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Posts Tagged ‘Evans’

Clearing the Books

Posted by Dirck on 31 December, 2012

Well, here we are at the purported end of the year (I know it would cause difficulty, but I find disconnecting it from the solstice slightly absurd), and we should all be looking into how to be a better person in the upcoming arbitrarily delineated 365.25 day unit.  For my part, I’m going to try to abstain from getting into detailed debates on Facebook about whether or no Disney films promote sexism.

Another useful thing that the year’s ticking-over offers is a chance to abolish some debts, monetary, moral, karmic or otherwise.  A chance… but we must acknowledge that the means of doing so can be elusive.  I remain firmly lodged in the statistical norms for household debt in Canada and have not to my knowledge won the necessary lottery to get dislodge… although I’m pleased with the proportion of that debt which accrues to a credit card.  Debts of work I’m rather more generally pleased with, since over the weekend I got within one pen of catching up with the client work-load; the only person I owe pen repairs at the moment, really, is myself.

There is a peculiar debt that many people in the modern milieu don’t ever touch upon.  I had thought that I was entirely on top of it, too, until the turning over of the post-Christmas detritus allowed us to start attacking the pre-Christmas detritus, and I made an embarrassing discovery.  I found that I was not in the black in terms of owing people letters.  There, amid some distressingly un-disposed-of items, lay two letters that should have left the house with me at least a month ago… and which I’d convinced myself had in fact done so.

Only two, though, and the heaps that concealed them have been worked down to the point of assurance that the number won’t increase.  While the letters are now in the hands of the post office, I still find myself in a position of owing something in connection with them.  I owe an apology to Lani and Ambrosia; the blame lies on me, and while I’ve undone the failure I can’t undo the delay.  Sorry, sorry, sorry.

…and on that penitential note, a Happy New Year to all.  Remember to drink lots of water if you’re drinking lots of other stuff, and that a snowbank is not a good place for a nap.

Today’s pen (standing in for the toga-wrapped outgoing year, on account of its astonishing age): Evans Dollar Pen
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire


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Bleeding Heart

Posted by Dirck on 14 February, 2012

Good heavens, it’s our third Valentine’s day together.  As my wife and I took advantage of last week’s post-Disney vacation tail to have a romantic dinner, I have a certain amount of calendar-driven sentiment churning unused in my bosom.  I thought I might vent this pressure by looking at some pens I have particular attachment to.

I like pens.  That is obvious.  I might even be said to love them, in the rather loose application that word has taken on, but of all the pens I’ve got I can be said to have some favourites.  Some of them gain this elevated status entirely on their own merits, and I’ll start with those.

  • The Parker Vacumatic, in its Major size, strikes me as almost a Platonic ideal of pen-ness, at least in its outward shape.
  • Sheaffer’s Touchdown, in the wide-bodied early form, while not falling into the Platonic place when fitted with the Triumph point I prefer, presses all my pretty-pen buttons, combining the smooth modern oblong with the big lump of gold at the business end.
  • Waterman’s Citation also plays upon my irrational likes, less in shape than in performance; while I like the Taperite shape, what really gets me is the combination of shape and performance, at least when there’s a flex-point mounted.
  • The late-comer in this group, the Parker 50 Falcon, gets in mainly on its looks.  While the performance is not terrible, it’s not arresting, but I really dig the combination of the Parker clip and the integral point.  I suspect that the non-Flighter finishes might not get me so wound up.

The other pens I”m particularly fond of become so on an individual basis.  Unlike the previous bunch, of which I find any given example equally pleasing, these are specific pens that I am attached to– some are not so expensive, yet I could not replace them if they were lost:

  • My Evans Dollar Pen is something of a kitten found in a sac on a riverbank.  A client included it in a group of parts pens, sent with the pens that were actually intended to fixed, with a note that suggested I could do as I pleased with them.  This is hardly a great pen, but it has rewarded my efforts on its behalf with some fun writing.  It’s also got an endearingly goofy filler.
  • I was given the inherently valuable lapis Parker Duofold by a dear friend, a story I related some time past, and while it is a flawed example of the desirable model, the fact that it was a gift (which happily cost her little) renders it orders of magnitude more expensive for passing millionaires inclined to make me an offer.
  • Similarly, while the Lamy 2000 is in and of itself a rather good pen, this one was bought with money given for anniversary purposes.  Who knew the tenth was the Makrolon anniversary?
  • A romantic day like this puts one in mind of first love, and for me (in this context), that is the third body pattern of the long-lasting Sheaffer cartridge pen.  I was, arguably, too young when we met, and we occasionally mistreated one another, but I still love that pen all out of proportion with its merits.  I should mention that this is the only one in this bunch that I speak of the tribe rather than an individual; the actual first pen is long, long-lost and irretrievable, as legendary first loves should be.
  • Finally, the Valentine’s gift which can be said to have set me on the true path of pen madness, the Waterman Phileas given me by my wife rather more than a decade ago.  A good pen, praised in many places, it reminded me of what fountain pens can be, and because of how this one came into my hands it is more valuable to me than my own weight in gold (even at today’s prices).

