Tim's Thoughts

The Case for Pen Cases

“Please treat this pen to a case to protect its finish” are words I often use to end a pen’s listing, and since I’m often asked for a recommendation of a case, this Thought is a good opportunity to make the case for cases. 

Using a case is a healthy practice to protect both your pens and your clothes. The only place a pen of mine will be found without its case is my desk, because I consider everywhere else to be a fall risk. In addition, all fountain pens, but particularly vintage pens, are at risk for the catastrophic leak from significant, rapid changes in humidity, barometric pressure, and/or temperature. Note that the first two of these are direct results of weather changes or air travel, but the third can also easily occur from carrying a pen in one’s pocket. Yes, the failure of a latex sac in a vintage pen, which happens at some point to most old pens, will be a sure cause of a leak; it’s not just WWI era eyedropper pens that leak. Good cases are readily available from pen sellers in stores and online; buying from a pen seller is strongly recommended because these cases are generally designed for real pens, which is not true for many of those sold by accessory dealers.

What must a case accomplish? It must have enough strength and rigidity to protect the pens inside from a drop or a reasonable weight landing on it and to protect the pen owner from a leaking pen. It must provide separation between pens so they don’t scratch each other, and the pen slots must be sufficiently smooth and soft to not scratch the pens. Many cases look great but do not fulfill these criteria, which can lead to serious pen damage.  

As for my own cases, to the extent that my choices might help yours, I generally prefer to use fewer pen accessories all the time. All of my cases are either from Franklin-Christoph or Girologio. F-C is a fine pen and leather accessories company. Girologio is a maker of fine pen cases and other accessories for pens. Both companies’ principals, Scott Franklin and Mario Campa, respectively, are active in pendom and understand pen owners’ needs. 

These are my cases:

  • My everyday case is a F-C Glasses and Pen zipper case in suede-lined pebbled black napa leather. Its softness is complemented by a removable hard slotted card inside. The case is large enough for three large pens (or glasses, not both), with enough slack for a stash of my small Timsvintagepens business cards, a few sheets from a small pad folded over, and a stainless steel 10cm ruler that gets surprisingly frequent use. F-C sells it for $35 at this writing; mine was liberated from a Big Apple Pen Club member at a meeting some years back and somehow never returned. 
  • To carry just two pens in addition to my daily, I use a F-C 2-pen hard leather case ($30 at FC). It’s more protective of its contents than the pen/glasses case but does not have any extra space.  
  • For transporting multiple pens to pen club or a meeting with a customer, I have one 6-pen and two 12-pen Girologio cases. They are made with soft leather, lined in velvet, and the pens are separated by strong elastic bands. The 6-pen cases are in the $20-$30 range; the 12-pen is $30-$40. Both are very inexpensive for the quality and look great.
  • If you can find one, I also have two hard plastic 3-pen cases from the 1990s, made and branded by Lamy, the German pen manufacturer. They have a split lid, so can open just at the cap level to remove or insert a pen, or open completely. The bottom half has extra cushioning. The plastic is very hard, so these are great for the everyday bag if your bag habits are not gentle enough for a soft case. 

In summary, a pen case is an important adjunct for all fountain pen users. Your pens deserve protection from sudden impact, and you deserve a bit of protection from their occasional leaks. Good cases exist for your individual needs, for the right price. I am absolutely certain my beloved 1970 Mont Blanc 149 would not have a sizable chip missing from its cap today if I had read this Thought in 1994 before dropping the pen while crossing Ninth Avenue in Manhattan. 

Hope this helps !