Stephens Fixed Blue

I picked up this bottle of Stephens Fixed Blue ink for a song considering the price of ink these days.  It’s about half full.  The seller packed it well but there was a tiny bit of leakage by time it got to me.  Really just an insignificant amount – until it got on my fingers, where it became truly significant.  It is, indeed, fixed!  With much washing I was able to reduce it, not remove it!

It’s strange ink.  First applied it looks decidedly purple.  Also, it seemed rather weak, as if it had lost its intensity.  When I looked again I did a double take.  It had become fully blue and it stood out well on the paper despite having been applied with a very fine nib.  I’m very pleased with it but I can’t put a date to it.  “Old”.  That’s near enough!

Returning to Pen Sales Soon

I think it’s fair to say that Royal Mail’s cost-cutting measures have left a trail of devastation throughout the Highlands. I won’t detail the tale of woe. Suffice it to say that a year ago there were three Post Offices here; now there is one and it is entirely unsuitable. It’s in a greeting-card-and-scented-candle shop. Two large shelving systems cut the space to a point where social distancing is impossible. Coronavirus would kill my husband and probably me as well. I can’t use that Post Office.

There is another Post Office a few miles away that I have used in the past. It’s a little general store – far from perfect but only two people are allowed in at a time. I am considering that I might use that Post Office. I’m not setting a date when I will return to sales but I believe that it is in sight. When I do, I will only send two packages at a time to minimise the time I spend there. I have reserved pens for customers during the lockdown and those will be the first to be sent.

At first I will only be sending to UK addresses. The last pen I sent out on 24th March, to a USA address, has yet to be delivered. When I try to access USPS tracking the site is always unavailable. I need to know that pens will be delivered promptly and that is not yet the case.

I have some more pens to upload to the sales site – all Mabie Todd – and I will get that done as soon as I can. In the meantime I beg your patience as I try to get under way again. I will continue to reserve requested pens.

Mystery Object

Someone showed me this object in the hope that I would know what it is.  ‘Fraid not.  It remains a mystery to me.  I considered that it might be a keyring but it’s too thick for that, I think.

It says “Compliments of the Swan pen people” It is hinged so it can fold in half, also it has a spring catch on one of the hinges so it can open up. It’s just over one inch in diameter.

Any ideas about what it might be?With thanks to Des Bull for photos and information

A Mysterious Unique

Unique never fails to provide us with interesting pens and questions.

What is this?  A Waterman or a Unique?  The celluloid and the box lever look like Waterman but the – poorly fitting – nib and feed are Unique and the pen bears that company’s name.

A possibility is that Unique bought these part-finished pens that Waterman wished to offload when they moved on to a new model and added their own parts.

There are so many unanswered questions about Unique, especially in the post-war period.  Some time ago, Barbara Epstein responded to a Unique post.  She is the repository of all Unique history.  It is to my eternal regret that I did not take matters further at that time but my husband had an operation which did not go well.  He was in the ICU for ten days, followed by months of slow recuperation.  Many things were laid aside at that time and some were never resumed.

If Barbara still reads this blog, I would be very grateful to hear from her.

Thanks to Peter Greenwood for photos and information.

My Assistant Says…

You have fourteen or fifteen Swans and Blackbirds that you’ve restored sitting around doing nothing.  Why don’t you upload them to the sales website?  Even if you’re not open for sales it would give people some more pens to look at.

Well, Smartie, I would have to write-test them, photograph them, write descriptions…

So?  What else are you doing?

It just seems a lot of work.  And you’re no help.  You’re supposed to be my assistant.

Never mind the excuses.  You’ve become bone idle during this lockdown.

Guilty as charged.  I’ll do the writing samples if you do the photos…

I would.  Really.  But I have an important cat meeting to attend.  See you later.  Oh, and make my dinner too.

Duofold Nib Swap

I like Parker Duofolds of all dates, but especially Newhaven Aerometric Duofolds – to write with, that is – not to service. From a repair point of view the Aerometric is a bad design. There was some discussion in one of the pen boards today about how best to go about working on one. If, for instance, a simple nib swap was all that was required, I would pull the nib. This is not something I would normally do. Pulling at thin, flexible nibs can lead to disaster but Duofold nibs tend to be robust.

The process involves soaking (one of the very few occasions I soak anything), warming thoroughly with a heat gun and working the nib from side to side with a gentle pull. It takes time and patience but it invariably works. Parallel pliers can do the job too but I proceed with great caution if I use them. The feeds are fragile. The alternative is to remove the sac protector and the sac, then drift the nib and feed out as you would with any other pen. That seems like an excessive amount of work to carry out a very simple procedure, to me. Sac protectors were not designed to come off and Parker assumed (mostly correctly) that the Pli-Glass sac would last forever and would never need to be reattached. Thus, neither of those procedures is easy. Yes, they can be done but it’s a lot easier not to do them unless you must.

The chap who was looking for assistance bought a perfectly good Danish Aerometric Duofold and found when it arrived that it had a firm EEF nib – something he had not established before purchase and decided he hated. A Duofold nib in that conformation must be quite rare. I’ve never seen one. He wrenched at it and destroyed it because it was as he said, a “nail”, what I would call a normal nib. All of that grieves me. You would think that it would occur to people that it might be an idea to find out at least a little about fountain pen repair before they get stuck in. It would also help to have tools other than a pair of brutal, metal-jawed pliers.