There are custom pen makers all over the world who have taken the basic tenants of turning a fountain pen (something that has been done for centuries,) and added their own stories, philosophies, and history to them. Many of them are lovingly focused on this singular item. They are in big cities and tiny towns, sometimes using the places and the natural elements around them to distinguish the style of their pens. Many of these artisans have created their own materials and pushed the boundaries of machinery to offer new perspectives of what a pen can be. The commonality is that the writing instrument has been an inspiration to all of them. They are the maker and original keepers of these objects. When presented to the new keeper of the pen, the object takes on a whole new meaning. The next story begins and starts to create a secondary history that will outlast both them and the person who created it.
For someone who truly loves pens, there may be nothing more meaningful than getting to have your writing instrument customized to your every whim and will. How it looks, how it feels in your hand, and the symbolism that it might hold for you.
At Galen Leather, fountain pens are more than a hobby; they're an obsession. So much so, we've started our own range of what we consider to be some of the best fountain pens available en masse.
For The Love of Custom Made Pens
On the heels of this obsession, I wanted to share some of the makers that can make having a bespoke fountain pen a reality for you. We have also, in some cases, included smaller artisan makers who produce limited edition pens rather than customized pens because we felt that their contribution should be acknowledged and celebrated. It should also be noted that many of the custom pen makers may have long waiting lists or not be accepting custom orders at this time. So, it may be a good time to mention that patience is a virtue and also how exciting it can be to receive a custom fountain pen after waiting more than a year for it.
Custom Pen Makers From Around The World
It should also be noted that while nearly thirty pen makers and artisans are listed here, it is by no means an exhaustive list, so if you know of a maker that is not included, please put the information for contacting them in the comments and readers will be able to seek them out.
I hope you find someone’s work that speaks to you and that this article is the first step in acquiring your next heirloom.
Herewith (in mostly alphabetical order,) are the artists making some of the most unique and beautiful writing instruments around the globe.
Yoshi Nakama has been an artist all of his adult life. Having settled in NYC from Japan in the late 1970’s he became a fabricator for a prominent artist.
That artist just happened to be a fountain pen lover, something that he shared with Mr. Nakama. In 2012, he bought a lathe and produced some wood pen kits. My how far his designs have come from that time. Now made start to finish, by hand (save for the Jowo nibs,) 18111 pens are cast Alumilite resin adorned with maki-e techniques that have been translated to modern tools and materials. Roll stoppers are 3D printed in wax and cast in gold plated brass. Each blank is hand cast, turned and threaded by hand. The result is the natural world expressed in explosions of color and gilded in gold.
They look like science experiments, the kind that cause oohs and ahhs.
Completely 3D printed barrels are fitted with caps and grip sections that have been machined from solid rods of clear cast acrylic. They can only be eyedroppered, but this is where the magic begins. Not only do these pens hold a tremendous amount of ink, the ink becomes the star of the show as it swirls through a double helix or ribbon design. For those hesitant because stained acrylic gives them pause, Additive Pens has developed a proprietary ink resistant coating to minimize it. So, ink these away and remember that the reason you have an Additive Pen is to write with it. That is, if you can stop staring at the extraordinary barrel long enough to.
Eric Sand’s Atelier Lusso starts with a car. A Ferrari to be exact. One that his father took him to see: the 1964 Ferrari Lusso Coupe. To Eric, this car was a marvel of great design and engineering working together. In honor of that memorable automobile, the company name Atelier Lusso, which translates to “the luxury home studio” was chosen. With pens tailored to the clients’ exacting requirements and made from vintage and modern resins and celluloids, Atelier Lusso signature hammered trims add distinction to these elegant pens where the old world and the modern meet.
This self-proclaimed “tiny American pen and ink manufacturer” was started by brothers Nick and Josh in 2008. Fast forward to 2018 when the company was officially launched with their first house-machined fountain pen. Based outside of Pittsburgh, this is a true family affair with Dad and Mom, now also part of the process of bringing pens and proprietary inks from Pennsylvania to you. Named for the town of Birmingham in the UK, which was once a hub for thousands of craftspeople specializing in pen and nib manufacturing, Birmingham Pens produces colorful, sleek, and affordable pens to celebrate this history and bring the name into the future. Each pen is accompanied with a certificate of authenticity that is letterpress with the unique index # of your pen and its date of completion. Just one small touch of this burgeoning operation, tiny or not.
