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Posts Tagged ‘Bic’

The Hensher Conclusion

Posted by Dirck on 9 January, 2014

Man, I should start writing spy thrillers.  The titles are EASY.

I did indeed finish The Missing Ink, and I continue to recommend it to any who are interested in this aspect of communication.  I have a few residual comments to make before I leave it lie.

The first regards the most difficult chapter in the whole book for me to get through, in which he waxes rather too rhapsodical about the contributions of Lászlo Biró and his unindicted co-conspirator Baron Marcel Bich to the general practice of handwriting in the 20th century.  I might be a little less venomous in this regard had Hensher avoided speaking of “expensive, laborious, endlessly refilling fountain pens” and if I weren’t barking mad on the subject of fountain pens, so my problem with that particular chapter will probably not be universal.

In his laying out of the response of the serious handwriting community to the rise of ballpoints, Hensher refers to a couple of what he believes are mutually contradictory derisions of ball-point writing– on one hand, it is said that the line is intermittent, while another comment points to the bland uniformity of the colour emitted.  Because I’m as I am (see previous paragraph), I can accept both complaints as perfectly valid.  Ballpoints skip and blob, upholding the first complaint, but the line they do actually produce lacks the variations in width which either an even hemi-demi-flexible point or an italic one can bring to a fountain pen’s output, and also misses out on the glories of shading offered by many fountain pen/ink combinations.

The chapter was redeemed in the end with an acknowledgement of problems of disposable pens and a brief mention of the untold millions upon millions of the things moldering away in landfills (and, based on an earlier chapter, in Hensher’s gut).

An alarming chapter profiles his efforts to buy a pen in London, where despite the thronging, relatively densely-packed, and not infrequently well-to-do swarm of humanity that lives there, it is not an easy thing to find a retail source of fountain pens nor staff who know the field in those sources.  I take some heart from the fact that the expedition appears to have been a very spur of the moment thing, with never a pause for a look in a directory nor a Googling of the matter; this answers the first of the trials, at least.  Lack of knowledgeable and willing staff is still alarming, although casting my mind back to the adventures of the Penquod and her industrious master, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised.  I wonder if Mr. Hensher has looked to the Writing Equipment Society since publication– they could surely set him on the right trail.

Finally, I heartily endorse the final “what is to be done” suggestions.  For all he paints hand-writing as slightly doomed, he urges its nurturing and gives several sensible suggestions regarding what an individual may do (usually without causing too much upset to friends, family and passers-by) to preserve the art of handwriting.  I referred in an earlier entry here to this part of his book, excerpted and now removed from the site that was showing it; his final words on the subject regard the direct connection between writer and reader that a hand-written item offers, which almost no other media can allow, and for this I honour him.  I will warn those who may be moved to look into The Missing Ink by my spotty and drawn out review:  the final five paragraphs may provoke tears, so approach with caution.

Today’s pen: Sheaffer TM Touchdown Statesman
Today’s ink: Diamine Evergreen

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Beware the Idler of March

Posted by Dirck on 15 March, 2012

Did I say something yesterday about divulging a dark secret of Parker pens?  I did.  Well, about that….

I have absolutely not been threatened by a carload of burly men wearing Sanford livery.  Not even a little bit.  In point of fact, it is mere laziness that puts off this “revelation.”  You see, I absolutely must include some pictures with that projected item, and taking pictures takes a little bit of effort.  As I had no effort in me last night, I have no pictures.  Monday should see us well supplied in startling, candid shots of some modern Parker pens in the altogether.

Given that as a foundation, I am contemplating the notion of laziness.  Recently I was reading Terry Pratchett’s Moving Pictures, in which the protagonist is described as a very lazy man.  He is so opposed to making an effort that he has made a point of staying in the peak of muscular physical condition.  This is not a contradiction; it takes more effort to make it through a day if one is out of shape, and that’s not an effort he feels like giving.

This contemplation feeds into a little discussion of the relative merits of diverse kinds of writing instrument on the Fountain Pen Network; someone questions the notion that ONLY fountain pens can write with no more pressure on the paper than their own weight provides.  I accept that there are other pens that can do this trick, but when ball-points are suggested as an option, I balk.  They might make some sort of a mark, but I’m jigged if I can get anything useful out of them, and I’m unwilling to give them that much effort.

