The Original Pen Addict - I've been writing and sharing my pen, pencil & paper obsession since 2007. Ask Me Anything!
My name is Brad Dowdy, and I am a pen addict.
Back in 2007, I started The Pen Addict blog to be a place where I could share my obsessions with pens in a healthier way, as compared to hoarding them and building a small cabin in the North Georgian hills from empty pen barrels and cartridges.
These days, I spend my days write about the good, the bad, and the ridiculous and make pen cases at Nock Co with my partner, Jeffrey Bruckwicki. By night, I am a UNIX admin at a datacenter. All of the other hours I am a husband and father. There is sleep in there somewhere, too. Maybe.
For this AMA you could ask me questions like:
Ask me anything and I'll try to answer!
NOTE from the community manager: This AMA session is scheduled to go live this Thursday, 17th September from 8am to 10am SGT! If you have any questions you can post them first and Brad will answer them once the AMA begins. Remember to subscribe to this thread by clicking the button below so you will get updates on answers! It's a community discussion so please be nice!
EDIT: This AMA has officially ended, big thanks for everyone's support and thoughtful questions! I feel there's much to learn from Brad today, will be taking time to digest everything :) If you have more questions you can still post them and it will get answered over time. Do watch out for more AMAs from Grouphunt in the future!
Hi Brad! Love your Nock cases! Got a few questions:
What is the fountain pen that started you on this fountain pen addiction?
How many pen do you keep inked up at any one time?
What do you think is the pen that everyone should have in their collection?
Thanks for the kind words Louisa!
The Lamy Safari. That was my first fountain pen purchase when I really had no idea what was going on. I still enjoy the Safari every time I ink it up.
Six is a good number for be. Just enough to fill my Brasstown, not enough to not use regularly. When I start getting into the 8 to 10 range I panic and start cleaning.
I like this question a lot! I'm going with the Lamy 2000. No other pen offers what the 2000 can as far as design, quality, craftsmanship, and value. It's an all-time great in my book.
Hi Brad, thank you for doing this. How do you split your time across your various ventures, and if you have any productivity tips for budding entrepreneurs?
That is one of my biggest challenges these days. As a husband and father, as long as I put my family first, everything else falls into place. I'm lucky in that I have a great support system so when it is time to focus on my side work I am able to put all my effort into getting those tasks done. I could use an 8 day week sometimes though!
From a productivity standpoint, the faster I can get the idea out of my head and into a capture device (paper or phone) the better off I am. I work great off a simple task list with check boxes for competition or movement. But if I don't get that 'to do' down in the first place I put myself in a bind.
Tell me about it... Great to hear your family is supportive, nothing beats that!
Any specific apps you use to capture your ideas digitally on the phone for creating the task lists?
Hello Brad. Thanks for inviting these questions. Here's mine. How does one smooth a cursive italic nib without turning it into a stub or a double broad?
I do this on my cursive italic nibs when the edges are too sharp. Get the finest micro mesh you can (I use 12000 grit), add a drop of water, and write vertical 8's and horizontal 8's very lightly. This takes the edge/sharpness off while retaining the crispness of the line. Just take it slow and easy with light pressure and test as you go. You will feel the difference quickly.
Hey Brad! Big thanks for taking the time - I'm sure the local enthusiast community is as excited as I am to have you here. You're no stranger to them - the Nock Co holsters have been extremely well received.
First, I'd like to ask how you go about the design process for each new Nock Co product. How do the ideas come about, and how do you turn them into reality?
I also notice quite a bit of new collaborations. If it's possible to share (and not top secret), what can we expect from Nock Co in the coming months? =)
Thanks for having me Joel - I'm glad everyone is digging their cases!
I'm lucky to work with a talented designer like Jeff Bruckwicki at Nock Co. He can take the ideas I have in my head, sketch them out, cut fabric, sew, stitch, and have a prototype up and running within a day. Because of that we are able to get a good idea of what we like or don't like about the design and tweak it or scrap it right then and there.
If we come up with a new design that sticks, we make several prototypes and send them to some or our regular customers to use and abuse for a while. We take feedback from them, finalize the cut pattern, order fabric, then pray that everyone else likes our new designs as much as we do!
We are launching a new case this fall called the Sinclair. Many people have seen the prototypes floating around, which were called the Halftower at the time. It is a top-loading zip case with three pen slots, and notebook slot, and room for a phone and other accessories. We are super excited for this one. As far as collaborations go, we definitely have some in the works but have to stay top secret. :) I'm fairly certain everyone will like what they see.
Wow being able to prototype a physical from paper to object in a day is really impressive!
What inspires most of your ideas? Is it a pain point you personally experience, feedback from customers, or maybe even nature or elsewhere? :)
Put Jeff and I in a room together for a day and magical things can happen!
Most of it is trying to solve a problem for myself, so the pain point for sure. I'm more of a use case guy, and Jeff is more of a design guy, so if I can relay to him what I want and why he can come up with a solution for it physically. And we get a lot of feedback from customers as well and tweak things as needed.
Hi Brad! Here are my questions:
Cheers, eternally grateful to have you here!
Thanks for having me John!
