Too many pens?


Ever wondered if there is a ‘right’ number of pens to own ?  Is it all down to personal taste, or are there some mathematical rules that determine the correct number?

If your enthusiasm for pens, and fountain pens in particular, is anything like mine your relationship with them is simple. Right?  Something like –

See pen;

Like pen;


(* – unless it’s really expensive and then you might have to do some saving up first)

Turns out that it might not be so simple and there might be such a thing as ‘too many pens’.

Now for some maths…

The principle is quite easy really: the correct number of pens you should own (x) is one more than the number you currently own (n)

In other words:

x = n + 1

For reasons that should be obvious, the smallest number of fountain pens you should own is 3.  If you don’t currently own 3 or more fountain pens, I suggest you take a break from reading this and do some shopping until you do…

…Welcome back!

n ≥ 3

So far, so straightforward.  However, it turns out that there is a maximum number of fountain pens that you should not exceed (y).

Mathematically speaking:

y = s – 1

Now things start to get tricky when the value of x tends to y.  This is potentially dangerous because s is defined as the number of fountain pens that would result in separation from your spouse or partner (or something equally calamitous).  Only you can know the value of s for your particular circumstances, but clearly exceeding s-1 is something to avoid at all costs.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you!


  1. Much as I’d like to claim this idea as being all mine, inspiration for this post came from Rule #12 of the Velominati.  If you have an interest in the sport of cycling, you will most likely already be familiar with the  Velominati.  If not, among the many excellent things they do in the world of cycling, the Velominati serve as custodians and arbiters of the Rules.

    Some Rules could apply to the world of pens, but I think it’s fair to say that many of them do not.  After all, do you need guidance on the length and colour of your socks (Rules #27 and #28) or what kind of coffee you should drink (Rule #56)?  (If you do, are you reading the right blog?)

    Rule #12 describes the mathematics of bike ownership and I thought it applied just as well to fountain pen ownership, without much need for translation.  The one thing I take as encouragement is that pens are a lot smaller and less obvious than bikes…

  2. I don’t know what my value of s is, but I hope I’m still some way off.  When I thought about the photo at the top of this post, I calculated the number of pens I would need to spell ‘PENS’ as being 21.  Fine I thought, I’ll start with fountain pens and make up the numbers with whatever else is at hand.

    Scarily, as you can see in the photo, only one pen isn’t a fountain pen.  Eek!

  3. If you’re curious, the pens in the photo are as follows: Baoer 79, Conklin All American, Conklin Duragraph, Eversharp Skyline, Kaweco Sport, Kaweco Liliput (x2), Lamy 2000, Lamy Safari (x4), Mentmore Supreme, MontBlanc 24, Noodler’s Ahab, Parker 51, Pilot Kakuno, Platinum Preppy, Schneider iD, TWSBI Vac700.  The joker in the pack is an OHTO Fineliner.



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