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Posts Tagged ‘Remington’

Unwanted Refinement

Posted by Dirck on 24 July, 2012

I gave into a very foolish impulse yesterday.  I had a look at eBay.  This is frequently a prelude to looking at a huge list of not very large bids and thinking, “Oh, I hope I don’t win on most of those” (the same effect comes, I hear, from a not very large list of huge bids).  However, it appears the only urge I was open to was the investigative one; the investing one was out round the back with the brandy, I guess.  I should be happy that I have not got myself into a monetary bind, and I am, but there was an obverse to the coin that showed itself, and the happiness is tinged with concern.

To some extend, the exercise was one of seeing how well I could spot makes and models from the frequently dreadful pictures (I’ve taken enough of them to know them when I see them).  This is even more of a challenge when looking at “Grandpa’s desk drawer had all these!” lots; a great jumble of pens, pencils, and other similarly-shaped objects.  Given the nature of my site, I don’t think it’s bragging when I say that I’m not too bad at this sort of spotting.  Had I been in a buying frame, I certainly would have known it was a Parker “21” rather than a “51” and felt a clever chap for knowing it was already over-bid.  However, this cleverness appears to be somewhat alloyed to a cynicism I hadn’t felt creeping up on me.

Looking into one of those Grandpa’s Drawers photos, after about a minute of doing it that I was actively cocking a snook at the lower-tier pens.  I willingly concede that I don’t have much love in my heart for a lot of the post-1950 Wearever lineup, but I had never thought to find myself snorting derisively and even, indeed, sneering at Remingtons, Eclipses, and similar decent if lowly pens.  If this sort of thing keeps up, I might find myself chuckling at the notion of Esterbrooks with the wrong sort of intent.

I suppose it is to be expected that several years of playing with some of the better pens history has to offer will result in a somewhat jaded outlook.  While those lesser pens are as nice as their nature allows, there are some limits on them.  A pen with actual tipping cannot fail but be nicer to write with than one with a set of folded “butterfly” nibs.  A good solid Permanite or Radite barrel gives a better sense of security than an extremely thin mystery material.  If I’ve got the nice ones, why not treat myself?

Well… in part because I might forget that there are some charms to the deadly cheap pens.  I might not recommend Wearevers as a group, but I should continue to commend the Supreme for the amount of performance that it shakes out of a 29¢ price tag.  I might not altogether enjoy the way a very cheap pen writes, but I should remain open to the merely skin-deep beauty of many depression era pens, since looks were frequently all they could offer and they went quite over the top on them.  I should, in short, remember where I came from and not give into the urge to be a snob.  That’s a narrowing of mind, and I’m of the opinion that that’s not a healthy activity.

As an aside; if the first sentence in the third paragraph doesn’t draw some Google hits for people looking for an entirely different sort of online experience, I’ll be very surprised.

Today’s relatively lowly pen: Lamy Safari
Today’s ink: Herbin Perle Noire

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Full Disclosure

Posted by Dirck on 29 September, 2010

Sometimes you have to admit defeat, and I do so in this case with at least the clarity of conscience not having utterly destroyed the pen allows.

Hm.  Er.  Yes.  Quite.  I did say that, didn’t I?  Well, my conscience climbed down off my shoulder moments after I posted that and had been kicking me in the kidneys ever since, so it’s time to reveal an ugly truth.  In the very same weekend which saw the setting aside of a recalcitrant Remington, I damaged a rather more grand Sheaffer belonging to another client.

The pen in question is a 790, or at least so says the collective wisdom of the Fountain Pen Network.  It is one of the protean and mystifying Imperial/Triumph line of the 1970s, rather like the 440 but with a gold point and gold-plated cap in place of steel– upon reflection, I think I’ve neglected to take a picture of it for my album in my panic over The Incident.  Like the 440, it is a cartridge filling pen, and it arrived in my hands with an older metal-bodied converter stuck in it.  The sac on the converter had let go, rendering the pen unusable until converter was freed.

