What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements

Archive for January 19th, 2011

Carry Permit

Posted by Dirck on 19 January, 2011

There has been a bit of a discussion over at the Fountain Pen Network which started out about why pens leak, but diverted a bit into the “correct” way of carrying pens.

Let me start with why one leads to another.  One of the participants rightly points out, every fountain pen in the world leaks.  It is, however, a controlled leak.  A fountain pen is in essence a tube of ink with a tiny hole at one end, which hole is called the feed.  The engineering of pens is aimed at regulating the speed with which ink can escape, and here’s where the diversion got started, since there are certain assumptions about the conditions a pen will face during this regulation.  High among these assumptions is that the vector of acceleration in line with the feed will be almost exactly one gravity, and under one atmosphere of pressure.  Want to get a lot of ink out of a pen fast?  Flick it!  The ink will likely go places you’d rather it didn’t, but it will come out.

Where you carry a pen can subject it unexpected conditions.  Expected conditions for a pen in carriage are those found in a gentleman’s shirt pocket, sitting at a desk or perhaps walking along the street.  Take that as the baseline, and if a pen is disgorging ink while thus carried, it’s not quite right.

A strangely popular place for new pen-users to carry their pens is in the front pocket of the trousers.  Apart from the dangerous stresses which might occur when sitting, the leg is rather more directly connected with moving about than is the chest.  There’s more jarring when the foot strikes, swinging,  jostling from the passing arm– it’s not an ideal place for a pen to rest, and it is apt to make its opinion known by filling its cap with ink.

Some will clip the pen to the neckband of a t-shirt.  This is not a terrible place for it, very like a shirt pocket, but there’s a couple of things to watch.  If the pen lies inside the shirt, personal chemistry may do the finish on metal components some mischief.  Also, if the pen happens to work its way free of the cap (which the frequent visitor here will know is possible), the lack of a supporting pocket-bottom will see the pen drop either to the floor or to the waistband, which can be very bad for the pen and the wardrobe.

A lot of fountain pen users will get a pen case of some sort, and deposit that in a pocket or in a bag or briefcase.  The case, if it segregates its contents, will protect the finish of the pen, but won’t keep out gravity.  A pen case in a trouser pocket will still have the sudden tides caused by the owner’s movements.  If a bag containing the pen is dropped, the pen will experience the effect in much the same way was someone in an elevator will the collapse of the building– a sudden stop at the end that may cause some fluid to escape, depending on how long the drop was.

There are also the pen pockets found on the arms of some utilitarian garments, like Big Box employees’ polo shirts, or pilots’ jackets.  These are actually just about as good as the shirt pocket, although one is more likely to accidentally bang one’s arm against an injurious protrusion than one’s chest.  In the case of the jackets, you have to also mind the outside temperature, since ink will expand as it freezes.

Notice that I’m not saying “DO NOT!” at any point here.  I don’t encourage the trouser-carry, but it’s allowable.  Just don’t blame the pen for “leaking” if you make that choice, any more than you’re allowed to blame someone you’ve forced onto a roller-coaster for vomiting.  You make a choice, you face a consequence.  The choice of a fountain pen carries with it the responsibility for thinking about how you treat it.  A ball-point pen grants more freedom in this regard… but imposes a legion of woes when actually writing.  In the end, you are permitted to chose your own limitations.

Today’s pen, relaxing in a nice cotton shirt:  Sheaffer 800
Today’s ink, staying contentedly in the reservoir:  Noodler’s van Gogh Starry Night

Posted in General Blather | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »