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Archive for June, 2013

Unruly Fruit?

Posted by Dirck on 11 June, 2013

A few weeks back, in lieu of doing an actual entry, I just put up a couple of links to potentially free stuff.  Since greed is not entirely foreign to my make-up, suppressed as it is, I also entered, and the one that didn’t rely on random change to produce a result paid off in the form of an envelope with thick plastic sides bearing a bunch of Korean postage.  I got a sample of the Banditapple carnet (and I’m sure there’s a story behind the company name).  Since I’m not in a position to order a hundred gross of them to repay the investment in postage, I’ll bang out a poorly illustrated review instead.

The more interesting side of the test page.

The more interesting side of the test page (click for bigness).

The poor illustration comes down to me and my extremely porous memory.  The two images you see here are the result of a last-minute cry of “Oh, crap!  That needs doing!” and I assure you that remembering even this much pushed a couple of other things aside that I really should have seen to before leaving the house this morning.  I’m sure the fires remained small….

On with the review, though.  When looking at this sort of product, my primary interest is the paper.  As I note on the page itself, it’s not the nigh-slick stuff one finds in many Rhodia products, but it lacks any serious texture or tooth, so there’s no disruption of the lines of one’s writing from lumps in the paper.  It is, apparently, Heritage Paper™ but what precisely that means is nowhere made clear.  It probably refers to it being long-lived acid free stuff rather than recycled, although it is slightly grey in tone so I won’t discount the possibility of recycled content.

The less interesting side, although the lack of interest is in itself interesting.

The less interesting side, although the lack of interest is in itself interesting.

The one negative I have to report on the paper front is a very small inclination to feathering, or perhaps it’s better expressed as a willingness to give somewhat into the inks’ inclinations in that direction.  Of the various inks I had on the go, the only two that didn’t produce a slightly fuzzy line were old-formula Lamy blue-black and Diamine Prussian Blue.  If you look at the enlarged sample, though, you’ll see that nothing was running rampant, and Bleu Nuit is nothing if not a willing featherer.  When I say “very small inclination”, that’s exactly what I mean, and I think the trade-off relative to Rhodia is much faster drying.

Feathering’s counterpart is bleed-through, and on this front the Banditapple paper is essentially innocent.  With the exception of my studied effort, there is no bleed-through whatever, and even the very vague show-through that appears is something of an artifact of my scanner– to the human eye, it is less evident.  The studied effort at bleed-through was accomplished by making four passes over the same patch– horizontal, vertical, and both diagonals– without any pause for drying between the passed.  This was done with the Parker 75, since the Frontier is a pen I discover my wife occasionally uses and thus my awareness of its fullness is a little off.  Since just about any other paper except Rhodia would be passing the point of the pen as well as the ink through after such a treatment, I think a nice round of civil applause is in order; those few penetrations would not have happened on three passes, and the abortive attempt with the Frontier is almost invisible.

The construction of the book is similarly sturdy.  The stitching is as close as I think it could be without making it too easy to tear out the pages, and the cover is a little heavier stock than that found on Rhodia pads or Apica notebooks.  I mention the latter because there is one other small drawback, or really potential drawback, to this book– it’s a funny size.  At 90X140 mm, it’s a fine size to stick in the inside pocket of a jacket, and for those who routinely carry a bag or purse it will work well enough, but in a shirt or even trouser pocket (cargo pants and fatigues excepted), it just doesn’t go.  For me, that means it won’t quite work as a daily aide-mémoire since there are some days over the course of the summer I forgo a jacket, but that doesn’t really count as an objective handicap.  The Field Notes books have a similar impediment from my point of view, and paper that’s downright hostile to fountain pens into the bargain.

I notice that Banditapple still has the site to request a sample open, so you need not take my word for any of this.  I also see that Goulet Pens has a couple of different sizes available, this and a larger more standard note-book format, so if you are convinced it’s worth a grab there’s at least one outlet for them.  I may wave the sample link in front of the owners of a local stationery, too….

