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Posts Tagged ‘mannenhitsu-do’

Also Sprach Some Guy

Posted by Dirck on 5 November, 2013

Since I lost the thread of what I thought today’s entry was going to be, I’m going to improve my time with composition on the Book of Lividicus.  A sneak preview of the sort of nonsense that will grow to unsupportable weight.

(A quick note; some may find the persistent masculine pronoun questionable.  I’m aware it’s a problem, but it helps with the King James air).

1:1 — And then did the Platonic Ideal of Fountain Pen speak unto the pen-user from out of the air, and give out instruction.

1:2 — Attend me, that your writing shall be clear unto others and enjoyable unto yourself, and that your fountain pen which is an aspect of Me shall last until the end of thine days.

1:3 — For he who does not attend, yet persist in the use of the fountain pen, shall find misery attend him and his money flying from him in repair bills and new pen purchases.

1:4 — And that inattentive man may yet turn from the true pen and wallow in the desperation of the ballpoint, which is an abomination before Me.


2:1 — Thou shalt grasp thine pen carefully when it is to be opened, and consider well the surrounding.

2:2 — And thou shalt not open thine pen in the presence of rambunctious children, who heed not what precious things they might cast down.

2:3 — And thou shalt not open it either in an aircraft still ascending to cruising altitude, nor in an unpressurized cabin, lest you are besquirted.

2:4 — And thou shalt use two hands in the opening, one upon the cap and one upon the barrel, for in this way shall you preserve thine pen from tumbles.

2:5 — And thou shalt always consider first whether the cap doth slide from the pen or whether it doth unscrew, for to mistake the latter for the former is a great error.

2:6 — And when the cap is from the pen, thou shall not neglect it nor suffer it to be taken to some other place, for a pen which is not whole is an abomination before Me.


3:1 — Thou shalt fill thine pen only of the ink that is known to be correct for fountain pens.

3:2 — Those inks made by major pen manufacturers are most safe, for they are mindful of their warranties and avoid weird crap which may damage thine pen.

3:3 — And so shalt thou think carefully about inks made by others, and moreso shalt thou ponder the wisdom of highly saturated inks, which may delight the eye in use yet clog thine pen’s channels most horribly.

3:4 — And thou shalt not be misled by art inks which say upon their label “For Fountain Pens” for they misuse the words and seek to lead you astray; their names are Windor & Newton, Higgins, and Legion.

3:5 — And thou shalt not use Calligraphy Inks, for they are unwholesome.

3:6 — And thou shalt not use Drawing Inks, for they are unwholesome.

3:7 — And thou shalt not use India Inks, for they are unwholesome.

3:8 —  And thou shalt not use Stamp Pad Inks, for they are unwholesome.

3:9 —  And thou shalt not use Alcohol Inks, for they are unwholesome.

…and so on.  This could take a while to finish.

Today’s pen: Waterman Carène
Today’s ink: Herbin Poussière de Lune


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In Tune

Posted by Dirck on 9 April, 2013

Having moved into some of the mysteries of point adjustment, it might be said that I tune pens.  This, I think, would be claiming somewhat more mastery in that department than I quite have in hand.  However, the change in the way I’ve been rotating my pens indicates to my own satisfaction that I am, indeed, in tune with them.

I hadn’t set out to do so, but for the most part, the pens I’ve been using to the shift to having several pens on deck at once and swapping only when they’re dry has seen me using pens that don’t really have any ink supply inidicator.  The Pelikan Future has a hold in the side through which one may peer at the cartridge, but none of the others do.  Somewhat out of character for me, the majority of those in use in this new regime have been cartridge-feeders, but of those only a couple actually have cartridges in them, and the converters in the others are in most cases opaque.

So, really, I don’ t have any way of knowing how much ink is left other than a broad guess at how much I’ve written and the relative rate of use of the pen in question.  When I decided that the time had come to pull four of them from the line-up, it was therefore consciously based as much on a sense of wanting some new variety as an appreciation of the amount of ink remaining in them.

And yet…. Holding the Parker 75 by the opaque old-style squeeze converter over the emptying cup, I gave a squeeze to chase out the remaining ink and got a fine mist.  Effectively empty.  The Vanishing Point, mounting the blank-sided CON-20 converter, produced the same results.  The Statesman’s snorkel blew a bubble, no more.   The Esterbrook icicle (and how, from a sympathetic magic standpoint, I regret having used that one in the past month) brought forth the biggest result, emitting a single complete drop of ink.

