Meeting Mr Twiss

27 April 2016 By ian

Meeting Mr Twiss

Julia and I recently had a few days away in a little village called Wellow, close to the famous Sherwood Forest. It’s a lovely part of the country. Lots of trees, obviously, but also big skies and old towns and cities full of history. What I hadn’t realised, because I had been getting my forests mixed up, was that it’s also home to John Twiss’s workshop. It was only a fortuitous email conversation with my United Inkdom colleague Scribble, a couple of days into the holiday, that led to the realisation that John worked not a 145 miles away in the Forest of Dean but 2 miles away, just around the corner, at the Sherwood Forest Art and Craft Centre.

Quite clearly this was too good an opportunity to miss so I quelled my nervousness, nay, terror, about meeting people and prepared Julia and my credit card for a visit.

John wondering who on earth this strange man is next to him

John wondering who on earth this strange man is next to him

Everyone in the pen world who talks about John Twiss always says the same two things about him: he is a lovely bloke and he makes beautiful pens. I very quickly found both these things to be true. Although I’ve interviewed him by email, reviewed and given away one pen and bought and reviewed another, nothing can compare to seeing the full range of his work in person. He makes quite stunning pens.

The small workshop is full of finished pens, half made pens, nibs, sticks of acrylic, wood and acrylic shavings, tools and machines. John himself is full of knowledge and enthusiasm.


There was no way I was going to escape without a substantial hit to my wallet. We discussed a bog oak pen and there will definitely be one in my future. (I’d been thinking about ordering one for some time but seeing one in person made up my mind for me.) I tried to offset an expensive purchase by buying a ruthenium nib for my Marmalade pen. It didn’t work though but what I actually bought was something totally unexpected. We were talking about pen shows: I’ve never been to one but intend to go to the London show in October. I’d planned to look for a Parker Vacumatic there but John happened to mention he had a few for sale. They are more stunning in real life than any picture can ever show and so, really, by only buying one I saved myself a fortune.

This pen is about 80 years old and I’m honoured to be its current custodian.

Parker Vacumatic

If you are ever near Sherwood Forest then popping in to see John Twiss is essential. If you’re not lucky enough to get there in person, I can’t recommend his work highly enough.