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Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Cussed snobs and cursive stubs

Posted by Dirck on 6 January, 2011

A couple of behaviours I’ve observed lately in my fellow pen fanciers that I thought I’d share.  Both trouble me somewhat, in as much as if I’m one of the same sub-set of humanity I might act similarly.

The more troubling one, I think, is based purely in attitude.  In various discussions of the TWSBI, some have mentioned it in the same breath as the higher-end Pelikan Souveran models.  Someone finally started up a thread opening with the question “Can a TWSBI 530 really compare to a Pelikan M800“, an honest question and one which was elaborated in the direction of getting someone with both pens to share their impressions.

Bedlam.  Polarization.  Almost no comments from anyone who could actually address the matter, a rough balance of “TWSBI is great!” and “How can you mention that in the same breath as Pelikan?!” predominating, with a few peacemakers doing their usual good work.  As the links above will reveal, I don’t have one of the Pelikans, so my part in the debate was slightly in the pro-TWSBI camp, with an admission that there will be some points in the materials column that it couldn’t possibly achieve at its price.

What troubled me about this debate was the tone in several of the Pelikan boosters.  If the TWSBI costs less than $50, it’s not merely cheap (not inexpensive, mind, but cheap), it counts in their view as disposable.  This coming from people with no more foundation for their opinion than I have for any opinion I might hold about a Pelikan M1000 (that is– don’t have one).  Prejudice in a very raw form, and indicative of a way of viewing the world through money-goggles that I cannot approve of.

I have mentioned previously that above a certain amount, one is paying for the right to brag rather for the pen itself.  The M800 is very much on the edge of the line where that transition is occuring, and without one to play with I can’t really say which way it inclines.  While I’m not a huge fan of this phenomenon, I don’t decry the urge to brag within certain limits (a $600 pen is just a bit of swagger, a $6,000 pen is goofy, and a $60,000 pen is an indication that someone needs a minder).  What I do strenuously object to is someone who, in a position to wear this brag, demeans those who are not.  A few stops down the line on that train of thought is that poor people aren’t quite people at all, and the world can do with less of that.

The lesser offense (and now that I’ve laid out the other one, it seems hardly an offense at all) is the frequent cry of “I’ve just got me a {Vintage Pen of Some Sort} and I’m going to send it to {Talented Nib Shaper Person} to have it made into a cursive italic stub!”  Now, leaving aside for the moment that cursive italic points are a slightly different thing than stubs, my problem lies in the direction of how much we vintage pen owners are custodians of our toys, since they’re likely to outlive us.  I’ve got a couple of stubs, and they are fun to write with and give extra character to one’s writing… but I wouldn’t take a Parker “51” with a medium or bold point and have it reshaped.  There’s not enough of them in the world as it is.

Hmmm.  Yeah, that really does look like small beans next to the raging class-war suggested in the first part.  Especially when the effect of the grinding is to make my Parker “51” with a broad point worth more, there being one fewer of them in the natural state, and thus allows me to provoke the snobs with my inexpensive yet valuable pen.

Today’s pen of the common folk:  Parker 45 Flighter
Today’s expensive but achieveable ink: Pilot Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku

8 Responses to “Cussed snobs and cursive stubs”

  1. Ondina said

    I’m afraid I was one of the forum members that participated in that specific thread. According to your words, probably in the “snob” category, as I defended comparing a Twisbi 530 to a Pelikan, let alone an 800 series, is ridiculous whatever the price you pay for any of them. I bought a M800 from an old family friend. He got it brand new the first year it was issued, and I remember growing seeing him use it for long hours everyday, writing Math & Physics theories in black log books. Their sons didn’t want it and I offered a fair price, it means more than an iconic pen to me. The clip has a tiny spot where the gold has flaked off, probably due to a hit against metal. Military Naval engineers work in hostile environments and a house full with 6 sons, a wife, and a mother, is not for the faint hearted, either. The rest of the pen looks and performs flawlessly. The nib writes marvelously, swift to the command of the hand, soft on the wrist and with the perfect touch of line variation and semiflexibility to please the most demanding and weathered fountain pen user.

    I had tried several Twisbi 530 these past months. Scratchy nibs, polycarbonate body. Like a modern reform green demo that crazed in weeks, the section of mine has started to develop cracks in the inners of the section. Total time of use, 24 hours. it hasn’t even been dismantled once, which is supposed to do without a glitch. The nib is…well, inconspicuous at its best. I welcome and appreciate any new, almost heroic effort in this shrinking world of ours, but the $50 that this pen costs when you buy it from the EU make considering many other proven, great pens available at a better price.

