The Beach Reporter

Pen lovers unite

The 25th annual Los Angeles International Pen Show takes place in Manhattan Beach Feb. 17

Posted: Wednesday, February 6, 2013 | Michael Hixon


Pen aficionados from around the world will converge in Manhattan Beach for the 25th annual Los Angeles International Pen Show Feb. 14 to 17, to share their passion for a unique art form.

The event, which is open to the public Sunday, Feb. 17, is one of the world’s largest of its kind and features pens — vintage, modern and limited edition — that range from $10 to $300,000.

Hermosa Beach resident Rik Knablein, who headed NASA software programs for manned space flight at TRW in Redondo Beach, is a long-time pen collector who turned his passion into creating his own pen lines, including MetalWrite in 2011, and more recently, RiKwill. He will have one of the more than 200 booths at the pen show, which takes place at the Manhattan Beach Marriott from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“Pens to me are functional art, they are like jewelry to me,” Knablein said. “You use them because you like to write, but you also use them because they look nice. That’s why you wear watches and rings and necklaces … so to me it’s a combination of those two things.”

When he received his MBA while working at TRW, Knablein’s daughter gave him a Montblanc fountain pen, which rekindled his interest that first began when his mother gave him pens when he was in high school. Knablein was in the aerospace business from 1975, when he moved to Hermosa Beach, to 2009. He briefly worked part-time until he decided to dedicated more time to his pen endeavors and explore his creative side.

“In doing software design, there’s a lot of art in it,” Knablein said. “Yes, there’s a lot of rigger in the mathematics, but there’s still a lot of art in doing the design and I like to connect those two things. There’s a lot of rigger in the measurements and the stuff we do in making pens as well, but there’s the design aspect.”

Knablein’s RiKwill pens, which range from $1,000 to $4,000 retail, are limited edition hand-engraved sterling silver pens with color enamel overlays. He designed the patterns, colors and shapes. While he designs the pens here, they are made in England. For most pen makers, silver is the metal of choice, but Knablein hopes to expand.

“Gold has gotten ridiculously expensive … it just blows you out of the market,” he said. “We could use other metals, but we’ve been doing silver for a long time and we understand how to engrave it and how to use it so I decided to stick with silver.”

Knablein said the pen show is driven by collectors, but there is a variety of retailers, manufacturers and opportunities for pen repair onsite. The event also features giveaways, including the grand prize of a Delta/Italia Hippocratica fountain pen, valued at $495.

Pen shows occur every month in different states, according to Knablein, who sponsors the 18th annual Atlanta Pen Show in April. Last year he donated two pens that were auctioned off to benefit a local children’s charity. The auction raised $2,000.

“I’m really proud of that,” he said. “It’s one of the things that makes running a little business fun. You can work with people and help out other folks too.”

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