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Posts Tagged ‘Franklin-Christoph’

The Wealth of Nations

Posted by Dirck on 19 June, 2013

A few months ago I undertook to read Adam Smith’s oft-mentioned treatise, just to get a grip on this apparent foundational document of the modern model of restrained economics.  I’m not going to go into my discoveries in depth here, apart to mention that he has some surprisingly bolshie notions– as examples, the government should be hip-deep in infrastructure, and merchants should be kept well away from the levers of the economy because what’s good for them is bad for everyone else.  Ain’t that a caution?

My current contemplation merely reminded me of that and prompted me to lift the title.  My walk had me pondering the notion of wealth, and my own relationship to it.  Am I wealthy?

Those who take from Smith only the chant “Let market forces sort it out!” would say I’m not, since I don’t have any particular heap of capital at my command.  I am similarly not “rich in pens” in that vein, since I could get… oh, with a willing auction crowd, possibly as much as three months’ pay out of the whole collection, and my rate of pay is far from lordly (from a North American viewpoint; by the reckoning of many nations, I’m rollin’ in clover).  However, if one takes a more expansive view of the notion of wealth, one will find that viewpoint as mistaken as thinking Adam Smith was axiomatically against interference with a free market.

I’m generally healthy, and thanks to (hopefully persistent) socialized medical care and some evidently vigourous genes, I’m apt to remain so.  I have had an extremity of luck in terms of family, nuclear and extended, and have no want in the areas of love and emotional support.  I’ve mentioned before the quality of the friendships I’ve stumbled into.  A recent discussion of the supernatural on the Fountain Pen Network has indicated to me that I’m in a fortunate philosophical position, straddling as it does (and without undue discomfort) a willing acceptance of science and its methods to one side and notion of Mystery on the other, which whisperings that there’s more to the whole affair than physics will ever quite describe; thus life is kept ever interesting.  I am indeed rich in pens not because they’re worth a lot of money, but because they (usually, when not resisting repair) give me little portions of joy every time I turn to use them.  I feel free to pepper my informal writing with parenthetical nonsense (even to the point of overdoing it), as I suffer under no editor but my own conscience.  I dress in a manner that pleases me pretty much every day.

The answer, then, to “Am I wealthy?” is a hesitant “yup,” as wealth is just another word for freedom, and there are few constraints upon me.   I wouldn’t mind having a garage-volume of high-denomination bills, because that particular aspect of wealth would help grease some of the more obnoxious skids of modern life; I have enough to at least keep those skids from digging into my hull.  The rest of it makes life tolerable, skids notwithstanding.  I’d like both, but if made to chose, I’ll take what I’ve got.

Isn’t it amazing what a little fine weather can do for one’s outlook?

Today’s pen (which, on reflection, was free): Franklin-Christoph 27 Collegia
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 violet

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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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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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Ending Competition

Posted by Dirck on 12 February, 2013

I don’t think I’m going to surprise any of my long-term readers when I say that I’m not the best friend in the world of capitalism.  I am, in fact, a low grade socialist, having grown up in a part of North America where socialism briefly held sway and quite liking the overall sensation of “we’re all in this together”, even if the taxes seem slightly high.  However, I’m not here to promote socialism (one need only look at the quality of life and citizen happiness indicators for that).  Rather, I’m here to decry an effect of capitalism that will presently afflict the pen-buying public.

Recently, there was a question in one of the fora about the pricing of a Waterman pen at what had been one of the more reasonable sources for new pens by that maker.  The price was, to be blunt, surprisingly high given that seller’s traditional approach.  What, a small slice of the Waterman-fancying world wanted to know, was going on.  A couple of people speculated that there may have been some kind of pricing crack-down; the seller is in Europe, and manufacturers in Europe will frequently push sellers around on the matter of Maufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price.  Presently, the seller appeared and in essence confirmed this speculation.  I will elaborate on the matter.

Newell-Rubbermaid, the tyrannical overlords of Waterman, Parker, and Rotring, have begun to these brands directly through Amazon.  They are not selling at wholesale prices, of course, but rather at their own MSRP, since the M in that acronym is now also the retailer.  Because they are selling to other retailers at wholesale prices (which is how retailers make the money on which they live, right?), they do not like the idea of entering into competition to sell their products below their suggestion.  They thus begin to throw their weight around.  “Sell at the price we tell you,” they say, “if you want to have any to sell.  Disobey and be cut off from the source.”  This is a style of jack-bootery one has come to expect from Mont Blanc, but it’s disturbing to see it creeping into the realms of pens normal people can afford.

I have a vague memory of the pen makers of the US getting in a little trouble for this sort of thing in the… 1930s? Maybe the ’40s?  In any event, there was, if memory serves, a certain talk of anti-trust application and some finger wagging by government regulators.  That, of course, was back in the days before the multi-national corporation had fully formed, and before the tykes weaned upon Ayn Rand had gotten their mitts on the levers of government and declared regulation a dirty concept.  It was also before internet marketing, and I think this is the real source of the worry.

The renaissance of the fountain pen is, as I see it, bound up with the rise of the internet, so I have some ambivalence on the topic.  Like most magic or technology, it is black or white depending on how it’s applied, and so I have to reserve my praise or damnation for those who wield the power rather than the power itself.  This renaissance which I revel in has had its own attendant plague, too– despite the growing interest in pens and the growing numbers of users, the number of actual shops– physical real-world brick’n’mortal establishments– has dropped, being competed into dissolution by internet pen outlets.  The internet outlets, after all, were getting the same wholesale rates as the physical shops, but could eschew the MSRP and still make a tidy profit, lacking the sort of drag-anchors the real world imposes upon a storefront operation; rent, utilities, staff, cleaning, and so forth.

Now, though, the internet sellers are being faced with a similar sort of problem.  The only thing they need is something to sell, but they suddenly find their supplier is also their competitor.  One part of me says bravo, it’s time you lot got a taste of the bitter part of the internet.  But another part of me, and I fear it’s the part with foresight, says that this is bad news.  Back in that earlier patch of ill-remembered weight-throwing, even without the national government swinging in on a vine and pounding its mighty chest, the manufacturers still had old Adam Smith’s invisible hand resting uncomfortably upon their shoulders.  They still needed storefronts out in the world, and if they pushed retailers too hard, the retailers could with a little bit of note-comparing, cry out, “Nuts to you, buddy!  Find someone else to peddle your markers!”

The current situation is different  and that invisible hand is being sat upon by its invisible rump.  The manufacturers have a storefront, essentially free of charge, in every house on the planet with an internet connection.  The retailer, whether B&M or net-based, has lost the small power they one had in the relationship with the manufacturer.  The best they can do is creep upon their knees, forehead tapping against the ground, begging, “Please, Sir, may I have some stock?”  While this puts the real-world shops back on an even footing with the netlings, it does away with the ability to adjust prices for local conditions, and I suspect it will not do a lot to halt the losses of pen shops in the world.

My darkest vision of the future shows the less carefully stewarded manufacturers going belly up in a few years, as the tyrannical overlords examine how hard they can squeeze the brand names before they collapse and then discard the flattened corpses as useless.  The better run companies, which are generally those held by families rather than conglomerates, will continue to see the sense of milking a cow rather then battening upon its major arteries, and will probably carry on in much the same state as today for rather longer before the senescence of complacency stifles them.

Worse times, though, for those of us outside the factory.  Discounts vanish.  The delightful little shop where an informed clerk assists you in  trying out several different models and brands becomes as easily found as one which sells magic wands.  The renaissance stumbles as people, making purchase decisions based on rumour and appearance, once again stop caring about performance.  The manufacturers each become a monopoly so far as the sales of their brand go (how long before the retailers are made to choose which one brand they will sell, do you suppose, which fealty to swear?), and monopolies tend to be hard of hearing when their consumers speak– which is why I speak of complacency in the previous paragraph

One may hope that the smaller manufacturers, the TWSBIs, the Franklin-Christophs, the Edisons, and perhaps the Stipulas will steer clear of the temptation to go the same route, although all do have their own retail operation.  The seller mentioned at the beginning has apparently tried to jump ship, from Waterman to Pelikan or Lamy, and found that for his country at least they have no interest in an independent on-line retailer carrying their product, so it’s not just that one conglomerate that’s trying this mode on for fit, and that is a source of deep concern.

I’m no economist.  I am, perhaps, an alarmist.  I certainly can offer no concrete suggestions; a boycott of any of the above doesn’t help the people selling them.  Is this the sort of thing that an anti-trust suit can be mounted to stop?  Can one say, “You cannot be manufacturer and retailer” with a straight face?  I’m a low-grade socialist, sure, but that smacks of the worst and most comic-opera elements of a purportedly communist command economy.  All I’ve got, once again, is worries that only heavy drinking can do anything about, and that is at best a temporary relief.  I know that smart people look in at the comments, and I will kiss the forehead and bless the offspring of anyone who can explain to me how my fears are entirely without foundation.

Today’s trembling pen: Parker Duofold
Today’s quivering ink: Noodler’s Couleur Royale

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Colours of the Old Alma Mater

Posted by Dirck on 19 September, 2012

A recently replied-to comment and a paucity of other stuff on my mind brings a preview of an upcoming page on my main site.  A little while ago, the fine inmates of the Fountain Pen Geeks site had a draw for a Franklin-Christoph desk pen, and while I didn’t snag that I got one of the subsidiary prizes:

…and in just about my favourite colour, too!

That’s the Model 27, which revels in name “Collegia”.  This does not reflect its power of inducing fellow-feeling, but instead that it’s available in a variety of colours which reflect various US colleges.  I have not let this influence my opinion of the pen, despite the (shudder) sports connection implicit in that.

Since I’m going to roll out the page itself shortly, I’m not going to give a prolonged write-up, but will stick instead with a brief set of impressions.  It is, alas, a rather heavy pen, and if one posts the cap it becomes a little much to bear.  With the cap left to one side, though, it’s manageable, and that is really the extent of complaints I can make against the pen.  The point is smooth (although, in a truth I may not add to my site’s review, mine had a small flow issue) and can be swapped out in a unit similar to that in a TWSBI Diamond, which means that if one finds the body congenial one can turn it into a whole arsenal of different writing thicknesses.  I understand the points are made by JoWo.

I have, since getting this pen, read that it’s not strictly designed for posting.  While I accept that, the word having come from the Franklin himself, I have to say that it does rather entice the attempt:

Honestly, don’t you WANT to stick a cap on that tail-piece?

I’m quite pleased with the Model 27, even though I whine about weight.  I’m interested in getting at a more elevated model from this company (the Model 29, with its magnetically-held cap, is under serious consideration), and I’d say to any who are in a paralysis of indecision about this pen that it is worth the asking price.  Which, for those who aren’t having free ones sent to them as a reward for writing silly things, is apparently $69.50, and includes a converter and a cartridge of ink.

Today’s pen (bigger, but much lighter): Parker Duofold
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire (yes, quite similar to the colour of the above; I told you I like it)

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