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Archive for May, 2009


Posted by Dirck on 29 May, 2009

I have a bit of ink on my fingers today. It comes from a foolish late-night effort at pen filling.

“Big deal,” says the observer. “Fountain pen people get ink on their fingers all the time.”

Well… no. I hardly ever do, outside of a repair context. This is one of the biggest sources of puzzlement for me in discussions about fountain pens– the objection to their habit of colouring the fingers of their users, and other collateral damage notes (spattered a page, dripped on the floor, need a new couch after filling a pen…).

It’s been some years since I was faced with this sort of thing, and that due to a low-grade and ill-used pen that routinely threw up into its cap. I was when I started writing this about to poo-poo the very concept, but memory of school days exists– in the place where I now have a small, soft callus on my right middle finger from decades of resting a pen against it at one time was a regular location of an ink stain.

So, why doesn’t this happen to me any more? I want to say that it’s the nigh-exclusively vintage pens that I currently use, but this reputation for messiness can be found as formed in the 1950s, the final hour of the ubiquitous fountain pen. It’s not like I use only high-end pens, either. I’ve been known to use a Wearever (not three weeks past!), and even vintage is not a pure armour since I also have in my regular use stable pens made in this very decade from Parker, Sheaffer and, at the low end, Hero.

Am I more careful than many of my fountain-pen using bretheren? I can’t believe I’m substantially less clumsy than the average.

The mystic in me wants to say it’s because I’m attuned to the nature of the pen, and they are not apt to mess up one who they feel is one of their own… but my inner mystic is a bit of a wet git some times, and I frequently ignore his contributions.

In the end, I’m not going to question the phemonenon. I use fountain pens. My fingers are finger-coloured. Good enough.

Today’s pen: Parker 45
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lis de Thé


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Posted by Dirck on 28 May, 2009

I’ve been thinking of my “For Sale” page, and the relatively small number of pens which appear on it. I’m trying to work out why there are so few.

It’s not just a matter of “I really like pens.” I do, but there’s a limited number of pens a chap can use in the course of a year (especially true when the chap wants to get his money’s worth out of a bottle of ink and won’t just dump a partial load). Many of the pens in my collection, or “heap” if you’re a properly focussed collector, were bought for the specific purpose of repair and resale.

I’m as much a creature of my society as the next fellow, and as such I’ve been fully indoctrinated in the “more stuff = WINNING!” line of thought. But… I’m not only aware of it as indoctrination, but selling more pens brings in more money which leads to better More Stuff. I guess it’s something to do with having actual items in hand as opposed to the vague potentiality of pen. I prefer my cats out of the box, rather than in Schroedinger’s limbo.

So, I either have to get tough with myself and sell off bunches of pens I’m not really inclined to, or admit that I’m and acquisitive weakling who will be found one day dead under a slide of precariously stacked pens. Tricky choice….

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Valiant vacuum filler
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 blue-black
(…the presence of which, pen and ink together, is what inspired the parenthetical phrase in the second line– it’s precisely what I was using on the 13th)

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I’m feeling much better now, doctor.

Posted by Dirck on 27 May, 2009

I am sometimes surprised that my wife hasn’t fled from the clearly insane person her husband has turned out to be. It’s not a Bluebeard situation (what’s in the closed room in the basement? Pens.), but it’s enough to make me wonder– and it’s my head that’s the source of it.

Last night I was amusing myself by making random scribbles on a sheet of paper, and watching the ink dry through a magnifier. For about a half-hour. At one point, I looked up and saw my wife watching me. “Need any help with the boy?” She did not. A pause. “I… should probably do something useful.” You’re enjoying yourself, she said. Relax. She remained indulgent when I showed her the utter freedom on content on the paper.

Of course, she lacks my bachelor’s degree in Psychology, and thus has no shakey and insufficient ground to identify psychotic behaviour from.

On a less self-analytical note, I got some pictures of clients’ pens ready for future postings on the web site. Well, it’s actually closer to “a client’s pens”– one source produced a lot of novelty lately.

Today’s pen: Parker Junior Duofold
Today’s ink: :Lamy blue

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Posted by Dirck on 26 May, 2009

I’ve just been over at the FPN reading yet another hand-wringing thread regarding both the motivation to use fountain pens and the practicality of their quotidien use in the real world.

I will preface by stating my objection to the use of “real world” in this way– a phrase which implies that someone’s starting point lies in an impractical ootopia (vs. a eutopia, he said smugly). Pens of whatever sort have been workplace tools since the invention of ink… in Europe, at least… and I’m not including in my turning over of the subject any pens that aren’t meant for actual use (most of which are sinfully ugly anyway).

Are fountain pens practical? Sure. You choose the tool for the job, though. A wood chisel is not what you use to clean a mirror, and there are some writing tasks that don’t suit a fountain pen. Of course, I’ve used nothing but a fountain pen at my current and previous Regular Job, and have generally used a fountain pen in preference to other mark-makers since I first stumbled on the concept back in my primary school days (long enough ago that there were rather more of them to stumble on, I’ll grant).

Why use them? A recent film (mentioned at Ink Quest) reduces it to pretention. Hooey. Since a lot of people wouldn’t know a fountain pen if they stumbled on one, who are we impressing? I mentioned a few posts back that I was unsatisfied with the performance of a gel rollerball, and for me that’s the point. With a fountain pen, I get the most legible marks on paper for the least effort.

We are in an age in which “Do as thou wilt” is very nearly the whole of the law. I won’t deny people the right to spend foolish amounts of money over their lifetime to buy an endless series of cheap pens that don’t work very well, but my own inclination says– if I’m writing, I might as well do a job I can be proud of, and one which causes me the least strain. When a wood chisel is the right tool, you want one that has a proper edge and is sturdy enough to withstand the mallet, right?

The fact that my particular set of chisels are beautiful in and of themselves is a mere side benefit. Well, usually. Today’s pen isn’t a real stunner.

Today’s pen: Lamy 2000
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Blue Nuit (gosh, I seem to rely on Herbin rather a lot, don’t I?)

P.S.– I’ve been looking at some of the things I wrote yesterday, and given a day of setting up, I regret the sexist remark I made about the previous ink. It’s a passable if dusty burgundy.

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Posted by Dirck on 25 May, 2009

That’s my word for the past weekend– wrangling the son while my wife sold jewellry at a street fair. I did manage to get the website updated, too, despite opposition from pretty much all the non-human components of the effort. Why it wasn’t uploading to my “public” folder is still a mystery, but at least I now know the way around it.

My anniversary landed the past weekend, too. Due to the effect of the street fair and last week’s illness, I have to use a fairly convoluted form of verb to describe the action– I will have gotten my wife a book of birds (so she can enjoy the feeder in the tree five feet outside the living room more fully), and she has put in place the material to have bought me something from our favorite stationers, but I haven’t decided what that is yet.

Today’s pen: Parker “51” vac-filler
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune (which is, alas, a little too feminine for my own comfort).

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Posted by Dirck on 22 May, 2009

The primary problem with taking a couple of days off from The Regular Job– it piles up something fierce. And apparently I didn’t stop attending in time to avoid infecting co-workers.

…And so, there’s merely time to note that my mention of Ink Quest fell upon the right retina, and the reciprocal mention there is the only thing that’s brought any kind of traffic at all here. Proof that the Welsh are inherently more interesting than Canadians.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Junior
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Going viral.

Posted by Dirck on 21 May, 2009

I am not, apart from the obvious action of having a blog, about to engage on an exercise in “viral marketing.” I spent yesterday in a virus-induced delirium. H1N1? Probably not, as I can’t work out any chain of vectors that leads from me to the current Mexican hot-spot. It was not fun, though, and the lack of fun was enhanced by the need to not give this thing to wife and son– sleeping bag in a distant room, no cuddling the laughing infant. Bah.

Feverishness notwithstanding, I’m going to make some use of taking a second day off from The Regular Job now that my temperature is low enough for my brain work. Crouching in the basement (which keeps me away from the family and allows for dumping of excess heat), I can pursue the previous post’s intention and wallop away on pen pages.

Today’s pen: A big bowl of chicken soup.

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Posted by Dirck on 19 May, 2009

Despite actually looking in at this time-eater yesterday, I got a quantity of groundwork done for a load of pages on the main site. So, the goal for this week is to abstain from posting anything much here, using the time to get more pages written. In as much as I’ve posted anything interesting here previously, that’s not going to be the case for the rest of the week.

Today’s pen and ink: Same as yesterday– they didn’t get a lot of use, it being Queen Victoria’s Birthday.

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The dangers of a limited education

Posted by Dirck on 18 May, 2009

I was at an antique sale this past weekend– a couple of score dealers set up in a curling rink. I stuck my head in to see if there were any pens, of course. There were three sellers with any pens at all.

The first had a little cup full of them, mainly low-end Waterman items, all priced at a bit more than $20. This was not unreasonable, although all needed some amount of restoration. None called out to me, and the potential for resale profit was low enough that I forbore. I’ve had a note on Facebook since from a co-worker who appears to have bought one from him, and I’m looking forward to seeing which. I’m also looking forward to doing the re-sacking for her.

The second had a single pen in very good order from a second rank maker. She asked $85 for it, which is rather more than it’s worth, but not grossly more.

The third chap, though… oh, dear. The closest to sensible was a $35 red Esterbrook… without a point. The greatest outrage was a blue Vacumatic, a fairly late model, for which he asked more than $200. This might be asked, if the pen is entirely its original colour, very nearly unambered if at all in its clear portions, all plating in place on the bands and clip, and a restored, functional filler. This pen had none of these things, and clearly needed a vast restoration to return even to use.

I don’t want to sound as if I’m accusing the seller of wickedness, although there may be an element of that in him. No, I suspect rather that he’s had a look at some website selling heroically restored pens, or a reference book which gave the uppermost possible price for a perfect example. Without any point of reference for the actual value of what he’s got, he shouts “Ho ho!” pirate-wise, and applies his price accordingly. And applies it with a strip of Scotch tape, too.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic (a black model in far better shape that his, and not yet worth even $100)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lie de Thé.

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Oh, dear.

Posted by Dirck on 15 May, 2009

Things at The Regular Job are brisking up, so the amount of free thinking-time I have to apply to this project is going to be limited for the next several days… probably.

A pen arrived from an eBay seller (to be named after I see if some other bids win), and I’m beside myself with admiration for the packing job he did– a little custom-cut interior styrofoam box in an already-sturdy cardboard shell, cradling a tube in which the pen lay wrapped in paper. Not proof against the possible ills of the postal services, but certainly resistant.

Today’s pen: Wearever Supreme (yes, I am slumming it).
Ink: Claims to be a 1980’s Quink Brown, but I suspect there’s something else in the bottle; a deep, velvety brown with burgundy overtones.

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