“Stuck” is hardly the word for the problem.  “Seized”  might be closer to the point.  Perhaps even “contact-welded”.  Soaking, heat, various solvents of increasing risk, nothing would budge the thing.  My initial goal was to get the converter out and see whether it wasn’t possible to fit it with a new sac, but as options dwinded I realized that getting the pen at all operational was probably going to see the destruction of the converter.  Which, in my books, means the client isn’t going to pay for the “service”, since attacking a pen with a pair of pliers is not what we might call “skilled labour”.  The client assented to the plan, and I brought forth the pliers.

At this point, the whole affair takes on some of the character of battlefield surgery in the early 19th century.  The thin metal of the converter gave under the pressure of the pliers, and it looked like a good tug would set things free.  However, the joining of one metal to the other was so complete that the long metal collar on the back of the section actually cracked under the strain before the remains of the converter came away.  I’ll append a picture of the thing when I’ve got a chance, having two representatives of the tribe in my hands to act a models, so I’ll not decribe the collar in great detail– it acts to hold the cartridge in place while the pen is screwed together, and the forward part is threaded to receive the barrel.  It’s not a trivial part. (EDIT: Here’s a picture that will serve; its the one on the right)

Luckily for me, in as much as luck came visiting on this case, the crack stopped at the threaded portion of the collar.  I could turn to the barber-surgeon’s great friend, the saw, to remove the damaged bit, and still have a functional pen.  Which is what I did. Truncated, but functional.

Part of the lateness of this confession is the combined work of shame and vanity.  However, I also wanted to wait until the client knew what was happening with his pen, or rather pens, as two others had been travelling with it (a snorkel Statesman and an Imperial II).  All are on their way home even now, and the deal I’ve presented him with is that he’s not to pay me until he’s had a chance at inspection– I told him what the total would have been had the damage not occured, and said that he’s free to pay any amount between that and nothing at all.  Since pen people are, with some small foibles from one individual to another, a reasonable bunch, I expect fair treatment.

There’s a lesson in this, too.  Something “simple” can present the greatest difficulties.  The snorkel was, in relative terms, a dawdle.

Today’s penitent pen:  Waterman C/F
Today’s apologetic ink: Diamine China Blue

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Does Incomplete Victory Count?

Posted by Dirck on 27 September, 2010

I’m sure the majority of people with access to the internet today will have at some point in their life stumbled upon Sesame Street.  A regular feature on the show in my day (although from a few recent viewing I wonder if this is still the case) was the song “One of These Things.”  With that song in mind, lets have a look at some pens:

Shall we play? All are fountain pens, of course.  All are the sort of piston-filler in which one simply hauls on a stick to fill and empty, like a syringe.  No two are the same colour, and only two are Remington brand.  All ridiculously long blind caps to house the piston-stick.  All have a transparent barrel, so the level of ink is obvious at all times… although the fact that one of them is very hard to see through is a difference, and a hint to the difference I have in mind.

The difference you can’t see– the one at the top is mine, and I didn’t work on it this weekend.  The other three belong to clients, and as noted last week one of my goals for this weekend was to use some newly-purchased sheet silicone-rubber to fashion fresh seals.  In the Red Dot at the bottom of the picture, you can actually see the new seal, a somewhat redder item in the picture than it is in real life.  In this, I had some success, as you can see from the water visible within Red Dot and that lizardy green chap near the top.  It’s not an entirely straightforward process, as some shaping is needed after the circle is punched out of the sheet (and in the case of Red Dot, some thickness reduction), but it’s not too challenging.  Especially when the son is asleep.

However, to install a new seal in the pen, you do need to be able to get inside the thing.  This sort of pen was as close to a disposable as the popular concept of pen would allow in the 1930s, so they weren’t necessarily made with repair in mind.  The points are generally made of gold-plated steel, and it seems that the idea was that by the time anything else wore out, the ravenous inks of the day would have found a way trhough the plating and reduced to point to a useless hulk.  The sections were thus frequently fixed permanently to the barrel, indicating that whatever was used to join them (acetone, perhaps?) was even less expensive than shellac.

