†Why yes, I do have two pens with the same ink on the go, which is outside my usual practice. I put the TM in battery last week for an evening’s writing workshop, and I’ve decided to write it empty rather than flush it. This also puts more Sheaffers into rotation at once than is usual, but as I’ve no one in a position to chastise me effectively for policy breaches who isn’t me, I don’t think I’ll get in much trouble out of it.
Finished up the second draft of “Lots of Land and The Open Sky Above” at a little over 4700 words… and I’m contemplating a title change… which puts me back onto the novel: only 12 pages done, but they’ve got some momentum to them. The break was useful to the novel as well as the shortie.
I have mentioned time and again that this pile of words was born out of a need to distract myself from the perils of eBay. Since I began it, all those years ago, that need has slipped under the waves– I have found other and more useful distractions in the shape of fiction writing, and have become increasingly alarmed at the ratio of income to demands for payment in my household. Sometimes, however, a peek into the den of temptation is required, and therein lies today’s story.
In December, I was contacted by a fellow that needed some point-work done on a Parker 75 and a Montblanc 149. The former has some resistance to dismantling in its fabric, but I know its ways and can overcome it. The latter, though… to get that apart needs special tools. However, as coincidence would have it, I had just been reading on the forums about a place for those of us not anointed with the white bird splat of approval to get functional tools. Where? An eBay storefront belonging to someone with machining skills.
Here was the impetus as well as the opportunity to order the tool, or rather tools, because they vary with era, and a wrench capable of drawing out the piston mechanism as well. So I said yes to the fellow with the pens and placed the order on eBay.
…and as of yesterday, I was thinking that I would have to send an apology to the pen-owner for my inability to deal with his pen, as the tools were clearly never going to appear. “I will,” the inner voice said, “hold off until Friday to send this note.” Patience and timidity combine, then, to make way for joy– the package with the tools in it arrived today. It is postmarked for December, so it was definitely sent briskly; apparently this global shipping crisis is affecting the mails as well. Or, possibly, Canada Customs are giving a parcel of mysteriously-shaped bits of metal a long hard think before passing it through.
The joy is tinted, though, because the window for providing eBay feedback is closed. So, let me share with you the note I dashed off to the vendor:
I mean it, too, and am making good here on the promise. They’re as professional a set of tools as you could hope to find, and I’m delirious with glee at the prospect of unsanctioned rummaging in the guts of Montblanc pens.
While I’m at this, I think I should also do my small part to boost the Google results of Custom Pen Parts, since I’m very nearly as happy with the small purchase I recently made from them– my Pelikan 140 is back in circulation thanks to a part they provided, and their PFM fore-seals are really hard to tell from the factory originals. I don’t doubt the rest of their catalogue is as satisfactory. I mentioned this a little while ago, but I don’t think I mentioned it vigorously enough.
Are these, a cynic will wonder, paid endorsements? Not at all. Any money connected to this contented burbling has moved away from me; I feel I’m repaid in quality goods, but the fact that I’m saying it out loud is perfectly non-commercial. I’m not uninterested, but I am the dictionary definition of disinterested… except to the extent that it serves my own interests to see their enterprises flourish. Quality tools and parts for elderly pens? YES, PLEASE!
only five manuscript pages, but seventeen for that Victoria-era thing. Progress, I calls it!
I’ll also remind everyone to have a look at the previous entry if for no other reason than to rush to the end of it and give your input on the matter of the Challenger challenge which challenges me. There has been some response there, but not quite what the pollsters would call statistically significant (although the unanimity to date is pretty suggestive).
Well, I promised an old-style entry. Not only lots of gabble about fixing pens, but as you shall see presently there’s also a powerful demonstration of my camera’s unreliability at close-up work. We start all of the above with a Parker 51 that wanted to destroy itself rather than be repaired. The client got it for cheaps, happily, the first 51 to come his way, and thus the rather amazing bend of the point wasn’t instantly obvious as a problem; there was no other damage to the pen, and it worked, so why question one more element of odd configuration in a pen that is, from the tradition fountain pen design standpoint, made of oddities? After playing with it for a while, though, he realized that all was not as it was meant to be, so he handed it along to me.
Bent point, and also very blurry. I’m not sure I can fix that.
The first thing I said when I looked at it was, “That shouldn’t be so haaaaa…. oh, hell, it’s going to be a big hassle to get that hood off!” And so it was. Why? Well, after the first rotation of unscrewing the hood, you’d have the very thin plastic of the widow’s peak riding over the upthrust metal of the point. Like this:
It’s not just an unnecessary upward bend presenting gold to the writing surface, it’s an effective stop-peg!
