Welcome to HeartMade, the podcast where you can listen in on insightful conversations with founders, CEOs and creative directors on how they build unique brands that combine excellence with personality. Or as I like to say: craft and glory. My name is Siems Luckwaldt, I am a German-based writer and 20-year veteran of luxury and lifestyle reporting for publications such as “how to spend it”, the Financial Times Deutschland, Robb Report, Capital, Business Punk and many others.
If you like what you hear please subscribe in your favourite podcast app, give me a five-star rating and tell your friends and colleagues about this show. Thank you! You can also drop me a line anytime on the website craftandglory.com to let me know which interview guest I should invite for future episodes. But now to today’s guest, brand and story.
The pen is mightier than the sword, or so the saying goes. And from the moment when I got my first Fisher Space Pen, the bullet version, as a gift in my early teenage years, I instinctively understood what that phrase meant. This pen for a long time became one of my most prized possessions. It was made from lightweight brushed chrome and by turning the cap it would double in size and reveal its ballpoint – which of course was the main attraction as it would still write even if you held it upside down. A magical object like something out of a science-fiction movie, that I don’t own anymore and do sometimes miss dearly!
„Finally, the Fisher Space Pen achieved lift-off with the Apollo 7 mission (1968) and many more after that. Even though the USSR put in an order of 100 pens for its Sojus spaceships, the Chinese space program was a customer and Fisher Space Pens even made their way aboard the International Space Station. In 1997 they were also used during the Everest North Face Ski Expedition.“
Back then, we’re talking late eighties here, I could not just type Fisher Space Pen into the search bar to learn more about this technological marvel. This is why I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to talk to Matt Fisher in this episode of HeartMade, he is the grandson of the founder of Fisher Space Pen Company and currently serves as its Vice President of Sales and Marketing.
Now, before we jump into our conversation, let me try to give you a brief glimpse into the history of the company so we can later focus a bit more on the day-to-day, the nuts and bolts and the strategic insights and business advice that, I am sure, Matt Fisher can provide fellow founders and entrepreneurs.
Paul C. Fisher, Matt’s grandfather, started his career during World War II. working with ball bearings in a factory for aeroplane propellers, but it was at his next job with a pen manufacturer where he found the courage to branch out on his own in 1948 and establish himself in Van Nuys, California, as a trailblazer and visionary in his chosen industry.
His goal was a pen that would not leak in a man’s shirt pocket. In 1966, after years of research and spending one million dollars on his dream, he patented the first „Anti-Gravity“ pen called the AG7. And what a marvel that was! By hermetically sealing the ink off from air and putting it under high pressure with nitrogen gas it could write in any position, even without gravity, on polished or greasy surfaces – and even in temperatures ranging from -30°F (-35°C) to 250°F (+120°C). Fisher’s invention also packed other ideas to prevent leaks: from the precise fit of the ballpoint to the use of thick ink that liquified only when shaken.
While it is a myth that Fisher developed the AG-7 specifically for NASA and its space missions, his invention still ended up in the hands of astronauts. Here’s why: After experimenting with mechanical pencils from other companies Houston had a severe problem: those pencils did often break, and if a graphite tip was let loose in space it could cause short circuits and worse. Add to that the high price of roughly 130 Dollars per piece and thus a public outcry.
The people responsible were on the lookout for a replacement, when Paul C. Fisher, ever the hustler, offered them his Space Pen. He had to wait another year, during which NASA scientists tested his product, until in 1967 the final order of 400 pens arrived, for 6 US-Dollars each. Finally, the Fisher Space Pen achieved lift-off with the Apollo 7 mission (1968) and many more after that. Even though the USSR put in an order of 100 pens for its Sojus spaceships, the Chinese space program was a customer and Fisher Space Pens even made their way aboard the International Space Station. In 1997 they were also used during the Everest North Face Ski Expedition.
Today, the headquarter of Fisher Space Pen Co. is located in Boulder City, Nevada, and led by Paul C. Fisher’s son Cary as President of the company and my guest Matt Fisher as Vice President Sales and Marketing. Welcome to HeartMade, Matt Fisher, thank you for taking the time, especially during a pandemic to talk about your unique company Fisher Space Pen, about keeping its excellence and passion alive, and building what I in the context of this show call a HeartMade brand?
Links from this episode:
- Fisher Space Pen
- Bullet collection
- Raw Brass collection
- AG7 – Original Astronaut collection
- The Art of Work, with Maynard James Keenan
Theme: „Honey and Milk“ by The 126ers / YouTube Audio Library
Background music: „Meet Again“ by Emily A. Sprague / YouTube Audio Library
Cover art: Jack Moreh / Jooinn.com (illustration); Siems Luckwaldt (design)