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Do No Harm

Posted by Dirck on 31 August, 2010

Before I ramble– here’s the cat of so many updates, as she appeared prior to the malady–

She is currently a little less plump and has no hair on her belly, and a cracking new scar to add to her collection (her middle name is Quint, which should make the film fanciers chuckle).  I offer a blanket thanks once more to all those who left messages of encouragement, and to those also who never quite managed it for want of the right words coming to them– I’ve been in that boat, I know what it’s like, and the fact a thought went through your head is still appreciated.

I was reading today, as I do every day, latest postings on some pen forums.  The day’s theme, alas, seems to be horrible things done by apparently well-meaning people to “fix” fountain pens.  Sections firmly installed in barrels with nail polish as an adhesive.  Efforts to pry things that don’t need prying, which led to gouging and snapping.  Strange and whimsical solvents and adhesives pressed into service for want of the correct thing being instantly to hand.

Please, stop.  Just… stop.  Set the pen aside, go do some laundry, perhaps make a snack, and stop doing that to the pen.

A source of great consternation for those who fix pens with some concern for their future utility is that a lot of these sorts of excesses are prompted by what is in many ways a jolly useful book.  It is, in fact, a book that is worth having available if one is inclined toward fixing pens, one which I find very valuable and will recommend to the point of linking to a source for it– Frank Dubiel’s Complete Guide to Repair

The problem with it lies in the era it which it was mainly compiled.  While in some ways this modern time we live in is not conducive to mannenhitsu-do, the ease of communication allows for the discover that there’s a lot of like-minded people (in more unlikely things than fountain pens, too) and that there are sources of supply to carry out whatever your particular strange passtime might be.  Dubiel was putting his book together in a very dim time indeed, when the lights of fountain pen manufacture were growing dim around the world, and there was not yet an internet to help establish the sort of diffuse communities which are today so vital.  He was looking at a situation in which supplies were becoming rare and would presently vanish entirely, and to preserve pens in their function, some unconventional means had to be considered.  He frequently offered a MacGyver approach to the problem– fish around in the junk drawer and see what you can come up with that can be pressed into service.

We can now, in this strange modern time a half-generation later, when the tiny percentage of people who care deeply about fountain pens can all get together in one place and prove that a tiny percent of  several billion is actually quite a big number, and when the supplies for maintenance and repair of pens are however tenuously available, afford to say, “Was he nuts?!”  As I intimate earlier, there are a lot of things worth knowing in “Da Book”, but when reading through it, it is frequently better to attend to his explanations of how it was done in the factory and set aside the bits that start, “…but you can use….”  It was once the only real reference, but learning has expanded.  The internet is full of little directories (including my own poor repair tutorials), and there are actual books of more modern scholarship to be examined.

I mentioned a few entries ago that I would wish people to think before they do.  This is an expansion of that.  Fixing a pen is not rocket science (although some Sheaffers start to close in on it), but it’s still a technical task.  You would not wish an unschooled person to have a go at fixing your car’s transmission, nor at rummaging your cat’s guts.  Read up.  Think hard.  Then have a go.

To finish off, I’m just going to link to a lovely story about why a family-run business is a better thing for the consumer than a great faceless corporation.  There’s only the most tenuous connection to today’s theme, but there are repairs involved.

Today’s pen, apropos topic*:  Parker 21
Today’s ink:  Herbin’s Lis de Thé

* This pen’s breather tube has come adrift, meaning to will only take on about half the ink it should.  I could fix it, but as the hoods on these pens are notorious for cracking, I’m leaving it alone.  Do no harm.

One Response to “Do No Harm”

  1. […] cement.  This is the fault of Pen DIY Guru Frank Dubiel, of whom I have previously spoken, and for someone whose only reference work is his slightly […]

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