What's up at Ravens March.

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Posts Tagged ‘Vacumatic’

Anti-Nausea Treatment

Posted by Dirck on 11 May, 2017

A bonus entry!

In the progress report, I have today’s pen down as the Parker Challenger, but I am in fact carrying a second pen today.  This is not the only transgression of my usual policies, because that second pen is not mine– it belongs to a client.

I am at least as shocked as everyone else.  But it’s done for a noble cause.

The reason this pen is in my clutches at all is because it has been throwing up in its cap.  That’s not good.  It’s also very unusual behaviour for the model.  The Parker “51”, after all, invented having enormous buffers between ink and outside world, and the only thing I could think of was that the owner wasn’t filling it properly… except in discussion with that person, I got a sense of someone who actually knew what was what in the filling of pens.  Like me, they are a user of collected pens, seeing little point in a pen left sitting on a non-marking velvet pillow in a safe-deposit box.  If it wasn’t pilot error, then… what?

Exterior inspection first.  The “51” is well known as being durable, but it’s not Kryptonian.  Might there be a covert crack in the hood?  Careful, well-lit turns under the loupe said no.  And that meant I had to take it apart and look at it’s guts.

There are, of course, two main sorts of “51”.  There is the initial wave, using a Vacumatic filling mechanism, which was swapped out after seven years of production for the Fotofil press-bar rig, which we call today the Aerometric… and actually, this word is of some importance.  It described a breather tube in the very heart of the filler, so long that it reached to nearly the end of the Pliglass sac (oh, so many neologisms out of Parker!).  This allowed the sac to fill fully by working the bar several times, but to avoid catastrophic leakage during air travel, there was a teeny little hole in the side of the tube, close to the open end of the sac that equalizes pressure inside and outside the tube; that’s what was originally meant by “Aerometric”.  This pen has a Fotofil reservoir, and all the other outward signs of being a post-1948 product.

…so imagine my surprise when I opened the pen and found the stubby little breather tube of a Vacumatic filler peeking out the back of the collector.  There was a 1951 date-code on the point, which is entirely appropriate, but the feed and the associated breather were Vacs.  It seems that at some point before the current owner got this pen, something awful happened to the feed.  Whoever had it at that point cast about for a spare, and had only the older Vac type at hand; the breather tube in question was a new plastic item, not the original celluloid, so modern monkeyshines are indicated.  “Oh, well,” said this imaginary repair-person.  “It all fits; where’s the harm?”

Frankly, I don’t really blame my figment, because it took me a while to figure out how the symptoms developed.  That short breather would prevent a complete fill, and I suspect if it had been a little shorter, nothing would have come of it other than the owner occasionally wondering at how frequently fills were needed.  However, the narrower ink chamber of that style of filler meant that the relatively shallow fill was still enough to cover the inner end of the breather tube, and also gave slightly greater thrust when the air in the reservoir expanded.  If the collector was partially full, as it might be in a freshly-fed pen, that’s enough to overwhelm it, and there’s your cap-full of ink.

What remedy, then?  Ideally, an Aerometric feed and a fresh tube.  But I don’t have a spare feed.  What I do have is about a meter of the very same Teflon tubing Figment used to make the problematically correct Vac-length tube, which fits very nicely in the back of the Vac feed, and so I cut an Aerometric-appropriate length from that.  I also have a pin and the capacity to warm it, allowing me to put a teeny little hole in the tube, close to the open end of the sac.  Theoretically, then, problem solved.

But I’m in the business of practical solutions.  So, we need a field test.  The first aspect of the test was see if the pen filled at all; the Vac tube is of a wider bore than the Aerometric, and there was some chance this would afflict filling.  Trial proved this fear unfounded, and so we move onto phase two of the field trials.  That is me sticking the pen in my shirt pocket, staggering around for a few hours and exposing it to my raging personal furnace (I have a surface temperature approaching 30C!), and then taking the cap off.


Over a disposable sheet of paper.


Alas, I lack an aircraft to test against serious changes of external pressure.  My parents live on the fifteenth floor of their building, but I don’t expect the 0.07 psi change will really prove much one way or another, so any visit to them will be purely for the pleasure of their company.


