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Archive for September, 2012

Can’t Spell Nemesis Without…

Posted by Dirck on 28 September, 2012


Whatever had done my son in on Friday and got my wife down to the point that I had to leave work early on Wednesday to make sure Patient Zero wasn’t neglected has finally battered down my barricades.  That most ancient of human enemies, living in close proximity to other humans, has claimed another win.

As I don’t have a film picked out, why not have a chuckle at underground humour in a very literal sense?

Today’s pen, in as much as today has a pen: Waterman 52 (I may well dig into the standby crowd rather than risk this pen to a spasmodic gesture)
Today’s ink: Lamy blue-black


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Not Everyone is Your Friend

Posted by Dirck on 27 September, 2012

We all want to be liked, I think.  Some of us are more anxious than others for universal approval, but we’re all given to seeking external approval now and again.  The flip-side of that, I think we’ve all run into someone who is projecting “please like me” into the world, and when the signal doesn’t carry with it a tremor of clinging neediness or some more sinister undertone, we’re usually willing to make a little effort.  They may not be altogether appealing, but as Bugs Bunny once noted, everyone was someone’s baby once.

But… sometimes, with the best will in the world, we find that liking just can’t be made to flourish.  Their voice, their politics, their turn of phrase, a smell their body exudes or their attempt to disguise it, something that just can’t be overcome which stifles the effort to like.  We’ve all experienced it, usually from both sides, and when it happens, it’s not a good feeling.

And now, I turn my eyes upon the pens on my desk.  Esterbrooks.  I’m sorry… but try as I might, I cannot like you as much as I could wish to.  There’s no blame here, neither of us must say, “Oh, it’s not you, it’s me,” but there is one aspect of you which I an aspect of me simply will not accommodate.  This bothers me more than you can know (since, as inanimate objects, you’re not so very sentient), since I very much like the notion of the Esterbrook pen.  interchangeable points?  Fantastic!  The dip base is undeniable in its reliability, and even as I make this admission of trouble in our relationship I know that, so long as I want a pen with red ink in it, I will never give up on the DipLess pen.

It’s not an issue of attraction, either.  The plastics used in the J Series are amazing to look at, and so resistant to scratches as to be a marvel.  But when one comes to look at performance… there’s a problem.  The tipping in the low end Esterbrook points drives me to distraction.  I can define the problem, too.  Square shoulders.  While something that is spoken of with praise in the human realm, in pen tipping it’s a serious drawback.  In the area of pitch, there’s no issue; from rather steep to very shallow, the pen is as smooth as one could like.  Roll, though… oh, the scraping if there’s a half-minute of roll on the pen!  Terrible!

And there we are.  You cannot change this aspect of yourself, and I seem unable to avoid that little hint of roll when I write.  This is not something that need see a hard break, of course.  There are so many other things about you that I do like, and there are of course the 9000 series points.  There will, however, remain this area of friction between us.  I will remain a well-wisher, Esterbrook, but I don’t know that I can ever be a fan.

Today’s pen (not without foibles): Holland Fount-Filler
Today’s ink: Wancher Asuka

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Not Fade Away

Posted by Dirck on 26 September, 2012

Among the diversions of the weekend, by far the least congenial was the salvage operation mounted upon my parents’ basement.  You see, last Friday my mother discovered an unexpected spring in the laundry room; the feed from the main had broken directly under the foundation of the house.  I will do no more than suggest the joys of that evening, and of my father’s subsequent discussion with his insurers.

Happily, there was little of importance that got a fatal dampening.  My main loss was a set of Discover magazines covering roughly 1983 through ’89, and since those were laid aside before the notion of “look it up online” came about, I am able to resign myself to the throwing out.

Well up the list of things of the category, “Thank God that was on the other side of the house!’ is the wedding album, which includes three telegrams of regretted absence and well-wishing.  Next to this on the shelf was a little book bearing the title The Story of Our Baby, illustrations copyrighted 1929.  It was thus ten years in print when my grandparents picked it up to record the birth of my mother.