So many of us aspire to Spock, but on this day, we should enquire after our inner Cyrano.  Even those without a lover in their life have access to romantical notions; they’re what make for humanity, and should be cherished.

…even if they are a little weird.  Pens?  Really?  And I’m running around loose?

Today’s well-liked pen: Sheaffer Sentinel (being a progenitor of the Touchdown aforementioned)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lie de Thé (if not my favourite, then certainly my favourite brown)

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How Old is Old?

Posted by Dirck on 25 January, 2012

Last week, I was using a vintage and a modern Waterman.  This week, I’m using a vintage and a modern Sheaffer.

…or am I?  The notion of what constitutes “vintage” is a bugbear for fountain pen fanciers.    I don’t think last weeks choices bear any real discussion– the 52 is unquestionably vintage in all its aspects, and the Carène is unmitigatedly modern.  This week’s choices are more equivocal, though.  Let’s have a look at the two pens for the week without having to climb down a link–

Visually similar, of course, and that’s why the newer of the two gives some trouble in hanging a label on it.  The flat-top look is quite retro, and that throws off the judgement.  Most people will call it modern, all the same (myself, probably, included); it’s a much newer object, and that’s what will move most people.  I’d join the crown opinion for entirely different reasons, which are the same reasons that I have a little hesitation about hanging Vintage on the other one.

“Oh, come on,” says the ideal interlocquitor.  “It’s OLD!  It (or at least some parts of it) was made in the mid-1920s!  How can you even think of using the word modern in relation to it?”  The answer lies in the way it works.  There is not a huge difference in the writing properties of these two pens; both are smooth, both are firm, both are rather wet.  I do still resort to the Vintage label because of the body material and the filler mechanism, but it is, in my view, less vintage than the contemporary Waterman 52.  It is, in fact, more modern in the way in interacts with a piece of paper than an Eversharp Skyline or even a Waterman C/F.

I don’t hold that vintage, in terms of pens, is strictly a matter of chronology.  In my site, I mention that assigning a set date as the watershed leads, as years pass, to foolishness.  Either one has to move that watershed every five or ten years, or one has to start fishing about for distinctions within modern: post-modern, early modern, near-modern, hyper-modern, supra-post-modern… the mind rebels.

Ideal Interloquitor demands, “Well, if you admit that the concept exists and has some value, define it.”  I shall, but I think those who dislike subtlty and non-Einsteinian relativity will dislike it.  It’s… not brief.

Age is a factor, of course.  It’s utter nonsense to suggest a three-year old pen is vintage, regardless of how much effort it has been put into giving it the air of antiquity.  It is not, as I intimate previously, the only factor.  Materials come into play, but less so than one might think/hope; so-called modern plastics have been in use since the 1940s.

Technology is also an element.  Is the filler mechanism more or less modern?  This is a tricky question, as one can find extremely old pens that are technically cartridge-fillers, and there aren’t any mechanisms that haven’t been in use since 1960.  How about the feed?  Here again, there hasn’t been a lot of innovation since Parker’s introduction of the collector in the 1940s, so “modern” is still a very mushy concept on that head.

In the end, there is a strong element of gut-feeling in the matter of Vintage vs. Modern.  To be vintage, it has to be somewhat old, but it also has to be somewhat quaint; there is some subjective element that becomes activated when presented with an actually vintage pen, and like a judge of ages past commenting on pornography, you’ll know it when you see it.  I’d argue against having a firm border between the two concepts, frankly, or even necessarily considering them parts of the same spectrum.  I’d say that vintage and modern are elements which can co-exist in a pen; one will wither in the presence of too much of the other, but away from the extremities one can have a pen that is both vintage and modern.  Here’s some vintage pens of various ages:


Evans Dollar– very vintage
Parker Vacumatic– not quite as vintage, but still well stuck in

The rubber feed marks today’s pen as an early example of the run, and that’s long enough past to qualify as actual vintage

And on the other side of the coin, modern pens of diverse ages:

From 1941, possibly the first modern pen… but it’s a vintage example
Designed in 1966, but so very modern in shape and materials

All mod cons(truction), and yet it has “Vintage” in its model name. Very confusing.

