Waterman Carene Marine Amber

As you know, I had a Waterman Carene last week. I was very impressed with it and decided to get one for myself. I chose the Marine Amber pattern and an EF nib. The colours are very attractive and positively glow in strong light. The EF nib must be a Western EF! It’s a fine, and not an especially fine fine, but I had anticipated that would be the case and I’m perfectly happy with it. It’s heavier than the pens I usually use, but not so heavy that it will be a difficulty, I think. This is the first extended period of writing with it I have done, so I’ll know better later.

It is unusual for me to buy an expensive pen for myself and when I have done so in the past they have been vintage pens. Sooner or later my conscience catches up with me and I sell them. This is likely to be an exception as I would take a loss on the pen, selling it on. Besides, I really like it and want to keep it.

Waterman’s interpretation of the inlaid nib is a large part of the appeal of this pen, as is the sense of quality that just holding it and handling it imparts. The only possible improvement I might have made would be to make the section the same colour as the barrel.

The Carene is an outstanding pen. There are others in the Waterman lineup that are more expensive and I can see the appeal of some of them especially the Exception but the Carene seems the better pen to me. It’s quite a bit more expensive than the pens I usually buy for myself but it isn’t all that costly. Anything more expensive than a good desktop PC is expensive to me and this cost a lot less than that.


Sailor Lecoule

The Sailor Lecoule has been around for seven years or so. It’s a handsome small pen in the traditional style, quite reminiscent of the Pilot Prera which costs about a third more. Some people describe this as a “starter” or “entry-level” pen. I’ve never really understood that. Starter motor bikes, yeah, but I’ve never known a pen to be so powerful that it runs away with you and you end up wrapped around a tree. A pen’s a pen. It’s either good or it isn’t.

This one is good. I become ever more impressed with Japanese steel nibs. It wrote perfectly out of the box. The nib is said to be medium fine – a Western fine, in fact. The pen itself is quite small, 12.3 cm capped. I never post a pen but I might need to post this one. It weighs 13 g – next to nothing.

It came in the usual box with a slip cover, just the pen and two Sailor cartridges. No converter but at £24.60 I can hardly complain. The nib bears the Sailor anchor logo.

The Lecoules came in a variety of liveries, many transparent. Then they brought out the Power Stone range, of which this is one. The idea is that the plastic looks like various stones which have characteristics like good fortune, strength and so on. I don’t know whether these attributes transfer from the stone to the plastic. In any case mine is Garnet. There are also Lapis Lazuli, Rose Quartz, Pearl (which isn’t a stone) and Merion, which I’d never heard of but it seems it’s a dark quartz. The pen is slate grey. They’re all quite attractive.

This is a good pen, as modern pens go. It has a very precise nib and an efficient feed and the ink delivery is perfect. I’ve had a Sailor pen that cost five times as much as this one. This one writes every bit as well.

Nibs, Ancient and Modern

How do we evaluate modern nibs? They are quite different from the old ones I handle every day but they are not all the same. We are entitled to criticise those modern nibs that we find identifiable faults with, but they are not all guilty of the same difficulties.

Without going into the details of traditional and current nib-making (which I couldn’t really do anyway) the main thing that stands out is that the older nibs had a considerable degree of individual hand-work. If I were to collect a dozen pens with the Swan No 1 nib, I can confidently say that no two would behave exactly the same. This is not true of modern nibs.

One of the complaints that frequently comes up in discussion is that modern nib manufacturers do not produce flexible nibs. Some have tried but most users maintain that the results do not compare with old nibs. Why is that? I suppose there are many reasons. One of them is not that modern nib manufacturers cannot make flexible nibs. Of course they could. The main reason they do not do it is because the demand is not really there, or at least not at a level that would make such production cost-effective. Most modern fountain pen buyers don’t care about flex. Those that do are best served by vintage pens or dip nibs.

What else? Many complain about the big blobs of tipping material on some nibs, often polished to the point where there is no possibility of feedback. Some say that these nibs are made now to cater for those who grew up using ballpoint pens and cannot adapt their writing style to use “proper” fountain pen nibs. That’s not entirely true, though it contains some truth. Big blobs of tipping material have appeared on nibs since time immemorial. There was a demand for them long before the ballpoint was thought of. It is true, however, that such tipping is much more common now, especially on pens designed and/or manufactured in the West. I think that it’s true that this style of nib does, to an extent, cater to those who cannot change their style of writing from the ballpoint. Is it wrong to provide a nib for that section of fountain pen users? Such users must be quite common, common enough to justify the lump of tipping material.

I think the complaints could only be justified if other nibs were not available. I dislike that kind of nib myself but I have no difficulty in finding modern pens that have nib tipping that I like. So far as brands go, I have success with Sailor and Pilot – and probably lots of other manufacturers I haven’t tried. After all my main interest is in vintage pens. I’m writing this with a 1930s Parker with a fine oblique nib which is an absolute charm.