I’m probably naive in thinking that not including the family names prevents internet predators for… doing something inconvenient to me and my family.

The details are filled in with a fountain pen, of course, as the events being recorded are more than a half-decade ahead of the general emergence of ball-points into the North American market.  I am thus even more fascinated than a normal person at this item of family history.

To ink, first.  That first line, the baby herself, looks somewhat like what I expect modern Quink or Waterman blue-black to work itself into, while the rest are rather more like what a respectable modern blue-black (Sailor springs to mind) holds as.  However, let us recall that these lines were laid down in spring of 1939, and that not months but decades of fading have passed.  I’m not quite sure what to make of that first line; it may, I suppose, be an early example of the Quink formulation I’ve only recently despaired of.  The rest is in what that ante-bellum context called a blue ink.  Possibly even washable blue.  This is why we fanciers of vintage sometimes are found in quiet corners, weeping.

Inevitably, my thoughts turn to the pen, or pens, being used.  If I were like Sherlock Holmes, I might be able to say what was doing the writing (which is to say, if I were fictional; there’s limits to what the lines can tell).  Since my grandfather died before I started Kindergarten, where his pen went is a dark mystery.  I have a notion he used a Parker, founded only on the desk-mount 21 I wrecked during a bout of pre-teen “how’s this work” foolishness.  I can’t imagine that he stuck with the same pen from then until his last days, since he was as moved by fashion as most men of his age.  However… the things he wrote in the wedding album, twenty-five years later, are remarkably similar.

In both line and colour.  Stupid modern inks.

Today’s pen: Waterman 52
Today’s ink: Lamy blue-black (which I exempt from that last bit; this is a deeply 1935ish ink)

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Quart, or Mass

Posted by Dirck on 25 September, 2012

As Hallowe’en is on the visible horizon, I pause a moment to suggest Quatermass and the Pit; a good sci-fi/horror romp that is, in a small way, an adaptation of Lovecraft’s At the Mountains of Madness.  Since Guillermo del Toro has been put off making his own film of that story, we take our solace where we may.

Look back to the weekend, once again, I mentioned a lucky strike at a garage sale.  This is not an entirely unprecedented event, but the dazzling accomplishments of a friend (which have resulted in my receiving two different eras of Duofold, a lowly but unusual version of the Skyline, and a remarkably well-preserved Crusader).  The sale in question was one which this friend put me onto, so she still takes some of the glory; she mentioned it to be because the notice actually indicated that there were fountain pens.

I’ve mentioned with some frequency the utility of keeping expectations very low, and so while I did creep out of the house at an early hour so as to not miss the quarry, I went with the notion that what I would find would be a small box of rusty steel dip points and possibly a holder.  When I arrived, minutes before opening, I downgraded expectations further as there was a thronging mob, all looking like the cast of a reality TV show with the word “Pickers” in the title.  But, I was there, the doors were opened, and it would cost me nothing to have a look.

As it happens, I probably missed the jewel of the place, pen-wise, as when I found the box the pens lay in, a young woman was examining and in the end made off with a Waterman C/F with the long tail of a desk mount.  It seems that the person behind the sale (who was having it run for them by professional garage/estate sale arrangers) preferred desk pens.  My haul comes to four; a Sheaffer/Fineline dip pen as belongs in one of that company’s “box of ink” sets, a homeless Esterbrook Model W , an apparently ready-to-run Esterbrook SJ in plain black, and a touchdown-filling Imperial/Triumph desk pen with the short “dunce cap” point.  The last would have been the queen of the lot, if not for yet another mutilation of an inlaid point, which is so very corrugated that I’m not sure I can recover it.  However, as it turned out the whole box was priced at $5, there’s useful parts there; the essentially untouched points in the Esterbrooks are each worth more than that, and the rest of it is gravy.

