There was just something about fountain pens that interested Bryan Field. He began collecting them as a kid, and as he got older, he started buying old ones and fixing them up, restoring them to their natural condition. Then about a decade ago, Field had an idea.
“I realized instead of fixing them, I could be making them,” Field said.
It started off simple, with basic designs. He used kits that included the metal tip – or nib for a fountain pen – and an ink refill cartridge. And while he still uses kits for some of his handcrafted pens, Field’s style has evolved over time and he has taken over doing more to make it as close to being made entirely by him as possible. He even does some of the threading for the pens that require a screw cap.
“I find it fascinating because the possibilities are infinite really. It’s really fun,” Field said.
He first bought a metal lathe and then a wood one and soon one room of his Peterborough home was filled with all the tools necessary to make his unique writing instruments. One particular saw can make cuts up to 1/1,000th of an inch.
“When something’s big, you have room to be off by a bit, but the size of a pen, you have to be so precise,” Field said.
It’s a process that takes time, as there are many steps necessary to make one of his pens, which he does from beginning to end before starting his next design. There’s the gluing stage of the design, where he makes a long block, usually consisting of a variety of materials. He uses many different kinds of wood from all over the world, from spotted maple to African blackwood to purple heart and many others. He’s been known to use old credit cards to create a distinct line, as well as recycled soda cans and bottle caps for desired effects.
“It gets more and more complex,” Field said. “And you can really make it as challenging as you want to.”
There’s more glue added after the pen body has been crafted and lots of sanding on the lathe.
Field also uses resin and Corian, as well as aluminum and other metals for the actual pen bodies, so no pen every looks quite like another. He even does hand etching and anodizing, the process of converting a metal surface into a decorative, durable, corrosion-resistant, anodic oxide finish.
“That’s the thing I enjoy about it. You can combine all kinds of materials,” Field said. “And you’re not just making a pen, but something beautiful to look at.”
The pens range from $17 for some of his calligraphy pens to upwards of $150, and after selling quite a few on the lower end during the recent Monadnock Art Tour, Field is busy building up his inventory for his first entry into broke: The Affordable Arts Fair, holiday edition, which will take place at the Peterborough Town House on Nov. 30.
On Sunday at 1 p.m., Field will host a workshop at MAxT Makerspace in Peterborough. He will discuss his technique, as well as the history, materials, and process of pen making. He will also bring one of his lathes for a demonstration. Cost is $5 for MAxT members and $10 for everyone else.
While his interest in making them started with fountain pens, Field said not many people use that style anymore. So he makes ball points, roller balls and mechanical pencils.
“I just like making them, so I don’t care if I have a commission or not,” Field said. “I’m not as much into selling them as I am into making them.”
For more, visit Field’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/BryanFieldPens.