Today I’ve been testing pens, making the necessary adjustments to regulate flow and eliminate scratchiness. For flexible pens, you have to allow for a little drag on the paper at full flex, but they should be smooth unflexed. Or, shall we say, as smooth as can be reasonably achieved. Older pens don’t have the big globular lump of tipping material that many modern pens have, so some, especially fines, often still retain a little residue of friction against the paper even when the tines are as they should be and the tip has been polished. That’s fine. It’s what users of older pens have experienced before and they like it; some call it feedback.
I have actually had complaints that a particular pen or two were too smooth and gave no feedback. That can be true of stiff-nibbed pens with plenty of tipping material like Mentmores and Parkers. Truth be told, there’s little that can be done about it. I could give it more feedback at the cost of misaligning a tine slightly but that really doesn’t seem right. Theoretically, you could roughen up the tipping material, though I’m not sure how it would be done and again, it would seem like an act of vandalism. Maybe it’s best to avoid those pens if you don’t like slippery-smooth.
Testing, refining and re-testing is when I get to know the pens I’ve bought. Handling them during restoration gives me some idea of how they will be, if the nib’s stiff, soft or flexible, how the pen balances with the cap on and off, how the gripping area feels in the hand and so on. It isn’t until I’ve written a few paragraphs that balance and nib performance begin to come together to show the pen’s character as a writing instrument. There are few – or possibly no – pens that I dislike to write with. They all have their qualities to which you can adapt. Some, though, are so well-made that they encourage you to write with a flair and dash that you couldn’t do with a more pedestrian pen. These pens aren’t uncommon, nor are they all flexible, though some are. My pens of the day today have been a very flexible International Safety Pen eyedropper, a lovely old long Swan SF1 and a De La Rue Pen, one that doesn’t come my way often. Each was completely different from the others, yet they all shared one characteristic: they were pens that make you want to write.