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Posted by Dirck on 20 October, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 17 October
  • 18 October
  • 19 October
  • 20 October
  • First draft of “Discoveries in the Wake of the Last Crusade.”
  • First draft plods along.
  • I’m gettin’ my Clarke on with it.
  • But not today; a task needed doing for my wife.*
  • Seven manuscript pages
  • Five pages
  • Six pages
  • Roughly 6 km driven
  • 50 min.
  • 40 min.
  • 40 min.
  • Enough to be a problem

* Lest you think nothing in the writing line transpired today: a story I sold has been published by they who bought it!  I expound upon this on the other front, but I am… rather pleased.

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Posted by Dirck on 13 October, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 10 October
  • 11 October
  • 12 October
  • 13 October
  • Flan de Café for Thanksgiving* at the wife’s parents.
  • Second draft of “Tale of the One-Handed Engineer.”
  • The exciting climax of “One-Handed Engineer.”
  • And the conclusion.  Done!
  • One recipe makes eight serving
  • 921 words typed.
  • 601 words.
  • Somewhat above 700 words, for a total of 3,240.
  • All day, if one includes presentation
  • 45 min.
  • 40 min.
  • 50 min.

* Yes, we celebrate that in early October here.  Remember that it’s a harvest festival, not a saint’s day.

** The reason we use pens before selling them on– this one has needed several little tweaks to get the tine alignment just so, which little bits of scribbling hadn’t revealed.  Prolonged writing, however… well, I’d have been embarrassed to have sold it earlier.

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October Starts Bleak and Lonely

Posted by Dirck on 7 October, 2016

October!  You know what that means!

Egg nog has been in the grocery stores for more than two weeks!

I wish I were kidding.  However, the core of the month is Hallowe’en, so far as I care to consider things, and that’s where the next few Fridays are going.  Today’s is a nod to what’s going on politically in the US at the moment, although it’s slighlty less ugly.

Pardon? “Not very Hallowe’en-ey”?  Oh, my– consider for a moment the effort gone into the costume.  Imagine the stir YOU would cause at a party were you able to marshal such resources.

Today’s pen: Parker Vacumatic (a gold pearl Debutante on a test-drive after refit, soon to appear for sale)
Today’s ink: Waterman blue-black (because why risk stains at this point?)

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Posted by Dirck on 7 April, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 4 April
  • 5 April
  • 6 April
  • 7 April
  • First draft of  “Poor Old Michael Finnegan”.
  • Likewise, but with a staggering realization that the point-of-view had been dead wrong.
  • Now with improved POV!
  • First draft of “Finnegan” gives way to first draft of “A Mistake of Timing” (another project with a deadline– 31 July).
  • Six manuscript pages.
  • The same.
  • What, six AGAIN?
  • Four pages, and then three.
  • 35 min.
  • 40 min.
  •  min.
  • 35 min.
  • 45 min.

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Posted by Dirck on 24 March, 2016

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 21 March
  • 22 March
  • 23 March
  • 24 March
  • First draft of  “The Loss of Deep Waters”.
  • Conclusion of that first draft, beginning the second of “Wildenklausen”.
  • More second drafting, with some unexpected bonus time late in the day.
  • Thanks, bonus time!  Now it’s done!
  • Seven manuscript pages.
  • Two pages, then 945 words typed.
  • 2,219 words.
  • A total of 3,606 words.
  • 45 min.
  • 55 min.
  • 100 min.
  • 35 min.

Another new development in the past two weeks– I’m writing not merely to get the stories down, but to externally-imposed deadlines.  “Wildenklausen” and “The Loss of Deep Waters” are aimed at two different anthologies, both of which close at the end of April.  This is not a very tight pair of deadlines, admittedly, but it’s a good deal more pressure than what has been my usual practice of getting the thing written briskly but comfortably, for eventual presentation.  I think I’m enjoying it.  Probably.

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Not Minding My Own Business

Posted by Dirck on 16 February, 2016

But first, with reference to the last entry:  I did indeed come very close to dying of my labours, John Henry-style.  Too many garbage bags of things that didn’t meet the “We really must hang onto this” criteria for one week’s garbage-removal support system; the usual single bag of kitchen trash had to wait until the Monday morning collection to go out, rather than getting taken out on Sunday night.