I had wanted to use them until they were empty.  When I stopped using them, they were empty.  I haven’t crowed about my mystical powers in quite some time, but crow I do.  I may continue to claim my rank of Boisterous Elephantine Commander of Mannenhitsu-do!

All of which, I think, underlines how desperate things have become here, in the realm of cabin fever.  Oh, for sight of a green-studded bough!

Today’s pen (bearing secret messages from the wainscoting elves!): Waterman Préface
Today’s ink (delicious, nutritious, and an excellent shampoo!): : Herbin Violette Pensée

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Laying In Some Skills

Posted by Dirck on 21 December, 2012

Roboto-san has been instructed to post this exactly one hour (local time) after the “predicted” end of the world.  If you’re reading this, please join me in snickering.  If you’re not, then you’re probably just as surprised as me.

This is a follow-up of yesterday’s entry, and I’ve gone to the trouble of looking up the meaning of 万年筆の達人, as much for my own curiosity’s satisfaction as yours. “Master of Fountain Pen” is the translation I’m going with, which is not entirely out of line with yesterday’s guess… or so pride insists.

Today’s amazing demonstration of skills is not the repair of pens, but enhancement. Abalone inlay is something I’m not always a fan of (the relatively random for seen in old Balances is still about my favourite), but it is without a doubt a remarkable art.  This is the sort of thing that gets people like me to somewhat soften their stance regarding the statement, “Sure, it’s a nice pen, but can it really be worth that much?”

Today’s rather more pedestrian pen: Parker VP
Today’s ink: Pelikan violet

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Mannenhitsu-Do..in’ It Right

Posted by Dirck on 20 December, 2012

Since I’m not actually here, I’ve instructed my robotic minion to provide you with this rather amazing (if protracted) video of a living embodiment of mannenhitsu-do’s hidden principles.  The use of a chisel at one point is particularly startling.  Sadly, I read very little more Japanese than the average North American, so I don’t get much more out of the title than “Fountain Pen (Repair?) Man” and nothing at all out of the rest of the text and dialogue.

Part of me wishes I had some of his equipment.  A more realistic part points out that I’d end up turning a lot of gold pen-points into a mere vapour while damaging my eyes with arc flashes .

Today’s pen: Sheaffer Triumph TM
Today’s ink: Iroshizuku Fuyu Syogun

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What Possesses You?

Posted by Dirck on 1 May, 2012

I was musing over the past weekend on the nature of the mental aberration which I merrily support, along with so many others.  What is it in fountain pens, I wonder, that puts such firm hook into so many imaginations?  There are, of course, collectors of many other things, and the same question may be asked in that direction, but I can’t engage in reflection about them.

The first thought is that it is some manifestation of romantic notions of a slightly mythologized past.  This is probably an entry point, an unconscious effort to grasp “the good old days” in a concrete way, but can it support a long term fascination?  I don’t think so.  If it is an entry point, it’s the same sort of thing as the initial infatuation with a beautiful person, the whole love at first sight foolishness.  I grant its reality, but it cannot endure.  I speak as a man who is deeply in reciprocal love with his wife of nearly 14 years; eyes across a room is one thing, but after close confinement with the evident imperfections, the unappealing habits, the curious and frequently off-putting smells… well, it’s amazing that the species persists.  Likewise, romantical notions of pens tend to get undermined by leaks, tine disalignment, and cap shrinkage.

Something that does bear close interaction the interesting combination of utility and decoration which many pens represent.  Fountain pens are, when considered from the utilitarian side, a real achievement in engineering; the high degree of mastery of fluid dynamics that gets the ink out in good order, the application of materials to balance heft and durability, the barely-perceptible tolerances that separate effortless function from useless misery, all in a package one can carry about!  When this is wrapped in something that is aesthetically pleasing, if not semi-jewellry, the appeal becomes easy to understand.  The failure of this as an explanation lies in the existence of deeply hideous pens… but that is a very subjective evaluation.  It is certainly rare to find utility and decoration combined in such a manner; what springs to mind are cars, watches and earlier steam engines, all of which have their aficionados.

Is it, perhaps, that they have names, or at least discrete model numbers?  This may be the most covertly seductive aspect of pens.  The fact that one can say, “I want an example of each pen to bear the name Valiant” and perhaps one day announce the end of the effort, while not necessarily being the main attractant to pen collecting does allow the liberty of thinking that it’s a mere scavenger hunt rather than an addiction.  There is this illusion of there being a finite limit on the effort, but most people who reach the end of their path find that it is just the rest-stop at the head of the next path.  “Well, that’s it for numbered post-war Parkers… but, gosh, there’s all those pre-war numbered pens… and having one of each flighter would be cool, too….”  I have accepted that mannenhitsu-do is an endless road, but I don’t know how many others have considered the matter so closely.