When I took the red Remington from its owner, I was very confident.  My own version of this pen came apart quite biddably, and I didn’t foresee any trouble.  After a couple of weeks of efforts to free it, culminating in a great combative struggle yesterday, I have sent a note to the client essentially asking permission to retreat.  I can’t think of a non-destructive way to get the section free.  Given that the room was starting to smell like a cough-drop factory, I was clearly flirting with the ignition point of the celluloid, and that’s a degree of excitement I’d like to avoid.  Sometimes you have to admit defeat, and I do so in this case with at least the clarity of conscience not having utterly destroyed the pen allows.

The other two are doing nicely, though.  If we want to really finish the game, there is one more way in which one differs from the others.  Can you see it?  It’s right there in front of you– of the four of them, only the green one isn’t trying very hard indeed to pretend to be a Sheaffer Balance.

Today’s easily opened pen:  Sheaffer No Nonsense (a red one of my wife’s heap of No Nonsenses and Viewpoints…)
Today’s ink:  Diamine Majestic Blue (…which turns out to be a colour she doesn’t like much, so I’ve been invited to help write it empty)

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Getting along with Esterbrook Well (?)

Posted by Dirck on 26 May, 2010

I have today only a few observations today, regarding my current experience with the Esterbrook 444 Dip-Less desk well. Don’t expect the secrets of the universe.

I should start by mentioning that I am not one of the world’s greatest fans of Esterbrook’s pens. For the most part they’re very sturdy objects, and pleasant to look at, but the performance is not great. I am not a pen snob by any means, as I will use and enjoy pens which normal people, at least those below the age of 70, have never heard of and for very good reason. Packard? Remington? Champion? Cheap, cheap and cheap, but I rather like them. I suppose it’s the mere fact that Esterbrooks do have such a fan base that makes me expect a little more out of them. An unused point works reasonably well, but the used points seem to be profoundly used.

Such was the case with the pen I got for this well, which is fitted with a 5550 (fine firm) point. It needed a quantity of work to remove a sharp point it had developed, which would dig into the paper alarmingly. I can only ponder how long it will be before that point redevelops.

That aside, I do enjoy the fact that I can just sit down in the morning, yank it out and write without any nod in the direction of priming the point. This is a trick which even the Parker “51” full of blue ink can’t quite manage– it writes, but it’s a little thickened and sluggish. The Estie, by contrast, is writing at the first stroke with the ink at the appropriate degree of saturation. This is not a situation which I am utterly certain will continue, as there is not a seal as such between pen and well, and so inevitably there must be some evaporation happening. Until that becomes an issue, though, I don’t foresee the starting problem that infrequent use and goofy colours imposed on my previous high-lighting pen.

If evaporation isn’t a large issue, then it will be a very long time indeed before I need to refill the well. I get about 300 words to the dip (I write small) and seldom go that far as this pen is devoted to mainly check-marks and small notes which demand attention (“This is WRONG!”). The dish holds, I discovered through careful application of a graduated syringe, 30ml of fluid, which is coincidentally exactly the amount of ink in one of the little Herbin bottles. For those who remember and care, that’s about half as much as that Sheaffer box’o’ink I’ve got can take, which means Sheaffer was expecting their users to write a lot.

I have also discovered that getting the lid off for refilling, an effort I experimentally made, is less fraught than I’d expected, although one would like a very absorbent object on an impermiable surface to rest the lid on while pouring in the fresh ink. I had both hands to devote to not dribbling, as refilling wasn’t called for.

My personal and small dislike of the point aside, I’m generally pleased with this visitor from the past. I can, in theory change the point, but there is one other observation to make– while the threads are the same on all the Esterbrook points, the smaller Renew-Point units meant for the fountain pens don’t seem long enough to dabble in the ink. A 1550 (technically the same point, the first digit merely indicating which line of points it belongs to, but much shorter overall) remained high and dry until unscrewed to the point of nearly dropping from the holder, while a 9556 was adequate to the task. It’s not a big issue, but one should be aware that not ALL Esterbrook points will serve.

I see that lunch hour is over, so it’s time to go back down the well.

Today’s portable pen: Parker 45 Flighter (with an XF gold point fitted)
Today’s ink: Pilot Iroshizuki Fuyu-Syogun

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