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Archive for June, 2010

Last Day of School

Posted by Dirck on 25 June, 2010

I have a two week vacation starting next week, and while I’ll pretty much just be hanging around the house. “Hanging around the house” implies getting done the household things that weekends don’t offer sufficient time to accomplish. I don’t think I’ll be tiling the foyer, but there’s some prospect of putting up a new tub surround.

Party central, my place… actually, there will be at least one party:
A toddler licking the cap of a pen.
Someone, seen here in the moment when he discovers that his mom’s No Nonsense is not in fact cherry flavoured, is having his second birthday during this vacation. So it won’t all be drugery, and while I don’t guarantee any regular attendance here if anything particularly amusing in Penland develops, I will certainly share.

Today’s pen that can’t concentrate on its work: Waterman Citation
Today’s ink that keeps asking if class can’t be held on the lawn: Noodler’s La Couleur Royale


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An Early, Late, Rapid Father’s Day Present

Posted by Dirck on 24 June, 2010

I have received my Father’s Day gift. It is, in one frame of reference, a little after the fact, as Father’s Day was four days ago. However, I rate it as arriving with unlooked-for speed. I mentioned last week that the order for this item had gone in well ahead of the day. It arrived yesterday. That’s a week and a day between the finalizing of the order and the postman clumping up the front steps, which I rate as pretty darn quick, given the distance and the fact of an international border being crossed, especially since the vendor is apparently in the midst of moving.

Thus do I join the troops of boosters of Todd Nussbaum to be found at the Fountain Pen Network– speedy service, good prices, and bonus brimming bottles of Noodler’s ink. Because I must find something to complain about, though, I will complain about people who are not like him, whose short-comings are thrown into sharp relief by his exemplary behaviour. I am thinking of the many opportunists of eBay, who apparently see shipping charges as an excuse to line their pockets– many is the pen I’ve declined to bid on because I couldn’t see adding $37.50 in shipping to a fair price, and many is the pen I’ve received having paid a reasonable amount of postage which were thrust into manila envelope with a scrap of bubble wrap, and a single standard stamp applied to the outside.

That for the source– but what of the actual gift? That’s today’s pen, which I will go utterly geek-ape over on my site in the future. I will give it the tiniest of mini-reviews, though; it’s a very nice writer, a fascinating mechanism, and well worth even what you might pay for it at a more expensive outlet. I will find a complaint here as well, in that the cartridge which comes with it has some quite unhappy ink in it. I should have used the included converter to fill it with one of the Noodler’s inks that arrived with it.

Today’s pen: Pilot Vanishing Point
Today’s ink: Pilot’s cheapest blue ink.

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Not Quite Dandy.

Posted by Dirck on 23 June, 2010

I am somewhat short of dandy today. Actually, I’m quite sub-dandy, and likely to remain so into the foreseeable future. I am not complaining about this, mind you. In fact, I’m obscurely pleased.

I try to dress well, so far as my means allow. This pursuit led me in a round-about way to the test posted by Dandyism.net, “How Dandy are you?” Well, dressing well is an arguably dandyish activity, so I gave the test a go. I scored 72, which sounds pretty good… until you realize that the maximum, dandiest score is 240. I am, apparently, an affected provincial.

This is not a revelation, to be honest. Given where I live, I don’t expect to ever stand on the forefront of fashion. Since I’m actually aiming at a more mid-20th century look, the forefront of fashion is rather distant from my interests. So, strike one on being a dandy.

That aside, a dandy as I picture the creature is roughly interchangible with a fop, and a fop is not a laudible creature, given to swanning about and uselessness. Dandyism.net suggests Fred Astaire is a physical model to aspire to (and I can’t argue that) and I certainly like the notion of dignified reserve, but elsewhere they speak of a degree of cynicism, caprice and egoism that I not only don’t aspire to but actually find objectionable (as, I’m sure, would Fred Astaire). When I think about role models, Bertie Wooster isn’t one of them.

So, I’m not a dandy. That suits me, along with houndstooth and slightly baggy trousers. I guess I’ll have to stick with gent. Perhaps I might manage chap, so long as I can steer clear of bounder.