…which might just be a sign that my own manifestation of the mental aberration is extremely advanced.  You’ll notice that I have no answers, only speculation.  The question remains open.

Today’s pen:  Parker “17” (one of several… but I only really need one for my collecting goal, right?)
Today’s ink: Pelikan blue-black

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The Medium wants a Massage.

Posted by Dirck on 21 July, 2011

Today is Marshall McLuhan’s hundredth birthday, and as the radio is alive with mentions of him (the radio I listen to, at least), I am contemplating what I understand of his work.  Specifically, the famously-typoed The Medium is the Massage, which may be summarized thus:  Whatever the message one wishes to deliver, the understanding of it is so bound to the means of its delivery that it is foolish to try and consider one without the other.  For example, while honest condolence might have been the intention of the sender of this…

…it’s unlikely that the reader will ever be convinced of it.

Exaggeration aside, the effects of the medium upon the message are seldom consciously considered.  “How do we get the message out?” is usually the main question, and while there may be adjustments for the known effects of the medium in a gross way there’s not a lot of subtle introspection about how the whole thing arrives.  For example, if one emails, I’m sorry your doggie got hit by a car, the gross adjustment to indicate actual grief might be : ( , but only infrequently will there be any thought given to the slightly impersonal nature of text on a screen (even if your default is Comic Sans), to the ultimately ephemeral nature of the note and the implication that the commiseration is likewise short-lived, or a dozen other little subtextual cues being sent along with the conscious message.

Which makes me devote more energy than usual to examining what sort of unavoidable inclusions and amendments to the consciously-chosen content of my written messages is generated by the use of the fountain pens.  Some of  that aspect of what I write is actually in my awareness, as I am of course the Grand Imperial Raging Master of Mannenhitsu-do.  While I’m now reasonably sure that most people don’t take actual notice of the medium when looking at what I’ve written, I’m also of a mind that they don’t have to take notice to be affected, and so I do actually think about this sort of stuff.  By using a fountain pen, I suggest that I am interested in your being able to actually read what I set down (and thus, that what I set down is worth attending to), and that I am confident enough to stand apart from the usual limitations of ink colour that most ball-based pens inflict (and thus, that I’m either worth paying attention to or a self-inflated idiot).

But… there’s other things to be taken from the medium, surely.  As I’ve been contemplating this matter very shallowly for nearly three hours, and that three hours of almost completely unconnected moments between the demands of The Regular Job, I haven’t quite worked out they are.  Comments are welcome as long as they’re sensible or amusing.

Today’s pen: Parker “51″  (except for occasional resorts to the desk pen, see below)
Today’s ink: Pelikan 4001 violet  (except for certain business communication, which calls for more a conventional colour if the message is not to be misconstrued)

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Hubris and Attention

Posted by Dirck on 15 November, 2010

One of the things that separate pen collectors like myself from Pen Collectors is an insistance on the use of the pen.  A Pen Collector, if I understand the phenomenon correctly, views the pen as an investment, museum piece and treasure all at the same time, and the only thing that keeps them from sealing their pens in a steel vault filled with nitrogen and suspended on magnets, thus safe from fingerprints, fire, earthquake, oxidation and very nearly entropy itself, is that they are occasionally taken with the urge to look at the damn things and it’s less wear on the pen to keep it in a glass case than haul it out of the aforementioned security shelter.  A mere collector of pens such as myself, while in rough accord on the aesthetic side of the appreciation, hold that a pen is not really a pen unless it is used for writing.  Some are more mystical about this stance, some less– as the Grand Dynamic Master of Mannenhistu-do, I’m an avowed animist in this regard, and dismiss the notion of the cabinet queen with an airy wave of my hand.

So far, so good.  Whither hubris, then?  My pens are not better than other pens (other fountain pens, at least), and I have lately turned down the head-shaking at the sight of the sadly cramped hands of modern youth as being provocative at worst and pointless at best– hardly the sort of pride which has the gods setting the sights of their “That Mortal Needs a Lesson” gun upon one as in the cases of Agamemnon or (apparently) Thomas Andrews.  Well, pride is a tricky thing.  While the post-touchdown strutting of a prideful football player is pretty clear, sometimes it goes undercover as smugness of one’s assumed virtue.