So, where does laziness lie?  This declaration of mine that I do not feel like working hard enough to get legible marks our of a ball-point can be seen as indolence of a chronic sort, but is it bought through the acute efforts of maintenance that fountain pens call for: refilling, flushing, training of the hand to not overdo pressure.  A one who prefers the biro might well say, “That sounds like a lot of effort.  All I have to do is uncap the pen.”  Which one of us is the lazy one in this?  I suppose the answer might change depending on whether I agree with Victor Tugelbend on the nature of laziness, and whether I want to claim it or not.

As part of the discussion I mention, I did a side-by-side comparison of Smoothest Pen in the Universe™ with yesterday’s pen, since I happened to have both of them right there handy.  Banging a sheet of paper into a scanner is easier than getting the camera on a tripod and *sigh* switching on the lights on either side of the light tent.  Yep, that’s a lazy guy.  I was able to support the weight of my own arms long enough to get the image up where it can be seen, and you may consider it a companion to the results shown in my first public experiment.  Both samples were written with my common lack of effort when writing, within seconds of each other, and on the same sheet of paper; as you can see, however smooth it might be, it’s still not very forthcoming with the ink:

It’s a lazy pen indeed that wants me to do the work… but that’s just my opinion.  And I don’t know how much effort I’d put into defending it.  Is it nap time yet?

Today’s pen: Parker 180
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Shin-Ryoku

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Discoveries, Brilliant and Horrible

Posted by Dirck on 27 February, 2012

Despite the prediction on Friday last, I will be about with some consistency until diverse doctors’ appointments on Thursday and Friday.  The reason for this is a visit to my banker on Saturday, after looking at a couple of potential replacement vehicles in the teeth of what is almost certainly the worst weather this winter has had to offer (this is less a declaration of my own sturdiness than of the mild nature of the current season).  The banker proposed something that is either extremely clever or the worst idea I’ve ever, ever had, but which will in the short term give us a lot more latitude in just what the Family Transportation System is going to be.  This cleverness is going to take a couple of weeks to come to fruition, though, so my pursuit of a vehicle becomes a little more leisurely and academic for a while.

The horrible discover stems from a trip to the post office to return some pens to a client.  The post office occupies a corner in a larger store, and immediately (and even sensibly) opposite is the stationery area.  I finally gave into the foolish urge to be fair, and bought a “Bic Velocity Bold™ with Easy Glide System®” whose packaging declares it the “Smoothest Pen in the Universe!™”

Apart from the disturbing prospect of having the word velocity trademarked, there is this unlikely (and also trademarked) claim to fill the heart of a fountain pen user with upset.  Can it be? I have previously, and from a position of complete ignorance, derided the possibility.  As I find ignorance unappealing, I decided it was time to address the question directly.  That’s right, folks– I voluntarily bought and then used a ballpoint pen.

The results form the “horrible” aspect of this entry’s title.  It is, in fact, a rather smooth-writing object.  I might even admit to the smoothness equalling that of many fountain pens.  How’s that for a terrifying turn of events? 

It is, I hasten to say, still subject to the other ills of the ballpoint.  There is still a requirement of downward pressure that no decent fountain pen calls for, and there is still the matter of blobbing as inky material builds up around the ball and its mounting.  It is not able to live up to its brag, either– smooth it is, but smoothest in the universe?  Lawyer’s shenanigans aside, it can’t support the claim.

Today’s pen, no less smooth than the pretender:  Reform 1745
Today’s ink, blob-free and a colour Bic doesn’t offer:  Herbin’s Vert Empire

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Joy Division

Posted by Dirck on 22 February, 2012

In the past couple of weeks, in a couple of slightly different contexts, I’ve made a comment that more or less boils down to, “The urge to put fountain pens in more hands is a positive good and will enhance the happiness of the world.”

And then, because I’m an inveterate user of my head-meat, I started to actually think about what I’d said.