    I’m a Pelikano user. An Inoxcrom, a Pilot 78g, a Kultur, vintage ones. A lover of generous mediums and broads who thinks respecting the size of vintage pens is the natural thing to do and condemns the butchering of nibs. And one that thinks that voices of all users can be heard respectfully, without bashing or narrow views. FPN is clearly not one of those places. I have great respect for your opinions, but I also have a life long time experience with pens. And it happens, some by-side professional experience with materials such as polycarbonate (making & repairing tools made of them with ultrasounds, for example). Leaving aside the u-sound effects, the very nature of it makes it prone to scratches, fractures along molding lines, mid-term resistance…. Comparing a pen to another that is a humble copy at its best needs more reasons than I believe have been given, others than “’cause I say so”, “it’s a piston filler”, “almost same size”. Some look at Michelangelo’s Pieta and find no difference with the plastic figure of Bob The Sponge, I’m afraid. But that is a completely different issue, isn’t it?


    • Actually, the fact that you’ve tried both puts you a step ahead of me, and well outside the catergory of snob, which was composed of folks that appeared to feel that simply talking about the less expensive pen would call for a trip to the dentist. I’m frankly troubled at your experience with the lesser pen in question, since mine is standing up brilliantly and the points on mine and the one I recently got for my father have been perfectly nice without any need to realign. I’m also glad to hear that the upper-end Pelikans might actually be worth the price, as I’ve a groundless soft spot for the company.

      I certainly won’t insist that everyone be of my opinion on TWSBI, and reserve the right to amend my own opinion as new evidence appears– I may have moments of mysticism, but I still understand the utility of a scientific approach to most matters. There is always room for honest and non-entrenched opinion where personal experience and taste weigh in– some people actually like Wearever pens, after all.

      On the Pieta/Sponge Bob matter, you may have seen my puckish “A Ford Fiesta is exactly the same as a Ferrari Enzo” effort on the FPN (for those who haven’t- four wheels, possibly red, internal combustion engine; total parity). I won’t defend it as it’s somewhat disingenuous, but I will say in the current context that the ones whose opinion seemed more moderate in the 530 vs. M800 debate were the ones who kept relative costs in mind. A comparison of pens based entirely on size and filler mechanism is bound to be silly if the cost of the thing is left aside (up to a certain limit– I still say a $6,000 pen is cannot be worth, as a pen, $6,000).

      Oh, damn. I’ve just pictured the flap in the art world to be caused by a careful and highly detailed rendering of Sponge Bob in marble, two meters on a side.

  2. Ondina said

    Being guilty of liking many Wearevers, is going to sink my reputation even further, but…..You have a point in taking price into consideration, obviously. An even more sophisticated piston filler -screw-in nib unit, ss semiflexible, vintage feeling nib- is the Reform 1745, or the 120. It carries a ton of ink, it can be dropped from anywhere and survives, the nib is easily removed and changed, the piston rod survives an Antarctic winter without breaking, the materials are durable ( one of ours survived being run over by a kid’s bike. Twice.), proven durable -it has been around since the 70’s-. Yes, the size. Is not a cigar, and the golden trim turns to copper black with use. Yet it is a much better price relation pen in all fronts. Twisbis bought in the EU cost over 50€ shipping included. With a bit of luck you can snatch one for less than $15.

    These past days, there have been several more reports of cracking sections and specifically some of your fellow Canadians have had one side by side with Pelikan M2xx. The plastic rod broke. Apparently it did not resist the cold. Twisbi is marketed as a pen that can be dissembled by owners and resists impacts. The very nature of polycarbonate, a material prone to scratches and very resistant to some forces yet fragile to others, make it a risky one to use in pens. Ultrasounds alter its molecular structure. And the nib needs to improve, in my humble opinion. I’m aware the manufacturer is working on it ( at a substantial price increase). Anyhow, no pen is free from issues and in North America, the total costs is reasonable, and worth a try. It’s god to encourage new ventures, as it is to do constructive criticism to spur said improvement.

    Hum. You’re right, I can think of a couple art fairs where your idea will sell well….probably far more than for the Pietá. The times we live in are of such that a handful of fools weight more than a wise man.

  3. […] the value of a pen costing above a certain amount, most recently in the comments following a little excursion into near-bolshevism caused by some insisting that pens costing below a certain level are worthless.  I was pondering […]

  4. […] expensive one.  I have also considered the charms of the less expensive pen in various entries (here’s one), and I think that it is good for the spirit to step down from the lofty slopes of wealthy and […]

  5. […] a long-ago posting, I made certain noises about the tendency in people to seek to modify the points of their pens.  […]

  6. […] speak, of course, of stubbing.  Those whose memories extend to the earliest days of this item will remember that this is a practice that I’m not entirely a fan of.  Like all humans, I’m an […]

  7. […] sure we all remember back in ye aulden tymes of this screed of mine when I made a noise about the modern urge to mess with point geometry.  You’ll also note that the noise was referent to vintage pens, so when I explain what I got […]

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