It was a dark and stormy night. Not really. But it was dark out. It was 0200 actually. I was up an hour before the alarm went off. I couldn't sleep. Today was like Christmas and I was like a 5 year old too excited to sleep. I made some french press coffee and prepped my bags. I double checked camera supplies. Then I triple checked. Then I drank more coffee. It's going to be a long day.
We rolled out in the stealth fighter at 0400. The Volkswagen Golf TDI is a road trip monster. It gobbles up road, silently, mercilessly, screaming thru the darkness with only the faint bass line of Deadmau5 punctuating it's passing. We met the rest of the Ann Arbor Pen Posse at a coffee shop at 0700. I ordered triple espresso drowned in white chocolate and a filthy dirt muffin with extra seeds and what I think was a pine cone. It sounded better on the menu. There were some of our group who could not make the trip so some seats opened up in Keith's spaceship. We piled in with the rest of the group and talked pens until we arrived at the majestic and storied halls of the Edison Pen Company. It stood gleaming in the morning sunlight blinding me as I gazed upon it. Probably because it was covered in fresh white snow and I had forgotten my sunglasses back in Ann Arbor.
Mr. Brian Gray greeted us inside the workshop. He was wearing a 10 cent beer night at Cleveland Stadium shirt and cargo pants. If MacGuyver and Willy Wonka had a love child his name would be Brian Gray. The workshop was half evil genius and half master craftsman. Almost every table, tray, bookshelf, tool station, was custom made by hand. I come from an engineering background so I tend to notice these things. If you sat down and drew out a blueprint of the layout of the shop everything would make sense on paper. But then looking at the actual build out of the shop was a visual treat. Overkilled rafter shelves with way too many bolts, custom tables and workstations, a polishing station that used a family heirloom dental drill, there was even a set of polishing stations that had variable RPM foot controlled motors mounted to heavy gauge steel hinges so that the tension on the belt drives to the mandrel could be adjusted. It was all very cool.
Brian was super nice and took the time to explain the various machinery in the shop and each piece's function. By this time the espresso was wearing off and the pine cone was kicking in so it was all kind of lost on me but fascinating none the less. Keith had arranged to have a pen made while we were there. After inspecting and handling the wide array of rainbow acrylics, he promptly changed his mind from his original choice to an amazingly complex blue agate. He also decided to go with a grey section and a ruthenium nib. Customization is one of the benefits of going with a bespoke pen. Brian can do just about anything you can think up. He has available some overlays, urushi, double ends, I've seen some pretty cool pens out there.
Brian took the time to fully explain each operation for each part of the pen. The section, the body, the cap, the nib, feed, filling system. He even shared some industry secrets with us on vacumatic assembly (the secret is sex lube, seriously. shhh don't tell anybody.) After creating each part from raw materials he painstakingly made sure each piece was perfect. When he found something he didn't like he made adjustments by hand where necessary until the pen was perfect. It was clear just how much care goes into each custom signature line pen. Keith also was happy with the final result:
Brian was a very gracious host and was clearly passionate about his pens. Sadly we had to leave at some point, but it was a visit I will remember forever. I am already thinking of ideas for my next custom Edison pen.............
There is a fully gallery here:
Visit Edison Pen Company here: