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Archive for June, 2009


Posted by Dirck on 27 June, 2009

I’d say “Inkdolence”, as appealing to Ink Quest fans seems to drive up my readership, but it doesn’t scan well and I don’t want to be seen as pandering.

As promised…? Threatened? Prophesied? …in a previous post, vacation time has led to a spotty effort here. I use my title with some irony, as what has been happening is making a hash of some website updates in between spending loads of time with my son, thus keeping my wife from madness (for those without one, this note: a baby will expand to fill all available time). One of the grandfathers has introduced the tyke to the dubious joys of being flung up into the air, which I recall as loads up fun until the catch is flubbed, so he’s not just mentally exhausting now.

Distraction has also appeared in the form of the terminal stages of a mortgage renegotiation, with the final signings coming the last Friday before the too-late month-end (despite getting the proverbial ball rolling a full two months earlier). The whole family trooped into the lawyers office, and settling son into his favourite place for such exercises (the back of my neck) I noticed that there were pens laid in front of each guest seat. The cheapest possible, pennies-a-gross, ball-points. I drew out my chosen pen for the event, a 1949 Sheaffer Valiant which I’ve not yet made up a page for loaded with vintage paper-reactive ink, and used it exclusively. I’m pleased to say that my wife and father, who had an interest in our house until he used the pen yesterday, eschewed the ballpoints, borrowing mine. The lawyer stuck with his ballpoint… although I should pluralize that, as the first two didn’t work.

I withheld comment. I may have damaged my spleen in doing so.

Today’s pen (and most of the past week’s): Lamy Vista
Today’s ink (ditto): Noodler’s Van Gogh Starry Night.


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Posted by Dirck on 19 June, 2009

I lift a mode of title from Ink Quest; I hope Penquod’s crew will take it as an homage rather than a liberty.

I was considering which ink to put into my pen today, and I remembered a little note I’d made in one of the previous entries about how frequently Herbin inks ended up being the choice for the day. I’m not a mad ink collector by any means (unlike some), but like Ink Quest’s prime misanthrope I do find myself buying inks in a speculative frame– perhaps this is the one which will make me cry, “Aha! That is the very colour of my inner life! The pen now expresses me perfectly!”

Despite my pointedly non-Gallic nature, it seems that Herbin is the line of inks that calls out to me most– I have six different colours of theirs, a good deal more than any other maker. We’ll leave aside that two of them I rate as an error in my own judgement; I bought them in the pursuit, and I have to live with them (actually, my wife loves one of them, so the error is redeemed). Even the ones which I’m not apt to use, I find generally pleasant.

So, why not eschew other inks entirely? I might, except Herbin inks have a couple of failings that seem general to the line. They are somewhat given to feathering, and on all but the best papers, this tendency leads to them appearing somewhat faded, almost dusty. Sometimes, the content of my writing makes a certain langour, an air of ennui, acceptable, but for the most part I don’t want to feel like I’m reading things across a misty moor.

On the other hand, I find that most of the Herbin inks I’ve tried are very resistant to water. They may not stay the same colour, but the words remain legible. I’m confident sending things overseas when I’ve written with Herbin.

I guess my other favourite ink balances this French intrusion– Pelikan blue-black. Some hate it, but I find it sorts very well with vintage pens and is very hard to shift once it’s on paper. The woes of Herbin are absent, as it squats firmly on the paper, and is nearly innocent of feathering. Pelikan’s problem is a small range of colours– their only green ink is all too vivid for daily writing, and I have occasional green moods.

So, I suppose I have found an element of my make-up in my preferred inks; caught between French and German influences, I reveal my Dutch ancestry. I don’t have a problem with that, really.

Today’s pen: Waterman C/F
Today’s ink: Quink blue-black (the new stuff, which fades amazingly, like modern Waterman blue-black– I am composing a letter of complaint, to be written in some other company’s ink).

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Depressurization Alert.

Posted by Dirck on 18 June, 2009

I have a two-week vacation from The Regular Job about to envelop me. This is good news on several fronts, as the last time I took more than a day off was to spend a couple of nights sleeping on the hospital floor in connection with my son’s birth (the hospital has no objection to a man hanging around his recovering wife and inflating offspring, but will not offer a cot– on the other hand, our health care system allowed for the whole affair to cost $90, so I’m not going to be too forceful in my complaints).