David Broadwell has been an artist all of his life. His studio began translating some of the techniques and materials he used for knives to writing instruments in 2001. Made in Texas, these pens are truly fine works of art. One need only look at his Guernica pen celebrating Picasso’s 1937 mural and masterpiece to know that. Made mostly from ebonite, wood, metals, celluloid and often carved or engraved, Broadwell’s pens are so celebrated that he has been asked and has made kit pen kits for other companies over the years. In his studio, though, the pens are all David Broadwell, start to finish and when you can’t find him making his art, you may just want to check the open road, he may just be taking a ride on his Harley Davidson.
Brute Force Designs started with an old lathe that had to be stripped down to its bare bones and years of study that led to the manufacturing of their first pen. Made from wood, copper, brass, aluminum and other metals and materials, they may be seemingly simple, but what they really are is sleek and understated, with ebonite and urushi making appearances now and then and a distinct sophistication that is ever present.
Nestled on a farm in Aiken, South Carolina, Jonathon Brooks has been making tangible art for his clients, since 2009. Living out his company’s motto: “Putting your personality in writing”, Jonathon tailors each pen to its owner, creating an extension of their personality in domestic and exotic woods, ebonite, rare vintage plastics and artistic embeds. And while his pens are quite well-known, his custom resin materials are also a big claim to his fame. Used by makers all over the world, his blanks have a signature that resembles beautiful marbled Italian papers, bursting with colors that nature seems to have put together, but are actually the result of his artistry. And if this wasn’t enough, he is known to be one of the kindest guys on the pen show circuit and also one of the first tables to visit as most of his pen show stock is here one minute and gone the next.
The first time I listened to Tom Gaunlt speak on Instagram, I thought he had a great voice for radio and forgot to look at the lathe he was explaining and the resulting work coming off it. Once I was able to focus, I immediately DM’d him for a beautiful lavender pen that is still a favorite in my collection. Based on the Chesapeake Bay, Tom has been creating things for 50 years, starting in his Grandfather’s workshop. A professional pilot by trade and a boat restorer by passion, Tom’s pens truly reflect the place from which they come. Made from local materials, acrylic made to mirror the rainbow of colors found in sea glass and roll stops that evoke the flora and fauna of the Chesapeake, these are pens that are a tactile reminder of the fleeting nature of time and place. A real treasure that evokes the land and sea for all who have them in their hands and pen collections.
Troy Breeding is the first to remind visitors to his site that “not all pen makers live in the big city. Some even live way out in the country.” The country in this case, being Lebanon, Missouri where Breeding is creating some of the most sophisticated hand-engraved barrels on the market. Using ebonite, mixed metals, and Italian acrylic, he engraves some the most intensely intricate engravings, one can hardly believe that a Renaissance artist didn’t do the work.
A musician by trade and a pen maker by necessity to have the perfect flex pen for his own use, Pierre Miller is for me, a great pen maker and a great intellect about pen making. I could wax poetic for days about his pens, which are outstanding to look at and for daily use, but rather (because you can click the link above and see for yourself,) I am instead going to use this article as a PSA. You need to sign up for this one-man show’s email, read his About page, and FAQ’s stat. Not only do they offer a lot of useful information about pens, they are a window into Pierre’s mind which is as deep as it is entertaining, as witty as it is biting (in a good way,) and I would just hate for anyone with a love of pens or a love of language to miss out on a single word. Trust me. And then buy one of his made in Chicago, small-batched, hand-machined pens.
Brian Gray started Edison in his garage with one manual metal lathe in 2007. Now a husband and wife team, with the onboarding of his other half Andrea, Edison is known both for their production line sold to retail accounts and their signature line, reserved for their direct to consumer pen clients. You will find no cart and no button to press “buy” on the site, a purposeful omission to encourage that custom orders be a conversation. You can peruse the site for previous collaborations and iterations of Edison pen models and then begin to work with the team (that places client service at the forefront,) to create the perfect pen for your hand. With so many materials to choose from and collaborative work with an urushi master, your options are seemingly endless, a task that the team at Edison are more than happy to help you tackle.
What can I say? To put it out there so there is complete transparency, I own over 50 Franklin Christoph pens. At times this feels like the blessing that it is and other times it feels like a “what the heck have I done” moment. Every time I think maybe I have gone too far and should pare down the collection I just can’t let go of any of them. They are just all that special. A ceramics company for 91 years, the current iteration of this generational family company, begins in 2001 with the IPO of their first fountain pen. Many years, accolades and awards later, Franklin Christoph is probably best known for two things (aside from the quality of their pens): the Stock Room on their site which presents their newest limited edition offerings (an offshoot of their famous prototype tables at pen shows,) and their unparalleled client service, which is legendary for being as efficient as it is personable. While they do not traditionally offer custom pens, F-C does offer a free custom pen of a clients’ choice for their 50th pen, and again for their 100th. Having passed one of these milestones, I can only hope to have enough willpower to not get to the next one.
