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Archive for January, 2012

Slack in the Stays

Posted by Dirck on 30 January, 2012

I’m taking a couple of weeks off from The Regular Job, although I am inclined to look in here somewhat more than I usually do during a vacation.  However, I’m not inclined to work VERY hard, so having already written up my thoughts on today’s brand new pen on my regular site, I’ll just encourage you to go have a look at the profile rather than wittering on here.

Today’s (free) pen: Sheaffer VFM (thanks, FP Geeks!)

Today’s ink: Diamine Monaco Red (one of the vacation projects; convince the Diamine page to let me update it without rearranging all the captions)


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Always Have a Backup

Posted by Dirck on 27 January, 2012

As it’s Friday, I slough off.  A little pen-related comedy from the internetz today:

Today’s Lethal Pen: Sheaffer No Nonsense
Today’s Devestating Ink: Noodler’s La Couleur Royale

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Posted by Dirck on 26 January, 2012

Being tired out after the preceding long squawk (rather like a Norwegian Blue parrot), I have little to contribute today.  I will merely mention that I spent a few minutes this morning catching up on pen cleaning, and I go from an embarrassing pile of pens filled with ink (due to loaners filled for the letter writing extravaganza last week) to possibly the fewest I’ve had in a year.  I even cleaned out the TWSBIs that have become something of my household standby pen.  From this latter action a learn three things…

…about me:  I may have the pens in current use ready to go, but not having the reserve pen lurking about makes me nervous for no accountable reason.

…about an ink:  Having at last run through the Herbin 1670 that I filled the Diamond 530 with in the fall (a donation from a friend who’d bought a bottle), I can confirm that it is as hard to clean out of a pen as everyone’s been saying.  Two liters of water rendered bright red, and another two made a remarkably bright pink, and then I had to run the section in the ultrasonic tub.  That’s a persistent ink.

…about a pen:  Two things, actually.  A TWSBI’s seals are sound enough to keep ink in good shape for months (see previous), and the plastic is gratifyingly resistant to staining.  It may have taken a lot of water, but I am left with a clear pen rather than a slightly pink one.  Hooray!

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 8C
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black


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How Old is Old?

Posted by Dirck on 25 January, 2012

Last week, I was using a vintage and a modern Waterman.  This week, I’m using a vintage and a modern Sheaffer.

…or am I?  The notion of what constitutes “vintage” is a bugbear for fountain pen fanciers.    I don’t think last weeks choices bear any real discussion– the 52 is unquestionably vintage in all its aspects, and the Carène is unmitigatedly modern.  This week’s choices are more equivocal, though.  Let’s have a look at the two pens for the week without having to climb down a link–

Visually similar, of course, and that’s why the newer of the two gives some trouble in hanging a label on it.  The flat-top look is quite retro, and that throws off the judgement.  Most people will call it modern, all the same (myself, probably, included); it’s a much newer object, and that’s what will move most people.  I’d join the crown opinion for entirely different reasons, which are the same reasons that I have a little hesitation about hanging Vintage on the other one.

“Oh, come on,” says the ideal interlocquitor.  “It’s OLD!  It (or at least some parts of it) was made in the mid-1920s!  How can you even think of using the word modern in relation to it?”  The answer lies in the way it works.  There is not a huge difference in the writing properties of these two pens; both are smooth, both are firm, both are rather wet.  I do still resort to the Vintage label because of the body material and the filler mechanism, but it is, in my view, less vintage than the contemporary Waterman 52.  It is, in fact, more modern in the way in interacts with a piece of paper than an Eversharp Skyline or even a Waterman C/F.

I don’t hold that vintage, in terms of pens, is strictly a matter of chronology.  In my site, I mention that assigning a set date as the watershed leads, as years pass, to foolishness.  Either one has to move that watershed every five or ten years, or one has to start fishing about for distinctions within modern: post-modern, early modern, near-modern, hyper-modern, supra-post-modern… the mind rebels.

