repair the damage my illegibile scribbling caused to their eyesight.

Fortunately for me, and my law partners, that all changed when I discovered fountain pens. I'll save the story of how I got started down the path from respectable local barrister to proprietor of The Pear Tree Pen Company for another entry. For now, suffice it to say that fountain pens are irrefutably responsible for those small improvements to my handwriting in the past few years. I readily admit, however, that my handwriting would likely still merit the grade of "N."

Last week, though, I took a step that I hope will help bring that grade out of the basement. I enrolled in a series of classes by noted handwriting expert and instructor, Kate Gladstone. While I have been familiar with her work for a few years, I had never seriously considered enrolling in a handwriting improvement program. But she recently began auctioning her services on eBay and I do love a good auction (Maybe one day I'll tell the story of the Salvation Army, George the Giraffe and the Children of Washtenaw County. But you have to ask nicely and promise not to tell the I.R.S.). So I placed a ridiculously low bid for a one-hour lesson and, lo and behold, a few short hours later, I was declared the auction winner.

Yesterday, I finished my first session, which was conducted by telephone. I can honestly say that I got far more than I bargained for in the auction.

Kate (whose eBay handle is KateGladstoneItalicLady) reviewed a sample of my handwriting I had previously scanned and sent to her by email. She graciously told me that my handwriting isn't actually all that bad for short stretches. The problem, it seems, is that my form deteriorates as my writing speeds up or as I get tired. So one of the things we worked on was ways to be more consistent.

I realize that handwriting repair is not something that can happen in a single one-hour session. It is something that I'm going to have to work on and practice. I'll continue to consult with Kate over the next few weeks, sending her handwriting samples as we progress. I'll do this publically, too, posting examples of the scans I send to Kate, so you can let me know if you detect any improvement over time. So, let's see if this old dog can't learn a new thing or two about handwriting.

If anyone's reading this thing, I'd love to hear your comments, both about this experiment and the blog in general.

Thanks for stopping by.

James Partridge

Monday, May 29, 2006

Handwritten Theatre

Like most of my writing these days, this blog entry was originally composed with pen, paper and ink. It may seem a bit quaint, old-fashioned even, but it works for me.

Apparently I’m not alone in my belief that writing should begin with, well, writing. Recently, while doing research for a project I’m working on, I came across a website promoting a podcast called “Handwritten Theatre” -- a “series of short dramatic pieces originally composed in a small black notebook, with a fountain pen.”

Handwritten Theatre and its accompanying website are the brainchildren of Joseph Dougherty, a talented writer whose work on the groundbreaking television series thirtysomething earned him an Emmy. He has also written and produced several movies, including The Attack of the Fifty-Foot Woman, starring Darryl Hannah. Among Mr. Dougherty’s most recent work is the novel Comfort and Joi, available at

"How cool," I thought. Despite all the high-tech, wiz-bang gadgetry that’s out there these days, here was someone who put pen to paper and let the words literally flow onto the page. And not a fountain pen collector, either, but an ordinary human being, using a pen as it was intended.

Intrigued, I downloaded the first episode of Handwritten Theatre, “What Do You Want Me to Tell You?” The format was compelling. A brief introduction by the author, then a dialogue between two characters, followed by a few more words from the author. No more than 12 minutes overall. I lack the expertise to critique either the writing or acting, but I will say this: I have now listened to each of the nine episodes that have so far been published on the web, and I eagerly await the next installment. Draw your own conclusions.

By the way, if anyone’s interested: This entry was originally composed using a Visconti Van Gogh Midi fountain pen, with a fine nib and filled with Private Reserve Lake Placid Blue ink. If you haven't checked out one of these pens, I highly recommend them.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, May 19, 2006


Since this is the first post to the Pear Tree Company's blog, I figured I'd explain a little about the company and what I'd like to accomplish by posting here.

The Pear Tree Pen Company is an online retailer of writing instruments and accessories. Writing instruments is just another way of saying things that write, like pens and pencils. While I sell a wide variety of pens, including ball point and rollerballs, the emphasis, and expertise, is fountain pens. My website is located at

I started the Pear Tree Pen Company in January 2006 because I love fountain pens and wanted to share my knowledge and experience with others. (Sure, it's a bit geeky, but who doesn't have their geeky side?) While many pen stores try to sell you on how "luxurious" or "prestigious" it is to have a fine pen, I believe that approach is fundamentally flawed. In my book, pens are tools, plain and simple. And while it may be really nice to have a gold hammer, odds are it doesn't drive a nail any better than the one you can buy at your local hardware store.

To be sure, some hammers may do their job better than others, and so it is with fountain pens. But more "bling" doesn't necessarily make the ink flow any better or the writing experience any more enjoyable. What's important is getting the right pen for you and what you want to do with it. Do you need a pen to sign correspondence and want a big, bold and dramatic signature? Do you need a pen so you can take notes all day? Do you prefer large pens, small pens, or something in between?

At the Pear Tree Pen Company, I strive to create a place where you can feel free to ask questions and, hopefully, get a pen that fits you, your needs, and your lifestyle -- not some marketing company's idea of what's luxurious or prestigious. And, while some of the pens I sell are, indeed, beautiful (and undoubtedly expensive), they're more than fancy "pocket jewelry." They're genuinely good writers. If they also happen to look good and increase your stock among friends and colleagues, well, I guess that's OK, too.

On the other hand, some of the pens I sell may not have the cachet, or the price tag, of some of the more well-known "executive" pens, but neither will they let you down when you need your pen to perform most. Because sometimes, you just need a pen that writes, right?

In the days and months ahead, this blog will feature some of my musings on fountain pens, inks, and papers. There will also be a generous smattering of tidbits about people who use fountain pens and why, with a small helping of some tangentially related items, like the Pear Tree Pen Company's sponsorship of Ryan Levinson, a professional athlete who competes (and wins) in triathlons despite being challenged by a form of muscular dystrophy known as FSH (Facio-Scapular-Humeral) Muscular Dystrophy. To learn more about Ryan and to read his complete race reports, visit his website at

I'm looking forward to this, and I hope you'll come back and visit again.

Thanks for stopping by.

James Partridge