Penmaster

PHOTO/DENNIS MYERS

Marc Nicolet is a semi-retired accountant who needed a hobby to reduce his stress. It worked out well—his friends now talk about the fine, even gorgeous pens he designs, each one an original.

What got you into penmaking?

Well, I originally needed some way to handle stress related to some high-profile jobs I’ve had along the way. In order for me to be successful at turning, which is the broad category of woodworking that I do, I had to fully concentrate on my turning process in order to be successful, and that high degree of concentration kind of acted like meditation for me, and so all the baggage that was dragging me down from a stress standpoint would kind of dissipate, and it would allow me to handle things better.

You start out each project, I gather, with a basic pen, right?

I took a pen class from a local woodworking hobby chain store called Woodcraft, which opened up in Reno—oh, I don’t know, it was like a decade ago, and they subsequently went bankrupt about eight or nine years ago. … [I start with] a real basic pen. It was called a slimline, which is a category that most of the woodworking stores across the country today recognize. Real plain pen. … But that’s the real basic pens that almost everybody teaches for the first wood turning class.

Tell me some of the themes you’ve made pens around.

There’s some real basic materials. There’s wood, which is what I started with. And the other broad category is acrylic. It’s another word for the cast resin products.

What I was getting at was the topic, sort of. I saw one you did in steampunk.

Desert, urban, jungle, camouflage … penguins, peacock, snakeskin, circuit board, rainbows, natural wood grain. …

The steampunk pen I saw appeared to be brass or copper.

Both of those are in antique brass or antique copper. In fact, I have one in my pocket today that is in an antique brass, and the metal is sculpted in a dragon form. There’s some scale-looking stuff related to where the nib comes out. There’s a dragon body that’s shaped for the clip. The back end of the pen has a cap that shows a dragon’s claw holding it in place.

I envision a wall in your den covered with pens from floor to ceiling.

[Laughs.] My decorating consultant I’ve been married to for 45-plus years won’t let me do that. So, what I have is I have a couple of very nice looking display boxes where I have about 70 or 80 pens that are in three different drawers that I can open those up and pull out and show whatever kind of pen that I have in those drawers. I’ve probably mostly given away—I’ve sold a few—I probably have 500 to 800 pens that are out there in the community. And I have burdened my various family and friends [with] Christmas gifts, birthday gifts, whatever. I have also made some specifically for fundraisers for various non-profits and put them in a nice display box and sold them for a few hundred dollars, depending on whatever silent auction charities get for them.