My Top 5 pens of all time is an ever-changing batch of goodness. Right now, in no particular order:
The main lessons I take away from being a Unix admin is that it is very important to have some no screen time. Even at work, I take time to hand write my notes instead of writing them in a text editor. It helps with memory retention, plus I get to use all the cool pens and inks I have.
The custom BoGear Bullpup backpack I bought a few months ago has completely changed my backpack carry. It is such a good piece of kit it allowed me to sell of other backpacks I was holding on to "just in case". When you find "the one" it is a great feeling and allows you to get rid of some of the other clutter in your life.
The founding of Nock is a great story. Jeff was making cycling bags at the time and had a friend who read my blog. They made me a pen case out of the materials that Jeff had handy, and I fell in love with it immediately. Once we realized we lived about an hour and a half from each other we met to discuss what we could work on together. In our second meeting, Jeff brought back several samples of things we discussed. One handshake later and Nock Co. was born!
My kids are definitely into pens and pencils, and they both have their own Pilot Kakuno that they use from time to time. They still prefer gels and pencils but do get a twinkle in their eye when they use their fountain pens.
As far as other hobbies go, I love baseball and music, and fill up my spare time watching, listening, and reading about those things.
Just googled the Bullpen backpack..oh my it looks really good!!! To be honest, I was in the market for a backpack every since my Timbuk2 one gave way after 8 years of use last year! I have a feeling this may be "the one" for me too, will check it out!
Yeah, founding stories are always the best :) Just curious - what does Nock mean/stand for?
Hey Brad, I was wondering what your favorite Montblanc ink was (besides JFK Navy Blue), and whether or not you recommend getting an architect grind put on a pen.
No JFK? :P
So the others I own are Midnight Blue, Toffee Brown, and Irish Green. Out of that batch I'll take Irish Green easily. I don't own it yet, but Cornpoppy Red looks very nice.
And on the architect grind - I can't say I would recommend it just yet. I've only had mine for about a week and I like it, but I think I like my cursive italics and stubs more. I'm willing to give it some time though.
If you wanted to contract with a pen manufacturer for a limited edition pen of say, 1000 units, what would you specify? (E.g., Conid Bulkfiller demonstrators with stub nibs with a space exploration motif or Kaweco Sport giveaways with a Fountain Pen Day theme - whatever would tickle your fancy)
So I'm building my own pen, right? I'm going straight to Nakaya and using the Portable model as a base with Kikyo blue urushi. I would have an underlying pattern of flame in green, orange, and yellow, or possibly a fish egg or amoeba pattern. No clip, with a rhodium plated fine cursive italic nib. I'm not sure Nakaya could swing 1000 of those - how about 20?
Hey Brad, I'm pretty new to calligraphy and the world of fountain pens - what are your recommendations on:
To start with I would go for one of Lamy's stub nibs - either the 1.1mm or 1.5mm - and in either the Safari barrel or the longer calligraphy barrel. And grab a Rhodia pad - any Rhodia pad that looks good to you. And then just practice by picking a style that looks good to you. Find a guide or video and write pages full of single letters until you have it down. This is a true practice makes perfect example.
Hey hey, Bobby here... I guess I'm late to the game but here goes nothing:
I'm still here for you Bobby!
Toughest decision in life so far - wow! There was a point when I was dating my now wife that she was moving away for school. I had to decide to stay or go with her. I chose to go with her and here we are still together nearly 20 years later. I picked wisely on that one.
The challenges with the podcast are keeping it fresh every week. I sweat that more than Myke does but I want to deliver a great product ever week. I think we have succeeded 172 times with that so far, but I still stress over it every week.
I'm taking the horse-sized duck. One, I'd be afraid of getting bitten to death by 100 duck-sized horses, so if I'm going down I'll take the one big beating. I think I could take the duck though.
Oh wow, that couldn't have been easy.... she must really love you for that! Great decision sir :)
lol @ the duck - yeah I think I would have done the same... bitten to death by 100 ducky horses sounds terrible, reminds me of scarabs in that mummy movie.. :)
Thanks for the answers! you have a smashing week ahead
I am glad you are doing the AMA. Two thumbs up for the Nock Co cases.
I was an assistant golf pro at a country club for four years, mainly teaching and running the golf operations. My favorite story from then: I met my future wife when I gave her a golf lesson!
My review workflow is pretty simple. Spend as much time as I can with the product (sometimes it's two days, sometimes two months depending on the schedule), and make notes/observations while I use it. Batch photograph products on the weekends. Write the articles last while referring to the notes I took during the testing period. Publish. Then correct all my spelling errors. I may have that last part backwards.
I'm also lucky in the fact I have great people writing for me as well.
The next big pen purchase is unknown at this point. I spent so much at the DC Pen Show on some amazing pens I don't have anything on the radar at the moment. The Montblanc M is tempting though.
My thoughts on Singapore are that I really need to visit Singapore! The sense of community there seems amazing, as well as the scenery and food. I would be in heaven.
I'm a sweet guy for sure. Ice cream is my vice. Give me vanilla bean with dark chocolate chips and granola and I'm set for life.