And thereby lies another solution: even the brands which turn out ball-end nibs often offer other styles, at least some of which will work well – italics, stubs, obliques, fine and extra-fine nibs which may suit better.

Make no mistake about it; I remain convinced that the best writing experience comes from pens made before 1960. I agree that there are some manufacturers out there today – some of them household names – who make pens with nibs that are unsatisfactory for people who have skill and long experience in writing with fountain pens. But there are superb new nibs too.

Senator Regent

Senator has been around for a long time and was once one of Germany’s most prolific pen makers. The company still exists, making marketing ballpoints. I don’t think they make fountain pens any more but I’m willing to be corrected if I’m wrong. In any case, NOS examples turn up fairly frequently in a variety of packages.

This is the Senator Regent. I’ve seen various production dates for this pen but sixties or seventies appears to be a reasonable guess. It’s a piston filler and a very good one. Removing the blind cap exposes a turn button. Some people appear to have mistakenly taken the view that this indicates an integral piston converter but this is not so. It’s a real piston filler. The pen has a green ink window (not visible in the photographs because it’s full of ink) and the plated steel nib unscrews. The general appearance is quite old-fashioned. It’s more like a nineteen thirties pen.

Senators, including the Regent, have a strong following, mostly because of their good steel nibs and reliable performance. I know one artist who will use no other fountain pen. I rather like them myself.

I have been unable to get a full history for Senator and most German pen manufacturers have been amalgamated with others or taken over at least once. The most striking thing about the Regent is how closely it resembles an earlier form of the Tropen Scholar. Shape, clip and style are very similar – it’s the same pen with different branding! I understand that this form of Tropen is still manufactured and sold in the Far East.

Tropen Scholar

I’m sure that the explanation is common knowledge to German pen enthusiasts.

Book Review: Andy Russell – 50 Years of the Dinkie

It has been some time since I wrote a review of a fountain pen book.  Andy’s 50 Years of the Dinkie is an outstanding work.  As always I will do my best to be impartial but I must say at the outset that I can find nothing here about which I can be adversely critical and, frankly, there are not enough superlatives in the English language to describe the things I admire and enjoy.

The book itself is a publisher’s masterwork.  I’m no book collector but if I was I am sure this volume would be among the best of modern production, from its slip cover to the glossy jacket, the logical layout and the enviable photography.  And the text, the distillation of years of assiduous research.

I bought this book almost as a consolation.  I knew that I would never be able to assemble a great collection of Dinkies in all their colourful glory but here they all are!  The photography is so good that you can almost reach into the page and pick a pen up.  Many are presented in their original boxes, the designs and colours glowing after all those years.  Not only is it a great publication, it reflects a peerless collection.

I have many pen books.  Most are useful and are regularly consulted.  They have (mostly) accurate information and anecdotes; some have a historical narrative of a brand or of fountain pens more generally.  Truth be told, however, most are not the kind of book you would take to your easy chair and read from cover to cover.  This book does fall into that category.  Andy is a real writer: the layout is cogent and the narrative flows.

Many fountain pen books omit an index, others do their best but indexing a series of numbered models is not an easy thing to do.  If a book is to serve as a reference as well as fireside reading a good index is essential.  Andy has done this as well as it can be done, given the fact that the subject material does not lend itself well to the process.

This is a great fountain pen book, one that sets a standard for future works and will be referred to frequently, not just for information but for the pleasure of studying these wonderful little pens of an earlier time.  Don’t take my word for it.  Go to the website https://www.englishpenbooks.co.uk/home/50-years-of-the-dinkie/ which will give you a much better idea of what to expect than I can.


Waterman Carene

In the glory days of the fountain pen Waterman was up there with the best of them. Waterman brought out the spoon feed which I think still does an adequate job. Then there was the 12, the 52, the Patrician, the 94 and a lot more. The CF of 1953 began the modern use of cartridges. Even the post-war pens like the W3 and 513 were good writers and were well-made apart from the poor plating. All that was while they were truly Waterman. Bought out by Bic in nineteen fifty-eight, a series of takeovers followed and today the company is a subsidiary of Sanford/Newell Rubbermaid.

The result, I believe, was a loss of direction. Over the years Waterman has turned out many uninspired pens, probably efficient enough but without the company personality of the years before they were absorbed into the large, diverse organisation of today.

The great exception, to my mind, is the Carene. This is a pen of character. The body is lacquer over brass, making it quite heavy at 33.9 g. Though that doesn’t particularly suit me, heavier pens are popular today. It is quite large at 14.4 cm capped. The slant-cut barrel is unusual enough to identify the pen at a glance, but what makes this pen stand out is the beautiful inlaid nib. It has taken an entirely different approach to inlaying from Sheaffer.

The pen gives the impression of luxury and solidity. The two o-rings at the barrel closure is an indication of the quality of the work that has gone into this pen. I’ve seen it said that the Carene was designed with a luxury yacht in mind. I’m not sure I see that but the design appeals and works well.

Initially quite an expensive pen, Carenes are priced a little lower now, and good examples appear on the second-hand market at affordable prices.