This brings about a question of how faithful I am likely to be to this little enterprise, and I believe I can answer: not very. Apart from seeing computer time at home as best used getting the site filled up (and working out how to make it look better), there are the thousand little things that one avoids doing around the house with the self-excuse, “I’ll do it later when there’s time.” Well, this is later, and if I don’t get them done, they’ll remain undone until entropy makes it moot.

Just to keep myself honest, a brief outline of the upcoming two weeks:
-Finish that history material for the Book department of the site;
-New diaphrams in at least five vacumatic-fill Parkers of diverse type;
-Sell them;
-Rouse out the unnecessary crap in the basement in anticipation of a garage sale (this should really be top of the list);
-Prepare for and conduct my son’s first birthday (in which there will be much help from family);
-Reason with the weeds in the yard;
-Complete some outstanding repairs for a client if the tools arrive. They’re not tools I can make myself.

And, of course, relax. A one year old kid sleeps all day, right? Should be easy.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic (not one in need of a diaphragm).
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Blue Nuit.

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The Other Conundrum

Posted by Dirck on 17 June, 2009

Yesterday I waxed rhetorical about the problem of letting other people use my pens. Today, I am leaving other people out of it entirely.

I mentioned a couple of posts back that I’m a little spoiled in the pen department. Today’s pen is a prime example of that– if I had bought it from someone who knew what it was, even if it did need a sac replacement, I wouldn’t have been able to afford it. It’s a reasonably intact example of an unreasonably rare pen.

I digress a moment– that’s rare as in, “there weren’t a lot bought, so the company phased it out in favour of something else,” as opposed to, “the company is only making a couple of thousand, so they can charge a couple of thousand for it.” I hope I’m never moved by one of the latter. Digression ends.

Here I have a pen of which there are not vast numbers, and in quite nice shape. It took a certain amount of effort to take it from my subterranean storage bunker (that is, the box in my basement), because the imagination runs wild. I might drive through a cloud of sulfur, rendering the body an unappealing brown. I may trip on the stairs and land pen-first. A mugger with a copy of “Pens of the World” might trap me.

With most of my old pens, these sort of considerations are easily set aside, but I find myself wondering whether I must by accident of ownership act more as a conservator than a user. If so, I’m a bit of a hypocrite, as just yesterday I was urging someone on the FPN to use a nigh-perfect example of a late 1930s Sheaffer.

Clearly, I overcame my own objections… this time. A pen, is after all, an object meant to write with. Without that utility, it’s merely pen-shaped. But, like all philosophical stances, this one is open to turning through argument, even if that argument is between different lobes of one’s own brain.

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold “Geometric”
Today’s ink: Noodler’s Tulipe Noir (yes, after all that, I put an over-saturated ink in it. The Heart has reasons which Reason knows not, right?)

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Posted by Dirck on 16 June, 2009

It’s not secret that I like fountain pens. I find them a superior writing tool, and because I like them so much I want to spread the joy. Have YOU written with a fountain pen lately?

This brings me up against a substantial conundrum for the Fountain Pen Faithful. We want to spread the word, and the word is sort of meaningless without the direct experience. Like The Matrix, no one can really be told what writing with a fountain pen is like.

But that means handing a fountain pen to someone who is used to writing with… anything else. Ballpoints. Pencils. Possibly chisels. The joy of the really good fountain pen is also its failing– they don’t require any pressure to write with, nor will they withstand a vast amount.

So, if I want to let someone try one of my pens, it’s going to be something I can live with the loss of. The pens from the end of last week I might lend someone. I was, for a long time, keeping a Parker Reflex on my desk for lending duties, but I found it dried out while waiting. I now have a Hero 616, a modern retort to the Wearever if ever there was, which will hold ink through long periods of inactivity… but it’s not the smoothest pen in the world.

So, I ask rhetorically, what’s a guy to do? Lend a duff pen, and see the look on the user’s face which says, “this is what he makes all the fuss about?” or hand over something that might not survive the encounter and about which I actually care… because if it does survive, the face will show, “Oh, wow… this is what he makes all the fuss about!”? It’s a tricky balancing act.

My usual cop-out is to go with the cheap pen, and say something like, “That’s the worst fountain pen you’ll ever write with.” One way or another, that’s a true statement– either they’ll go get a better one, or they’ll never touch a fountain pen again.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Admiral
Today’s ink: Skrip Jet Black (a vintage ink– the box actually advertises for the Snorkel line).

