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Still Chewing That Bone

Posted by Dirck on 22 October, 2012

Apart from battening the outside of the house against the manifest onrushing of Winter (no snow, but the air had this taste…), the main enterprise of the weekend was making some pens write properly.  These were not my own pens, but those of a friend/correspondent/client who decided to take advantage of my recently admitted-to powers of exorcising lesser demons from points and feeds.  With only one exception, they’re all made by manufacturers with whom I’m unfamiliar, and they’re an interesting bunch.

Five pens, all wanting their points looked at.  Mainly drier than the owner would like, but there were also issues of scratchiness and discomfort in writing.  Looking at them closely, the problems were easily understood.  The corners of the tipping on a cursive italic left entirely unrounded, for example, which will of course catch on paper; while a cursive point has relatively sharp edges, there is still a bare minimum of rounding needed to prevent catching on the fibres of the paper.  Or, in the case of the most offensively dry pen, the slit compressed so tightly that ink couldn’t hope to flow down it.  Easily diagnosed, under magnification, and if not easily then at least readily sorted out.

I’m not going to name names just at the moment, because I suspect there’s a little bit of sampling error going on; one example of each, out of however many hundreds or thousands of each model have been made, and collected in one place precisely because that one example has something amiss.  I am going to cast some aspersions, but I’m going to keep them non-specific.  It’s not just because I’m afraid of the kind of lawyers a well-funded pen company might lay on.

Oh, yes, well-funded.  With one exception, none of these pens are in any way the sort of thing I would have the money loose to buy myself.  That one exception, a mere starveling available for less than $100 retail, is a bit of a pauper in the company it arrived in, as removing it puts the average cost of the bunch as something above $500 each.    That’s a shocking amount of money to spend on a pen that’s not writing well.

In the case of the very very dry pen, I think I can see some sense in it; it stopped being dry when one put the sort of weight on it that a habitual ball-point user would apply.  The slit opened up, ink came out in a reasonable torrent, and there’s your functional pen.  The others, with their grabby edges and misaligned tines, don’t have that excuse.  Three of them are Italian, and there is something of a tradition in Italian manufacturing to go for the looks rather than the function (at least, that’s my deeply misinformed notion), but bowing to the foolish bigotted pre-conceptions of stupid foreigners like me is hardly an excuse for charging a pile of money for a badly finished pen.  It’s troubling.

…and it gets back the the largely unanswerable question of “Is it worth it?” that I mirrored the asking of a couple of weeks back.  When one brushes up against such troubling examples of the pen-maker’s art gone sideways, it becomes harder to say “Yes.”   The percentage of the pen’s whole cost that someone like me asks for to make it work properly goes down with every extra zero at the end of the price-tag, yes, that’s true.*  However, it’s still adding to what is already a vast sum.  People will balk, and rightly so.  I take comfort in the notion of coicidental sampling error, because I might start to question my faith in pens otherwise.

The silver lining; now that they’re doing what they’re supposed to, they are rather nice.  Intermittent vicarious pen richness is a real treat.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer 300 (cheap, and worked properly right out of the box)
Today’s ink: Organics Studio Manganate V

*A couple of people have asked how my weekend went at The Regular Job, and the vast heap of wealth this pocket-full of pens represented was mentioned.  “Gosh,” said each of them separately, “don’t you charge more for the expensive ones?”  No.  No!  I charge for my effort, and that doesn’t really vary as a function of the cost of the pen (one of the really expensive ones was shockingly easy to get sufficiently apart).  If there’s an extra charge put on nice pens, it’s that non-monetary aspect I mentioned at the end; I get to experience an expensive pen without paying for it, and the client doesn’t lose anything for however much I gain from the experience.

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2 Responses to “Still Chewing That Bone”

  1. SheilaM said

    Hmm…I’ve recently had some rather negative experiences with a brand-new, rather expensive Italian pen myself; bad enough that the authorized repair shop here in the US wouldn’t take on the warranty repair and sent it back to the mothership in Italy. Respecting your choice to not name names, but I’m darned curious if it’s the same house…

    • There’s a high likelihood; my little tale involves three Italian manufacturers. I’m pretty happy it wasn’t anything so evidently involved at your issue apparently was (although I have a fourth Italian maker’s pen from the same chap on a long-term study, as it’s defying my efforts to break into it, so I’m not entirely in the clear, Italian pen-wise).

      Suddenly, I’m feeling very slightly less of a jerk for the chauvinism expressed in the post. Not, I hasten to add, that I’m ever fully comfortable with my chauvinisms, regardless of how founded they might be.

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