Today’s pen of indeterminate age: Sheaffer No Nonsense
Today’s ink: Noodler’s La Couleur Royale

PS: the captions are a bit of a hash, but they’re less of a hash than what resulted from trying to do them the right way.  Anyone who looked in before this late-on-the-26th edit will attest to that.

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Out with the Old, in with… Something

Posted by Dirck on 29 December, 2011

With the new year impending, one’s thoughts tend to turn to the passage of time.  One who dresses anachronistically and regularly uses half-century and older artifacts, even moreso.

Today’s contemplation grows out of the consideration of ink for today’s pen.  It is, let us be clear, old.  When I’m using a pen which is very specific about being extremely old, or one that is quite vigorously modern, I tend to think about the agreement of ink and pen.  I have mentioned elsewhere that some inks don’t wish to pass through some pens, but this is a more shallow form of agreement; will it look funny?  A Rotring Core producing a subtle sepia line does look a little funny, likewise an Evans laying down some mad fuschia, and while I’m not opposed to cognitive dissonance (the very foundation of comedy!) since I’m about the only one who will notice at all and thus be the only one with jangling expectations, I tend to keep older-looking inks with older-looking pens and zippy inks with modernist pens.

However… while cognitive dissonance has limited charm, there is more to life than compliment.  When applied well, contrast can be extremely pleasing without making the artistic nerves rattle.  One remembers, too, that these pens might have used some slightly sizzling inks back in their day.  Grandma may not dance the Charleston any more, but that’s a matter of maintenance rather than inclination.  The pens, metaphorically speaking, still have plenty of snap in their garters.

Today, then, a contrast, of a somewhat faded old pen and a rather vivid ink.  Dissonance is the soul of comedy, but graceful counterpoint is a necessity in the best music.

Today’s harmonious pen: Sheaffer 5-30SR
Today’s melodious ink: Noodler’s blue

An aside– I was in such a state yesterday, I was incapable of properly celebrating the benefits of existence.  Via the FP Geeks’ podcast, I am again to receive a free pen.  This time the item is a startlingly orange Sheaffer VFM (a modern item, not to be mistaken for the desirable PFM), which I’m interested to try as an example of Sheaffer’s current output and as a rarity for the company– a pen that doesn’t take Sheaffer cartridges.  Does this imply anything for production of the cartridge that has been feeding Sheaffer pens since the mid-1950s?  Only time will tell, but while we all wait, I get to play with a new pen; thanks, Eric and Dan!

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Home Body

Posted by Dirck on 4 February, 2011

I was writing to some correspondents last night, and I realized that the pen I was using is unlikely to ever leave the house in the regular course of events.  It’s a pen I quite like, but it has some attributes which make me think that taking it out is a bad idea.

The pen in question is my Evans Dollar Pen.  It’s a black hard rubber pen made, in all likelihood, before the end of the Great European War, and as I mention in the description down the link, you can feel the age of the thing when you use it.  We speak sometimes of the “weight of years”– the Evans has an inverse of this, leaving you with the sensation that you need to put something on the pen when you’re done with it lest it drift off the desk and crack upon striking the ceiling.  As was the style of the time, it also lacks a clip, so if it were put into a pocket there’s nothing to keep it there except (possibly) gravity.  The fact that it is still shiny and dark, as if kept for most of the past century in a nitrogen-filled cylinder, just adds to the notion that one is a custodian rather than an owner.

This is connected with a recent discussion about the relative wisdom of taking a pen out of the house.  While slightly related to the notion of not using a pen at all for fear of devaluing it, it’s not quite the same thing, since using it exclusively in the safety of the home is still using it.  It’s a joy not shared with the world, but it’s joy all the same.

As with so many things in the world of pens, it’s a matter of personal inclination.  Clearly a previous owner went to great lengths to keep this Evans of mine from harm.  Another might well cry “damn the torpedos” and shed not a tear if the ancient pen shot under a bus while he bent to tie his shoes.  I’m taking… well, it’s not quite a middle road, as it inclines towards preservation, but it’s not an extremity of behaviour.  It’s too nice a pen not to use, with too little resistance to the insults of the world to consider taking it out.  So there it is– my correspondants get to see its work, while the fairly indifferent co-workers will not. 