However, it wasn’t all picks, shovels, and vacuum cleaners.  I also started on a fresh story, once I finished the schlepping, and between a bout on Friday afternoon and a little effort last night after dinner, there are now twenty-six pages of “The Mermaid’s Husband” (which I just now discovered was used as a title by none other than Lord Dunsany himself— I may have to rethink it).  What I could accomplish if left to do as I pleased on any given week-day!

There were also pens seen to during the Great Fling, and it is on this that the title of this entry hangs.  My plan was to drop off two parcels at the post office, and then back to The Regular Job to get more writing done.  I had glanced at my email this morning, which showed that payment had been made… but by not paying attention and opening one of those emails until I was ready to send along the parcel’s tracking number, I missed a request to please not send the thing until 1 March, as the client was travelling.

Poo. After apologizing, for I could do little else, I went on to the other client to give them their tracking number… and found that by not paying attention at the post office, I missed on the clerk there rather mis-entering the postal code, consigning the parcel to the west coast rather than Quebec– something like intending to go to the attic and heading for the cellar.  Phone calls suggest the problem is fixed… we think… probably, and the worst outcome is an undeliverable parcel comes back to me and then heads off in the right direction.  I have, though, had finer days.

Apart from the possibility of having to pay a second dose of postage, I found that my nerves were too jangled to usefully turn my hand to the new story.  My mind was not on that business either, and thus am I penalized for not minding my business.

Today’s pen, shaking its head in disbelief: Parker 51
Today’s ink, too polite to say what it really thinks of me: Diamine Marine

PS– as a sop to my vanity, I will mention that I at least trimmed the diaphragms properly in the Vacumatics that are rushing towards an empty house, unlike the fellow who “refitted” one of them before selling it to the client.  So there.

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The Desert Island, Part 2

Posted by Dirck on 30 December, 2015

Now that the matter of ink has been dealt with, let’s consider the pens to put it into.  I’m doing this in two phases, largely because I’m lazy and don’t want to work too hard today or tomorrow, and I’m dividing the selections into Vintage and Modern groups.  As with yesterday, this is a rough order of preference.  I am also leaving out of this consideration purely sentimental reasons– I have, for example, a couple of relatively early Parker Duofolds which are gifts and thus dear to me, but without that connection they’re not wonderful pens and so don’t follow me into my south Pacific exile.

I can also pretend it’s a space ship! VRROOOOSH!

I have said many times and in various places that I’m not a celebrant in the Church of The Divine and Perfect “51”, so it may come as something of a surprise to find it on this list at all.  While I don’t take any sense of the numinous from the Parker “51”, or at least no more than from any other decent pen, I will admit to its virtues.  They are, generally, very nice writers.  They are made of profoundly durable materials, particularly those made just after the switch to the Foto-Fil with Pli-Glass reservoir– the Aerometrics as they’re known to anyone who isn’t staring at period advertising.  They are, for those not too bound to the open point, handsome enough pens.  Thus, one gets to come along.

To be honest, the emerald or gold pearl would be my preference.

The Vacumatic lacks some of the points that sees its successor on this list.  They are not uncommonly durable.  To keep the filler working, I’d eventually need to open up The Professor’s old lab, find a tree that produced latex, and also figure out where on the island Kirk fought the Gorn so I could lay my hands on some sulfur for vulcanizing.  However, they are a very pretty pen, and even on an island paradise with its amazing sunsets and vibrant flora I perceive there will come a day when aesthetic satisfaction from the works of Man will be wanted.  Also, whatever powers of writing performance the “51” has it came by honestly as a descendant of the Vacumatic.  A Vacumatic was one of the first vintage pens I got my hands on, and I was shocked at how nice writing could feel.

Object of desire not exactly as shown

Frankly, there’s not much to tell between the Vacumatic and the Waterman Hundred Year Pen, and a casual observer may think I’m being redundant in this choice.  However, if I preface it by saying the Hundred Year I’d take is not the one shown here, I make a better defence.  No, what I’d want would be the early Lucite form of the beast, which gives it some of the durability of the “51” at least, and a taste of the visual splendor of the Vacumatic.  It also has a profoundly nice point, big enough to stand in for a shovel if pressed, and the sort of easy semi-flexible writing that a lot of pen enthusiasts dream of when they start considering the whole notion of vintage pens.

