Olive Octopus handwritten text with sketch of octopus

Pen Meetup Toolkit

I've assembled a handy kit of tools and accessories into a small pouch that I can easily throw into the bag for pen meetups. Items get swapped out or added as I refine what I like to have at hand. Overall, I'm pretty happy with the state of the kit right now, except for one loose end I'm still sorting out. I also like to have a dedicated small notebook ready for testing inks, pens, or taking notes.

The Pouch

A collage showing different views of an empty light gray-brown zipper pouch with a bright green interior.

This pouch is a unique design, a wedge shape with a zipper that goes across the top and down one side. There are half-height slip pockets along one side. The other side has a short, "floating" zippered pouch attached only in the front and back of the case, effectively creating another wide slip pouch behind it, and above that there is a small band to hold a couple of pens (or pen-shaped things). The earthy gray-brown exterior fabric and bright green interior look really sharp.

The bright green inside of a pouch filled with a variety of items.

This pouch can keep a lot of things organized and easy to find, without feeling overstuffed. There's still room to add incidental items as needed.

Bag Dump!

Here is everything currently in the pouch. There is a second photo with some of the items opened or expanded for a better view.

A 10x loupe, empty sample vials, sample vial with ink, sample vial with metal dip nibs, silicone grease, roll of narrow washi tape, stack of colorful, rectangle stickers, round ink vial labels, brass shims, pen-style scissors, black ultra fine point Sharpie, plastic nib holder, glass nib pen, blunt tip syringe, blank ink swatch cards, micro-mesh and mylar sheets.

  • Ink Sample Vials
    It's good to have a few empty sample vials to share or receive ink samples. Lately I've also been carrying samples of the Dominant Industry UV inks since it's fun to show others those particular inks! A sample vial also works as storage for dip pen nibs.
  • Silicone Grease
    This can be used to seal an eyedroppered pen, or reduce the friction in the cap of my Mad Science pen.
  • Washi Tape
    This particular roll of washi tape is inspired by a favorite book and the container of silicone grease happens to fit perfectly in the center for satisfyingly-compact storage. You never know when a little bit of washi will come in handy!
  • Sample Vial Labels
    These labels from The Dormouse's Desk are excellent for labeling ink sample vials, because you can swatch or write with fountain pen ink on them! I usually include some of the round top cap labels, and sometimes the larger side labels too.
  • Sharpie Ultra Fine Point, Black
    Sharpies are useful for water-resistant writing on almost any surface.
  • Dip Pen Nib Holder
    While I have nicer-looking and more comfortable nib holders, this simple holder from a Speedball nibs kit is light and easy to pack.
  • Blunt-tip Ink Syringe
    These types of syringes are great for transferring a sample of ink to a vial or inking a pen, though one must be discreet about using them out in public to avoid too many questions!
  • Brass Shims
    These thin shims can clear paper fibers or excess shimmer particles between the tines of a nib. If the shim can't easily pass through, it might indicate that some nib tuning might improve ink flow. I've cut sheets into small pieces that I can share with whoever might need one.
  • Micro-Mesh and Mylar paper
    These materials are like extremely-fine sandpaper used to smooth a nib. They must be used with care (and their use will generally void warranties), so I'm unlikely to actually use them at a meetup, but they don't take much space and it can be useful to have them around for discussion.

A colorful spread of green, blue, and purple rectangle stickers, a handful of ink swatch cards, compact pen-style scissors with a cap, a glass dip nib, a 10x loupe with light switch, three metal dip nibs.

  • Label Stickers
    Yes, I got this colorful spread of stickers because it looks like a book of paint or Pantone swatches. But also the translucent stickers work well for labeling vials or writing a small sticky note—though I do need to use a permanent marker or ballpoint to write on them.
  • Swatch Cards
    I always like to have a few swatch cards at hand, one never knows when you might encounter a new ink! Currently this includes some Col-o-ring and Col-o-dex cards, and a mix of Wearingeul leaf swatch cards.
  • Pen-size Scissors
    Since these scissors fold up with a cap for safe transport at about the same size as the Sharpie, it's easy to keep a pair at hand.
  • Teranishi Aurora Glass Nib Pen
    I really love the design of this portable glass nib pen. It's capped to protect the glass nib, which securely screw-posts to a comfortable length. The nib writes well, and is easy to rinse clean with a small amount of water.
  • Compact 10x Loupe with Light
    This tool can magnify the nib of a pen or shine light on a sheening ink. As a surprise bonus there is also a UV light that will work to charge the Dominant Industry UV-reactive inks!
  • Dip Pen Nibs
    These dip pen nibs, tucked into an empty sample vial, are available for people to try out or used to test inks. Currently I have the steel Kakimori metal nib, the Kakimori pen nib, and a metal flex nib in the kit.

The Loose End: Which Swatching Tool?

I enjoy testing various swatching tools, I much prefer a tool made of a non-porous material like metal, glass, or silicone over a cotton swab. The ideal tool will be small enough to fit into sample vials or the smallest Ferris Wheel Press or ColorVerse bottles, grab enough ink to do a decent swatch without a lot of re-dipping, and rinse clean quickly. A glass stir stick or the handle of a glass dip nib pen can work really well, but I don't want something that fragile in this kit.

My favorite swatching tool remains this small metal spoon from a random wax-carving kit sitting around in my toolbox. But I only have one, so while I may add it to the bag to take along, it's not going to live there. Also, without some kind of sleeve or cover the knurled grip and pointed end of this tool could scratch other things in the bag.

A metal tool with a small spoon shape at one end, a silicone makeup applicator with a plastic handle, and a green silicon tool with a thin spoon end and a mini spatula end.

Also pictured here are a couple of silicone tools I've tried. One is a silicone-tip makeup applicator. This works ok, but the short tip doesn't grab a lot of ink, and it's a bit wider than the metal spoon and won't fit into the smallest bottles. It's also not a single piece, which can make cleaning more difficult. The other silicone tool has a thin, elongated spoon on one end and a small spatula shape on the other end. It can pick up a good amount of ink and is easy to clean, but it's also a bit bigger than the metal spoon and the tips are surprisingly soft and flexible which makes them more difficult to precisely control. While neither of these tools fit the role perfectly, I'll use them in the kit as needed until something better comes along.

Meetup Notebook

This particular A6 Profolio Oasis notebook featuring Brown from Line Friends was included as a freebie in an order, and I'm really glad it was because who knows when I would have run across this paper otherwise. While I don't have any particular affinity to the Line Friends, I've really come to appreciate the paper and layout of these notebooks. The A6 size doesn't take up too much space in a bag or on the table, and there's a date box in the upper corner so I remember to note when I used each page. It also has a lie-flat binding, a small detail that makes this notebook very comfortable to use.

A collage of a A6 notebook with currently inked lists and pen testing examples.

The paper does have a cream tone that will affect the color of inks used, but the paper holds up well even with generous amounts of ink, including swatches. It works well for trying out pens and inks from others at the meetup, and taking notes about recommendations and such.

Back to Posts