John Culmer has been repairing and restoring fountain pens for over thirty years, having acquired the skill from his father Charlie. John’s skill is such that his services are recommended by Parker and Waterman. Today, although the Peel Pen Shop (London) retail store location has now closed, John still repairs and sells antique pens from his home – happily servicing customers throughout North America and around the world. Here he talks exclusively to Inked Happiness. Excerpts:
Inked Happiness: Sixty plus years. Two Generation. Two Countries. What has been the one thing that has sustained the Peel Pen Shop in this world of flux?
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: Passion
Inked Happiness: How has the world of fountain pen evolved? Surely, very few have seen it happen before their eyes the way you have? What has been the lessons that you have learnt on the way?
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: A better quality selection of fountain pens is available in the $50.00 to $100.00 price range. A better selection steel nibs, is available. The steel nibs have improved in smoothness and ink flow and you can get many different nib sizes. xf, f, m, b italic and flexible.
Many small manufactures are making their own pens now in different materials: acrylics & ebonites are my favourites
Inked Happiness: Going forward, do you see fountain pens making a comeback as the chosen instrument of writing? Perhaps not the way it was the preferred instrument in the past, but perhaps as the sustainable alternative, a hobby item, or even as an accessory, like the wrist watch?
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: There will be a slight decline in use, but they will continue to stay strong as a collectable, antique item. There will always be an appreciation of beautiful precious metals and design in the higher end.
Inked Happiness: What according to you, needs to be done to encourage more youngsters to pick up the pen and write with their hands, to make the fountain pen acceptable to the digitally overwhelmed?
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: Teach them about art appreciation and creative writing. A fountain pen in the way the ink hits the paper helps with slowing down the thought process and gives you more time to think as your writing. Many different kinds of ink and paper add to the creative process.
Inked Happiness: How is the market for vintage and antique pens with all their accessories been over the years? Do you see an accretion in the rank of fountain pen hobbyists and collectors? Has the pandemic and the period of forced quarantine made a significant difference?
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: I have seen a big increase in sales and service due to more internet buying, both local and international.
Inked Happiness: Is there a gradual decay in the pool of technicians capable of mending the classic pens of yore? Are we doing enough to pass the knowledge of fountain pen repairs and restoration to the next generation? Why aren’t we even creating a common pool of essential parts necessary for bringing back to life forgotten masterpieces?
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: There are many videos on repairs. I have got some of my parts, on my website but I would welcome a common pool of essential parts.
Inked Happiness: How collectable are vintage and antique fountain pens made in India? What do you feel about the pens that are currently made in India? Any advice to the industry from a veteran?
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: I must admit, my knowledge of pens from India is very limited. I must learn more about it.
Inked Happiness: Anything that you would like to communicate to our readers.
John Culmer, Peel Pen Shop: My love of Calligraphy and restoring fountain pens comes from a passion developed at a very young age from my parents
For More information: https://peelpenshop.com/
Cover Photograph: Charles Culmer & son John California 1954 delivered pen repairs in “Old Betsy” car Sheaffer & Waterman