Today’s pen: Franklin-Christoph 27 Collegia
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 violet

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I, Claimjumper

Posted by Dirck on 10 June, 2013

My efforts to add Sheaffer Balance vacuum filler repair to my roster of services continues apace.  The past week has taught me a valuable (and, for the pen, non-fatal) lesson in the time my chosen cement takes to cure, exposed a dirty trick the pen may play in the course of the repair, and put another completed, functional pen into my roster.  A few more test cases, and I’ll be satisfied as to my powers.

One of these test cases I described in a previous entry as a Commandant.  Military clip, number 3 point… yep, that’s a Commandant–

See?  The catalogue says so!

See? The catalogue says so!

In coming to grips with the pen, though, I begin to wonder about it.  The difference between a Commandant and a Defender is much as the difference between a Craftsman and an Admiral, which I offer here:

Number 3 point, check.

And that one has a number 5. Oll Korrect, as they once said in the funny papers.

The points are not the only… well, point of difference.  The Admiral is a thicker customer, and while the catalogue doesn’t list diameters, it appears that there is a just perceptible difference in the Commandant and Defender, and the thing I’m working on is a wider format.  There is also this:

It's subtle.  In fact, it's taken me months to pick up on it.

It’s subtle. In fact, it’s taken me months to pick up on it.

The clips on the Craftsman and Admiral are quite different, the latter having the updated “radius” clip that saw Balances out.  Something I hadn’t twigged to earlier is that the Admiral has no impression on the clip, but neither does it have the significant white dot.  The Defender, while not having a generational difference in the shape of the clip, also hand no letters nor neighbouring dot.

It appears, then, that the thing I’m working on is a Defender with an incorrect point.  That’s not a big deal for me, usually, but since I’m aiming at an eventual sale with this pen, why not have a look at the various sources and see if an appropriate #5 doesn’t stick its head up?

As luck would have it, I found an auction listing for two, of slightly different dimensions and of which one will almost certainly do the job.  The were also not attached to a pen, which saved me the discomfort of robbing Admiral to pay Defender.  As a counterbalance to this was the extremely discomfiting line of text in the description:  “Gold content not indicated.  Weight of both 0.7g”

In a long-distant age, I made a noise lamenting and urging against the idea of treating intact pen points as mere weight of gold.  The math has changed somewhat since then, but the point remains true– a pen point as an artifact is still worth more than it is as a tiny lump of precious metal.

I did a little more research than I usually do when bidding online (the usual procedure looks much like the “CLEAN ALL THE THINGS” cartoon you’ve likely already seen), bringing to bear my knowledge of the actual gold content of late 1930s Sheaffer points, of the instinct for destructive greed in my fellow humans, and of basic math.  I put in a bid which was $10 higher than the average of a couple of scrap prices I dug up, and settled in to wait.

There was only one other bid.  It took the starting bid up from a few dollars to… ten dollars less than I’d bid.  I picture a person sitting behind a computer, looking puzzled.  “Doesn’t that dummy know what gold is worth?” says the person.  “Maybe they though it was 24K instead of 14K… but that’s still no margin, once postage is in it.”

I chortle at this phantom of my own invention, who doesn’t know that I’d have paid almost as much for just one of them.  A weekend not merely of activity, but of good deeds.

Today’s pen (with the appropriate point): Sheaffer Balance Sovereign
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

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Culture Time!