As a bit of an aside, I find this pen’s nature, in terms of the strange lack of weight and extremely flexible point, do cause me to pay rather more attention to my motor skills while writing, a matter upon which I have commented previously.  Even if you don’t take it out on the town, it’s good to have an old, flexible pen where you can get at it.

Today’s pen:  Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Poussière de Lune

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Fashionably Scrawny

Posted by Dirck on 18 October, 2010

With the exception of Friday, last week was one of very thin pens.  I have contemplated previously on the interface of pen and hand, but this past week made the matter rather less academic.  You see, I had some correspondence which needed attention over the weekend, and here were there pens full of ink.  Most days I only do a few pages of writing, but after nearly twenty pages altogether I have one word to say on the subject of ultra-slim pens of a certain age.


I note that the offending pens are all of a certain grim era, the late 1980s and early 1990s.  This is not, referring back to the graph of pen sales, the nadir of the fountain pen, but it is after the point which saw the common appreciation of the fountain pen go from writing implement to fashion accessory.  Sure, it writes, but you’re not expecting to do much more than sign a credit card flimsy or jot down a telephone number at the disco.  Prolonged writing is for… something else, I guess.

Remember that these pens are not only quite thin, they’re also relatively heavy, as the bodies are made of metal.  I can write a lot longer with the Waterman 12 or some other hard rubber pen that I can with the fashion pens, although they’re all much of a sameness in terms of thickness.  The combination of holding fingers very close together while supporting a brass tube is the real generator of misery.

I don’t think that any of the pen makers of the time avoided this particular trap– certainly Sheaffer and Waterman had their own entries.  To judge by that graph, this little trend didn’t do any real harm to fountain pens in general, and perhaps it even helped them start getting back on their feet.  That said, I don’t think I’ll be writing anything above a page with one again in the foreseeable future.

Today’s non-slender pen:  Sheaffer Legacy I (which is on its maiden flight today, and I will likely have a few thoughts to share later in the week)
Today’s ink, low fat only by chance:  Pelikan 4001 blue-black

Afterword:  I am not particularly fond of my van.  It is heaping expense and inconvenience upon what was never a healthy relationship, and assuming it is available to me tomorrow I’ll be cramming a number of things into the lunch break that should have been done from 2pm yesterday until 8pm tonight.  If I appear here at all, it is likely to merely be a statement of the day’s companions.  If anyone has a Toyota Previa or early Honda Odyssey in good function that they’re willing to trade for a Ford, I’ll gladly oblige with both the van and references to some mental care professionals.

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The “51” Position

Posted by Dirck on 27 August, 2010

I’ll bet that title gets me some very disappointed search-engine hits.

If one hangs about the hubbub of a pen fancier’s site like the FPN, or FPGeeks, or the Fountain Pen Board, one will hear a lot of people insist that those who have not tried a Parker “51” MUST lay hands on one.  It was in its time referred to (by Parker, in honesty) as the Most Desired Pen in the World.

I’m using one today.  In fact, I really use on every work day, as on my desk at The Regular Job, I have one as my desk pen.  I must, therefore, be one of those shouting the praises of this pen, that most perfect marking instrument to ever hang off the end of human arm.

No.  I don’t deny that they’re good pens.  Reliable and sturdy (the one on my desk is there because it can take a non-fountain pen user having a go at it), decent writers.  What prompted this entry was that today’s is a very nice example, hardly seeming to touch the paper at all, but held aloft on the wings of angels taking a break from pin-head-dancing and depositing the ink in anticipation of desire. Perhaps if this had been my first “51” experience, I would be shouting with the zealots.

But, I have some other pens I can say the same of.  I also have some “51”s which are, really, just pens.  So, I’m not the world’s biggest fan.  I actually prefer the looks of the Sheaffers of the late 1940s.  I enjoy some flex now and again, which the “51” just can’t offer.  The Vacumatic fillers, as today’s is, are devils to clean properly.  Using today’s pen is a very nice experience, but I still need glasses.  The “51” will not cure gout.

By all means, if the looks of the pen please you, get one.  It’s a milestone of both pen and general industrial design, and may interest for those reasons.  But MUST get one?  No.  That’s my position.