Ideal Interloquitor demands, “Well, if you admit that the concept exists and has some value, define it.”  I shall, but I think those who dislike subtlty and non-Einsteinian relativity will dislike it.  It’s… not brief.

Age is a factor, of course.  It’s utter nonsense to suggest a three-year old pen is vintage, regardless of how much effort it has been put into giving it the air of antiquity.  It is not, as I intimate previously, the only factor.  Materials come into play, but less so than one might think/hope; so-called modern plastics have been in use since the 1940s.

Technology is also an element.  Is the filler mechanism more or less modern?  This is a tricky question, as one can find extremely old pens that are technically cartridge-fillers, and there aren’t any mechanisms that haven’t been in use since 1960.  How about the feed?  Here again, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation since Parker’s introduction of the collector in the 1940s, so “modern” is still a very mushy concept on that head.

In the end, there is a strong element of gut-feeling in the matter of Vintage vs. Modern.  To be vintage, it has to be somewhat old, but it also has to be somewhat quaint; there is some subjective element that becomes activated when presented with an actually vintage pen, and like a judge of ages past commenting on pornography, you’ll know it when you see it.  I’d argue against having a firm border between the two concepts, frankly, or even necessarily considering them parts of the same spectrum.  I’d say that vintage and modern are elements which can co-exist in a pen; one will wither in the presence of too much of the other, but away from the extremities one can have a pen that is both vintage and modern.  Here’s some vintage pens of various ages:


Evans Dollar– very vintage
Parker Vacumatic– not quite as vintage, but still well stuck in

The rubber feed marks today’s pen as an early example of the run, and that’s long enough past to qualify as actual vintage

And on the other side of the coin, modern pens of diverse ages:

From 1941, possibly the first modern pen… but it’s a vintage example
Designed in 1966, but so very modern in shape and materials

All mod cons(truction), and yet it has “Vintage” in its model name. Very confusing.

Today’s pen of indeterminate age: Sheaffer No Nonsense
Today’s ink: Noodler’s La Couleur Royale

PS: the captions are a bit of a hash, but they’re less of a hash than what resulted from trying to do them the right way.  Anyone who looked in before this late-on-the-26th edit will attest to that.

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Speaking of Delayed Gratification…

Posted by Dirck on 24 January, 2012

I find that the contemplation I’ve undertaken today is running past the end of lunch break.  Rather than clumsily tie it up regardless (my default), I’m going to finish it tomorrow.  Keep your expectations low, though; quantity is not quality, no matter what the ads on TV insist.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 8C
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 Brilliant Black (seriously.  That’s what is says on the label)

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Auspicious Portents

Posted by Dirck on 23 January, 2012

A very merry new year to the followers of the Chinese lunar calendar!  I hate to set myself up for a fall by raising expectations, but the Water Dragon appears to be set to bring good things.  Check out what’s newly arrived to my house:

“Only skin deep,” remember

Ee-yuck!  Look beyond the surface squalor, though, and what you will be looking upon is a later example of Waterman’s coveted Hundred Year Pen.  Those who have looked at the Wish List tab at the top of the page will already know that I covet one… and to be honest, I still do, as there is a serious distinction between this and the initial lucite models.  Still, I’m extremely happy to have laid my hands on this example.  This is the first of an eventual “Before/After” series which will appear either here or on my main site; I am, for a change, going to document the work on a pen.

Now, if that were all I’d gotten, you would be entirely right in thinking I was really overdoing the search for indicators of prosperity.  There’s more, although it’s also not instantly useful.  Observe:

Hmmm, that's nice.

This was a sort of stupid charity purchase.  I was concerned that some gold speculator might grab it , as it was at a very good price.  This is a fat-bodied early TD pen, which means I have no base for it to rest in, so once I’ve replaced the sac it will be laid up for a while, but it will be laid up safely.  Even without making allowance for this deferred gratification, though, this and the previous might still not be sufficient to stand for astonishing signs of the year to come.  Fair enough… but you don’t know what came with this desk pen.  There were a bunch of dip points included, and one of them was, as the Sesame Street song has it, not like the others.