None of this is particularly remarkable, though.  There was also a box of inks, from which I tried to take a single 1950ish bottle of Waterman blue, and was told that the price was for the whole box, and if I wanted the one I had to take the bunch.  $5 more?  Sure.  Two of the Waterman, a modern Quink, a couple of unlabeled and nervous-making reddish items, and some Reeves blue-black.  This last is remarkable, for two reasons.  The first is that Reeves is a Canadian company I remember best for making oil pastels I regularly destroyed as a child in unthinking opposition to my mother’s artistic efforts, and which if it still exists apparently specializes in finger-printing ink (Google offers little encouragement).  The second reason is a matter of volume–

A lifetime supply… if I live a LOT longer than most people.

No, there’s nothing there for scale, so it’s not so impressive as it is in person.  It is, though, an honest to goodness institutional size of ink, as schools and banks used to purchase.  It hasn’t been stored with any care, though, and some of its components have separated… so I’m a little hesitant to use it.  Never the less, I’m pleased for no sensible reason to have such a vast bottle of ink.

At very least, it will help to keep the house from blowing away.

Today’s pen: Holland Fount-Filler
Today’s ink: Wancher Asuka

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Big(gish) Numbers

Posted by Dirck on 24 September, 2012

An interesting weekend.  My son brought home something from his pre-school, although apparently my immune system has met it previously.  I’ve been delving into some Italian pens I’ve not previously met, through the kindness of a previous client who was pleased enough to let me work on them.  I had an uncharacteristic first-person garage-sale triumph, which I will go into at some length tomorrow.  I hoisted a pint (and a quarter) with a friend who is about to take the Oxford history department by storm.  I also looked at the stats of this effort and my main site, and found some stuff worth pondering that is not concerned with children’s television.

My online presence has passed a couple of milestones.  This little screed now has over 800 posts, which is as nicely pointless as a thing to remark upon as can be hoped for.  In having made that dizzy and non-metric quantity of entries,  I find that a certain number of people (many of whom are probably not concerned with children’s television) have looked in.  This is not a particularly stunning development, but what drew my interest is that the number of look-ins here has just been surpassed by the number of look-ins at my main site since its renovation in November of last year.  That’s exciting, although I damp the excitement by not sharing the actual numbers (because I suspect they’re low, in absolute terms, and I don’t want to attract derision).

Well, what do bloggers do when a slightly abstract and meaningless collusion of circumstantial mathematics descends upon them?  They give stuff away!  It’s been an age since I did something like this, but in addition to the slightly abstract ect. I find I’ve got a duplicate of a pen that someone might not buy on their own but is honestly worth sharing.  There is a small catch, though.  In speaking with my Oxford-bound friend, a test which he’ll be sitting almost immediately came up, a sort of academic cricket game which spans two days, but which in a past form was even more terrifying as a major component of it was writing a long essay on the theme of an apparently random single word.  Well, that sounds like a great way of proving that the pen is going to a writer, so I’m proposing a test of skill in a smaller scale.

Let’s get specific– what you might get is a Wing Sung 233, in a pleasing burgundy colour, which has had its flow and smoothness seen to.  It doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a surprisingly good pen, and it can be YOURS for only a little mental labour.  Leave a comment on this post, fit for public consumption, which considers this word: Octagon.  Because I don’t want to see anyone devote doctoral-level effort to this small prize, the minimum length of entry is a single correctly-formed paragraph.  Everyone who fulfills this stern qualification will be given a number based on the order of appearance, and a winner randomly drawn from that pool.

How long to you have to act on this?  Let’s say… two weeks.  The draw will be held at noon CST on the 8th of October, which means I’ll have to rouse myself from the stupor of Thanksgiving to give thanks to all entrants in words and one in the form of a free pen.  Is everyone ready?  Off you go, then!

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

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Posted by Dirck on 21 September, 2012

OK.  Fine.  I give in.

