On the third floor of an old building on Rua da Quitanda, no. 47, in downtown Rio de Janeiro is a fascinating small shop called Perito dos Cachimbos (The Pipe Expert). The shop, originally specialized in fountain pen repairs, was bought by Agostinho Pires and his uncle in 1954. Sixty-two years later, the shop is very much like it was back then: very pretty, well organized, well lit, clean and friendly. Agostinho was a very respected, very well liked figure in the pen community in Brazil.
Today the shop is tended by Edson Dias, the pen wizard who has been there for decades, since 1968, and Agostinho’s son Marcelo Pires. They go on with the tradition of excellent service and great customer care. Marcelo is the pipe expert, and Edson is the pen wizard. Check Edson out in the picture above, sitting at the desk that has been his for decades.
Marcelo, the son of the late founder Agostinho, worked in the shop in the eighties, and came back to look after the shop in 2014. He repairs pipes, tends to customers and follows in his father’s footsteps
But Edson does more than repair pens. He also builds colorful Lamy Safaris from parts he has in stock, and the shop sells them for a very attractive price (ca. US$ 20.00). And he can customize a pen to order: the nib may be F, M or B (although he’s running out of B nibs). The cap may be aluminum or resin. And the body and section may be many different colors.Below is a sample of the goodies he builds and sells.
The price will soon go up slightly, but they try to keep it in the US$ 20.00 range. By offering these pens for sale, they provide a great opportunity for people entering the fountain pen world to buy an awesome, nearly perfect pen, at an affordable price. The availability of three nib sizes (B, M and F, although they are running out of B nibs) allows aficionados to try out various nib sizes at a relatively low cost. If the buyer catches Edson at a less stressful moment, he may even customize a piece according to the buyer’s preferences. Otherwise, the buyer may rely upon Edson’s good taste and settle for one of his already assembled creations.
Of course, the shop offers many other pens, both new and vintage, from pens costing less than ten dollars (for the basic Compactor Pluma fountain pen, a little pen made in Brazil that is a surprisingly good writer, from new old stock) to hundreds of dollars for rare and highly valuable models. They also carry a very pretty line of leather cases for one or two pens made by hand exclusively for their shop. As with their other items, prices are attractive. Prices are good, customer care is first class. And they have several inks and other pen related articles – and, of course, a great collection of pipes and lighters.
I have four Lamy customs I bought from them.
The top one, clad in yellow and white, I call my Vatican pen (yellow and white are the colors of the Vatican flag). The second one I call my chalk one, and I specially like the matte body and the light green aluminum cap. The third one is a yellow Safari, with a nice touch: the teal (I cannot tell if it is green or blue) painted logo. The fourth one is my charcoal/aluminum pen. All four pens belong in my everyday carry.
Although my personal preference for general writing is for fine nibs (particularly Japanese fine nibs, which are very fine indeed), I use nibs ranging in size from EF to B on the Safaris. The Lamy F (fine) nib is almost a medium by my standards, so an EF nib (extrafine) was in order. As they had no EF nibs here, I got one on a trip to Mexico, at Miguel Angel pen shop, a gorgeous pen shop in the historical downtown section of Mexico city.
I like these pens a lot. I can carry them anywhere, they are excellent, flawless writers, they are not so expensive as to make me worry about carrying them around in my bag, they have all the nib sizes and ink colors I want to have on me, and they have that excellent three-sided sculpted grip that coaxes one’s hand in position for writing with the nib’s sweet spot in the best possible position.
Although the pens are sold without converters, converters can be obtained for a few more dollars, or one can use cartridges (and, on a pinch, refill the cartridges with liquid ink from a bottle, using a hypodermic syringe for that, preferably a 2 ml one with a blunt needle).
Lamy Safaris are consistently considered to be very good writers and without quirks. However, the sculpted grip may not be everyone’s preference, and certainly may be somewhat uncomfortable for left-handed people.
I use good, sound, solid inks in those pens – Parker blue, Cross black, Montblanc oyster grey and a vintage Montblanc bordeaux (now replaced by the less exciting Montblanc burgundy).
Those pens are true workhorses. I can write with any of them for hours on end without getting tired, and never ever have I had a problem with any Lamy Safari – no leakage, no stoppage, no false starts, and very smooth writing. I use the B nib for print, the other sizes for cursive. When uncertain about the paper quality, to avoid feathering I use the F or EF nibs, since the M and B nibs may cause some ink to scatter and the lines to become a little spidery. I usually prefer to write on Silhueta 5 mm grid paper notebooks from Casa Cruz, but for the B nib a larger grid – 8 mm or 10 mm – comes in handy. The Silhueta notebooks cost about one US-dollar and are fountain pen friendly, while other notebooks may not be (particularly those made of lighter stock – 56 g/m2 offset paper tend to show feathering and bleed through). However, the notebooks are stapled only, and are a rather odd size, larger than most such notebooks. I own a stack of those notebooks, for I keep worrying that the manufacturer will drop the line entirely or change the paper. Other notebook lines from Casa Cruz in very odd sizes and formats use the same paper (the Raphael drafting stapled pad line, for example). Mostly, those books are only available for sale in the physical stores.
Summing up, anyone with a taste for Lamy Safaris can get one that no one else has, and that for an attractive price, from Perito dos Cachimbos – certainly worth a visit on your next trip to downtown Rio. If not the custom Safaris, one is bound to find something to buy there – vintage pens in mint condition such as Parker 51s and classic Sheaffers and Watermans, but also new pens from Parker, Lamy, Caran d’Ache, Cross and other brands, and, of course, inks, refills and accessories. Or, at least, good conversation and a peek into the very engaging hobbies of pens or pipes.
Write always, and do so with gusto!