August 2012: Cigar Box Pen Chests: the End’s Drawing Near

Extra Fine Points Index  ]


BY DON FLUCKINGER • For the last six years, I’ve made cigar box pen chests. After gentle nudges from Richard and collectors who wanted what I was making for myself to store their own treasured pens, I started making them for Richardspens.com.

Many of you have validated my craftsmanship and techniques for repurposing cigar boxes into pen chests with your glowing emails and handwritten letters expressing the pleasure experienced with the simple act of putting your prized writing instruments in them. Extra Fine Points

After thousands of chests sent out into the world and so many great emails and so many great letters from the collectors who wanted to thank me — and use the occasion to hand-write me notes with their coolest pen, favorite ink, and just-right paper — I’ve decided to give up making them.

Many factors went into the decision: Want of more time to spend with the kids, lack of time because work and work travel subtracts it from our household are two that intertwine.

Don and Rocky Patel
Don met Rocky Patel face to face. How cool is that??

Another is the economy: While sales of cigar box pen chests have never really slacked off, it’s getting harder and harder for me to source the right boxes I think make the best chests. I think that cigar smoking might be waning as a pastime for many gentlemen, especially when gas prices and health care costs make expensive “sticks” more and more of a luxury item.

But for those pen collectors who still want the chests, I’m giving you an early heads-up. I have enough supplies — and boxes — to keep making them through November or December, depending on how ambitious I am in the production.

Grab them while they’re available because the end is coming. There will be some of the typical excellent single-level chests as well as some double- and triple-decker surprises each month in the final months, as I work through the goodies that are left.

After that, it’s over. Mostly. It’s possible that I’ll do occasional batches once or twice a year moving forward — but I can’t commit to that at this time.

It’s been a great ride, and I thank the fountain pen hobby for supporting my efforts. I’d like to thank Gary Lehrer, who supplied me with the trays, and even put in special orders at the factory when I ordered big piles of them.

There’s also Castro’s Back Room and 2 Guys Smoke Shop, who never did quite understand what the heck I was doing with all those boxes — I tried to explain it, and even showed them the “for sale” page — but bent over backward to make sure I got what I needed to keep you collectors happy...and even introduced me to the Rocky Patel (pictured above), whose boxes sell like hotcakes when repurposed into pen chests.

And of course Richard and Barbara, who hosted all those boxes on their site and did the admin on all the sales and cashflow and faithfully included them in the Nib Noise email ever month. Richard, of course, was very active in advising me about all cigar box pen chest matters from pricing to photographing and photo setup; Barbara encouraged me to keep cranking them out and helped me figure out which ones to put up for grabs based on her experience dealing with the ebb and flow of selling pens on the site.

Of course, my wonderful wife Kate cannot be left out. She’s a Photoshop expert who’s actually written books on the topic, and her work on my amateur pictures made them “pop” on the site.

Then there’s the collectors. Many of you have validated my craftsmanship and techniques for repurposing cigar boxes into pen chests with your glowing emails and handwritten letters expressing the pleasure experienced with the simple act of putting your prized writing instruments in them. You kept me going at times I didn’t necessarily feel motivated to making more, or drive through the snow to get more boxes, or shoot this month’s pictures, or pack up 10 Priority Mail boxes in a night. You’ve been the engine keeping this thing going. Your feedback is what I will miss the most.

Thank you, all!


cover Further Reading: The Complete Idiot's Guide to Cigars, Second Edition,by Tad Gage
 
For all you gents (and ladies) who have questions about cigars but were afraid to ask.

Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the Biddersedge.com collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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