If there is something aesthetically engaging and dramatic right from the start when you click on this site, it may be because the husband and wife proprietors are a chef and an opera singer respectively. With luxury materials such as diamonds, sterling silver, mother of pearl, and vintage Omas blanks, this Belgian based company is making truly luxurious writing instruments. Make sure to take a look at the rest of their team known as the “cuddle department,” as it’s clear that adorable cats have added to the joy of this duo’s pen enterprise.
Gregory Hardy’s designs rise out of a love of writing and writing instruments. For him, making pens in the age of disposable things is a contribution that helps his clients make memories that they can attach to the pen they used and allow him to experience the joy he feels from working with fine tools and engaging in the creative process. Utilizing a host of materials, including blanks by Jonathan Brooks, Diamondcast and Jon Lesher, Hardy’s pens let the materials shine in every custom piece he produces.
Chet Herbert operates his namesake company out of Richmond, Virginia, and focuses nearly exclusively on custom pens. With models inspired by local places and people, his custom pens are made using acrylic, alumilite, lucite, ebonite, vintage celluloids and blanks that can be mixed in-house. A collaborative process between Chet and his clients, he can recreate vintage models and craft modern ones. Nothing is off limits until the client has the pen specifically designed and executed solely for them. The only exception to his one of a kind offerings are commissioned limited edition pens which have included collaborations with Papier Plume in New Orleans and a pen made for the enthusiastic members of the DC Metro Pen Club. While his waiting list is often quite long, have patience grasshopper, it is well worth the wait.
A self-taught woodworker, Jim Hinze has been making pens for over fifteen years. And while Hinze makes beautiful pens which I hope you will click to see, I especially want to make note that Hinze has spent many years sharing the knowledge he’s gained, insuring the next generation of pen makers are equipped to keep the hobby and profession going long after he retires his own lathe. Traveling to shows and imparting his wisdom is more valuable than the most beautiful pen and a testimony to Jim Hinze’s love for the craft, his work and of people.
Husband and wife team, Hugh and Karol Scher’s pens express Hawaii as an earthbound paradise, both the physical nature of the place and as a state of mind. Kanilea translates to “joyful sound” and evokes ideas of recharging the spirit and connecting with the elements of nature, something the Scher’s have done over the many years that they have traveled to these magical islands. Everything about their pens reflects their love of this place: the stunningly accurate and beautiful materials they use to bring parts of Hawaii to life, the environmentally conscious packaging they come in and the Hawaiian based groups that they donate some of their proceeds to. All of this goodness should not detract from what is the heart of the company though: really fine and beloved by many, pens.
One of my favorite finds while penning this article (and I really do pen them before I type them,) is Kilk Fine Writing Instruments in Istanbul.
It is hard to put their story together without wondering about the cloud of mystery that surrounds it. I’m hesitant to chalk it up to a lost in translation moment because I like what I’ve gauged from my reading, which is that at some point an artist in a collective decided to make pens for its members. Meaning “writing instrument” in Old Turkish, the company believes that writers should have a pen that is private and exclusively made, just for them; that the pen carrier’s persona and the persona of the pen should be one and the same. Made with gorgeous resins, ebonite, stones and details of sterling silver, these pens are exactly what their makers intended them to be: jewels.
Are you looking for a pen that looks like it could have been made in space or on another planet? Jake Lazzari’s pens may be just the writing instrument for you. They look quite literally out of this world, absolutely beautifully rendered pens made by this designer with a background in mechanics. With a lifelong interest in architecture, science fiction design and industrial mechanics, Lazzari’s pens also reflect his interest in fine Italian cycle components. With a grant from the Arts Council of Wales this Welsh design company is making a unique contribution to the pen market and to design.
These pens look like they were made by a jeweler’s hands with good reason: they were!
Having made wedding rings since 2009 and other handcrafted items since 2004, Monty Winnfield turned his trade towards pens, as well. All made to order in Colorado, customized nibs and pens are made using titanium, ebonite, exotic woods, brass, acrylic and alumilite. Some people want rings for their wedding, and some want pens. I’m with the camp that says life at its finest is about and instead of or and prefer to have both. Monty Winnfield seems to cater to just that!
Founded in Georgia in 2019, Mythic Pen Company has already made the scene on IG where I spied some of their handiwork and had to immediately go to their site to see more. Handmade to order, with custom pens encouraged, Mythic is the brainchild of an avid pen collector who wants to make beautiful pens that its owners will not be able to wait to use again and again. The company has also secured community partners to help make their goods even more special: a leather goods company for notebook covers, a jeweler for gemstones that can be used in the design of their pens and Gena Salarino of Custom Nib Studio to customize their nibs. Pretty, pretty, good for only a year’s work!