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Nod and wave.

Posted by Dirck on 15 June, 2009

Tons of other stuff to do today, so… that’s it for this entry.

Today’s pen: Platignum Varsity Pressmatic (yes, it’s another low-end pen; tomorrow we’re back on the gravy train).
Today’s ink: Lamy blue

p.s.- I discover as I set the link to the pen that I don’t actually HAVE a link to it. Today’s is a baby blue job that was a gift from a complete stranger, and thus of greater worth to me, and I’m sure I have a page for it hidden away somewhere.

{p.p.s. from the distant future; resetting links following a 2011 reworking of the website, the objection above is undone.  Chronal Transmission ends!}

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Posted by Dirck on 12 June, 2009

The past couple of days I’ve been using pens a little different from my usual line. They’ve been:
1) Modern;
2) Inexpensive.

I could count the Lamy 2000 into this, but by my own consideration it’s not inexpensive and its handling characteristics are actually rather more like a vintage pen than some of my actual vintage pens.

I generally prefer vintage pens, and because I can buy them in a horror-show state and return them to function, I have been quite spoiled in that direction. Indeed, I seldom turn to my moderns (even the Phileas which I consider beyond price as it’s a gift from my wife) because I have the luxury of using a really nice pen made in a time when there was a lot of competition to keep everyone on their toes.

Yesterday, whimsy dictated that I use one of the most modern, if not supra-modern, pens I have. As I returned it to its weird plastic hibernation chamber last night, I thought about how little some of the other new kids get out in the air. Thus, today’s pen. I don’t know if this mood will survive the weekend, but I don’t have a lot more moderns that need a run anyway.

The actual point of this is: no, they are not as nice in their writing capacities as the elderly creatures I have them sharing accomodation with. But considering that they cost an order of magnitude less in terms of take-home pay than their ancient counterparts, they do pretty well. I’d certainly take today’s pen over the Jotter rollerball I mentioned some time ago.

In fact, the past couple of days’ pens might actually have superior performance to the Esterbrook I was using on the 4th with its big-deal 9000 series point. Which was, in its time, not that expensive a pen either.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Javelin
Today’s ink: Skrip turquiose (clearly I don’t expect to have any condolence letters to write today)

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I wonder if there’s enough tea?

Posted by Dirck on 11 June, 2009

This is going to be one of those miserable meta-entries, mainly concerned with the blog itself. For those who don’t have their non-real estate here, there’s a little gizmo in the understory that tells you how many view one has in a day, and what was looked at.

This blog went briefly mad yesterday, and it went mad for, primarily, the entry of 9 June. I’m not sure why, exactly, as I’ve mentioned the Parker “51” elsewhere. Perhaps the new form of looking up (marginally) dirty words in a dictionary is to Google them, and the title misled.

Another lunch I should devote to writing a letter, this one to a UK acquaintance. The update to the site is awaiting a proper set of real-world references I can only work on at home, where I can hardly work on it at all.

Today’s pen: Rotring Skynn (it never gets out to play and it’s a magnificent day)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lie de Thé (whose old-world brown-ness balances the pen’s Sci-fi-itude).

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Again with the mail.

Posted by Dirck on 10 June, 2009

A very short entry today, just encouraging people to have a look at Post Letters (which is more of an imperative than a descriptive), you may get something whimsical:

Writing letters is a good way to exercise your pen, after all.

On that note– I’m late replying to a letter, so I’m using my lunch break wisely.

Today’s pen: Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Quink blue-black

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Perhaps they breed….

Posted by Dirck on 9 June, 2009

With the arrival of the mailman yesterday, I go from a point a short time ago when I had only heard of the Parker “51” in its vacumatic form, to being quite figuratively hip-deep in them, with the intermediary step of “Well, now I’ve got one,” only about two months back.

I’m not quite sure how this happened, but I’ll certainly accept the situation. As soon as I’ve got the new arrivals cleaned up and their fillers refitted, I can spread some Parkerish joy about the world. Watch the site in the near future (he said with astonishing optimism) for some user-grade “51”s!

Today’s pen: Lamy 2000
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 blue-black (which works rather well as a combination– if you’re lukewarm on your Pelikan ink, try it in a 2000).

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