Manos: The Hand of Writing!
Posted by Dirck on 7 April, 2014
If you’re anything like me,
I’m sure one day a cure will be found you like silly old horror films. In that genre, few are sillier than one made on a bet by an El Paso insurance salesman called Manos: The Hands of Fate. Very difficult to watch in its undiluted form, it is much what you’d expect of a film made by a man with no experience in film-making who had to keep his budget under $20,000. I can’t remember if it’s Joel, one of the Bots, or a reviewer who pointed out that the title basically means “Hands: The Hands of Fate”….
In any event, when a client recently offered to send me, merely for the joy of sharing it, what she described as “the most horrible pen to use in the world” which bore the trademark… Manos!
Apart from the connection to the well-loved (or at least fondly-regarded) film, the idea of something that might be worse than my hated Apis was intriguing and intimidating, and I all but begged for it to be sent along with the pen that was intended to be fixed. Want to see it?
Made in Austria, eh? Well, we won’t hold it against the Austrians. The client was of the opinion that it was made in the 1920s, and I can’t really say otherwise. It looks like black hard rubber, but the smell test suggests it’s not; this would be more conclusive if the last thing my son brought home from his school’s Advanced Viral Infection Crafting program hadn’t done some long-lived mischief to my olfactory powers. The cap suggests an earlier date, as it was only prior to 1913 that Montblanc gave up on efforts to trademark an all-white cap derby and switched to the bird-splat device. I make a vast assumption that the all-white top on this pen is an effort to latch onto Montblanc’s huge velvet coat-tails, an effort with bears diminishing fruit the longer past 1913 the production date of this pen is.
Functionally, it was described as filling a drop or two at a time, which I said must reflect some disablilty. Client replied that she thought it was doing what it was supposed to. I did not give outward voice to my next thought, “Fiddle faddle, no fountain pen takes aboard one drop of ink by design,” and that’s a good thing because I’m wrong. When it arrived, I had a ponder of it, and I thought two things: first, might it be a twist filler; second, there’s not much of a joint at the back of the section, and that will make it a pain to open up. Since I didn’t have direct experience with the model, it was time for the research which proved that a drop or two at a time is about it.
I found a thread on a forum from someone in a state of confusion similar to my own, and the response was an eye opener. It’s here, for those that want to see the insides of a Manos pen, and the upshot is it’s sort of not quite a fountain pen, but more of a dip pen with a range extender. I could saw, “Ah hah, see, it’s not a fountain pen so I’m right” but that’s grasping for straws. As small as it is, there is an interior ink reservoir, so I have to admit it as a technical fountain pen; the theory is the same as my Esterbrook puck, but the details are different. That thread also warns against attempting to break into one of there pens, as they are designed to be unfixable– a very early example of planned obsolescence. Where this would move one to buy another Manos rather than go and get a proper fountain pen is extremely debatable.
Sadly, I can’t quite decide whether it’s knocked the Apis from its throne at the nadir of pens. It’s very old, possibly old enough to support a claim of not quite knowing how to do fountain pens yet; the Apis has no such crutch. With a plated point that replaces tipping with a dimple in the metal, it is really not a brilliant pen for writing with, and the mechanism does appear to be on its last legs… but it is still nicer to write with than the Apis.
It’s conundrum enough to make Torgo stand up straight.