Here’s the runner-up

I believe I hear the slamming on of mental brakes.  “What’s this?  The Parker 75 isn’t vintage!  What is this guy at/on?!”  I can offer some persuasive arguments that the “51” isn’t vintage, either, but we’ll leave that aside for a moment.  I decided when I began compiling this list that I would set the cut-off line between Vintage and Modern in 1966*.  This is highly arbitrary, of course, but it’s based on what I view in my site’s history of pens as the beginning of the dark ages for fountain pens, and the end of a golden age seems as good a way to define “modern” as any other.  That it coincidentally also allows for the bench-mark of “older than me” which many hold dear was not (consciously) an element in the figuring.   Since there are a few years of production of the 75 before this utterly capricious watershed, and since those few years were full of what I find the most mesmerizing pen in the world, I’m setting it here.

And “mesmerizing” is the main reason for its inclusion.  It is a nice writer, certainly, but it’s also a pen that I can sit and look at for hours if no interruption offers.  What better bulwark against the growing tedium of island life than a means to escape reality entirely?  Even better– unlike a cask of rum or a crate of opium packed in crab tins, either of which my childhood reading suggests as possible wave-tossed salvage, staring idly at the pen won’t damage my organs.  There’s also a practical reason to choose this pen– it is at base a big lump of silver and gold, the sort of thing even a perfectly illiterate pirate might accept as payment for setting a castaway down at a port of some kind, the first step on the road back to civilization.

Number One in the countdown, “Prince” Valiant

I said at the outset that I wasn’t letting sentiment do the driving on this list, but I stand now at the threshold of hypocrisy.  This pen is here, in the final and premiere position on this list, because it fits into a space in my imagining of the world that describes the truest ideal of the notion of fountain pen… and if you think that’s a supremely irrational notion, I’m in total agreement.  I have deflected myself somewhat in this bowing to unreason, in that the slightly more oval profile of the previous vacuum-filling pens is even more correct a fit into that hole, but the mechanism in them is a persistent source of worry.  The early Touchdown gets the nod as most favoured vintage pen, then.  It is, also, at least as smooth and willing a writer as any of the other pens in this list; I’m not completely swayed by looks.

You will no doubt be wondering at the entire absence of thinks like the Duofold or the Balance, or a whole bunch of Waterman’s early output.  The last I can at least say respond to– do you really want to see a bunch of hard rubber pens exposed to the light and salt spray of an island paradise?  I can’t cower in my two-story bamboo mansion the whole time!  The others I can’t dismiss as easily.  Anyone who has taken the time to look through my site at length will find that I don’t have a lot of dismissal in me as far as fountain pens go.  The ones that are not here are absent not for any particular flaw, but from a combination of what I perceive as the strengths of these five, and of course for rather more subjective reasons of liking.

I’ll be applying the same dubious filters to modern pens tomorrow, just before I take my cask and crate of tins out to a party to see off the old year.  As with the previous entry, I don’t just leave the door open to commentary, I actively encourage it.

Today’s pen: Pelikan M600
Today’s ink: Herbin Vert Empire

*This policy is for the purpose of the current exercise only.  I remain as open on the idea of “vintage” as the link in the sentence this footnote hangs from suggests, and outside today and tomorrow will continue to dodge any attempt to pin down a specific date to attach to the idea.


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Posted by Dirck on 26 March, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 23 March
  • 24 March
  • 25 March
  • 26 March
  • Choose Your Own Unspeakable Doom.
  • The same…
    • …and a start on short story “Then Tell, Oh Tell…” because a rather nice opening for it came to me during my break this morning.
  • Deja Doom
  • Eight manuscript pages.
  • Eight pages all told.
  • Six pages
  • Eleven pages
  • 45 min.
  • 40 min.
  • 30 min.
  • 55 min.

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Posted by Dirck on 19 March, 2015

Day What How Much Duration Pen Ink
  • 16 March
  • 17 March
  • 18 March
  • 19 March
  • Choose Your Own Unspeakable Doom.
  • …plus that entry I wrote.
  • More Choice! More Doom!
  • Ditto.
  • Eight manuscript pages.
  • Six pages
  • Seven pages.
  • Nine pages.
  • 45 min.
  • 35 min.
  • 35 min.
  • 45 min.

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