The case in point was on Saturday.  I had chosen to carry my Pelikan 140, it being recently arrived and I wanting to show it off to the world a little (which, I’ll relate below, actually worked for a change).  Wife and son were with me, and we were in an early phase of Christmas gift-buying.  Crossing the parking lot of a local mall, I decided to carry the lad to preserve his shoes, and thus the back of my driver’s seat, from the damp muck of melted snow.  We had almost achieved the doors when there was a little noise which should have arrested me instantly if I hadn’t been concentrating on my son’s flow of amusing gibberish– the flattish clatter of a plastic tube landing on pavement.

Fortunately, my wife was more attentive and scooped up the pen before anything could drive over it.  It returned to me unharmed, from which I take the lesson that Pelikan was making some very sturdy pens in the mid- to late 1950’s.  There is another lesson, though– if you’re carrying your pens in a shirt pocket, check that they’re well-seated, especially if you are getting out of a car.

The hubris element of this is of course my somewhat superior attitude towards taking my pens out into the world.  I was over-smug in my ability to do so safely, and felt perhaps a little too smart about it in relation to the Pen Collectors  of the world.  Internal states I must guard against.

I’m sharing this with you all because it piggy-backs on something I learned some years ago– too late to avoid a lot of heartache, but at least it’s there now.  This is heading into slightly mystical territory once again, so the materialists in the audience might want to skip to the end.  The lesson is this– while the universe will hand out terrible blows quite freely, it frequently provides little warnings ahead of time, and if you have the wit to attend to them you can save yourself some grief.  This pen-dropping, while traumatic, produced no lasting blemishes nor deficits, and I’ll amend my ways somewhat to avoid repetition.  I won’t suggest that there’s meaning in all things, nor even necessarily a guiding intelligence in the world, but it’s worth keeping your eyes open, and a habit you’ll be happier for the earlier you start.

The successful showing off– one of our stops was at Paper Umbrella, where the pen was admired quite frankly, and where I learned that there is serious consideration of bringing in Rhodia and Clairfontaine products.  Nothing definite, but a certain gelling of opinion, which would be great news for local diarists and correspondents.

Today’s pen, securely lashed down:  Sheaffer Statesman vacuum
Today’s ink, because pens are to be used, blast it!:  Noodler’s Walnut

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Weekend Diversions

Posted by Dirck on 10 September, 2010

I understand that there is a very strange person getting up to something silly and ill-considered in the south-eastern US tomorrow.  As I refuse to help him get atttention, since getting attention is all he seems to really care about, I will link instead to information about a person of the same name, who is Welsh rather than American, and who writes books rather than burn them.  Why all the links?  Mainly to help direct search-engine attention away from idiot Floridians who share their names with respectable members of British comedy troupes.  There are other Terry Joneses in the world, too, and I’m sure the majority of them would not like to have members of a major religion mad at them.

I do have some hope that the members of that major religion can see that this is the act of a very tiny minority and not reflective of the majority opinion, just like the events of nine years ago in New York are seen by sensible members of the middle Abrahamic religion as the acts of a small, angry, non-representative sample.  Alas, it is mainly the small, angry minorities that get up on their hind legs and shout about the need to do something about what the other small, angry minorities just did, giving us the cycles of stupidity that frequently pass for the history Terry Jones writes about.  Some people have a better perspective regarding what’s important, happily, and with them lies hope.

For my own part, being outside any of the Abrahamic traditions but an adherent and practicioner of Mannenhitsu-do, I’m just going to get stuck into some of the bonanza of clients’ pens which has materialized in the past few days.  I might get very busy indeed if some material for fabricating new seals on low-end piston pens (like this one) arrives.  Hopefully the small, (occasionally) angry minor in my house will let his Dad attend to his pens.

For members of the Esoteric Order of Dagon and the Church of Starry Wisdom, there is an entirely different thing to get monotheists with a narrow and humourless viewpoint upset happening on the west coast of the United States.  To outward appearences, an entirely harmless film festival, but who knows when the stars might be right?  I know I wish I could attend, and would if not restricted to the commonplace dimensions of time and space.

Today’s slightly and unintentionally ironic pen:  Waterman Crusader
Today’s placid ink:  Pelikan 4001 black

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Posted by Dirck on 5 August, 2010

I’ve mentioned in diverse places the slight tinge of Luddism which affects many fountain pen users. It contributes to the mixed feelings I have about this item, which against the failure of the link I will describe; a pad of paper, printed to look like an iPad, which a correspondent of mine put me onto.  I should be entirely behind it, as the tone of the advertising might almost be lifted from my own works– “No plugs. No batteries. No charging.”  Sounds like me, doesn’t it?  Moreover, such a low-tech knock-off of the highest of consumer tech is inherently amusing and deserving of applause.