Because I’m a happier person when engaged in fountain pen use, I assume that all people will be the same, and if one follows the ‘logic’ to its ultimate extremity, if fountain pen use is universal, so will be contentment.  This is the sort of faith-based statement that a moment’s mental effort can bring crashing down like a crystal palace struck with a perfume bottle

My moment’s effort brought me to the world of 1939.  Dip pens remained in use but fountain pens were so ubiquitous that they appeared in cartoons, Marx Brothers’ films, and pulp fiction.  Thus, by my reasoning, all should have been sunshine and candy floss.  And yet, I have a vague notion that about that time, a good many people were quite crabby, many with very good cause.

I might offer that, in that time before the coming of the ball-point, people didn’t know how good they had it, and that the contrast now available amends the situation.  To mis-use a common metaphor, a fish may not complain of dampness, but it might enjoy dampness more after a while on the hall carpet.  Indeed, the ball-point pen might be seen as a long-lasting residual misery with roots in the great war against fascism.  Yes, with a little concentration, I can turn the power of irrational logic to blaming Mussolini for the Bic Stic.  There’s a proposition likely to draw… derision?  Law suits?  Neo-fascist assassins?  Oh, dear.

Gosh, what a lot of trouble a little thinking can give a person.  I can see why so many folks seem to avoid it as much as possible.

Today’s happy pen: Eversharp Symphony (which I cannot make into a decent segue for this apropos song)
Today’s thoughtless ink: Diamine Syrah

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Experiment vs. Anecdote

Posted by Dirck on 7 December, 2009

What I offer today is a little of both, actually. It is commonly said of fountain pens that they are much easier to write with than other sorts of pens. It is commonly said, though, by people who are defending their use of fountain pens. We feel this is true. We wish it to be true. We believe it, but when dealing with tangible items of technology faith counts for very little. Where’s the proof?

I have a serving of proof hot from the oven, just below. While it cools to an appropriate temperature, I’ll explain what I did. The exemplar pens are the Sheaffer 800 I used last entry, a Parker Jotter with a gel rollerball insert, and the common-or-garden Bic Crystal, each of which got a line of scribbles to make sure it was ready to perform at its best. Each line of writing below was written with the same amount of pressure I generally apply to my writing– which is really none at all. I go on a bit about how to write on my site, and I’ll not repeat it here, but I’ve got a picture of my own hand in action:
Writing with a Sheaffer Admiral
When starting, my hand hits the ground first, then the pen is gently lowered until it just makes contact with the surface– that finger along the top is just there to keep the pen from dropping out of my hand entirely.

There is then a line under each bit of text, although you may have to work hard to see it in all three examples. This was inspired by an old ad, I think by Parker (any reader who thinks they know it, a link would be warmly welcomed [Future me, here– it was in a 1932 catalogue, and now I can provide the image]), in which the easy-flowing qualities of the pen are proven by resting the pen on the angle of outstretched thumb and fore-finger, with the point resting on the paper– it’s writing under only its own weight. In fairness to the non-fountain pens, I amended the angle to nearly perpendicular and made a ring rather than an angle with my hand to convince them to follow it.

So, let’s see how they did (note– the blog software chops off the side of the image, but the image is a link to show the whole test):
With or without glasses-- which is easier to read?
Oh, dear. You’ll note some extra writing in the second two. “Somewhat more” means actual perceptible weight on the pen– rather than resting on the desk, the hand rests on the pen a little (similar, for those who have tried it, to the amount of pressure to get maximum variation from a flex-point pen). “Lots more” means making a conscious effort to press firmly on the pen, the sort of thing that leaves impressions in the next piece of paper in a pad and destroys all but the strongest fountain pen.

A single experiment proves little, except in the case of Victor Frankenstein, where it proved he was an irresponsible cad. However, like any good science, it is replicable– you can try it yourself, and see where the easiest writing lies. I should mention that the paper used was from a bagasse pad got from Staples– very nice paper with extra planet-friendly points.

Today’s effortless pen: Parker “51” (a slightly harried morning, and this was in battery and near the door)
Today’s ink of leisure: Lamy blue

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