Posted by Dirck on 7 June, 2013

I’m relatively indifferent to ballet, from the point of view of a spectator.  I honour the dancers their effort and achievement, but for the most part I can live without sitting through another full performance.  The music that goes along with it, however, is frequently quite good, and thanks to the minor miracle of recording, one doesn’t have to crouch in a theatre to hear the good bits.  As an example; there’s the majestic thumping which starts this clip, giving way to the sort of plinky-plinky that neither pleases nor allows one to nap:

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Waterman vintage blue

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Big and Flabby

Posted by Dirck on 6 June, 2013

The current desk pen, a Wahl Oxford with a pleasant semi-flex point, is not an efficient creature.  I find that I have to fill it on a three day schedule, unlike the various Sheaffers and Parkers I’ve used previously which have gone for a week or two.  This has turned my thoughts to the idea of capacity, and since I’m a fussy pedant about some things, I can turn up actual objective data:

Pen Capacity in ml
  • Wahl
  • Sheaffer fat TD
  • Sheaffer Snorkel
  • Parker 51 vac
  • Parker 51 aero
  • 1.3
  • 1.1
  • 0.8
  • 1.5
  • 1.5

No wonder, then, that I’ve had a “51” run for more than two weeks between fill-ups.  I put the Wahl’s relatively poor mileage down to plenty of evaporation around a pathetically simple feed (seven shallow cuts a side!), but as my thoughts are more on tank size than consumption, I need to point out a thing related to size.  Let me lay a couple of these pens side-by-side:

Sheaffer Snorkel

Wahl Oxford

“51” Vacumatic

Alas, no x-ray view, but the slight difference in size of frame is there to allow me to admit the Wahl at the same scale as the other two– it’s a long pen.  It’s also got the least non-storage space inside it, with a very simple lever filler.  The Snorkel’s sac doesn’t reach back much beyond the CO. in the impression, and is wrapped in three layers of steel so of course it doesn’t hold much.  The “51” has about a third of the space between the clutch ring and the barely-visible tail seam filled with filler, so its ink-bearing space is rather limited relative to its exterior dimensions.  The sac in the Wahl reaches very nearly all the way back to the end of the marbled body, and is not much under the diameter of the barrel.  So… why so little ink?

The answer, I believe, is because it’s a very large sac.  The filler relies on the power of the rubber to retain its shape; it draws ink while returned to that shape after being flattened.  Extremely large sacs have a vast internal capacity, but it seems to me that once a certain weight of ink comes aboard, the rubber can’t support any more, and just wobbles around trying to hold onto what it’s managed to take.  A big pen doesn’t necessarily hold a vast ocean of ink.

One more example, with another couple of pens side-by-each for close examination:

Sheaffer 8C (quite old)

Sheaffer No Nonsense (rather less old)

Similar in size and shape, yes?  The old fellow is a little bigger, certainly, and like the Wahl relies on a lever and a sac for filling.  The sac takes up the majority of the interior space of the pen, and pulls in 1.4 ml of ink.  The No Nonsense, if treated as an eyedropper and devoting all interior space to ink, can carry a sloshing 3.6 ml.  I’m reasonably sure, without committing an act of scientific investigation, that the mechanism of the lever and other dead space inside in the oldster doesn’t account for 2 ml of volume.

I don’t really have a point, which is usually the case with these little rambles, apart from sharing the enjoyment of a little paradox; a bigger pen does not necessarily carry the most ink.  As least, not so long as there’s a sac involved.  It’s just fun to know stuff.

Today’s pen: Waterman Carène (which is reasonably large, as pens go)
Today’s ink: Herbin Bleu Myosotis (although the teeny little 0.6ml cartridge is nearly exhausted)

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The Case of The Dubious Imperial

Posted by Dirck on 5 June, 2013

Back in September, I mentioned that I had got into my clutches, and I’ll quote from that previous entry, “a touchdown-filling Imperial/Triumph desk pen with the short ‘dunce cap’ point” which had a horrifying deformity of its tines.  Since then, it has been something of a pen-repair doodle pad for me; worked upon in what would otherwise be idle minutes at the bench, while something whose completion was more pressing got sufficiently wet, dry, warm or cool to carry on to the next step.  In the course of this pursuit, I learned a few new lessons and got a few refreshers on the contrary nature of threaded components, the adhesive qualities of ink, and the capacity of the words “metal fatigue” to induce a palsy of terror.  However, yesterday I declared the exercise at an end, with the final threading together and test-filling.  Here’s the patient, prancing down the front steps of the clinic:

Not all the scars will fade, but there's every hope of a long and productive life.