Today’s super-remarkable all-knowing pen of the future:  Parker “51”
Today’s ink, asipring to the heavens but in practice mundane:  Herbin Bleu Nuit

…and on the cat front– as of this writing, she’s just entering surgery to see what’s what.  I’ll update as news arrives and my emotional state allows. NEWS FLASH: Out of surgery, and apparently the pancreas was swollen enough to be mistaken for the liver. Lab results pending on just why the pancreas is getting ideas above its station, but that wretched tease Hope remains in view.

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Reminders of age

Posted by Dirck on 10 May, 2010

I use rather old pens quite frequently, and I have commented time and again that one of the great charms of fountain pens is that they are reasonably resistant to entropy. A well-kept pen is not much different fifteen years after it’s made from the way it is seventy years later. Even an one which isn’t particularly watched over will show its age primarily through a scuffed body. This leads, I think, so a slight jading of the regular user, who goes in insensible stages from regarding a pen and thinking “That’s a nice old pen,” to merely “That’s a nice pen.”

This complacency gets shaken now and then. Some pens are manifestly ancient– one I have is remarkable for its lightness, like writing with an ancient bone. Some, perhaps from their styling, have a less clear but still effective aura of age– I have previously devoted a whole entry to the sudden impression one of this sort made.

By the way– I discount styling somewhat, because more modern pens may echo older ones. A flat-top pen is not necessarily an interbellum pen.

Today’s pen, which brings this topic up, is less pronounced in its effect in this direction then that previous entry’s trigger. It is of a plainly antique design, but is actually in much better shape than some pens I have of half its age and as I’ve just said, style recycles and is not a real issue.

The point here is indeed the point. This pen’s point is quite large relative to the body, and extremely elegant in shape, but once again these are not things which command attention in the direction of age. However, out on the end of the point, just short of the tipping, there is a blemish that no modern pen would wear, and which is not the product of aging but rather of the age. I had, when I first got this pen, initially taken this blemish for something in the line of damage, a wrinkle left over from a repaired bend in the tine. Only after very close inspection did I realize that what I saw was the signature of the hand-crafted nature of pen points in the past.

This pen still bears a tiny little hammer mark. It’s an imperfection, no doubt, but it is also a valuable reminder of why these things are themselves valuable. It’s not because they’re old, it’s not because they involve a greater or lesser amount of gold, it’s because they simply aren’t made this way any more.

Today’s pen to ponder: Wahl 326AW (EDIT: when I originally posted this, 22 months before this edit, I had not gotten my own page together for quite yet, and so linked in an ad hoc manner to Pen Hero— because the owner of that site did not bark at me, as he might have with justification, I leave this reference to the event to mark his civility)
Today’s ink: Herbin’s Lie de Thé

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Intimations of Mortality

Posted by Dirck on 14 January, 2010

Yesterday’s pen troubles me. This being the case, I am more troubled by the fact that I am troubled. I probably shouldn’t trouble myself so much.

What bring on these troubles is an internal event about an hour after I posted here yesterday. I was suddenly struck with great (metaphoric) force by the fact that I was freely using a 90 year old pen. That’s old! I began to approach doorways more cautiously lest I crash, left pectoral first, into the frame. My hand would creep almost of its own accord towards the pocket to make sure the clip was firmly gripping without undo strain. Holding my son when I got home almost provoked nervous sweat.

I hope that this is a passing filip, some strange manifestation of seasonal affective disorder which only occurs in uncommonly warm Januaries. I don’t want to be reduced to the state of the secretive miser, creeping into a vault to enjoy the treasures which terror commands me not to take out into the entropy-filled world, especially since my treasures are of a fairly utilitarian nature. I’ve already declared one pen a home body, and it disturbs me that more may follow not through inherent rareness (there’s a LOT of Waterman 52s in the world) but simple timidity.

What, after all, might be the deciding point in this? Age? Rarity? Might I find myself looking at the Phileas my wife bought for me within the past decade and saying, “No, not this one– it’s not safe out there,” purely because of sentiment? Even someone with a mere bachelor’s degree can tell; that is a psychosis.

I will thus have to keep a non-literal thumb on my mental pulse. It’s better that I sell off the whole damn pile of them than let it become the bit of grit around with the dark pearl of madness forms.

I have friends, of course, who think I can make a rather long necklace from the store of that kind of pearl I have on hand. I’m very general in my oddity. Besides… there are some pens I’d never sell.

{fade to black, swell menacing music}

Today’s pen in peril: Parker Vacumatic
Today’s ink which laughs in danger’s face: Pelikan 4001 blue-black

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