September 2018 update on my fountain pen database

September 2018 update on my fountain pen database

It’s been a while since I put on the nerd-hat on and talked about my pen database and I expect there are tens of you just waiting to hear what mad method I use now to select my next pen, nib and ink for rotation.

I should go back to square one to set the scene for what is to come.

One of the things that sets me apart from the average fountain user is that I use a database to select my next pen, nib and ink (PNI) combination to come into rotation.

I am a Mac user at home so the relational database application I use is FileMaker Pro, of which I am still using version 16 (version 17 is available but due to cost and lack of enhancements that appeal to me I am holding out till version 18).

I am quite the archivist so I have backups of all my fountain pen database versions dating back to early 2011. Sometimes I open an older version just to look what variant of logic I was using then to choose my next PNI.

My current selection method is thus:

For the longest time the pen was the starting point for my algorithm but these days I rotate through three selection methods, pen as starting point, nib as starting point and lastly ink as starting point.

What defines the pen, nib or ink to use? The algorithm for this is as straightforward (i.e the least number of variables) as it has been in years.

For each pen, nib and ink I calculate a historic days between times in use value for a maximum of the last six times in use. I also use a current days since last used value (DSLU) to give a maximum of seven values.

I then calculate the average and median of each of these sets of values and derive a final single value as the highest of either current DSLU, the average or the median.

The above image is the top section of my pen calculation table. D0 is current DSLU, D1-D6 are the historic days between uses, AvD is the average of D0-D6, MnD is the median of D0-D6 and AD is the single final figure. Way is the selection method that was the highest. As you can see the current days since last used score dominates the score for the top six pens.

Nibs tend to be more variable with what value dominates. The top two are based on median, as is the fourth, with third and fifth being based on average. It is not until the sixth item, current DSLU is the value.

The reason for this is that until recently there was a mismatch between the number of pens that would use these nibs and the number of nibs available to be used and so the historic times between use are across the board higher than standard for the M250 model of nib. It especially affects the median calculation and I expect to have rapid repeat use of some of these nibs till the lower values start to take effect.

Inks are exclusively dominated by DSLU (D0). Because of this dominance I added a factor to the ink selection to try to counter this. I gave each ink a number between 1 and 7 to represent the days of the week (DOW) with 1 being Sunday and 7 being Saturday. When I select an ink for rotation I only select from the pool of inks that have a DOW number that matches the day of selection.

You may notice that the ink table is currently dominated by Noodler’s ink and/or vibrant ink colours (reds, oranges, pinks and, violets) this is because I have recently decided not to count historical uses of inks in pens that were not Pelikan. This decision have basically nullified quite a lot of uses of my most “dangerous” inks.

The concentration of these inks at the top of my ink list will exacerbate the repeat use of my M250 nibs as many of these are used in M200 series pens which are the only ones I will allow to use with the more “dangerous” inks.

Currently I calculate (you don’t need to see the details) the next seven pen, nib and ink combinations to enter rotation and display them in a one to a page layout.

I select the first entry as the next combination to use but I like to see what is coming up. Not all will eventuate as listed as items do reorder as time passes.

I think that is enough for now.

Current rotation methodology

As a matter of interest my current rotation methodology is seven pens each in rotation for 14 days.

Reasons for this methodology:

  1. My favourite pen case, the Franklin-Christoph Pen Roll Seven in Napa leather holds seven pens.

  2. It means I change a pen out every two days which allows me a one night on and one night off from composing a blog post.

  3. 14 days in use allows ten working days so that each of my pens gets an even chance of being used at the office where by far the largest amount of fountain pen use occurs.

  4. Seven pens is a good in use compromise for me, enough to allow a range of nib widths and ink colours but not too many that I feel choice paralysis.

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell White, M250 14K Extra Fine Flexible, inked with Diamine Denim

Pelikan M400 Tortoiseshell White, M250 14K Extra Fine Flexible, inked with Diamine Denim

Pelikan M320 Pearl Special Edition, M300 14K Medium, inked with Rohrer & Klingner Morinda

Pelikan M320 Pearl Special Edition, M300 14K Medium, inked with Rohrer & Klingner Morinda