Not all the scars will fade, but there’s every hope of a long and productive life.

Another think I learned as I finished up the task was that I had not, as I had formed the intention to back when it first hit the bench, taken any “before” pictures, and so I am today wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words “I’m With Stupid” printed upon an arrow pointing upwards.

As the work neared an end, I started looking not at the damage, but at the pen as a whole, and I find myself in a state of puzzlement (moreso than my perplexing photographic failure produces).  This pen is… funny.  The description I quote in the first line is correct, as far as it goes, but it leaves out some things.  The real confuser is the point impression.  It is not SHEAFFER, but the earlier Sheaffer’S.  To those who haven’t gone up to their elbows in the viscera of Sheaffer’s history, this isn’t such a big deal, but to those who have, it should provide a useful clue to the age of the pen.  Should.

At some point between 1962 and 1965, the company switched from the apostrophized imprint to the ungarnished name.  Well and good.  It was roughly 1965 that saw the “dunce-cap” point being used on pens outside the by-then-defunct Compact line, so one might say that this is a very late example of the imprint, or a very early appearance of the point-style.

But there’s also the barrel impression you can’t read.  Sheaffer’S – MADE IN CANADA – R.D. 1960.  Chilling.  Those last characters indicate a registration with what is now the Canadian Intellectual Property Office, and if they’re accurate, they suggest that Sheaffer’s Canadian output had more oddities in it that just a non-US-spec Craftsman in the late 1950s.  I had a look in the CIPO database, and I find for 1960 three items.  Two are the cap and barrel of the PFM, although the description seems broad enough to encompass the Imperials as well.  The third is a description of the inlaid point.  A very specific one, which includes a picture to help one with any visualization difficulties:


Say, that’s darned iconic!

That is no dunce-cap.  What I hope is that the section is a late-comer to the barrel, a swapping of a damaged part from a pocket pen.  I’m not right up on the desk sockets of the 1960s, but I have a sense that the clutch studs on this section are out of place; that step in the barrel ought to serve as the stopping point and gravity itself would hold the pen in the mounting.

If that’s not the way of things, then Canada’s production begins to look wild and freakish for Sheaffers as well as Watermans and Parkers.  This isn’t bad in an absolute sense, but the essence of the “interesting times” curse wafts from it.  By way of diffusing that essense, I’m about to pop over to a forum and present the item for consideration of a pile of other obsessives.  We may not be able to be decisive, lacking the actual history of the pen, but we can at least invent an illusion founded on consensus, which is close enough to knowing the truth for the current purpose.

Today’s pen, no mystery attached: Franklin-Christoph 27 Collegia

Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 violet

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The “S” is for Scandal

Posted by Dirck on 4 June, 2013

A bit of a diversion today from the usual material (or is it?  I’ll return to the question), as I’ve read a rather interesting piece about the upcoming Superman film, and it’s gotten me thinking about the last one.  That piece, by the way, looks at previous films as well, with an eye to working out why so few of them are well received or even marginally popular, and it uses the last one, Superman Returns, as an example of a failure.  I’d managed to not see that one until a couple of months ago, and while I agree with some of the reasoning the author I link to uses, I think that on the whole it’s not a terrible movie.

On the whole.  There is, however, a problem with it which nagged at me throughout, and which renders me unable to really suggest to others that they should have a look at it.  I’m going to go into that in a few lines, but before I get there I will warn that if you are, as I recently was, one who is inclined to see Superman Returns but hasn’t yet, I am going to give some stuff away.  Read on if you dare!

Now, on to the problem.  It is not Superman himself.  While I agree with the item I read earlier about the general want of sympathy Brandon Routh generates, that’s not really wrong; Superman has ever been a bit of a big blue plank.  If he had a better sense of humour, he’d have far less trouble with Mr. Mxyptlk (which I doubt I’ve spelled properly).  I was, in fact, struck by how very like Christopher Reeve this Routh fellow ran in his portrayal.