I foresaw the pointiest bit of the hood snapping off, and then there’d be extra hassle in cosmetic remediation which would still leave the end of the hood looking more like a manicured finger-nail than a vampire’s hairline. The solution was to rotate the shell only half-way, leaving enough clearance for my tiny little pliers to get in and do a rough re-shaping ahead of full disassembly. That did the trick, allowing me to then pull the point right out and get at it with all the necessary tools, and return it to something very like the original form.
Although it’s still blurry. I don’t have the tools to get that dealt with.
I haven’t actually contacted the owner yet, as there was also an unusually splendid Eclipse turned in for a new sac at the same time, and I haven’t had time after the shellac’s setting to put it back together. Oh, on that point– if the lever of a pen isn’t working properly, it might not be just an ossified sac. It might be that some underpaid person in a long-ago factory put the pressure bar in sideways and the lever binds on it during travel. This would go a long way toward explaining why the pen seems to have never been used.
Seriously, I don’t think anyone got past “this thing isn’t going to fill”. As a bonus, it’s not blurry, either!
This weekend I also got a pen of my own back in shape. Today’s pen, in fact, which has been laid up for… cripes, years with a bad case of shattered collar on the point/feed unit. A big hoorah to Custom Pen Parts for running up brand new components for old pens, and a big smack on the back of the head for me for not asking them for the part sooner.
The final triumph of the weekend was getting this poor thing back in shape:
“Never been used” is not something I suspect of this item.
This was sent to me by a… I hesitate to say “client”, because the Pelikan 140 she sent me a while back needed little more than a sharp look and an imperious gesture to return to function, and only slightly more effort was called for with her Parker 51. This was not only more challenging a Challenger than she wanted around the place, it was surplus to requirement, so she passed it on to me– not for my own enjoyment (I too, have a sufficiency of Challenger in my life) but so I could act as a link in a chain seeing it into worthy hands. We’re about to enter the audience participation portion of the programme…
I think this will have slightly better performance now.
My first thought was to find someone who hasn’t had a vintage pen and hand it to them, a kindness in a world in need of such things. But… apart from figuring out how to find a recipient, that damage I sorted out is likely a result of someone who had not previously used a vintage pen overdoing things. I don’t want to deprive someone of a chance at a pen of this sort, but I also don’t want their experience of vintage pens to be “Oh, boy! A vintage pen! *gloink* Awwww….”
Plus, who would wish more injury upon this poor waif?
So, I turn to my long-suffering readers for advice. Do I persist with the original plan, with its potential for disappointment? The other alternative that struck me is to auction it, careful to point out its not-quite-mint condition, with the stated goal of gathering money for a charity. If I get shoved in this direction, I may come back asking which charity to direct the proceeds to; I’ve got some in mind, but I don’t think this thing will draw in enough to make splitting the donation a sensible prospect.
So, everyone who isn’t me reading this: OPINE! I’ve got a poll, but comments are also open for reasoned arguments for or against the options, and to provide alternatives. I’ll give this a couple of weeks, and then with a decision in hand I’ll start the process of acting upon it!
17 manuscript pages, plus a whopping three pages for a story aimed at that anthology of Victoria-era weird tales I think I mentioned, which closes in mid-April (that’s painfully close).
Some of my scribbling time has been eaten up this week in getting research details in hand for that short story, which I haven’t been quite able to convince myself to not bother with. Fool! Don’t I know how few hours of productive writing I can count on in a week? The novel must be done this year, not next!
While I’m diverting myself from the effort on the novel, I’ll also mention that coming up… sometime this month, I’m going to go old-school with a look at a slightly wicked pen repair and a call for input as to what should be done with a blameless orphan pen that has come into my care. As usual, it’s a lack of pictures that makes these things not happen yet.
That’s an alarmingly low page-count for this week, which is down to an unexpected office celebratory lunch. Free lunch, yes, but not only did it cost me a day’s efforts, it made me rather ill so yesterday was not very productive either. Boo.
However, if my page/word ratios are right, I’m now above 25,000 words, or 100 typed pages. For something that only gets poked at over lunch-hours, that’s coming along reasonably well.
A joyful… more or less… realization on Tuesday, that the point-of-view of the novel wasn’t quite where it should be. This will make extra work on the second draft (thus “or less”), but it also mean some elements that have been a drag-inducing burden to the narrative can be more easily handled and I should be able to skip along a little more briskly henceforth.
I’m also faced with a couple of other projects that might distract me from this hoped-for brisk skipping; there’s a call from weird stories which also examine the effects of colonization in the Victorian era, and my wife is urging me to convert something to a screenplay for a local competition. Egad.