Today’s unfashionable pen: Parker “51”
Today’s non-gaudy ink: Pelikan 4001 blue-black.

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Mr. Clean

Posted by Dirck on 22 June, 2010

My son is a boisterous, healthy little brute, and he expresses his physicality quite freely. All day and well into the night. For example, gripping the parental hands in his, he will scale the perpendicular front face of Mt. Daddy in a brisk scamper, and with only a light kick in the Schnozzola Paternis or a knee against the windpipe flips himself upside-down. There he dangles, inverted and giggling, for some time then at length letting his legs droop down to regain the floor, a slow and highly controlled “skin the cat” performance. Since we’re a week short of his second birthday, I salve the various wounds this produces with the notion that he’s being precocious.

Last night included a lot of this sort of thing, including the most painful blow to the throat I’ve yet taken. Because I was mainly concerned with the possibility of collapsed trachea and the increasing agony in my shoulders (try holding your arms well up and forward to give a 14kg pendulum room to swing without hitting you in the face for two minutes of every five for an hour straight), I did not consider that the footpath in question lead directly over my shirt pocket.

I will undo tension at this point– this is not the story of a pen destroyed by innocent fun. No, all that happened was the repeated vibration eventually unscrewed the pen in my pocket from its cap. This is a regular feature in Sheaffer’s various TM pens, I assume because of the low-friction metal-on-metal nature of the threads in those items. With all-plastic pens like yesterday’s, though, I have grown complacent, because they generally hold firm. The saving grace of the TMs is that the pen is long enough to still be supported in the cap while resting on the bottom of the pocket.

The Waterman Champion is not quite so long bodied. I noticed, as took my son from pyjamas to tooth-brushing, a large purplish stain on the pocket of my white and tan shirt. Oh, nuts.

Once the lad was in bed, and really only moments after he was deposited, I rushed about the house gathering some cleaning products and stripping off the shirt. The first lesson of this entry– it is possible to get an ink-stain entirely out of a cotton shirt if one briskly applies water, ammonia, soap, and a fingernail brush to it. The shirt is this morning innocent of stain, and I’m a happy fellow. I don’t, by the way, guarantee that this will work, since Herbin is neither highly saturated nor reputedly waterproof ink. Spill Lamy blue-black or Noodler’s on yourself, and you’re apt to be disappointed. Likewise, I was able to get at it before it had a chance to dry; time may have an effect.

The other lesson is a little more situation specific. If a tiny human is using you as a climbing toy, it’s best not to keep a fountain pen in your shirt pocket. This seems rather obvious, doesn’t it?

Today’s pen, not for stepping upon: Sheaffer Admiral TD
Today’s ink, hopefully contained: Herbin’s Lie de Thé

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Bounty from France

Posted by Dirck on 21 June, 2010

There is some very exciting news come out of the Fifth Republic: ink-makers J. Herbin have begun to issue their inks in 100ml bottles!

Well, it’s exciting for some of us. I have read at least one negative comment, but the majority of those who give any attention to ink at all are pretty happy about this. The current 30ml Herbin bottles are rather hard to get a pen into for filling (hint– hooded pens and Sheaffer Snorkels manage pretty well), and 30ml is not a lot of ink in any case. For those still labouring along under a non-metric set of measures, your favourite fizzy soft-drink is generally found in a 330ml bottle. 100ml of ink is going to support a lot of writing, and it will also make people like me who worry about preserving inks less hesitant to use up their supplies.

I have a larger reason for being excited about this. Back in the great time of pens, most ink makers produced an assortment of bottle sizes. The small bottles, generally between 30ml and 60ml, were meant for home use, but there was also an anticipation of institutional demand. Banks had pens on chains back then, but the chain was attached to a well, not unlike my Esterbrook item. Schools had countless pony-tail dipping stations to fill. Big offices would supply their employees. For these larger orders, larger bottles appeared, even up to gallons (I should check my old catalogues– I want to refer to five-gallon carboys, but may be confabulating).

With the waning of fountain pens from the world, these larger volumes of ink also disappeared. I know that Pelikan has maintained 250ml and liter bottles up to the present day, but for the most part only the smallest bottles have been available. The reason I’m so excited about this release by Herbin is that I assume that there is some market research going on behind it. Why release a big bottle of ink if there’s no demand? What might generate this demand other than an increasing incidence of fountain pen use? Perhaps the madness of disposable pens is starting to fade, and we’re on the cusp of a return to univeral appreciation of decent writing instruments.

I should mention at this point, I’ve not had anything like enough sleep over the weekend. Messianic statements are the least of my mental abberations today.

Today’s pen: Waterman Champion
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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Dodging responsibility

Posted by Dirck on 18 June, 2010

The Friday narrow-window is upon me, and rather than scrabble around trying to be witty, I’ll just provide a link to an article from Harper’s which I think is improving. I will warn you that it’s not purely entertaining, nor it is feel-good– it’s about the alarming state that modern economics have brought us to.

Today’s pen: Parker 50 “Falcon”
Today’s ink: Quink black

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Filler Schism

Posted by Dirck on 17 June, 2010

I got myself into a debate on the Fountain Pen Network earlier today, and I’m going to pursue my own reasoning here where it won’t stir up any further argument… or at least nothing that I don’t have the power to erase.

The foundation of the debate was an innocent question posed by someone who wants to buy a new Conway-Stewart pen, a Churchill model. It offers two options of filler, the cartridge/converter setup found in the vast majority of modern pens, and the extremely retro lever filler. The questioner is unfamiliar with the properties of the latter and sought opinions. Debate invariably erupted, as the internet will provide twelve different opinions where three are possible.

I prefer levers, of the two, but the exchance of opinions (the FPN, for all that is it subject to some of the woes of the internet, is a pretty civil joint) has prompted me to re-examine my preference. So, let’s do a bit of pro/con consideration… although even as I order my thoughts, I find I have to separate the cartridge/converter option into its separate components.

Pros: Very clean to fill as one need not wipe the point, very quick to refill, easy to carry refills around, lots of ink in pen (unless it’s an International Short pattern– those things aren’t big). Easy to check ink level.
Cons: Limited ink colours (unless you refill ’em with a syringe, which undoes all the pros out of hand), pen has to be mostly taken apart to fill, somewhat wasteful in plastics, and rather expensive compared to getting ink in bottles. Extra tools needed to clean the feed. Manufacturer might discontinue pattern (this has happened to Waterman and a few others).

Pros: Allows a cartridge pen to fill from a bottle. Depending on model, may be easy to check on ink level.
Cons: No cleaner to fill than any self-filling pen, frequently less so as one’s fingers end up closer to (or in) the bottle, very small ink capacity, and pen has to be taken apart to fill. Doesn’t clean the feed very effectively (press-bar converters excepted). If pattern of cartridge discontinued, replacement converter may be hard to find. Some converters have surface tension issues, trapping ink away from the feed.

Lever Filler
Pros: Large capacity, quick to fill, only need to remove the cap to fill, all the colours of bottled ink are available, and cleaning is very effect as the filler creates higher pressure in the feed.
Cons: Rubber sac will (eventually) fail and need replacement. Pen needs its chin wiped after filling.

To me, the pros of the self-filler outweigh not only its own cons but tip the balance away from the other sort of filler. I’m not a chauvinist, you understand– I’ll accept a C/C pen (I’m using one today, and I’ll likely use one tomorrow, given my current inclination) but when a model offers a self-filling option, that’s where I’m putting my money. However, that’s my own opinion. Some people have a dread of tipping over an ink bottle, and they’d jump to the other side of this choice.

The important thing is that a fountain pen is being used. We may not agree on the filler, but business end of the pen is what really matters.

Today’s non-self-filling pen: Pilot Elite
Today’s ink: Skrip blue-black

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Staff Meeting

Posted by Dirck on 16 June, 2010

Again. Hopefully this won’t be too much of a habit.

Today’s pen: Parker 61
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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Does Something Smell Funny?

Posted by Dirck on 15 June, 2010

I think, although I can’t find track down the reference in this volume, I have mentioned the smell of ink. Longtime pen users will occasionally wax nostalgic about the smell of ink in the good ol’ days, and some realists will point out that this wiff of the past is mainly the deadly poison phenol, which like leaded gasoline and ammonia-based refrigerators was just fine in ages past when living a long life meant pushing through to 65. Modern inks have some smell to them, of course, but they are generally much more subtle. There’s something very slightly sweetish to Quink, an ineffably organic quality to Herbin’s stuff, a barely-perceptible metallic tang to Pelikan.

There is, as ever, an exception to this general subtlety. Noodler’s inks are redolent. They bloom with an amazing and distinctive… reek, for want of a better word. Like so many smells, it defies description save by comparison. What to compare it to, though? It’s a smell you might find in a very exotic garden, or a chemist’s secret laboratory, or maybe in a well-cleaned but frequently-used locker room. It’s not a bad smell, but it’s not one you would choose to be known by, and if it were only a little stronger it would likely assume a facet of offense.

So, why am I going into this? I have Noodler’s on my mind at the moment, as I’m apparently getting a couple of free bottles with a pen that counts as a Father’s Day gift (there was a misreading of the calendar, and the source of the pen and ink is here for the curious). I’ve got a pen loaded with the stuff right now… and it is reminding me of the last time I had a similarly-loaded pen a couple of weeks ago. This time and last, despite all the seals being in place correctly, I have been constantly aware of a hint of Noodler’s smell.

As I say, it’s not a bad smell, and I don’t expect any of my co-workers (particularly the smokers) to suddenly rise up crying, “Oh, what is that stench?” It does, however, provoke in me a frequent patting of pockets in anticipation of finding moisture (no) and examining pens to make sure the caps aren’t loose (also no). It’s simply an oddity.

Had I my brother’s sense of humour, I would probably reference Poe’s works, replacing a protagonist’s self-declared sensitive hearing with my own acute nose, standing in fear of being discovered in corpse concealment, and finally tearing up floorboards while shouting, “Here! It is the stinking of his hideous….”

…but that’s not the way my sense of humour runs. Something which rhymes with “heart,” for those in suspense. That’s as close as I’m getting to it.

Today’s pen with slight pong: Wality 52 (The Schrieber refit)
Today’s ink that should keep its arms by its sides: Noodler’s Tulipe Noir.

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Posted by Dirck on 14 June, 2010

On Saturday morning, my wife and I took our son for his second haircut. It passed with the bare minimum of fuss and howling, and we emerged from the salon (not because of vanity, but because it’s where my wife’s haircutting acquaintence works) intent on having lunch at a recently opened and popular burger joint a half-block away. As we walked from one place to the other, we were hailed by a fellow unknown to either of us. He was looking at me, primarily, and while he had a fairly neutral expression on his face I’m sufficiently suspicious of my fellow humans adjust my stance to screen the rest of the family slightly.

“Are you Jewish?” says the stranger.

“I am not,” I reply, in my best friendly yet not to be trifled with, Doc Savage-style tone (I’m telling the story, I get to embellish it as I like).

“Oh. I thought… well, that hat, on a Saturday. Sorry.” And thus the encounter ends with his retreat.

So, there you have it. Going about in a fedora on a sabbath (there’s plenty of possible sabbaths, I understand) equals membership in a religious and/or ethnic group. It couldn’t merely be a whim to look dapper, could it? The urge to pigeonhole is strong in us, and I suppose that I caused some kind of existential trauma by not sliding into the anticipated slot. I will admit some curiosity as to what the follow-up question might have been– sudden fascist gibberish? An involved question of talmudic law? Some innocently racist question about how “you people” conduct some aspect of life? So many possibilities.

I hardly need mention that the fellow making the assumption was wearing a t-shirt and sweat pants, but I decline to assume anything about his station in life. Heck, the next day I was dressed in a similar manner, in service of a bit of physical exercise. The urge to pigeonhole is strong, but it can be overcome.

There were two other wearers of decent hats in the burger joint; one tan corduroy stingy-brim, and one fedora much the same as mine… but pulled down so firmly over the wearer’s ears that the dents had been driven out, alas. The irony for the day came about because the burger joint is so popular, we declined to eat there, and went to another eatery nearby. One devoted to bagels.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Diamine China Blue

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