Nor do I have any trouble with the villain of the piece.  Kevin Spacey is almost always a good laugh, and Lex Luthor is one of the more satisfying Superman villains in the versions of him where he’s not just trying to get back for Superboy having made him accidentally bald.  However smart he is, Luthor is just a guy, and he’s working against an alien that can not only lift small continents and move at relativistic speeds but is also clever in proportion.  The trick to making him a satisfying villain is having him do something so darkly evil that this imbalance doesn’t leave us rooting for him and so effectively evil that Superman actually has to work hard to deal with him.  Supeman Returns has a sufficiency in this direction, more or less.

At the risk of drawing accusations of sexism, my problem with this film lies with Lois Lane.  The problem is not, I hasten to say, is not with the character… and while I was about to say “it’s the actress,” that’s not altogether right.  It’s the combination of character and actress that does it, not unlike mixing up bleach and ammonia.  In general terms, I don’t have any brief against Kate Bosworth nor the reporter she plays.  However…  when the film was made, she was 23 and very nearly that old to look at.  Lois Lane is a Pulitzer-prize winning, highly respected reporter of long and resplendent career with a staggering smoking habit, and I’m not drawing that from the comics but from things mentioned in the film itself.

These are not impossible to reconcile, but the hook from which disbelief is suspended starts to groan under the weight of it.  Add to this the fact that the Pulitzer article was about Superman’s departure from Earth five years earlier (thus the title), putting her at if not under 20 when the thing was written, and thus several years younger than the current youngest-ever Pulitzer recipient.  Oh, also, she’s a working mom.

…and that’s a bigger problem, because it comes clear in the course of the film that the father of her child is in fact the Last Son of Krypton.  Leaving aside the essential impossibility of this sort of coupling bearing fruit (Larry Niven took that one to bits a long time ago, and he’s not wrong in his conclusions), there’s a small matter of morality.  Superman’s essential goodness is the foundation of the character; whatever he’s doing, unless he’s been given a lump of red kryptonite or befuddled by enchantment, is Right and Good.  Even allowing for rumours one hears about farm-ways, Right and Good may not entirely be served by having unprotected sex with someone who is at most eighteen (23-5=18, eh?) and who is also possibly a little star-struck at having a chance to bed an effective demigod.  Even less are they served by buggering off out of the solar system after knocking her up– and if he can hear and differentiate from background noise an armed robbery happening hundreds of miles away, his super-senses should pick up on the popping of cell-division and the changes in personal scent the hormone adjustments of pregnancy will bring on, so his surprise at the development rings a little hollow.

The author of the article that got me going on this has high hopes for the new film, which apparently reboots the whole cinematic Superman enterprise.  His hope lies in the nature of the villain, who can actually give Superman a run for his money.  I agree, and add to that– Amy Adams, who is playing Lois Lane, is 38.  That’s old enough to have a believable back-story

Now, having gotten all that out, I have a thing to moot; I begin, after somewhat more than four years of this nonsense, to run out of purely pen-related topics, but I do really like holding forth.  I’ve been contemplating doing something like this for a while, although more in the line of responding to some of my favourite film reviewers than doing actual reviews myself.  I very nearly asked, “What to folks think about that?” but the last time I did something like that I had a pen fall apart on me, so this is more in the line of an announcement/warning.  Pen material will be the core of the experience here, but there will be a somewhat higher percentage of other stuff.  And that’s the way it is.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Balance Sovereign
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

Posted in Armchair Quarterslack, General Blather | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Writing, Elsewhere

Posted by Dirck on 3 June, 2013

The weekend’s demands apparently sprained themselves, as the became swollen and occupied far more weekend than one might like.  Since I’ve little interesting to say here (what, again?) I’m going to apply myself to getting a letter written to try to reduce the sudden heap of correspondence that Friday’s delivery produced.

Today’s pen (which I may, possibly, have refilled): Parker 75
Today’s ink: Diamine Sargasso Blue

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