What you you mean, “What are you on about?”  Oh, right, you don’t have access to the super-secret stats page.  Well, I mentioned a wild freak earlier in the month, and I’ve had another spasm this week, which means that rather over a thousand search engine hits have come from my few sidelong mentions of a blue steam locomotive this month.  Well, it’s Friday, it’s film time, and I’m willing to bow to popular opinion.  I will urge the kids at home to watch for the fountain pen in this episode, just to not entirely abandon my usual focus:

Today’s pen (also blue and archaic): Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

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Pens for Education

Posted by Dirck on 20 September, 2012

I’m on even more limited time constraints than usual today, so rather than my usual ramble, I will offer a rather more worthy alternative.  If you nip over to Newton Pens, you can read the proprietor’s commitment to apply the profits of his operation to the education of youngsters with good habits but poor prospects.  Having read, you may then perhaps consider the ordering of a pen.

Today’s pen:  Sheaffer 8C
Today’s ink: Diamine Majestic Blue

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Colours of the Old Alma Mater

Posted by Dirck on 19 September, 2012

A recently replied-to comment and a paucity of other stuff on my mind brings a preview of an upcoming page on my main site.  A little while ago, the fine inmates of the Fountain Pen Geeks site had a draw for a Franklin-Christoph desk pen, and while I didn’t snag that I got one of the subsidiary prizes:

…and in just about my favourite colour, too!

That’s the Model 27, which revels in name “Collegia”.  This does not reflect its power of inducing fellow-feeling, but instead that it’s available in a variety of colours which reflect various US colleges.  I have not let this influence my opinion of the pen, despite the (shudder) sports connection implicit in that.

Since I’m going to roll out the page itself shortly, I’m not going to give a prolonged write-up, but will stick instead with a brief set of impressions.  It is, alas, a rather heavy pen, and if one posts the cap it becomes a little much to bear.  With the cap left to one side, though, it’s manageable, and that is really the extent of complaints I can make against the pen.  The point is smooth (although, in a truth I may not add to my site’s review, mine had a small flow issue) and can be swapped out in a unit similar to that in a TWSBI Diamond, which means that if one finds the body congenial one can turn it into a whole arsenal of different writing thicknesses.  I understand the points are made by JoWo.

I have, since getting this pen, read that it’s not strictly designed for posting.  While I accept that, the word having come from the Franklin himself, I have to say that it does rather entice the attempt:

Honestly, don’t you WANT to stick a cap on that tail-piece?

I’m quite pleased with the Model 27, even though I whine about weight.  I’m interested in getting at a more elevated model from this company (the Model 29, with its magnetically-held cap, is under serious consideration), and I’d say to any who are in a paralysis of indecision about this pen that it is worth the asking price.  Which, for those who aren’t having free ones sent to them as a reward for writing silly things, is apparently $69.50, and includes a converter and a cartridge of ink.

Today’s pen (bigger, but much lighter): Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire (yes, quite similar to the colour of the above; I told you I like it)

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Stand By that Switch, Ygor!

Posted by Dirck on 18 September, 2012

Today’s pen has me thinking about parts.  The notion of a “frankenpen” is very common amongst the vintage pen fanciers.  While there are some pens from which the vital spark cannot be returned, it is a good deal easier to revitalize them than it is a human.  The pen I’m using right now is made of parts from at least three other pens, spanning at least a decade of production, and it’s this that has me thinking.

If I were to go and stitch myself up a homunculus out of professional sports players (I understand hockey players may be surplus to needs for the next little while), whether or not my bumbling half-wit assistant got the brain of a criminal lunatic for it or not, I think there’s little doubt that people would notice that it was not quite right.  Today’s pen, though, does not provoke villagers to flee for the pitchfork and torch repository; except to an uncommonly knowing eye, it looks like what I call it.  Indeed, I’m comfortably certain that the parts all come from the same model, just different years.

Where, then, is the cut-off?  Is it right to call the ink-filled pastiche in my pocket a frankenpen, or is it short of cut-off?  I’ve another Sheaffer from the Balance era, whose point and body are at odds with one another; the price code on the barrel indicates the next step up the model ladder from the point.  And yet, from the degree of patination, it’s clearly been in there for a long time.  Frankenpen, right?  Sort of?  How about the various Parker “51”s I’ve owned, all but one of which have had several years between the date codes on point and barrel?

There is also the question of at what point making a frankenpen becomes culpable, when the villager’s recourse is not only appropriate but almost a moral obligation.  A Waterman Commando with the cap off a Sheaffer Imperial crammed down onto it.  A wretched chimera composed of parts from four different makers’ pens, with the finishing horror of a dip pen crushed into the section.  Dr. Frankenstein fled in terror and revulsion from his creation, and if it had not been merely somewhat malformed (or, as the book appears to have it, just slightly distasteful in complexion and hair texture), but had been made from a condemned criminal, a ballerina, a hairless cat, and the wrong end of an armadillo, he would have been entirely justified.  I won’t hold up a hand and say, “Never!” but I’m certainly intent on making sure that the parts actually belong in the same frame, even if they might not be quite contemporary.

The last thing I need is to be trapped in a burning windmill by the wretched creatures of my own creation… although now that I think about it, even sticking to all-original parts, I might occasionally touch on the error of Herbert West.  Uh oh.

Today’s pen (has never thrown a tiny German girl into a pond):  Sheaffer 8C
Today’s ink (the use of which probably doesn’t offend the heavens): Diamine Majestic Blue

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None of Your Beeswax

Posted by Dirck on 17 September, 2012

Another excellent weekend!  The refit of a client’s Vacumatic, the reduction of the defences of a couple of Taperite Watermans (one of whose walls I’ve invested for a very long time indeed, and various of the other small triumphs over entropy that we humans are always attempting.  One of these was the address a bit of a seep in my Parker 65.

This pen is a bit of an oddity.  Like the 45, the VP, and the 75, it has its point and feed arranged in a dismountable unit, although it shares with the VP a need to largely dismantle the section to free the unit.  Unlike those other pens, the feed of the 65 is contiguous with the line of the section, and the seam between them is a source of unwanted ink on the fingers unless it is properly sealed.  Occasionally, that seal needs to be renewed, and this is the state my pen got itself into.

The other oddity of the 65 is the nature of this seal.  It is not shellac, that duct tape of the pen world, as the construction of the point/feed unit would both make it very hard to release the shellac when dismantling was needed and would also make it very likely that the shellac would get into the bits of the feed that only ink should ever touch.  The other usual stuff, a rosin-based quasi-pitch, is easier to release than shellac but it’s also rather on the goopy side; a little difficult to direct with any grace.  This isn’t a problem in its regular application, a full band on the threads of a section, but in this case the zone of application is only a little crescent.  Also, the seam in question is exposed; there would be a little line of perpetually sticky glop threatening the writer’s fingers.

The best thing to use, then, is wax.  Wax can be liquefied for easy application, but is solid at almost any temperature a person would be contemplating the use of a pen, and it is nicely resistant to fluids.  In the case of my efforts this weekend, I put beeswax to use. I had it on hand (it is thus mine, not yours; I wouldn’t presume upon someone else’s beeswax), and it’s a little more malleable than the more common paraffin wax.  It also pleased my whimsy to be using such a deeply archaic material, incorporating it into the fabric of an otherwise quite modern tool.  Seep undone, a pen returned to use and rendered pleasant smelling all in one act!

As a follow-up to my complaint of last week, I can also report victory on the Targa front.  Let me make a montage of before and after:

Droopy before

Upright after

That plane I mentioned in the complaint phase of the operation.

I also got a little outdoor time with my son, as the weather is still relatively fine. That’s a weekend well applied, in my books.

Today’s pen, all modern materials (c. 1927): Parker Duofold
Today’s ink, traditionally sourced: Herbin Vert Empire

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