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Artisan writes tale of success with handmade pen business

Seyfried's pens range from $20 each up to about $200. He uses a Facebook page to market his wares under the business' name, Ed's Pens.

KING GEORGE, Va. (AP) — Albert Einstein was dedicated to his M150 Pelikan writing pen. It’s rumored that Queen Elizabeth has used the same Parker 51 since she was crowned in 1953. Samuel Clemens always used a Conklin Crescent, signing his books in longhand with his pen name, Mark Twain.

When was the last time you used a pen?

Such a tool may feel archaic to some and nostalgic to others, following a path like that of the wristwatch or cassette tape. In an era obsessed with the latest technological gadgets, who cares about writing by hand?

Ed Seyfried does. The King George artisan has found plenty of others who do, too — and are willing to pay handsomely for a good one.

“I always carry a pen with me,” Seyfried said. “People still have need of a pen, to sign something, jot down some notes. They see my pens and think, ‘That would be a great gift!'”

Seyfried makes custom pens by hand, using a range of different types of wood from all over the world, or acrylic, or even repurposing items like machine gun shells.

“One pen I’m working on right now is for an author with a new book coming out in October,” Seyfried said. “I’m making a pen specifically themed for this book, so he’ll be ready for his book signings.”

To personalize a pen, Seyfried may apply a custom engraving or initials, the colors or insignia from a favorite university, a family crest or flag.

“My own personal pen has my submarine insignia as a pen clip,” Seyfried said. He was a nuclear reactor operator in the U.S. Navy’s submarine service.

After that, he worked 26 years for Potomac Electric Power Co. and was an instructor at Knolls Atomic Power Laboratory, retiring in 2006. Seyfried — who has lived in King George since 1980 — has worked a variety of part-time jobs since then.

A few years ago he went to a woodworking show at the Fredericksburg Expo Center and saw an area set up for people to make their own wooden pens.

“I thought, I can do that,” Seyfriend said. “I bought a small tabletop lathe and learned how to do it, and the business has grown from there.”

Seyfried’s pens range from $20 each up to about $200. He uses a Facebook page to market his wares under the business’ name, Ed’s Pens.

“Some materials are harder to work with. For example, a customer ordered a pen recently made out of a water buffalo horn,” he said. “It just means I have to be more meticulous during the process, make sure my tools are sharp — I just have to know and be careful.”

Seyfried’s wife, Katy, can always tell when he has been challenged by his work. “When I walk back from the shop, she can tell just by the look on my face,” he said. “She’s my muse, she always helps me make the best of it.”

Some pens in Seyfried’s collection are the creative result of mistakes made in the workshop.

“One was going to be all ebony, but the top part of it broke,” Seyfried said. “I had some ivory sitting in the shop, so I used it and made a different kind of pen, my ebony and ivory pen.”

Robert Jarvis of Granite Quarry, N.C., has purchased eight or more pens from Seyfried.

“I like his work, it’s a good product,” Jarvis said. “I got a few for myself, some gifts for Christmas — they’ve all been really cool pens.”

A safety director for Universal Forest Products, Jarvis is also a firefighter and gun collector.

“I’m in a gun club and I got some of my friends gun-themed pens — a hunting rifle pen and a pistol pen, different styles and woods,” he said. “I also got one with a little saw blade on it like a saw mill with my initials on it.”

The first pen he ever bought from Seyfried was a firefighter pen. “He has a flair for the unique, and they all work great,” Jarvis said. “He’s a real good guy, honest, easy to work with. I love my country and love things that are American made, so it’s a great business all around.”

In addition to pens, Seyfried makes razor handles, key fobs, purse hangers, money clips, seam rippers and wine bottle stoppers. Themes range from every U.S. military branch to music, medicine, quilting, motorcycles and nearly anything else you can think of.

“I sell a wedding set with a matching cake knife and server and two champagne glasses,” Seyfried said.

He often has a booth set up at local farmers markets or events like Port Royal’s annual Pirate Invasion, selling pens that fit the occasion.

“I’ll go to a car show and sell pens that look like a shock absorber or gear shift,” he said. “I’m always open to new ideas, I try to accommodate everybody and think of new ways to express a personal preference.”

Seyfried said he enjoys everything about the business.

“It’s very rewarding to see this square piece of material turn into a pen when I’m done with it,” he said. “I love that each one of these is unique, made uniquely for an individual.”

He pointed out that even those who purchase a Montblanc pen, for example, as nice as it may be, own just one of many.

“It’s made by machine,” he said. “Every pen I make comes out of my mind with these two hands right here.”

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Information from: The Free Lance-Star, http://www.fredericksburg.com/

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