We’re gonna need a bigger boat… er, pen holder.

I overdo the size on this picture to make this item as impressive in flat presentation as it is in real life.  It is not mere size not the fact of being made of gold that makes this dip pen a wonder, but that impression.  “Mabie, Smith & Co.” was a previous version of the slowly developing entity which would enter the 20th century as Mabie, Todd & Co., and if my thus-far slightly under-pursued efforts at research are right, that version ceased to exist about 1872, which makes this little gem not less than 140 years old.  I post this publicly in hope of informative contradiction, of course, but until that appears I will revel in the prospect of a functional writing instrument of that age.

Longevity and prosperity go hand in hand, and as this new year begins I find I am handed two pens designed to last a hundred years and more.  I think I will, cautiously, look forward to what the rest of the year might have to offer.  If prosperity beckons, I will grasp it with both hands.

Today’s pen (chosen to remind me of the virtue in humble things):  Sheaffer No Nonsense
Today’s ink (chosen to celebrate the day in style): Noodler’s La Couleur Royale 

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Posted by Dirck on 20 January, 2012

I got a new pen in the mail.  Unusually, is it indeed a new pen, an item of the largesse that seems to flow without hinderance from the Fountain Pen Geeks, a Sheaffer VFM.  I have not yet have time to form an opinion on it, but… my son loves it.

He came to see what I was about when I was opening the outer shipping box, and when I slipped the actual box from its protective sleeve (these things are, whatever else their qualities, extremely well-packaged) he lit up and snagged it from me.  I suspect that it is a longstanding interest in the colour orange that drove this action, the pen being a “Maximum Orange” example, although my less rational elements whisper, “See!  Even a young child knows fountain pens are worth coveting.”

He opened the box, drew the pen out from under the elastic that held it down, uncapped it (ignoring the gasp and full-body clench from his dear dad), recapped it, and replaced it in the box, every stage attended by a delighted grin and as much care as a three year old can muster.  Then he tried to take it out again.  The clip caught under the elastic.  The cap stayed in the box.  The son, realizing things were going astray, thrust the pen back… askew!  The point ran against the inner cap.

My son is… oddly strong.  He routinely takes a four liter milk jug in either hand for a run around the house, merely for the joy of it.  I say this only partially in brag, because it’s an important context matter for the next thing I say.

He really tried to get that cap on.

The point did not bend, which is a mark in the “pro” column for the VFM.  It did, however, go a little sideways on the feed.  I’ve recentered it, and all seems well, but I hadn’t the heart in me to see if it was running properly.  Perhaps this weekend.  For me, the move from joy at acquisition to regret of (possible) loss was compressed into a ten minute space.  With the thermal stress this week has offered, I’m surprised I don’t fall into jagged shards.

Today’s pen (kept strictly away from Mighty Joe Youngster): Waterman 52
Today’s ink: Lamy blue-black

post-scriptus:  For those of you who feel this reveals something about my attitude towards modern pens… well, perhaps subconsciously.  I put it down to a lapse in judgement brought on my equal parts parental indulgence and hypothermia.

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Allow Me to Concentrate

Posted by Dirck on 19 January, 2012

In my first entry for the year, I mention that Pelikan Royal Blue has become my new desk-pen default.  I also mention that I was considering a slow adulteration of the ink with black, to reduce a perceived want of presence, but that I was going to wait in this plan.  If you look into the Pelikan page of my ink profiles,  you will find this:

…which I think illustrates the reason I might consider tipping in a little extra colour.  Not a terrible colour, but hardly a moving one.

However, the way my desk pen is employed and its past history caused me to give a stay of pollution.  I mention in previous discussions of the desk pen that it gets rather infrequent cleanings, but I don’t reveal its regular mode of use.  For at least an hour each work day (rising to as much as three), the pen is braced across the top joint of thumb and middle finger, in a position where it can be brought into play in a moment.  In a cycle which takes from a half- to a full minute, I poke my computer, examine the results, and make a little notation, usually of about ten characters.  This leaves the pen waving about in the air for most of the cycle, of course, and sees the ink begin to dry in the feed just a little.  With the previous ink, the result was an extremely dark presentation.