And yet, I’m cool towards it.  Why?  A couple of reasons.  The first is that the notion of trying to fool people into thinking that you’re carrying around a high-powered piece of technology rather than a pad of paper is the height of pretence.  Be proud of your pen and paper!  There’s nothing to be ashamed of!  This is similar to the efforts of some pen makers back in the day trying to make their pens look like rather better pens, and it will bear similar fruit.  People who don’t care won’t really notice (something we practitioners of mannenhitsu-do are constantly baffled by as we flourish our pens about), and people who do care are as likely to feel a tremor of pity as an urge to murmur, “Hey, cool.”

The other reason is even less reasonable.  The pads come packed with “your favorite writing instruments”.  Really?  Sharpies, rollerballs, mechanical pencils and crayons.  I’m not seeing my favourite, am I?  This is especially vexing as the rollerballs are stable-mates to the Pilot Varsity, a highly regarded (if sadly disposable) fountain pen.  Would it have killed them to stretch out a little to include the most mature writing techology of the age with their fake technology?

Thus, I cry “Humbug” and turn away.  I know I’m being a senseless reactionary, if not an outright curmudgeon.  So be it.

(Pauses to make a note to himself on the octavo-folded piece of copier paper which serves him as a pocket-book to pick up some chain oil to deal with the rattling noise his Sense of Humour, dead these seven years, is apt to make when it comes to announce to the need to change ways before the next April Fools Day.)

Today’s dour pen:  Lamy 2000
Today’s ink, secretly cocking a snook:  Mont Blanc Racing Green

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Small joys.

Posted by Dirck on 18 May, 2010

Yesterday I was kept from relating the weekend’s tiny triumphs by one of life’s unlovely chores– having tires changed on the car. “It’ll be done by noon” apparently means “If you get here at 12:15 you’ll have to stand around for twenty minutes or so.”

Let us now cast our minds back, pretending that Monday was but a dream. The weekend included not only some authentically magnificent weather that brought out some tardy tulips in the garden and a fresh display of dangling prowess by my son in his gymnastics class, but there were pens!

I was able to bring back to function a couple of Vacumatics sent by a client, one of which had the early “lock-down” fillers. I am a big fan of the lock-down, as it’s made entirely of metal and so lacks the nervous-making little plastic cup to hold the diaphragm pellet. To those who don’t know what the insides of a Vacumatic looks like, and feel that I’m speaking a bit obscurely, I offer a link to step-by-step instructions which reveal the mysteries of Parker’s big technology of the 1930s… although in it’s 1940s expression, with the terrifying plastic parts.

Wife and son came along to an antique sale, at which I found… a pen! It was not, I hasten to mention, a valuable pen. It was, to be perfectly blunt, a rather new pen. I had a good look at it, established that it was made at some point in the past ten or twenty years (and so, by my way of thinking, brand new)– plated steel point, modern piston filler, brand name no one has ever heard of… well, I’ve never heard of it, and I try to pay attention to that sort of thing. Ero is the make, and I find a couple of references to a German company that may be the source of this item. In any event, it was in quite good shape (as it ought to be) so I bought it.

A pleasant looking piston-filling pen for $12? Of course I bought it. Part of my motivation is the psychopathy I have regarding pens, but there is also a notion that if I buy it at that price, I’m saving someone the embarrassment of trying to “flip” a supposed vintage pen they got for far less than they think that sort of thing is worth. I, knowing that it’s a pen that is frankly worth about $12, am content, and the dealer is likewise, having got his asking price.

I don’t make any secret of my willingness to enjoy a cheap pen. Yesterday’s item, which should have capped this particular story, is a perfectly nice little pen that was never anyone’s idea of a splendid prize. The Parker 21 I used last week was likewise the means by which someone with a hankering for a 51 and not the budget could be brought to give Parker his money. A cheap pen can be a perfectly fine pen. I’m pleased that I’ve got another reasonably good pen that I can give away if mood strikes (ideally to someone who might be drawn into mannenhitsu-do).

The best things in life, I’m told by a song, are free. It stands to reason, then, that some pretty good things are at the low end of the cost scale.

Today’s pen: Waterman Crusader
Today’s ink: Diamine Majestic Blue (a case in point– great colour, and very low $/ml)

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