I’ve started doing a couple of things I always avoided. Is that a gnomic enough start for you?
I’ve never used firm-nibbed pens all my adult life. In that distant time when I was a teenager I got hold of an old BCHR Onoto which I couldn’t repair but I could use as an eyedropper-filler. It was very flexible and that was the start of my life-long love-affair with such pens. Of course, I’m aware of how firm-nibbed pens behave. I test a few every week, but I’ve never really used one. It may be that by limiting myself in this way I’m missing out on something. There may be wonders of the consistent line that I have yet to experience.
The other thing, and you may have noticed this, is that I don’t do modern pens, and “modern” for me is anything after about 1965. It’s not that I haven’t tried. A few years ago, when they were the latest thing, I bought a Sheaffer Intrigue. It was a disappointment. The pen was as heavy as a similarly-sized lump of lead. It had a tricky filling system that allowed for the use of cartridges or a fixed converter. In the small size of the pen, this required the best of precision engineering. It didn’t get it; instead it was hacked together and it worked when it liked. At least it had a beautiful nib… which didn’t write on the upstrokes. It was a disgrace to the fine name of Sheaffer.
Some time after that I was foolishly attracted by a picture of a Laban Mento and I bought it. When I took it out of the crate-sized box I couldn’t believe how big it was, and the picture had done no justice to just how lurid the colours were. We called it the Clown Pen. I persisted in trying to write with it but it was like trying to write with a fence-post. It was a horribly bad starter too. Apparently the fix was to seal the inside of the cap with wax, but if you have to apply hacks like that to a new pen, it really is time the manufacturers gave themselves a good shake.
So I’ve stuck with pens that are my age or older, often quite a bit older. Until this week, that is, when I bought two new, firm-nibbed pens. Actually, I tell a lie. One is a Cross and it’s brand new. It was remarkably cheap because it is an advertising pen and it has a Ford logo on it and no-one wants a pen with a Ford logo. I can understand that but I’m not as fussy as some. The other’s a seventies pen, one of those cartridge-filler Sheaffers with the inlaid gold nib, the ones that immediately preceded the Targa, if I remember correctly. That may be an old pen to you but I regard such cartridge-filling cop-outs from a proper filling system as new.
In truth, I like them both. The Cross is purportedly a medium, but it’s a decidedly generous one. It worked straight out of the box, and worked well, something that I believe is pretty much regarded as a bona fide miracle in a new pen. The line it lays is nice and wet and my writing looks pretty bad. Oh well. I will persist. The Sheaffer has the same characteristics – newish and firm – but it feels very different, mostly due to that long inlaid nib changing the angle at which I write. It makes my writing equally atrocious but I avoid looking at it and I admire that beautiful nib instead.
To those of my customers who will be receiving this week’s pens around now and are looking at my covering letter with some worry and consternation: It’s OK. I haven’t had a stroke. I’m just trying out these rather different pens.