I was thus somewhat hopeful that the development of the new ink would be something like this:

Isn’t that interesting?  Same ink, same paper (not just generically, but the very same sheet), but a slightly wetter pen in which the ink had had time to make itself at home.   The scanner is actually quite unflattering, as in its current state, it’s not merely darker, but more vivid, approaching the retina-punching power of Noodler’s nigh-legendary Bay State Blue.  I will not be adding any black to this.

The lesson to take, if lesson one must have, is that patience is a virtue, and one whose rewards are occasionally extrinsic.

Today’s pen: Waterman Carène
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis

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Write Club

Posted by Dirck on 18 January, 2012

I haven’t looked, but I wager that’s a deeply unoriginal and thoroughly-used title.

I did indeed get to the Letter Writing event mentioned on Monday, in the face of the first serious patch of winter we’ve had since the season can be said to have begun, last November.  “With wind chill dropping below -45C, you are advised to stay home,” said the radio, but as I’m reasonably sure that was aimed at people contemplating highway travel, I overlooked the warning.  Seven other hardy souls did as well, although I suspect less menacing weather would have seen a greater turn-out

The first rule of Write Club is, it appears, to appear.  There were pens on scene (well.. ballpoints), some diverse and pleasant stationery donated by a local merchant, and an assortment of teas and sweet biscuits.  There was also a CD player offering what I might call swing-era easy-listening music, which is infinitely more tolerable than the modern version.

The second rule of Write Club is: don’t over-dress.  The building was put up in 1932, and while the power of that era to insulate may have been questionable, any cold drafts fled in terror from the vast array of steam-fed radiators which, it being a basement room, hung in a slightly Damoclesian style from the ceiling.  I very nearly undid my waistcoat buttons.

I don’t really have the power to convey the odd atmosphere of the event.  Eight people come together to, essentially, ignore each other in favour of distant acquaintances, without any help from modern electronics.  Not unlike church in some ways, although the attendees were in communion with a merely ideal conversation partner rather than an impressive spiritual force.  At least, that’s what I assume– someone may have been writing a letter of complaint to Ithaqua regarding the turn in the weather.

There was a very little conversation at the start of the evening, during which I mentioned I had brought a superfluity of fountain pens, if anyone were inclined; I don’t imagine this comes as a surprise to my regular readers.  Of the combined group, there was but one taker; the only other male in the room, who was a great deal younger than I.  He was deeply impressed with the function of the pen he borrowed (and he held it properly!), and I put him onto an online source of the same.  This and the three letters I got written allow me to mark the affair as entirely worth the long struggle into protective clothing at either end of the trip.

The last rule of Write Club:  there is no Write Club… next week.  A month’s wait, then, to see if improved weather brings a more thronging turnout.  Perhaps some madcap will bring an unpowered typewriter!

Today’s pen: Waterman 52
Today’s ink: Lamy blue-black

Afterword– I’m not participating beyond yesterday’s notice, but I find a lot of my regular online haunts are engaged in this anti-SOPA/PIPA strike.  Jolly good.

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Information Vacuum

Posted by Dirck on 17 January, 2012

This is going to be a week of short entries, thanks to some Regular Job shenanigans.  I’ll just briefly mention that you may have some trouble looking at Wikipedia tomorrow (something I link to rather a lot), as they’re protesting moves afoot by the US government to render the internet a shakey and somewhat intellectually difficult place.

The provider of this perpetual soapbox of mine is also concerned about it, to the point that they’ve posted a video explaining why it’s a very bad idea.  I urge my American readers to pester their political servants to knock this nonsense off.  It appears to be something along the lines of, “To stop piracy, we’re doing away with private boats.”

For my own part, I’d like to protest the weather.  If it’s below -25C, it should not also be cloudy.  Boo.

Today’s pen: Waterman Carène
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis

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