[alert type=”info”]The 9th subject of our series on craftsmanship is about fountain pens which have been around for centuries—since the 10th century, to be exact—and while they’re not as widely used today as they had been before, they are still prized as collector’s items. This is especially true for handcrafted pens. Artisans blend functionality with their own unique style to create exceptional writing instruments—artisans like Patrick Sikes.[/alert]
A Family Trade
Patrick Sikes is not the first artisan in his family. That distinction belongs to his grandfather, whom Patrick cites was a profound influence. Patrick’s grandfather was a furniture maker and obsessive woodworker who once built a desk too big to leave his workshop, and who once destroyed his wife’s cooking pots by boiling wood to make water skis. It was from his grandfather that Patrick learned the importance of patience and ingenuity.
Patrick’s father was no less of an artisan than his grandfather. Also a furniture maker, Patrick’s father spent hours upon hours in the wood shop perfecting his trade, and young Patrick learned to feel quite at home in the busy environs. Patrick’s father also taught him not to back down from any challenges. “Even if you might not like it,” he told Patrick, “you have to try.”
And try he did. Today, Patrick runs his own shop and is an accomplished woodworker and fountain pen maker. His work is prized by many fountain pen enthusiasts and recognized by industry associations.
A Good Turn
Patrick uses a technique called “wood turning” to help craft his pens. In wood turning, the raw material is placed on a lathe, which rotates the wood as the artisan cuts into it. Patrick sometimes uses this to carve delicate designs into the casings of his fountain pens. Despite only starting to wood turn in 2008, he has already shown a great degree of skill—most likely transferred from his long experience working with his father and grandfather in the woodworking trade.
And it’s not just the technique that makes Patrick’s work so exceptional. As an experienced wood worker, he is familiar with the best kinds of wood to use for certain applications, and how to bring out the best in them. He’s used redwood, maple, bacote, and more. He also combines them with cut stone, polyester resin, and precious metals to create luxurious, one-of-a-kind writing instruments.
Although Patrick’s prime focus is on fountain pens, he also produces rollerball pens and ballpoint pens with the same degree of quality. His designs run from artistic whorls and wave patterns to intricate puzzle pieces and steampunk-themed designs. Patrick is as much an artist as he is an artisan, and the pen is his canvas.
A Thriving Business
Although Patrick’s store, The Norsk Woodshop, does have a physical location in St. Petersburg, Florida, it also has an online location where he does a brisk trade selling his fountain pen designs.
Patrick is always busy, and not just crafting pens. He has been invited to several tradeshow and craftsmanship events, and has done even done an interview (which has been posted on his website). He releases new pen designs on a regular basis, and is constantly looking for ways to improve his trade.
If Patrick Sikes keeps up this kind of momentum, then his success is written in ink.