(This page revised February 17, 2018)
Over the next year, we plan to attend the shows listed below. (The yellow highlight marks the next upcoming show.) I will be regrinding nibs and diagnosing nib ailments for walk-up clients, and Barbara will keep track of whose pens I will be working on. Look for our banner (shown below, in the “Table Talk” FAQ section) on the wall over our table. We hope to see you there!
The rightmost column in the table below indicates whether the show organizers have confirmed their dates ( ✔ ) or not ( ❌ ).
Please read our “Table Talk” FAQ, on this page, to learn how we operate at a show.
If you have never been to a pen show and don’t know what to expect, read my articles on pen shows, starting with this one.
We don’t like to disappoint people. This page is here to help you to understand how we operate our table at pen shows. The questions here are the ones that we hear (or read) most often as new people approach the idea of having their pens’ nibs worked on at a show. We hope this FAQ will help you to plan better and make your show experience more enjoyable.
At first sight, some of the answers here might look pretty hard-nosed. We’re not trying to set up a dictatorship, or even to be “Soup Nazis.” The arrangements we describe here are what we’ve worked out through experience. For example, we keep a list because once, at a one-day show that lasted only five hours, people queued up at my table and waited for more than 31∕2 of those hours. That just didn’t seem right.
Remember, a pen show is not a life-or-death experience. It’s supposed to be fun!
Do you repair pens at shows?
Yes and no. I restrict myself to nib work (which sometimes includes minor repair to other parts such as the section) because that’s how I can best serve you. At many of the shows I attend, there is at least one person doing general repairs on site.
Do you take credit cards?
We are able to accept VISA, MasterCard, Discover, and American Express credit and charge cards, but not debit cards. We use Square for this service, and we never see your card number.
We are also happy to take cash or your personal check. Most show venues have at least one conveniently located ATM.
How can I make an appointment?
You can’t. We’ve learned that appointments don’t work because sometimes people are tied up at other tables and can’t get to my table at the appointed time. We can’t simply wait for them because that would cut down the number of people I’d have time for, and that would make both my clients and me unhappy.
So here’s how it works:
I can only come on Sunday. Won’t the list already be full by then?
For shows that span more than a single day, the list starts when the show opens each day and dies when the show organizers boot us out of the room. If I don’t get to you on Day 1 you will need to sign up again (earlier if possible) on Day 2. Or Day 3. We leave the list out on the table overnight (after the first day), so if we don’t get to the table immediately in the morning you can still sign up.
But everybody packs up early on Sunday. Doesn’t that mean you won’t get to very many people at all?
No, it doesn’t. We stay there, open for business, until the show officially closes or until it is clear that no one who has signed up on our list is still in the hall.
When I get to a show, how can I find out where your table is?First, ask the people at the registration desk or the door — they can usually tell you where any exhibitor’s table is. If they can’t help you find us, go into the show room and scan the walls until you see our banner. It looks like the image to the right. (Click on the image to see a zoomed version.)
Can you straighten a crinkled nib at a show?
Usually, yes. But that kind of work is often delicate and very finicky, and sometimes I will suggest that it would be better for your nib if you send it to a professional nib technician who can do the work in his or her shop.
I have a pen I want you to customize, but I don’t know what kind of nib is right for me. What do we do now?
When you come to our table, sign up on the list first! Then look around, and you’ll find a rack of Pelikan M200s in a variety of colors. These are demonstrators, and they’re there for you to play with, to see what nib style might suit you. When your turn comes, I’ll probably ask you to write for me so I can see if I agree with whatever ideas you’ve developed. I won’t start grinding until we agree on what kind of nib I’m going to make for you.
I have a lot of pens, is that OK?
As noted above, I want to work with as many people as I can. To this end, we have to limit each person’s visit to a single pen. If you have more than one pen you want done, you can sign up again after I finish your first pen, and if there is time, I’ll see you later.
Please note that I expect to spend 15–20 minutes on each pen. I won’t have time to triage a handful of pens for you or to help you decide which one you want me to work on. If you’re in this type of situation, and if you think Barbara and our demonstrator rack won’t be able to help you decide, it might be a good idea to send email to me before the show.
Does anyone get turned away because you ran out of time?
Based on past experience, we think I’ll have time to work with about two dozen people on a normal show day, doing one pen for each person. It usually takes 15–20 minutes per person, but the length of time varies from one pen to another, so we cannot be sure exactly how long you will have to wait. Any estimate we give you is only that. You might get in sooner than we say, or it might take much longer to get to you.
Unfortunately, sometimes it does happen that I don’t get to everyone on the list. What I’m offering is one-on-one time and skilled work, not merchandise. Each pen takes a finite amount of time, and although I want to work with as many people as possible, I’m not willing to sacrifice my best work in a mad quest to squeeze more people in.
Should I bring my pen empty for you to work on, or should it be inked up?
If you want the nib merely tuned, leaving it filled is great because I fill every pen anyway for tuning. If you want it reground, then I prefer that it be empty because grinding a filled pen’s nib throws ink off in a circle, creating a racing stripe on everything around the grinding wheel — including my magnifying visor.
I have to use crappy paper at work. Can you adjust my pen for that?
If your pens need to work with a particular kind of paper, please bring some of that paper with you. Toilet paper, however, is beyond my pay grade.
Can I drop my pens off for you to work on while I visit other tables?
Experience has shown that this doesn’t work very well. I really want to work with you there so that together we can make sure that what I’m doing is exactly right for you.
Okay, so what is there for me to do at your table while you work on my nib?
You’re welcome to watch, and of course I’ll want you to test the results to be sure I’m doing what you want. Beyond that, there’s the scintillating, fascinating and far-ranging repartee — like this entirely imaginary session that our friend Ian K. has kindly illustrated for us. I also have a nice little four-piece puzzle for you to solve — if you can.
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