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Design Stores

Wonder Pens

Posted by Sarah Ratchford / Posted on July 16, 2013

wonder pens torontoWonder Pens has found a way to bring back the written word. The little shop sells a huge assortment of fountain pens, ink, and stylin' little notebooks. Owner Liz Chan used to teach middle school students in Regent Park before she opened Wonder Pens with her husband, Jon.

wonder pens toronto"You know what they say about school teachers," she says, half-joking. "We love school supplies." As I sit down at the counter to chat with her, Louis Armstrong croons in the background, and Chan shows me what the deal with these special pens. I'm curious to know who is actually in the market for fancy pens in the age of the text message.

wonder pens torontoAs it turns out, I'd been thinking with blinders on. Chan reminds me that lots of artists and editors live in the neighbourhood, and they've been popping in to get supplies. The shop carries dotted paper and graph paper as well as lined and plain, which makes it a great option for architects and engineers, too.

There are also little reporters' notebooks like the Webnotebook by Rhodia, which is similar to a Moleskine, only with thicker paper. Alongside neighbourhood folk, Chan says some people from the suburbs have made the trek downtown just to visit her specialty shop.

wonder pens torontoAnd specialty it is. Chan says she noticed a gap when it came to spots to pick up a good pen, and she would order supplies from eBay or stores in the states. A store, she decided, had to be born.

Pads and pens are set up around the store so customers can test out the pens (or just doodle), and I get the chance to do that as we chat. I'm no pen aficionado, but I can tell she's got some especially worthy ones in here.

My favourite is a pen by Kaweco, and it's a German design ($23). Another really nice option is one by Twsbi, and that's from Taiwan ($50). Most of the designs they sell are from Germany or different Asian countries, Chan says, because fountain pens are still widely used in those areas, and they're better for drawing characters, too.

If you're looking for a less-expensive option, there are lots of those available too, both in store and on their site.

wonder pens torontoAlongside pens and many colours of ink (I spot yellow, green, purple, red, and other colours as well as blue and black), there are the aforementioned many-styled notebooks, little leather pen cases, crazy cool retro staplers and a rainbow of gel pens and unique pencils. School supply nerds, artists and geeks of other ilks: you need to stop in here. Wonder Pens is a little haven just for you.

Photos Javin Lau



Meredith Halpern / July 16, 2013 at 11:08 am
The art of writing is one that is certainly getting lost. And like most things in fashion, there are cycles. As a reaction against the world of digital information and communication, what could be more romantic and personal than a hand-written letter. I commend Liz Chan on an innovative concept at a time that is ripe for the return of proper penmanship. And if one is going to write a letter, it should be with a wonderful pen.
Jamie / July 16, 2013 at 12:06 pm
This shop looks fantastic, and after browsing their online store I'll definitely be stopping by.
markosaar / July 16, 2013 at 12:24 pm
Nice. Sounds far more affordable than the shops downtown.

Unfortunately now owning a few fountain pens ... I really have no need for anymore. Also the ink bottles last forever.

I wish I'd been aware of them while I was in school. I always had horrible sloppy handwriting, partially due to my left-handedness. Once I tried a fountain-pen, my handwriting improved dramatically. The difference is that they don't require any pressure to write. It's hard to write left-handed shoving a ballpoint pen into the page, rather than dragging it as a right-hander would.

I've tried around eight different inks, and only one of them ever smeared, while using a pretty thick nib. I think most dry quickly enough for a left-hander to use just fine. It'll depend on the ink itself, the weight of the line, and the type of paper.
markosaar / July 16, 2013 at 12:28 pm
Sidenote, from looking at their site, if you're writing a LOT, a piston-filler like the Twsbi is a great option. It holds significantly more ink than the ones using converters.

Part of the fun too is using non-standard ink colours. Hell, even a blue-black is different than what's normal these days, but nice for formal documents.
Karen S / July 16, 2013 at 07:59 pm
Stopped in last Friday, and Wonder Pens is a great little store! They have really good pens, including a couple Indian and Chinese brands that I've heard of but hadn't had a chance to try yet. They have quite a few that are $20 or less, for those new to fountain pens and a great selection of ink and fountain-pen-friendly notebooks & paper. Will definitely be stopping in next time I'm in town.

Kranberry / July 16, 2013 at 11:05 pm
This store is just what I've been looking for! It's true what the article says about gaps in finding a good pen. A couple of years ago I was searching for a pen that worked well but wouldn't leave me bankrupt. I ended up with a $100 pen that wrote beautifully, and I used it on a daily basis for a while. But then I started to use it less and less, worried that I would wear it out and then the $100 would have gone to waste. I switched back to ballpoint pens until I found a $10 fountain pen by Zebra. It's decent, but it lacks quality. I'm definitely going to check this store out - the selection and prices on the website look great!
Bob Tarses / July 16, 2013 at 11:26 pm
Can hipsters even write?
markosaar replying to a comment from Kranberry / July 17, 2013 at 05:25 pm
You shouldn't worry about the $100 wearing out. It would take years of regular writing, something we don't really do in this modern age, to get to that. And even then, there are people online you could send the pen to, to have the nib re-ground for a modest price.
Maggie replying to a comment from markosaar / July 19, 2013 at 11:27 am
A word of caution with using old ink: after a year, you may want to filter it before putting in in your fountain pen because particulate that builds up in the ink can clog your pen. Darker inks, violet in particular, are especially bad for this. It's good to treat yourself to fresh ink when possible.

markosaar replying to a comment from Maggie / July 19, 2013 at 04:42 pm
I've heard that happens with certain colours. Red too apparently.
Dharsh / July 26, 2013 at 04:59 pm
I really like this store. When I went in, I didn't know the first thing about fountain pens and the options available (nib size, disposable ink cartridges, refillable ink cartridges), but the store owners were really helpful and helped me find a starter set that I'm very happy with.
Linden / February 10, 2014 at 05:24 pm
I love this shop. My go-to for pens, ink, and paper. Their ink selection alone is dizzying! *must refrain from buying more*...

Liz and Jon are super friendly and really helpful. Their inventory is evolving even more this year which is great to see. They also update a blog tied to their website which is useful for reviews, troubleshooting, and DIY on some of their product lines (not to mention they also hold contests for really nice pens and papers every now and then!).

They also offer workshops for different styles of writing (and you can register for those online, although space is limited to about 7 participants for each workshop. So act quick!). I'll be participating in their Pointed Pen workshop this coming Saturday morning. Looking forward to it. *Thumbs up*
WriMo Writer / October 21, 2014 at 11:47 pm
With NaNoWriMo beginning in just over a week, I will definitely be popping by!
pearl dacks / December 19, 2014 at 05:31 pm
Thrilled to have read this article about this wonderful sounding store. I have been using fountain pens for years and apart from Laywine's in Yorkville, there are precious few places to source out different inks, pens etc. that are available to purchase. I can't wait to pay "WONDERPENS" a visit, thanks again for this article.
Twsbi user / December 24, 2014 at 12:55 am
Amazing service. The other day I picked up a new TWSBI Vac 700 and a bottle of Noodler's Apache Sunset. Prices were on par with common pen websites, and I was allowed to try an inked version of the pen before making the purchase. Great job guys!

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