What's up at Ravens March.

Vintage pens-Handmade books-Silly statements


Posted by Dirck on 22 May, 2014

Have I mentioned, at some point in the hundred-dozen entries here (holy prolixity!) that until relatively recently, I was a huge fan of fine pens?  I know I mention it in passing when discussing point selection for the tyro fountain pen user.  It came up in a recently-posted letter, too, and I couldn’t remember holding forth on the topic here.

Let me now remedy that.

It’s true, I was for most of my life very committed to fine pens.  In that letter, I relate how I don’t need any mechanical assistance to render the difference between ce, and i indistinct, and being also not given to great big handwriting (those lines in the notebooks are there for a reason), fine points and me seem a natural symbiosis.  I remember the absolute delirium of the day in the mid- to late-1970s when I discovered that fineliner markers could be got in 0.3 mm.  That’s sooooo thin!

This state of affairs began to amend when I dove into the agglomerating of vintage pens from dubious sources.  I’ve likened eBay to fishing in a river; stuff drifts past, and if it’s vaguely interesting, you dip your net and see if you can snag it.  This removes a lot of choice in specifics– if I’m angling at a Waterfield 44, I’m mainly looking at whether its mother of pearl inlay is intact, and don’t really trouble myself with the point apart from making sure it’s present.  Fine, fat, firm, flex– whatever it has it what I get.  I choose to view this as a good thing, a broadening (ho ho) of horizons.  I have benefited from it, at least in a spiritual sense, in as much as I can now enjoy the pleasures of  ink shading which can only really be had with a good thick line.

As it happens, I’m starting to come around to the notion of still liking fine points, but of a different sort.  The Stipula of Tuesday was, in a way, a fine point.  A fine stub.  I’m slowly coming around to wanting to have writing that is unequivocally that of a fountain pen– apart from the colour, elegance and legibility, that is.  Line variation is that unequivocal statement, and the two ways of getting line variation are flexibility and tip shape.  Since I have this tendency to slur my writing, too wide a tip is problematic, but a stub or cursive point of somewhere between 0.6 and 0.9mm is absolutely elegant.


One of these needs more frequent meals.

All life is a balancing act, of course.  Apart from having some trouble in getting people to tell the difference between nice and nee when I write things, there is the question of ink consumption.  Some pens are profligate, some are parsimonious, but in general, a big broad point will get through a lot more ink than a little thin one.

This is not a huge problem.  Unlike gasoline, there’s not a lot of moral baggage attached to using loads of ink.  It only becomes a problem in specific ways.  My current approach to rotation is to use until dry, and the problem is… if I’m really enjoying using a given pen, I have to swap it out sooner than I might like.

I didn’t say it was a serious problem.  Today’s pen is probably going to be dry by the end of the day, and it’s so much fun (in pen terms) that I’m a little sad.  The other side of the coin– yesterday’s pen has an EF point.  I may be using it until autumn.

Today’s pen: Pelikan MK10
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire


2 Responses to “Mileage”

  1. I’ve only just discovered nice pens. After so many years of thinking I just had awful handwriting, I’ve finally discovered that if I use a better pen I can have better writing. At the moment I’m still relishing the delight of dipping, and I think I’ll be picking up a couple more bottles so I can change them out.

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