Ready to shed a little tear over pens? If you’re not, take a moment and then read this story about Shawn Newton who started his Hot Springs, Arkansas pen company to help kids in need.
A former educator, Shawn had been giving pens to his students for years when he came up with the idea to make great pens to give to them, rather than store-bought ones. His first goal in 2011 was to make good quality pens for deserving students. His next goal was more ambitious: to help them go to college through scholarships. Fast forward to the end of 2019, with nearly $60,000 given to students to pursuit their secondary educations. These pens with a cause are beautiful to look at and use but the good that they do, is even more special.
It is possible that Pjoter’s Rein van Der Mast was the first person to 3D print a fountain pen nib. Having done so in 2013, his sculpture like fountain pens not only disrupt how fountain pens are made, but also how they look. They reflect Van der Mast’s education in industrial design and engineering. They have integrated mechanics and modern details that make them unlike any other pens in the marketplace.
Founded in 2008, Ryan Krusac Studios encourages its clients to “write something beautiful with something beautiful” and he delivers on his part of this and then some. One of the most gifted makers in terms of custom engraving and hand-painting, Krusac’s limited editions and one of a kind pens are extraordinary works of art. Working with exotic wood, precious metals, antlers and what must be a tiny paintbrush, Krusac’s education in casting and ceramics and his many years as a designer for a major carpet company, is all on display when you encounter his pens. While he says that nature is not replicable, meaning that each piece of wood and antler he uses will be different, it could be argued that Ryan Krusac does an incredible job of replicating nature; bringing out the best of his materials as nature intended them.
Philly based Ian Schon is revolutionizing the pocket pen. Begun as a Kickstarter in 2012, he was originally looking to create a design object that he could add to his everyday life. Ian used his engineering background to draft and manufacture a compact aluminum alloy pen that could easily be carried in his pocket but could be full-sized when posted. Eight years later, Schon has become a fixture on the pen and makers circuit for his EDC pens and his affable nature. And while his initial intent may have been to create a pen that would allow you to “buy once and use forever,” he has many loyal users for whom one (or six!) just isn’t enough. Manufactured start to finish in-house using aluminum, steel, brass, copper, often anodized in a rainbow of colors, Schon is making, ballpoint, rollerball and last year launched the Pocket 6 fountain pen (named for the size 6 nib the pen takes). The pens’ materials are meant to patina over time, giving them personality and making them an heirloom that can last a lifetime.
A scriptorium is the name given to the writing rooms of medieval monasteries where important religious documents were copied, and monks made their own pens and ink. Scriptorium Pens in Jackson, Mississippi, seems to be the perfect name for retired English teacher Renee Meeks fountain and dip pen company. Equally fitting is the fact that her fountain pens are as colorful as the illuminated manuscripts their name alludes to. With no two pens alike, Renee utilizes blanks by the most prestigious makers and engages solely in custom work. Maybe, just maybe, these beautifully made pens will result in the forming of the modern scriptorium.
Jon Lesher’s Tailored Pen Company in Louisville, Kentucky customizes pens start to finish utilizing vintage Lucite, ebonite, Juma, Diamondcast, modern Italian acrylics and his own custom blanks to make his celebrated pens. A tradesman and entrepreneur, this master turner can make your dream pen on his metal or wood lathe. Many other makers in the pen world count on Jon for his custom blanks for their own pieces. Should you collaborate with Tailored Pen Company, you can work with him directly on the material. A truly unique one of a kind pen to call your own.
If you are looking for an heirloom piece, artisan Jason Olson may just be the pen maker to turn it for you. Using mainly reclaimed and repurposed materials, Olson is open to trying any material that holds sentimental value for you. Think wood from your childhood home, a branch from a tree in a site meaningful to you, or at his own suggestion, even the handle from your Grandmother’s umbrella. Jason’s pens allow you to wax nostalgia and wax poetic at the same time!
Brian Weavers pens are known for distinctive, masterful carving and hand cast roll stops. Made in Aiken, South Carolina, his pens are made of alumilite, sterling silver and other precious metals, but he manipulates these materials to the boundaries of their potential, creating trompe l’oeil where carvings might evoke leather, flora and fauna. Completely hand carved and hand turned, you may find yourself asking are they writing instruments or are they fine art? The answer is definitively both.
Many people don’t notice they have an overabundance of books until they have trouble finding the ones they want to read. Don’t trash them. Your surplus of books could be someone else's treasure and a perfect fit for someone else’s bookshelf, or they could even be recycled to create books and other products later on. Here are some reasons you should donate books or recycle them as well as some tips on doing it.